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Bible Commentaries
Romans 11

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Verses 1-99

THE REJECTION OF ISRAEL NOT COMPLETE

11:1-10. Israel then has refused to accept the salvation offered it; is it therefore rejected? No. At any rate the rejection is not complete. Now as always in the history of Israel, although the mass of the people may be condemned to disbelief, there is a remnant that shall be saved.

1 The conclusion of the preceding argument is this. It is through their own fault that Israel has rejected a salvation which was fully and freely offered. Now what does this imply? Does it mean that God has rejected His chosen people? Heaven forbid that I should say this! I who like them am an Israelite, an Israelite by birth and not a proselyte, a lineal descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe that with Judah formed the restored Israel after the exile. 2 No, God has not rejected His people. He chose them for His own before all time and nothing can make Him change His purpose. If you say He has rejected them, it only shows that you have not clearly grasped the teaching of Scripture concerning the Remnant. Elijah on Mt. Horeb brought just such an accusation against his countrymen. 3 He complained that they had forsaken the covenant, that they had overthrown God’s altars, that they had slain His Prophets; just as the Jews at the present day have slain the Messiah and persecuted His messengers. Elijah only was left, and his life they sought. The whole people, God’s chosen people, had been rejected. 4 So he thought; but the Divine response came to him, that there were seven thousand men left in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal. There was a kernel of the nation that remained loyal. 5 Exactly the same circumstances exist now as then. Now as then the mass of the people are unfaithful, but there is a remnant of loyal adherents to the Divine message:—a remnant, be it remembered, chosen by God by an act of free favour: 6 that is to say those whom God has in His good pleasure selected for that position, who have in no way earned it by any works they have done, or any merit of their own. If that were possible Grace would lose all its meaning: there would be no occasion for God to show free favour to mankind.

7 It is necessary then at any rate to modify the broad statement that has been made. Israel, it is true, has failed to obtain the righteousness which it sought; but, although this is true of the nation as a whole, there is a Remnant of which it is not true. Those whom God selected have attained it. But what of the rest? Their hearts have been hardened. Here again we find the same conditions prevailing throughout Israel’s history. 8Isaiah declared (29:10; 6:9, 10) how God had thrown the people into a state of spiritual torpor. He had given them eyes which could not see, and ears which could not hear. All through their history the mass of the people has been destitute of spiritual insight. 9 And again in the book of Psalms, David (69:23, 24) declares the Divine wrath against the unfaithful of the nation: ‘May their table be their snare.’ It is just their position as God’s chosen people, it is the Law and the Scriptures, which are their boast, that are to be the cause of their ruin. They are to be punished by being allowed to cleave fast to that to which they have perversely adhered. 10 ‘Let their eyes be blinded, so that they cannot see light when it shines upon them: let their back be ever bent under the burden to which they have so obstinately clung.’ This was God’s judgement then on Israel for their faithlessness, and it is God’s judgement on them now.

1-36. St. Paul has now shown (1) (9:6-29) that God was perfectly free, whether as regards promise or His right as Creator, to reject Israel; (2) (9:30-10:21) that Israel on their side by neglecting the Divine method of salvation offered them have deserved this rejection. He now comes to the original question from which he started, but which he never expressed, and asks, Has God, as might be thought from the drift of the argument so far, really cast away His people? To this he gives a negative answer, which he proceeds to justify by showing (1) that this rejection is only partial (11:1-10), (2) only temporary (11:11-25), and (3) that in all this Divine action there has been a purpose deeper and wiser than man can altogether understand (11:26-36).

1. λέγω οὖν. This somewhat emphatic phrase occurring here and in ver. 11 seems to mark a stage in the argument, the οὖν as so often summing up the result so far arrived at. The change of particle shows that we have not here a third question parallel to the�

μὴ�1 Samuel 12:22; 93 [94], 14; 94 [95], 4) the promise οὐκ�


This very clear instance of the merely literary use of the language of the O. T. makes it more probable that St. Paul should have adopted a similar method elsewhere, as in 10:6 ff., 18.

μὴ γένοιτο. St. Paul repudiates the thought with horror. All his feelings as an Israelite make it disloyal in him to hold it.

καὶ γὰρ κ.τ.λ. These words have been taken in two ways. (1) As a proof of the incorrectness of the suggestion. St. Paul was an Israelite, and he had been saved; therefore the people as a whole could not have been rejected. So the majority of commentators (Go. Va. Oltr. Weiss). But the answer to the question does not occur until St. Paul gives it in a solemn form at the beginning of the next verse; he would not therefore have previously given a reason for its incorrectness. Moreover it would be inconsistent with St. Paul’s tact and character to put himself forward so prominently.

(2) It is therefore better to take it as giving ‘the motive for his deprecation, not a proof of his denial’ (Mey. Gif. Lips.). Throughout this passage, St. Paul partly influenced by the reality of his own sympathy, partly by a desire to put his argument in a form as little offensive as possible, has more than once emphasized his own kinship with Israel (9:1-3; 10:1). Here for the first time, just when he is going to disprove it, he makes the statement which has really been the subject of the two previous passages, and at once, in order if possible to disarm criticism, reminds his readers that he is an Israelite, and that therefore to him, as much as to them, the supposition seems almost blasphemous.

Ἰσραηλίτης κ.τ.λ. Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:22; Philippians 3:5.


ὃν προέγνω, which is added by Lachmann after τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ, has the support of A D Chrys. and other authorities, but clearly came in from ver. 2.

2. οὐκ�

ὃν προέγνω. The addition of these words gives a reason for the emphatic denial of which they form a part. Israel was the race which God in His Divine foreknowledge had elected and chosen, and therefore He could not cast it off. The reference in this chapter is throughout to the election of the nation as a whole, and therefore the words cannot have a limiting sense (Orig. Chrys. Aug.), ‘that people whom He foreknew,’ i.e. those of His people whom He foreknew; nor again can they possibly refer to the spiritual Israel, as that would oblige a meaning to be given to λαός different from that in ver. 1. The word προέγνω may be taken, (1) as used in the Hebrew sense, to mean ‘whom He has known or chosen beforehand.’ So γινώσκειν in the LXX. Amos 3:2 ὑμᾶς ἔγνων ἐκ πασῶν τῶν φυλω1͂ν τῆς γῆς. And in St. Paul 1 Corinthians 8:3 εἰ δέ τις�Galatians 4:9 νῦν δὲ γνόντες Θεόν, μᾶλλον δὲ γνωσθέντες ὑπὸ Θεοῦ. 2 Timothy 2:19 ἔγνω Κύριος τοὺς ὄντας αὐτοῦ. Although there is no evidence for this use of προγινώσκειν it represents probably the idea which St. Paul had in his mind (see on 8:29). (2) But an alternative interpretation taking the word in its natural meaning of foreknowledge, must not be lost sight of, ‘that people of whose history and future destiny God had full foreknowledge.’ This seems to be the meaning with which the word is generally used (Wisd. 6:13; 8:8; 18:6; Just. Mart. Apol. i. 28; Dial. 42. p. 261 B.); so too πρόγνωσις is used definitely and almost technically of the Divine foreknowledge (Acts 2:23), and in this chapter St. Paul ends with vindicating the Divine wisdom which had prepared for Israel and the world a destiny which exceeds human comprehension.


ἤ οὐκ οἴδατε: cf. 2:4; 6:3; 7:1; 9:21. ‘You must admit this or be ignorant of what the Scripture says.’ The point of the quotation lies not in the words which immediately follow, but in the contrast between the two passages; a contrast which represented the distinction between the apparent and the real situation at the time when the Apostle wrote.

ἐν Ἠλίᾳ: ‘in the section of Scripture which narrates the story of Elijah.’ The O. T. Scriptures were divided into paragraphs to which were given titles derived from their subject-matter; and these came to be very commonly used in quotations as references. Many instances are quoted from the Talmud and from Hebrew commentators: Berachoth, fol. 2Ch_1, fol. 4.Col_2 id quod scriptum est apud Michäel, referring to Isaiah 6:6. So Taanijoth, ii. 1; Aboth de-Rabbi Nathan, c. 9; Shir hashirim rabbai. 6, where a phrase similar to that used here, ‘In Elijah,’ occurs, and the same passage is quoted, ‘I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of Hosts.’ So also Philo, De Agricultura, p. 203 (i. 317 Mang.) λέγει γὰρ ἐν ταῖς�Genesis 3:15. The phrase ἐπὶ τῆς βάτου Mark 12:26; Luke 20:37; Clem. Hom. xvi. 14; Apost. Const. v. 20, is often explained in a similar manner, but very probably incorrectly, the ἐπί being perhaps purely local. The usage exactly corresponds to the method used in quoting the Homeric poems. As the Rabbis divided the O. T. into sections so the Rhapsodists divided Homer, and these sections were quoted by their subjects, ἐν Ἔκτορος�

ἐντυγχάνει: ‘he accuses Israel before God.’ The verb ἐντυγχάνειν means, (1) ‘to meet with,’ (2) ‘to meet with for the purposes of conversation,’ ‘have an interview with,’ Acts 25:24; hence (3) ‘to converse with,’ ‘plead with,’ Wisdom 8:21, either on behalf of some one (ὑπέρ τινος) Romans 8:27, Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25; or against some one (κατά τινος), and so (4) definitely ‘to accuse’ as here and 1 Macc. 11:25 καὶ ἐνετύγχανον κατʼ αὐτοῦ τινες ἄνομοι τῶν ἐκ τοῦ ἔθνους: 8:32; 10:61, 63.


The TR. adds λέγων at the end of this verse with א*L al. pler., it is omitted by אc A B C D E F G P min. pauc., Vulg. Sah. Boh., and most Fathers.

3. Κύριε, τοὺς προφήτας κ.τ.λ. The two quotations come from 1 Kings 19:10, 1 Kings 19:14, 1 Kings 19:18; the first being repeated twice. Elijah has fled to Mt. Horeb from Jezebel, and accuses his countrymen before God of complete apostasy; he alone is faithful. God answers that even although the nation as a whole has deserted Him, yet there is a faithful remnant, 7,000 men who have not bowed the knee to Baal. There is an analogy, St. Paul argues, between this situation and that of his own day. The spiritual condition is the same. The nation as a whole has rejected God’s message, now as then; but now as then also there is a faithful remnant left, and if that be so God cannot be said to have cast away His people.

The quotation is somewhat shortened from the LXX, and the order of the clauses is inverted, perhaps to put in a prominent position the words τοὺς προφήτας σου�Acts 7:52; 1 Thessalonians 2:14). The καί between the clauses of the TR. is read by D E L and later MSS. Justin Martyr, Dial. 39. p. 257 D, quotes the words as in St. Paul and not as in the LXX: Καὶ γὰρ Ἠλίας περὶ ὑμῶν πρὸς τὸν Θεὸν ἐντυγχάνων οὕτως λέγει· Κύριε, τοὺς προφήτας σου�

4. ὁ χρηματισμός: ‘the oracle.’ An unusual sense for the word, which occurs here only in the N. T., but is found in 2 Macc. 2:4; Clem.Rom; xvii. 5 and occasionally elsewhere. The verb χρηματίζειν meant (1) originally ‘to transact business’; then (2) ‘to consult,’ ‘deliberate’; hence (3) ‘to give audience,’ ‘answer after deliberation’; and so finally (4) of an oracle ‘to give a response, taking the place of the older χράω; and so it is used in the N. T. of the Divine warning Matthew 2:12, Matthew 2:22 χρηματισθέντες κατʼ ὄναρ: Luke 2:26; Acts 10:22; Hebrews 8:5; 11:7: cf. Jos. Antt. V. i. 14; X. i. 3; XI. iii. 4. From this usage of the verb χρηματίζω was derived χρηματισμός, as the more usual χρησμός from χράω. See also p. 173.


