Letter to the Romans

Spring 2009 Prof. John Boettcher. tel 860.754.8952 boettcher@textorum.net


I. Learning Goals

A. Content: Be familiar with the issues, method, and expressions in the letter and know how they apply to life and ministry.

B. Structure: Know by memory at least the major focus of every chapter.

C. Know the 50 most important key words, Paul’s specific use and meaning, and the Greek root.

D. Have read at least one classic commentary and be familiar with that author’s insights.

E. Know the Greek alphabet and how to pronounce words.

II. Method

The main concern of the course is how to understand and put into active, personal practice what the Holy Spirit expressed through St. Paul.  This is one of the most powerful, useful, and concentrated expressions of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which draws to faith and eternal life. There are many ways to approach the work, not all of them suited for this class, some being either useless or postively damaging.  Dry, skeptical and faithless academics, along with merely noetic and speculative approaches, will be shunned as our Apostle was wont to do.  We will be reading line by line from the beginning to the end. Key words will be expanded as encountered, with a forward-looking perspective which anticipates their development throughout the letter. Logical divisions will be identified as encountered, where St. Paul shifts focus or mode.

Much of the work is available on my website: www.john114.net

III. Work

You are strongly encouraged to read the letter continuously and to all but memorize it.  It is an excellent resource for your faith life and ministry.  If strenuously studied and ardently applied, it will give health and strength to the Body of Christ on earth.  Get a pocket copy and keep it with you, read it on break and idle time.  Get an audio copy and listen to it when you are doing your chores.  Absorb it and it will feed your spirit!

Extra Credit. Credit will be given for special projects or over-and-above the bar work.  This could be a broad survey of how some theme found in Romans is also found in other letters or Gospels (eg. “Salvation: By Faith, by Works, or Both?”) or the kind of microscopic study excluded from the term paper below. Or you can propose some other work, such as formatting, correcting and editing an e-text version of Romans, with section headings and/or notes. Just check with me first.

By taking this course you are agreeing to the following.   

1.                                     You will read the chapter under examination at least three times before we study it in class. 

2.                                     You will concurrenly read one of the approved commentaries, before the class in which it will be examined.

3.                                     For every chapter, before class you will write up an outline of the section headings in the chapter, along with an outline of the commentary, with a paragraph summary of the most inspiring points.

Put it in Word format (.doc), attach it to an e-mail with the subject line: Romans [your last name] chap-[chapter] and send it to me boettcher@textorum.net.
(example: Romans [Boettcher] chap-10). I am expecting about the same number of section headings as has the New American Bible (with your headings, not theirs), and 3-10 for the commentary.

4.                                     Write a 5-10 page paper and hand it in by April 27. Preliminary abstract (one paragraph description) due Feb. 24

This is meant to help you gain skill in preparing for ministry or personal practice of the Catholic Faith, by using scholarly tools etc. and showing your sources, but the main idea is how is someone (you included) going to benefit.  So it can be a sermon, an exhortation or teaching, or some other form, depending on your inspiration and creativity. Tell me who your intended audience is, along with the sources and tools you used (i.e. a normal bibliography).  The constraints are: 1) The audience is not going to be Scripture scholars, editors of scholarly publications, and the like; 2) I want no language ill-suited to your audience – no sophistic, inflated, silly or empty talk (you lose points for such words as ‘soteriological,’ ‘eschatological,’ ‘Pauline corpus,’ etc.) I want to hear something that reflects St. Paul: clear, inspiring, simple but elegant use of language; 3) At the end write up a single page describing what you did for your research, and what you found – especially if you did a lot of work that didn’t make it into the paper; 4) I want to see backing (i.e. footnotes) for when you go out on a limb, and if you decide to contradict or ignore what was said in class or found in your commentary;  I want to see clear evidence for your argument; 5) I expect doctrinal cleanliness;  you are free to include personal reflections, convictions, opinions and the like, but the focus is what you are going to offer to other Catholics for edification, that is, in harmony with the Catholic faith.  If I detect any heretical expressions you will have the opportunity to re-write or flunk – and it doesn’t matter what brand name authors you may feel are of the same opinion, unless there is “St.” in front of their name or an imprimatur in front of their book. If in doubt, please check in with me; 6) No microscopic studies, such as are common in biblical studies dissertations: “Romans 1:16b in Syriac monastic codices of the 6th cent.,” or “Paul’s use of the second person subjunctive in polemics.”

IV. Grade

A. Criteria:

Disciplined  research; inspirational or useful results; creativity, courage in pursuing discovery; insight in applying to living the Christian Faith.

B. Breakdown (per cent)

30 – Chapter outlines & commentary sections

20 – 2 in-class quizzes

50 – Paper

V. Bibliography

A. Commentary

1. Classics

a. St. John Chrysostom

b. St. Thomas Aquinas

2. Recent

a. Fitzmeyer, Joseph A. Anchor Bible