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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Romans 2



Other Authors
Verse 1

1. ἀναπολόγητος κ.τ.λ. The consequence of this state of man, being universal, is that there is no excuse for men judging their neighbours. The statement is quite general; but Romans 2:9-11 show that the Apostle is thinking in particular of the Jew’s wholesale condemnation of Gentiles and justification of himself.

κρίνειςκατακρίνεις, the mere attitude of judgment is a condemnation of thyself; cf. Matthew 7:1 f.; Luke 6:37.

τὸν ἕτερον, thy neighbour or thy fellow-man; cf. Romans 13:8; 1 Corinthians 6:1; 1 Corinthians 10:24, alibi

τὰ γὰρ αὐτὰ πράσσεις, whether you realise it or not—developed, for the Jew, in Romans 2:21 f.

Verses 1-16

1–16. GOD’S wrath, thus revealed in human life through the consequences of man’s rejection of GOD, is also seen in the judgment of GOD upon man’s conduct—the only just judgment [1] because all men being implicated no man has the right to judge, and [4] a just judgment because GOD has offered man the opportunity of repentance and [5] judges wilful wrongdoing [6] by the main tendencies of a man’s life, [9] without favour to any privileged race, [12] in accordance with opportunities given even to Gentiles and [14] the use made of knowledge admittedly possessed even by Gentiles. This section is closely connected with the preceding by the διὸ and by the verbal and sense echoes (ἀναπολόγητος, πράσσεις).

Verse 2

2. τὸ κρίμα τοῦ θεοῦ. The ὀργή is now conceived as an act of judgment.

κατὰ ἀλήθειαν, in accordance with truth—i.e. the true facts of GOD’S nature and man’s condition. Moral judgment ought to express the actual mind of the judge in relation to the case submitted to him. This is the case with GOD’S judgment, not with man’s as here considered. Man can judge only so far as he is making his own the mind of GOD cf. 1 Corinthians 5:3. GOD’S judgment is just because it corresponds to facts.

Verse 3

3. The nexus seems to be this: do you calculate that this correct attitude towards sin in others will exempt your case from being considered by GOD, or are you merely indifferent to His merciful dealing with you? The case is put in the most general way and applies to all theoretic judgment of others; but the crucial instance in mind is the Jew; cf. Romans 2:17 ff.

ἐκφεύξῃ, shalt clean escape; cf. Luke 21:36; Hebrews 2:3.

Verse 4

4. χρηστότητος. The word has special reference to GOD’S generous gifts to men; cf. Romans 11:22; Ephesians 2:7; Titus 3:4. Here = the generosity which has conferred graces and benefits which the man, who presumes to judge, mistakes for special excellences of his own, and so makes light of the Giver; e.g. cf. Romans 2:17 f.

τῆς ἀνοχῆς, ‘forbearance,’ Romans 3:26; cf. Acts 17:30. μακροθυμία = the long continuance of χρηστότης and ἀνοχή in spite of men’s ways: a favourite word with S. Paul Cf. Psalms 7:11, the adjective freq. of GOD in O. T.; cf. 1 Peter 3:20.

ἀγνοῶν. Once more man misses the aim which GOD proposes.

τὸ χρηστὸν. The neut. adj. for the abstract subst. = ἡ χρηστότης. For the thought, 2 Peter 3:15.

ἄγει, ‘is (always) leading thee,’ a good instance of the linear action of the present, describing tendency not fulfilled.

Verse 5

5. δὲ κ.τ.λ. = however you are deceiving yourself all the while, in fact you are storing up wrath.

κατὰ τὴν σκλ. Deuteronomy 9:27; cf. Matthew 19:8; Acts 7:51. κατὰ, the hardness and unrepentant heart is the measure of the wrath stored up.

ἀμετανόητον. Only here.

θησαυρίζεις. Cf. James 5:3. Contrast Matthew 6:23. It is the man’s own act.

ἐν ἡ. ., Revelation 6:17 only in N.T.; cf. Zephaniah 1:15; Zephaniah 1:18; Zephaniah 2:3.