τῇ Βάαλ: substituted by St. Paul (as also by Justin Martyr, loc. cit.) for the LXX τῷ Βάαλ, according to a usage common in other passages in the Greek Version.

The word Baal, which means ‘Lord,’ appears to have been originally used as one of the names of the God of Israel, and as such became a part of many Jewish names, as for example Jerubbaal (Jude 1:6:32; Jude 1:7:1), Eshbaal (1 Chronicles 9:39), Meribbaal (1 Chronicles 9:40), &c. But gradually the special association of the name with the idolatrous worship of the Phoenician god caused the use of it to be forbidden. Hosea 2:16, Hosea 2:17 ‘and it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali. For I will take away the names of the Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be mentioned by their name.’ Owing to this motive a tendency arose to obliterate the name of Baal from the Scriptures: just as owing to a feeling of reverence ‘Elohim’ was substituted for ‘Jehovah’ in the second and third books of the Psalms. This usage took the form of substituting Bosheth, ‘abomination,’ for Baal. So Eshbaal (1 Chronicles 8:33, 1 Chronicles 9:39) became Ishbosheth (2 Samuel 2:8; 2 Samuel 3:8); Meribbaal (1 Chronicles 9:40) Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9:6 ff.); Jerubbaal Jerubbesheth (2 Samuel 11:21). See also Hosea 9:10; Jeremiah 3:24; Jeremiah 11:13. Similarly in the LXX αἰσχύνη represents in one passage Baal of the Hebrew text, 3 Kings 18:19, 25. But it seems to have been more usual to substitute αἰσχύνη in reading for the written Βάαλ, and as a sign of this Qeri the feminine article was written; just as the name Jehovah was written with the pointing of Adonai. This usage is most common in Jeremiah, but occurs also in the books of Kings, Chronicles, and other Prophets. It appears not to occur in the Pentateuch. The plural ταῖς occurs 2 Chronicles 24:7; 2 Chronicles 33:3. This, the only satisfactory explanation of the feminine article with the masculine name, is given by Dillmann, Monatsberichte der Akademie der Wissenschaft zu Berlin, 1881, p. 601 ff. and has superseded all others.


The LXX version is again shortened in the quotation, and for καταλείψω is substituted κατέλιπον ἐμαυτῷ, which is an alternative and perhaps more exact translation of the Hebrew.

5. οὓτως οὖν. The application of the preceding instance to the circumstances of the Apostle’s own time. The facts were the same. St. Paul would assume that his readers, some of whom were Jewish Christians, and all of whom were aware of the existence of such a class, would recognize this. And if this were so the same deduction might be made. As then the Jewish people were not rejected, because the remnant was saved; so now there is a remnant, and this implies that God has not cast away His people as such.

λεῖμμα (on the orthography cf. WH. ii. App. p. 154, who read λίμμα), ‘a remnant.’ The word does not occur elsewhere in the N. T., and in the O. T. only twice, and then not in the technical sense of the ‘remnant.’ The usual word for that is τὸ καταλειφθέν.

κατʼ ἐκλογὴν χάριτος. Predicate with γέγονεν. ‘There has come to be through the principle of selection which is dependent on the Divine grace or favour.’ This addition to the thought, which is further explained in ver. 6, reminds the reader of the result of the previous discussion: that ‘election’ on which the Jews had always laid so much stress had operated, but it was a selection on the part of God of those to whom He willed to give His grace, and not an election of those who had earned it by their works.

6. εἰ δὲ χάριτι κ.τ.λ. A further explanation of the principles of election. If the election had been on the basis of works, then the Jews might have demanded that God’s promise could only be fulfilled if all who had earned it had received it: St. Paul, by reminding them of the principles of election already laid down, implies that the promise is fulfilled if the remnant is saved. God’s people are those whom He has chosen; it is not that the Jews are chosen because they are His people.

ἐπεὶ ἡ χάρις οὐκέτι γίνεται χάρις: ‘this follows from the very meaning of the idea of grace.’ Gratia nisi gratis sit gratia non est. St. Augustine.

The TR. after γίνεται χάρις adds εἰ δὲ ἐξ ἔργων, οὐκέτι ἐστὶ χάρις· ἐπεὶ τὸ ἔργον οὐκέτι ἐστὶν ἔργον with אc (B) L and later MSS., Syrr., Chrys. and Thdrt. (in the text, but they do not refer to the words in their commentary). B reads εἰ δὲ ἐξ ἔργων, οὐκέτι χάρις�

The verb πωρόω (derived from πῶρος a callus or stone formed in the bladder) is a medical term used in Hippocrates and elsewhere of a bone or hard substance growing when bones are fractured, or of a stone forming in the bladder. Hence metaphorically it is used in the N. T., and apparently there only of the heart becoming hardened or callous: so Mark 6:52; John 12:40; Romans 11:7; 2 Corinthians 3:14: while the noun πώρωσις occurs in the same sense, Mark 3:5; Romans 11:25; Ephesians 4:18. The idea is in all these places the same, that a covering has grown over the heart, making men incapable of receiving any new teaching however good, and making them oblivious of the wrong they are doing. In Job 17:7 (πεπώρωνται γὰρ�

8. καθὼς γέγραπται. St. Paul supports and explains his last statement οἱ δὲ λοιποὶ ἐπωρώθησαν by quotations from the O. T. The first which in form resembles Deuteronomy 29:4, modified by Isaiah 29:10; Isaiah 6:9, Isaiah 6:10, describes the spiritual dulness or torpor of which the prophet accuses the Israelites. This he says had been given them by God as a punishment for their faithlessness. These words will equally well apply to the spiritual condition of the Apostle’s own time, showing that it is not inconsistent with the position of Israel as God’s people, and suggesting a general law of God’s dealing with them.

The following extracts, in which the words that St. Paul has made use of are printed in spaced type, will give the source of the quotation. Deuteronomy 29:4 καὶ οὐκ ἓδωκεν Κύριος ὁ Θεὸς ὑμῖν καρδίαν εἰδέναι καὶ ὀφθαλμοὺς βλέπειν καὶ ὦτα�Isaiah 29:10 ὅτι πεπότικεν ὑμᾶς Κύριος πνεύματι κατανύξεως: cf. Isaiah 6:9, Isaiah 6:10

πνεῦμα κατανύξεως: ‘a spirit of torpor,’ a state of dull insensibility to everything spiritual, such as would be produced by drunkenness, or stupor. Isaiah 29:10 (RV.) ‘For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes, the prophets; and your heads, the seers, hath He covered.’

The word κατάνυξις is derived from κατανύσσομαι. The simple verb νύσσω is used to mean to ‘prick’ or ‘strike’ or ‘dint.’ The compound verb would mean, (1) to ‘strike’ or ‘prick violently,’ and hence (2) to ‘stun’; no instance is quoted of it in its primary sense, but it is common (3) especially in the LXX of strong emotions, of the prickings of lust Susan. 10 (Theod.); of strong grief Genesis 34:7; Ecclus. 14:1; and so Acts 2:37 κατενύγησαν τῇ καρδίᾳ of being strongly moved by speaking. Then (4) it is used of the stunning effect of such emotion which results in speechlessness: Isaiah 6:5 ὢ τάλας ἐγὼ ὄτι κατανένυγμαι: Daniel 10:15 ἔδωκα τὸ πρόσωπόν μου ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν καὶ κατενύγην, and so the general idea of torpor would be derived. The noun κατάνυξις appears to occur only twice, Isaiah 29:10 πνεῦμα κατανύξεως, 59:4[4]οἶνον κατανύξεως. In the former case it clearly means ‘torpor’ or ‘deep sleep,’ as both the context and the Hebrew show, in the latter case probably so. It may be noticed that this definite meaning of ‘torpor’ or ‘deep sleep’ which is found in the noun cannot be exactly paralleled in the verb; and it may be suggested that a certain confusion existed with the verb νυστάξω, which means ‘to nod in sleep,’ ‘be drowsy,’ just as the meaning of ἐριθεία was influenced by its resemblance to ἔρις (cf. 2:8). On the word generally see Fri. ii. p. 558 ff.

ἔως τῆς σήμερον ἡμέρας: cf. Acts 7:51 ‘Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did so do ye.’ St. Stephen’s speech illustrates more in detail the logical assumptions which underlie St. Paul’s quotations. The chosen people have from the beginning shown the same obstinate adherence to their own views and a power of resisting the Holy Ghost; and God has throughout punished them for their obstinacy by giving them over to spiritual blindness.


9. καὶ Δαβὶδ λέγει κ.τ.λ: quoted from the LXX of 68 [69]. 23, 24 γενηθήτω ἡ τράπεζα αὐτῶν ἐνώπιον αὐτῶν εἰς παγίδα, καὶ εἰς�

The idea is a new one, but it is one which we find continuously from this time onwards; spiritualized with the more spiritual ideas of the later prophets. We find it in Amos (9:8-10), in Micah (2:12, 5:3, in Zephaniah (3:12, 13), in Jeremiah (23:3), in Ezekiel (14:14-20, 22), but most pointedly and markedly in Isaiah. The two great and prominent ideas of Isaiah’s prophecy are typified in the names given to his two sons,—the reality of the Divine vengeance (Maher-shalal-hash-baz) and the salvation of the Remnant (Shear-Jashub) and, through the Holy and Righteous Remnant, of the theocratic nation itself (7:3; 8:2, 18; 9:12; 10:21, 24); and both these ideas are prominent in the narrative of the call (6:9-13) ‘Hear ye indeed, but understand not, and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes … Then said I, Lord, how long? And He answered, Until cities be waste without inhabitant and homes without men, and the land become utterly waste.’ But this is only one side. There is a true stock left. ‘Like the terebinth and the oak, whose stock remains when they are cut down and sends forth new saplings, so the holy seed remains as a living stock and a new and better Israel shall spring from the ruin of the ancient state’ (Robertson Smith, Prophets of Israel, p. 234). This doctrine of a Remnant implied that it was the individual who was true to his God, and not the nation, that was the object of the Divine solicitude; that it was in this small body of individuals that the true life of the chosen nation dwelt, and that from them would spring that internal reformation, which, coming as the result of the Divine chastisement, would produce a whole people, pure and undefiled, to be offered to God (Isaiah 65:8, Isaiah 65:9).


The idea appealed with great force to the early Christians. It appealed to St. Stephen, in whose speech one of the main currents of thought seems to be the marvellous analogy which runs through all the history of Israel. The mass of the people has ever been unfaithful; it is the individual or the small body that has remained true to God in all the changes of Israel’s history, and these the people have always persecuted as they crucified the Messiah. And so St. Paul, musing over the sad problem of Israel’s unbelief, finds its explanation and justification in this consistent trait of the nation’s history. As in Elijah’s time, as in Isaiah’s time, so now the mass of the people have rejected the Divine call; but there always has been and still is the true Remnant, the Remnant whom God has selected, who have preserved the true life and ideal of the people and thus contain the elements of new and prolonged life.

And this doctrine of the ‘Remnant’ is as true to human nature as it is to Israel’s history. No church or nation is saved en masse, it is those members of it who are righteous. It is not the mass of the nation or church that has done its work, but the select few who have preserved the consciousness of its high calling. It is by the selection of individuals, even in the nation that has been chosen, that God has worked equally in religion and in all the different lines along which the path of human development has progressed.

[On the Remnant see especially Jowett, Contrasts of Prophecy, in Romans ii. p. 290; and Robertson Smith, The Prophets of Israel, pp. 106, 209, 234, 258. The references are collected in Oehler, Theologie des alten Testaments, p. 809.]

THE REJECTION OF ISRAEL NOT FINAL

11:11-24. The Rejection of Israel is not complete, nor will it be final. Its result has been the extension of the Church to the Gentiles. The salvation of these will stir the Jews to jealousy; they will return to the Kingdom, and this will mean the final consummation (vv. 10-15).

