I just finished Mark Reasoner’s Romans in Full Circle: A History of Interpretation. I thought it was an engaging book that not only dealt with the key aspects of Romans but also took the reader through central Western interpretations of the book. His basic thesis is that current scholarship is returning to the key themes that Origen, as one of the earliest commentators on Romans, focused upon.

In his analysis he has both primary and secondary authors for interaction. The primary are Origen, Augustine, Aquinas, Abelard, Luther, Barth, and Post-Barthian writers (i.e., New Perspective and Narrative approaches). The secondary primarily include Pelagius, Erasmus, and Calvin, among other writers that are relevant for particular topics.

This was much closer to what I expected from Reading Romans Through the Centuries would be. Since it is the same author interacting with each historical writer, he compares and contrasts specific items that are relevant to both the letter and the writer. He has chosen 12 loci of importance and debate in the book and uses those for comparing the different historical writers. Only one is outside of Romans 1-11, which he notes is a weakness, but it reflects past theological emphases and debates surrounding the book.

Probably the biggest knock I have against the book is the (almost) total lack of eastern writers. Origen could possibly fall into that category, but other than that, there are no other eastern writers. While I know that he is writing for a western, protestant audience, it would be nice to get at least one representative author that discusses Romans from a eastern, and for that matter, also from a RCC point of view. That would at least provide a little more depth to some of the topics. This neglect is even more interesting since Reasoner notes multiple times that the international growth of the church outside the ‘west’ will change the direction that interpretations of Romans will take. At times protestant authors are set against one another, but are really not that far from one another when compared to other faith traditions. Reasoner doesn’t fall into this trap much but it would be helpful to see a broader group. At the same time, I was a little surprised to not have Bultmann and/or Käsemann as discussion partners as well.

Overall, it was a nice read that provides a nice mix of biblical and historical theology. It provides a good summary of Western interpretations of Romans.