καὶ ἀποκαλύψεως. When there will be no evading the true facts.

δικαιοκρισίας. Hosea 6:5 (Quinta Orig. Hex. ad loc[80]) only in Greek Bible; = righteousness in judging, excluding favouritism.

Verse 6

6. ὃς ἀποδώσει. Cf. Psalms 42:3; Proverbs 24:12.

τὰ ἔργα. The judgment will correspond to the man’s real character as shown by the works he produces, not as merits that earn but as evidence of character: the works are then described in Romans 2:8 f. as the main effort and tendency of a man’s life, the temper which governs him, and the aims he affects.

Verse 7

7. τοῖς μὲν. Explanatory, therefore the asyndeton. The rhythmical movement and the balanced antitheses of these clauses decide two ambiguities: [1] ζητοῦσιν governs the preceding accusatives; [2] there should be a colon at θυμός; θλ. κ. στ. begin the second pair of antitheses. The whole structure is noticeable. cf. Joh. Weiss Theol. Stud. D. B. Weiss dargeb., Göttingen, 1897.

καθ' ὑπομονὴν ἔ. . The temper by which the life is directed. ὑπ. = perseverance against opposition. The gen. = in good work; cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:3.

δόξαν καὶ τ. κ. . with ζητοῦσιν, describing the aims of the life; cf. Romans 1:23-24. The reflection of the known character of GOD in his own life is a man’s proper aim: and the gift of GOD by which that aim is ultimately secured is ζωὴ αἰώνιος, which again is represented in the third clause as δ. κ. τ. καὶ εἰρήνη. The three words here, then, describe the perfected life of man, his true aim. For δόξα in this sense cf. Romans 9:23; 2 Corinthians 3:18; for τιμή cf. 1 Peter 1:7 (see Hort, ref. Psalms 8:6; Romans 9:21; 2 Timothy 2:20); for ἀφθαρσία cf. 1 Corinthians 9:25; 1 Corinthians 15:42; 1 Peter 1:4; Ephesians 6:24 (see Robinson) = immortality.

ζωὴν αἰώνιον. Cf. Romans 6:23; Galatians 6:8; cf. Daniel 12:2; 2 Maccabees 7:9; 4 Maccabees 15:3 only ap. LX[81]. In Synoptics, of the life of the coming age, cf. Mark 10:17; Mark 10:30. Eternal life, the peculiar condition of GOD, is His consummate gift to man, operative in present conditions but consummated only in the future, the sum and crown of all His other gifts; cf. also Romans 6:22; 1 Timothy 1:16; 1 Timothy 6:12; Titus 1:2; Titus 3:7; cf. Westcott on John 4:14.

Verse 8

8. ἐξ ἐριθίας. From the literal sense of ‘work for hire,’ through the political sense of ‘self-seeking or partisan factiousness’ (cf. Galatians 5:20), the word gets the general ethical sense of ‘self-seeking’ (cf. Philippians 2:3; James 3:16) to the disregard of service, whether of GOD or man. So = μισθαρνία, ambitus, Wetst. ad lo[82]. Here in sharp contrast to καθ' ὑπ. . . (See Hort on James 3:14.)

ἀπειθοῦσι κ.τ.λ. sum up the description given Romans 1:21-32. Disobedience to known truth is again the condition of judgment; cf. Romans 11:30-33.

τῇ ἀληθείᾳ includes as above, Romans 1:18, truth of act and life as is emphasised by the parallelism with δ. κ. τιμ. κ. ἀφθ. ζητοῦσιν, and so )[83] τῇ ἀδικίᾳ.

ὀργὴ καὶ θυμός. N. the change of construction: “ὀργή the settled feeling, θυμός the outward manifestation,” S. H.

Verse 9

9. θλίψις καὶ στενοχωρία. These words must be separated from . κ. θ.: they begin the second pair of antitheses; the adoption of the false and wrong aim worries and narrows the whole life; cf. Romans 8:35; 2 Corinthians 4:8; 2 Corinthians 6:12. But the direct reference here again is to the final state, consequent on judgment.