Of all this the guarantee is the holiness of the stock from which Israel comes. God has grafted you Gentiles into that stock against the natural order; far more easily can He restore them to a position which by nature and descent is theirs (vv. 16-24).

11The Rejection of Israel then is only partial. Yet still there is the great mass of the nation on whom God’s judgement has come: what of these? Is there no further hope for them? Is this stumbling of theirs such as will lead to a final and complete fall? By no means. It is only temporary, a working out of the Divine purpose. This purpose is partly fulfilled. It has resulted in the extension of the Messianic salvation to the Gentiles. It is partly in the future; that the inclusion of these in the Kingdom may rouse the Jews to emulation and bring them back to the place which should be theirs and from which so far they have been excluded. 12And consider what this means. Even the transgression of Israel has brought to the world a great wealth of spiritual blessings; their repulse has enriched the nations, how much greater then will be the result when the chosen people with their numbers completed have accepted the Messiah? 13In these speculations about my countrymen, I am not disregarding my proper mission to you Gentiles. It is with you in my mind that I am speaking. I will put it more strongly. I do all I can to glorify my ministry as Apostle to the Gentiles, 14and this in hopes that I may succeed in bringing salvation to some at any rate of my countrymen by thus moving them to emulation. 15And my reason for this is what I have implied just above, that by the return of the Jews the whole world will receive what it longs for. The rejection of them has been the means of reconciling the world to God by the preaching to the Gentiles; their reception into the Kingdom, the gathering together of the elect from the four winds of heaven, will inaugurate the final consummation, the resurrection of the dead, and the eternal life that follows.

16But what ground is there for thus believing in the return of the chosen people to the Kingdom? It is the holiness of the race. When you take from the kneading trough a piece of dough and offer it to the Lord as a heave-offering, do you not consecrate the whole mass? Do not the branches of a tree receive life and nourishment from the roots? So it is with Israel. Their forefathers the Patriarchs have been consecrated to the Lord, and in them the whole race; from that stock they obtain their spiritual life, a life which must be holy as its source is holy. 17For the Church of God is like a ‘green olive tree, fair with goodly fruit,’ as the Prophet Jeremiah described it. Its roots are the Patriarchs; its branches the people of the Lord. Some of these branches have been broken off; Israelites who by birth and descent were members of the Church. Into their place you Gentiles, by a process quite strange and unnatural, have been grafted, shoots from a wild olive, into a cultivated stock. Equally with the old branches which still remain on the tree you share in the rich sap which flows from its root. 18Do not for this reason think that you may insolently boast of the position of superiority which you occupy. If you are inclined to do so, remember that you have done nothing, that all the spiritual privileges that you possess simply belong to the stock on which you by no merit of your own have been grafted. 19But perhaps you say: ‘That I am the favoured one is shown by this that others were cut off that I might be grafted in.’ 20I grant what you say; but consider the reason. It was owing to their want of faith that they were broken off: you on the other hand owe your firm position to your faith, not to any natural superiority. 21It is an incentive therefore not to pride, as you seem to think, but to fear. For if God did not spare the holders of the birthright, no grafted branches but the natural growth of the tree, He certainly will be no more ready to spare you, who have no such privileges to plead. 22Learn the Divine goodness, but learn and understand the Divine severity as well. Those who have fallen have experienced the severity, you the goodness; a goodness which will be continued if you cease to be self-confident and simply trust: otherwise you too may be cut off as they were. 23Nor again is the rejection of the Jews irrevocable. They can be grafted again into the stock on which they grew, if only they will give up their unbelief. For they are in God’s hands; and God’s power is not limited. He is able to restore them to the position from which they have fallen. 24 For consider. You are the slip cut from the olive that grew wild, and yet, by a process which you must admit to be entirely unnatural, you were grafted into the cultivated stock. If God could do this, much more can He graft the natural branches of the cultivated olive on to their own stock from which they were cut. You Gentiles have no grounds for boasting, nor have the Jews for despair. Your position is less secure than was theirs, and if they only trust in God, their salvation will be easier than was yours.

11. St. Paul has modified the question of ver. 1 so far: the rejection of Israel is only partial. But yet it is true that the rest, that is the majority, of the nation are spiritually blind. They have stumbled and sinned. Does this imply their final exclusion from the Messianic salvation? St. Paul shows that it is not so. It is only temporary and it has a Divine purpose.

λέγω οὖν. A new stage in the argument. ‘I ask then as to this majority whose state the prophets have thus described.’ The question arises immediately out of the preceding verses, but is a stage in the argument running through the whole chapter, and raised by the discussion of Israel’s guilt in 9:30-10:21.

μὴ ἔπταισαν, ἵνα πέσωσι; ‘have they (i.e. those who have been hardened, ver. 8) stumbled so as to fall?’ Numquid sic offenderunt, ut caderent? Is their failure of such a character that they will be finally lost, and cut off from the Messianic salvation? ἵνα expresses the contemplated result. The metaphor in ἔπταισαν (which is often used elsewhere in a moral sense, Deuteronomy 7:25; James 2:10; James 3:2; 2 Peter 1:10) seems to be suggested by σκάδαλον of ver. 9. The meaning of the passage is given by the contrast between πταίειν and πεσεῖν; a man who stumbles may recover himself, or he may fall completely. Hence πέσωσιν is here used of a complete and irrevocable fall. Cf. Isaiah 24:20 κατίσχυσε γὰρ ἐπʼ αὐτῆς ἡ�Hebrews 4:11. It is no argument against this that the same word is used in vv. 22, 23 of a fall which is not irrevocable: the ethical meaning must be in each case determined by the context, and here the contrast with ἔπταισαν suggests a fall that is irrevocable.

There is a good deal of controversy among grammarians as to the admission of a laxer use of ἴνα, a controversy which has a tendency to divide scholars by nations; the German grammarians with Winer at their head (§ liii. 10. 6, p. 573 E. T.) maintain that it always preserves, even in N. T. Greek, its classical meaning of purpose; on the other hand, English commentators such as Lightfoot (on Galatians 5:17), Ellicott (on 1 Thessalonians 5:4), and Evans (on 1 Corinthians 7:29) admit the laxer use. Evans says ‘that ἴνα, like our “that,” has three uses: (1) final (in order that he may go), (2) definitive (I advise that he go), (3) subjectively ecbatit (have they stumbled that they should fall)’; and it is quite clear that it is only by reading into passages a great deal which is not expressed that commentators can make ἵνα in all cases mean ‘in order that.’ In 1 Thessalonians 5:4 ὑμεῖς δέ,�1 Corinthians 7:29 ὀ καιρὸς συνεσταλμένος ἐστί, τὸ λοιπὸν ἴνα καὶ οἱ ἔχοντες γυναῖκας ὡς μὴ ἔχοντες ὧσι, ‘is it probable that a state of sitting loose to worldly interests should be described as the aim or purpose of God in curtailing the season of the great tribulation?’ (Evans.) Yet Winer asserts that the words ἵνα καὶ οἱ ἔχοντες κ.τ.λ. express the (Divine) purpose for which ὁ καιρὸς συνεσταλμένος ἐστί. So again in the present passage it is only a confusion of ideas that can see any purpose. If St. Paul had used a passive verb such as ἐπωρώθησαν then we might translate, ‘have they been hardened in order that they may fall?’ and there would be no objection in logic or grammar, but as St. Paul has written ἔπταισαν, if there is a purpose in the passage it ascribes stumbling as a deliberate act undertaken with the purpose of falling. We cannot here any more than elsewhere read in a Divine purpose where it is neither implied nor expressed, merely for the sake of defending an arbitrary grammatical rule.


μὴ γέοιτο. St. Paul indignantly denies that the final fall of Israel was the contemplated result of their transgression. The result of it has already been the calling of the Gentiles, and the final purpose is the restoration of the Jews also.

τῷ αὐτῶν παραπτώματι: ‘by their false step,’ continuing the metaphor of ἔπταισαν.

ἡ σωτηρία τοῖς ἔθνεσιν. St. Paul is here stating an historical fact. His own preaching to the Gentiles had been caused definitely by the rejection of his message on the part of the Jews. Acts 13:45-48; cf. 8:4; 11:19; 28:28.


εἰς τὸ παραζηλῶσαι αὐτούς: ‘to provoke them (the Jews) to jealousy.’ This idea had already been suggested (10:19) by the quotation from Deuteronomy Ἐγὼ παραζηλώσω ὑμᾶς ἐπʼ οὐκ ἔθνει.

St. Paul in these two statements sketches the lines on which the Divine action is explained and justified. God’s purpose has been to use the disobedience of the Jews in order to promote the calling of the Gentiles, and He will eventually arouse the Jews to give up their unbelief by emulation of the Gentiles. Εἶτα κατασκευάζει, ὄτι τὸ πταῖσμα αὐτῶν διπλῆν οἰκονομίαν ἐργάζεται· τά τε γὰρ ἔθνη�

ἤττημα occurs only twice elsewhere: in Isaiah 31:8 οἱ δὲ νεανίσκοι ἔσονται εἰς ἥττημα, πέτρᾳ γὰρ περιληφθήσονται ὡς χάρακι καὶ ἡττηθήσονται: and in 1 Corinthians 6:7 ἤδη μὲν οὖν ὅλως ἤττημα ὑμῖν ἐστιν, ὅτι κρίματα ἔχετε μεθʼ ἑαυτῶν. The correct interpretation of the word as derived from the verb would be a ‘defeat,’ and this is clearly the meaning in Isaiah. It can equally well apply in 1 Cor., whether it be translated a ‘defeat’ in that it lowers the Church in the opinion of the world, or a ‘moral defeat,’ hence a ‘defect,’ The same meaning suits this passage. The majority of commentators however translate it here ‘diminution’ (see especially Gif. Sp. Comm. pp. 194, 203), in order to make the antithesis to πλήρωμα exact. But as Field points out (Otium Norv. iii. 97) there is no reason why the sentence should not be rhetorically faulty, and it is not much improved by giving ἤττημα the meaning of ‘impoverishment’ as opposed to ‘replenishment.’


τὸ πλήρωμα αὐτῶν: ‘their complement,’ ‘their full and completed number.’ See on 11:25.

The exact meaning of πλήρωμα has still to be ascertained. 1. There is a long and elaborate note on the word in Lft. Col. p. 323 ff. He starts with asserting that ‘substantives in -μα formed from the perfect passive, appear always to have a passive sense. They may denote an abstract notion or a concrete thing; they may signify the action itself regarded as complete, or the product of the action: but in any case they give the result of the agency involved in the corresponding verb.’ He then takes the verb πληροῦν and shows that it has two senses, (i) ‘to fill,’ (ii) ‘to fulfil’ or ‘complete’; and deriving the fundamental meaning of the word πλήρωμα from the latter usage makes it mean in the N. T. always ‘that which is completed.’ 2. A somewhat different view of the termination -μα is given by the late T. S. Evans in a note on 1 Corinthians 5:6 in the Sp. Comm. (part of which is quoted above on Romans 4:2.) This would favour the active sense id quod implet or adimplet, which appears to be the proper sense of the English word ‘complement’ (see the Philological Society’s Eng. Dict. s. v.). Perhaps the term ‘concrete’ would most adequately express the normal meaning of the termination.


13, 14. These two verses present a good deal of difficulty, of rather a subtle kind.

