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Bible Commentaries
Romans 9

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Verses 1-99


9:1-5. The thought of this magnificent prospect fills me with sorrow for those who seem to be excluded from it—my own countrymen for whom I would willingly sacrifice my dearest hopes—excluded too in spite of all their special privileges and their high destiny.

1How glorious the prospect of the life in Christ! How mournful the thought of those who are cut off from it! There is no shadow of falsehood in the statement I am about to make. As one who has his life in Christ I affirm a solemn truth; and my conscience, speaking under the direct influence of God’s Holy Spirit, bears witness to my sincerity. 2 There is one grief that I cannot shake off, one distressing weight that lies for ever at my heart. 3 Like Moses when he came down from the mount, the prayer has been in my mind: Could I by the personal sacrifice of my own salvation for them, even by being cut off from all communion with Christ, in any way save my own countrymen? Are they not my own brethren, my kinsmen as far as earthly relationship is concerned? 4 Are they not God’s own privileged people? They bear the sacred name of Israel with all that it implies; it is they whom He declared to be His ‘son,’ His ‘firstborn’ (Exodus 4:22); their temple has been illuminated by the glory of the Divine presence; they are bound to Him by a series of covenants repeatedly renewed; to them He gave a system of law on Mount Sinai; year after year they have offered up the solemn worship of the temple; they have been the depositories of the Divine promises; 5 their ancestors are the patriarchs, who were accounted righteous before God; from them in these last days has come the Messiah as regards his natural descent—that Messiah who although sprung from a human parent is supreme over all things, none other than God, the eternal object of human praise!

9-11. St. Paul has now finished his main argument. He has expounded his conception of the Gospel. But there still remains a difficulty which could not help suggesting itself to every thoughtful reader, and which was continually being raised by one class of Christians at the time when he wrote. How is this new scheme of righteousness and salvation apart from law consistent with the privileged position of the Jews? They had been the chosen race (we find St. Paul enumerating their privileges), through them the Messiah had come, and yet it appeared they would be rejected if they would not accept this new righteousness by faith. How is this consistent with the justice of God?

The question has been continually in the Apostle’s mind. It has led him to emphasize more than once the fact that the new εὐαγγέλιον if for both Jew and Greek, is yet for the Jew first (1:16; 2:9). It has led him to lay great stress on the fact that the Jews especially had sinned (2:17). Once indeed he has begun to discuss it directly (3:1); ‘What advantage then is there in being a Jew?’ but he postponed it for a time, feeling that it was necessary first to complete his main argument. He has dwelt on the fact that the new way of salvation can be proved from the Old Testament (chap. 4). Now he is at liberty to discuss in full the question How is this conception of Christ’s work consistent with the fact of the rejection of the Jews which it seems to imply?

The answer to this question occupies the remainder of the dogmatic portion of the Epistle, chaps. 9-11, generally considered to be the third of its principal divisions. The whole section may be subdivided as follows: in 9:6-29 the faithfulness and justice of God are vindicated; in 9:30-10:21 the guilt of Israel is proved; in chap. 11 St. Paul shows the divine purpose which is being fulfilled and looks forward prophetically to a future time when Israel will be restored, concluding the section with a description of the Wisdom of God as far exceeding all human speculation.

Marcion seems to have omitted the whole of this chapter with the possible exception of vv. 1-3. Tert. who passes from 8:11 to 10:2 says salio et hic amplissimum abruptum intercisae scripturae (Adv. Marc. v. 14). See Zahn, Gesch. des N. T. Kanons p. 518.

1. We notice that there is no grammatical connexion with the preceding chapter. A new point is introduced and the sequence of thought is gradually made apparent as the argument proceeds. Perhaps there has been a pause in writing the Epistle, the amanuensis has for a time suspended his labours. We notice also that St. Paul does not here follow his general habit of stating the subject he is going to discuss (as he does for example at the beginning of chap. 3), but allows it gradually to become evident. He naturally shrinks from mentioning too definitely a fact which is to him so full of sadness. It will be only too apparent to what he refers; and tact and delicacy both forbid him to define it more exactly.

ἀλήθειαν λέγω ἐν Χριστῷ: ‘I speak the truth in Christ, as one united with Christ’; cf. 2 Corinthians 2:17

οὐ ψεύδομαι. A Pauline expression. 1 Timothy 2:72 Corinthians 11:31; Galatians 1:20.

συμμαρτυρούσης: cf. 2:15; 8:16. The conscience is personified so as to give the idea of a second and a separate witness. Cf. Oecumenius ad loc. μέγα θέλει εἰπεῖν, διὸ προοδοποιεῖ τῷ πιστευθῆναι, τρεῖς ἐπιφερόμενος μάρτυρας, τὸν Χριστόν, τὸἍγιον Πνεῦμα, καὶ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ συνείδησιν.

ἐν Πνεύματι Ἁγίῳ with συμμαρτυρούσης. St. Paul adds further solemnity to his assertion by referring to that union of his spirit with the Divine Spirit of which he had spoken in the previous chapter. Cf. 8:16 αὐτὸ τὸ Πνεῦμα συμμαρτυρεῖ τῷ πνεύματι ἡμῶν.

St. Paul begins with a strong assertion of the truth of his statement as a man does who is about to say something of the truth of which he is firmly convinced himself, although facts and the public opinion of his countrymen might seem to be against him. Cf. Chrys. ad loc. πρότερον δὲ διαβεβαιοῦται περὶ ὦν μελλει λέγειν· ὅπερ πολλοῖς ἔθος ποιεῖν ὅταν μέλλωσί τι λέγειν παρὰ τοῖς πολλοῖς�

λύπη (which is opposed to χαρά John 16:20) appears to mean grief as a state of mind; it is rational or emotional: ὀδύνη on the other hand never quite loses its physical associations; it implies the anguish or smart of the heart (hence it is closely connected with τῇ καρδίᾳ) which is the result of λύπη.

With the grief of St. Paul for his countrymen, we may compare the grief of a Jew writing after the fall of Jerusalem, who feels both the misfortune and the sin of his people, and who like St. Paul emphasizes his sorrow by enumerating their close relationship to God and their ancestral pride: 4 Ezra 8:15-18 et nunc dicens dicam, de omni homine tu magis scis, de populo autem tuo, ob quem doleo, et de haereditate tua, propter quam lugeo, et propter Israël, propter quem tristis sum, et de semine Iacob, propter quod conturbor. Ibid. 10:6-8 non vides luctum nostrum et quae nobis contigerunt? quoniam Sion mater nostra omnium in tristitia contristatur, et humilitate humiliata est, et luget validissime … 21-22 vides enim quoniam sanctificatio nostra deserta effecta est, et altare nostrum demolitum est, et templum nostrum destructum est, et psalterium nostrum humiliatum est, et hymnus noster conticuit, et exsultatio nostra dissoluta est, et lumen candelabri nostri extinctum est, et arca testamenti nostri direpta est. Apoc. Baruch. xxxv. 3 quomodo enim ingemiscam super Sione, et quomodo lugebo super Ierusalem? quia in loco isto ubi prostratus sum nunc, olim summus sacerdos offerebat oblationes sanctas.

3. This verse which is introduced by γάρ does not give the reason of his grief but the proof of his sincerity.

ηὀχόμην: ‘the wish was in my mind’ or perhaps ‘the prayer was in my heart.’ St. Paul merely states the fact of the wish without regard to the conditions which made it impossible. Cf. Lft. on Galatians 4:20 ‘The thing is spoken of in itself, prior to and independently of any conditions which might affect its possibility.’ See also Acts 25:22, and Burton, M. and T. § 33.

ἀνάθεμα: ‘accursed,’ ‘devoted to destruction.’ The word was originally used with the same meaning as�Leviticus 27:28, Leviticus 27:29 πᾶν δὲ�Deuteronomy 7:26; Joshua 6:17 καὶ ἔσται ἡ πόλις�Galatians 1:8, Galatians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 16:22. The attempt to explain the word to mean ‘excommunication’ from the society—a later use of the Hebrew in Rabbinical writers and the Greek in ecclesiastical—arose from a desire to take away the apparent profanity of the wish.

There is some doubt and has been a good deal of discussion as to the distinction in meaning between�Isa_2 Macc. 2:13; here A reads�Luke 21:5, and then correctly (but the MSS. vary,�Romans 9:3, and Suidas; they are distinguished in Chrys. on Romans 9:3 as quoted by Suidas, but not in Field’s ed. No certain instance is quoted of�Galatians 1:8; Fri. on Romans 9:3.

αὐτὸς ἐγώ. The emphasis and position of these words emphasizes the willingness for personal sacrifice; and they have still more force when we remember that St. Paul has just declared that nothing in heaven or earth can separate him from the love of Christ. Chrys. ad loc. τί λέγεις, ὦ Παῦλε;�

The prayer of St. Paul is similar to that of Moses: Exodus 32:32 ‘Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.’ On this Clem.-Rom. liii. 5 comments as follows: ὢ μεγάλης�

There are one or two slight variations of reading in ver. 3, αὐτὸς ἐγώ was placed before�

Ἰσραηλῖται: used of the chosen people in special reference to the fact that, as descendants of him who received from God the name of Israel, they are partakers of those promises of which it was a sign. The name therefore implies the privileges of the race; cf. Ephesians 2:12Galatians 6:16; cf. ver. 6 inf.); a use which would of course be impossible for the merely national designation Ἰουδαῖοι.

‘Israel’ is the title used in contemporary literature to express the special relations of the chosen people to God. Ps. Sol. 14:3 ὅτι ἡ μερὶς καὶ ἡ κληρονομία τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐστιν ὁ Ἰσραήλ: Ecclus. 17:15 μερὶς Κυρίου Ἰσραὴλ ἐστίν: Jubilees 33:18 ‘For Israel is a nation holy unto God, and a nation of inheritance for its God, and a nation of priesthood and royalty and a possession.’ Thus the word seems to have been especially connected with the Messianic hope. The Messianic times are ‘the day of gladness of Israel’ (Ps. Sol. 10:7), the blessing of Israel, the day of God’s mercy towards Israel (ib. 17:50, 51 μακάριοι οἱ γινόμενοι ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις ἰδεῖν τὰ�

υἱοθεσία: ‘the adoption,’ ‘status of an adopted son’: on the origin of the word and its use in relation to Christian privileges see above, Romans 8:15. Here it implies that relationship of Israel to God described in Exodus 4:22 τάδε λέγει Κύριος Υἱὸς πρωτότοκός μου Ἰσραήλ: Deuteronomy 14:1; Deuteronomy 32:6; Jeremiah 31:9; Hosea 11:1. So Jubilees 1:21 ‘I will be a Father unto them, and they shall be My children, and they shall all be called children of the living God. And every angel and every spirit will know, yea they will know that these are My children, and that I am their Father in uprightness and in righteousness and that I love them.’

ἡ δόξα:‘ the visible presence of God among His people’ (see on 3:23). δόξα is in the LXX the translation of the Hebrew כְּבוֹד יְחוָח, called by the Rabbis the Shekinah (שְׁבִינָה), the bright cloud by which God made His presence known on earth; cf. Exodus 16:10, &c. Hence τὸ κάλλος τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ Ps. Song of Solomon 2:5,�Acts 7:2, speaks of ὁ Θεὸς τῆς δόξης his words would remind his hearers of the visible presence of God which they claimed had sanctified Jerusalem and the temple. On late Rabbinical speculations concerning the Shekinah see Weber Altsyn. Theol. p. 179.

αἱ διαθη1͂και: ‘the covenants,’ see Hatch Essays on Biblical Greek, p. 47. The plural is used not with reference to the two covenants the Jewish and the Christian, but because the original covenant of God with Israel was again and again renewed (Genesis 6:18; Genesis 9:9; Genesis 15:18; Genesis 17:2, Genesis 17:7, Genesis 17:9; Exodus 2:24). Comp. Ecclus. 44:11 μετὰ τοῦ σπέρματος αὐτῶν διαμενεῖ�

The Jews believed that they were bound to God and that God was bound to them by a covenant which would guarantee to them His protection in the future. According to St. Paul it was just those who were not bound to Him by a covenant who would receive the Divine protection. On the idea of the Covenant and its practical bearing on Jewish life see Schürer Geschichte, ii. p. 388.

ἡ νομοθεσία: a classical word, occurring also in Philo. ‘The giving of the law.’ ‘The dignity and glory of having a law communicated by express revelation, and amidst circumstances so full of awe and splendour.’ Vaughan.

The current Jewish estimation of the Law (ὁ νόμος ὁ ὑπάρχων εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα Baruch 4:1) it is unnecessary to illustrate, but the point in the mention of it here is brought out more clearly if we remember that all the Messianic hopes were looked upon as the reward of those who kept the Law. So Ps. Sol. 14:1 πιστὸς Κύριος τοῖς�

ἡ λατρεία: ‘the temple service.’ Hebrews 9:1, Hebrews 9:6; Heb_1 Macc. 2:19, 22. As an illustration of Jewish opinion on the temple service may be quoted Pirqê Aboth, 1:2 (Taylor, p. 26) ‘Shimeon ha-Çaddiq was of the remnants of the great synagogue. He used to say, On three things the world is stayed; on the Thorah, and on the Worship, and on the bestowal of kindnesses.’ According to the Rabbis one of the characteristics of the Messianic age will be a revival of the temple services. (Weber Altsyn. Theol. p. 359.)

αἱ ἐπαγγελίαι. ‘the promises made in the O. T. with special reference to the coming of the Messiah.’ These promises were of course made to the Jews, and were always held to apply particularly to them. While sinners were to be destroyed before the face of the Lord, the saints of the Lord were to inherit the promises (cf. Ps. Sol. 12:8); and in Jewish estimation sinners were the gentiles and saints the chosen people. Again therefore the choice of terms emphasizes the character of the problem to be discussed. See note on 1:2, and the note of Ryle and James on Ps. Sol. loc. cit.; cf. also Hebrews 6:12; Hebrews 11:13; Galatians 3:19; Gal_1 Clem 10:2.

αἱ διαθῆκαι א C L, Vulg. codd. Boh. &c. has been corrected into ἡ διαθήκη B D F G, Vulg. codd. pauc.; also ἐπαγγελίαι into ἐπαγγελία D E F G, Boh. Both variations are probably due to fancied difficulties.

5. οἱ πατέρες: ‘the patriarchs.’ Acts 3:13, Acts 7:32. On the ‘merits’ of the patriarchs and their importance in Jewish theology see the note on p. 330.

ἐξ ὦν ὁ Χριστὸς τὸ κατὰ σάρκα. Cf. 1 Clem. xxxii. 2 ἐξ αὐτοῦ ὁ Κύριος Ἰησοῦς τὸ κατὰ σάρκα. ὁ Χρ. is not a personal name, but must be translated ‘the Messiah.’ Not only have the Jews been united to God by so many ties, but the purpose for which they have been selected has been fulfilled. The Messiah has come forth from them, and yet they have been rejected.

ὁ ῶν ἐπὶ πάντων Θεός, κ.τ.λ.: with Χριστός (see below), ‘who is over all, God blessed for ever.’ πάντων is probably neuter, cf. 11:36. This description of the supreme dignity of Him who was on His human side of Jewish stock serves to intensify the conception of the privileged character of the Jewish race.

The Privileges of Israel

By this enumeration of the privileges of Israel St. Paul fulfils two purposes in his argument. He gives firstly the facts which intensify his sorrow. Like the writer of 4 Ezra his grief is heightened by the remembrance of the position which his countrymen have held in the Divine economy. Every word in the long list calls to mind some link which had united them, the Chosen People, with God; every word reminds us of the glory of their past history; and it is because of the great contrast suggested between the destiny of Israel and their actual condition that his grief is so profound.

But the Apostle has another and more important thought to emphasize. He has to show the reality and the magnitude of the problem before him, and this list of the privileges of Israel just emphasizes it. It was so great as almost to be paradoxical. It was this. Israel was a chosen people, and was chosen for a certain purpose. According to the teaching of the Apostle it had attained this end: the Messiah, whose coming represented in a sense the consummation of its history, had appeared, and yet from any share in the glories of this epoch the Chosen People themselves were cut off. All the families of the earth were to be blessed in Israel: Israel itself was not to be blessed. They were in an especial sense the sons of God: but they were cut off from the inheritance. They were bound by special covenants to God: the covenant had been broken, and those outside shared in the advantages. The glories of the Messianic period might be looked upon as a recompense for the long years of suffering which a faithful adhesion to the Law and a loyal preservation of the temple service had entailed: the blessings were to come for those who had never kept the Law. The promises were given to and for Israel: Israel alone would not inherit them.

Such was the problem. The pious Jew, remembering the sufferings of his nation, pictured the Messianic time as one when these should all pass away; when all Israel—pure and without stain—should be once more united; when the ten tribes should be collected from among the nations; when Israel which had suffered much from the Gentiles should be at last triumphant over them. All this he expected. The Messiah had come: and Israel, the Messiah’s own people, seemed to be cut off and rejected from the blessings which it had itself prepared for the world. How was this problem to be solved? (Cf. 4 Ezra 13; Schürer, Geschichte, ii. 452 sq.)

The Punctuation of Romans 9:5

καὶ ἐξ ὧν ὁ Χριστὸς τὸ κατὰ σάρκα, ὁ ὢν ἐπὶ πάντων, Θεὸς εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας·�

The interpretation of Romans 9:5 has probably been discussed at greater length than that of any other verse of the N. T. Besides long notes in various commentaries, the following special papers may be mentioned: Schultz, in Jahrbücher für deutsche Theologie, 1868, vol. xiii. pp. 462-506; Grimm, Zwth., 1869, pp. 311-322; Harmsen, ib. 1872, pp. 510, 521: but England and America have provided the fullest discussions—by Prof. Kennedy and Dr. Gifford, namely, The Divinity of Christ, a sermon preached on Christmas Day, 1882, before the University of Cambridge, with an appendix on Romans 9:5 and Titus 2:13, by Benjamin Hall Kennedy, D.D., Cambridge, 1883; Caesarem Appello, a letter to Dr. Kennedy, by Edwin Hamilton Gifford, D.D., Cambridge, 1883; and Pauline Christology, I. Examination of Romans 9:5, being a rejoinder to the Rev. Dr. Gifford’s reply, by Benjamin Hall Kennedy, D.D., Cambridge, 1883: by Prof. Dwight and Dr. Ezra Abbot, in J.B. Exeg. June and December, 1881, pp. 22-55, 87-154; and 1883, pp. 90-112. Of these the paper of Dr. Abbot is much the most exhaustive, while that of Dr. Gifford seems to us on the whole to show the most exegetical power.

