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It appears evident from the record of Paul's travels in Acts 16ff that when Paul wrote "Romans" he had never visited Rome yet:

NIV Romans 1:10

...in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.

Catholic tradition says that Peter established the assembly but there does not appear to be any evidence to that effect. In fact, Peter is not even mentioned in chapter 16 where Paul sends his various personal greetings:

https://biblehub.com/niv/romans/16.htm

And what did the Romans know of the gospel of the grace of God that Paul expounds in the letter? Was this rehashing info they already had or was he bringing to them his "faith apart from religious activities" gospel for the first time?

The most useful suggestion I have found so far is from a post on another forum:

I would suggest that the Church in Rome was planted by those "visitors" from Rome who were in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost and were witnesses to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and those who were gathered with them. Reading Acts 2:7-11 we can note that verse 10 includes the words "... strangers from Rome ..." The NASB is a little more accurate with the words " ... and visitors from Rome ..." The Greek word literally refers to people from Rome (and the other named places) who were temporarily in Jerusalem. (Obviously for the Feast of Shavu'ot, which we call Pentecost, which was one of three annual festivals that required Hebrew men to travel to Jerusalem.)

Therefore I would suggest that the Church in Rome was the result of those Roman visitors who accepted Christ as their Savior—being either among the 3,000 men that day or the additional 5,000 a few days later—who then returned to Rome and brought with them the gospel which they shared in obedience to Christ. No doubt evangelists went to Rome from the early Church in Jerusalem, as well. Possibly even an apostle. But when Paul ended his letter to the Church at Rome (written from Corinth during the winter of 57-58 A.D.) he named over two dozen individual Christians in Rome and not one of the apostles was mentioned. Doesn't it seem odd that if Peter were there that Paul would not have greeted him by name. Read the list of names for yourself in Romans 16:1-16. Yet, perhaps there is a clue as to an evangelist who was there: Romans 16:3 says "Greet Prisca and Aquila ..." You may recall from Acts 18 that Aquila and his wife Priscilla were evangelists who traveled with Paul, and from 1 Corinthians and 2 Timothy we learn that they moved around the known world quite a bit in the service of the gospel. Prisca is a shortened form of Priscilla. Therefore these two evangelists were in Rome in 57 A.D., roughly 24 years after the Church began in Jerusalem. Perhaps they were responsible for planting it; but I doubt it. More likely they were there to teach the people the Word of God as it applied to Christ and His followers and thus give them the doctrine of the New Testament. After all, that they were teachers is clear from Acts 18: "Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. —Acts 18:24-26 NASB

https://www.raptureforums.com/forums/threads/who-planted-the-church-in-rome.48473/

However, as I point out in my response to that post his use of contemporary, unscriptural language conceals a problem with that view:

Therefore I would suggest that the Church in Rome was the result of those Roman visitors who accepted Christ as their Savior—being either among the 3,000 men that day or the additional 5,000 a few days later—who then returned to Rome and brought with them the gospel which they shared in obedience to Christ.

If they traveled to Rome for Pentecost then they would be Jews rather than gentiles and they would not have heard from Peter the gospel of the grace of God that Paul taught. When Paul encounters Peter, Peter would not even sit at table with a gentile! He is not mentioned ever in association with the assembly at Rome.

So where did the assembly at Rome come from? Were they Pauline gentile believers or a Jewish fellowship? What did they believe prior to receiving Paul?

For Luke's account of Paul's subsequent entrance into Rome (which adds an important dimension for understanding what was going on) see: https://biblehub.com/context/acts/28-11.htm

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    I don't know that this question falls into the category of biblical hermeneutics, interesting though it may be. – Kevin H Sep 7 '18 at 16:16
  • Obviously I disagree but thank you for explaining your downvote. Peace. – Ruminator Sep 7 '18 at 16:40
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    So instead of down voting the question why not just vote to close? – Ruminator Sep 7 '18 at 22:01
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    The proposed interpretation of Romans 1:10 seems rather forced. – Lucian Sep 9 '18 at 17:34
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Reading Acts 28 it appears that when Paul does arrive in Rome (because he appeals his case to Caesar) his views are not known except by reputation. He encounters Jewish resistance and "turns to the gentiles":

NIV Acts 28:

17Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. 19The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. 20For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”

21They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. 22But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.”

23They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. 25They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:

26“ ‘Go to this people and say,

“You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”

27For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’a

28“Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” [29]b

30For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!

This seems to describe Paul encountering a completely different situation from what Paul's letter to the Romans suggests, where he says the faith of the gentile believers is spoken of throughout the whole world. This leads me to believe that when Paul arrived in Rome he went to the Jews and was rebuffed and was then available to turn to the gentiles.

It appears to me that the gentiles to whom Paul writes in the letter were Stage I:

Stage I: Peter and the 12 understood (from Acts 10 and Acts 15) that the gentiles had a place in the kingdom of God as the prophets had said, though it was still the temple-centric view of the prophets:

NIV Acts 15:

14Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:

16“ ‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, 17that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’ — 18things known from long ago.

We see this expectation in Zechariah:

NIV Zechariah 14:

16Then the survivors from all the [gentile] nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. 17If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, they will have no rain. 18If the Egyptian people do not go up and take part, they will have no rain. The Lordb will bring on them the plague he inflicts on the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. 19This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles.

