Paul’s letter to the Romans remains the entree of Pauline theological research, and for good reason. This letter is the clearest and most comprehensive treatment of Paul’s gospel and of the other major themes that surface within his surviving literary corpus. But while the importance of Romans is undisputed, the relative significance of each of the letter’s major units remains hotly contested.
Much recent scholarship has focused on chapters 5–8 and 9–11, but what do we make of Romans 1–4? These initial chapters were for centuries believed to be the linchpin of the letter, though they have been given comparatively less attention and weight by contemporary Pauline theologians. Yet as fresh theological perspectives push the field in new directions, it is critical to give due attention to the foundational chapters of Romans.