ἐπὶ π. ψ. κ.τ.λ. pick up and enforce τοῖς ἐξ ἐρ. κ.τ.λ. and emphasise the universality of the judgment and the single condition τὰ ἔργα; the underlying thought then comes to the surface in Ἰουδαίου κ.τ.λ.; for this pair of antitheses the dominant thought is the universality of the judgment, as in the first pair its certainty and quality.

Verse 10

10. εἰρήνη replaces ἀφθαρσία, wider and more ethical: peace with GOD and man, characterising the true life; in contrast also with ἐξ ἐριθείας.

Verse 11

11. οὐ γάρ ἐστιν προσωπολημψία. The fundamental quality of the righteous judge. Cf. Deuteronomy 10:17; Matthew 22:16 |[84], Luke 20:21; Galatians 2:6; Ephesians 6:9, alibi

παρὰ τῷ θεῷ, ‘with GOD,’ that is, in Him and His acts, as judge; for this use of παρά (for ἐν) due to reverence, cf. Hort on James 1:17 (p. 30), cf[86], Mark 10:27.

Verse 12

12. ὅσοι. All without distinction.

ἀνόμως. The antithesis ἐν νόμῳ and διὰ νόμου and the parallel τὰ μὴ νόμον ἔχοντα, prove that ἀν. = without law (not ‘against law,’ as 1 Timothy 1:9 (?)); cf. 1 Corinthians 9:21. In fact it is arguable that ἄνομος should always be taken in this sense in N.T. See on 14.

ἥμαρτον, in accordance with the whole preceding argument, implies acting against knowledge, even though that knowledge has not been given in explicit law; Romans 2:4 f. explain how it was given. See Add. Note D, on ἁμαρτία, p. 213.

Aor. most simply taken as ‘timeless’; cf. Moulton, p. 134; Burton, § 54, who calls it ‘collective.’ The aorist expresses fundamentally ‘action at a point’ or action simply in itself without time reference. A special difficulty arises in the indicative because the augment gives a reference to past time: but as the present is properly durative, it is natural that the necessity for expressing simple action should lead to the use of the aorist in this sense, in spite of the effect of the augment: so I take it here and Romans 3:23 and tr. ‘all that sin.’ Otherwise, it should be translated by the future perfect, under the influence of the future in the apodosis.

Verses 12-16

12–16. These verses bring out, further, the principle of judgment in accordance with the opportunities a man has had and the use he has made of them. Privilege does not exempt from judgment but heightens responsibility; nor does the absence of privilege exempt, provided there is some knowledge which demands corresponding action. The special object of these verses is to justify the inclusion of Gentiles under the judgment of GOD. In Romans 2:17 we pass to the case of the Jew.

Verse 13

13. οὐ γὰρ justifies the latter clause of 12. If law is a ground of sinning, law must be done, if a verdict of acquittal is to be gained.

δικαιωθήσονται. A clear case of the forensic use of δικαιοῦν = shall be acquitted. See Introduction, p. xxxvi.

Verse 14

14. ὅταν γὰρ. The principle of Romans 2:13 applies to Gentiles, only we have to think not of explicit law, but of knowledge of right and wrong evidenced in their conscience and utterances.

Suspicion has been cast on these verses (14, 15) on the ground that they interrupt, both the rhythmical antitheses, and the argumentative structure of the passage (Romans 2:16 returning to Romans 2:13). Some take them as a later comment, though in strict accordance with the principles of the passage; some as a marginal note by S. Paul himself. But their genuineness is indicated by the fact that they are not only in accordance with but strictly necessary to the argument; for it is essential to make it clear here in what sense Gentiles are in relation to law: only if in such relation could they be amenable to judgment. cf. J. Weiss, op. cit[87] p. 218 n.

ἔθνη. Gentiles as such.

τὰ μὴ νόμον ἔχοντα. The admitted condition of ἔθνη.

