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Bible Commentaries

Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Romans 4

Verse 1

Romans 4:1 . Τί ʼοὖν , what then ) He proves from the example of Abraham; 1, That justification is of grace [gratuitous]; 2, That it has been provided for the Gentiles also, Romans 4:9 . τὸν πατέρα ἠμῶν , our father ) [This, viz., his being our father , constitutes] the foundation of the consequence derived from Abraham to us. εὑρηκέναι , hath found ) It is applied to something new Hebrews 9:12 [Engl. Vers., having obtained; but εὑράμενος , having found ]; and Paul intimates, that the way of faith is older than Abraham; and that Abraham, in whom the separation from the Gentiles by circumcision took place, was the first from whom, if from any one, an example seemed capable of being adduced in favour of works; and yet he, at the same time shows, that this very example [instance] is much more decisive in favour of faith; and so he finally confirms by examples, what he had already established by arguments. κατὰ σάρκα , according [ as pertaining , Engl. Vers.] to the flesh. Abraham is nowhere called our father according to the flesh . Therefore, it [the clause, according to the flesh ] is not construed with father; for the expression according to the flesh , is added in mentioning the fathers, only when the apostle is speaking of Christ, ch. Romans 9:5 ; and Abraham by and by, at Romans 4:11 , is shown to be the father of believers, even of those of whom he is not the father according to the flesh. The construction then is, hath found according to [ as pertaining to ] the flesh . In the question itself, Paul inserts something which has the effect of an answer, in order that he may not leave even the smallest countenance for [or, a moment of time to ] the maintaining of Jewish righteousness, and for their boasting before God.

Verse 2

Romans 4:2 . Εἰ , if ) A particle implying reluctant concession [for argument’s sake]. γὰρ , for ) [The γάρ expresses] the cause after the proposition, and the reason why, in Romans 4:1 , he added the limitation, hath found as pertaining to the flesh . [43] πρὸς ) to , or before. He was not justified by works before God , and therefore, he has no ground of boasting before God; but both [hold good of him] according to the flesh .

[43] Εξ ἔργων , from works ) Abraham was before the law, hence Paul introduces no mention of the law, ver. 1 12. V. g.

Verse 3

Romans 4:3 . Γὰρ , for ) This word is to be referred to but not . ἡ γραφή , the Scripture ) The word Scripture is elegantly used. Moses does not speak in this passage, comp. ch. Romans 10:5 . ἐπίστευσε δὲ Ἀβραὰμ , κ . τ . λ .), Genesis 15:6 , lxx., καὶ ἐπίστευσεν Ἄβραμ , κ . τ . λ . believed in the promise of a numerous seed, and especially of the seed Christ, the seed of the woman, in whom all the promises are yea and amen, and on whose account a numerous seed had been desired. ἐλογίσθη ) λογιζεσθαι , to number, to estimate, to consider, to reckon, signifies here the act of a gracious will. It is repeated in this passage with great effect: ἐλογίσθη , the passive, as λογίζεται , Romans 4:4-45.4.5 , is reckoned . Heb.; He reckoned it to him , namely, the fact [of his believing] or his faith; for this is to be supplied from the verb immediately preceding, believed . εἰς ) So ch. Romans 2:26 [counted for ]; Acts 19:27 , notes.

Verse 4

Romans 4:4 . Δὲ ) but [now]. Paul takes what is contrary [the case of him that worketh ] out of the way, so as to enable him, in the following verse, to draw his conclusion regarding the man who does not trust to works, and to evince that Abraham was not such a one as he describes, by the words him that worketh . ἐργαζομένῳ , to him that worketh ) if there were, indeed, any such [which there is not]. We must take both expressions, him that worketh and him that worketh not , in a reduplicative sense: to work , and wages , are conjugates in the Heb. פעל . [The man that worketh, in this passage, applies to him who, by his works, performs (makes good) all that the law requires. V. g.]. μισθὸς , reward), the antithesis to faith. ὀφείλημα , a debt, by virtue of a contract between the parties. Merit in its strictest sense so called, and debt, are correlatives.