1. What is the place occupied by the words ὑμῖν δὲ λέγω κ.τ.λ. in the argument? (i) Some (Hort, WH. Lips.) place here the beginning of a new paragraph, so Dr. Hort writes: ‘after a passage on the rejection of unbelieving Israel, and on God`s ultimate purpose involved in it, St. Paul turns swiftly round.’ But an examination of the context will show that there is really no break in the ideas. The thought raised by the question in ver. 11 runs through the whole paragraph to ver. 24, in fact really to ver. 32, and the reference to the Gentiles in ver. 17 ff. is clearly incidental. Again ver. 15 returns directly to ver. 12, repeating the same idea, but in a way to justify also ver. 13. (ii) These verses in their appeal to the Gentiles are therefore incidental, almost parenthetic, and are introduced to show that this argument has an application to Gentiles as well as Jews.

2. But what is the meaning of μὲν οὖν (that this is the correct reading see below)? It is usual to take οὖν in its ordinary sense of therefore, and then to explain μέν by supposing an anacoluthon. or by finding the contrast in some words that follow. So Gif. ‘St. Paul, with his usual delicate courtesy and perfect mastery of Greek, implies that this is but one part (μέν) of his ministry, chosen as he was to bear Christ’s name “before Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” Winer and others find the antithesis in εἴ πως παραζηλώσω. But against these views may be urged two reasons, (i) the meaning of μὲν οὖν. The usage at any rate in the N. T. is clearly laid down by Evans on 1 Corinthians 6:3 (Speaker’s Comm. p. 285), ‘the οὖν may signify then or therefore only when the μέν falls back upon the preceding word, because it is expectant of a coming δέ or�Hebrews 9:1 quoted by Winer does not apply, see Westcott ad loc.). But (ii) further οὖν is not the particle required here. What St. Paul requires is not an apology for referring to the Gentiles, but an apology to the Gentiles for devoting so much attention to the Jews.


If these two points are admitted the argument becomes much clearer. St. Paul remembers that the majority of his readers are Gentiles; he has come to a point where what he has to say touches them nearly; he therefore shows parenthetically how his love for his countrymen, and his zeal in carrying out his mission to the Gentiles, combine towards producing the same end. ‘Do not think that what I am saying has nothing to do with you Gentiles. It makes me even more zealous in my work for you. That ministry of mine to the Gentiles I do honour to and exalt, seeking in this way if perchance I may be able to move my countrymen to jealousy.’ Then in ver. 15 he shows how this again reacts upon the general scheme of his ministry. ‘And this I do, because their return to the Church will bring on that final consummation for which we all look forward.’

13. ὑμῖν δὲ λέγω κ.τ.λ. The δέ expresses a slight contrast in thought, and the ὑμῖν is emphatic: ‘But it is to you Gentiles I am speaking. Nay more, so far as I am an Apostle of Gentiles, I glorify my ministry: if thus by any means,’ &c.

ἐθνῶν�Acts 22:21; Galatians 2:7, Galatians 2:9; 1 Timothy 2:7.

τὴν διακονίαν μου δοξάζω. He may glorify his ministry, either (i) by his words and speech; if he teaches everywhere the duty of preaching to the Gentiles he exalts that ministry: or (ii), perhaps better, by doing all in his power to make it successful: comp. 1 Corinthians 12:26 εἴτε δοξάζεται μέλος.


This verse and the references to the Gentiles that follow seem to show conclusively that St. Paul expected the majority of his readers to be Gentiles. Comp. Hort, Rom. and Eph. p. 22 ‘Though the Greek is ambiguous the context appears to me decisive for taking ὑμῖν as the Church itself, and not as a part of it. In all the long previous discussion bearing on the Jews, occupying nearly two and a half chapters, the Jews are invariably spoken of in the third person. In the half chapter that follows the Gentiles are constantly spoken of in the second person. Exposition has here passed into exhortation and warning, and the warning is exclusively addressed to Gentiles: to Christians who had once been Jews not a word is addressed.’

The variations in reading in the particles which occur in this verse suggest that considerable difficulties were felt in its interpretation. For ὑμῖν δέ א A B P minusc. pauc., Syrr. Boh. Arm., Theodrt. cod. Jo.-Damasc.; we find in C ὑμῖν οὖν; while the TR with D E F G L &c. Orig.-lat. Chrys. &c. has ὑμῖν γάρ. Again μὲν οὖν is read by א A B C P, Boh., Cyr.-Al. Jo.-Damasc.; μέν only by TR with L &c., Orig.-lat. Chrys. &c. (so Meyer); while the Western group D E F G and some minuscules omit both.

It may be noticed in the Epp. of St. Paul that wherever μὲν οὖν or μενοῦν γε occur there is considerable variation in the reading.

Romans 9:20: μενοῦνγε א A K L P &c., Syrr. Boh.; μὲν οἶν B; omit altogether D F G


10:18 μενοῦνγε om. F G d, Orig.-lat.

1 Corinthians 6:4: μὲν οὖν most authorities; F G γοῦν.


6:7: μὲν οὖν A B C &c.; μέν א D Boh.

Philippians 3:8: μὲν οὖν B D E F G K L &c.; μενοῦνγε א A P Boh.


The Western MSS. as a rule avoid the expression, while B is consistent in preferring it.

14. εἴ πως παραζηλώσω. εἴ πως is used here interrogatively with the aorist subjunctive (cp. Philippians 3:10, Philippians 3:11). The grammarians explain the expression by saying that we are to understand with it σκοπῶν. εἶ πως occurs Acts 27:12 with the optative, Romans 1:10 with the future.


15. The two previous verses have been to a certain extent parenthetical; in this verse the Apostle continues the argument of ver. 12, repeating in a stronger form what he has there said, but in such a way as to explain the statement made in vv. 13, 14, that by thus caring for his fellow-countrymen he is fulfilling his mission to the Gentile world. The casting away of the Jews has meant the reconciliation of the world to Christ. Henceforth there is no more a great wall of partition separating God’s people from the rest of the world. This is the first step in the founding of the Messianic kingdom; but when all the people of Israel shall have come in there will be the final consummation of all things, and this means the realization of the hope which the reconciliation of the world has made possible�

καταλλαγὴ κόσμου: cf. vv. 10, 11. The reconciliation was the immediate result of St. Paul’s ministry, which he describes elsewhere (2 Corinthians 5:18, 2 Corinthians 5:19) as a ministry of reconciliation; its final result, the hope to which it looks forward, is salvation (καταλλαγέντες σωθησόμεθα): the realization of this hope is what every Gentile must long for, and therefore whatever will lead to its fulfilment must be part of St. Paul’s ministry.


πρόσληψις: the reception of the Jews into the kingdom of the Messiah. The noun is not used elsewhere in the N. T., but the meaning is shown by the parallel use of the verb (cf. 14:3; 15:7).

ζωὴ ἐκ νεκρῶν. The meaning of this phrase must be determined by that of καταλλαγὴ κόσμου. The argument demands something much stronger than that, which may be a climax to the section. It may either be (1) used in a figurative sense, cf. Ezekiel 37:3 ff.; Luke 15:24, Luke 15:32 ὁ�Lev_1 (p. 139 ed. Charles) ‘And in those days will the earth also give back those who are treasured up within it, and Sheôl also will give back that which it has received, and hell will give back that which it owes. And he will choose the righteous and holy from among them: for the day of their redemption has drawn nigh.’ As in the latter part of this chapter St. Paul seems to be largely influenced by the language and forms of the current eschatology, it is very probable that the second interpretation is the more correct; cf. Origen viii. 9, p. 257 Tunc enim erit assumtio Israel, quando iam et mortui vitam recipient et mundus ex corruptibili incorruptibilis fiet, et mortales immortalitate donabuntur; and see below ver. 26.


16. St. Paul gives in this verse the grounds of his confidence in the future of Israel. This is based upon the holiness of the Patriarchs from whom they are descended and the consecration to God which has been the result of this holiness. His argument is expressed in two different metaphors, both of which however have the same purpose.

ἀπαρχὴ … φύραμα. The metaphor in the first part of the verse is taken from Numbers 15:19, Numbers 15:20 ‘It shall be, that when ye eat of the bread of the land, ye shall offer up an heave offering unto the Lord. Of the first of your dough �


ἁγία: ‘consecrated to God as the holy nation’ in the technical sense of ἃγιος, cf. 1:7.

ῥίζα … κλάδοι. The same idea expressed under a different image. Israel the Divine nation is looked upon as a tree; its roots are the Patriarchs; individual Israelites are the branches. As then the Patriarchs are holy, so are the Israelites who belong to the stock of the tree, and are nourished by the sap which flows up to them from those roots.

17-24. The metaphor used in the second part of ver. 16 suggests an image which the Apostle developes somewhat elaborately. The image of an olive tree to describe Israel is taken from the Prophets; Jeremiah 11:16 ‘The Lord called thy name, A green olive tree, fair with goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult He hath kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken’; Hosea 14:6 ‘His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon.’ Similar is the image of the vine in Isaiah 5:7; Psalms 80:8; and (of the Christian Church) in John 15:1ff.


The main points in this simile are the following:—

The olive = the Church of God, looked at as one continuous body; the Christian Church being the inheritor of the privileges of the Jewish Church.

The root or stock (ῥίζα) = that stock from which Jews and Christians both alike receive their nourishment and strength, viz. the Patriarchs, for whose faith originally Israel was chosen (cf. vv. 28,29).

The branches (οἱ κλάδοι) are the individual members of the Church who derive their nourishment and virtue from the stock or body to which they belong. These are of two kinds:

The original branches; these represent the Jews. Some have been cut off from their want of faith, and no longer derive any nourishment from the stock.

The branches of the wild olive which have been grafted in. These are the Gentile Christians, who, by being so grafted in, have come to partake of the richness and virtue of the olive stem.

From this simile St. Paul draws two lessons. (1) The first is to a certain extent incidental. It is a warning to the heathen against undue exaltation and arrogance. By an entirely unnatural process they have been grafted into the tree. Any virtue that they may have comes by no merit of their own, but by the virtue of the stock to which they belong; and moreover at any moment they may be cut off. It will be a less violent process to cut off branches not in any way belonging to the tree, than it was to cut off the original branches. But (2)—and this is the more important result to be gained from the simile, as it is summed up in ver. 24—if God has had the power against all nature to graft in branches from a wild olive and enable them to bear fruit, how much more easily will He be able to restore to their original place the branches which have been cut off.

St. Paul thus deduces from his simile consolation for Israel, but incidentally also a warning to the Gentile members of the Church— a warning made necessary by the great importance ascribed to them in ver. 11f. Israel had been rejected for their sake.

17. τινές: a meiosis. Cf. 3:3 τί γὰρ εἰ ἠπίστησάν τινες; Τινὲς δὲ εἶπε, παραμυθούμενος αὐτούς, ὡς πολλάκις εἰρήκαμεν, ἐπεὶ πολλῷ πλείους οἱ�

συγκοινωνός: 1 Corinthians 9:23; Philippians 1:7; and cf. Ephesians 3:6 εἶναι τὰ ἔθνη συγκληρονόμα καὶ σύσσωμα καὶ συμμέτοχα τῆς ἐπαγγελίας ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ διὰ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου.

τῆς ῥίζης τῆς πιότητος τῆς ἐλαίας: comp. Jude 1:9:9 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ἡ ἐλαία, Μὴ�


The genitive τῆς πιότητος seemed clumsy and unnatural to later revisers, and so was modified either by the insertion of καί after ῥίζης, as in אc A and later MSS. with Vulg. Syrr. Arm. Aeth., Orig.-lat. Chrys., or by the omission of τῆς ῥίζης in Western authorities D F G Iren.-lat.

18. μὴ κατακαυχῶ τῶν κλάδων. St. Paul seems to be thinking of Gentile Christians who despised the Jews, both such as had become believers and such as had not. The Church of Corinth could furnish many instances of new converts who were carried away by a feeling of excessive confidence, and who, partly on grounds of race, partly because they had understood or thought they had understood the Pauline teaching of ἐλευθερία, were full of contempt for the Jewish Christians and the Jewish race. Incidentally St. Paul takes the opportunity of rebuking such as them.