φύσει with ποιῶσιν = without the help of an external revelation in law; cf. Ephesians 2:3 (n. Robinson); Galatians 2:15; Galatians 4:8. φύσις, morally neutral, depends on man’s use; cf. Romans 1:26, Romans 2:27.

τὰ τοῦ νόμου = the acts prescribed by such a revealed law.

ἑαυτοῖς εἰσὶν νόμος. Here S. Paul boldly applies the term νόμος to the condition which has just been described as ἄνομος. They have no law outside themselves; but the knowledge of GOD, which they have, takes the place of revealed law and may even be called law for them. It is a good instance of the way in which S. Paul goes behind the ordinary use of language and cuts down to the vital nerve of thought. See further in ch. 7, Romans 8:1-4.

Verse 15

15. οἵτινες explains the preceding phrase.

ἐνδείκνυνται, ‘give proof of’; cf. Romans 9:17; cf. 2 Corinthians 8:24; Ephesians 2:7; i.e. by their actions. The fact that moral goodness is found in Gentiles is assumed throughout this argument as much as the fact that all sin.

τὸ ἔργον τοῦ νόμου. Not the law itself, but that effect which is produced by the law in those who have it. Not = “the course of conduct prescribed by the law” (S. H.); that could hardly be described as ‘written in the heart’; but “the knowledge of GOD’S will, of right and wrong,” which is found in all human consciousness, and in a heightened degree in those who have an external law; cf. Romans 7:7 f.; |[88] therefore to Romans 1:19; Romans 1:21, and different from Romans 3:20; Romans 3:28; cf. Galatians 5:19; perhaps James 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Corinthians 9:1; Matthew 11:19. (Ewald, de voce συνειδήσεως p. 17, after Grotius, qu. S.H.)

γραπτὸν ἐν τ. κ. α. Cf. for the metaphor 2 Corinthians 3:2. On καρδία the seat of knowledge and will, see above, Romans 1:24. cf. Weiss, Theol. p. 250.

συνμαρτυρούσης κ.τ.λ., explain the nature of the ἔνδειξις; cf. Romans 1:21. The cpd v[89] only here and Romans 8:16, Romans 9:1. In the two latter places the force of the συν- is clear from the context. Here apparently the other witness is ‘their actions’; cf. 2 Corinthians 1:12. It is possible, however, that the συν- is merely ‘perfective.’ cf. Moulton, p. 113.

τῆς συνειδήσεως. The primary idea of the word is [1] ‘consciousness’ as due to reflection, on the model of the use of the verb συνειδὲναι ἑαυτῷ τι, ‘to be conscious of an experience good or bad’; on this follows the meaning [2] ‘experience’ as the sum of reflective consciousness or self-knowledge, subjective always; and [3] so the ‘feeling’ which admits or rejects as alien a new candidate for admission into a man’s sum of experience; then [4], as a special development of the last meaning, ‘conscience’ as suggesting moral judgments. See Add. Note, p. 208. Here = [2] ‘their conscious experience’; the effect of the law is recognisably part of their mental equipment or consciousness, their stock of ideas; the next clause then explains how their consciousness bears this witness.

μεταξὺ ἀλλήλων = as between each other, in mutual intercourse: it is the mutual intercourse of men which arouses the moral judgment, even when that moral judgment is exercised upon the man’s own experience, as here; cf. S.H. This is an instance of the development of personality by social relations. cf. Ward, The Realm of Ends [1911], p. 366.

τῶν λογισμῶν. Their thoughts exhibit moral judgments, presupposing that knowledge which is the effect of the law. For λογισμοί cf. 2 Corinthians 10:5 only, freq. in LX[90]. Here = reflexion passing moral judgment on the contents of consciousness. (In 4 Macc. = reason as master of the passions and champion of piety.) This interpretation seems to be necessitated not only by the regular use of λογισμός but also by the context; n. esp. τὰ κρυπτὰ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, 16.

