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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Romans 3

Verse 1

What advantage then hath the Jew? (τ ουν το περισσον του Ιουδαιου?). Literally, "What then is the overplus of the Jew?" What does the Jew have over and above the Gentile? It is a pertinent question after the stinging indictment of the Jew in chapter 2.

The profit (η ωφελια). The help. Old word, only here in N.T. See Mark 8:36 for ωφελε, the verb to profit.

Verse 2

Much every way (πολυ κατα παντα). Πολυ points back to το περισσον. So it means the overplus of the Jew is much from every angle.

First of all (πρωτον μεν). As in Romans 1:8; 1 Corinthians 11:18 Paul does not add to his "first." He singles out one privilege of the many possessed by the Jew.

They were intrusted with (επιστευθησαν). First aorist passive indicative of πιστευω, to intrust, with accusative of the thing and dative of the person in the active. In the passive as here the accusative of the thing is retained as in 1 Thessalonians 2:4.

The oracles of God (τα λογια του θεου). In the accusative case, therefore, the object of επιστευθησαν. Λογιον is probably a diminutive of λογος, word, though the adjective λογιος also occurs (Acts 18:24). The word was early used for "oracles" from Delphi and is common in the LXX for the oracles of the Lord. But from Philo on it was used of any sacred writing including narrative. It occurs four times in the N.T. (Acts 7:38, which see; Romans 3:2; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 4:11). It is possible that here and in Acts 7:38 the idea may include all the Old Testament, though the commands and promises of God may be all.

Verse 3

For what if? (τ γαρ ει?). But Westcott and Hort print it, Τ γαρ? ε. See Philippians 1:18 for this exclamatory use of τ γαρ (for how? How stands the case?).

Some were without faith (ηπιστησαν). First aorist active indicative of απιστεω, old verb, to disbelieve. This is the common N.T. meaning (Luke 24:11; Luke 24:41; Acts 28:24; Romans 4:20). Some of them "disbelieved," these "depositaries and guardians of revelation" (Denney). But the word also means to be unfaithful to one's trust and Lightfoot argues for that idea here and in 2 Timothy 2:13. The Revised Version renders it "faithless" there. Either makes sense here and both ideas are true of some of the Jews, especially concerning the Messianic promises and Jesus.

The faithfulness of God (την πιστιν του θεου). Undoubtedly πιστις has this sense here and not "faith." God has been faithful (2 Timothy 2:13) whether the Jews (some of them) were simply disbelievers or untrue to their trust. Paul can use the words in two senses in verse Romans 3:3, but there is no real objection to taking ηπιστησαν, απιστιαν, πιστιν, all to refer to faithfulness rather than just faith.

Verse 4

Let God be found true (γινεσθω ο θεος αληθης). "Let God continue to be true" (present middle imperative).

But every man a liar (πας δε ανθρωπος ψευστης). The contrast in δε really means, "though every man be found a liar." Cf. Psalms 116:12.

As it is written (καθως γεγραπτα). Psalms 51:6.

That thou mightest be justified (οπως αν δικαιωθηις). Hοπως rather than the common ινα for purpose and αν with the first aorist passive subjunctive of δικαιοω. Used of God this verb here has to mean "declared righteous," not "made righteous."

Mightest prevail (νικησεις). Future active indicative with οπως of νικαω, to win a victory, though B L have νικησηις (first aorist active subjunctive, the usual construction).

When thou comest into judgement (εν τω κρινεσθα σε). "In the being judged as to thee" (present passive infinitive or, if taken as middle, "in the entering upon trial as to thee"). Common construction in the LXX from the Hebrew infinitive construct.

Verse 5

What shall we say? (τ ερουμεν?). Rhetorical question, common with Paul as he surveys the argument.

Commendeth (συνιστησιν). This common verb συνιστημ, to send together, occurs in the N.T. in two senses, either to introduce, to commend (2 Corinthians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 4:2) or to prove, to establish (2 Corinthians 7:11; Galatians 2:18; Romans 5:8). Either makes good sense here.

Who visiteth the wrath (ο επιφερων την οργην). "Who brings on the wrath," "the inflicter of the anger" (Vaughan).

I speak as a man (κατα ανθρωπον). See Galatians 3:15 for same phrase. As if to say, "pardon me for this line of argument." Tholuck says that the rabbis often used κατα ανθρωπον and τ ερουμεν. Paul had not forgotten his rabbinical training.

Verse 6

For then how (επε πως). There is a suppressed condition between επε and πως, an idiom occurring several times in the N.T. (1 Corinthians 15:29; Romans 11:6; Romans 11:22). "Since, if that were true, how."