Alternative interpretations.

Dismissing minor variations, there are four main interpretations (all of them referred to in the RV.) which have been suggested:

(a) Placing a comma after σάρκα and referring the whole passage to Christ. So RV.

(b) Placing a full stop after σάρκα and translating ‘He who is God over all be blessed for ever,’ or ‘is blessed for ever.’ So RV. marg.

(c) With the same punctuation translating ‘He who is over all is God blessed for ever.’ RV. marg.

(d) Placing a comma after σάρκα and a full stop at πάντων, ‘who is over all. God be (or is) blessed for ever.’ RV. marg.

The original MSS without punctuation.

It may be convenient to point out at once that the question is one of interpretation and not of criticism. The original MSS. of the Epistles were almost certainly destitute of any sort of punctuation. Of MSS. of the first century we have one containing a portion of Isocrates in which a few dots are used, but only to divide words, never to indicate pauses in the sense; in the MS. of the Πολιτεία of Aristotle, which dates from the end of the first or beginning of the second century, there is no punctuation whatever except that a slight space is left before a quotation: this latter probably is as close a representation as we can obtain in the present day of the original form of the books of the N. T. In carefully written MSS., the work of professional scribes, both before and during the first century, the more important pauses in the sense were often indicated but lesser pauses rarely or never; and, so far as our knowledge enables us to speak, in roughly written MSS. such as were no doubt those of the N.T., there is no punctuation at all until about the third century. Our present MSS. (which begin in the fourth century) do not therefore represent an early tradition. If there were any traditional punctuation we should have to seek it rather in early versions or in second and third century Fathers: the punctuation of the MSS. is interesting in the history of interpretation, but has no other value.

History of the interpretation.

(1) The Versions.

(2) The Fathers.

The history of the interpretation must be passed over somewhat cursorily. For our earliest evidence we should naturally turn to the older versions, but these seem to labour under the same obscurity as the original. It is however probably true that the traditional interpretation of all of them is to apply the doxology to Christ.

About most of the Fathers however there is no doubt. An immense preponderance of the Christian writers of the first eight centuries refer the word to Christ. This is certainly the case with Irenaeus, Haer. III. xvii. 2, ed. Harvey; Tertullian, Adv. Prax. 13, 15; Hippolytus, Cont. Noct. 6 (cf. Gifford, op. cit. p. 60); Novatian, Trin. 13; Cyprian, Test. ii. 6, ed. Hartel; Syn. Ant. adv. Paul. Sam. in Routh, Rel. Sacrae, iii. 291, 292; Athanasius, Cont. Arian. I. iii. 10; Epiphanius, Haer. Leviticus 2:9, ed. Oehler; Basil, Adv. Eunom. iv. p. 282; Gregory of Nyssa, Adv. Eunom. 11 ; Chrysostom, Hom. ad Rom. xvi. 3, &c.; Theodoret, Ad Rom. iv. p. 100; Augustine, De Trinitate, ii. 13 ; Hilarius, De Trinitate, viii. 37, 38; Ambrosius, De Spiritu Sancto, i. 3. 46 ; Hieronymus, Ep. CXXI. ad Algas. Qu. ix; Cyril Al., Cont. Iul. x. pp. 327, 328. It is true also of Origen (in Rom. vii. 13) if we may trust Rufinus’ Latin translation (the subject has been discussed at length by Gifford, op. cit. p. 31; Abbot, J. B. Exeg. 1883, p. 103; WH. ad loc.). Moreover there is no evidence that this conclusion was arrived at on dogmatic grounds. The passage is rarely cited in controversy, and the word Θεός was given to our Lord by many sects who refused to ascribe to him full divine honours, as the Gnostics of the second century and the Arians of the fourth. On the other hand this was a useful text to one set of heretics, the Sabellians; and it is significant that Hippolytus, who has to explain that the words do not favour Sabellianism, never appears to think of taking them in any other way.

(3) The older MSS.

The strongest evidence against the reference to Christ is that of the leading uncial MSS. Of these א has no punctuation, A undoubtedly puts a point after σάρκα, and also leaves a slight space. The punctuation of this chapter is careful, and certainly by the original hand; but as there is a similar point and space between Χριστοῦ and ὑπέρ in ver. 3, a point between σάρκα and οἵτινες, and another between Ἰσραηλῖται and ὧν, there is no reason as far as punctuation is concerned why ὁ ὤν should not refer to Χριστός as much as οἵτινες does to�

The first words that attract our attention are τὸ κατὰ σάρκα, and a parallel naturally suggests itself with Romans 1:3, Romans 1:4. As there St. Paul describes the human descent from David, but expressly limits it κατὰ σάρκα, and then in contrast describes his Divine descent κατὰ πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης; so here the course of the argument having led him to lay stress on the human birth of Christ as a Jew, he would naturally correct a one-sided statement by limiting that descent to the earthly relationship and then describe the true nature of Him who was the Messiah of the Jews. He would thus enhance the privileges of his fellow-countrymen, and put a culminating point to his argument. τὸ κατὰ σάρκα leads us to expect an antithesis, and we find just what we should have expected in ὁ ὢν ἐπὶ πάντων Θεός.

Is this legitimate? It has been argued first of all that the proper antithesis to σάρξ is πνεῦμα. But this objection is invalid. Θεός is in a considerable number of cases used in contrast to σάρξ (Luke 3:6; 1 Corinthians 1:29; Colossians 3:22; Philemon 1:16; 2 Chronicles 32:8; Psa_55 [56]. 5; Jeremiah 17:5; Daniel 2:11; cf. Gifford, p. 40, to whom we owe these instances).

Again it is argued that the expression τὸ κατὰ σάρκα as opposed to κατὰ σάρκα precludes the possibility of such a contrast in words. While κατὰ σάρκα allows the expression of a contrast, τὸ κατὰ σάρκα would limit the idea of a sentence but would not allow the limitation to be expressed. This statement again is incorrect. Instances are found in which there is an expressed contrast to such limitations introduced with the article (see Gifford, p. 39; he quotes Isocrates, p. 32 e; Demosth. cont. Eubul. p. 1299, l.14).

But although neither of these objections is valid, it is perfectly true that neither κατὰ σάρκα nor τὸ κατὰ σάρκα demands an expressed antithesis (Romans 4:1; Clem. Romans 1:32). The expression τὸ κατὰ σάρκα cannot therefore be quoted as decisive; but probably any one reading the passage for the first time would be led by these words to expect some contrast and would naturally take the words that follow as a contrast.

(2) ὁ ὤν

The next words concerning which there has been much discussion are ὁ ὤν. It is argued on the one hand that ὁ ὤν is naturally relatival in character and equivalent to ὅς ἐστι, and in support of this statement 2 Corinthians 11:31 is quoted: ὁ Θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ Κυρίου Ἰησοῦ οἶδεν, ὁ ὢν εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας, ὅτι οὐ ψεύδομαι—a passage which is in some respects an exact parallel. On the other hand passages are quoted in which the words do not refer to anything preceding, such as John 3:31 ὁ ἄνωθεν ἐρχόμενος ἐπάνω πάντων ἐστίν· ὁ ὢν ἐκ τῆς γῆς ἐκ τῆς γῆς ἐστι, καὶ ἐκ τῆς γῆς λαλεῖ: and οἱ ὄντες in Romans 8:5, Romans 8:8. The question is a nice one. It is perfectly true that ὁ ὤν can be used in both ways; but it must be noticed that in the last instances the form of the sentence is such as to take away all ambiguity, and to compel a change of subject. In this case, as there is a noun immediately preceding to which the words would naturally refer, as there is no sign of a change of subject, and as there is no finite verb in the sentence following, an ordinary reader would consider that the words ὁ ὢν ἐπὶ πάντων Θεός refer to what precedes unless they suggest so great an antithesis to his mind that he could not refer them to Christ.

But further than this: no instance seems to occur, at any rate in the N.T., of the participle ὤν being used with a prepositional phrase and the noun which the prepositional phrase qualifies. If the noun is mentioned the substantive verb becomes unnecessary. Here ὁ ἐπὶ πάντων Θεός would be the correct expression, if Θεός is the subject of the sentence; if ὢν is added Θεός must become predicate. This excludes the translation (b.) ‘He who is God over all be (or is) blessed for ever.’ It still leaves it possible to translate as (c.) ‘He who is over all is God blessed for ever,’ but the reference to Χριστός remains the most natural interpretation, unless, as stated above, the word Θεός suggests in itself too great a contrast.

(3) The position of εὐλογητός.

It has thirdly been pointed out that if this passage be an ascription of blessing to the Father, the word εὐλογητός would naturally come first, just as the word ‘Blessed’ would in English. An examination of LXX usage shows that except in cases in which the verb is expressed and thrown forward (as Psa_112 [123]. 2 εἴη τὸ ὄνομα Κυρίου εὐλογημένον) this is almost invariably its position. But the rule is clearly only an empirical one, and in cases in which stress has to be laid on some special word, it may be and is broken (cf. Ps. Sol. 8:40, 41). As ὁ ὢν ἐπὶ πάντων Θεός if it does not refer to ὁ Χριστός must be in very marked contrast with it, there would be a special emphasis on the words, and the perversion of the natural order becomes possible. These considerations prevent the argument from the position of εὐλογητός being as decisive as some have thought it, but do not prevent the balance of evidence being against the interpretation as a doxology referring to the Father.

The result of an examination of the grammar of the passage makes it clear that if St. Paul had intended to insert an ascription of praise to the Father we should have expected him to write εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας ὁ ἐπὶ πάντων Θεός. If the translation (d.) suggested above, which leaves the stop at πάντων, be accepted, two difficulties which have been urged are avoided, but the awkwardness and abruptness of the sudden Θεὸς εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας make this interpretation impossible. We have seen that the position of εὐλογητός makes a doxology (b.) improbable, and the insertion of the participle makes it very unnatural. The grammatical evidence is in favour of (a.). i.e. the reference of the words to ὁ Χριστός, unless the words ὁ ὢν ἐπὶ πάντων Θεός contain in themselves so marked a contrast that they could not possibly be so referred.

The connexion of thought.

We pass next to the connexion of thought. Probably not many will doubt that the interpretation which refers the passage to Christ (a.) admirably suits the context. St. Paul is enumerating the privileges of Israel, and as the highest and last privilege he reminds his readers that it was from this Jewish stock after all that Christ in His human nature had come, and then in order to emphasize this he dwells on the exalted character of Him who came according to the flesh as the Jewish Messiah. This gives a perfectly clear and intelligible interpretation of the passage. Can we say the same of any interpretation which applies the words to the Father?

Those who adopt this latter interpretation have generally taken the words as a doxology, ‘He that is over all God be blessed for ever,’ or ‘He that is God over all be blessed for ever.’ A natural criticism that at once arises is, how awkward the sudden introduction of a doxology! how inconsistent with the tone of sadness which pervades the passage! Nor do the reasons alleged in support of this interpretation really avoid the difficulty. It is quite true of course that St. Paul was full of gratitude for the privileges of his race and especially for the coming of the Messiah, but that is not the thought in his mind. His feeling is one of sadness and of failure: it is necessary for him to argue that the promise of God has not failed. Nor again does a reference to Romans 1:25 support the interpretation. It is quite true that there we have a doxology in the midst of a passage of great sadness; but like 2 Corinthians 11:31 that is an instance of the ordinary Rabbinic and oriental usage of adding an ascription of praise when the name of God has been introduced. That would not apply in the present case where there is no previous mention of the name of God. It is impossible to say that a doxology could not stand here; it is certainly true that it would be unnatural and out of place.

Prof. Kennedy’s interpretation.

So strongly does Dr. Kennedy feel the difficulties both exegetical and grammatical of taking these words as a blessing addressed to the Father, that being unable to adopt the reference to Christ, he considers that they occur here as a strong assertion of the Divine unity introduced at this place in order to conciliate the Jews: ‘He who is over all is God blessed for ever.’ It is difficult to find anything in the context to support this opinion, St. Paul’s object is hardly to conciliate unbelieving Jews, but to solve the difficulties of believers, nor does anything occur in either the previous or the following verses which might be supposed to make an assertion of the unity of God either necessary or apposite. The interpretation fails by ascribing too great subtlety to the Apostle.

Pauline usage.

(1) Θεός.

Unless then Pauline usage makes it absolutely impossible to refer the expressions Θεός and ἐπὶ πάντων to Christ, or to address to Him such a doxology and make use in this connexion of the decidedly strong word εὐλογητός, the balance of probability is in favour of referring the passage to Him. What then is the usage of St. Paul? The question has been somewhat obscured on both sides by the attempt to prove that St. Paul could or could not have used these terms of Christ, i. e. by making the difficulty theological and not linguistic. St. Paul always looks upon Christ as being although subordinate to the Father at the head of all creation (1 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Corinthians 15:28; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:13-20), and this would quite justify the use of the expression ἐπὶ πάντων of Him. So also if St. Paul can speak of Christ as εἰκὼν τοῦ Θεοῦ (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15), as ἐν μορφῇ Θεοῦ ὑπάρχων, and ἶσα Θεῷ (Philippians 2:6), he ascribes to Him no lesser dignity than would be implied by Θεός as predicate. The question rather is this: was Θεός so definitely used of the ‘Father’ as a proper name that it could not be used of the Son, and that its use in this passage as definitely points to the Father as would the word πατήρ if it were substituted? The most significant passage referred to 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, where it is asserted that Θεός is as much a proper name as κύριος or πνεῦμα and is used in marked distinction to κύριος. But this passage surely suggests the answer. Κύριος is clearly used as a proper name of the Son, but that does not prevent St. Paul elsewhere speaking of the Father as Κύριος, certainly in quotations from the O.T. and probably elsewhere (1 Corinthians 3:5), nor of Χριστός as πνεῦμα (2 Corinthians 3:16). The history of the word appears to be this. To one brought up as a Jew it would be natural to use it of the Father alone, and hence complete divine prerogatives would be ascribed to the Son somewhat earlier than the word itself was used. But where the honour was given the word used predicatively would soon follow. It was habitual at the beginning of the second century as in the Ignatian letters, it is undoubted in St. John where the Evangelist is writing in his own name, it probably occurs Acts 20:28 and perhaps Titus 2:14. It must be admitted that we should not expect it in so early an Epistle as the Romans; but there is no impossibility either in the word or the ideas expressed by the word occurring so early.

(2) Doxologies addressed to Christ.

So again with regard to doxologies and the use of the term εὐλογητός. The distinction between εὐλογητός and εὐλογημένος which it is attempted to make cannot be sustained: and to ascribe a doxology to the Son would be a practical result of His admittedly divine nature which would gradually show itself in language. At first the early Jewish usage would be adhered to; gradually as the dignity of the Messiah became realized, a change would take place in the use of words. Hence we find doxologies appearing definitely in later books of the N. T., probably in 2 Timothy 4:18, certainly in Revelation 5:13 and 2 Peter 3:18. Again we can assert that we should not expect it in so early an Epistle as the Romans, but, as Dr. Liddon points out, 2 Thessalonians 1:12 implies it as does also Philippians 2:5-8; and there is no reason why language should not at this time be beginning to adapt itself to theological ideas already formed.


Throughout there has been no argument which we have felt to be quite conclusive, but the result of our investigations into the grammar of the sentence and the drift of the argument is to incline us to the belief that the words would naturally refer to Christ, unless Θεός is so definitely a proper name that it would imply a contrast in itself. We have seen that that is not so. Even if St. Paul did not elsewhere use the word of the Christ, yet it certainly was so used at a not much later period. St. Paul’s phraseology is never fixed; he had no dogmatic reason against so using it. In these circumstances with some slight, but only slight, hesitation we adopt the first alternative and translate ‘Of whom is the Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.’


9:6-13. For it is indeed true. With all these privileges Israel is yet excluded from the Messianic promises.

Now in the first place does this imply, as has been urged, that the promises of God have been broken? By no means. The Scriptures show clearly that physical descent is not enough. The children of Ishmael and the children of Esau, both alike descendants of Abraham to whom the promise was given, have been rejected. There is then no breach of the Divine promise, if God rejects some Israelites as He has rejected them.

6Yet in spite of these privileges Israel is rejected. Now it has been argued: ‘If this be so, then the Divine word has failed. God made a definite promise to Israel. If Israel is rejected, that promise is broken.’ An examination of the conditions of the promise show that this is not so. It was never intended that all the descendants of Jacob should be included in the Israel of privilege, 7no more in fact than that all were to share the full rights of sons of Abraham because they were his offspring. Two instances will prove that this was not the Divine intention. Take first the words used to Abraham in Genesis 21:12 when he cast forth Hagar and her child: ‘In Isaac shall thy seed be called.’ These words show that although there were then two sons of Abraham, one only, Isaac, was selected to be the heir, through whom the promise was to be inherited. 8And the general conclusion follows: the right of being ‘sons of God,’ i.e. of sharing that adoption of which we spoke above as one of the privileges of Israel, does not depend on the mere accident of human birth, but those born to inherit the promise are reckoned by God as the descendants to whom His words apply. 9The salient feature is in fact the promise, and not the birth; as is shown by the words used when the promise was given at the oak of Mamre (Genesis 18:10) ‘At this time next year will I come and Sarah shall have a son.’ The promise was given before the child was born or even conceived, and the child was born because of the promise, not the promise given because the child was born.

