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Romans 2

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Verses 1-99

TRANSITION FROM GENTILE TO JEW. BOTH ALIKE GUILTY

2:1-16. This state of things puts out of court the [Jewish] critic who is himself no better than the Gentile. He can claim no exemption, but only aggravates his sin by impenitence (vv. 1-5). Strict justice will be meted out to all — the Jew coming first then the Gentile (vv. 6-11). The Jew, will be judged by the Law of Moses, the Gentile by the Law of Conscience, at the Great Assize which Christ will hold (vv. 12-16).

1The Gentile sinner is without excuse; and his critic—who ever he may be—is equally without excuse, even though [like the Jew] he imagines himself to be on a platform of lofty superiority. No such platform really exists. In fact the critic only passes sentence upon himself, for by the fact of his criticism he shows that he can distinguish accurately between right and wrong, and his own conduct is identical with that which he condemns. 2And we are aware that it is at his conduct that God will look. The standard of His judgement is reality, and not a man’s birth or status as either Jew or Gentile. 3Do you suppose—you Jewish critic, who are so ready to sit in judgement on those who copy your own example—do you suppose that a special exemption will be made in your favour, and that you personally (σύ emphatic) will escape? 4Or are you presuming upon all that abundant goodness, forbearance, and patience with which God delays His punishment of sin? If so, you make a great mistake. The object of that long-suffering is not that you may evade punishment but only to induce you to repent. 5While you with that callous impenitent heart of yours are heaping up arrears of Wrath, which will burst upon you in the Day of Wrath, when God will stand revealed in His character as the Righteous Judge. 6The principle of His judgement is clear and simple. He will render to every man his due, by no fictitious standard (such as birth or status) but strictly according to what he has done. 7To those who by steady persistence in a life-work of good strive for the deathless glories of the Messianic Kingdom, He will give that for which they strive, viz. eternal life. 8But to those mutinous spirits who are disloyal to the right and loyal only to unrighteousness, for such there is in store anger and fury, 9galling, nay crushing, pain: for every human being they are in store, who carries out to the end his course of evil, whether he be Jew or whether he be Gentile—the Jew again having precedence. 10On the other hand the communicated glory of the Divine Presence, the approval of God and the bliss of reconciliation with Him await the man who labours on at that which is good—be he Jew or Gentile; here too the Jew having precedence, but only precedence: 11for God regards no distinctions of race.

12Do not object that the Jew has a position of privilege which will exempt him from this judgement, while the Gentile has no law by which he can be judged. The Gentiles, it is true, have no law; but as they have sinned, so also will they be punished without one [see vv. 14, 15]. The Jews live under a law, and by that law they will be judged. 13For it is not enough to hear it read in the synagogues. That does not make a man righteous before God. His verdict will pronounce righteous only those who have done what the Law commands. 14I say that Gentiles too, although they have no written law, will be judged. For whenever any of them instinctively put in practice the precepts of the Law, their own moral sense supplies them with the law they need. 15Because their actions give visible proof of commandments written not on stone but on the tables of the heart. These actions themselves bear witness to them; and an approving conscience also bears them witness; while in their dealings with one another their inward thoughts take sometimes the side of the prosecution and sometimes (but more rarely) of the defence. 16These hidden workings of the conscience God can see; and therefore He will judge Gentile as well as Jew, at that Great Assize which I teach that He will hold through His Deputy, Jesus Messiah.

1. The transition from Gentile to Jew is conducted with much rhetorical skill, somewhat after the manner of Nathan’s parable to David. Under cover of a general statement St. Paul sets before himself a typical Jew. Such an one would assent cordially to all that had been said hitherto (p. 49, sup.). It is now turned against himself, though for the moment the Apostle holds in suspense the direct affirmation, ‘Thou art the man.’



There is evidence that Marcion kept vv. 2, 12-14, 16, 20 (from ἔχοντα)—29; for the rest evidence fails. We might suppose that Marcion would omit vv. 17-20, which record (however ironically) the privileges of the Jew; but the retention of the last clause of ver. 20 is against this.

διό links this section closely to the last; it is well led up to by 1:32, but�

οἴδαμεν: οἶδα = to know for a fact, by external testimony; γιγνώσκω = to know by inner personal experience and appropriation: see Sp. Comm. iii. 299; Additional note on 1 Corinthians 8:1.

3. σύ emphatic; ‘thou, of all men.’ There is abundant illustration of the view current among the Jews that the Israelite was secure simply as such by virtue of his descent from Abraham and of his possession of the Law: cf. Matthew 3:8, Matthew 3:9 ‘Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father’; John 8:33; Galatians 2:15; the passages quoted by Gif.; Weber, Altsyn. Theol. p. 69 f.


There may be an element of popular misunderstanding, there is certainly an element of inconsistency, in some of these passages. The story of Abraham sitting at the gate of Paradise and refusing to turn away even the wicked Israelite can hardly be a fair specimen of the teaching of the Rabbis, for we know that they insisted strenuously on the performance of the precepts of the Law, moral as well as ceremonial. But in any case there must have been a strong tendency to rest on supposed religious privileges apart from the attempt to make practice conform to them.