ἤ καὶ ἀπολογουμένων. The approval of conscience rarer than the condemnation, but not unknown.


A. συνείδησις, c. Romans 2:15

The word is found only in the Pauline writings (Romans , 1 and 2 Corinthians , 1 and 2 Tim., Tit., 1 Pet., Heb.) except [John 8:9], and Acts 23:1; Acts 24:16 (speeches of S. Paul). The verb (σύνοιδα) only in 1 Corinthians 4:4. In the LXX[341] it occurs only in Wisdom of Solomon 17:11 (R.V. conscience), Ecclesiastes 10:20 (R.V. heart), and perhaps Sirach 42:18 (R.V. knowledge). The verb, Job 27:6; Leviticus 5:1; 1 Maccabees 4:21; 2 Maccabees 4:41. The two passages which make clear the use of the word are Job l.c[342], οὐ σύνοιδα ἐμαυτῷ ἄτοπα πράξας, and Wisdom l.c[343], πονηρίαἀεὶ προσείληφεν τὰ χαλεπὰ συνεχομένη τῇ συνειδήσει. In both these passages it is the state of mind which is conscious of certain actions in their moral aspects.

The customary meaning of the substantive follows the use of the verb. σύνοιδά τινί τι = to be privy to the action of another; σύνοιδα ἐμαυτῷ τι or τι πράξας = to be privy to an action or thought of my own; but, as a man in general cannot help being privy to his own thoughts and actions, the phrase is used with the special meaning of the recognition or feeling of the character, and especially the moral character, of one’s own thoughts or actions. So we get first the simple meaning, the feeling or knowledge that we have done or thought certain things imputed to us, and, secondly, the more definite meaning, the feeling or knowledge that such thoughts or actions are right or wrong. This feeling can be appealed to as a witness to character, either by the man himself appealing to his self-consciousness in support of a statement, or by others appealing to the man’s own consciousness of himself. So Wisdom of Solomon 17:11, R.V. “Wickedness, condemned by a witness within, is a coward thing, and being pressed hard by conscience (τῃ συνειδήσει) always forecasts the worst lot,” the consciousness of being wrong makes a coward of the man. Here the conscience or consciousness is an incorruptible witness before whose evidence the man trembles. Cf. Polyb. XVIII. 26.13, οὐδεὶς οὔτως μάρτυς ἐστὶ φοβερὸς οὔτε κατήγορος δεινὸς ὡς ἡ σύνεσις ἡ ἐγκατοικοῦσα ταῖς ἑκάστων ψυχαῖς, where the last phrase = ἡ συνείδησις. It is rather as a witness than as a judge that ἡ συνείδησις is regarded in ordinary Greek use: and it is only as a witness that it is appealed to in N. T.

In Romans the word occurs three times, Romans 2:15, Romans 9:1, Romans 13:5. In Romans 2:15 and Romans 9:1 it is used of a man’s knowledge of himself, his motives and thoughts, called as a witness to his true character. In Romans 2:15 the Gentiles’ self-consciousness, knowledge of their own minds, witnesses to their possession, in a sense, of law, and so confirms the evidence of their acts. In Romans 9 :1 S. Paul’s knowledge of himself, as controlled by the ‘Holy Spirit, witnesses to the pain and distress he feels for Israel, and confirms the witness of the assertion which he makes as in Christ. In Romans 13:5 there is no idea of witness, but the consciousness of their own motives and feelings as shown in the fact that they willingly pay tribute, is appealed to as an argument for obedience.

Closely parallel to Romans 9:1 is 2 Corinthians 1:12, where the consciousness of motive is alleged as a witness to the truth of his confident assertion.

