One of Paul’s letters to the Church, the Romans epistle has for the past two millennia been elaborated upon by the Church in connection with prevailing circumstances. This is because the change in times has shed light upon issues that are relevant to respective generations. Various theological authors over time did indeed come up with their own interpretation of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Roman people. Some of these authors were labeled rebels as a result of their interpretation attempt to explain sensitive issues about Christ’s Church and as a result had their works labeled ‘blasphemous’. One of these is Oregon, a historical theologian who’s controversial work about preexistence of souls had his doctrines denounced by the Catholic church as well as other Orthodox churches.
The book Romans in Full Cycle brings Oregon’s works into full focus, clearly indicating how Oregon’s interpretation of the book of Romans has taken centre stage in the Western biblical interpretation and how this has taken effect amongst the Church’s teachings. Apart from this, the author also presents a historical account of this Pauline epistle while clearly mixing theological concepts in its interpretation.
Romans in Full Cycle provide an incisive inquest at the point where history meets theology in the interpretation of the biblical book of Romans.
The book’s critique
Main strengths of the book
The book has a variety of anecdotes which have graced the pages of the book. In return, this has brought a softer touch to the discussion of rather sensitive theological topics. In this case, the author explains his personal encounter with the book of Romans and therefore provided an interesting entry point towards the discussion of historical aspects of the book and their relevance to the theological concepts explained in the epistle. This enables the reader to remain interested in the rather ‘sober’ focus of topic.
Weakness of the book
The main weakness that surfaces on reading the book is the author’s one-sided consideration of specific theological authors mentioned in the book. In this case, the focus and emphasis has been placed more on western theologians in comparison to the eastern ones. The in-depth analysis of western theologians such as Barth, Augustine, Aquinas, Abelard and Luther has taken many pages in the book, with Oregon accounting for the only eastern theologian. Despite his literary review of Oregon’s work, this leaves the reader with the idea that his opinion is rather western sided.
The main intended audience of the book is the western protestant group. This has been indicated with the author’s use of many western theologian interpretations of the book of Romans. Furthermore, the author indicates the western historical and theological interpretation of the epistle in consideration of its going full cycle with regards to the different authors, more specifically, Oregon’s interpretation.
Clarity of issues
As indicated above as one of the strengths of the book, the use of interesting approaches to address sensitive topics and present different interpretations of the epistle has enabled readers understand different topics focused in the book of Romans. The most notable approach has been the use of anecdotes in the course of the reading.
Applicability of the book
The book clearly gives an account of the historical background of theological interpretations of the epistle and also explains the passage of the text indicating that the identified concepts have indeed gone full circle. The book therefore highlights the modern interpretation of the book of Romans in connection to its historical roots by taking into consideration the interpretations of individual theologians who laid the foundation for western civilization. Therefore, this has indeed enabled a better understanding of sensitive topics as clearly indicated as the twelve loci. This provides clarity of such issues as well as their relevance to the present day Christian. Therefore, this makes the book appropriate for the present Christian audience.
In spite of the detailed analysis of important concepts, I feel that the author should have paid more attention to the eastern theologians. The foundation of the book is founded on the perspectives of more western inclined theologians with limited input from their eastern counterparts. This has therefore created the idea that the text of the book is more inclined to one side as opposed to creating an equal analysis from both sides.
It is surprising how a single book can create a range of different interpretations to the meaning of the same text. This is what the book of Romans has achieved. These interpretations have been based on some contentious issues as indicated in the book mainly with regards to Judaism, natural theology, justification, original sin, universal salvation, warring laws within, predestination, free will, potter/clay metaphor, Christ as telos of the law, Israel's future, and governmental authority. This is what has formed the locus of attention in the book, Romans in full circle.
The difference in views is what has created a raging debate that has taken place in the last two millennia of the Churches existence. This has seen the disregard of Oregon’s work, a historical theologian, leading to the Catholic and Orthodox churches denouncing his doctrines. However, his interpretations were later brought to life through Erastus’ work. Overtime, Oregon’s interpretation has been later been accepted by the modern interpretation of the book of Romans, indicating the application of his work having gone the full circle. The author metophormizes the change in tide of Oregon’s acceptance by highlighting Romans 15:9, I have fulfilled the gospel of Christ in the circle from Jerusalem to Illycrum, hence the title, Romans in full circle. Oregon’s story is in some respect similar to that of Galileo Galilei, the famous physicist who went against the Church’s doctrines to indicate that it is indeed the earth that goes around the sun and not vice versa. His doctrine held out as the truth in the end, just like Oregon’s.
This has been achieved by providing in-depth analysis of the epistle in accordance to views from different authors such as Augustine, Barth, Oregon, Aquinas and Abelard. The book concludes by gives an account of the present situation whereby Oregon’s interpretation has been accepted overtime, hence emerging the hero at the end.
Despite the differences in interpretations of the Romans text, all authors agree that Romans deals more directly with the relationship of the human person to a divinely created and sustained world, considered in this letter both in its spatial and temporal dimensions. This means that despite of the differences in interpretation, the epistle’s main focus is the relationship between God and man, followers of Christ and Judaism and the society in general. Therefore, the epistle is able to bridge the differences in theological interpretations by laying this as the foundation.
Furthermore, the book of Romans has enabled the Church ease through the changing cultural and ideological thresholds hence providing the needed guidance to steer it in the right direction. This is the reason behind the emphasis on the epistle’s interpretation throughout the course of time.
Reasoner, Mark. Romans in full circle: A History of Interpretation. Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005.