10A second instance shows this still more clearly. It might be argued in the last case that the two were not of equal parentage: Ishmael was the son of a female slave, and not of a lawful wife: in the second case there is no such defect. The two sons of Isaac and Rebecca had the same father and the same mother: moreover they were twins, born at the same time. 11The object was to exhibit the perfectly free character of the Divine action, that purpose of God in the world which works on a principle of selection not dependent on any form of human merit or any convention of human birth, but simply on the Divine will as revealed in the Divine call; and so before they were born, before they had done anything good or evil, a selection was made between the two sons. 12From Genesis 25:23 we learn that it was foretold to Rebecca that two nations, two peoples were in her womb, and that the elder should serve the younger. God’s action is independent of human birth; it is not the elder but the younger that is selected. 13And the prophecy has been fulfilled. Subsequent history may be summed up in the words of Malachi (1:2, 3) ‘Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated.’

6. The Apostle, after conciliating his readers by a short preface, now passes to the discussion of his theme. He has never definitely stated it, but it can be inferred from what he has said. The connexion in thought implied by the word δέ is rather that of passing to a new stage in the argument, than of sharply defined opposition to what has preceded. Yet there is some contrast: he sighs over the fall, yet that fall is not so absolute as to imply a break in God’s purpose.

οὐχ οἷον δὲ ὅτι: ‘the case is not as though.’ ‘This grief of mine for my fellow countrymen is not to be understood as meaning.’ Lipsius. The phrase is unique: it must clearly not be interpreted as if it were οὐχ οἷόν τε, ‘it is not possible that’: for the τε is very rarely omitted, and the construction in this case is always with the infinitive, nor does St. Paul want to state what it is impossible should have happened, but what has not happened. The common ellipse οὐχ ὅτι affords the best analogy, and the phrase may be supposed to represent οὐ τοιοῦτον δέ ἐστι οἷον ὅτι. (Win. § lxiv. I. 6; E. T. p. 746.)

ἒκπέπτωκεν: ‘fallen from its place,’ i.e. perished and become of no effect. So 1 Corinthians 13:8 ἡ�James 1:11.

ὁ λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ: ‘the Word of God,’ in the sense of ‘the declared purpose of God,’ whether a promise or a threat or a decree looked at from the point of view of the Divine consistency. This is the only place in the N. T. where the phrase occurs in this sense; elsewhere it is used by St. Paul (2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Timothy 2:9; Titus 2:5), in Hebrews 13:7, in Revelation 1:9; Revelation 6:9; Revelation 20:4, and especially by St. Luke in the Acts (twelve times) to mean ‘the Gospel’ as preached; once (in Mark 7:13), it seems to mean the O. T. Scriptures; here it represents the O. T. phrase ὁ λόγος τοῦ Κυρίου: cf. Isaiah 31:2 καὶ ὁ λόγος αὐτοῦ (i. e. τοῦ Κυρίου) οὐ μὴ�

οἱ ἐξ Ἰσραήλ: the offspring of Israel according to the flesh, the υἱοὶ Ἰσραήλ of ver. 27.

οὗτοι Ἰσραήλ. Israel in the spiritual sense (cf. ver. 4 on Ἰσραηλῖται which is read here also by D E F G, Vulg., being a gloss to bring out the meaning), the Ἰσραὴλ τοῦ Θεοῦ of Galatians 6:16, intended for the reception of the Divine promise. But St. Paul does not mean here to distinguish a spiritual Israel (i. e. the Christian Church) from the fleshly Israel, but to state that the promises made to Israel might be fulfilled even if some of his descendants were shut out from them. What he states is that not all the physical descendants of Jacob are necessarily inheritors of the Divine promises implied in the sacred name Israel. This statement, which is the ground on which he contests the idea that God’s word has failed, he has now to prove.

7. οὐδʼ ὅτι. The grammatical connexion of this passage with the preceding is that of an additional argument; the logical connexion is that of a proof of the statement just made. St. Paul could give scriptural proof, in the case of descent from Abraham, of what he had asserted in the case of descent from Jacob, and thus establish his fundamental principle—that inheritance of the promises is not the necessary result of Israelitish descent.

σπέρμα Ἁβραάμ. The word σπέρμα is used in this verse, first of natural seed or descent, then of seed according to the promise. Both senses occur together in Genesis 21:12, Genesis 21:13; and both are found elsewhere in the N. T., Galatians 3:29 εἰ δὲ ὑμεῖς Χριστοῦ, ἄρα τοῦ Ἁβραὰμ σπέρμα ἐστέ: Romans 11:1 ἐγὼ … ἐκ σπέρματος Ἁβραάμ. The nominative to the whole sentence is πάντες οἱ ἐξ Ἰσραήλ. ‘The descendants of Israel have not all of them the legal rights of inheritance from Abraham because they are his offspring by natural descent.’

ἀλλʼ. Instead of the sentence being continued in the same form as it began in the first clause, a quotation is introduced which completes it in sense but not in grammar: cf. Galatians 3:11, Galatians 3:12; 1 Corinthians 15:27.

ἐν Ἰσαὰκ κληθήσεταί σοι σπέρμα: ‘in (i.e. through) Isaac will those who are to be your true descendants and representatives be reckoned.’ ἐν (as in Colossians 1:16 ἐν αὐτῷ ἐκτίσθη τὰ πάντα) implies that Isaac is the starting-point, place of origin of the descendants, and therefore the agent through whom the descent takes place; so Matthew 9:34 ἐν τῷ ἄρχοντι τῶν δαιμονίων: 1 Corinthians 6:2. σπέρμα (cf. Genesis 12:7 τῷ σπέρματί σου δώσω τὴν γῆν: Genesis 15:5 οὕτως ἔσται τὸ σπέρμα σου) is used collectively to express the whole number of descendants, not merely the single son Isaac. The passage means that the sons of Israel did not inherit the promise made to Abraham because they were his offspring—there were some who were his offspring who had not inherited them; but they did so because they were descendants of that one among his sons through whom it had been specially said that his true descendants should be counted.

The quotation is taken from the LXX of Genesis 21:12, which it reproduces exactly. It also correctly reproduces both the language and meaning of the original Hebrew. The same passage is quoted in Hebrews 11:18.

The opinion expressed in this verse is of course exactly opposite to the current opinion—that their descent bound Israel to God by an indissoluble bond. See the discussion at the end of this section.

κληθήσεται: ‘reckoned,’ ‘considered,’ ‘counted as the true σπέρμα’; not as in ver. 11, and as it is sometimes taken here, called,’ ‘summoned’ (see below).

The uses of the word καλέω are derived from two main significations, (1) to ‘call,’ ‘summon,’ (2) to ‘summon by name,’ hence ‘to name.’ It may mean (1) to ‘call aloud’ Hebrews 3:13, to ‘summon,’ to ‘summon to a banquet’ (in these senses also in the LXX), so 1 Corinthians 10:27; Matthew 22:3; from these is derived the technical sense of ‘calling to the kingdom.’ This exact usage is hardly found in the LXX, but Isaiah 42:6 (ἐγὼ Κύριος ὁ Θεὸς ἐκάλεσά σε ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ), Isaiah 51:2 (ὅτι εἷς ἦν καὶ ἐκάλεσα αὐτόν, καὶ εὐλόγησα αὐτὸν καὶ ἠγάπησα αὐτὸν καὶ ἐπλήθυνα αὐτόν) approach it. In this sense it is confined to the epistles of St. Paul with Hebrews and St. Peter, the word hardly occurring at all in St. John and not in this sense elsewhere (although κλητός is so used Matthew 22:14). The full construction is καλεῖν τινα εἴς τι, 1 Thessalonians 2:12 τοῦ καλοῦντος ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν ἑαυτοῦ βασιλείαν καὶ δόξαν: but the word was early used absolutely, and so ὁ καλῶν of God (so Romans 4:17; Romans 8:30; Romans 9:11, Romans 9:24). The technical use of the term comes out most strongly in 1Co_7 and in the derived words (see on κλητός Romans 1:1, Romans 1:7). (2) In the second group of meanings the ordinary construction is with a double accusative, Acts 14:12 ἐκάλουν τε τὸν Βαρνάβαν Δία (so Romans 9:25, and constantly in LXX), or with ὀνόματι, ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι as Luke 1:59, Luke 1:61, although the Hebraism καλέσουσι τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἐμμανουήλ (Matthew 1:23) occurs. But to ‘call by name’ has associations derived on the one side from the idea of calling over, reckoning, accounting; hence such phrases as Romans 9:7 (from Genesis 21:12 LXX), and on the other from the idea of affection suggested by the idea of calling by name, so Romans 9:26 (from LXX Hosea 2:1 [1:10]). These derivative uses of the word occur independently both in Greek, where κέκλημαι may be used to mean little more than ‘to be,’ and in Hebrew. The two main meanings can always be distinguished, but probably in the use of the word each has influenced the other; when God is said to be ‘He that calls us’ the primary idea is clearly that of invitation, but the secondary idea of ‘calling by name,’ i.e. of expressing affection, gives a warmer colouring to the idea suggested.

8. τοῦτʼ ἔστιν. From this instance we may deduce a general principle.

τὰ τέκνα τῆς σαρκός: liberi quos corporis vis genuerit. Fri.

τέκνα τοῦ Θεοῦ: bound to God by all those ties which have been the privilege and characteristic of the chosen race.

τὰ τέκνα τῆς ἐπαγγελίας: liberi quos Dei promissum procreavit. Fri. Cf. Galatians 4:23

All these expressions (τέκνα τοῦ Θεοῦ, τέκνα τῆς ἐπαγγελίας) are used elsewhere of Christians, but that is not their meaning in this passage. St. Paul is concerned in this place to prove not that any besides those of Jewish descent might inherit the promises, but merely that not all of Jewish descent necessarily and for that very reason must enjoy all the privileges of that descent. Physical connexion with the Jewish stock was not in itself a ground for inheriting the promise. That was the privilege of those intended when the promise was first spoken, and who might be considered to be born of the promise. This principle is capable of a far more universal application, an application which is made in the Epistle to the Galatians (3:29; 4:28, &c.), but is not made here.

9. ἐπαγγελίας must be the predicate of the sentence thrown forward in order to give emphasis and to show where the point of the argument lies. ‘This word is one of promise,’ i.e. if you refer to the passage of Scripture you will see that Isaac was the child of promise, and not born κατὰ σάρκα; his birth therefore depends upon the promise which was in fact the efficient cause of it, and not the promise upon his birth. And hence is deduced a general law: a mere connexion with the Jewish race κατὰ σάρκα does not necessarily imply a share in the ἐπαγγελία, for it did not according to the original conditions.

κατὰ τὸν καιρὸν τοῦτον ἐλεύσομαι, καὶ ἔσται τῇ Σάρρᾳ υἱός. St. Paul combines Genesis 18:10 (LXX) ἐπαναστρέφων ἥξω πρὸς σὲ κατὰ τὸν καιρὸν τοῦτον εἰς ὥρας, καὶ ἕξει υἱὸν Σάρρα ἡ γυνή σου: and 14 (LXX) εἰς τὸν καιρὸν τοῦτον�

κατὰ τὸν καιρὸν τοῦτον is shown clearly by the passage in Genesis to mean ‘at this time in the following year,’ i. e. when a year is accomplished; but the words have little significance for St. Paul: they are merely a reminiscence of the passage he is quoting, and in the shortened form in which he gives them, the meaning, without reference to the original passage, is hardly clear.

10. οὐ μόνον δέ: see on 5:3, introducing an additional or even stronger proof or example. ‘You may find some flaw in the previous argument; after all Ishmael was not a fully legitimate child like Isaac, and it was for this reason (you may say) that the sons of Ishmael were not received within the covenant; the instance that I am now going to quote has no defect of this sort, and it will prove the principle that has been laid down still more clearly.’

ἀλλὰ καὶ Ῥεβέκκα, κ.τ.λ.: the sentence beginning with these words is never finished grammatically; it is interrupted by the parenthesis in ver. 11 μήπω γὰρ γεννηθέντων … καλοῦντος, and then continued with the construction changed; cf. 5:12, 18; 1 Timothy 1:3.

ἐξ ἑνός are added to emphasize the exactly similar birth of the two sons. The mother’s name proves that they have one mother, these words show that the father too was the same. There are none of the defective conditions which might be found in the case of Isaac and Ishmael. Cf. Chrys. ad loc. (Hom. in Rom. xvi. p. 610) ἡ γὰρ Ῥεβέκκα καὶ μόνη τῷ Ἰσαὰκ γέγονε γυνή, καὶ δύο τεκοῦσα παῖδας, ἐκ τοῦ Ἰσαὰκ ἔτεκεν�

ἡ κατʼ ἐκλογὴν πρόθεσις τοῦ Θεοῦ: ‘the Divine purpose which has worked on the principle of selection.’ These words are the key to chaps. 9-11 and suggest the solution of the problem before St. Paul. πρόθεσις is a technical Pauline term occurring although not frequently in the three later groups of Epistles: Romans 8:28; Romans 9:11; Ephesians 1:10, Ephesians 1:11 ἐν αὐτῷ, ἐν ᾧ καὶ ἐκληρώθημεν, προορισθέντες κατὰ πρόθεσιν τοῦ τὰ πάντα ἐνεργοῦντος κατὰ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ: 3:11 κατὰ πρόθεσιν τῶν αἰώνων ἣν ἐποίησεν ἐν τῷ Χ. Ἰ. τῷ Κυρίῳ ἡμῶν: 2 Timothy 1:9 τοῦ σώσαντος ἡμᾶς καὶ καλέσαντος κλήσει ἁγίᾳ, οὐ κατὰ τὰ ἔργα ἡμῶν,�Ephesians 1:9 κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν αὐτοῦ, ἥν προέθετο ἐν αὐτῷ. From Aristotle onwards πρόθεσις had been used to express purpose; with St. Paul it is the ‘Divine purpose of God for the salvation of mankind,’ the ‘purpose of the ages’ determined in the Divine mind before the creation of the world. The idea is apparently expressed elsewhere in the N. T. by βουλή (Luke 7:30; Acts 2:23; Acts 4:28; Acts 20:27) which occurs once in St. Paul (Ephesians 1:11), but no previous instance of the word πρόθεσις in this sense seems to be quoted. The conception is worked out by the Apostle with greater force and originality than by any previous writer, and hence he needs a new word to express it. See further the longer note on St. Paul’s Philosophy of History, p. 342. ἐκλογή expresses an essentially O. T. idea (see below) but was itself a new word, the only instances quoted in Jewish literature earlier than this Epistle being from the Psalms of Solomon, which often show an approach to Christian theological language. It means (1) ‘the process of choice,’ ‘election.’ Ps. Sol. 18:6 καθαρίσαι ὁ Θεὸς Ἰσραὴλ εἰς ἡμέραν ἐλέου ἐν εὐλογίᾳ, εἰς ἡμέραν ἐκλογῆς ἐν�Acts 9:15; Romans 11:5, Romans 11:28; 1 Thessalonians 1:4; 2 Peter 1:10. In this sense it may be used of man’s election of his own lot (as in Josephus and perhaps in Ps. Sol. 9:7), but in the N. T. it is always used of God’s election. (2) As abstract for concrete it means ἐκλεκτοί, those who are chosen, Romans 11:7. (3) In Aquila Isaiah 22:7; Symmachus and Theodotion, Isaiah 37:24, it means ‘the choicest,’ being apparently employed to represent the Hebrew idiom.

μένῃ: the opposite to ἐκπέπτωκεν (ver. 6): the subjunctive shows that the principles which acted then are still in force.

οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων�

φαῦλον is the reading of the RV. and modern editors with א A B, a few minuscules, and Orig. κακόν which occurs in TR. with D F G K L etc. and Fathers after Chrysostom was early substituted for the less usual word. A similar change has been made in 2 Corinthians 5:10.

For the πρόθεσις τοῦ Θεοῦ of the RV. the TR. reads τοῦ Θεοῦ πρόθεσις with the support of only a few minuscules.

12. ὁ μείζων κ.τ.λ. The quotation is made accurately from the LXX of Genesis 25:23 καὶ εἶπε Κύριος αὐτῇ Δύο ἔθνη ἐν τῇ γαστρί σού εἰσιν, καὶ δύο λαοὶ ἐκ τῆς κοιλίας σου διασταλήσονται· καὶ λαὸς λαοῦ ὑπερέξει, καὶ ὁ μείζων δουλεύσει τῷ ἐλάσσονι (cf. Hatch, Essays in Biblical Greek, p. 163). God’s election or rejection of the founder of the race is part of the process by which He elects or rejects the race. In either case the choice has been made independently of merits either of work or of ancestry. Both were of exactly the same descent, and the choice was made before either was born.

ὁ μείζων … τῷ ἐλάσσονι: ‘the elder,’ ‘the younger.’ This use of the words seems to be a Hebraism; see Genesis 10:21 καὶ τῷ Σὴμ ἐγενήθη …�Mark 15:40; Matthew 18:6, Matthew 18:10, Matthew 18:14, &c.) are all equally capable of being explained of stature.

13. τὸν Ἰακὼβ ἠγάπησα, τὸν δὲ Ἡσαῦ ἐμίσησα. St. Paul concludes his argument by a second quotation taken freely from the LXX of Malachi 1:2, Malachi 1:3 οὐκ�

What is the exact object with which these words are introduced? (1) The greater number of commentators (so Fri. Weiss Lipsius), consider that they simply give the explanation of God’s conduct. ‘God chose the younger brother and rejected the elder not from any merit on the part of the one or the other, but simply because He loved the one and hated the other.’ The aorists then refer to the time before the birth of the two sons; there is no reference to the peoples descended from either of them, and St. Paul is represented as vindicating the independence of the Divine choice in relation to the two sons of Isaac.