4. χρηστότητος: bonitatis Vulg., in Titus 3:4 benignitas: see Lft. on Galatians 5:22. χρηστότης = ‘kindly disposition’; μακροθυμία = ‘patience,’ opp. to ὀξυθυμία a ‘short’ or ‘quick temper,’ ‘irascibility’ (cf. βραδὺς εἰς ὀργήν James 1:19);�


Comp. Philo, Leg. Allegor. 1:13 (Mang. i. 50) Ὅταν γὰρ ὓῃ μὲν κατὰ θαλάττης, πηγὰς δὲ ἐν τοῖς ἐρημοτάτοις ἐπομβρῇ … τί ἕτερον παρίστησιν ἢ τὴν ὑπερβολὴν τοῦ τε πλούτου καὶ τῆς�

‘According to R. Levi the words [Joel 2:13] mean: God removes to a distance His Wrath. Like a king who had two fierce legions. If these, thought he, encamp near me in the country they will rise against my subjects when they provoke me to anger. Therefore I will send them far away. Then if my subjects provoke me to anger before I send for them (the legions) they may appease me and I shall be willing to be appeased. So also said God: Anger and Wrath are the messengers of destruction. I will send them far away to a distance, so that when the Israelites provoke Me to anger, they may come, before I send for them, and repent, and I may accept their repentance (cf. Isaiah 13:5). And not only that, said R. Jizchak, but he locks them up (Anger and Wrath) out of their way; see Jeremiah 50:25, which means: Until He opens His treasure-chamber and shuts it again, man returns to God and He accepts him’ (Tract. Thaanitk ii. 1 ap. Winter u. Wünsche,Jüd. Litt. i.207).


5. κατά: ‘in accordance with,’ secundum duritiam tuam Vulg.

ὀργήν: see on 1:18 above.

ὀργὴν ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ὀργῆ: to be taken closely together, ‘wrath (to be inflicted) in a day of wrath.’

The doctrine of a ‘day of the Lord’ as a day of judgement is taught by the Prophets from Amos onwards (Amos 5:18; Isaiah 2:12 ff.; Isaiah 13:6 ff.; Isaiah 24:21; Jeremiah 46:10; Joel 2:1 ff.; Zephaniah 1:7 ff.; Ezekiel 7:7 ff.; Ezekiel 30:3 ff.; Zechariah 14:1; Malachi 3:2; Malachi 4:1. It also enters largely into the pseudepigraphic literature: Enoch xlv. 2 ff. (and the passages collected in Charles’ Note); Ps. Sol. 15:13 ff.; 4 Ezra 6:18 ff., 77 ff. [7:102ff. ed. Bensly]; 12:34; Apoc. Baruch. Lev_1; Lev_6, &c.

δικαιοκρισίας: not quite the same as δικαίας κρίσεως 2 Thessalonians 1:5 (cf. justi judicii Vulg.), denoting not so much the character of the judgement as the character of the Judge (δικαιοκριτής 2 Macc. 12:41; cf. ὁ δίκαιος κριτής 2 Timothy 4:8).

The word occurs in the Quinta (the fifth version included in Origen’s Hexapla) of Hosea 6:5; it is also found twice in Test. XII Patriarch. Lev_3 ὁ δεύτερος ἔχει πῦρ, χιόνα, κρύσταλλον ἕτοιμα εἰς ἡμέραν προστάγματος Κυρίου ἐν τῇ δικαιοκρισίᾳ τοῦ Θεοῦ. Ibid. 15 λήψεσθε ὀνειδισμὸν καὶ αἰσχύνην αἰώνιον παρὰ τῆς δικαιοκρισίας τοῦ Θεοῦ.

6. ὃς�Proverbs 24:12 (LXX). The principle here laid down, though in full accord with the teaching of the N. T. generally (Matthew 16:27; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:7; Ephesians 6:8; Colossians 3:24, Colossians 3:25; Revelation 2:23; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 22:12), may seem at first sight to conflict with St. Paul’s doctrine of Justification by Faith. But Justification is a past act, resulting in a present state: it belongs properly to the beginning, not to the end, of the Christian’s career (see on δικαιωθήσονται in ver. 13). Observe too that there is no real antithesis between Faith and Works in themselves. Works are the evidence of Faith, and Faith has its necessary outcome in Works. The true antithesis is between earning salvation and receiving it as a gift of God’s bounty. St. Paul himself would have allowed that there might have been a question of earning salvation if the Law were really kept (Romans 10:5; Galatians 3:12). But as a matter of fact the Law was not kept, the works were not done.


