The Good: There’s nothing good in this chapter per se, but some good has come from reading it, at least for me. I now understand why I have heard people say that Paul was the founder of Christianity, not Jesus. This chapter, (in fact all of Romans so far, and probably the rest, I’ll bet) could form the basis for courses called Sermons 101 and Basic Christianese. They contain all the basic elements of church liturgy and teachings, sermons and Sunday school lessons. And do you notice something else? Jesus is hardly mentioned in here at all, and when he is, he’s only mentioned in the context of saviour, messiah, son of god, etc. Nothing about his earthly life, nothing that corresponds to any of the stories in the gospels (and of course, the gospels weren’t even written until after Paul’s death).
The Bad: Over and over in these chapters, Paul just rehashes the same ideas. Depressing… zzzzz
The Ugly: And the concepts that he rehashes are sin, blame, shame, and guilt, and self-disgust. It’s hard to pick out a couple of verses that are more Ugly than the rest, but v 28 is a blatant lie that gives people false hope and then leaves them feeling guilty when bad things happen. And think about v 32; is someone who would sacrifice his own son admirable? I’d stay clear!
Quotes: V 38-39 are among the most well-known and oft-quoted in the bible ever. I recognize them from the KJV (nor angels, nor principalities….). Also, v 28 and 31 (the second part).
The Ugly: Well this chapter’s pretty definite about god picking favorites and determining people’s destiny, not based on their character or actions but rather on their circumstances of birth and his own whims. He favors the Israelites over the rest of the nations; chooses Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau. He manipulates people like Pharaoh for his own ends. Clearly, god does not love everyone. That was despicable enough to read in the OT; but to hear Paul praise it is even worse! We constantly hear that the NT is ‘better’; that it repeals all the horrors of the OT – ha! Can it get any worse than the sentiment in v 14-16? Oops, yes it can – v 20-21 (which are paraphrased from Isaiah 29, so Paul is endorsing Yahweh’s cruelty here). In fact, right up to v 29, Paul doubles down on his admiration of Yahweh, quoting verses from the OT that defend Yahweh’s right to capriciously favor some people over others. Then in v 30-33 he wraps up his rant with the claim that only those who have faith will be ‘right with god’; and that lack of faith is preventing his fellow Jews from receiving salvation. I couldn’t make head nor tale of the quote about the stumbling block from Isaiah 28:16 when I read it on the OT, but I can now. My apologist commentary also refers to 1 Corinthians 1:22-23 to help understand this verse. It says that the Jews did not accept Jesus because they wanted signs (ie evidence); and the Greeks did not accept Jesus because they wanted a rational explanation (ie evidence). Christianity requires faith (ie belief without evidence), and that is the stumbling block to salvation. How dare people ask for evidence?
Quotes: there aren’t so many Christian memes based on this chapter – what a surprise; guess the cherry-pickers didn’t find much.
The Good: did you really think I’d find anything?
The Bad: Paul literally revises the OT laws to suit his own beliefs and purpose. He believes that salvation is by faith alone, not by works (ie belief in Jesus rather than character or good deeds). So he misquotes Deuteronomy 30:14, which says, in reference to keeping the laws of the Torah, “…the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it”. He morphs that into (v 8-9) “The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart. And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: if you openly declare that jesus is lord and believe in your heart that god raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (emphasis mine) Wow – completely opposite!
How about v 18, where Paul makes the claim that the Good News has been preached to the ends of the world? (This is actually a quote of Psalm 19:4, which was supposedly written by David and referred to spreading the Hebrew scriptures; it had nothing to do with Jesus back then. Ditto for v 15, which quotes Psalm 52:7.) Shows how much Paul knows about geography! He has preached it to the ends of his known world.
The Ugly: V 9-13. These verses are cherished among believers, but their implication is that all others are destined for Hell.