Verse 7

Through my lie (εν τω εμω ψευσματ). ] Old word from ψευδομα, to lie, only here in N.T. Paul returns to the imaginary objection in verse Romans 3:5. The MSS. differ sharply here between ε δε (but if) and ε γαρ (for if). Paul "uses the first person from motives of delicacy" (Sanday and Headlam) in this supposable case for argument's sake as in 1 Corinthians 4:6. So here he "transfers by a fiction" (Field) to himself the objection.

Verse 8

And why not (κα μη). We have a tangled sentence which can be cleared up in two ways. One is (Lightfoot) to supply γενητα after μη and repeat τ (κα τ μη γενητα, deliberative subjunctive in a question): And why should it not happen? The other way (Sanday and Headlam) is to take μη with ποιησωμεν and make a long parenthesis of all in between. Even so it is confusing because οτ also (recitative οτ) comes just before ποιησωμεν. The parenthesis is necessary anyhow, for there are two lines of thought, one the excuse brought forward by the unbeliever, the other the accusation that Paul affirms that very excuse that we may do evil that good may come. Note the double indirect assertion (the accusative and the infinitive ημας λεγειν after φασιν and then the direct quotation with recitative οτ after λεγειν, a direct quotation dependent on the infinitive in indirect quotation.

Let us do evil that good may come (ποιησωμεν τα κακα ινα ελθη τα αγαθα). The volitive aorist subjunctive (ποιησωμεν) and the clause of purpose (ινα and the aorist subjunctive ελθη). It sounds almost uncanny to find this maxim of the Jesuits attributed to Paul in the first century by Jews. It was undoubtedly the accusation of Antinomianism because Paul preached justification by faith and not by works.

Verse 9

What then? (τ ουν?). Paul's frequent query, to be taken with verses Romans 3:1; Romans 3:2.

Are we in worse case than they? (προεχομεθα?). The American Revisers render it: "Are we in better case than they?" There is still no fresh light on this difficult and common word though it occurs alone in the N.T. In the active it means to have before, to excel. But here it is either middle or passive. Thayer takes it to be middle and to mean to excel to one's advantage and argues that the context demands this. But no example of the middle in this sense has been found. If it is taken as passive, Lightfoot takes it to mean, "Are we excelled" and finds that sense in Plutarch. Vaughan takes it as passive but meaning, "Are we preferred?" This suits the context, but no other example has been found. So the point remains unsettled. The papyri throw no light on it.

No, in no wise (ου παντως). "Not at all." See 1 Corinthians 5:10.

We before laid to the charge (προηιτιασαμεθα). First aorist middle indicative of προαιτιαομα, to make a prior accusation, a word not yet found anywhere else. Paul refers to Romans 1:18-32 for the Greeks and Romans 2:1-29 for the Jews. The infinitive εινα with the accusative παντας is in indirect discourse.

Under sin (υπο αμαρτιαν). See Galatians 3:22; Romans 7:14.

Verse 10

As it is written (καθως γεγραπτα οτ). Usual formula of quotation as in verse Romans 3:4 with recitative οτ added as in verse Romans 3:8. Paul here uses a catena or chain of quotations to prove his point in verse Romans 3:9 that Jews are in no better fix than the Greeks for all are under sin. Dr. J. Rendel Harris has shown that the Jews and early Christians had Testimonia (quotations from the Old Testament) strung together for certain purposes as proof-texts. Paul may have used one of them or he may have put these passages together himself. Verses Romans 3:10-12 come from Psalms 14:1-3; first half of Romans 3:13 as far as εδολιουσαν from Psalms 4:9, the second half from Psalms 140:3; verse Romans 3:14 from Psalms 10:7; Romans 3:15-17 from an abridgment of Isaiah 59:7; verse Romans 3:18 from Psalms 35:1. Paul has given compounded quotations elsewhere (2 Corinthians 6:16; Romans 9:25; Romans 9:27; Romans 11:26; Romans 11:34; Romans 12:19). Curiously enough this compounded quotation was imported bodily into the text (LXX) of Romans 3:14 after verse 4 in Aleph B, etc.

There is none righteous, no, not one (ουκ εστιν δικαιος ουδε εις). "There is not a righteous man, not even one." This sentence is like a motto for all the rest, a summary for what follows.

Verse 11

That understandeth (συνιων). Present active participle of συνιω, late omega form of verb συνιημ, to send together, to grasp, to comprehend. Some MSS. have the article ο before it as before εκζητων (seeking out).

Verse 12

They are together become unprofitable (αμα ηχρεωθησαν). First aorist passive indicative of αχρεοω. Late word in Polybius and Cilician inscription of first century A.D. Some MSS. read ηχρειωθησαν from αχρειος, useless (α privative and χρειος, useful) as in Luke 17:10; Matthew 25:30, but Westcott and Hort print as above from the rarer spelling αχρεος. Only here in N.T. The Hebrew word means to go bad, become sour like milk (Lightfoot).