7. καθʼ ὑπομονὴν ἔργου�

8. τοῖς δὲ ἐξ ἐριθείας: ‘those whose motive is factiousness,’ opp. to the spirit of single-minded unquestioning obedience, those who use all the arts of unscrupulous faction to contest or evade commands which they ought to obey. From ἔριθος ‘a hired labourer’ we get ἐριθεύω ‘to act as a hireling,’ ἐριθεύομαι a political term for ‘hiring paid canvassers and promoting party spirit:’ hence ἐριθεία = the spirit of faction, the spirit which substitutes factious opposition for the willing obedience of loyal subjects of the kingdom of heaven. See Lft. and Ell. on Galatians 5:20, but esp. Fri. ad loc.

The ancients were strangely at sea about this word. Hesychius (cent. 5) derived ἔριθος from ἔρα ‘earth’; the Etymologicum Magnum (a compilation perhaps of the eleventh century) goes a step further, and derives it from ἔρα θής agricola mercede conductus; Greg. Nyssen. connects it with ἔριον ‘wool’ (ἔριθος was used specially of woolworkers); but most common of all is the connexion with ἔρις (so Theodrt; on Philippians 2:3; cf. Vulg. his qui ex contentione [per contentionem Philippians 2:3; rixae Galatians 5:20]). There can be little doubt that the use of ἐριθεία was affected by association with ἔρις, though there is no real connexion between the two words (see notes on ἐπωρώθησαν 11:7, κατανύξεως 11:8).

ὀργὴ … θυμός: see Lft. and Ell. on Galatians 5:20; Trench, Syn. p. 125: ὀργή is the settled feeling, θυμός the outward manifestation, ‘outbursts’ or ‘ebullitions of wrath.’


ὀργὴ δέ ἐστιν ὁ ἑπόμενος τοῖς ἁμαρτάνουσιν ἐπὶ τιμωρίᾳ πόνος. θυμὸν δὲ ὁρίζονται ὀργὴν�

9. θλῖψις καὶ στενοχωρία: tribulatio (pressura in the African form of the Old Latin) et angustia Vulg., whence our word ‘anguish’: στενοχωρία is the stronger word = ‘torturing confinement’ (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:8). But the etymological sense is probably lost in usage: calamitas et angustiae h. e. summa calamitas Fri. p. 106.




For similar combinations (‘day of tribulation and pain,’ ‘of tribulation and great shame,’ ‘of suffering and tribulation,’ ‘of anguish and affliction,’ &c.) see Charles’ note on Enoch xlv. 2.

κατεργαζομένου = ‘carry to the end’; κατά either strengthening the force of the simple vb., as per in perficere, or giving it a bad sense, as in perpetrare Fri. p. 107.

11. προσωποληψία: peculiar to Biblical and Ecclesiastical Greek (Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25; James 2:1; cf. προσωπολήπτης Acts 10:34; προσωποληπτεῖν James 2:9;�1 Peter 1:17): πρόσωπον λαμβάνειν = (i) to give a gracious reception to a suppliant or suitor (Leviticus 19:15); and hence (ii) to show partiality, give corrupt judgement. In N. T. always with a bad sense.

The idea goes back to Deuteronomy 10:17 ὁ Θεὸς … οὐ θαυμάζει πρόσωπον οὐδʼ οὐ μὴ λάβῃ δῶρον, which is adopted in Ps. Sol. 2:19 ὁ Θεὸς κριτὴς δίκαιος καὶ οὐ θαυμάσει πρόσωπον, and explained in Jubilees 5:15 ‘And He is not one who will regard the person (of any) nor receive gifts; when He says that He will execute judgement on each: if one gave him everything that is on the earth, He will not regard the gifts or the person (of any), nor accept anything at his hands, for he is a Righteous Judge’; cf. Apoc. Baruch. xiii. 7, Pirqê Aboth iv. 31 ‘He is about to judge with whom there is no iniquity, nor forgetfulness, nor respect of persons, nor taking of a bribe.’

12., 13. νόμος and ὁ νόμος. The distinction between these two forms did not escape the scholarship of Origen, whose comment on Romans 3:21 reads thus in Rufinus’ translation (ed. Lommatzsch, vi. 201): Moris est apud Graecos nominibus ἄρθρα praeponi, quae apud nos possunt articuli nominari. Si quando igitur Mosis legem nominat, solitum nomini praemittit articulum: si quando vero naturalem vult intelligi, sine articulo nominat legem. This distinction however, though it holds good generally, does not cover all the cases. There are really three main uses: (1) ὁ νόμος = the Law of Moses; the art. denotes something with which the readers are familiar, ‘their own law,’ which Christians in some sense inherited from the Jews through the O. T. (2) νόμος = law in general (e.g. 2:12, 14; 3:20 f.; 4:15; 5:13, &c.). (3) But there is yet a third usage where νόμος without art. really means the Law of Moses, but the absence of the art. calls attention to it not as proceeding from Moses, but in its quality as law; non quia Mosis sed quia lex as Gif. expresses it in his comment on Galatians 2:19 (p. 46). St. Paul regards the Pre-Messianic period as essentially a period of Law, both for Jew and for Gentile. Hence when he wishes to bring out this he uses νόμος without art, even where he is referring to the Jews; because his main point is that they were under ‘a legal system’—who gave it and what name it bore was a secondary consideration. The Law of the Jews was only a typical example of a state of things that was universal. This will explain passages like Romans 5:20, Romans 10:4.