Verse 5

Romans 4:5 . Τον ἀσεβῆ , the ungodly ) This points out the excellence of faith, which hath established it so as that the ungodly are justified, ch. Romans 5:6 . Compare and consider the end of Rom 4:17 of this chapter. Translate τὸν ἀσεβῆ , him who is ungodly . Justification belongs to individuals. This word is a most conclusive proof that Paul is speaking, even most especially, of the moral law, by the works of which no one can be justified. κατὰ τὴν πρόθεσιν τῆς χάριτος τοῦ Θεο ͂ υ , according to the purpose of the grace of God ) A very ancient translator [44] of the Scriptures into Latin has this clause; following him, Hilariu [45] , the deacon; then the scholiast on Jerome, etc. Beza acknowledges that it is exceedingly suitable; for there is a manifest antithesis between, not according to grace, but according to debt [ Rom 4:4 ] etc., according to the purpose of the grace of God . The Greek transcribers might easily jump from κατὰ to ΚΑΘΆΠΕΡ [omitting ΚΑΤᾺ Τ . ΠΡΌΘΕΣΙΝ , etc.] During the time that intervened between the publication of the Apparatus and the Gnomon, I have advanced on without inconsistency to the embracing of this clause, to which Beza is not opposed. Baumgarten has put in his negative. I have stated my reasons; he has given his; let those judge who are able. Paul sets in opposition to each other, works and πρόθεσιν , the purpose; and at the very time too, when he is speaking definitely of certain believers, the subjects of that purpose, as in this passage, of Abraham.

[44] Some old copies of the Vulg. have the words. But the Cod. Amiatinus, the oldest MS. of the Vulg., omit them. ED.

[45] ilarius (a Latin father: died 368 A.D.) Ed. Maurinorum, Paris. 1693.

Verse 6

Romans 4:6 . Καὶ , even ) after the law was given by Moses. Δανὶδ , David ) David is very appositely introduced after Abraham, because both, being among the progenitors of the Messiah, received and propagated the promise. No direct promise regarding the Messiah was given to Moses, because the latter (Christ) is placed in opposition to the former, and was not descended from the stem of Moses. λέγει τὸν μακαρισμὸν ) he [ describes ] declares the blessedness of the man , μακαρίζω , I pronounce him blessed . The words are to be thus construed: λέγει , declares without any reference to works; that is, David, in recounting the ground of bestowing salvation on man, makes no mention at all of works. The argument derived from the silence of Scripture is often quite conclusive. But David, it may be said, immediately adds, and in his spirit there is no guile , which is all the same as an allegation of works. Ans. It is not all the same. This addition has no part in the definition of the subject, but forms a part of the predicate, although not even then would the merit of works be established; for the thief who confesses his crime, and does not guilefully deny it, does not merit pardon for his offence by that confession of his. But this is the meaning: blessed is the man to whom the Lord hath not imputed sin: blessed is he, and in his spirit there is no guile; that is, he is sure of his condition, of the forgiveness of his sins; he may have good confidence; his spirit , his heart does not deceive him, so as to become, as it were, a רמיה קשת , a deceitful bow, Psalms 78:57 . The act of Phinehas was also imputed to him for righteousness, Psalms 106:31 ; not, indeed, in viewing it as a work: but it was, as it were, unmixed [mera] faith. He seemed neither to see nor hear anything else, by reason of his unmixed zeal, that he might maintain the honour of his God.

Verse 7

Romans 4:7 . Ἀφέθησαν κτλ ) So the LXX., Psalms 32:1 . The synonymous words are, ἀφιέναι , ἐπικαλύπτειν , οὐ λογίζεσθαι , that sin committed may be accounted as not committed.

Verse 8

Romans 4:8 . Ὧ , to whom ) Greater force is given to the sense, by the transition from the plural in the preceding, to the singular in this verse; as also the more express mention of the man and of the Lord lends additional force.

Verse 9

Romans 4:9 . Ὁ ) Paul comprehends in this what he lately said respecting Abraham and David. περιτομὴν ) Does it come on the circumcision only, by itself, to the exclusion of others? or upon the circumcision also? λέγομεν , we say , Romans 4:3 .

Verse 10

Romans 4:10 . Πῶς , how ) This word implies more than when . ὀυκ ἐν περιτομῇ , not in circumcision ) For justification is described, Genesis 15:0 ; circumcision, Genesis 17:0 .

Verse 11

Romans 4:11 . Σημε ͂ ιον , a sign ) Circumcision itself was a sign, a mark, namely, imprinted on the body, and the expression, the sign of circumcision , is used just as taking of rest in sleep [ κοίμησις τ . ὕπνου ], John 11:13 ; and the virtue of piety , that is, piety a virtue. ἔλαβε , received ) obediently. τῆς ἐν τῇ ) τῆς is to be construed with πίστεως ; with which compare the next verse. τοῦ χαρίσματος ) διά , with; as in ch. Romans 2:27 [not as Eng. vers. “ by the letter, and circumcision;” but ‘ with ,’ or ‘ in .’ Eng. vers. here, Romans 4:11 , renders διὰ ἀκροβ , though they be not circumcised ]. 11, 12. Πατέρα ) the construction is, that he might be the father of all who believe with [ i.e. being in] uncircumcision and the father of the circumcision. Father and seed are correlatives.