No, not so much as one (ουκ εστιν εως ενος). "There is not up to one."

Verse 13

Throat (λαρυγξ). Old word, larynx.

Open sepulchre (ταφος ανεωιγμενος). Perfect passive participle of ανοιγω, "an opened grave." Their mouth (words) like the odour of a newly opened grave. "Some portions of Greek and Roman literature stink like a newly opened grave" (Shedd).

They have used deceit (εδολιουσαν). Imperfect (not perfect or aorist as the English implies) active of δολιοω, only in LXX and here in the N.T. from the common adjective δολιος, deceitful (2 Corinthians 11:13). The regular form would be εδολιουν. The -οσαν ending for third plural in imperfect and aorist was once thought to be purely Alexandrian because so common in the LXX, but it is common in the Boeotian and Aeolic dialects and occurs in ειχοσαν in the N.T. (John 15:22; John 15:24). "They smoothed their tongues" in the Hebrew.

Poison (ιος). Old word both for rust (James 5:3) and poison (James 3:8).

Of asps (ασπιδων). Common word for round bowl, shield, then the Egyptian cobra (a deadly serpent). Often in LXX. Only here in the N.T. The poison of the asp lies in a bag under the lips (χειλη), often in LXX, only here in N.T. Genitive case after γεμε (is full).

Verse 15

To shed (εκχεα). First aorist active infinitive of εκχεω, to pour out, old verb with aorist active εξεχεα.

Verse 16

Destruction (συντριμμα). Rare word from συντριβω, to rub together, to crush. In Leviticus 21:19 for fracture and so in papyri. Only here in N.T.

Misery (ταλαιπωρια). Common word from ταλαιπωρος (Romans 7:24), only here in the N.T.

Verse 17

The way of peace (οδον ειρηνης). Wherever they go they leave a trail of woe and destruction (Denney).

Verse 18

Before (απεναντ). Late double compound (απο, εν, αντ) adverbial preposition in LXX and Polybius, papyri and inscriptions. With genitive as here.

Verse 19

That every mouth may be stopped (ινα παν στομα φραγη). Purpose clause with ινα and second aorist passive subjunctive of φρασσω, old verb to fence in, to block up. See 2 Corinthians 11:10. Stopping mouths is a difficult business. See Titus 1:11 where Paul uses επιστομιζειν (to stop up the mouth) for the same idea. Paul seems here to be speaking directly to Jews (τοις εν τω νομω), the hardest to convince. With the previous proof on that point he covers the whole ground for he made the case against the Gentiles in Romans 1:18-32.

May be brought under the judgement of God (υποδικος γενητα τω θεω). "That all the world (Jew as well as Gentile) may become (γενητα) answerable (υποδικος, old forensic word, here only in N.T.) to God (dative case τω θεω)." Every one is "liable to God," in God's court.

Verse 20

Because (διοτ, again, δια, οτ).

By the works of the law (εξ εργων νομου). "Out of works of law." Mosaic law and any law as the source of being set right with God. Paul quotes Psalms 43:2 as he did in Galatians 2:16 to prove his point.

The knowledge of sin (επιγνωσις αμαρτιας). The effect of law universally is rebellion to it (1 Corinthians 15:56). Paul has shown this carefully in Galatians 3:19-22. Cf. Hebrews 10:3. He has now proven the guilt of both Gentile and Jew.

Verse 21

But now apart from the law (νυν δε χωρις νομου). He now (νυν emphatic logical transition) proceeds carefully in verses Romans 3:21-31 the

nature of the God-kind of righteousness which stands manifested (δικαιοσυνη θεου πεφανερωτα, perfect passive indicative of φανεροω, to make manifest), the

necessity of which he has shown in Romans 1:18-3. This God kind of righteousness is "apart from law" of any kind and all of grace (χαριτ) as he will show in verse Romans 3:24. But it is not a new discovery on the part of Paul, but "witnessed by the law and the prophets" (μαρτυρουμενη, present passive participle, υπο του νομου κα των προφητων), made plain continuously by God himself.

Verse 22

Even (δε). Not adversative here. It defines here.

Through faith in Jesus Christ (δια πιστεως [Ιησου] Χριστου). Intermediate agency (δια) is faith and objective genitive, "in Jesus Christ," not subjective "of Jesus Christ," in spite of Haussleiter's contention for that idea. The objective nature of faith in Christ is shown in Galatians 2:16 by the addition εις Χριστον Ιησουν επιστευσαμεν (we believed in Christ), by της εις Χριστον πιστεως υμων (of your faith in Christ) in Colossians 2:5, by εν πιστε τη εν Χριστω Ιησου (in faith that in Christ Jesus) in 1 Timothy 3:13, as well as here by the added words "unto all them that believe" (εις παντας τους πιστευοντας) in Jesus, Paul means.

