Who was the author? The Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Paul, the one-time persecutor of Christians known as "Saul", to write this book.
What is the book? The book is an "epistle" or "letter" to the church at Rome, which likely consisted of many small house churches, which consisted of both Jews and Gentiles, possibly founded by visitors from Rome present in Jerusalem at Pentecost.
Where was it written? St. Paul likely wrote the letter from Corinth.
When was it written? Romans is thought to have been written during St. Paul's so-called third missionary journey, which is usually dated 52/53-56/57 A.D. More specifically, Romans may have been written early in the spring of 56 or 57.
Why? Obvious pragmatic motives for the letter appear to be preparing the congregations for Paul's expected visit to Rome and soliciting their support for his trip from there to Spain. Related but surely more importantly, however, St. Paul is also concerned about presenting the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ to a church that had not previously received his teaching. The Church of Jesus Christ is to be firmly established in a full and complete understanding of the Gospel.
How? The letter is said to be the most systematic of all of Paul's letters, with an emphasis on the teaching related to such things as sin, grace, faith, justification, and sanctification. Romans also relies on Old Testament quotations to carry along the apostle's Spirit-inspired arguments.
For further reading on the book of Romans:
- Cranfield, C. E. B. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Epistle to the Romans, in two volumes, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1975. (I have the 1994 "impression" of these commentary volumes, and they are quite thorough, although they admittedly may be too scholarly for the average reader. They succeeded an earlier volume on Romans with the same title in the International Critical Commentary series that was also quite good-the one by William Sanday and Arthur C. Headlam; its first edition was dated 1895 and the fifth edition 1902, that latest one reprinted as late as 1960 [the date of my copy].)
- Grothe, Jonathan F. The Justification of the Ungodly Canada: Jonathan F. Grothe, 2005. (I was given this two volume commentary on Romans as a much-desired gift, but I have not yet had much occasion to use it. The Rev. Dr. Grothe was president of the seminary from where I graduated, as well as one of my professors and the advisor on my master's treatise. He was also at one time co-general editor of the current Concordia Commentary series, for which this commentary on Romans was prepared. While circumstances kept the commentary out of that series, as published it uses the "format and orientation" of the Concordia Commentary and thus should be relatively accessible to lay readers.)
(Romans is one New Testament book on which Lenski's commentary is not thought to be too reliable.)