With Romans 13:5 may be grouped the passages in which an epithet is attached (Acts 23:1, ἀγαθή, Acts 24:16, ἀπρόσκοπος; 1 Timothy 1:5; 1 Timothy 1:19, 1 Peter 3:16; 1 Peter 3:21, ἀγαθή; 1 Timothy 3:9, 2 Timothy 1:3, καθαρά. Cf. Hebrews 9:14, καθαριεῖ τὴν συνείδησιν; Hebrews 13:18, καλή; Hebrews 10:22, πονηρά). In all these passages it is clear that the word indicates the self-consciousness which includes good or bad contents, as matter of feeling and experience, as simply a matter of self-knowledge, without any direct thought of judgment. So 1 Peter 2:19, διὰ συνείδησιν θεοῦ, a remarkable phrase, seems to mean, owing to a feeling of or about GOD, bringing Him as it were into the field of conscious motive. This feeling or consciousness can be dulled by evil courses (1 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:15). External ordinances leave it untouched (Hebrews 9:9), but it can be cleansed (Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 10:21-22).

In 2 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 5:11 the Apostle appeals, for the recognition of his claim, to the conscious experience (συνείδησις) which others have acquired of his character and life, their inner knowledge of him; in this use we have the substantival form of the verbal phrase σύνοιδά τινί τι. And it is possible that we have the same use in 1 Corinthians 10:28-29, where the συνείδησις may = the weak brother’s knowledge of and feeling about the acts of the strong.

In 1 Corinthians 8:7-12 we have the remarkable epithet ἀσθενής, where if we translate συνείδησις as ‘conscience,’ we have the paradox of calling a sensitive conscience weak. We can hardly get a nearer translation here than ‘feelings.’ The man ‘feels’ that to eat εἰδωλόθυτα, is wrong. This ‘feeling’ cannot be justified by reason; it is due to association (τῇ συνηθείᾳ ἕως ἄρτι τοῦ εἰδώλου), and he cannot shake it off: it is called ‘weak,’ because in it the man is not really master of himself. The argument of the passage is directed to gaining from the strong a tender consideration for those who are in this weak state of feeling. It is a pity that the true character of many ‘conscientious objections’ of the present day is obscured by their association with our modern term ‘conscience,’ when they should be really described as συνείδησις ἀσθενής.

On the whole, then, we may say that in the N.T., as in common Greek use, συνείδησις describes rather a state of consciousness, than a faculty or act of judgment: some uses of the word ‘conscience’ correspond to this meaning of συνείδησις; but in more cases than not the meaning will be adequately given by such renderings as ‘consciousness,’ ‘self-knowledge,’ or even simply ‘heart.’

Verse 16

16. ἐν ἧ ἡμέρᾳ κ.τ.λ. = at the assize (by the judgment) of GOD who judges not by privilege or appearance but by the secret contents of a man’s heart: to be taken with the whole of the preceding sentence, as supporting the analysis of the Gentile state by appeal to the method by which GOD judges. Gentiles clearly have this knowledge, etc., if judged as GOD judges by the unseen state of their hearts.

For ἡμέρᾳ in this sense cf. 1 Corinthians 4:3, perh. also above, Romans 2:5.

If to avoid the obvious difficulties of this interpretation we look for some other connexion for ἐν ᾗ ἡ., we must go back to Romans 2:12 and regard the two clauses introduced by γὰρ as parenthetic. The objections to such a conception of the passage may be modified, if we remember that it was in all probability dictated, and we can imagine that in the speaker’s pause, while these two clauses were being written down, his mind recurred to the main subject of the paragraph, and he concludes with the thought of the final assize.

κρίνει. If we read the present, the stress is laid on the general principles of GOD’S judgment; if the future (κρινεῖ, cf. Romans 3:6) on the certain judgment itself.

κατὰ τὸ εὐαγγέλιόν μου. The judgment was a primary element of the Gospel as presented to Gentiles (Acts 17:31; Acts 24:25), and as a judgment of character, rather than of acts: and this quality of the judgment was involved in its being administered through the agency of Christ Jesus, who is Himself the judge, as being Himself the standard, of human goodness.