(2) This explanation has the merit of simplicity, but it is probably too simple. (i) In the first place, it is quite clear that St. Paul throughout has in his mind in each case the descendants as well as the ancestors, the people who are chosen and rejected as well as the fathers through whom the choice is made (cf. ver. 7). In fact this is necessary for his argument. He has to justify God’s dealing, not with individuals, but with the great mass of Jews who have been rejected. (ii) Again, if we turn to the original contexts of the two quotations in vv. 12, 13 there can be no doubt that in both cases there is reference not merely to the children but to their descendants. Genesis 25:23 ‘Two nations are in thy womb, and two peoples shall be separated even from thy bowels;’ Malachi 1:3 ‘But Esau I hated, and made his mountains a desolation, and gave his heritage to the jackals of the wilderness. Whereas Edom saith,’ &c. There is nothing in St. Paul’s method of quotation which could prevent him from using the words in a sense somewhat different from the original; but when the original passage in both cases is really more in accordance with his method and argument, it is more reasonable to believe that he is not narrowing the sense. (iii) As will become more apparent later, St. Paul’s argument is to show that throughout God’s action there is running a ‘purpose according to election.’ He does not therefore wish to say that it is merely God’s love or hate that has guided Him.

Hence it is better to refer the words, either directly or in-directly, to the choice of the nation as well as the choice of the founder (so Go. Gif. Liddon). But a further question still remains as to the use of the aorist. We may with most commentators still refer it to the original time when the choice was made: when the founders of the nations were in the womb, God chose one nation and rejected another because of his love and hatred. But it is really better to take the whole passage as corroborating the previous verse by an appeal to history. ‘God said the elder shall serve the younger, and, as the Prophet has shown, the whole of subsequent history has been an illustration of this. Jacob God has selected for His love; Esau He has hated: He has given his mountains for a desolation and his heritage to the jackals.’

ἠγάπησα … ἐμίσησα. There is no need to soften these words as some have attempted, translating ‘loved more’ and ‘loved less.’ They simply express what had been as a matter of fact and was always looked upon by the Jews as God’s attitude towards the two nations. So Thanchuma, p. 32. 2 (quoted by Wetstein, ii. 438) Tu invenies omnes transgressiones, quas odit Deus S. B. fuisse in Esavo.

How very telling would be the reference to Esau and Edom an acquaintance with Jewish contemporary literature will show. Although in Deuteronomy 23:7 it was said ‘Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite, for he is thy brother,’ later events had obliterated this feeling of kinship; or perhaps rather the feeling of relationship had exasperated the bitterness which the hostility of the two nations had aroused. At any rate the history is one of continuous hatred on both sides. So in Psalms 137:7 and in the Greek Esdras the burning of the temple is ascribed to the Edomites (see also Obadiah and Jeremiah 49:7-22). Two extracts from Apocryphal works will exhibit this hatred most clearly. In Enoch lxxxix. 11-12 (p. 233, ed. Charles) the patriarchal history is symbolized by different animals: ‘But that white bull (Abraham) which was born amongst them begat a wild ass (Ishmael) and a white bull with it (Isaac), and the wild ass multiplied. But that bull which was born from him begat a black wild boar (Esau) and a white sheep (Jacob); and that wild boar begat many boars, but that sheep begat twelve sheep.’ Here Esau is represented by the most detested of animals, the pig. So in Jubilees xxxvii. 22 sq. (trans. Charles) the following speech is characteristically put into the mouth of Esau: ‘And thou too (Jacob) dost hate me and my children for ever, and there is no observing the tie of brotherhood with thee. Hear these words which I declare unto thee: if the boar can change its skin and make its bristles as soft as wool: or if it can cause horns to sprout forth on its head like the horns of a stag or of a sheep, then I will observe the tie of brotherhood with thee, for since the twin male offspring were separated from their mother, thou hast not shown thyself a brother to me. And if the wolves make peace with the lambs so as not to devour or rob them, and if their hearts turn towards them to do good, then there will be peace in my heart towards thee. And if the lion becomes the friend of the ox, and if he is bound under one yoke with him and ploughs with him and make peace with him, then I will make peace with thee. And when the raven becomes white as the raza (a large white bird), then I know that I shall love thee and make peace with thee. Thou shalt be rooted out and thy son shall be rooted out and there shall be no peace for thee.’ (See also Jos Bell. Jud. IV. iv.1, 2; Hausrath, New Testament Times, vol. i. pp. 67, 68, Eng. Trans.)

The Divine Election

St. Paul has set himself to prove that there was nothing in the promise made to Abraham, by which God had ‘pledged Himself to Israel’ (Gore, Studia Biblica, iii. 40), and bound Himself to allow all those who were Abraham’s descendants to inherit these promises. He proves this by showing that in two cases, as was recognized by the Jews themselves, actual descendants from Abraham had been excluded. Hence he deduces the general principle, ‘There was from the first an element of inscrutable selectiveness in God’s dealings within the race of Abraham’ (Gore, ib.). The inheritance of the promise is for those whom God chooses, and is not a necessary privilege of natural descent. The second point which he raises, that this choice is independent of human merit, he works out further in the following verses.

On the main argument it is sufficient at present to notice that it was primarily an argumentum ad hominem and as such was absolutely conclusive against those to whom it was addressed. The Jews prided themselves on being a chosen race; they prided themselves especially on having been chosen while the Ishmaelites and the Edomites (whom they hated) had been rejected. St. Paul analyzes the principle on which the one race was chosen and the other rejected, and shows that the very same principles would perfectly justify God’s action in further dealing with it. God might choose some of them and reject others, just as he had originally chosen them and not the other descendants of Abraham.

That this idea of the Divine Election was one of the most fundamental in the O.T. needs no illustration. We find it in the Pentateuch, as Deuteronomy 7:6 ‘For thou art an holy people unto the Lord, thy God: the Lord, thy God, hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself above all peoples that are on the face of the earth:’ in the Psalms, as Psalms 135:4 ‘For the Lord hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure’: in the Prophets, as Isaiah 41:8, Isaiah 41:9 ‘But thou Israel, my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend; thou whom I have taken hold of from the ends of the earth and called thee from the corners thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant, I have chosen thee and not cast thee away.’ And this idea of Israel being the elect people of God is one of those which were seized and grasped most tenaciously by contemporary Jewish thought. But between the conception as held by St. Paul’s contemporaries and the O. T. there were striking differences. In the O. T. it is always looked upon as an act of condescension and love of God for Israel, it is for this reason that He redeemed them from bondage, and purified them from sin (Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 10:15; Isaiah 44:21, Isaiah 44:22); although the Covenant is specified it is one which involves obligations on Israel (Deuteronomy 7:9, &c.): and the thought again and again recurs that Israel has thus been chosen not merely for their own sake but as an instrument in the hand of God, and not merely to exhibit the Divine power, but also for the benefit of other nations (Genesis 12:3; Isaiah 66:18, &c.). But among the Rabbis the idea of Election has lost all its higher side. It is looked on as a covenant by which God is bound and over which He seems to have no control. Israel and God are bound in an indissoluble marriage (Shemoth rabba l. 51): the holiness of Israel can never be done away with, even although Israel sin, it still remains Israel (Sanhedrin 55): the worst Israelite is not profane like the heathen (Bammidbar rabba 17): no Israelite can go into Gehenna (Pesikta 38 a): all Israelites have their portion in the world to come (Sanhedrin 1), and much more to the same effect. (See Weber Altsyn. Theol. p. 51, &c., to whom are due most of the above references.)

And this belief was shared by St. Paul’s contemporaries. ‘The planting of them is rooted for ever: they shall not be plucked out all the days of the heaven: for the portion of the Lord and the inheritance of God is Israel’ (Ps. Sol. 14:3); ‘Blessed art thou of the Lord, O Israel, for evermore’ (ib. 19:41); ‘Thou didst choose the seed of Abraham before all the nations, and didst set thy name before us, O Lord: and thou wilt abide among us for ever’ (ib. 9:17, 18). While Israel is always to enjoy the Divine mercy, sinners, i. e. Gentiles, are to be destroyed before the face of the Lord (ib. 12:7, 8). So again in 4 Ezra, they have been selected while Esau has been rejected (3:16). And this has not been done as part of any larger Divine purpose; Israel is the end of the Divine action; for Israel the world was created (6:55); it does not in any way exist for the benefit of other nations, who are of no account; they are as spittle, as the dropping from a vessel (6:55, 56). More instances might be quoted (Jubilees xix.16; xxii. 9; Apoc. Baruch xlviii. 20, 23; lxxii. 3), but the above are enough to illustrate the position St. Paul is combating. The Jew believed that his race was joined to God by a covenant which nothing could dissolve, and that he and his people alone were the centre of all God’s action in the creation and government of the world.

This idea St. Paul combats. But it is important to notice how the whole of the O. T. conception is retained by him, but broadened and illuminated. Educated as a Pharisee, he had held the doctrine of election with the utmost tenacity. He had believed that his own nation had been chosen from among all the kingdoms of the earth. He still holds the doctrine, but the Christian revelation has given a meaning to what had been a narrow privilege, and might seem an arbitrary choice. His view is now widened. The world, not Israel, is the final end of God’s action. This is the key to the explanation of the great difficulty the rejection of Israel. Already in the words that he has used above ἡ κατʼ ἐκλογὴν πρόθεσις he has shown the principle which he is working out. The mystery which had been hidden from the foundation of the world has been revealed (Romans 16:26). There is still a Divine ἐκλογή, but it is now realized that this is the result of a πρόθεσις, a universal Divine purpose which had worked through the ages on the principle of election, which was now beginning to be revealed and understood, and which St. Paul will explain and vindicate in the chapters that follow (cf. Ephesians 1:4, Ephesians 1:11; Ephesians 3:11).

We shall follow St. Paul in his argument as he gradually works it out. Meanwhile it is convenient to remember the exact point he has reached. He has shown that God has not been untrue to any promise in making a selection from among the Israel of his own day; He is only acting on the principle He followed in selecting the Israelites and rejecting the Edomites and Ishmaelites. By the introduction of the phrase ἡ κατʼ ἐκλογὴν πρόθεσις St. Paul has also suggested the lines on which his argument will proceed.


9:14-29. But secondly it may be urged: ‘Surely then God is unjust.’ No, if you turn to the Scriptures you will see that He has the right to confer His favours on whom He will (as He did on Moses) or to withhold them (as He did from Pharaoh) (vv. 14-18).

If it is further urged, Why blame me if I like Pharaoh reject God’s offer, and thus fulfil His will? I reply, It is your part not to cavil but to submit. The creature may not complain against the Creator, any more than the vessel against the potter (vv. 19-21). Still less when God’s purpose has been so beneficent, and that to a body so mixed as this Christian Church of ours, chosen not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles (vv. 22-24);—as indeed was foretold (vv. 25-29).

14But there is a second objection which may be raised. ‘If what you say is true that God rejects one and accepts another apart from either privilege of birth or human merit, is not His conduct arbitrary and unjust?’ What answer shall we make to this? Surely there is no injustice with God. Heaven forbid that I should say so. I am only laying down clearly the absolute character of the Divine sovereignty. 15The Scripture has shown us clearly the principles of Divine action in two typical and opposed incidents: that of Moses exhibiting the Divine grace, that of Pharaoh exhibiting the Divine severity. Take the case of Moses. When he demanded a sign of the Divine favour, the Lord said (Exodus 33:17-19) ‘Thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name … I will make all my goodness pass before thee; I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.’ 16These words imply that grace comes to man not because he is determined to attain it, not because he exerts himself for it as an athlete in the races, but because he has found favour in God’s sight, and God shows mercy towards him: they prove in fact the perfect spontaneousness of God’s action. 17So in the case of Pharaoh. The Scripture (in Exodus 9:16) tells us that at the time of the plagues of Egypt these words were addressed to him: ‘I have given thee thy position and place, that I may show forth in thee my power, and that my name might be declared in all the earth.’ 18Those very Scriptures then to which you Jews so often and so confidently appeal, show the absolute character of God’s dealings with men. Both the bestowal of mercy or favour and the hardening of the human heart depend alike upon the Divine will.

19But this leads to a third objection. If man’s destiny be simply the result of God’s purpose, if his hardness of heart is a state which God Himself causes, why does God find fault? His will is being accomplished. There is no resistance being offered. Obedience or disobedience is equally the result of His purpose. 20Such questions should never be asked. Consider what is involved in your position as man. A man’s relation to God is such that whatever God does the man has no right to complain or object or reply. The Scriptures have again and again represented the relation of God to man under the image of a potter and the vessels that he makes. Can you conceive (to use the words of the prophet Isaiah) the vessel saying to its maker: ‘Why did you make me thus?’ 21The potter has complete control over the lump of clay with which he works, he can make of it one vessel for an honourable purpose, another for a dishonourable purpose. This exactly expresses the relation of man to his Maker. God has made man, made him from the dust of the earth. He has as absolute control over His creature as the potter has. No man before Him has any right, or can complain of injustice. He is absolutely in God’s hands. 22This is God’s sovereignty; even if He had been arbitrary we could not complain. But what becomes of your talk of injustice when you consider how He has acted? Although a righteous God would desire to exhibit the Divine power and wrath in a world of sin; even though He were dealing with those who were fit objects of His wrath and had become fitted for destruction; yet He bore with them, full of long suffering for them, 23and with the purpose of showing all the wealth of His glory on those who are vessels deserving His mercy, whom as we have already shown He has prepared even from the beginning, 24a mercy all the greater when it is remembered that we whom He has called for these privileges are chosen not only from the Jews, but also from the Gentiles, Gentiles who were bound to Him by no covenant. Surely then there has been no injustice but only mercy.

25And remember finally that this Divine plan of which you complain is just what the prophets foretold. They prophesied the calling of the Gentiles. Hosea (1:10, and 2:23) described how those who were not within the covenant should be brought into it and called by the very name of the Jews under the old Covenant, ‘the people of God,’ ‘the beloved of the Lord,’ ‘the sons of the living God.’ 26And this wherever throughout the whole world they had been placed in the contemptuous position of being, as he expressed it, ‘no people.’ 27Equally do we find the rejection of Israel—all but a remnant of it—foretold. Isaiah (10:22) stated, ‘Even though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the seashore, yet it is only a remnant that shall be saved, 28for a sharp and decisive sentence will the Lord execute upon the earth. 29And similarly in an earlier chapter (1:9) he had foretold the complete destruction of Israel with the exception of a small remnant: ‘Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.’

14-29. St. Paul now states for the purpose of refutation a possible objection. He has just shown that God chooses men independently of their works according to His own free determination, and the deduction is implied that He is free to choose or reject members of the chosen race. The objection which may be raised is, ‘if what you say is true, God is unjust,’ and the argument would probably be continued, ‘we know God is not unjust, therefore the principles laid down are not true.’ In answer, St. Paul shows that they cannot be unjust or inconsistent with God’s action, for they are exactly those which God has declared to be His in those very Scriptures on which the Jews with whom St. Paul is arguing would especially rely.

14. τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν; see on 3:5, a very similar passage: εἰ δὲ ἡ�Ephesians 6:9; 8:30, of Wisdom dwelling with God, ἤμην παρʼ αὐτῳ ἁρμόζουσα.

μὴ γένοιτο. Cf. 3:4. The expression is generally used as here to express St. Paul’s horror at an objection ‘which he has stated for the purpose of refutation and which is blasphemous in itself or one that his opponent would think to be such.’

15-19. According to Origen, followed by many Fathers and some few modern commentators, the section vv. 15-19 contains not St. Paul’s own words, but a continuation of the objection put into the mouth of his opponent, finally to be refuted by the indignant disclaimer of ver. 20. Such a construction which was adopted in the interest of free-will is quite contrary to the structure of the sentence and of the argument. In every case in which μὴ γένοιτο occurs it is followed by an answer to the objection direct or indirect. Moreover if this had been the construction the interrogative sentence would not have been introduced by the particle μή expecting a negative answer, but would have been in a form which would suggest an affirmative reply.

15. τῷ γὰρ Μωσῇ λέγει. The γάρ explains and justifies the strong denial contained in μὴ γένοιτο. Too much stress must not be laid on the empnasis given to the name by its position; yet it is obvious that the instance chosen adds considerably to the strength of the argument. Moses, if any one, might be considered to have deserved God’s mercy, and the name of Moses would be that most respected by St. Paul’s opponents. λέγει without a nominative for Θεὸς λέγει is a common idiom in quotations (cf. Romans 15:10; Galatians 3:16; Ephesians 4:8; Ephesians 5:14).ἐλεήσω ὃν ἂν ἐλεω, κ. τ. λ: ‘I will have mercy on whomsoever I have mercy.’ The emphasis is on the ὃν ἄν, and the words are quoted to mean that as it is God who has made the offer of salvation to men, it is for Him to choose who are to be the recipients of His grace, and not for man to dictate to Him. The quotation is from the LXX of Exodus 33:19 which is accurately reproduced. It is a fairly accurate translation of the original, there being only a slight change in the tenses. The Hebrew is ‘I am gracious to whom I will be gracious,’ the LXX ‘I will be gracious to whomsoever I am gracious.’ But St. Paul uses the words with a somewhat different emphasis. Moses had said, ‘Show me, I pray thee, thy glory.’ And He said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee: and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.’ The point of the words in the original context is rather the certainty of the Divine grace for those whom God has selected; the point which St. Paul wishes to prove is the independence and freedom of the Divine choice.ἐλεήσω … οἰκτειρήσω. The difference between these words seems to be something the same as that between λύπη and ὀδύνη in ver. 2. The first meaning ‘compassion,’ the second ‘distress’ or ‘pain,’ such as expresses itself in outward manifestation. (Cf. Godet, ad loc.)

16. ἄρα οὖν introduces as an inference from the special instance given the general principle of God’s method of action. Cf. ver. 8 τοῦτʼ ἔστιν, ver. 11 ἵνα, where the logical method in each case is the same although the form of expression is different.τοῦ θέλοντος, κ. τ. λ. ‘God’s mercy is in the power not of human desire or human effort, but of the Divine compassion itself.’ The genitives are dependent on the idea of mercy deduced from the previous verse. With θέλοντος may be compared Job 1:12, Job 1:13 ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν τέκνα Θεοῦ γενέσθαι … οἳ οὐκ ἐξ αἰμάτων, οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος σαρκός, οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος�1 Corinthians 9:24, 1 Corinthians 9:26; Philippians 2:16; Galatians 2:2; Galatians 5:7).

