Peter Oakes relies on demographic information and data from excavations in nearby Pompeii to paint a compelling portrait of daily life in a typical insula, or apartment complex, like the ones in which Paul's audience in Rome likely lived. Imaginatively fleshing out profiles of the circumstances of actual residents of Pompeii, Oakes then uses these profiles to invite the reader into a new way to hear Paul's letter to the Romans as the apostle's contemporaries might have heard it. The result of this ground-breaking study is a fuller, richer appreciation of Paul's most important letter.
With imagination yet appropriate methodoligical caution, Peter Oakes looks at a specific archaeological site, the Insula of the Menander at Pompeii, to reveal a neighborhood of personalities typical of the time and place, and therefore typical of the possible types of persons whose interests fill the pages of Paul's Letter to the Romans. This is the kind of integrative interpretation that is needed, contextualization of the original message in order to aid us with the new contextualization that we need to do. It is a book I wish I had written.
—Carolyn Osiek, Professor of New Testament, Brite Divinity School
A fresh innovative approach to Romans. First, by examining the limited living space of ordinary people in the town of Pompeii, Oakes confirms the marginal economic circumstances of the vast majority of the people in the Roman Empire in general and in the Pauline assemblies in particular. Then, drawing on wide knowledge of ancient urban life, he explores how typical members of a model house-church—a slave, a dirt-poor stone-worker, a barmaid, and the craft-worker who hosted the house church in his workshop—would have heard the arguments and admonitions in Paul's letter to the Romans. In an exemplary multidisciplinary investigation, Oakes restores Romans to the people.
—Richard Horsley, Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and the Study of Religion, retired, University of Massachusetts, Boston
In this groundbreaking study, Peter Oakes advances our understanding of the life setting of the original recipients of Romans and offers a plausible account of how they would have 'heard' Paul's letter. All who want to develop a deeper appreciation of this letter will find this book invaluable.
—Edward Adams, Senior Lecturer in New Testament Studies, King's College, London