Verse 12

Romans 4:12 . Περιτομῆς , of circumcision ) The Abstract for the concrete, of the circumcised nation . το ͂ ις ) Heb. ל : see Nold. on this particle, n. 30, 10, 15, 19, 22. Generally, it implies as to [as regards, in relation to]; so το ͂ ις , 1 John 5:16 ; Luke 1:50 ; Luke 1:55 . LXX. 1 Chronicles 13:1 : μετὰ τῶν ἀρχόντων κτλ . παντὶ ἡγουμένῳ , add to these passages 2 Chronicles 31:2 ; 2 Chronicles 31:16 ; Numbers 29:4 . οὐκ μόνον ) Abraham, therefore, is not the father of circumcision to such as are merely of the circumcision, and do not also follow the faith of Abraham. ἐκ περιτομῆς , of the circumcision) ἐκ , of, means something more weighty than ἐν , in. Circumcision was at least a sign, uncircumcision was not even a sign. [46] ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς ) so in Romans 4:16 . ἴχνεσι , in the traces [ steps ]) The traces of faith are opposed to the traces of outward circumcision; the path is not trodden by many, but there are foot-traces found in it; it is, however, an open way.

[46] Therefore ἐκ is used with περιτομῆς , ἐν with ἀχροβυστία . ED.

Verse 13

Romans 4:13 . Οὐ γὰρ διὰ νόμουἐπαγγελία , for the promise was not through the law ) This is evident in the very terms; and the promise was given before the law. Through the law , that is, through the righteousness of the law , but Paul did not wish in his statement to connect righteousness and the law. ἢ τῷ σπέρματι , or to his seed ) This constitutes the foundation of the consequence derived from Abraham to all believers. το ͂ ν κόσμον , of the world ) and therefore of all persons and things . Comp. 1 Corinthians 3:21 . Heir of the world , is the same as father of all the nations , who accept the blessing. The whole world was promised to Abraham and to his seed conjointly throughout the whole world. The land of Canaan fell to the lot of Abraham, and so one part was allotted to one, and another to another. So also corporeal things are a specimen of things spiritual. Christ is heir of the world, and of all things, Hebrews 1:2 ; Hebrews 2:5 ; Hebrews 10:5 ; Revelation 11:15 ; and so also are they who believe in Him according to the example of Abraham, Matthew 5:5 , notes.

Verse 14

Romans 4:14 . Εἰ , if ) The promise and faith complete the whole: and we ought not to add the law, as if it were something homogeneous. οἱ ἐκ νόμου , those who are of the law ) This phrase recurs in a milder sense in Romans 4:16 . κεκένωται κατήργηται made void and of no effect ), words synonymous but not interchangeable. Comp. Galatians 3:17 ; Galatians 3:15 ; the word antithetic to these is sure [ βεβάιαν ], Romans 4:16 . Faith receives [ Rom 4:11 ] blessings in all their fulness, it is therefore said, on the opposite side, to be made void , to be of no effect . πίστις ἐπαγγελία , faith the promise ) words correlative: and they are appropriately put in retrograde order [comp. Rom 4:13 ] in an argument like the present, wherein is shown the absurdity which would flow from from the opposite theory [by the reductio , or argumentum ad absurdum ].

Verse 15

Romans 4:15 . Νόμος , the law ) It occurs twice in this verse; first, with the article, definitely; next, indefinitely. ὀργὴν , wrath ) not grace , see the next verse. Hence the law is not of promise and of faith . οὐδὲ παράβασις , there is not even transgression ) He does not say, not even sin , comp. ch. Romans 5:13 , Romans 2:12 ; offence , ch. Romans 5:20 , and transgression have a more express referece to the law which is violated. Transgression rouses wrath.

Verse 16

Romans 4:16 . Ἐκ πίστεως , of faith ) So ἐκ , Ch. Romans 3:30 , Romans 5:1 . Supply heirship (the heirship is of faith) comp. Romans 4:14 . ἐκ το ͂ υ νόμου , of the law ) so of the circumcision , Romans 4:12 , where the not only belongs to of the circumcision , but in this verse, not only refers to the expression, to that seed which .

Verse 17

Romans 4:17 . [47] Ὅτι ΤΈΘΕΙΚΆ ΣΕ ) so the LXX., Genesis 17:5 . The construction, ΤΈΘΕΙΚΆ ΣΕ , ΚΑΤΈΝΑΝΤΙ ΘΕΟ ͂ Υ , is like the following, ἽΥΑ ΕἸΔῆΤΕ , ἎΡΟΝ , Matthew 9:6 . Comp. Romans 15:3 ; Acts 1:4 . ΚΑΤΈΝΑΝΤΙ ΘΕΟ ͂ Υ , before God ) since those nations did not yet exist before men. οὗ ), that is, ΚΑΤΈΝΑΝΤΙ ΘΕΟ ͂ Υ , ἘΠΊΣΤΕΥΣΕ , before God, in whom he believed . ζωοποιοῦντος , quickening ) Hebrews 11:19 , notes. The dead are not dead to God, and things which be not, are to God. καλο ͂ υντος , calling ) The seed of Abraham did not yet exist, nevertheless God said, So shall thy seed be. The multiplication of the seed presupposes the previous existence of the seed. For example, the centurion says to his servant, who was living and moving in the natural course of the world, Do this; but God says to the light, whilst it is not in existence, just as if it were, Come forth, γενοῦ , come into existence. Think of that often recurring and wonderful יהי , Genesis 1:0 , it expresses the transition from non-existence to existence , which is produced by God calling , Ezekiel 36:29 .