In vv. 7-13 St. Paul might seem to be dealing with families or groups of people; here however he is distinctly dealing with individuals and lays down the principle that God’s grace does not necessarily depend upon anything but God’s will. ‘Not that I have not reasons to do it, but that I need not, in distributing of mercies which have no foundation in the merits of men. render any other reason or motive but mine own will, whereby I may do what I will with mine own.’ Hammond.

The MSS, vary curiously in the orthography of ἐλεέω, ἐλεάω. In ver. 16 א A B D E F G support ἐλεάω (ἐλεῶντος), B3 K &c. ἐλεέω (ἐλεοῦντος); in ver. 18 the position is reversed, ἐλεάω (ἐλεᾶ) having only D F G in its favour; in Jude 1:22 ἐλεάω (ἐλεᾶτε) is supported by א B alone. See WH Introd. ii. App. p. 166.

17. λέγει γὰρ ἡ γραφή: ‘and as an additional proof showing that the principle just enunciated (in ver. 16) is true not merely in an instance of God’s mercy, but also of His severity, take the language which the Scripture tells us was addressed to Pharaoh.’ On the form of quotation cf. Galatians 3:8, Galatians 3:22; there was probably no reason for the change of expression from ver. 15; both were well known forms used in quoting the O. T. and both could be used indifferently.τῷ φαραώ. The selection of Moses suggested as a natural contrast that of his antagonist Pharaoh. In God’s dealings with these two individuals, St. Paul finds examples of His dealings with the two main classes of mankind.εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο, κ. τ. λ.: taken with considerable variations, which in some cases seem to approach the Hebrew, from the LXX of Exodus 9:16 (see below). The quotation is taken from the words which Moses was directed to address to Pharaoh after the sixth plague, that of boils. ‘For now I had put forth my hand and smitten thee and thy people with pestilence, and thou hadst been cut off from the earth; but in very deed for this cause have I made thee to stand for to show thee my power, and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.’ The words in the original mean that God has prevented Pharaoh from being slain by the boils in order that He might more completely exhibit His power; St. Paul by slightly changing the language generalizes the statement and applies the words to the whole appearance of Pharaoh in the field of history. Just as the career of Moses exhibits the Divine mercy, so the career of Pharaoh exhibits the Divine severity, and in both cases the absolute sovereignty of God is vindicated.ἐξήγειρα: ‘I have raised thee up, placed thee in the field of history.’ There are two main interpretations of this word possible. (1) It has been taken to mean, ‘I have raised thee up from sickness,’ so Gif and others, ‘I have preserved thee and not taken thy life as I might have done.’ This is in all probability the meaning of the original Hebrew, ‘I made thee to stand,’ and certainly that of the LXX, which paraphrases the words διετηρήθης. It is supported also by a reading in the Hexapla διετήρησά σε, by the Targum of Onkelos Sustinui te ut ostenderem tibi, and the Arabic Te reservavi ut ostenderem tibi. Although ἐξεγείρειν does not seem to occur in this sense, it is used 1 Corinthians 6:14 of resurrection from the dead, and the simple verb ἐγείρειν in James 5:15 means ‘raising from sickness.’ The words may possibly therefore have this sense, but the passage as quoted by St. Paul could not be so interpreted. Setting aside the fact that he probably altered the reading of the LXX purposely, as the words occur here without any allusion to the previous sickness, the passage would be meaningless unless reference were made to the original, and would not justify the deduction drawn from it ὃν δὲ θέλει σκληρύνει.

(2) The correct interpretation (so Calv. Beng. Beyschlag Go. Mey. Weiss. Lips. Gore) is therefore one which makes St. Paul generalize the idea of the previous passage, and this is in accordance with the almost technical meaning of the verb ἐξεγείρειν in the LXX. It is used of God calling up the actors on the stage of history. So of the Chaldaeans Habakkuk 1:6 διότι ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἐξεγείρω τοὺς Χαλδαίους: of a shepherd for the people Zechariah 11:16 διότι ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἐξεγείρω ποιμένα ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν: of a great nation and kings Jer. 27:41 ἰδοὺ λαὸς ἔρχεται�

The interpretation which makes ἐξεγείρειν mean ‘call into being,’ ‘create,’ has no support in the usage of the word, although not inconsistent with the context; and ‘to rouse to anger’ (Aug de W. Fri &c.) would require some object such as θυμόν, as in 2 Macc. 13:4.

The readings of the Latin Versions are as follows: Quia in hoc ipsum excitavi te, d e f, Vulg.; quia ad hoc ipsum te suscitavi, Orig.-lat. quia in hoc ipsum excitavi te suscitavi te, g; quia in hoc ipsum te servavi, Ambrstr., who adds alii codices sic habent, ad hoc te suscitavi. Sive servavi sive suscitavi unus est sensus.

The reading of the LXX is καὶ ἕνεκεν τούτου διετηρήθης ἵνα ἐνδείξωμαι ἐν σοὶ τὴν ἰσχύν μου, καὶ ὅπως διαγγελῇ τὸ ὄνομά μου ἐν πάσῃ τῇ γῇ. St. Paul’s variations are interesting.

(1) εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο is certainly a better and more emphatic representation of the Hebrew than the somewhat weak τούτου ἔνεκεν. The expression is characteristically Pauline (Romans 13:6; 2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 6:18, Ephesians 6:22; Colossians 4:8).

(2) ἐξήγειρά σε represents better than the LXX the grammar of the Hebrew, ‘I made thee to stand,’ but not the sense. The variants of the Hexapla (διετήρησα) and other versions suggest that a more literal translation was in existence, but the word was very probably St. Paul’s own choice, selected to bring out more emphatically the meaning of the passage as he understood it.

(3) ἐνδείξωμαι ἐν σοί. St. Paul here follows the incorrect translation of the LXX. The Hebrew gives as the purpose of God’s action that Pharaoh may know God’s power, and as a further consequence that God’s name may be known in the world. The LXX assimilates the first clause to the second and gives it a similar meaning.

(4) ὅπως … ὅπως. Here St. Paul obliterates the distinction which the LXX (following the Hebrew) had made of ἵνα … ὅπως. But this alteration was only a natural result of the change in the LXX itself, by which the two clauses had become coordinate in thought.

(5) For δύναμιν the LXX reads ἰσχύν. The reading of St. Paul appears as a variant in the Hexapla.

18. ἄρα οὖν. Just as ver. 16 sums up the argument of the first part of this paragraph, so this verse sums up the argument as it has been amplified and expounded by the additional example.

σκληρύνει: ‘hardens’; the word is suggested by the narrative of Exodus from which the former quotation is taken (Exodus 4:21; Exodus 7:3; Exodus 9:12; Exodus 10:20, Exodus 10:27; Exodus 11:10; Exodus 14:4, Exodus 14:8, Exodus 14:17) and it must be translated in accordance with the O. T. usage, without any attempt at softening or evading its natural meaning.

The Divine Sovereignty in the Old Testament

A second objection is answered and a second step in the argument laid down. God is not unjust if He select one man or one nation for a high purpose and another for a low purpose, one man for His mercy and another for His anger. As is shown by the Scriptures, He has absolute freedom in the exercise of His Divine sovereignty. St. Paul is arguing against a definite opponent, a typical Jew, and he argues from premises the validity of which that Jew must admit, namely, the conception of God contained in the O. T. There this is clearly laid down—the absolute sovereignty of God, that is to say, His power and His right to dispose the course of human actions as He will. He might select Israel for a high office, and Edom for a degraded part: He might select Moses as an example of His mercy, Pharaoh as an example of His anger. If this be granted He may (on grounds which the Jew must admit), if He will, select some Jews and some Gentiles for the high purpose of being members of His Messianic kingdom, while He rejects to an inferior part the mass of the chosen people.

This is St. Paul’s argument. Hence there is no necessity for softening (as some have attempted to do) the apparently harsh expression of ver. 18, ‘whom He will He hardeneth.’ St. Paul says no more than he had said in 1:20-28, where he described the final wickedness of the world as in a sense the result of the Divine action. In both passages he is isolating one side of the Divine action; and in making theological deductions from his language these passages must be balanced by others which imply the Divine love and human freedom. It will be necessary to do this at the close of the discussion. At present we must be content with St. Paul’s conclusion, that God as sovereign has the absolute right and power of disposing of men’s lives as He will.

We must not soften the passage. On the other hand, we must not read into it more than it contains: as, for example, Calvin does. He imports various extraneous ideas, that St. Paul speaks of election to salvation and of reprobation to death, that men were created that they might perish, that God’s action not only might be but was arbitrary: Hoc enim vult efficere apud nos, ut in ea quae apparet inter electos et reprobos diversitate, mens nostra contenta sit quod ita visum fuerit Deo, alios illuminare in salutem, alios in mortem excaecare … Corruit ergo frivolum illud effugium quod de praescientia Scholastici habent. Neque enim praevideri ruinam impiorum a Domino Paulus tradit, sed eius consilio et voluntate ordinari, quemadmodum et Solomo docet, non modo praecognitum fuisse impiorum interitum, sed impios ipsos fuisse destinato creatos ut perirent.

The Apostle says nothing about eternal life or death. He says nothing about the principles upon which God does act; he never says that His action is arbitrary (he will prove eventually that it is not so), but only that if it be no Jew who accepts the Scripture has any right to complain. He never says or implies that God has created man for the purpose of his damnation. What he does say is that in His government of the world God reserves to Himself perfect freedom of dealing with man on His own conditions and not on man’s. So Gore, op. cit. p. 40, sums up the argument: ‘God always revealed Himself as retaining His liberty of choice, as refusing to tie Himself, as selecting the historic examples of His hardening judgement and His compassionate good will, so as to baffle all attempts on our part to create His vocations by our own efforts, or anticipate the persons whom He will use for His purposes of mercy or of judgement.’

19. ἐρεῖς μοι οὖν. Hardly are the last words ὃν δὲ θέλει σκληρύνει out of St. Paul’s mouth than he imagines his opponent in controversy catching at an objection, and he at once takes it up and forestalls him. By substituting this phrase for the more usual τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν, St. Paul seems to identify himself less with his opponent’s objection.

μοι οὖν is the reading of אc A B R, Orig 1/3 Jo.-Damasc.; οὖν μοι of the T. R. is supported by D E F G K L &c., Vulg. Boh., Orig. 2/3 and Orig.-lat. Chrys. Thdrt. It is the substitution of the more usual order.

τί ἔτι μέμφεται: ‘why considering that it is God who hardens me does He still find fault?’ Why does he first produce a position of disobedience to His will, and then blame me for falling into it? The ἔτι implies that a changed condition has been produced which makes the continuation of the previous results surprising. So Romans 3:7 εἰ δὲ ἡ�Romans 6:2 οἵτινες�

τί ἔτι μέμφεται is read by T. R. and RV. with א A K L P &c., Vulg. Syrr. Boh., and many Fathers. B D EF G Orig.-lat. Hieron. insert οὖν after τί.

βουλήματι, which occurs in only two other passages in the N. T. (Acts 27:43; 1 Peter 4:3) seems to be substituted for the ordinary word θέλημα as implying more definitely the deliberate purpose of God.

ἀνθέστηκε. Perfect with present sense; cf. Romans 13:2 ὥστε ὁ�

20. ὦ ἄνθρωπε. The form in which St. Paul answers this question is rhetorical, but it is incorrect to say that he refuses to argue. The answer he gives, while administering a severe rebuke to his opponent, contains also a logical refutation. He reminds him that the real relation of every man to God (hence ὦ ἄνθρωπε) is that of created to Creator, and hence not only has he no right to complain, but also God has the Creator’s right to do what He will with those whom He has Himself moulded and fashioned.

μενοῦνγε: ‘nay rather,’ a strong correction. The word seems to belong almost exclusively to N. T. Greek, and would be impossible at the beginning of a sentence in classical Greek. Cf. Romans 10:18; Philippians 3:8; but probably not Luke 11:28.

ὦ ἄνθρωπε μενοῦνγε is read by א A B (but B om. γε as in Philippians 3:8), Orig. 1/4 Jo.-Damasc.; μενοῦνγε is omitted by D F G d e f g Vulg. Orig.-lat. and inserted before ὦ ἄνθρωπε by אc Dc K L P and later MSS., Orig. 3/4, Chrys. Theod.-Mops. Thdrt. &c. The same MSS. (F G d f g) and Orig.-lat. omit the word again in 10:18, and in Philippians 3:8 B D E F G K L and other authorities read μὲν οὖν alone. The expression was omitted as unusual by many copyists, and when restored in the margin crept into a different position in the verse.

μὴ ἐρεῖ τὸ πλάσμα, κ.τ.λ. The conception of the absolute power of the Creator over His creatures as represented by the power of the potter over his clay was a well-known O. T. idea which St. Paul shared with his opponent and to which therefore he could appeal with confidence. Both the idea and the language are borrowed from Isaiah 45:8-10 ἐγώ εἰμι Κύριος ὁ κτίσας σε· ποῖον βέλτιον κατεσκεύασα ὡς πηλὸν κεραμέως … μὴ ἐρεῖ ὁ πηλὸς τῷ κεραμεῖ Τί ποιεῖς, ὅτι οὐκ ἐργάζῃ οὐδὲ ἔχεις χεῖρασ; μὴ�Isaiah 29:16 οὐχ ὡς ὁ πηλὸς τοῦ κεραμέως λογισθήσεσθὲ μὴ ἐρεῖ τὸ πλάσμα τῷ πλάσαντι αὐτὸ Οὐ σύ με ἔπλασασ; ἢ τὸ ποίημα τῷ ποιήσαντι Οὐ συνετῶς με ἐποίησας; Cf. also Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:6; Eccles. 36 [33], 13.

21. ἤ οὐκ ἔχει ἐξουσίαν: ‘if you do not accept this you will be compelled to confess that the potter has not complete control over his clay—an absurd idea.’ The unusual position of τοῦ πηλοῦ, which should of course be taken with ἐξουσίαν, is intended to emphasize the contrast between κεραμεύς and πηλός, as suggesting the true relations of man and God.

φυράματος: ‘the lump of clay.’ Cf. Romans 11:16; 1 Corinthians 5:6, 1 Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 5:9. The exact point to which this metaphor is to be pressed may be doubtful, and it must always be balanced by language used elsewhere in St. Paul’s Epistles; but it is impossible to argue that there is no idea of creation implied: the potter is represented not merely as adapting for this or that purpose a vessel already made, but as making out of a mass of shapeless material one to which he gives a character and form adapted for different uses, some honourable, some dishonourable.

ὃ μὲν εἰς τιμὴν σκεῦος, κ.τ.λ.: cf. Wisd. 15:7 (see below): 2 Timothy 2:20 ἐν μεγάλῃ δὲ οἰκίᾳ οὐκ ἔστι μόνον σκεύη χρυσᾶ καὶ�

The point of the argument is clear. Is there any injustice if God has first hardened Pharaoh’s heart and then condemned him, if Israel is rejected and then blamed for being rejected? The answer is twofold. In vv. 19-21 God’s conduct is shown to be right under all circumstances. In vv. 22 sq. it is explained or perhaps rather hinted that He has a beneficent purpose in view. In vv. 19-21 St. Paul shows that for God to be unjust is impossible. As He has made man, man is absolutely in His power. Just as we do not consider the potter blameable if he makes a vessel for a dishonourable purpose, so we must not consider God unjust if He chooses to make a man like Pharaoh for a dishonourable part in history. Postquam demonstratum est, Deum ita egisse, demonstratum etiam est omnibus, qui Mosi credunt, eum convenienter suae iustitiae egisse. Wetstein.

As in 3:5 St. Paul brings the argument back to the absolute fact of God’s justice, so here he ends with the absolute fact of God’s power and right. God had not (as the Apostle will show) acted arbitrarily, but if He had done so what was man that he should complain?

22. εἰ δὲ θέλων ὁ Θεός, κ.τ.λ.: ‘but if God, &c., what will you say then?’ like our English idiom ‘What and if.’ There is no apodosis to the sentence, but the construction, although grammatically incomplete, is by no means unusual: cf. John 6:61-62 τοῦτο ὑμᾶς σκανδαλίζεὶ ἐὰν οὖν θεωρῆτε τὸν υἱόν τοῦ�Acts 23:9 οὐδὲν κακὸν εὑρίσκομεν ἐν τῷ�Luke 19:41, Luke 19:42 καὶ ὡς ἤγγυτεν, ἰδὼν τὴν πόλιν ἔκλαυσεν ἐπʼ αὐτῇ λέγων ὅτι Εἰ ἔγνως ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ταύτῃ καὶ σὺ τὰ πρὸς εἰρήνην. There is no difficulty (as Oltramare seems to think) in the length of the sentence. All other constructions, such as an attempt to find an apodosis in καὶ ἴνα γνωρίσῃ in οὓς καὶ ἐκάλεσεν, or even in ver. 31 τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν, are needlessly harsh and unreal.

The δέ (which differs from οὖν: cf. John 6:62; Acts 23:9), although not introducing a strong opposition to the previous sentence, implies a change of thought. Enough has been said to preserve the independence of the Divine will, and St. Paul suggests another aspect of the question, which will be expounded more fully later;—one not in any way opposed to the freedom of the Divine action, but showing as a matter of fact how this freedom has been exhibited. ‘But if God, notwithstanding His Divine sovereignty, has in His actual dealings with mankind shown such unexpected mercy, what becomes of your complaints of injustice?’