οὐ σὺ τὴν ῥίζαν κ.τ.λ. ‘All your spiritual strength comes from the stock on which you have been grafted.’ In the ordinary process it may be when a graft of the cultivated olive is set on a wild stock the goodness of the fruit comes from the graft, but in this case it is the reverse; any merit, any virtue, any hope of salvation that the Gentiles may have arises entirely from the fact that they are grafted on a stock whose roots are the Patriarchs and to which the Jews, by virtue of their birth, belong.

19. ἐρεῖς οὖν. The Gentile Christian justifies his feeling of confidence by reminding St. Paul that branches (κλάδοι, not οἱ κλάδοι) had been cut off to let him in: therefore, he might argue, I am of more value than they, and have grounds for my self-confidence and contempt.

20. καλῶς. St. Paul admits the statement, but suggests that the Gentile Christian should remember what were the conditions on which he was admitted. The Jews were cast off for want of faith, he was admitted for faith. There was no merit of his own, therefore he has no grounds for over-confidence: ‘Be not high-minded; rather fear, for if you trust in your merit instead of showing faith in Christ, you will suffer as the Jews did for their self-confidence and want of faith.’

21. εἰ γὰρ ὁ Θεὸς κ.τ.λ. This explains the reason which made it right that they should fear. ‘The Jews—the natural branches— disbelieved and were not spared; is it in any way likely that you, if you disbelieve, will be spared when they were not—you who have not any natural right or claim to the position you now occupy?’

οὐδέ σου φείσεται is the correct reading (with א A B C P min. pauc., Boh., Orig.-lat., &c.); either because the direct future seemed too strong or under the influence of the Latin (ne forte nec tibi parcat Vulg. and Iren.-lat.) μήπως οὐδέ σου was read by D F G L &c., Syrr. Chrys. &c., then φείσεται was changed into φείσηται (min. pauc. and Chrys.) for the sake of the grammar, and found its way into the TR.

22. The Apostle sums up this part of his argument by deducing from this instance the two sides of the Divine character. God is full of goodness (χρηστότης, cf. 2:4) and loving-kindness towards mankind, and that has been shown by His conduct towards those Gentiles who have been received into the Christian society. That goodness will always be shown towards them if they repose their confidence on it, and do not trust in their own merits or the privileged position they enjoy. On the other hand the treatment of the Jews shows the severity which also belongs to the character of God; a severity exercised against them just because they trusted in themselves. God can show the same severity against the Gentiles and cut them off as well as the Jew.

ἀποτομία and χρηστότης should be read in the second part of the verse, with א A B C Orig. Jo.-Damasc. against the accusative of the Western and Syrian text. D has a mixed reading,�

The greatness of the Patriarchs had become one of the commonplaces of Jewish Theology. For them the world was created (Apoc. Baruch, xxi. 24). They had been surrounded by a halo of myth and romance in popular tradition and fancy (see the note on 4:3), and very early the idea seems to have prevailed that their virtues had a power for others as well as for themselves. Certainly Ezekiel in the interests of personal religion has to protest against some such view: ‘Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God’ (Ezekiel 14:14). We know how this had developed by the time of our Lord, and the cry had arisen: ‘We have Abraham for our father’ (see note on 2:3). At a later date the doctrine of the merits of the Fathers had been developed into a system. As Israel was an organic body, the several members of which were closely bound together, the superfluous merits of the one part might be transferred to another. Of Solomon before he sinned it was said that he earned all by his own merit, after he sinned by the merit of the Fathers (Kohel rabba 60c). A comment on the words of Song of Solomon 1:5 ‘I am black, but comely,’ closely resembles the dictum of St. Paul in ver. 18 ‘The congregation of Israel speaks: I am black through mine own works, but lovely through the works of my fathers’ (Shemoth rabba,c. 23). So again: ‘Israel lives and endures, because it supports itself on the fathers’ (ib. c. 44). A very close parallel to the metaphor of ver. 17 f. is given by Wajjikra rabba, c. 36 ‘As this vine supports itself on a trunk which is dry, while it is itself fresh and green, so Israel supports itself on the merit of the fathers, although they already sleep.’ So the merit of the fathers is a general possession of the whole people of Israel, and the protection of the whole people in the day of Redemption (Shemoth rabba, c. 44; Beresch rabba, c. 70). So Pesikta 153b ‘The Holy One spake to Israel: My sons, if ye will be justified by Me in the judgement, make mention to Me of the merits of your fathers, so shall ye be justified before Me in the judgement’ (see Weber, Altsyn. Theol. p. 280 f.).


Now, although St. Paul lays great stress on the merits of the Fathers, it becomes quite clear that he had no such idea as this in his mind; and it is convenient to put the developed Rabbinical idea side by side with his teaching in order to show at once the resemblance and the divergence of the two views. It is quite clear in the first place that the Jews will not be restored to the Kingdom on any ground but that of Faith; so ver. 23 ἐὰν μὴ ἐπιμείνωσι τῇ�

25-36. St. Paul’s argument is now drawing to a close. He has treated all the points that are necessary. He has proved that the rejection of Israel is not contrary to Divine justice or Divine promises. He has convicted Israel of its own responsibility. He has shown how historically the rejection of Israel had been the cause of preaching the Gospel to the heathen, and this has led to far-reaching speculation on the future of Israel and its ultimate restoration; a future which may be hoped for in view of the spiritual character of the Jewish race and the mercy and power of God. And now he seems to see all the mystery of the Divine purpose unfolded before him, and he breaks away from the restrained and formal method of argument he has hitherto imposed upon himself. Just as when treating of the Resurrection, his argument passes into revelation, ‘Behold, I tell you a mystery’ (1 Corinthians 15:51): so here he declares not merely as the result of his argument, but as an authoritative revelation, the mystery of the Divine purpose.

25. οὐ γὰρ θέλω ὑμᾶς�1 Corinthians 10:1; 1 Corinthians 12:1; 2 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13: a phrase used by St. Paul to emphasize something of especial importance which he wishes to bring home to his readers. It always has the impressive addition of ‘brethren.’ The γάρ connects the verse immediately with what precedes, but also with the general argument. St. Paul’s argument is like a ladder; each step follows from what precedes; but from time to time there are, as it were, resting-places which mark a definite point gained towards the end he has in view.

τὸ μυστήριον τοῦτο. On the meaning of ‘mystery’ in St. Paul see Lightfoot, Colossians, i. 26; Hatch, Ess. in Bibl. Gk. p. 57 ff. Just at the time when Christianity was spreading, the mysteries as professing to reveal something more than was generally known, especially about the future state, represented the most popular form of religion, and from them St. Paul borrows much of his phraseology. so in Colossians 1:28, 1 Corinthians 2:6 we have τέλειον, in Philippians 4:12 μεμύημαι, in Ephesians 1:13 σφραγίζεσθαι; so in Ign. Ephes. 12 Παύλου σύμμυσται. But whereas among the heathen μυστήριον was always used of a mystery concealed, with St. Paul it is a mystery revealed. It is his mission to make known the Word of God, the mystery which has been kept silent from eternal ages, but has now been revealed to mankind (1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 3:3, Ephesians 3:4; Romans 16:25). This mystery, which has been declared in Christianity, is the eternal purpose of God to redeem mankind in Christ, and all that is implied in that. Hence it is used of the Incarnation (1 Timothy 3:16), of the crucifixion of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:1,1 Corinthians 2:7), of the Divine purpose to sum up all things in Him (Ephesians 1:9), and especially of the inclusion of the Gentiles in the kingdom (Ephesians 3:3, Ephesians 3:4; Colossians 1:26, Colossians 1:27; Romans 16:25). Here it is used in a wide sense of the whole plan or scheme of redemption as revealed to St. Paul, by which Jews and Gentiles alike are to be included in the Divine Kingdom, and all things are working up, although in ways unseen and unknown, to that end.


ἵνα μὴ ἦτε παρʼ ἑαυτοῖς φρόνιμοι: ‘that you may not be wise in your own conceits,’ i. e. by imagining that it is in any way through your own merit that you have accepted what others have refused: it has been part of the eternal purpose of God.

ἐν ἑαυτοῖς ought probably to be read with A B, Jo.-Damasc. instead of παρʼ ἑαυτοῖς א C D L &c., Chrys. &c., as the latter would probably be introduced from 12:16. Both expressions occur in the LXX. Isaiah 5:21 οἱ συνετοὶ ἐν ἑαυτοῖς, Proverbs 3:7 μὴ ἴσθι φρόνιμος παρὰ σεαυτῷ.

πώρωσις κ.τ.λ.: ‘a hardening in part’ (cf. ἐκ μέρους 1 Corinthians 12:27). St. Paul asserts once more what he has constantly insisted on throughout this chapter, that this fall of the Jews is only partial (cf. vv. 5, 7, 17), but here he definitely adds a point to which he has been working up in the previous section, that it is only temporary and that the limitation in time is ‘until all nations of the earth come into the kingdom’; cf. Luke 21:24 ‘and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.’


τὸ πλήρωμα τῶν ἐθνῶν: the full completed number, the complement of the Gentiles, i. e. the Gentile world as a whole, just as in ver. 12 τὸ πλήρωμα is the Jewish nation as a whole.

There was a Jewish basis to these speculations on the completed number. Apoc. Baruch 23:4 quia quando peccavit Adam et decreta fuit mors contra eos qui gignerentur, tunc numerata est multitudo eorum qui gignerentur, et numero illi praeparatus est locus ubi habitarent viventes et ubi custodirentur mortui, nisi ergo compleatur numerus praedictus non vivet creatura … 4 (5) Ezra 2:40, Ezra 2:41 (where Jewish ideas underlie a Christian work) recipe, Sion, numerum tuum et conclude candidatos tuos, qui legem Domini compleverunt: filiorum tuorum, quos optabas, plenus est numerus: roga imperium Domini ut sanctificetur populus tuus qui vocatus est ab initio.

εἰσέλθῃ was used almost technically of entering into the Kingdom or the Divine glory or life (cf. Matthew 7:21; Matthew 18:8; Mark 9:43-47.), and so came to be used absolutely in the same sense (Matthew 7:13; Matthew 23:13; Luke 13:24).


26. καὶ οὕτω: ‘and so,’ i.e. by the whole Gentile world coming into the kingdom and thus rousing the Jews to jealousy, cf. ver. 11f. These words ought to form a new sentence and not be joined with the preceding, for the following reasons: (1) the reference of οὕτω is to the sentence ἄχρις οὗ κ.τ.λ. We must not therefore make οὕτω … σωθήσεται coordinate with πώρωσις … γέγονεν and subordinate to ὅτι, for if we did so οὕτω would be explained by the sentence with which it is coordinated, and this is clearly not St. Paul’s meaning. He does not mean that Israel will be saved because it is hardened. (2) The sentence, by being made independent, acquires much greater emphasis and force.

πᾶς Ἰσραήλ. In what sense are these words used? (1) The whole context shows clearly that it is the actual Israel of history that is referred to. This is quite clear from the contrast with τὸ πλήρωμα τῶν ἐθνῶν in ver. 25, the use of the term Israel in the same verse, and the drift of the argument in vv. 17-24. It cannot be interpreted either of the spiritual Israel, as by Calvin, or the remnant according to the election of grace, or such Jews as believe, or all who to the end of the world shall turn unto the Lord.