There will remain a few places, which do not come under any of these heads, where the absence of the art. is accounted for by the influence of the context, usually acting through the law of grammatical sympathy by which when one word in a phrase drops the article another also drops it; some of these passages involve rather nice points of scholarship (see the notes on 2:25; 3:31; 13:8). On the whole subject compare esp. Gif. p. 47 ff.; also a monograph by Grafe, Die paulinische Lehre von Gesetz, Freiburg i. B. 1884, ed. 2, 1893. Dr. Grafe goes rather too far in denying the distinction between νόμος and ὁ νόμος, but his paper contains many just remarks and criticisms.

12.�

τὰ μὴ νόμον ἔχοντα, the force of μή is ‘who ex hypothesi have not a law,’ whom we conceive of as not having a law; cf. τὰ μὴ ὄντα 1 Corinthians 1:28 (quae pro nihilo habentur (Grimm).


ἑαυτοῖς εἰσι νόμος: ubi legis impletio, ibi lex P. Ewald.

The doctrine of this verse was liberal doctrine for a Jew. The Talmud recognizes no merit in the good deeds of heathen unless they are accompanied by a definite wish for admission to the privileges of Judaism. Even if a heathen were to keep the whole law it would avail him nothing without circumcision (Debarim Rabba 1). If he prays to Jehovah his prayer is not heard (ibid.). If he commits sin and repents, that too does not help him (Pesikta 156a). Even for his alms he gets no credit (Pesikta 12b). ‘In their books’ (i.e. in those in which God sets down the actions of the heathen) ‘there is no desert’ (Shir Rabba 86c). See Weber, Altsyn. Theol. p. 66 f. Christian theologians have expressed themselves much to the same effect. Their opinions are summed up concisely by Mark Pattison, Essays, ii. 61. ‘In accordance with this view they interpreted the passages in St. Paul which speak of the religion of the heathen; e.g. Romans 2:14. Since the time of Augustine (De Spir. et Lit. § 27) the orthodox interpretation had applied this verse, either to the Gentile converts, or to the favoured few among the heathen who had extraordinary divine assistance. The Protestant expositors, to whom the words “do by nature the things contained in the law” could never bear their literal force, sedulously preserved the Augustinian explanation. Even the Pelagian Jeremy Taylor is obliged to gloss the phrase “by nature,” thus: “By fears and secret opinions which the Spirit of God, who is never wanting to men in things necessary, was pleased to put into the hearts of men” (Duct. Dubit. Book II. ch. i., § 3). The rationalists, however, find the expression “by nature,” in its literal sense, exactly conformable to their own views (John Wilkins [1614-1672], Of Nat. Rel. II. c. 9), and have no difficulty in supposing the acceptableness of those works, and the salvation of those who do them. Burnet, on Art. XVIII., in his usual confused style of eclecticism, suggests both opinions without seeming to see that they are incompatible relics of divergent schools of doctrine.’


15., οἵτινες: see on 1:25.

ἐνδείκνυνται: ἕνδειξις implies an appeal to facts; demonstratio rebus gestis facta (P. Ewald, De Vocis Συνειδήσεως, &c., p. 16 n.).

τὸ ἔργον τοῦ νόμου: ‘the work, course of conduct belonging to’ (i. e. in this context ‘required by’ or ‘in accordance with’) ‘the Law’: collective use of ἔργον as in ver. 7 above.

[Probably not as Ewald op. cit. p. 17 after Grotius, opus legis est id, quod lex in Judaeis efficit, nempe cognitio liciti et illiciti.]

συμμαρτυρούσης αὐτῶν τῆς συνειδήσεως. This phrase is almost exactly repeated in ch. 9:1 συμμαρτ. μοι τῆς συνειδ. μου. In both cases the conscience is separated from the self and personified as a further witness standing over against it. Here the quality of the acts themselves is one witness, and the approving judgement passed upon them by the conscience is another concurrent witness.

συνειδήσεως. Some such distinction as this is suggested by the original meaning and use of the word συνείδησις, which = ‘co-knowledge,’ the knowledge or reflective judgement which a man has by the side of or in conjunction with the original consciousness of the act. This second consciousness is easily projected and personified as confronting the first.

The word is quoted twice from Menander (342-291 b.c.), Monost. 597 (cf. 654) ἁπᾶσιν ἡμῖν ἡ συνείδησις θεός (ed. Didot, pp. 101, 103). It is significant that both the word and the idea are completely absent from Aristotle. They rise into philosophical importance in the more introspective moral teaching of the Stoics. The two forms, τὸ συνειδός and ἡ συνείδησις appear to be practically convertible. Epictetus (Fragm. 97) compares the conscience to a παιδαγωγός in a passage which is closely parallel to the comment of Origen on this verse of Ep. Rom. (ed. Lommatzsch, 6:107) spiritus … velut paedagogus ei [sc. animae] quidam sociatus et rector ut eam de melioribus moneat vel de culpis castiget et arguat.

