Yale Divinity School Bible Study: Studying Romans
Paul the Apostle’s Epistle to the Romans is perhaps the clearest distillation of the Gospels in the New Testament. At the same time, it is an intensive exploration of Paul’s vision of salvation, one of the earliest attempts to intertwine the then-new Christian faith with daily life and acts.
Yale Divinity School offers the Yale Bible Study on Romans for all those interested in understanding the elements of Paul’s most directed and layered work. Our Romans Bible study curriculum is for ministers and study group leaders, as well as anyone seeking to understand the book of Romans for their own enrichment.
This is a collection of articles on Romans. Like our other Bible studies, our unit on Romans is a close examination of Paul’s work from a historical and academic perspective.Our materials for Bible studies in Romans include videos, podcasts, articles, lessons, discussion groups, and YDS insights, all for free. They’re open to both clergy and laity who seek to broaden their scriptural comprehension and reinforce their faith with other people around the world.
Participants in YDS’s Studying Romans program receive a certificate of completion after finishing the course. More importantly, they will gain an extensive appreciation for one of the keystones of the New Testament, one that examines how Christianity was applied in its earliest embodiment.
Resources for Studying Romans
YDS’ Bible study curriculum on Romans includes several multimedia resources, collected and administered by current and former faculty of Yale Divinity School. These resources include:
- Articles by scholars, professors, and renowned ministry leaders
- Guided lessons from Yale Divinity School
- An 8-week online course featuring video, study guides, and discussion questions
- Discussion groups, online community, and additional tools for online registrants
Our resources for Bible studies in Romans were developed for those who have varying levels of knowledge about the Scriptures. YDS emphasizes a scholarly approach to its Bible study curriculum. Our lessons provide a global, multi-faith context for interacting with Christian principles and traditions in the dynamic setting of Yale University academics.
Yale’s resources for Bible studies in Romans are free and open to all who are interested in learning about Christianity or refining their current faith.
Yale Bible Study in Romans
The Yale Bible Study of Romans is an organized, directed study of the sixth book of the New Testament, arguably the most influential and cited letter from Paul the Apostle. The 8-week program is for small group or individual study and can be led by clergy or small group leaders.
Registration will allow users to take notes in the study and participate in the public discussion forum. There is no cost to register on the site.
The Bible study curriculum for YDS’ Romans course includes:
Human Problem, Divine Solution
Paul’s initial argument discusses the fallibility of the human order, focusing on idolatry and sexual sin. He also acknowledges the impertinence of over-moralizing, as sin is an innate part of the human condition — but one with a divine solution.
Faith’s Poster Boy
Paul reaches back to the Old Testament to study the life of Abraham, one of the purest avatars of faith in the Holy Scriptures. He discusses earthly law and its reconciliation with the concept of sin, introducing God as means for faith as much as fear.
Living in Hope
Paul introduces Christ as a universal redeemer, the conduit for salvation for the weak. He also introduces the concept of original sin and expands on the crucial differences between justification and salvation.
New Lord, New Life
Paul begins to develop a message of hope but also explains the tightrope walk between sin and grace. He surveys conflicts between human nature and divine grace, earthly existence and eternal salvation, and innate self-will and submission to authority.
From Flesh to Spirit
What does the faithful life entail? Paul takes a look at the complicated relationship of Roman followers to existing Jewish law and how the power of sin can overtake spiritual faith with little warning. He expands on the vitality of maintaining a spiritual mindset in the material world.
Romans Chapters 9 through 11 are some of its most hotly debated passages, particularly in the confluence of world events of the 20th and 21st centuries. Paul takes a hard look at the relationship between Israelites and Gentiles and the question of God’s plan.
Paul brings the principles of faith back to the local level, as he addresses the effect of baptismal commitment on the Roman population. He balances his understanding of history with the intellectual division of then-contemporary Rome.
In the final part of Romans, Paul reinforces the need for “living sacrifice” among the faithful. He also comments on the potentially adversarial nature between Christians, political leaders, and established churches, and how to elevate spiritual beliefs in a complex world.
The YDS Bible Study of Romans provides a complete examination of all Paul’s writings, putting them in context with the Apostle’s deep understanding of then-current events and applying them to modern times. Combined with online public forums and smaller discussion groups, it’s a compelling approach to Paul’s longest, most significant epistle.
Why the Book of Romans Is Important
Paul’s epistle to the Romans is generally considered the apostle’s “masterpiece.” Although it was not the first of his letters chronologically, it’s the first to appear in sequence in the New Testament. This is likely because early church leaders envisioned Romans as a cornerstone of Christian theology, as concentrated and vital as any Bible work apart from the four Gospels.
Romans is often one of the first books read by new Christians or students of Christianity. This is because Paul presented the Christian doctrine in practical ways. He made a concerted effort to integrate the Christian faith into local and liturgical sensibilities.
At the time of its writing, Paul intended to supply guidance and direction to the Roman church, which was merely 25 years removed from the crucifixion of Christ at the time.
Why Did Paul Write to the Romans?
When he wrote the letter around 57-58 A.D., Paul had not yet visited Rome, though he was planning to do so. Christians in the region were living in a general sense of peace, one that would soon be broken by persecution driven by the emperor Nero.
There continues to be healthy debate as to the purpose of Paul’s letter to the Romans — some cite strategic incentives involving a pending missionary to Spain. Until fairly recently, scholars settled that Paul intended to lay out Christian doctrine in systematic terms.
However, the context of the Pauline Epistles implies that his letters had contemporary significance and were not necessarily intended as permanent guidelines for generations of Christians far into the future. Indeed, Paul was highly educated on the history and current goings-on in Rome and knew that a handful of situations were pertinent to address at the time.