It is generally held by scholars that these gentiles from Rome were instructed by Prisca and Aquila of Paul's gospel. I think perhaps Prisca and Aquila only brought them from John's gospel up to Peter's, which included Christ's death and resurrection and the gospel of the imminent arrival of the kingdom of God (glorified Israel). They simply did not understand the gospel of the grace of God. The Roman assembly believed that Jesus was the Christ and the Christ had been killed and rose again but were still seeking the kingdom and hoping to be found ready when the kingdom arrived. (The kingdom not arrive however because the Jewish leadership rejected their king).

But Paul brought Stage II:

Paul praises the believers in Rome because of their faith and yet was coming to Rome to announce to them something new: the gospel of the grace of God, apart from law and apart from religious activities.

I believe that by distinguishing between a genuine but pre-Pauline understanding makes the best sense of all the data as Paul counts them as brothers but still is anxious to preach his gospel to them.

So where did they come from? According to Acts (which only jives partially with secular history) the Jews had been expelled from Rome:

NIV Acts 18:

1After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. 4Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

5When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

Since Priscilla and Aquila were back in Rome when Paul wrote Romans, apparently the ban on Jews had ended. This suggests to me that:

  • in Acts 2 Roman Jews went to Jerusalem for Pentecost and encountered Peter's preaching that Jesus was the Messiah and believed

  • they returned to Rome and became a new community, knowing nothing of Paul's gospel

  • the Jews, including those who believed Jesus was the Christ (and Prisca and Aqulia) were expelled from Rome

  • the gentiles of the assembly remained, awaiting the kingdom of God

  • some of the Jewish believers returned to Rome and found a thriving gentile community who believed that Jesus was the messiah

  • friction occurred between the gentile believers and the returning Jews (believing and non-believing) about what was required of the believing gentiles

  • Paul promised to come but was "hindered"

  • he wrote Romans to assure them that he was coming and would bring his gospel. The letter provided the substance of his message which he promised would be followed up with a visit

  • when he visits (Acts 28) he stays for two years, teaching both the gospel of the circumcision (the imminent arrival of the kingdom of God) and the gospel of the grace of God (that Christ died for our sins and was resurrected)

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    Viable. The question the Jews put to Paul in Acts 28:22 is clear indication that they had not heard or known enough about Christ before Paul had arrived. That means Peter had not yet traveled to Rome before Paul. And, as Paul stated Rom 15:20 that he did not build on another man's work then Peter had not established any church at Rome prior to Paul's arrival. And, the church assy's were already meeting in church homes when Paul got there. So... they heard the gospel in Jerusalem at Pentecost and returned to Rome as converts. Neither Paul nor Peter began THE church at Rome. – Gina Sep 8 '18 at 13:13
  • Commentators often see Paul as "correcting" the "teaching of the Judaizers" as if the "Judaizers" were the latecomers. But Paul is the newcomer who brings a new gospel. In Peter's gospel, the cross is bad news. The Jews have killed their king with wicked hands and are rejected for it. For Paul, his death was the propitiation (as well as the ratification of the new covenant with the Jews). – Ruminator Sep 8 '18 at 13:34
  • Which scripture do you use as basis that Peter saw the cross as bad news? – Gina Sep 8 '18 at 13:36
  • Peter knew only that gentiles were included in the Jewish kingdom program due to Acts 10, not the new dispensation of faith without works that came through Paul. Peter spawned Jewish congregations in Jerusalem that sold all they had and waited for the imminent arrival of the kingdom of God but Paul brought "the new mankind" (the body of Christ). The kingdom did not arrive because the Jewish leaders rejected Christ as king and the temple was destroyed in judgment and the people expelled from the land until the fullness of the gentiles is gathered in and Zechariah 14 finally is fulfilled. – Ruminator Sep 8 '18 at 13:38
  • The most damning preaching is Stephen's in Acts 7:51ff, which was the "last straw" for Israel. However, Peter likewise preaches that in crucifying Christ the leaders were destroyed by tripping over the stumbling stone (1 Peter 2:7-8) as they were destined to do (Romans 9). The Jews were called then to repent for the murder and perform mikveh to be cleansed from his blood. See Matthew 27:24-26. Nowhere does he teach that Christ died for our sins, the new humanity, faith without works, etc. – Ruminator Sep 8 '18 at 14:00
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Paul's visit to Rome was on hold for a period of time until he was forced to travel to Rome to defend himself before the Emperor. Paul announced his travel plans through his Letter to the Romans written in Cenchreae - a suburb of Corinth and delivered by Phoebe. The Letter to the Romans greets two groups of people. The first are the "saints" of whom Phoebe was one and the other group is the church (the assembly that gathered in homes). The difference between the two groups is thought to be that the "Saints" were former Gnostics while the church members were former pagans. The interactions between Gnostics and the church was more active than what the New Testament indicates. Until I came across the difference between the two groups I understood the "Saints" through the Christian lens of pious believers. While Paul struggled with his Messianic Christian friends his real spiritual battle was with the Gnostics and gnostic-like groups every one of them believing that they had the true gnosis (knowledge needed for salvation). At some point gnosis was replaced by the word gospel = good news no doubt the editorial work of the Gospel writers.

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  • What evidence can you supply to support this novel view? – Ruminator Sep 10 '18 at 20:32

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