θέλων. There has been much discussion as to whether this should be translated ‘because God wishes,’ or ‘although God wishes.’ (1) In the former case (so de W. and most commentators) the words mean, ‘God because He wishes to show the terrible character of His wrath restrains His hands, until, as in the case of Pharaoh, He exhibits His power by a terrible overthrow. He hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order that the judgement might be more terrible.’ (2) In the latter case (Mey.-W. Go. Lips. Gif.), ‘God, although His righteous anger might naturally lead to His making His power known, has through His kindness delayed and borne with those who had become objects that deserved His wrath.’ That this is correct is shown by the words ἐν πολλῇ μακροθυμίᾳ, which are quite inconsistent with the former interpretation, and by the similar passage Romans 2:4, where it is distinctly stated τὸ χρηστὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ εἰς μετάνοιάν σε ἄγει. Even if St. Paul occasionally contradicts himself, that is no reason for making him do so unnecessarily. As Liddon says the three points added in this sentence, the natural wrath of God against sin and the violation of His law, the fact that the objects of His compassion were σκεύη ὀργῆς, and that they were fitted for destruction, all intensify the difficulty of the Divine restraint.

ἐνδείξασθαι τὴν ὀργὴν καὶ γνωρίσαι τὸ δυνατὸν αὐτοῦ are reminiscences of the language used in the case of Pharaoh, ἐνδείξωμαι ἐν σοὶ τὴν δύναμίν μου.

σκεύη ὀργῆς: ‘vessels which deserve God’s anger’; the image of the previous verse is continued. The translation ‘destined for God’s anger’ would require σκεύη εἰς ὀργήν: and the change of construction from the previous verse must be intentional.

κατηρτισμένα εἰς�

On the exact construction of these words there has been great variety of opinion, and it may be convenient to mention some divergent views. (1) WH on the authority of B, several minuscules, Vulg. Boh. Sah., Orig.-Lamentations 3:3 omit καί. This makes the construction simpler, but probably for that very reason should be rejected. A reviser or person quoting would naturally omit καί: it is difficult to understand why it should be inserted: moreover on such a point as this the authority of versions is slighter, since to omit a pleonastic καί would come within the ordinary latitude of interpretation necessary for their purpose. There is some resemblance to 16:27. In both cases we find the same MS. supporting a reading which we should like to accept, but which has much the appearance of being an obvious correction. (2) Calv. Grot. de W. Alf. and others make καί couple θέλων and ἵνα γνωρίσῃ. But this obliges us to take θέλων … ἐνδείξασθαι as expressing the purpose of the sentence which is both impossible Greek and gives a meaning inconsistent with μακροθυμίᾳ. (3) Fri. Beyschlag and others couple ἵνα γνωρίσῃ and εἰς�

τὸν πλοῦτον, κ.τ.λ.: cf. 2:4: Ephesians 3:16 κατὰ τὸ πλοῦτος τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ.

ἃ προητοίμασεν εἰς δόξαν: the best commentary on these words is Romans 8:28-30.

We may note the very striking use made of this metaphor of the potter’s wheel and the cup by Browning, Rabbi ben Ezra, xxvi-xxxii. We may especially illustrate the words ἅ προητοίμασεν εἰς δόξαν.

But I need now as then,

Thee, God, who mouldest men;

. . . . . .

So take and use thy work!

Amend what flaws may lurk,

What strain o’ the stuff, what warpings past the aim!

My times be in Thy hand!

Perfect the cup as planned!

Let age approve of youth, and death complete the same!

24. οὕς καὶ ἐκάλεσεν ἡμᾶς: ‘even us whom He has called.’ The οὕς is attracted into the gender of ἡμᾶς. The relative clause gives an additional fact in a manner not unusual with St. Paul. Romans 1:6 ἐν οἷς ἐστε καὶ ὑμεῖς: 2 Timothy 1:10 φωτίσαντος δὲ ζωὴν καὶ�

There have been two main lines of interpretation of the above three verses. (1) According to the one taken above they modify and soften the apparent harshness of the preceding passage (19-21). That this is the right view is shown by the exegetical considerations given above, and by the drift of the argument which culminating as it does in a reference to the elect clearly implies some mitigation in the severity of the Divine power as it has been described. (2) The second view would make the words of ver. 22 continue and emphasize this severity of tone: ‘And even if God has borne with the reprobate for a time only in order to exhibit more clearly the terror of His wrath, and in order to reveal His mercy to the elect, even then what right have you—man that you are— to complain?’ Cf. Calvin: Ea si dominus ad aliquod tempus patienter sustinet … ad demonstranda suae severitatis iudicia … ad virtutem suam illustrandam, … praeterea quo inde notior fiat et clarius elucescat suae in electos misericordiae amplitudo: quid in hac dispensatione misericordine dignum?

25. ὡς καί: ‘and this point, the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles, is foretold by the prophet.’ St. Paul now proceeds to give additional force to his argument by a series of quotations from the O. T., which are added as a sort of appendix to the first main section of his argument

καλέσω … ἡγαπημένην—quoted from the LXX of Hosea 2:23 with some alterations. In the original passage the words refer to the ten tribes. A son and daughter of Hosea are named Lo-ammi, ‘not a people’ and Lo-ruhamah, ‘without mercy,’ to signify the fallen condition of the ten tribes; and Hosea prophesies their restoration (cf. Hosea 1:6, Hosea 1:8, Hosea 1:9). St. Paul applies the principle which underlies these words, that God can take into His covenant those who were previously cut off from it, to the calling of the Gentiles. A similar interpretation of the verse was held by the Rabbis. Pesachim viii. f. Dixit R. Eliezer: Non alia de causa in exilium et captivitatem misit Deus S. B. Israelem inter nationes, nisi ut facerent multos proselytos S. D. Oseae 2:25 (23) et seram eam mihi in terram. Numquid homo seminat satum nisi ut colligat multos coros tritici? Wetstein.

The LXX reads ἐλεήσω τὴν οὐκ ἠλεημένην, καὶ ἐρῶ τῷ οὐ λαῷ μου Λαός μου εἶ σύ, but for the first clause which agrees with the Hebrew the Vatican substitutes�1 Peter 2:10).

καλέσω with a double accusative can only mean ‘I will name,’ although the word has been suggested by its previous occurrence in another sense.

26. καὶ ἔσται, ἐν τῷ τόπῳ … ἐκεῖ κ.τ.λ. St. Paul adds a passage with a similar purport from another part of Hosea (1:10). The meaning is the same and the application to the present purpose based on exactly the same principles. The habit had probably arisen of quoting passages to prove the calling of the Gentiles; and these would become commonplaces, which at a not much later date might be collected together in writing, see Hatch, Essays in Biblical Greek, p. 103, and cf. Romans 3:10. The only difference between St. Paul’s quotation and the LXX is that he inserts ἐκεῖ: this insertion seems to emphasize the idea of the place, and it is somewhat difficult to understand what place is intended. (1) In the original the place referred to is clearly Palestine: and if that be St. Paul’s meaning he must be supposed to refer to the gathering of the nations at Jerusalem and the foundation of a Messianic kingdom there (cf. 11:26). St. Paul is often strongly influenced by the language and even the ideas of Jewish eschatology, although in his more spiritual passages he seems to be quite freed from it. (2) If we neglect the meaning of the original, we may interpret ἐκεῖ of the whole world. ‘Wheresoever on earth there may be Gentiles, who have had to endure there the reproach of being not God’s people, in that place they shall be called God’s people, for they will become members of His Church and it will be universal.’

27, 28. St. Paul has supported one side of his statement from the O. T., namely, that Gentiles should be called; he now passes on to justify the second, namely, that only a remnant of the Jews should be saved.

27. ἐὰν ᾖ ὁ�Isaiah 10:22, but considerably shortened. The LXX differs considerably from the Hebrew, which the translators clearly did not understand. But the variations in the form do not affect the meaning in any case. St. Paul reproduces accurately the idea of the original passage. The context shows that the words must be translated ‘only a remnant shall be saved,’ and that it is the cutting off of Israel by the righteous judgement of God that is foretold. Prof. Cheyne in 1884 translated the Hebrew: ‘For though thy people, O Israel, were as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them shall return: a final work and a decisive, overflowing with righteousness! For a final work and a decisive doth the Lord, Jehovah Sabaoth, execute within all the land.’

28. λόγον γὰρ συντελῶν καὶ συντέμνων ποιήσει Κύριος ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς: συντελῶν, ‘accomplishing,’ συντέμνων, ‘abridging.’ Cf. Isaiah 28:22 διότι συντετελεσμένα καὶ συντετμημένα πράγματα ἤκουσα παρὰ Κυρίου Σαβαώθ, ἅ ποιήσει ὲπὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γῆν. ‘For a word, accomplishing and abridging it, that is, a sentence conclusive and concise, will the Lord do upon the earth.’

Three critical points are of some interest:

(1) The variations in the MSS. of the Gr. Test. For ὑπόλειμμα (ὑπόλιμμα WH.) of the older MSS. (א A B Eus.), later authorities read κατάλειμμα to agree with the LXX. In ver. 28 λόγον γὰρ συντελῶν καὶ συντέμνων ποιήσει Κύριος ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς is the reading of א A B a few minusc., Pesh. Boh. Aeth., Exodus 2:3; Western and Syrian authorities add after συντέμνων, ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ· ὅτι λόγον συντετμημένον to suit the LXX. Alford defends the T. R. on the plea of homoeoteleuton (συντέμνων and συντετμημένον), but the insertion of γάρ after λόγον which is preserved in the T. R. (where it is ungrammatical) and does not occur in the text of the LXX, shows that the shortened form was what St. Paul wrote.

(2) The variations from the LXX. The LXX reads καὶ ἐὰν γένηται ὁ λαὸς Ἰσραὴλ ὡς ἡ ἄμμος τῆς θαλάσσης, τὸ κατάλειμμα αὐτῶν σωθήσεται. λόγον συντελῶν καὶ συντέμνων ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ ὅτι λόγον συντετμημένον Κύριος ποιήσει ἐν τῇ οἰκουμένῃ ὅλῃ. St. Paul substitutes�Hosea 1:10, the words immediately preceding those quoted by him above. The later part of the quotation he considerably shortens.

(3) The variations of the LXX from the Hebrew. These appear to arise from an inability to translate. For ‘a final work and a decisive, overflowing with righteousness,’ they wrote ‘a word, accomplishing and abridging it in righteousness,’ and for ‘a final work and a decisive,’ ‘a word abridged will the Lord do,’ &c.

29. προείρηκεν ‘has foretold.’ A second passage is quoted in corroboration of the preceding.

εἰ μὴ Κύριος κ.τ.λ., quoted from the LXX of Isaiah 1:9, which again seems adequately to represent the Hebrew. ‘Even in the O. T., that book from which you draw your hopes, it is stated that Israel would be completely annihilated and forgotten but for a small remnant which would preserve their seed and name.’

The Power and Rights of God as Creator

St. Paul in this section (vv. 19-29) expands and strengthens the previous argument. He had proved in vv. 14-18 the absolute character of the Divine sovereignty from the O. T.; he now proves the same from the fundamental relations of God to man implied in that fact which all his antagonists must admit—that God had created man. This he applies in an image which was common in the O. T. and the Apocryphal writings, that of the potter and the clay. God has created man, and, as far as the question of ‘right’ and ‘justice’ goes, man cannot complain of his lot. He would not exist but for the will of God, and whether his lot be honourable or dishonourable, whether he be destined for eternal glory or eternal destruction, he has no ground for speaking of injustice. The application to the case in point is very clear. If the Jews are to be deprived of the Messianic salvation, they have, looking at the question on purely abstract grounds, no right or ground of complaint. Whether or no God be arbitrary in His dealings with them does not matter: they must submit, and that without murmuring.

This is clearly the argument. We cannot on the one hand minimize the force of the words by limiting them to a purely earthly destination: as Beyschlag, ‘out of the material of the human race which is at His disposal as it continues to come into existence to stamp individuals with this or that historical destination,’ implying that St. Paul is making no reference either to the original creation of man or to his final destination, in both points erroneously. St. Paul’s argument cannot be thus limited. It is entirely based on the assumption that God has created man, and the use of the words εἰς δόξαν, εἰς�

Romans 9:19, Romans 9:20 ἐρεῖς μοι οὖν, Τί ἔτι μέμφεται; τῷ γὰρ βουλήματι αὐτοῦ τίς�

12:12 τίς γὰρ ἐρεῖ, Τί ἐποίησασ; ἤ τίς�

Romans 9:22, Romans 9:23 εἰ δὲ θέλων ὁ Θεὸς ἐνδείξασθαι τὴν ὀργὴν καὶ γνωρίσαι τὸ δυνατὸν αὐτοῦ ἤνεγκεν ἐν πολλῇ μακροθυμίᾳ σκεύη ὀργῆς κατηρτισμένα εἰς�

12:20 εἰ γὰρ ἐχθροὺς παίδων σου καὶ ὀφειλομένους θανάτῳ μετὰ τοσαύτης ἐτιμώρησας προσοχῆς καὶ δεήσεως, δοὺς χρόνους καὶ τόπον διʼ ὧν�

Romans 9:21 ἢ οὐκ ἔχει ἐξουσίαν ὁ κεραμεὺς τοῦ πηλοῦ, ἐκ τοῦ αὐτοῦ φυράματος ποιῆσαι ὃ μὲν εἰς τιμὴν σκεῦος, ὃ δὲ εἰς�

The particular resemblance of special passages and of the general drift of the argument combined with similar evidence from other parts of the Epistle seems to suggest some definite literary obligation. But here the indebtedness ceases. The contrast is equally instructive. The writer of the Book of Wisdom uses broad principles without understanding their meaning, is often self-contradictory, and combines with ideas drawn from his Hellenic culture crude and inconsistent views. The problem is the distinction between the positions of Jews and Gentiles in the Divine economy. Occasionally we find wide universalist sentiments, but he always comes back to a strong nationalism. At one time he says (11:23-26): ‘But Thou hast mercy upon all … Thou lovest all the things that are, and abhorrest nothing which Thou hast made … Thou sparest all: for they are Thine, O Lord, Thou Lover of souls.’ But shortly after we read (12:10): ‘Thou gavest them place for repentance, not being ignorant that their cogitation would never be changed.’ We soon find in fact that the philosophy of the Book of Wisdom is strictly limited by the nationalist sympathies of the writer. The Gentiles are to be punished by God for being enemies of His people and for their idolatry. Any forbearance has been only for a time and that largely for the moral instruction thus indirectly to be given to the Jews. The Jews have been punished,—but only slightly, and with the purpose of teaching them: the Gentiles for their idolatry deserve ‘extreme damnation.’

If St. Paul learnt from the Book of Wisdom some expressions illustrating the Divine power, and a general aspect of the question: he obtained nothing further. His broad views and deep insight are his own. And it is interesting to contrast a Jew who has learnt many maxims which conflict with his nationalism but yet retains all his narrow sympathies, with the Christian Apostle full of broad sympathy and deep insight, who sees in human affairs a purpose of God for the benefit of the whole world being worked out.

A History of the Interpretation of Romans 9:6-29

The difficulties of the ninth chapter of the Romans are so great that few will ever be satisfied that they have really understood it: at any rate an acquaintance with the history of exegesis upon it will make us hesitate to be too dogmatic about our own conclusions. A survey of some of the more typical lines of comment (nothing more can be attempted) will be a fitting supplement to the general discussion given above on its meaning.


The earliest theologians who attempted to construct a system out of St. Paul’s writings were the Gnostics. They found the Epistle to the Romans, or to speak more correctly certain texts and ideas selected from the Epistle (such as Romans 5:14 and 8:19; cf. Hip. Ref. vii. 25) and generally misinterpreted, very congenial. And, as might naturally be expected, the doctrine of election rigidly interpreted harmonized with their own exclusive religious pretensions, and with the key-word of their system φύσις. We are not surprised therefore to learn that Rom_9, especially ver. 14 sq., was one of their strongholds, nor do we require to be told how they interpreted it (see Origen De Princ. III. ii. 8, vol. xxi. p. 267, ed. Lomm. = Philoc. xxi. vol. xxv. p. 170; Comm. in Rom. Praef. vol. vi. p. 1; and Tert. Adv. Marcion. ii. 14).


The interest of the Gnostic system of interpretation is that it determined the direction and purpose of Origen, who discusses the passage not only in his Commentary, written after 244 (vii. 15-18, vol. vii. pp. 160-180), but also in the third book of the De Principiis, written before 231 (De Prin. III. ii. 7-22, vol. xxi. pp. 265-303 = Philoc. xxi. vol. xxv. pp. 164-190), besides some few other passages. His exegesis is throughout a strenuous defence of freewill. Exegetically the most marked feature is that he puts vv. 14-19 into the mouth of an opponent of St. Paul, an interpretation which influenced subsequent patristic commentators. Throughout he states that God calls men because they are worthy, not that they are worthy because they are called; and that they are worthy because they have made themselves so. Cf. ad Romans 7:17 (Lomm. vii. 175) Ut enim Iacob esset vas ad honorem sanctificatum, et utile Domino, ad omne opus bonum paratum, anima eius emendaverat semet ipsam: et videns Deus puritatem eius, et potestatem habens ex eadem massa facere aliud vas ad honorem, aliud ad contumeliam, Iacob quidem, qui ut diximus emundaverat semet ipsum, fecit vas as honorem, Esau vero, cuius animam non ita puram nec ita simplicem vidit, ex eadem massa fecit vas ad contumeliam. To the question that may be asked, how or when did they make themselves such, the answer is, ‘In a state of pre-existence.’ De Princ. II. ix. 7, Lomm. xxi. 225 igitur sicut de Esau et Iacob diligentius perscrutatis scripturis invenitur, quia non est iniustitia apud Deum … si ex praecedentis videlicet vitae meritis digne eum electum esse sentiamus a Deo, ita ut fratri praeponi mereretur. See also III. i. 21. Lomm. xxi. 300. The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart he explains by the simile of rain. The rain is the same for all, but under its influence well-cultivated fields send forth good crops, ill-cultivated fields thistles, &c. (cf. Hebrews 6:7, Hebrews 6:8). So it is a man’s own soul which hardens itself by refusing to yield to the Divine grace. The simile of the potter he explains by comparing 2 Timothy 2:20, 2 Timothy 2:21. ‘A soul which has not cleansed itself nor purged itself of its sins by penitence, becomes thereby a vessel for dishonour.’ And God knowing the character of the souls He has to deal with, although He does not foreknow their future, makes use of them—as for example Pharaoh—to fulfil that part in history which is necessary for His purpose.