[47] πατὴρ πάντων ἡμῶν , father of us all ). Hence it is, that although Christ is said to be the Son of David , yet believers are not called the sons of David, but of Abraham. V. g.

Verse 18

Romans 4:18 . Παρʼ ἐλπίδα ἐπʼ ἐλπίδι ἐπίστευσεν , past [ against ] hope believed in hope ) We lay hold of one and the same object both by faith and by hope; by faith , as a thing, which is truthfully enunciated [proclaimed]; by hope , as an object of joy, which for certain both can and will realized. He believed in the hope of the promise, past [ beyond , ‘præter’] the hope of reason, [which reason would have suggested]. παρὰ and ἐπὶ , past [against] and in , the particles opposed to each other, produce a striking oxymoron. [48] οὓτως , so ) as the stars, Genesis 15:5 . LXX. also, οὓτως . σου . Comp. Galatians 3:8 , notes.

[48] See Appendix.

Verses 18-21

Romans 4:18-45.4.21 . Ὃς , who ) Paul shows, that the faith, to which justification is ascribed, is no frail thing, but an extraordinary power.

Verse 19

Romans 4:19 . Μὴ ἀσθενήσας , being not weak ) Reason [had he hearkened to it] might have afforded causes of weakness. ἑαυτοῦ Σάῤῥας , his own of Sarah’s ) The old age of both the husband and wife, and the previous barrenness of the latter, increase the difficulty, and prove the birth of Isaac to have been miraculous. The course of the history shows, that Sarah gave birth to Isaac only [ not save , ‘nonnisi’] in conjunction with Abraham. The renewed vigour of his body remained even in his marriage with Keturah. ἑκατονταέτης που , when he was about a hundred years old ) After Shem, we read of no one begetting children, who was a hundred years of age, Genesis 11:0 .

Verse 20

Romans 4:20 . Εἰς , at ) The promise was the foundation of his confidence. οὐ διεκρίθη , did not [ stagger or ] doubt ) It is clear, what doubt is, from its opposite was strong . We should observe, that it is the reverse of doubting. δοὺς , giving ) These things, giving glory to God , and being fully persuaded , and very closely connected. δόξαν ) the glory of truth (its opposite is stigmatized in 1 John 5:10 , in the case of him, who does not believe) and of power.

Verse 22

Romans 4:22 . διὸ , therefore ) namely, because he gave glory to GOD. V. g.

Verse 23

Romans 4:23 . Δἰ ἀυτὸν , for his sake ) who was dead long before. ὃτι , that .

Δἰ ἡμας , for us ) who ought to be stirred up by the example of Abraham. V. g.

Verse 24

Romans 4:24 . Ἐγείραντα , Him, who raised up ) Comp. v. 17, quickening the dead . The faith of Abraham was directed to that, which was about to be, and which could come to pass, ours to that which has actually taken place; the faith of both, is directed to the Quickener [Him, who makes alive].

Παρεδόθη , was delivered ) so the LXX. Isaiah 53:12 , καὶ διὰ τὰς ἀνομίας ἀυτῶν παρεδόθη , and for their iniquities He was delivered up . God is not said to have inflicted death upon Chirst; although He inflicted on Him [put Him to] griefs; but [God is said] to have delivered up Christ, or else Christ is said to have died , ch. Romans 8:34 . I do not deny the fact itself, see Zechariah 13:7 ; but the phrases are moulded in such a way that they rather express that the passion was enjoined upon Christ by the Father, as also that the death was obediently endured by Christ to the utmost [‘exantlata;’ the cup of suffering to death drained to the dregs]. δικαίωσιν , justification ) a verbal noun, differing from δικαιοσύνη , righteousness . Faith flows from the resurrection of Christ, and so also does justification, Colossians 2:12 ; 1 Peter 1:21 . The ground on which our belief in God rests, is, that He has raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Yet this ground of belief does not impair the truth, that the obedience of Jesus Christ, and His own blood, is the source of our justification. See ch. Romans 3:25 , Romans 5:19 .

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Bibliographical Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Romans 4". Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.