In Biblical Greek the word occurs first with its full sense in Wisd. 17:10 [11]�Acts 23:1, Acts 23:24:16; Rom_1 and 2 Cor., Past. Epp., also in Heb.); elsewhere only in 1 Pet. and the peric. adult. John 8:9. It is one of the few technical terms in St. Paul which seem to have Greek rather than Jewish affinities.

The ‘Conscience’ of St. Paul is a natural faculty which belongs to all men alike (Romans 2:15), and pronounces upon the character of actions, both their own (2 Corinthians 1:12) and those of others (2 Corinthians 4:2, 2 Corinthians 5:11). It can be over-scrupulous (1 Corinthians 10:25), but is blunted or ‘seared’ by neglect of its warnings (1 Timothy 4:2).


The usage of St. Paul corresponds accurately to that of his Stoic contemporaries, but is somewhat more restricted than that which obtains in modern times. Conscience, with the ancients, was the faculty which passed judgment upon actions after they were done (in technical language the conscientia consequens moralis), not so much the general source of moral obligation. In the passage before us St. Paul speaks of such a source (ἑαυτοῖς εἰσι νόμος); but the law in question is rather generalized from the dictates of conscience than antecedent to them. See on the whole subject a treatise by Dr. P. Ewald, De Vocis Συνειδήσεως apud script. N. T. vi ac potestate (Lipsiae, 1883).

μεταξὺ�

τῶν λογισμῶν: the λογισμοί are properly ‘thoughts’ conceived in the mind, not ‘arguments’ used in external debate. This appears from the usage of the word, which is frequently combined with καρδίᾳ (πολλοὶ λογισμοὶ ἐν καρδίᾳ�Proverbs 19:21; cf. Psalms 32:11; Proverbs 6:18): it is used of secret ‘plots’ (Jeremiah 18:18 δεῦτε λογισώμεθα ἐπὶ Ἱερεμίαν λογισμόν, ‘devise devices’), and of the Divine intentions (Jer_29 [36], 11 λογιοῦμαι ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς λογισμὸν εἰρήνης). In the present passage St. Paul is describing an internal process, though one which is destined to find external expression; it is the process by which are formed the moral judgements of men upon their fellows.

‘The conscience’ and ‘the thoughts’ both belong to the same persons. This is rightly seen by Klöpper, who has written at length on the passage before us (Paulinische Studien, Königsberg, 1887, p. 10); but it does not follow that both the conscience and the thoughts are exercised upon the same objects, or that μεταξὺ�Matthew 18:15 μεταξὺ σοῦ καὶ αὐτοῦ μόνου) derives that part of its meaning from μόνου, not from μεταξύ.


ἢ καί: ‘or even,’ ‘or it may be,’ implying that�

The phrase κατὰ τὸ εὐαγγ. μου occurs Romans 16:25, of the specially Pauline doctrine of ‘free grace’; 2 Timothy 2:8, (i) of the resurrection of Christ from the dead, (ii) of His descent from the seed of David.


We note in passing the not very intelligent tradition (introduced by φασὶ δέ, Eus. H. E. III. 4:8), that wherever St. Paul spoke of ‘his Gospel’ he meant the Gospel of St. Luke.

FAILURE OF THE JEWS

2:17-29. The Jew may boast of his possession of a special Revelation and a written Law, but all the time his practice shows that he is really no better than the Gentile (vv. 17-24). And if he takes his stand on Circumcision, that too is of value only so far as it is moral and spiritual. In this moral and spiritual circumcision the Gentile also may share (vv. 25-29).

17Do you tell me that you bear the proud name of Jew, that you repose on a written law as the charter of your salvation? Do you boast that Jehovah is your God, 18that you are fully acquainted with His revealed Will, that you adopt for yourself a high standard and listen to the reading of the Law every Sabbath-day? 19Do you give yourself out with so much assurance as a guide to the poor blind Gentile, a luminary to enlighten his darkness? 20Do you call your pupils dullards and yourself their schoolmaster? Are they mere infants and you their teacher? You, who have all knowledge and all truth visibly embodied for you in the Law? 21Boastful Jew! How does your practice comport with your theory? So ready to teach others, do you need no teaching yourself? The eighth 22and seventh commandments which you hold up to others—do you yourself keep them? You profess to loathe and abhor idols; but do you keep your hands from robbing their temples? 23You vaunt the possession of a law; and by the violation of that law you affront and dishonour God Who gave it. 24As Isaiah wrote that the Gentiles held the Name of God in contempt because they saw His people oppressed and enslaved, so do they now for a different reason—because of the gross inconsistency in practice of those who claim to be His people.