Influence of Origen.

Origen’s interpretation of this passage, with the exception of his doctrine of pre-existence, had a very wide influence both in the East and West. In the West his interpretation is followed in the main by Jerome (Epist. 120 ad Hedibiam de quaestionibus 12, cap. 10, Migne xxii. 997), by Pelagius (Migne xxx. 687-691), and Sedulius Scotus (Migne ciii. 83-93). In the East, alter its influence had prevailed for a century and a half, it became the starting-point of the Antiochene exegesis. Of this school Diodore is unfortunately represented to us only in isolated fragments; Theodore is strongly influenced by Origen; Chrysostom therefore may be taken as its best and most distinguished representative. His comment is contained in the XVIth homily on the Romans, written probably before his departure from Antioch, that is before the year 398.


Chrysostom is like Origen a strong defender of Freewill. As might be expected in a member of the Antiochene school, he interprets the passage in accordance with the purpose of St. Paul, i.e. to explain how it was the Jews had been rejected. He refers ver. 9 to those who have become true sons of God by Baptism. ‘You see then that it is not the children of the flesh that are the children of God, but that even in nature itself the generation by means of Baptism from above was sketched out beforehand. And if you tell me of the womb, I have in return to tell you of the water.’ On ver. 16 he explains that Jacob was called because he was worthy, and was known to be such by the Divine foreknowledge: ἡ κατʼ ἐκλογὴν πρόθεσις τοῦ Θεοῦ is explained as ἡ ἐκλογὴ ἡ κατὰ πρόθεσιν καὶ πρόγνωσιν γενομένη. On vv. 14-20 Chrysostom does not follow Origen, nor yet does he interpret the verses as expressing St. Paul’s own mind; but he represents him in answer to the objection that in this case God would be unjust, as putting a number of hard cases and texts which his antagonist cannot answer and thus proving that man has no right to object to God’s action, or accuse Him of injustice, since he cannot understand or follow Him. ‘What the blessed Paul aimed at was to show by all that he said that only God knoweth who are worthy.’ Verses 20, 21 are not introduced to take away Freewill, but to show up to what point we ought to obey God. For if he were here speaking of the will, God would be Himself the creator of good or evil, and men would be free from all responsibility in these matters, and St. Paul would be inconsistent with himself. What he does teach is that ‘man should not contravene God, but yield to His incomprehensible wisdom.’ On vv. 22-24 he says that Pharaoh has been fitted for destruction by his own act; that God has left undone nothing which should save him, while he himself had left undone nothing which would lead to his own destruction. Yet God had borne with him with great long-suffering, wishing to lead him to repentance. ‘Whence comes it then that some are vessels of wrath, and some of mercy? Of their own free choice. God however being very good shows the same kindness to both.’

The commentaries of Chrysostom became supreme in the East, and very largely influenced all later Greek commentators, Theodoret (sec. v), Photius (sec. ix), Oecumenius (see. x), Theophylact (sec. xi), Euthymius Zigabenus (sec. xii), &c.

Russian commentaries.

The tradition of the Greek commentators is preserved in the Russian Church. Modern Sclavonic theology presents an interesting subject for study, as it is derived directly from Chrysostom and John of Damascus, and has hardly been illuminated or obscured by the strong, although often one-sided, influence of Augustine and Western Scholasticism. In the Commentary of Bishop Theophanes* on the Romans (he died in 1894) published at Moscow in 1890, we find these characteristics very clearly. Just as in Chrysostom we find the passage interpreted in accordance not with à priori theories as to Grace and Predestination, but with what was clearly St. Paul’s purpose, the problem of the ‘Unbelief of the Jews in the presence of Christianity.’ And also as in Chrysostom we find vv. 11, 12 explained on the grounds of Fore-knowledge, and Pharaoh’s destruction ascribed to his own act. On ver. 18: ‘The word “he hardeneth” must not be understood to mean that God by His power effected a hardening in the heart of the disobedient like Pharaoh, but that the disobedient in character, under the working of God’s mercies, themselves, according to their evil character do not soften themselves, but more and more harden themselves in their obstinacy and disobedience.’ So again on vv. 22, 23: ‘God prepared the one to be vessels of mercy, the others fashioned themselves into vessels of wrath.’ And the commentary on these verses concludes thus: ‘Do not be troubled and do not admit of the thought that there is any injustice, or that the promise has failed; but on the contrary believe, that God in all his works is good and right, and rest yourselves in evotion to His wise and for us unsearchable destinations and divisions.’ There is, in fact, a clear conception of the drift and purpose of St. Paul’s argument, but a fear of one-sided predestination teaching makes a complete grasp of the whole of the Apostle’s meaning impossible.


The commentary generally quoted under the name of Ambrosiaster has an interest as containing probably the earliest correct exposition of vv. 14-19. But it is more convenient to pass at once to St. Augustine. His exposition of this passage was to all appearance quite independent of that of any of his predecessors.

The most complete exposition of the ninth chapter of Romans is found in the treatise Ad Simplicianum, i. qu. 2, written about the year 397, and all the leading points in this exposition are repeated in his last work, the Opus imperfectum contra Iulianum, i. 141. The main characteristics of the commentary are that (1) he ascribes vv. 14-19 to St. Paul himself, and considers that they represent his own opinions, thus correcting the false exegesis of Origen and Chrysostom, and (2) that he takes a view of the passage exactly opposite to that of the latter. The purpose of St. Paul is to prove that works do not precede grace but follow it, and that Election is not based on foreknowledge, for if it were based on foreknowledge then it would imply merit. Ad Simplic. i. qu. 2, § 2 Ut scilicet non se quisque arbitretur ideo percepisse gratiam, quia bene operatus est; sed bene operari non posse, nisi per fidem perceperit gratiam … § 3 Prima est igitur gratia, secunda opera bona. The instance of Jacob and Esau proves that the gift of the Divine grace is quite gratuitous and independent of human merit—that grace in fact precedes faith. § 7 Nemo enim credit qui non vocatur … Ergo ante omne meritum est gratia. Even the will to be saved must come from God. Nisi eius vocatione non volumus. And again: § 10 Noluit ergo Esau et non cucurrit: sed et si voluisset et cucurrisset, Dei adiutorio pervenisset, qui ei etiam velle et currere vocando praestaret, nisi vocationis contemptu reprobus fieret. It is then shown that God can call whom He will, if He only wills to make His grace congruous. Why then does He not do so? The answer lies in the incomprehensibility of the Divine justice. The question whom He will pity and whom He will not depends upon the hidden justice of God which no human standard can measure. § 16 Sit igitur hoc fixum atque immobile in mente sobria pietate atque stabile in fide, quod nulla est iniquitas apud Deum: atque ita tenacissime firmissimeque credatur, id ipsum quod Deus cuius vult miseretur et quem vult obdurat, hoc est, cuius vult miseretur, et cuius non vult non miseretur, esse alicuius occultae atque ab humano modulo investigabilis aequitatis: and so again, aequitate occultissima et ab humanis sensibus remotissima iudicat. God is always just. His mercy cannot be understood. Those whom He calls, He calls out of pity; those whom He does not, He refuses to call out of justice. It is not merit or necessity or fortune, but the depths of the wisdom and knowledge of God which distinguishes vessels of wrath from vessels of mercy. And so it is for the sake of the vessels of mercy that He postpones the punishment of the vessels of anger. They are the instruments of the safety of others whom God pities.

Enough has been said to show the lines of St. Augustine’s interpretation. Although from time to time there might be controversies about his views on Grace, and there might be a tendency to modify some of the harder sides of his system, yet his exegesis of this passage, as compared with that of Origen or Chrysostom, became supreme in the West. It influenced first the exegesis and doctrine of the Schoolmen, and then that of the Reformation and of Calvin.

For the middle ages it may be sufficient to take Abelard (1079-1142) and Thomas Aquinas (1227-1274). Both were largely influenced by Augustine; but whereas in the case of Abelard the influence was only indirect, in Aquinas we have the clearest and most perfect example of the Augustinian exposition.


Abelard (Migne clxxviii. 911) makes a somewhat strange division of the Epistle, attaching the exposition of 9:1-5 to the end of chap. 8. He begins his fourth book with 9:6. In vv. 6-13 he sees a vindication of the freedom of the Divine will in conferring grace, but only in relation to Jacob. ‘That the election of Jacob,’ he says, ‘that is the predestination, may remain unmoved.’ The choice depends solely on the Divine grace. Verses 14-19 he explains as the objection of an opponent, to which St. Paul gives an answer, ver. 20, ‘Who art thou?’ The answer is a rebuke to the man who would accuse God of iniquity. God may do what He will with those whom He has created: imo multo potius Deo licere quocunque modo voluerit creaturam suam tractare atque disponere, qui obnoxius nullo tenetur debito, antequam quidquam illa promereatur. Men have no more right to complain than the animals of their position. There is no injustice with God. He does more for mankind by the impiety of Judas than by the piety of Peter. Quis enim fidelium nesciat, quam optime usus sit summa illa impietate Iudae, cuius exsecrabili perditione totius humani generis redemptionem est operatus. Then he argues at some length the question why man should not complain, if he is not called as others are called to glory; and somewhat inconsistently he finds the solution in perseverance. God calls all, He gives grace to all, but some have the energy to follow the calling, while others are slothful and negligent. Sic et Deo nobis quotidie regnum coelorum offerente, alius regni ipsius desiderio accensus in bonis perseverat operibus, alius in sua torpescit ignavia. On vv. 22, 23 he says God bore with the wickedness of Pharaoh both to give him an opportunity to repent, and that He might use his crimes for the common good of mankind.


In contrast with the somewhat hesitating and inconsistent character of Abelard’s exposition, Aquinas stands out as one of the best and clearest commentaries written from the Augustinian standpoint. The modern reader must learn to accustom himself to the thoroughness with which each point is discussed, and the minuteness of the sub-divisions, but from few exponents will he gain so much insight into the philosophical questions discussed, or the logical difficulties the solution of which is attempted.

The purpose of the section is, he says, to discuss the origin of Grace, to do which the Apostle makes use of the opportunity afforded by the difficulties implied in the rejection of the Jews. Apostolus supra necessitatem et virtutem gratiae demonstravit: hic incipit agere de origine gratiae, utrum ex sola Dei electione detur, aut detur ex meritis praecedentium operum, occasione accepta ex eo, quod Iudaei qui videbantur divinis obsequiis mancipati, exciderant a gratia. In vv. 6-13 the errors of the Jews, of the Manichaeans (who believed that human actions were controlled by the stars which appeared at the time of their birth), of the Pelagians, of Origen (the pre-existence of souls) are condemned, and it is shown that God chose men, not because they were holy, but that they might be holy: unum alteri praeeligit, non quia sanctus erat, sed ut sanctus esset. In vv. 14-18 St. Paul shows from Scripture that there is no injustice either in Predestination or in Reprobation. God has predestined the just to life for merits which He has Himself conferred on them, the wicked to destruction for sins which come from themselves. Deus proposuit se puniturum malos propter peccata, quae a se ipsis habent non a Deo. Iustos autem proposuit se praemiaturum propter merita quae a se ipsis non habent. All lies in the will of God; we notice indeed that among other erroneous opinions one, that of merita consequentia gratiam,—the view apparently of Abelard—is refuted. There is no injustice. ‘Distributive justice has a place in cases of debt, but not in cases of pity.’ If a man relieves one beggar, but not another, he is not unjust; he is kind-hearted towards one. Similarly if a man forgives only one of two offenders, he is not unjust; he is merciful towards one, just towards the other.

In the instance of Pharaoh two readings are discussed, servavi and excitavi. If the first be taken it shows that, as the wicked are worthy of immediate destruction, if they are saved it is owing to the clemency of God; if the second, God does not cause wickedness, except by permitting it; He allows the wicked by His good judgement to fall into sin on account of the iniquity they have committed. Quod quidem non est intelligendum hoc modo quod Deus in homine causat malitiam, sed est intelligendum permissive, quia scilicet in iusto suo iudicio permittit aliquos ruere in peccatum propter praecedentes iniquitates. Deus malitiam ordinat non causat. In vv. 19-24 he says there are two questions. (1) Why, speaking generally, should He choose some men and not choose others? (2) Why should He choose this or that man and not someone else? The second of these is treated in vv. 19-21; to it there is no answer but the righteous will of God. No man can complain of being unjustly treated, for all are deserving of punishment. The answer to the first is contained in vv. 22-24. In order to exhibit both His justice and His mercy, there must be some towards whom He shows His justice, some towards whom He can show His mercy. The former are those who are naturally fitted for eternal damnation: God has done nothing but allow them to do what they wish. Vasa apta in interitum he defines as in se habentia aptitudinem ad aeternam damnationem; and adds Hoc autem solus Deus circa eos agit, quod eos permittit agere quae concupiscunt. He has in fact borne with them both for their own sakes, and for the sake of those whom He uses to exhibit the abundance of His goodness—a goodness which could not be apparent unless it could be contrasted with the fate of the condemned. Signanter autem dicit [ut ostenderet divitias gloriae suae] quia ipsa condemnatio et reprobatio malorum quae est secundum Dei iustitiam, manifestat et commendat sanctorum gloriam qui ab ipsa tali miseria liberantur.

The antithesis which was represented among patristic commentators by Augustine and Chrysostom was exaggerated at the Reformation by Calvin and Arminius. Each saw only his own side. Calvin followed Augustine, and exaggerated his harshest teaching: Arminius showed a subtle power of finding Freewill even in the most unlikely places.


The object of St. Paul, according to Calvin, is to maintain the freedom of the Divine election. This is absolutely gratuitous on God’s part, and quite independent of man. In the salvation of the just there is nothing above God’s goodness, in the punishment of the wicked there is nothing above His severity: the one He predestinates to salvation, the other to eternal damnation. This determination is quite independent of foreknowledge, for there can be nothing in man’s fallen nature which can make God show kindness to him. The predestination of Pharaoh to destruction is dependent on a just but secret counsel of God: the word ‘to harden’ must be taken not only permissive, but as signifying the action of the Divine wrath. The ruin of the wicked is described not as foreseen, but as ordained by His will and counsel. It was not merely foreknown, but, as Solomon says, the wicked were created that they might perish. There is no means of telling the principle by which one is taken and another rejected; it lies in the secret counsels of God. None deserve to be accepted. The wrath of God against Pharaoh was postponed that others might be terrified by the horrible judgement, that God’s power might be displayed, and His mercy towards the elect made more clear. As God is especially said to prepare the vessels of glory for glory, it follows that the preparation of the vessels of wrath equally comes from Him; otherwise the Apostle would have said that they had prepared themselves for destruction. Before they were created their fate was assigned to them. They were created for destruction.


Arminius represents absolute antagonism on every point to these views. The purpose of the chapter is, he says, the same as that of the Epistle, looked at from a special point of view. While the aim of the Epistle is to prove ‘Justification by Faith,’ in this chapter St. Paul defends his argument against Jews who had urged: ‘It overthrows the promises of God, therefore it is not true.’ By the words addressed to Rebecca He signified that He had from eternity resolved not to admit to His privileges all the children of Abraham, but those only whom He should select in accordance with the plan He had laid down. This plan was to extend His mercy to those who had faith in Him when He called and who believed on Christ, not to those who sought salvation by works. The passage that follows (ver. 14 ff.) shows that God has decided to give His mercy in His own way and on His own plan, that is to give it not to him who runs, to him that is who strives after it by works, but to him who seeks it in the way that He has appointed. And this is perfectly just, because He has Himself announced this as His method. Then the image of the potter and the clay is introduced to prove, not the absolute sovereignty of God, but His right to do what He will, that is to name His own conditions. He has created man to become something better than he was made. God has made man a vessel: man it is who makes himself a bad vessel. God decrees on certain conditions to make men vessels of glory or vessels of wrath according as they do or do not fulfil these conditions. The condition is Justification by Faith.


The systems of Arminius and Calvin were for the most part supreme during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the exegesis of this chapter, although there were from time to time signs of historical methods of interpretation. Hammond for example, the English divine of the seventeenth century, in his paraphrase adopts methods very much beyond those of his time. But gradually at the beginning of the present century the defects or inadequacy of both views became apparent. It was quite clear that as against Arminius Calvin’s interpretation of chap. 9 was correct, that St. Paul’s object in it was not to prove or defend justification by faith, but to discuss the question behind it, why it was that some had obtained justification by faith and others had not. But equally clear was it that Calvin’s interpretation, or rather much of what he had read into his interpretation, was inconsistent with chap. 10, and the language which St. Paul habitually uses elsewhere. This apparent inconsistency then must be recognized. How must it be treated? Various answers have been given. Fritzsche asserts that St. Paul is carried away by his argument and unconsciously contradicts himself. ‘It is evident that what St. Paul writes is not only inconsistent with itself but absolutely contradictory.’ If the Jews, it is asserted in chap. 9, were first chosen and then rejected, it was the malignity of God and not their own perversity which caused their fall. If God had decreed their fall for a time (chap. 11), they could not be blamed if they had fallen; and yet in chap. 10 they are blamed. Multis saepe accidit ut amicum fortunae fulmine percussum erecturi studio consolandi argumentis cupide uterentur neque ab omni parte firmis et quorum unum cum altero parum consisteret. Et melius sibi Paulus consensisset, si Aristotelis non Gamalielis alumnus fuisset.


