Romans 1

Paul's Motivation and Humanity's Reprobation

Apostle Paul

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God (Romans 1:1).

Paul is easily identifiable in medieval artwork by his receding hairline and long, pointed beard. He carries a sword as the symbol of his martyrdom and a scroll which represents his work as an apostle. Such a depiction is apt, since as indicated by 2 Timothy 4:13, Paul seems to have kept a collection of his own canonical letters, which was common among authors in the Greco-Roman world.

Tiber River in Rome

To all who are beloved of God in Rome, called to be saints (Romans 1:7).

The letter was written to an audience who resided in Rome. Rome, founded on the Tiber River, was the capital of the Roman Empire and in many ways the center of the civilized world in the 1st century AD. In Paul’s day the city had a population of about one million people, making it the largest city in the ancient world. Today the population is almost three million.

Forum of Puteoli

I long to see you . . . that I may be mutually comforted in you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine (Romans 1:11-12).

The Roman forum at Puteoli dates to the 1st century AD. It was at Puteoli that Paul would finally meet up with Christians from the church in Rome on his way to appeal his case to Caesar (see Acts 28:13–14). A statue of Serapis discovered in the forum along with other evidence suggests that several different deities and religions were venerated by the city’s inhabitants.


I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians (Romans 1:14).

Barbarians were outsiders who did not partake of Greek culture and did not speak the Greek language. As the Roman poet Ovid said, “I’m a barbarian here, because no one understands me” (Tristia 5, 10, 37). This bust was photographed at the Naples Archaeological Museum.

Ancient Creation Accounts

For from the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen (Romans 1:20).

Creation itself renders humanity without excuse for not believing in God and conforming to His laws. The knowledge of God as the creator of the world is found in some of the oldest existing texts, such as the one pictured here. Due to human fallenness, however, these accounts also present a distorted portrayal of God and the creation event, for which the biblical account provides an inspired and often polemical corrective. This cuneiform tablet records a Sumerian myth about the creation of man.

Dionysus, God of Madness

And just as they refused to acknowledge God, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28).

In Greek mythology Dionysus was, among other things, the god of ritual madness, wine, ritual ecstasy, and theater. The mosaic shown here is a good illustration of the Greek view of madness, with its combination of wild and bizarre images. It is thought to portray Dionysus as a child on a tiger, holding a huge cup of wine. The Romans knew this god by the name Bacchus. This mosaic was discovered in the triclinium of the House of the Faun in Pompeii.

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