Dr. Beverly Gaventa, professor of New Testament at Baylor University, has written a new, fresh, and challenging perspective on Paul’s letter to the Romans. Some might wonder why one would write a new book on Romans. Many commentaries and Bible studies are devoted to the letter. However, this book is neither a commentary nor a Bible study; though your study of Romans for a sermon or group setting would benefit greatly from this book.
In “When in Romans”, I appreciate Dr. Gaventa’s wherewithal to note the readers’ education level. She is not, by any standard, attempting to insult one’s intelligence. Rather, she writes profoundly enough to engage a wider audience. As she states in the preface, “Romans is too important to be turned over to a group of specialists” (xiii). Her writing style lends itself to engage readers of all levels as good authors should.
Dr. Gaventa also challenges typical, preconceived conclusions students (and maybe pastors, too) bring to the letter. She discusses the argument for Phoebe bringing the letter to Rome and concludes that Paul had a close relationship with Phoebe. This is key in contemporary discussions on women’s roles in ministry. Also discussed is the notion of salvation. Dr. Gaventa discusses the matter of salvation encompasses all of the cosmos, not simply humanity (since God created everything in the cosmos). If salvation is broadly defined in whom it encompasses, there is cause for arguing the depth and breadth of the Gospel and taking seriously the word “all” when Paul uses it. In the discussion of salvation, Dr. Gaventa also mentions Abraham and Abraham’s obedience. Dr. Gaventa provides a new perspective on the idea that Abraham simply believed. She argues that we know clearly Abraham also obeyed God because of his faith. This influences the non-traditional perspective of Romans 9-11 in Protestant circles (i.e., the doctrine of God’s sovereign election).
Dr. Gaventa’s “When in Romans” should be a book you want to use in any discussion on Romans. It belongs on the shelf with the Johnson’s “Discovering Romans” Bible Study and in companion with F.F. Bruce’s IVPNT Commentary on Romans or Gordon Fee’s NICNT commentary on Romans (because this is not a commentary). As you read the letter of Paul to the Romans and are considering your own predispositions of Paul and his theology, allow the letter to be a fresh word from God and place yourself as a Christian in Rome hearing the teachings of Paul for the first time.
Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Academic through the Baker Academic Blogger Review Program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
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