Meyer admits the discrepancy but explains it differently. ‘As often as we treat only one of the two truths, God is absolutely free and all-sufficient, and man has moral freedom and is in virtue of his proper self-determination and responsibility a liberum agens, the author of his salvation or perdition, and carry it out in a consistent theory and therefore in a one-sided method, we are compelled to speak in such a manner that the other truth appears to be annulled.’ … ‘The Apostle has here wholly taken his position on the absolute standpoint of the theory of our dependence upon God, and that with all the boldness of clear consistency.’ … ‘He allows the claims of both modes of consideration to stand side by side, just as they exist side by side within the limits of human thought.’ According to Meyer in fact the two points of view are irreconcileable in thought, and St. Paul recognizing this does not attempt to reconcile them.


It would be impossible to enumerate all the different varieties of opinion in the views of modern scholars. One more specimen will be sufficient. The solution offered by Beyschlag. He maintains that all interpretations are wrong which consider that St. Paul is concerned with anything either before or after this life. It is no eternal decree of God, nor is it the future destiny of mankind that he is dealing with. It is merely their position in history and in the world. Why has he chosen one race (the Jews) for one purpose, another race (the Egyptians) for another? He is dealing with nations not individuals, with temporal not spiritual privileges.

The above sketch will present the main lines of interpretation of these verses, and will serve as a supplement to the explanation which has been given above. We must express our obligations in compiling it to Weber (Dr. Valentin), Kritische Geschichte der Exegese des 9. Kapitels resp. der Verse 14-23 des Römerbriefes, bis auf Chrysostomus und Augustinus einschiesslich, and to Beyschlag (Dr. Willibald), Die paulinische Theodicee, Römer IX-XI, who have materially lightened the labour incurred.


9:30-10:13. The reason that God has rejected Israel is that, though they sought righteousness, they sought it in their own way by means of works, not in God’s way through faith. Hence when the Messiah came they stumbled as had been foretold (vv. 30-33). They refused to give up their own method, that of Law, although Law had come to an end in Christ (10:1-4), and this in spite of the fact that the old system was difficult if not impossible (ver. 5), while the new system was easy and within the reach of all (vv. 6-10), indeed universal in its scope (vv. 11-13).

IX. 30 What then is the position of the argument so far? One fact is clear. A number of Gentiles who did not profess to be in pursuit of righteousness have unexpectedly come upon it; a righteousness however of which the characteristic is that it is not earned by their own efforts but is the product of faith in a power outside them. 31 Israel on the other hand, the chosen people of God, although making strenuous efforts after a rule of moral and religious life that would win for them righteousness, have not succeeded in attaining to the accomplishment of such a rule. 32 How has this come about? Because they sought it in their own way, not in God’s way. They did not seek it by faith, but their aim was to pursue it by a rigid performance of works. 33 And hence that happened to them which the Prophet Isaiah foretold. He spoke (28:16) of a rock which the Lord would lay in Zion and foretold that if a man put his trust in it, he would never have cause to be ashamed. But elsewhere (8:14) he calls it ‘a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence,’ implying that those who have not this faith will consider it a stumbling-block in their way. This rock is, as you have always been told, the Messiah. The Messiah has come; and the Jews through want of faith have regarded as a cause of offence that which is the corner stone of the whole building.

X. 1 Let me pause for a moment, brethren. It is a serious accusation that I am bringing against my fellow-countrymen. But I repeat that I do it from no feeling of resentment. How great is my heart’s good will for them! How earnest my prayer to God for their salvation! 2 For indeed as a fellow-countryman, as one who was once as they are, I can testify that they are full of zeal for God. That is not the point in which they have failed; it is that they have not guided their zeal by that true knowledge which is the result of genuine spiritual insight. 3 Righteousness they strove after, but there were two ways of attaining to it. The one was God’s method: of that they remained ignorant. The other was their own method: to this they clung blindly and wilfully. They refused to submit to God’s plan of salvation.

4Their own method was based on a rigid performance of legal enactments. But that has been ended in Christ. Now there is a new and a better way, one which has two characteristics; it is based on the principle of faith, and it is universal and for all men alike. 5(1) It is based on the principle of faith. Hence it is that while the old method was difficult, if not impossible, the new is easy and open to all. The old method righteousness by law, that is by the exact performance of legal rules, is aptly described by Moses when he says (Leviticus 18:5), ‘the man who does these things shall live,’ i. e. Life in all its fulness here and hereafter was to be gained by undeviating strictness of conduct; and that condition we have seen (1:18-3:20) was impossible of fulfilment. 6But listen to the proclamation which righteousness by faith makes to mankind. It speaks in well-known words which have become through it more real. ‘There is no need for you to say, Who will go up into heaven? Heaven has come to you; Christ has come down and lived among men. 7There is no need to search the hidden places of the deep. Christ has risen. There is no need therefore to seek the living among the dead. You are offered something which does not require hard striving or painful labour. 8The word of God is very nigh thee, in thy heart and in thy mouth.’ And that word of God is the message of faith, the Gospel which proclaims ‘believe and thou shalt be saved’; and this Gospel we preach throughout the world. 9All it says to you is: ‘With thy mouth thou must confess Jesus as sovereign Lord, with thy heart thou must believe that God raised Him from the dead.’ 10For that change of heart which we call faith, brings righteousness, and the path of salvation is entered by the confession of belief in Christ which a man makes at his baptism.

11(2) This is corroborated by what the Prophet Isaiah said (28:16) in words quoted above (9:33), the full meaning of which we now understand: ‘Everyone that believeth in Him (i. e. the Messiah) shall not be ashamed.’ Moreover this word of his, ‘everyone,’ introduces the second characteristic of the new method. It is universal. 12And that means that it applies equally to Jew and to Greek. We have shown that the new covenant is open for Greeks as well as Jews; it is also true to say that the conditions demanded are the same for Jew as for Greek. The Jew cannot keep to his old methods; he must accept the new. And this must be so, because there is for all men alike one Redeemer, who gives the wealth of His salvation to all those whoever they may be who call on His name. 13And so the prophet Joel, foretelling the times of the foundation of the Messianic kingdom, says (2:32) ‘Everyone that shall call on the name of the Lord (i. e. of the Messiah) shall be saved.’ When the last days come, in the times of storm and anguish, it is the worshippers of the Messiah, those who are enrolled as His servants and call on His Name, who will find a strong salvation.

9:30-10:21. St. Paul now passes to another aspect of the subject he is discussing. He has considered the rejection of Israel from the point of view of the Divine justice and power, he is now to approach it from the side of human responsibility. The concluding verses of the ninth chapter and the whole of the tenth are devoted to proving the guilt of Israel. It is first sketched out in 9:30-33. Israel have sought righteousness in the wrong way, in that they have rejected the Messiah. Then St. Paul, overwhelmed with the sadness of the subject, pauses for a moment (10:1, 2) to emphasize his grief. He returns to the discussion by pointing out that they have adhered to their own method instead of accepting God’s method (vv. 2, 3). And this in spite of several circumstances; (1) that the old method has been done away with in Christ (ver. 4); (2) that while the old method was hard and difficult the new is easy and within the reach of all (vv. 5-10); (3) that the new method is clearly universal and intended for all alike (vv. 11-13). At ver. 14 he passes to another aspect of the question: it might still be asked: Had they full opportunities of knowing? In vv. 14-21 it is shown that both through the full and universal preaching of the Gospel, and through their own Prophets, they have had every opportunity given them.

30. τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν; The οὖν, as is almost always the case in St. Paul, sums up the results of the previous paragraph. What then is the conclusion of this discussion? ‘It is not that God’s promise has failed, but that while Gentiles have obtained “righteousness,” the Jews, though they strove for it, have failed.’ This summary of the result so far arrived at leads to the question being asked; Why is it so? And that introduces the second point in St. Paul’s discussion—the guilt of the Jews.

ὅτι ἔθνη κ.τ.λ. There are two constructions possible for these words. 1. The sentence ὅτι … τὴν ἐκ πίστεως may contain the answer to the question asked in τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν; This interpretation is probably right. The difficulty, however, is that nowhere else in this Epistle, where St. Paul uses the expression τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν, does he give it an immediate answer. He follows it by a second question (as in 9:14); and this is not a mere accident. It is a result of the sense of deliberation contained in the previous words with which a second question rather than a definite statement seems to harmonize. 2. The alternative rendering would be to take the words ὅτι … ἔφθασεν, as such a second question. ‘What shall we say then? Shall we say that, while Gentiles who did not seek righteousness have obtained it, Israel has not attained to it?’ The answer to this question then would be a positive one, not given directly but implied in the further one διατί; ‘Yes, but why?’—The difficulty in this construction, which must tell against it, is the awkwardness of the appended sentence δικαιοσύνην δὲ τὴν ἐκ πίστεως. Lipsius’ suggestion that ὅτι = ‘because’ is quite impossible.

ἔθνη: ‘heathen,’ not ‘the heathen’; some, not all: nam nonnulli pagani fidem tum Christo adiunxerant, τὸ πλήρωμα τῶν ἐθνῶν ad Christi sacra nondum accesserat. Fri.

διώκοντα … κατέλαβε: ‘correlative terms for pursuing and overtaking’ (Field, Otium Norvicense, iii. p. 96). The metaphor as in τρέχοντος (ver. 16) is taken from the racecourse, and probably the words were used without the original meaning being lost sight of: cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24. The two words are coupled together Exodus 15:9, Ecclus. 11:10; 27:8; Philippians 3:12; Herod. ii. 30; Lucian, Hermot. 77. διώκειν is a characteristic Pauline word occurring in letters of all periods: 1 Thess. (1), 1 Cor. (1), Rom. (4), Phil. (2), 1 Tim. (1), 2 Tim. (1).

δικαιοσύνην δέ limits and explains the previous use of the word. ‘But remember, (and this will explain any difficulty that you may have), that it was ἐκ πίστεωσʼ’: cf. 3:22 δικαιοσύνη δὲ Θεοῦ: 1 Corinthians 2:6 σοφίαν δὲ λαλοῦμεν ἐν τοῖς τελείοις σοφίαν δὲ οὐ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου.

Some small variations of reading may be just noticed. In ver. 31 the second δικαιοσύνης after εἰς νόμον of the TR. is omitted by decisive authority, as also is νόμου (after ἔργων) in ver. 32, and γάρ after προσέκοψαν. In ver. 33 πᾶς read by the TR. has crept in from 10:11, and Western MSS. read οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ to harmonize with the LXX

31. Ἰσραὴλ δὲ κ.τ.λ. These words contain the real difficulty of the statement, of which alone an explanation is necessary, and is given. ‘In spite of the fact that some Gentiles even without seeking it have attained righteousness, Israel has failed.’

νόμον δικαιοσύνης: ‘a rule of life which would produce righteousness’: cf. 3:27 νόμος πίστεως: 7:21.

οὐκ ἔφθασε: ‘did not attain it’; they are represented as continually pursuing after something, the accomplishment of which as continually escapes them. All idea of anticipation has been lost in φθάνω in later Greek, cf. Philippians 3:16; Daniel 4:19 (Theod.) ἔφθασεν εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν.

32. ὅτι οὐκ ἐκ πίστεως … προσέκοψαν. Two constructions are possible for these words. (1) We may put a comma at ἔργων and supply διώκοντες. Then the passage will run: ‘Why did they not attain it? because pursuing after it not by faith but by works they stumbled,’ &c.; or (2) we may put a full stop at ἔργων and supply ἐδίωξαν. ‘Why did they not attain it? because they pursued after it not by faith but by works, they stumbled,’ &c. The sentence has more emphasis if taken in this way, and the grammatical construction is on the whole easier.

ἀλλʼ ὡς ἐξ ἔργων. The ὡς introduces a subjective idea. St. Paul wishes to guard himself from asserting definitely that ἐξ ἔργων was a method by which νόμον δικαιοσύνης might be pursued. He therefore represents it as an idea of the Jews, as a way by which they thought they could gain it. So in 2 Corinthians 2:172 Corinthians 11:17 ὄ λαλῶ, οὐ κατὰ Κύριον λαλῶ,�Philemon 1:14 ἵνα μὴ ὡς κατὰ�

προσέκοψαν: προσκόπτειν τινί means not ‘to stumble over by inadvertence,’ but ‘to be annoyed with,’ ‘show irritation at.’ The Jews, in that the cross was to them a σκάνδαλον, had stumbled over Christ, shown themselves irritated and annoyed, and expressed their indignation, see Grm. Thayer, sub voc.

τῷ λίθῳ τοῦ προσκόμματος: ‘a stone which causes men to stumble.’ Taken from the LXX of Isaiah 8:14. The stone at which the Jewish nation has stumbled, which has been to them a cause of offence, is the Christ, who has come in a way, which, owing to their want of faith, has prevented them from recognizing or accepting Him, cf. 1 Peter 2:8.

33. ἰδού, τίθημι ἐν Σιὼν κ.τ.λ. The quotation is taken from the LXX of Isaiah 28:16, fused with words from Isaiah 8:14. The latter part of the verse is quoted again 10:11, and the whole in 1 Peter 2:6.

A comparison of the different variations is interesting. (1) The LXX reads ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἐμβάλλω εἰς τὰ θεμέλια Σιών. In both the passages in the N. T. the words are ἰδοὺ τίθημι ἐν Σιών. (2) For the LXX λίθον πολυτελῆ ἐκλεκτὸν�Isaiah 8:14 καὶ οὐχ ὡς λίθον προσκόμματι συναντήσεσθε οὐδὲ ὡς πέτρας πτώματι. Here St. Peter 2:8 agrees with St. Paul in writing πέτρα σκανδάλου. (3) The LXX proceeds εἰς τὰ θεμέλια αὐτῆς, which both St. Peter and St. Paul omit. (4) The LXX proceeds καὶ ὁ πιστεύων οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ. Both St. Peter and St. Paul bring out the personal reference by inserting ἐπʼ αὐτῷ, while St. Paul reads καταισχυνθήσεται and in 10:11 adds πᾶς.

ἐπʼ αὐτῷ. Personal, of the Messiah, ‘He that believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.’ St. Paul inserts the words, both here and in 10:11, to emphasize the personal reference. If the reference were impersonal, the feminine would be required to agree with the nearest word πέτρα.

καταισχυνθήσεται. Either an incorrect translation of the Hebrew, or based on a different reading. The RV. of Isaiah reads ‘shall not make haste.’

In the O. T. neither of these passages has any direct Messianic reference. In both Jehovah is the rock founded on Zion. In Isaiah 8:14 He is represented as a ‘stumbling-block’ to the unbeliever; in Isaiah 28:16 He is the strength of those that believe in Him. But from the very beginning the word λίθος was applied to Christ, primarily with reference to Psalms 118:22 ‘the Stone which the builders rejected’ (Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11 by St. Peter). The other passages in which the word λίθος was used in the LXX came to be applied as here, and in Ephesians 2:20Isaiah 8:14, Sanhedrin 38. 1 Filius Davidis non venit donec duae domus patrum ex Israele deficiant, quae sunt Aechmalotarcha Babylonicus et princeps terrae Israeliticae q. d. Et erit in Sanctuarium et in lapidem percussionis et petram offensionis duabus domibus Israel. Isaiah 28:16 is paraphrased by the Targum Jonathan, Ecce ego constituam in Sion regem, regem fortem, potentem et terribilem; corroborabo eum et confortabo eum dicit Propheta. Iusti autem qui crediderint haec cum venerit tribulatio non commovebuntur, and some apparently read regem Messias regem potentem. Psalms 118:22 is paraphrased by the same Targum, Puerum despexerunt aedificatores, qui fuit inter filios Israel et meruit constitui rex et dominator. For these and other reff. see Schoettgen, ii. 160, 606.

A comparison of Romans and 1 Peter shows that both Apostles agree in quoting the same passages together, and both have a number of common variants from the normal text of the LXX. This may have arisen from St. Peter’s acquaintance with the Romans; but another hypothesis may be suggested, which will perhaps account for the facts more naturally. We know that to prove from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ, was the constant practice of the early Christians. Is it not possible that even as early as this there may have been collections of O. T. texts used for controversial purposes arranged according to their subjects, as were the later Testimonia of Cyprian, where one of the chapters is headed: Quod idem et lapis dictus sit (Test. ii. 16)? See on 9:25, 26 supra.

Tert. Tertullian.

Chrys. Chrysostom.

Lft. Lightfoot.

C.I.G. Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum.

d Latin version of D

B Cod. Vaticanus

L Cod. Angelicus

אԠCod. Sinaiticus

A Cod. Alexandrinus

D Cod. Claromontanus

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

Clem.-Rom. Clement of Rome.

C Cod. Ephraemi Rescriptus

K Cod. Mosquensis

Vulg. Vulgate.

T. R. Textus Receptus.

E Cod. Sangermanensis

G Cod. Boernerianus

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

* In the Latin version the four covenants are Adam, Noah, Moses, Christ.

codd. codices.

Boh. Bohairic.

F Cod. Augiensis

pauc. pauci.

RV. Revised Version.

WH. Westcott and Hort.

* For information on this point and also on the punctuation of the older papyri, we are much indebted to Mr. F G. Kenyon, of the British Museum.

Jos. Josephus.

Orig. Origen.

Go. Godet.

Gif. Gifford.

Beng. Bengel.

Mey. Meyer.

Lips. Lipsius.

e Latin version of E

f Latin version of F

Orig.-lat. Latin Version of Origen

g Latin version of G

Ambrstr. Ambrosiaster.

P Cod. Porphyrianus

Syrr. Syriac.

Hieron. Jerome.

Theod.-Mops. Theodore of Mopsuessia.

Mey.-W. Meyer-Weisa.

Theoph. Theophylact.

Oecum. Oecumenius.

Sah. Sahidic.

Eus. Eusebius.

Pesh. Peshitto.

Aeth. Ethiopic.

Tert. Tertullian.

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

* For a translation of portions of this Commentary, we are indebted to the kindness of Mr. W. J. Birkbeck, of Magdalen College, Oxford.

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

RV. Revised Version.

Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on Romans 9". International Critical Commentary NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/romans-9.html. 1896-1924.
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