25True it is that behind the Law you have also the privilege of Circumcision, which marks the people of Promise. And Circumcision has its value if you are a law-performer. But if you are a law-breaker you might as well be uncircumcised. 26Does it not follow that if the uncircumcised Gentile keeps the weightier statutes of the Moral Law, he will be treated as if he were circumcised? 27And uncircumcised as he is, owing to his Gentile birth, yet if he fulfils the Law, his example will (by contrast) condemn you who with the formal advantages of a written law and circumcision, only break the law of which you boast. 28For it is not he who has the outward and visible marks of a Jew who is the true Jew; neither is an outward and bodily circumcision the true circumcision. 29But he who is inwardly and secretly a Jew is the true Jew; and the moral and spiritual circumcision is that which really deserves the name. The very word ‘Jew’—descendant of Judah—means ‘praise’ (Genesis 29:35). And such a Jew has his ‘praise,’ not from man but from God.


17. Εἰ δέ א A B D* al., Latt. Pesh. Boh. Arm. Aeth., &c.: Ἴδε Dc L al., Harcl., Chrys. al. The authorities for εἰ δέ include all the oldest MSS., all the leading versions, and the oldest Fathers: ἴδε is an itacism favoured by the fact that it makes the construction slightly easier. Reading εἰ δέ the apodosis of the sentence begins at ver. 21.

Ἰουδαῖος: here approaches in meaning (as in the mouth of a Jew it would have a tendency to do) to Ἰσραηλίτης, a member of the Chosen People, opposed to the heathen.

Strictly speaking, Ἑβραῖος, opp. Ἕλληνιστής, calls attention to language; Ἰουδαῖος, opp. Ἑλλην, calls attention to nationality; Ἰσραηλίτης = a member of the theocracy, in possession of full theocratic privileges (Trench, Syn. § xxxix, p. 132 ff.). The word Ἰουδαῖος does not occur in LXX (though Ἰουδαϊσμός is found four times in 2 Macc.), but at this date it is the common word; Ἑβραῖος and Ἰσραηλίτης are terms reserved by the Jews themselves, the one to distinguish between the two main divisions of their race (the Palestinian and Greek-speaking), the other to describe their esoteric status.

For the Jew’s pride in his privileges comp. 4 Ezra 6:55 f. haec autem omnia dixi coram te, Domine, quoniam dixisti eas (sc. gentes) nil esse, et quoniam salivae assimilatae sunt, et quasi stillicidium de vase similasti habundantiam corum.

ἐπονομάζῃ: ‘bearest the name’: ἐπονομάζειν = ‘to impose a name,’ pass. ‘to have a name imposed.’

ἐπαναπαύῃ νόμῳ: ‘have a law to lean upon’: so (without art.) א A B D*; =; but it is not surprising that the later MSS. should make the statement more definite, ‘lean upon the Law.’ For ἐπαν. (requiescis Vulg.) cf. Micah 3:11; Ezekiel 29:7: the word implies at once the sense of support and the saving of ill-directed labour which resulted to the Jew from the possession of a law.

καυχᾶσαι ἐν Θεῷ: suggested by Jeremiah 9:24 ‘let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the Lord.’

καυχᾶσαι: for καυχᾷ, stopping at the first step in the process of contraction (καυχάεσαι, καυχᾶσαι, καυχᾷ). This is one of the forms which used to be called ‘Alexandrine,’ but which simply belong to the popular Greek current at the time (Hort, Introd. p. 304). καυχᾶσαι occurs also in 1 Corinthians 4:7, κατακαυχᾶσαι Romans 11:18; comp. ὀδυνᾶσαι Luke 16:25, and from uncontracted verbs, φάγεσαι … πίεσαι Luke 17:8, δύνασαι Matthew 5:36 (but δύνῃ Mark 9:22); see Win. Gr. xiii. 2b (p. 90).

18. τὸ θέλημα. Bp. Lightfoot has shown that this phrase was so constantly used for ‘the Divine Will’ that even without the art. it might have that signification, as in 1 Corinthians 16:12 (On Revision, p. 106 Exo_1, p. 118 Exo_2).

δοκιμάζεις τὰ διαφέροντα: probas utiliora Cod. Clarom. Rufin. Vulg.; non modo prae malis bona sed in bonis optima Beng. on Philippians 1:10, where the phrase recurs exactly. Both words are ambiguous: δοκιμάζειν = (i) ‘to test, assay, discern’; (ii) ‘to approve after testing’ (see on 1:28); and τὰ διαφέροντα may be either ‘things which differ,’ or ‘things which stand out, or excel.’ Thus arise the two interpretations represented in RV. and RV. marg., with a like division of commentators. The rendering of RV. marg. (‘provest the things that differ,’ ‘hast experience of good and bad’ Tyn.) has the support of Euthym.-Zig. (διακρίνεις τὰ διαφέροντα�

κατηχούμενος ἐκ τοῦ νόμου : cf. Acts 15:21.


19. πέποιθας κ.τ.λ. The common construction after πέποιθας is ὅτι: acc. and infin. is very rare. It seems better, with Vaughan, to take σεαυτόν closely with πέποιθας, ‘and art persuaded as to thyself that thou art,’ &c.