(2) πᾶς must be taken in the proper meaning of the word: ‘Israel as a whole, Israel as a nation,’ and not as necessarily including every individual Israelite. Cf. 1 Kings 12:1 καὶ εἶπε Σαμουὴλ πρὸς πάντα Ἰσραήλ: 2 Chronicles 12:1 ἐγκατελιπε τὰς ἐντολὰς Κυρίου καὶ πᾶς Ἰσραὴλ μετʼ αὐτοῦ: Daniel 9:11 καὶ πᾶς Ἰσραὴλ παρέβησαν τόν νουον σου καὶ ἐξέκλιναν τοῦ μὴ�


σωθήσεται: ‘shall attain the σωτηρία of the Messianic age by being received into the Christian Church’: the Jewish conception of the Messianic σωτηρία being fulfilled by the spiritual σωτηρία of Christianity. Cf. 10:13.

So the words of St. Paul mean simply this. The people of Israel as a nation, and no longer�

26, 27. καθὼς γέγραπται. The quotation is taken from the LXX of Isaiah 59:20, the concluding words being added from Isaiah 27:9. The quotation is free: the only important change, however, is the substitution of ἐκ Σιών for the ἕνεκεν Σιών of the LXX. The Hebrew reads ‘and a Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob.’ The variation apparently comes from Ps. 13:7, Psalms 52:7 (LXX) τίς δώσει ἐκ Σιὼν τὸ σωτήριον τοῦ Ἰσραήλ;


The passage occurs in the later portion of Isaiah, just where the Prophet dwells most fully on the high spiritual destinies of Israel; and its application to the Messianic kingdom is in accordance with the spirit of the original and with Rabbinic interpretation. St. Paul uses the words to imply that the Redeemer, who is represented by the Prophets as coming from Zion, and is therefore conceived by him as realized in Christ, will in the end redeem the whole of Israel. The passage, as quoted, implies the complete purification of Israel from their iniquity by the Redeemer and the forgiveness of their sins by God.

In these speculations St. Paul was probably strongly influenced, at any rate as to their form, by Jewish thought. The Rabbis connected these passages with the Messiah: cf. Tract. Sanhedrin, f. 98. 1 ‘R. Jochanan said: When thou shalt see the time in which many troubles shall come like a river upon Israel, then expect the Messiah himself as says Isaiah 59:19.’ Moreover a universal restoration of Israel was part of the current Jewish expectation. All Israel should be collected together. There was to be a kingdom in Palestine, and in order that Israel as a whole might share in this there was to be a general resurrection. Nor was the belief in the coming in of the fulness of the Gentiles without parallel. Although later Judaism entirely denied all hope to the Gentiles, much of the Judaism of St. Paul’s day still maintained the O. T. belief (Isaiah 14:2; Isaiah 66:12, Isaiah 66:19-21; Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:14, Daniel 7:27). So Enoch xc. 33 ‘And all that had been destroyed and dispersed and all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the heaven assembled in that house, and the Lord of the sheep rejoiced with great joy because they were all good and had returned to his house.’ Orac. Sibyll. iii. 710 f. καὶ τότε δὴ νῆσοι πᾶσαι πόλιες τʼ ἐρέουσιν … δεῦτε, πεσόντες ἅπαντες ἐπὶ χθονὶ λισσώμεσθα�Galatians 4:26 shows that he is thinking of a Jerusalem which is above, very different from the purified earthly Jerusalem of the Rabbis; and this enables us to see how here also a spiritual conception underlies much of his language.

ὁ ῥυόμενος: Jesus as the Messiah. Cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:10.


27. καὶ αὕτη κ.τ.λ.: ‘and whensoever I forgive their sins then shall my side of the covenant I have made with them be fulfilled.’

28. κατὰ μὲν τὸ εὐαγγέλιον: ‘as regards the Gospel order, the principles by which God sends the Gospel into the world.’ This verse sums up the argument of vv. 11-24.

ἐχθροί: treated by God as enemies and therefore shut off from Him.

διʼ ὑμᾶς: ‘for your sake, in order that you by their exclusion may be brought into the Messianic Kingdom.’

κατὰ δὲ τὴν ἐκλογήν: ‘as regards the principle of election:’ ‘because they are the chosen race.’ That this is the meaning is shown by the fact that the word is parallel to εὐαγγέλιον. It cannot mean here, as in vv. 5, 6, ‘as regards the elect,’ i. e. the select remnant. It gives the grounds upon which the chosen people were beloved. With�

ἀμεταμέλητα: 2 Corinthians 7:10. The Divine gifts, such as have been enumerated in 9:4, 5, and such as God has showered upon the Jews, bear the impress of the Giver. As He is not one who will ever do that for which He will afterwards feel compunction, His feelings of mercy towards the Jews will never change.


ἡ κλῆσις: the calling to the Kingdom.

30. The grounds for believing that God does not repent for the gifts that He has given may be gathered from the parallelism between the two cases of the Jews and the Gentiles, in one of which His purpose has been completed, in the other not so. The Gentile converts were disobedient once, as St. Paul has described at length in the first chapter, but yet God has now shown pity on them, and to accomplish this He has taken occasion from the disobedience of the Jews: the same purpose and the same plan of providence may be seen also in the case of the Jews. God’s plan is to make disobedience an opportunity of showing mercy. The disobedience of the Jews, like that of the Gentiles, had for its result the manifestation of the mercy of God.

The ὑμεῖς shows that this verse is written, as is all this chapter, with the thought of Gentile readers prominently before the writer’s mind.

31. τῷ ὑμετέρῳ ἐλέει: ‘by that same mercy which was shown to you.’ If the Jews had remained true to their covenant God would have been able on His side merely to exhibit fidelity to the covenant. As they have however been disobedient, they equally with the Gentiles are recipients of the Divine mercy. These words τῷ ὑμετέρῳ ἐλέει go with ἐλεηθῶσι, cf. Galatians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 12:7, as is shown by the parallelism of the two clauses






This parallelism of the clauses may account for the presence of the second νῦν with ἐλεηθῶσι, which should be read with א B D, Boh., Jo. Damasc. It was omitted by Syrian and some Western authorities (A E F G, &c. Vulg. Syrr. Arm. Aeth., Orig.-lat. rell.) because it seemed hardly to harmonize with facts. The authorities for it are too varied for it to be an accidental insertion arising from a repetition of the previous νῦν.

32. St. Paul now generalizes from these instances the character of God’s plan, and concludes his argument with a maxim which solves the riddle of the Divine action. There is a Divine purpose in the sin of mankind described in 1:18-3:20; there is a Divine purpose in the faithlessness of the Jews. The object of both alike is to give occasion for the exhibition of the Divine mercy. If God has shut men up in sin it is only that He may have an opportunity of showing His compassion. So in Galatians 3:22


συνέκλεισε γὰρ ὁ Θεός: cf. 1:24 f., and see below, p. 347.

συνέκλεισε: Psalms 78:62, 77:62] ‘He gave his people over unto the sword (συνέκλεισεν εἰς ῥομφαίαν).’ Used with the pregnant sense of giving over so that there can be no escape.


τοὺς πάντας. Not necessarily every single individual, but all looked at collectively, as the πλήρωμα τῶν ἐθνῶν and πᾶς Ἰσραήλ. All the classes into which the world may be divided, Jew and Gentile alike, will be admitted into the Messianic Kingdom or God’s Church. The reference is not here any more than elsewhere to the final salvation of every individual.

33. St. Paul has concluded his argument. He has vindicated the Divine justice and mercy. He has shown how even the reign of sin leads to a beneficent result. And now, carried away by the contrast between the apparent injustice and the real justice of God, having demonstrated that it is our knowledge and not His goodness that is at fault when we criticize Him, he bursts forth in a great ascription of praise to Him, declaring the unfathomable character of His wisdom.

We may notice that this description of the Divine wisdom represents not so much the conclusion of the argument as the assumption that underlies it. It is because we believe in the infinite character of the Divine power and love that we are able to argue that if in one case unexpectedly and wonderfully His action has been justified, therefore in other cases we may await the result, resting in confidence on His wisdom.

Marcion’s text, which had omitted everything between 10:5 and 11:34 (see on ch. 10) here resumes. Tert. quotes vv. 32, 33 as follows: o profundum divitiarum et sapientiae Dei, et ininvestigabiles viae eius, omitting καὶ γνώσεως and ὡς�

βάθος: ‘inexhaustible wealth.’ Cf. Proverbs 18:3 βάθος κακῶν, troubles to which there is no bottom. The three genitives that follow are probably coordinate; πλούτου means the wealth of the Divine grace, cf. 10:12; σοφίας and γνώσεως are to be distinguished as meaning the former, a broad and comprehensive survey of things in their special relations, what we call Philosophy: the latter an intuitive penetrating perception of particular truths (see Lft. on Colossians 1:9).

ἀνεξερεύνητα: Proverbs 25:3, Sym.; and perhaps Jeremiah 17:9, Sym. (Field, Hexapla, ii. 617), ‘unsearchable’; κρίματα, not judicial decisions, but judgements on the ways and plans of life. Cf. Ecclus. 17:12 διαθήκην αἰῶνος ἕστησεν μετʼ αὐτῶν, καὶ τὰ κρίματα αὐτοῦ ὑπέδειξεν αὐτοῖς.

ἀνεξιχνίαστοι: ‘that cannot be traced out,’ Ephesians 3:8; Job 5:9; Job 9:10; Job 34:24. This passage seems to have influenced 1 Clem. Rom. 20:5�

34. τίς γὰρ ἔγνω κ.τ.λ. This is taken from Isaiah 40:13, varying only very slightly from the LXX. It is quoted also 1 Corinthians 2:16.

35. ἤ τίς προέδωκεν αὐτῷ, καὶ�Job 41:11, but not the LXX, which reads (ver. 2) τίς�1Co 3:19, cf. Job 5:13), see p. 302. This verse corresponds to ὦ βάθος πλούτου. ‘So rich are the spiritual gifts of God, that none can make any return, and He needs no recompense for what He gives.’


36. God needs no recompense, for all things that are exist in Him, all things come to man through Him, and to Him all return. He is the source, the agent, and the final goal of all created things and all spiritual life.

Many commentators have attempted to find in these words a reference to the work of the different persons of the Trinity (see esp. Liddon, who restates the argument in the most successful form). But (1) the prepositions do not suit this interpretation: διʼ αὐτοῦ indeed expresses the attributes of the Son, but εἰς αὐτόν can not naturally or even possibly be used of the Spirit. (2) The whole argument refers to a different line of thought. It is the relation of the Godhead as a whole to the universe and to created things. God (not necessarily the Father) is the source and inspirer and goal of all things.

This fundamental assumption of the infinite character of the Divine wisdom was one which St. Paul would necessarily inherit from Judaism. It is expressed most clearly and definitely in writings produced immediately after the fall of Jerusalem, when the pious Jew who still preserved a belief in the Divine favour towards Israel could find no hope or solution of the problem but in a tenacious adherence to what he could hold only by faith. God’s ways are deeper and more wonderful than man could ever understand or fathom: only this was certain—that there was a Divine purpose of love towards Israel which would be shown in God’s own time. There are many resemblances to St. Paul, not only in thought but in expression. Apoc. Baruch xiv. 8, 9 Sed quis, Dominator Domine, assequetur iudicium tuum? aut quis investigabit profundum viae tuae? aut quis supputabit gravitatem semitae tuae? aut quis poterit cogitare consilium tuum incomprehensibile? aut quis unquam ex natis inveniet principium aut finem sapientiae tuae? … 20:4 et tunc ostendam tibi iudicium virtutis meae, et vias [in] investigabiles … 21:10 tu enim solus es vivens immortalis et [in] investigabilis et numerum hominum nosti … 54:12, 13 ecquis enim assimilabitur in mirabilibus tuis, Deus, aut quis comprehendet cogitationem tuam profundam vitae? Quia tu consilio tuo gubernas omnes creaturas quas creavit dextera tua, et tu omnem fontem lucis apud te constituisti, et thesaurum sapientiae subtus thronum tuum praeparasti … 74 quis assimilabitur, Domine, bonitati tuae? est enim incomprehensibilis. Aut quis scrutabitur miserationes tuas, quae sunt infinitae? aut quis comprehendet intelligentiam tuam? aut quis poterit consonare cogitationes mentis tuae? 4 Ezra 5:34 torquent me renes mei per omnem horam quaerentem apprehendere semitam Altissimi et investigare partem iudicii eius. et dixit ad me Non potes … 40 et dixit ad me Quomodo non potes facere unum de his quae dicta sunt, sic non poteris invenire iudicium meum aut finem caritatis quam populo promisi.