Verse 17

17. Under the same principle comes the Jew, who has full and privileged opportunities [21] and yet makes ill use of them by open unrighteousness [25] from the consequences of which no privilege can deliver him in face of a judgment which considers character and not privilege, (Romans 3:1) His advantage was an exceptional trust given by GOD, which his failure does not impair, as on GOD’S part, though it justifies his punishment, but not himself. [9] He is, therefore, as sinning against knowledge, a state foreseen in O.T., under the same condemnation as the Gentile, law having given to him the knowledge which makes wrongdoing into sin.

This section shows explicitly that the Jew belongs to the class τῶν τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἐν ἀδικίᾳ κατεχόντων. They possess the truth, Romans 2:17-20, ἐν ἀδικίᾳ, 21 ff. Here, as there is no dispute as to fact, the Jew obviously possessing the truth, the main argument is directed to his supposed plea, that his specially privileged position exempts him from condemnation (Romans 3:1-20).

It is important to realise that the whole stress is laid on acting upon knowledge, whether embodied in human consciousness or in an external law; it is this duty of obedience which is the characteristic demand of the pre-Christian dispensation; and its exposition leads to the conclusion that all have sinned and are amenable to judgment, as all have failed to obey law, in one form or another. cf. S.H., p. 58, Lft, Galatians 4:11, Hort, R. & E. p. 25.

17. εἰ δὲ. Apodosis Romans 2:21; on the construction cf. Winer-M., p. 711 (who keeps. εἰ δὲ) Blass, p. 284 (who prefers ἴδε; so Field ad loc.). If we read εἰ δὲ it is a case of anacoluthon, of a quite intelligible kind. The nexus supports εἰ δὲ. He is passing from the case of the Gentile to the case of the Jew with his special conditions; and the particle of contrast is required.

Ἰουδαῖος )[91] Ἔλλην marks nationality, but suggests too all that the distinctive nationality meant to the Jew; cf. Galatians 2:4.

ἐπονομάζῃ. Only here in N.T. The ἐπί gives the force of a specific name, differentiating a part in a wider class. So here = not ἄνθρωπος only, but Ἰουδαῖος. cf. Plato, Protag. 349 A, σοφιστὴν ἐπονομάζεις σεαυτόν.

ἐπαναπαύῃ κ.τ.λ. These clauses enumerate the details of the true prerogatives of the Jew, as called by GOD so

καυχᾶσαι, in a good sense; all your boasting is in GOD and His dealings with you; cf. Romans 5:11, 2 Corinthians 11:7.

Verses 17-29

17–3:20. The Gospel is needed by Jews, who have also failed through ignoring the one condition of righteousness.

Verse 18

18. τὸ θέλημα. cf. Lft, Revision, p. 106, ed. 1; p. 118, ed. 2 (S.H.).

δοκιμάζεις. As above, Romans 1:28, ‘approvest, after testing.’

τὰ διαφέροντα = the things that are better, the better courses of conduct; cf. Philippians 1:10, and for the verb 1 Corinthians 15:41; Galatians 4:1.

κατηχούμενος = being taught—all teaching at this time being oral; cf. Luke 1:4; Galatians 6:6.

Verse 19

19. πέποιθάς τε passes to the Jew’s conviction of his true relation to other men.

ὀδηγὸν. Perh. an echo of Matthew 15:14; cf. S.H.

Verse 20

20. ἔχοντα = as one who has.

τὴν μόρφωσιν = the true shaping. The Law was a true expression of the knowledge and truth of GOD cf. Romans 7:12. On μορφή as the proper expression of the inner reality of. Lft, Phil. 127 f.

τῆς γν. κ. τῆς ἀλ. Cf. τὸ θέλημα—all in the most general form.

ἐν τῷ νόμῳ. With ἔχοντα.

Verse 21

21. οὖν. Well then, does practice correspond to prerogative? If not, prerogative does not exempt from judgment. The charge is put in the form of questions, by way of convicting the Jew in his own conscience. He cannot plead not guilty. Much more forcible than bare statements.