ὁδηγὸν … τυφλῶν. It is natural to compare Matthew 15:14 τυφλοί εἰσιν ὁδηγοὶ τυφλῶν κ.τ.λ.; also 23:16, 24. Lips. thinks that the first saying was present to the mind of the Apostle. It would not of course follow that it was current in writing, though that too is possible. On the other hand the expression may have been more or less proverbial: comp. Wünsche, Erläut. d. Evang. on Matthew 23:16. The same epithet was given by a Galilaean to R. Chasda, Baba Kama fol. 52 a. ‘When the Shepherd is angry with the sheep he blinds their leader; i.e. when God determines to punish the Israelites, He gives them unworthy rulers.’

20. παιδευτήν: ‘a schoolmaster,’ with the idea of discipline, correction, as well as teaching; cf. Hebrews 12:9.

νηπίων: ‘infants,’ opp. to τέλειοι, ‘adults,’ as in Hebrews 5:13, Hebrews 5:14.

μόρφωσιν: ‘outline,’ ‘delineation,’ ‘embodiment.’ As a rule σχῆμα = outward form as opp. to inward substance, while μορφή = outward form as determined by inward substance; so that σχῆμα is the variable, μορφή the permanent, element in things: see Lft. Phil. p. 125 ff.; Sp. Comm. on 1 Corinthians 7:31. Nor does the present passage conflict with this distinction. The Law was a real expression of Divine truth, so far as it went. It is more difficult to account for 2 Timothy 3:5 ἔχοντες μόρφωσιν εὐσεβείας τὴν δὲ δύναμιν αὐτῆς ἠρνημένοι.

See however Lft. in Journ. of Class. and Sacr. Philol. (1857) iii. 115 ‘They will observe that in two passages where St. Paul does speak of that which is unreal or at least external, and does not employ σχῆμα, he still avoids using μορφή as inappropriate, and adopts μόρφωσις instead (Romans 2:20; 2 Timothy 3:5), where the termination, ωσις denotes “the aiming after or affecting the μορφή.”’ Can this quite be made good?


21. οὖν: resumptive, introducing the apodosis to the long protasis in vv. 17-20. After the string of points, suspended as it were in the air, by which the Apostle describes the Jew’s complacency, he now at last comes down with his emphatic accusation. Here is the ‘Thou art the man’ which we have been expecting since ver. 1.

κλέπτειν: infin. because κηρύσσων contains the idea of command.

22. βδελυσσόμενος: used of the expression of physical disgust, esp. of the Jew’s horror at idolatry.

Note the piling up of phrases in Deuteronomy 7:26 καὶ οὐκ εἰσοίσεις βδέλυγμα [here of the gold and silver plates with which idols were overlaid] εἰς τὸν οἶκόν σου, καὶ ἔσῃ�Daniel 12:11; Matthew 24:15, &c. One of the ignominies of captivity was to be compelled to carry the idols of the heathen: Assump. Moys. viii. 4 cogentur palam baiulare idola corum inquinata.

ἱεροσυλεῖς. The passage just quoted (Deuteronomy 7:26 with 25), Joseph. Ant. IV. viii. 10, and Acts 19:37 (where the town-clerk asserts that St. Paul and his companions were ‘not ἱερόσυλοι’) show that the robbery of temples was a charge to which the Jews were open in spite of their professed horror of idol-worship.


There were provisions in the Talmud which expressly guarded against this: everything which had to do with an idol was a βδέλυγμα to him unless it had been previously desecrated by Gentiles. But for this the Jew might have thought that in depriving the heathen of their idol he was doing a good work. See the passages in Delitzsch ad loc.; also on ἱεροσυλία, which must not be interpreted too narrowly, Lft., Ess. on Supern. Rel. p. 299 f.; Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire, p. 144 n., where it is noted that ἱεροσυλία was just one of the crimes which a provincial governor could proceed against by his own imperium.

The Eng. Versions of ἱεροσυλεῖς group themselves thus: ‘robbest God of his honour’ Tyn. Cran. Genev.; ‘doest sacrilege’ (or equivalent) Wic. Rhem. AV. RV. marg.; ‘dost rob temples’ RV.

23. It is probably best not to treat this verse as a question. The questions which go before are collected by a summary accusation. Gif., with a delicate sense of Greek composition, sees a hint of this in the change from participles to the relative and indic. (ὁ διδάσκων … ὁς καυχᾶσαι).

24. A free adaptation of Isaiah 52:5 (LXX). Heb. ‘And continually all the day long My Name is blasphemed’: LXX adds to this διʼ ὑμᾶς and ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν. St. Paul omits διαπαντός and changes μου to τοῦ Θεοῦ.


The original meant that the Name of God was reviled by the tyrants and oppressors of Israel: St. Paul, following up a suggestion in the LXX (διʼ ὑμᾶς), traces this reviling to the scandal caused by Israel’s inconsistency. The fact that the formula of quotation is thrown to the end shows that he is conscious of applying the passage freely: it is almost as if it were an after-thought that the language he has just used is a quotation at all. See the longer note on ch. 10, below.