The Argument of Romans 9-11

In the summary that has been given (pp. 269-275) of the various opinions which have been held concerning the theology of this section, and especially of ch. 9, it will have been noticed that almost all commentators, although they differed to an extraordinary degree in the teaching which they thought they had derived from the passage, agreed in this, that they assumed that St. Paul was primarily concerned with the questions that were exercising their own minds, as to the conditions under which grace is given to man, and the relation of the human life to the Divine will. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries a small number of commentators are distinguished from the general tendency by laying stress on the fact that both in the ninth and in the eleventh chapter, it is not the lot of the individual that is being considered, nor eternal salvation, but that the object of the Apostle is to explain the rejection of the Jews as a nation; that he is therefore dealing with nations, not individuals, and with admission to the Christian Church as representing the Messianic σωτηρία and not directly with the future state of mankind. This view is very ably represented by the English philosopher Locke; it is put forward in a treatise which has been already referred to by Beyschlag (p. 275) and forms the basis of the exposition of the Swiss commentator Oltramare, who puts the position very shortly when he says that St. Paul is speaking not of the scheme of election or of election in itself, but ‘of God’s plan for the salvation of mankind, a plan which proceeded on the principle of election.’

It is true that commentators who have adopted this view (in particular Beyschlag) have pressed it too far, and have used it to explain or explain away passages to which it will not apply; but it undoubtedly represents the main lines of the Apostle’s argument and his purpose throughout these chapters. In order to estimate his point of view our starting-point must be the conclusion he arrives at. This, as expressed at the end of ch. 11, is that God wishes to show His mercy upon all alike; that the world as a whole, the fulness of the Gentiles and all Israel, will come into the Messianic Kingdom and be saved; that the realization of this end is a mystery which has now been revealed, and that all this shows the greatness of the Divine wisdom; a wisdom which is guiding all things to their final consummation by methods and in ways which we can only partially follow.

The question at issue which leads St. Paul to assert the Divine purpose is the fact which at this time had become apparent; Israel as a nation was rejected from the Christian Church. If faith in the Messiah was to be the condition of salvation, then the mass of the Jews were clearly excluded. The earlier stages of the argument have been sufficiently explained. St. Paul first proves (9:6-29) that in this rejection God had been neither untrue to His promise nor unjust. He then proves (9:30-10:13) that the Israelites were themselves guilty, for they had rejected the Messiah, although they had had full and complete knowledge of His message, and full warning. But yet there is a third aspect from which the rejection of Israel may be regarded—that of the Divine purpose. What has been the result of this rejection of Israel? It has led to the calling of the Gentiles,—this is an historical fact, and guided by it we can see somewhat further into the future. Here is a case where St. Paul can remember how different had been the result of his own failure from what he had expected. He can appeal to his own experience. There was a day, still vividly before his mind, when in the Pisidian Antioch, full of bitterness and a sense of defeat, he had uttered those memorable words ‘from henceforth we will go to the Gentiles.’ This had seemed at the moment a confession that his work was not being accomplished. Now he can see the Divine purpose fulfilled in the creation of the great Gentile churches, and arguing from his own experience in this one case, where God’s purpose has been signally vindicated, he looks forward into the future and believes that, by ways other than we can follow, God is working out that eternal purpose which is part of the revelation he has to announce, the reconciliation of the world to Himself in Christ. He concludes therefore with this ascription of praise to God for His wisdom and mercy, emphasizing the belief which is at once the conclusion and the logical basis of his argument.

St. Paul’s Philosophy of History

The argument then of this section of the Epistle is not a discussion of the principles on which grace is given to mankind, but a philosophy of History. In the short concluding doxology to the Epistle—a conclusion which sums up the thought which underlies so much of the previous argument—St. Paul speaks of the mystery which has been kept silent in eternal times, but is now revealed, ‘the Counsel,’ as Dr. Hort (in Lft. Biblical Essays, p. 325) expresses it, ‘of the far-seeing God, the Ruler of ages or periods, by which the mystery kept secret from ancient times is laid open in the Gospel for the knowledge and faith of all nations.’ So again in Ephesians 1:4-11 he speaks of the foreknowledge and plan which God had before the foundation of the world; a plan which has now been revealed: the manifestation of His goodness to all the nations of the world. St. Paul therefore sees a plan or purpose in history; in fact he has a philosophy of History. The characteristics of this theory we propose shortly to sum up.

(1) From Romans 5:12 ff. we gather that St. Paul divides history into three periods represented typically by Adam, Moses, Christ, excluding the period before the Fall, which may be taken to typify an ideal rather than to describe an actual historical period. Of these the first period represents a state not of innocence but of ignorance ‘Until the Law, i. e. from Adam to Moses, sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law.’ It is a period which might be represented to us by the most degraded savage tribes. If sin represents failure to attain an ideal, they are sinful; but if sin represents guilt, they cannot be condemned, or at any rate only to a very slight degree and extent. Now if God deals with men in such a condition, how does He do so? The answer is, by the Revelation of Law; in the case of the Jewish people, by the Revelation of the Mosaic Law. Now this revelation of Law, with the accompanying and implied idea of judgement, has fulfilled certain functions. It has in the first place convicted man of sin; it has shown him the inadequacy of his life and conduct. ‘For I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not lust.’ It has taught him the difference between right and wrong, and made him feel the desire for a higher life. And so, secondly, it has been the schoolmaster leading men to Christ. It has been the method by which mankind has been disciplined, by which they have been gradually prepared and educated. And thirdly, Law has taught men their weakness. The ideal is there; the desire to attain it is there; a struggle to attain it begins, and that struggle convinces us of our own weakness and of the power of sin over us. We not only learn a need for higher ideals; we learn also the need we have for a more powerful helper. This is the discipline of Law, and it prepares the way for the higher and fuller revelation of the Gospel.


These three stages are represented for us typically, and most clearly in the history of the Jewish dispensation. Even here of course there is an element of inexactness in them. There was a knowledge of right and wrong before Moses, there was an increase in knowledge after him; but yet the stages do definitely exist. And they may be found also running through the whole of history; they are not confined to the Jewish people. The stage of primitive ignorance is one through which presumably every race of men has passed; some in fact have not yet passed beyond it: but there has been progress upwards, and the great principle which has accompanied and made possible that progress is Law. The idea of Law in St. Paul is clearly not exhausted in the Jewish law, although that of course is the highest example of it. All peoples have been under law in some form. It is a great holy beneficent principle, but yet it is one which may become a burden. It is represented by the law of the conscience; it is witnessed by the moral judgements which men have in all ages passed on one another; it is embodied in codes and ordinances and bodies of law; it is that in fact which distinguishes for men the difference between right and wrong. The principle has worked, or is working, among mankind everywhere, and is meant to be the preparation of, as it creates the need for, the highest revelation, that of the Gospel.

(2) These three stages represent the first point in St. Paul’s scheme of history. A second point is the idea of Election or Selection, or rather that of the ‘Purpose of God which worketh by Selection.’ God did not will to redeem mankind ‘by a nod as He might have done, for that, as Athanasius puts it, would be to undo the work of creation; but He accepts the human conditions which He has created and uses them that the world may work out its own salvation. So, as St. Paul feels, He has selected Israel to be His chosen people; they have become the depositary of Divine truth and revelation, that through them, when the fulness of time has come, the world may receive Divine knowledge. This is clearly the conception underlying St. Paul’s teaching, and looking back from the vantage ground of History we can see how true it is. To use modern phraseology, an ‘ethical monotheism’ has been taught the world through the Jewish race and through it alone. And St. Paul’s principle may be extended further. He himself speaks of the ‘fulness of time,’ and it is no unreal philosophy to believe that the purpose of God has shown itself in selecting other nations also for excellence in other directions, in art, in commerce, in science, in statesmanship; that the Roman Empire was built up in order to create a sphere in which the message of the Incarnation might work; that the same purpose has guided the Church in the centuries which have followed. An historian like Renan would tell us that the freer development of the Christian Church was only made possible by the fall of Jerusalem and the divorce from Judaism. History tells us how the Arian persecutions occasioned the conversion of the Goths, and how the division of the Church at the schism of East and West, or at the time of the Reformation, occasioned new victories for Christianity. Again and again an event which to contemporaries must have seemed disastrous has worked out beneficially; and so, guided by St. Paul’s example, we learn to trust in that Divine wisdom and mercy which in some cases where we can follow its track has been so deeply and unexpectedly vindicated, and which is by hypothesis infinite in power and wisdom and knowledge.

(3) These then are two main points in St. Paul’s teaching; first, the idea of gradual progress upwards implied in the stages of Adam, Moses, Christ; secondly, the idea of a purpose running through history, a purpose working by means of Selection. But to what end? The end is looked at under a twofold aspect; it is the completion of the Messianic Kingdom, and the exhibition of the Divine mercy. In describing the completion of the Messianic Kingdom, St. Paul uses, as in all his eschatological passages, the forms and phrases of the Apocalyptic literature of his time, but reasons have been given for thinking that he interpreted them, at any rate to a certain extent, in a spiritual manner. There is perhaps a further difficulty, or at any rate it may be argued that St. Paul is mistaken as regards the Jews, in that he clearly expected that at some time not very remote they would return to the Messianic Kingdom; yet nothing has yet happened which makes this expectation any more probable. We may argue in reply that so far as there was any mistaken expectation, it was of the nearness of the last times, and that the definite limit fixed by St. Paul, ‘until the fulness of the Gentiles come in,’ has not yet been reached. But it is better to go deeper, and to ask whether it is not the case that the rejection of the Jews now as then fulfils a purpose in the Divine plan? The well-known answer to the question, ‘What is the chief argument for Christianity?’—‘the Jews’—reminds us of the continued existence of that strange race, living as sojourners among men, the ever-present witnesses to a remote past which is connected by our beliefs intimately with the present. By their traditions to which they cling, by the O. T. Scriptures which they preserve by an independent chain of evidence, by their hopes, and by their highest aspirations, they are a living witness to the truth of that which they reject. They have their purpose still to fulfil in the Divine plan.

St. Paul’s final explanation of the purpose of God—the exhibition of the Divine mercy—suggests the solution of another class of questions. In all such speculations there is indeed a difficulty, —the constant sense of the limitations of human language as applied to what is Divine; and St. Paul wishes us to feel these limitations, for again and again he uses such expressions as ‘I speak as a man.’ But yet granting this, the thought does supply a solution of many problems. Why does God allow sin? Why does He shut up men under sin? It is that ultimately He may exhibit the depths of His Divine mercy. We may feel that some such scheme of the course of history as was sketched out above explains for us much that is difficult, but yet we always come back to an initial question, Why does God allow such a state of affairs to exist? We may grant that it comes from the free-will of man; but if God be almighty He must have created man with that free-will. We may speak of His limitation of His own powers, and of His Redemption of man without violating the conditions of human life and nature; but if He be almighty, it is quite clear that He could have prevented all sin and misery by a single act. What answer can we make? We can only say, as St. Paul does, that it is that He may reveal the Divine mercy; if man had not been created so as to need this mercy, we should never have known the Love of God as revealed in His Son. That is the farthest that our speculations may legitimately go.