One was the return of Jews who had been once ousted from Rome by Claudius. It is possible Paul wrote to the Roman congregation to encourage Gentiles to co-exist peacefully with returning Jews, though there is no verified confirmation that converted Roman Christians of the era repudiated Jewish practices.
Much of Romans is centered around the Law. Some scholars posit that it was written to quell unrest between Jews who followed the law with Gentiles who no longer did. But again, it’s not clear this conflict existed in Rome as it is believed to have in Galatia and other Pauline churches.
It’s also possible Paul wrote to the Romans to instill an “official” Christian doctrine and commence an apostolic spirit among Gentiles. The Roman church had not been directly established by an apostle, so it is suggested Paul wrote the letter to set a framework pending his eventual arrival.
Common Themes in Romans
Scholars, Bible students, and theologians continue to focus on the letter to the Romans for several reasons. Its most relevant passages continue to inform some of the most basic tenets of Christianity, as Paul provided (intentionally or otherwise) an eternal framework for practical applications of Christian faith.
The Nature of Sin
Paul revisits the concept of original sin in Romans. He explains how humankind’s natural inclination toward sin is the core aspect that estranges them from God, rendering salvation through man alone an impossibility.
The Concept of Salvation
Paul establishes the notion of salvation via Christ’s sacrifice, attainable even as God had observed man’s instinct toward rebellion. This is considered the very foundation of all Christian beliefs, regardless of denomination.
The Nature of Faith and the Law
The nature of Jewish law is one of Paul’s most pressing concerns in Romans. Although the apostle does not outright reject the Law, he professes Roman Gentiles to be free from its constructs. Paul also discusses the elevation of faith as a means to salvation, rather than adherence to the laws of Judaism.
Elements of Faith and the Church
The Book of Romans is one of the first documents to provide a framework for Christian theology, including the structure of congregations and the integration of faith in practical life. Paul addresses spiritual renewal in the church, which is one reason Romans has been a transformational book for many new Christian converts and movements throughout history.
Paul explains how grace from God should compel Christians to lead principled lives amongst both the faithful and their neighbors, independently of the edicts set forth by law.
Dichotomy, Conflict, and Judgment
Paul acknowledges the distance between believers in high places and the less powerful and urges reconciliation between the two classes for the sake of each. This discussion is one of the elements of Romans that is especially pertinent in the climate of today.
Relationships With Others
In one of the most scrutinized and debated passages in Romans, Paul discusses Israel’s status with God and the foundation of the Christian church. The roots of many contemporary disputes can be traced to various interpretations of Romans Chapters 9 through 11.
Studying With the Yale Bible Study
The Yale Bible Studies and resources are available to anyone looking for a small group Bible Study or for personal enrichment.
They’re also for experienced Bible students seeking to enrich their understanding of scripture. It’s suitable for new Bible students or anyone who wants clarity on the Biblical texts..
Some of the defining characteristics and benefits of Yale Bible Study include the following.
Our faculty and associates represent generations of scholarship with different points of view. The study guides they have produced introduce new frames of reference for understanding Scripture in both historical and contemporary contexts.
Our study lessons come with multimedia tools that lead students through directed but flexible learning experiences. Each unit includes a video introduction from faculty, a detailed study guide, relevant questions for discussion and personal reflection, and a wealth of outside resources for further investigation.
Yale Bible Studies are oriented toward small group discussions and participation for a vigorous learning experience with diverse ideas and viewpoints. Our online discussion forums reinforce ongoing interest in the subjects we cover and raise new questions in the interpretation of the Scriptures.
The Yale Bible Study community thrives in the backdrop of the active, dynamic environment of Yale University.
Along with Yale Bible Studies on the Old and New Testaments and themed studies, we provide access to a variety of resources and tools to further our students’ interests. These resources include artwork, lectures, podcasts, videos, sermons, charts, lectionaries, additional readings, and more. We also provide a list of upcoming public events and Zoom meetings, along with a catalog of past YDS events.
The Book of Romans is a crucial part of Christian studies and a canonical blueprint for the development of Christian thought. Yale Divinity School’s resources for Paul’s most influential letter can bring you, your group, and your followers to a fuller understanding of its power.
Articles: (click to view)
- The Apostle Paul’s Use of Genesis 1-3 in Romans 1, by Simon Turpin
- Paul’s Letter to the Romans Chapter 1:18-32, by Joel Anderson
- The Mystery Letter of St. Paul to the Romans, by Dr. Jeff Mirus
- God Credits Faith as Righteousness, by John Piper
- Justification by Faith: The Case of Abraham and David (Romans 4:1-8) at bible.org
- The New Adam, by Kim Riddlebarger
- Lesson 33: It Ain’t Gonna Reign No More, at bible.org
- Siding with the Spirit, by Bob Deffinbaugh
- Understanding the Flesh, The Sinful Nature in Romans 7-8, Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
- Romans 9, 10, 11, God’s Faithfulness, by Robert McLaughlin
- The Sovereignty of God in Salvation, by Bob Deffinbaugh
- Romans 10 Bible Commentary, at christianity.com
- Israel’s Present Hardening and Future Salvation: An Exegesis of Romans 11:25-32, at bible.org
- The Dual Status of Israel in Romans 11:28, by Matt Waymeyer
- The Body of Christ, at doctrine.org
- Misusing Romans 13 to Embrace Theocracy, by Stephen Mattson
- The Fight to Define Romans 13, by Lincoln Mullen
- Figuring Out Christian Freedom: What Romans 14 Does and Does Not Say, by Daryl Wingerd
- Pleasing Others and Praising God, at bible.org
- Romans 16: Who Was Junia?, by Jen McNeel