25. νόμον πράσσῃς. On the absence of the art. see especially the scholarly note in Va.: ‘It is almost as if νόμον πράσσειν and νόμου παραβάτης were severally like νομοθετεῖν, νομοφυλακεῖν, &c., νομοθέτης, νομοδιδάσκαλος, &c., one compound word: if thou be a law-doer … if thou be a law-transgressor, &c., indicating the character of the person, rather than calling attention to the particular form or designation of the law, which claims obedience.’

γέγονεν: ‘is by that very fact become.’ Del. quotes the realistic expression given to this idea in the Jewish fancy that God would send his angel to remove the marks of circumcision on the wicked

26. εἰς περιτομὴν λογισθήσεται: λογίζεσθαι εἴς τι = λογίζεσθαι εἰς τὸ εἶναί τι, εἰς denoting result, ‘so as to be in place of,’ ‘reckoned as a substitute or equivalent for’ (Fri., Grm.-Thay. s. v. λογίζομαι 1 a).

Of the synonyms τηρεῖν, φυλάσσειν, τελεῖν; τηρεῖν = ‘to keep an eye upon,’ ‘to observe carefully’ (and then do); φυλάσσειν = ‘to guard as a deposit,’ ‘to preserve intact’ against violence from without or within; τελεῖν = ‘to bring (a law) to its proper fulfilment’ in action; τηρεῖν and φυλάσσειν are both from the point of view of the agent, τελεῖν from that of the law which is obeyed. See Westcott on Job 17:12; 1 John 2:3.

27. κρινεῖ: most probably categorical and not a question as AV. and RV.; = ‘condemn’ by comparison and contrast, as in Matthew 12:41, Matthew 12:42 ‘the men of Nineveh shall stand up in the judgement with this generation and shall condemn it,’ &c. Again we are pointed back to vv. 1-3; the judge of others shall be himself judged.


ἡ ἐκ φύσεως�

The distinction between the literal Israel which is after the flesh and the true spiritual Israel is a leading idea with St. Paul and is worked out at length in 9:6 ff.; see also Philippians 2:14 sup. We may compare Philippians 3:3, where St. Paul claims that Christians represent the true circumcision.


28. ὁ ἐν τῷ φανερῷ. The Greek of this and the next verse is elliptical, and there is some ambiguity as to how much belongs to the subject and how much to the predicate. Even accomplished scholars like Dr. Gifford and Dr. Vaughan differ. The latter has some advantage in symmetry, making the missing words in both clauses belong to the subject (‘Not he who is [a Jew] outwardly is a Jew … but he who is [a Jew] in secret is a Jew’); but it is a drawback to this view of the construction that it separates περιτομή and καρδίας: Gif., as it seems to us rightly, combines these (‘he which is inwardly a Jew [is truly a Jew], and circumcision of heart … [is true circumcision’]). Similarly Lips. Weiss (but not Mey.).

29. περιτομὴ καρδίας. The idea of a spiritual (heart-) circumcision goes back to the age of Deuteronomy; Deuteronomy 10:16 περιτεμεῖσθε τὴν σκληροκαρδίαν ὑμῶν: Jeremiah 4:4 περιτμήθητε τῷ Θεῷ ὑμῶν, καὶ περιτέμεσθε τὴν σκληροκαρδίαν ὑμῶν: cf. Jeremiah 9:26; Ezekiel 44:7; Acts 7:51. Justin works out elaborately the idea of the Christian circumcision, Dial. c. Tryph 114.

ὁ ἔπαινος. We believe that Dr. Gifford was the first to point out that there is here an evident play on the name ‘Jew’: Judah = ‘Praise’ (cf. Genesis 29:35; Genesis 49:8).










A Cod. Alexandrinus

B Cod. Vaticanus

D Cod. Claromontanus

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

Harcl. Harclean.

Orig.-lat. Latin Version of Origen

Tert. Tertullian.

Ambrstr. Ambrosiaster.

Theodrt. Theodoret.

al. alii, alibi.

WH. Westcott and Hort.

RV. Revised Version.

אԠCod. Sinaiticus

C Cod. Ephraemi Rescriptus

Latt. Latin.

g Latin version of G

Boh. Bohairic.

Arm. Armenian.

Chrys. Chrysostom.

Tisch. Tischendorf.

Gif. Gifford.

Vulg. Vulgate.

Lft. Lightfoot.

Ell. Ellicott.

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

Orig. Origen.

G Cod. Boernerianus

Mey. Meyer.

Lips. Lipsius.

Pesh. Peshitto.

Eus. Eusebius.

Aeth. Ethiopic.

L Cod. Angelicus

Beng. Bengel.

Tyn. Tyndale.

Euthym.-Zig. Euthymius Zigabenus.

De W. De Wette.

Oltr. Oltramare.

Go. Godet.

Lid. Liddon.

Genev. Geneva.

Wic. Wiclif.

Rhem. Rheims (or Douay).

AV. Authorized Version.

Va. Vaughan.

Del. Delitzsch.

Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on Romans 2". International Critical Commentary NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/romans-2.html. 1896-1924.
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