(4) But one final question. What evidence does St. Paul give for a belief in the Divine purpose in history? It is twofold. On the one hand, within the limited circle of our own knowledge or experience, we can see that things have unexpectedly and wonderfully worked out so as to indicate a purpose. That was St. Paul’s experience in the preaching to the Gentiles. Where we have more perfect knowledge and can see the end, there we see God’s purpose working. And on the other hand our hypothesis is a God of infinite power and wisdom. If we have faith in this intellectual conception, we believe that, where we cannot understand, our failure arises from the limitations not of God’s power and will, but of our own intelligence.

An illustration may serve to bring this home. We can read in such Jewish books as 4 Ezra or the Apocalypse of Baruch the bewilderment and confusion of mind of a pious Jew at the fall of Jerusalem. Every hope and aspiration that he had seems shattered. But looked at from the point of view of Christianity, and the wider development of Christianity, that was an inevitable and a necessary step in the progress of the Church. If we believe in a Divine purpose in history, we can see it working here quite clearly. Yet to many a contemporary the event must have been inexplicable. We can apply the argument to our time. In the past, where we can trace the course of events, we have evidence of the working of a Divine purpose, and so in the present, where so much is obscure and dark, we can believe that there is still a Divine purpose working, and that all the failures and misfortunes and rebuffs of the time are yet steps towards a higher end. Et dixit ad me: Initio terreni orbis et antequam starent exitus saeculi …, et antequam investigarentur praesentes anni, et antequam abalienarentur eorum qui nunc peccant adinventiones et consignati essent qui fide thesaurisaverunt: tunc cogitavi et facta sunt per me solum et non per alium, ut et finis per me et non per alium (4 Ezra 6:1-6).


The Salvation of the Individual. Free-will and Predestination

While the ‘Nationalist’ interpretation of these chapters has been adopted, it has at the same time been pointed out that, although it correctly represents St. Paul’s line of argument, it cannot be legitimately used as it has been to evade certain difficulties which have been always felt as to his language. St. Paul’s main line of argument applies to nations and peoples, but it is quite clear that the language of 9:19-23 applies and is intended to apply equally to individuals. Further it is impossible to say, as Beyschlag does, that there is no idea in the Apostle’s mind of a purpose before time. It is God’s purpose ‘before the foundation of the world’ which is being expounded. And again, it is quite true to say that the election is primarily an election to privilege; yet there is a very intimate connexion between privilege and eternal salvation, and the language of 9:22, 23 ‘fitted unto destruction,’ ‘prepared unto glory,’ cannot be limited to a merely earthly destiny. Two questions then still remain to be answered. What theory is implied in St. Paul’s language concerning the hope and future of individuals whether Christian or unbelievers, and what theory is implied as to the relation between Divine foreknowledge and human free-will?

We have deliberately used the expression ‘what theory is implied?’; for St. Paul never formally discusses either of these questions; he never gives a definite answer to either, and on both he makes statements which appear inconsistent. Future salvation is definitely connected with privilege, and the two are often looked at as effect and cause. ‘If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more being reconciled shall we be saved by His life’ (5:10). ‘Whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified’ (8:30). But, although the assurance of hope is given by the Divine call, it is not irrevocable. ‘By their unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by thy faith. Be not highminded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, neither will He spare thee’ (11:20, 21). Nor again is future salvation to be confined to those who possess external privileges. The statement is laid down, in quite an unqualified way, that ‘glory and honour and peace’ come ‘to everyone that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek’ (2:10). Again, there is no definite and unqualified statement either in support of or against universalism; on the one side we have statements such as those in a later Epistle (1 Timothy 2:4) ‘God our Saviour, who willeth that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth’; or again, ‘He has shut allup to disobedience, but that He might have mercy upon all’ (Romans 11:32). On the other side there is a strong assertion of ‘wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God, who will render to every man according to his works; … unto them that are factious and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that worketh evil’ (2:5-9). St. Paul asserts both the goodness and the severity of God. He does not attempt to reconcile them, nor need we. He lays down very clearly and definitely the fact of the Divine judgement, and he brings out prominently three characteristics of it: that it is in accordance with works, or perhaps more correctly on the basis of works, that is of a man’s whole life and career; that it will be exercised by a Judge of absolute impartiality,—there is no respect of persons; and that it is in accordance with the opportunities which a man has enjoyed. For the rest we must leave the solution, as he would have done, to that wisdom and knowledge and mercy of God of which he speaks at the close of the eleventh chapter.

There is an equal inconsistency in St. Paul’s language regarding Divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Ch. 9 implies arguments which take away Free-will; ch. 10 is meaningless without the presupposition of Free-will. And such apparent inconsistency of language and ideas pervades all St. Paul’s Epistles. ‘Work out your own salvation, for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure’ (Philippians 2:12, Philippians 2:13). Contrast again ‘God gave them up unto a reprobate mind,’ and ‘wherefore thou art without excuse’ (Romans 1:18; Romans 2:1). Now two explanations of this language are possible. It may be held (as does Fritzsche, see p. 275) that St. Paul is unconscious of the inconsistency, and that it arises from his inferiority in logic and philosophy, or (as Meyer) that he is in the habit of isolating one point of view, and looking at the question from that point of view alone. This latter view is correct; or rather, for reasons which will be given below, it can be held and stated more strongly. The antinomy, if we may call it so, of chaps. 9 and 10 is one which is and must be the characteristic of all religious thought and experience.

(1) That St. Paul recognized the contradiction, and held it consciously, may be taken as proved by the fact that his view was shared by that sect of the Jews among whom he had been brought up, and was taught in those schools in which he had been instructed. Josephus tells us that the Pharisees attributed everything to Fate and God, but that yet the choice of right and wrong lay with men (φαρισαῖοι ̣ ̣ ̣ εἱμαρμένῃ τε καὶ θεῷ προσάπτουσι πάντα καὶ τὸ μὲν πράττειν τὰ δίκατα, καὶ μή, κατὰ τὸ πλεῖστον ἐπὶ τοῖς�Philippians 3:12).


(2) Nor again is any other solution consistent with the reality of religious belief. Religion, at any rate a religion based on morality, demands two things. To satisfy our intellectual belief the God whom we believe in must be Almighty, i. e. omnipotent and omniscient; in order that our moral life may be real our Will must be free. But these beliefs are not in themselves consistent. If God be Almighty He must have created us with full knowledge of what we should become, and the responsibility therefore for what we are can hardly rest with ourselves. If, on the other hand, our Will is free, there is a department where God (if we judge the Divine mind on the analogy of human minds) cannot have created us with full knowledge. We are reduced therefore to an apparently irreconcilable contradiction, and that remains the language of all deeply religious minds. We are free, we are responsible for what we do, but yet it is God that worketh all things. This antithesis is brought out very plainly by Thomas Aquinas. God he asserts is the cause of everything (Deus causa est omnibus operantibus ut operentur, Cont. Gent. III. lxvii), but the Divine providence does not exclude Free-will. The argument is interesting: Adhuc providentia est multiplicaliva bonorum in rebus gubernatis. Illud ergo per quod multa bona subtraherentur a rebus, non pertinet ad providentiam. Si autem libertas voluntatis tolleretur, multa bona subtraherentur. Tolleretur enim laus virtutis humanae, quae nulla est si homo libere non agit, tolleretur enim iustitia praemiantis et punientis, si non libere homo ageret bonum et malum, cessaret etiam circumspectio in consiliis, quae de his quae in necessitate agunlur, frustra tractarentur, esset igitur contra providentiae rationem si subtraheretur voluntatis libertas (ib. lxxiii). And he sums up the whole relation of God to natural causes, elsewhere showing how this same principle applies to the human will: palet etiam quod non sic idem effectus causae naturali et divinae virtuti attribuitur, quasi partim a Deo, partim a naturali agenti fiat, sed totus ab utroque secundum alium modum, sicut idem effectus totus attribuitur instrumento, et principali agenti etiam totus (ib. lxx). See also Summa Theologiae, Pars Prima, cv. art. 5; Prima Secundae, cxiii).

This is substantially also the view taken by Mozley, On the Augustinian Doctrine of Predestination. The result of his argument is summed up as follows, pp. 326, 327: ‘Upon this abstract idea, then, of the Divine Power, as an unlimited power, rose up the Augustinian doctrine of Predestination and good; while upon the abstract idea of Free-will, as an unlimited faculty, rose up the Pelagian theory. Had men perceived, indeed, more clearly and really than they have done, their ignorance as human creatures, and the relation in which the human reason stands to the great truths involved in this question, they might have saved themselves the trouble of this whole controversy. They would have seen that this question cannot be determined absolutely, one way or another; that it lies between two great contradictory truths, neither of which can be set aside, or made to give way to the other; two opposing tendencies of thought, inherent in the human mind, which go on side by side, and are able to be held and maintained together, although thus opposite to each other, because they are only incipient, and not final and complete truths;—the great truths, I mean, of the Divine Power on the one side, and man’s Free-will, or his originality as an agent, on the other. And this is in fact, the mode in which this question is settled by the practical common-sense of mankind. … The plain natural reason of mankind is thus always large and comprehensive; not afraid of inconsistency, but admitting all truth which presents itself to its notice. It is only when minds begin to philosophize that they grow narrow,—that there begins to be felt the appeal to consistency, and with it the temptation to exclude truths.’

(3) We can but state the two sides; we cannot solve the problem. But yet there is one conception in which the solution lies. It is in a complete realization of what we mean by asserting that God is Almighty. The two ideas of Free-will and the Divine sovereignty cannot be reconciled in our own mind, but that does not prevent them from being reconcilable in God’s mind. We are really measuring Him by our own intellectual standard if we think otherwise. And so our solution of the problem of Free-will, and of the problems of history and of individual salvation, must finally lie in the full acceptance and realization of what is implied by the infinity and the omniscience of God.













Beng. Bengel.

Go. Godet.

Va. Vaughan.

Oltr. Oltramare.

Mey. Meyer.

Gif. Gifford.

Lips. Lipsius.

A Cod. Alexandrinus

D Cod. Claromontanus

Chrys. Chrysostom.

Orig. Origen.

Aug. Augustine.

Fri. Fritzsche (C. F. A.).

אԠCod. Sinaiticus

L Cod. Angelicus

אԠCod. Sinaiticus, corrector c

B Cod. Vaticanus

C Cod. Ephraemi Rescriptus

E Cod. Sangermanensis

F Cod. Augiensis

G Cod. Boernerianus

P Cod. Porphyrianus

Vulg. Vulgate.

Sah. Sahidic.

Boh. Bohairic.

Jos. Josephus.

&c. always qualify the word which precedes, not that which follows:

WH. Westcott and Hort.

Syrr. Syriac.

Aegyptt. Egyptian.

Arm. Armenian.

Orig.-lat. Latin Version of Origen

RV. Revised Version.

Euthym.-Zig. Euthymius Zigabenus.

Lft. Lightfoot.

pauc. pauci.

Theodrt. Theodoret.

K Cod. Mosquensis

om. omittit, omittunt, &c.

d Latin version of D

Aeth. Ethiopic.

Clem.-Alex. Clement of Alexandria.

Ign. Ignatius.

ԠאCod. Sinaiticus

B Cod. Vaticanus

D Cod. Claromontanus

Boh. Bohairic.

A Cod. Alexandrinus

E Cod. Sangermanensis

F Cod. Augiensis

G Cod. Boernerianus

&c. always qualify the word which precedes, not that which follows:

Vulg. Vulgate.

Syrr. Syriac.

Arm. Armenian.

Aeth. Ethiopic.

Orig.-lat. Latin Version of Origen

Tert. Tertullian.

Lft. Lightfoot.

RV. Revised Version.

Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on Romans 11". International Critical Commentary NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/romans-11.html. 1896-1924.
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