Verses 21-29

21–29. The nexus is marked by the particles—οὖν [21] sums up the privileges and introduces, in the form of questions, the contrast in the actual facts; γὰρ [24] implies the answer yes to the preceding questions and justifies it; γὰρ [25] explains how the event has come about, in spite of the privileges; οὖν [26] draws the conclusion, as to the relative position of Jew and Gentile; γὰρ [28] explains this conclusion as resting on the essential superiority of the moral and spiritual to the external and ritual.

Verse 22

22. ἱεροσυλεῖς. Cf. Acts 19:37. S. H. refers to Jos. Antiq. iv. 8, 10; Lft, Supern. Rel. p. 299 f.; Ramsay, Ch. & R. E. p. 144 n.; Deuteronomy 7:26. The antithesis is less clear than in the former cases. The charge seems to be that, though they regard idols as ‘abominable’ things, they do not hesitate to make pecuniary advantage out of robbing temples.

Verse 23

23. ἀτιμάζεις; S. H. and Giff. support ἀτιμάζεις. and treat it as a direct statement summing up the points of the preceding questions. Yet the interrogative form is more forcible here too. The claim explicitly brings the Jews under the same imputation as the Gentiles, Romans 1:21.

Verse 24

24. τὸ γὰρ ὄνομα κ.τ.λ. Isaiah 52:5; the words are adopted (practically in LXX[92] form), but in a new sense. Here of the contempt brought upon the Name of GOD by the lives of His professed worshippers; cf. Romans 14:16; 1 Timothy 6:1; Titus 2:5; 2 Peter 2:2.

Verse 25

25. περιτομὴ μὲν γὰρ κ.τ.λ. The explanation of the awful contrast between the formal condition of the Jew and his actual condition. περιτομῂ is the symbol of the whole covenant relation of the Jew with GOD. The symbol has no effect unless the condition imposed by the covenant is kept. It did not either excuse from or enable to obedience. Disobedience evacuates the formal position of all meaning. The ‘weakness’ of the covenant as a spiritual force is not however developed till ch. 7.

νόμον πράσσῃς, ‘if you practise law,’ in the tenour of your life: the absence of the article and the v[93] πράσσειν throw stress on the general character of the life, as distinct from particular Acts cf.vv1-3.

παραβάτης νόμου. So ‘a law breaker’—in general.

Verse 26

26 f. It follows that the formal positions of Jew and Gentile may be reversed.

ἡ ἀκροβυστία. Abstract for concrete = the Gentiles; to emphasise the absence of the formal condition.

τὰ δικαιώματα—the ordinances in detail as rules of life.

Verse 27

27. ἡ ἐκ φύσεως ἀκρ. This introduces the distinction between the external symbol and the spiritual condition.

τὸν νόμον τελοῦσα, ‘if it keep …’ or ‘by keeping …’: perhaps better = ‘which keeps …,’ τελοῦσα, adjectival, owing its position to the fact that there is a second adj., ἐκ φύσεως.

διὰ γράμματος καὶ περιτομῆς = under a condition of written law and circumcision: an advantageous condition as far as it goes. γρ. is the external form of revelation, as περ. is the external form of the covenant. The emphasis is on the character of these forms; therefore anarthrous; and ‘letter’ is a better translation than ‘scripture.’ For this abstraction of the external form of scripture cf. Romans 7:6; 2 Corinthians 3:3. For διὰ w. gen., expressing a condition or state, cf. Romans 4:11, Romans 8:25, Romans 14:20; cf. Blass, p. 132 f.

Verse 28

28. The grammar is ambiguous, but the sense is clear. The outward state and sign, if they are to have spiritual value, demand a corresponding inward state; which itself has value, even if the outward is absent.

Verse 29

29. ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ. Cf. Romans 2:16; 1 Peter 3:4.

περιτομὴ καρδίας. Here the symbol becomes the reality; cf. Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4; Jeremiah 9:26; Ezekiel 46:7; Acts 7:51, S. H.

ὁ ἔπαινος. An allusion to Ἰουδαῖος, Judah = praise; cf. Genesis 29:35; Genesis 49:8, Giff.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Romans 2:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 26th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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