Distinction (διαστολη). See on 1 Corinthians 14:7 for the difference of sounds in musical instruments. Also in Romans 10:12. The Jew was first in privilege as in penalty (Romans 2:9), but justification or setting right with God is offered to both on the same terms.

Verse 23

Sinned (ηρμαρτον). Constative second aorist active indicative of αμαρτανω as in Romans 5:12. This tense gathers up the whole race into one statement (a timeless aorist).

And fall short (κα υστερουντα). Present middle indicative of υστερεω, to be υστερος (comparative) too late, continued action, still fall short. It is followed by the ablative case as here, the case of separation.

Verse 24

Being justified (δικαιουμενο). Present passive participle of δικαιοω, to set right, repeated action in each case, each being set right.

Freely (δωρεαν). As in Galatians 2:21.

By his grace (τη αυτου χαριτ). Instrumental case of this wonderful word χαρις which so richly expresses Paul's idea of salvation as God's free gift.

Through the redemption (δια της απολυτρωσεως). A releasing by ransom (απο, λυτρωσις from λυτροω and that from λυτρον, ransom). God did not set men right out of hand with nothing done about men's sins. We have the words of Jesus that he came to give his life a ransom (λυτρον) for many (Mark 10:45; Matthew 20:28). Λυτρον is common in the papyri as the purchase-money in freeing slaves (Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, pp. 327f.).

That is in Christ Jesus (τη εν Χριστω Ιησου). There can be no mistake about this redemption. It is like John 3:16.

Verse 25

Set forth (προεθετο). Second aorist middle indicative. See on Romans 1:13 for this word. Also in Ephesians 1:9, but nowhere else in N.T. God set before himself (purposed) and did it publicly before (προ) the whole world.

A propitiation (ιλαστηριον). The only other N.T. example of this word is in Hebrews 9:5 where we have the "cherubim overshadowing the mercy seat" (το ιλαστηριον). In Hebrews the adjective is used as a substantive or as "the propitiatory place " But that idea does not suit here. Deissmann (Bible Studies, pp. 124-35) has produced examples from inscriptions where it is used as an adjective and as meaning "a votive offering" or "propitiatory gift." Hence he concludes about Romans 3:25: "The crucified Christ is the votive gift of the Divine Love for the salvation of men." God gave his Son as the means of propitiation (1 John 2:2). Hιλαστηριον is an adjective (ιλαστηριος) from ιλασκομα, to make propitiation (Hebrews 2:17) and is kin in meaning to ιλασμος, propitiation (1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10). There is no longer room for doubting its meaning in Romans 3:25.

Through faith, by his blood (δια πιστεως εν τω αυτου αιματ). So probably, connecting εν το αιματ (in his blood) with προεθετο.

To show his righteousness (εις ενδειξιν της δικαιοσυνης αυτου). See 2 Corinthians 8:24. "For showing of his righteousness," the God-kind of righteousness. God could not let sin go as if a mere slip. God demanded the atonement and provided it.

Because of the passing over (δια την παρεσιν). Late word from παριημ, to let go, to relax. In Dionysius Hal., Xenophon, papyri (Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 266) for remission of punishment, especially for debt, as distinct from αφεσις (remission).

Done aforetime (προγεγονοτων). Second perfect active genitive participle of προγινομα. The sins before the coming of Christ (Acts 14:16; Acts 17:30; Hebrews 9:15).

Forbearance (ανοχη). Holding back of God as in Romans 2:4. In this sense Christ tasted death for every man (Hebrews 2:9).

Verse 26

For the shewing (προς την ενδειξιν). Repeats point of εις ενδειξιν of Romans 3:25 with προς instead of εις.

At this present season (εν τω νυν καιρω). "In the now crisis," in contrast with "done aforetime."

That he might himself be (εις το εινα αυτον). Purpose with εις to and the infinitive εινα and the accusative of general reference.

Just and the justifier of (δικαιον κα δικαιουντα). "This is the key phrase which establishes the connexion between the δικαιοσυνη θεου and the δικαιοσυνη εκ πιστεως" (Sanday and Headlam). Nowhere has Paul put the problem of God more acutely or profoundly. To pronounce the unrighteous righteous is unjust by itself (Romans 4:5). God's mercy would not allow him to leave man to his fate. God's justice demanded some punishment for sin. The only possible way to save some was the propitiatory offering of Christ and the call for faith on man's part.

Verse 27

It is excluded (εξεκλεισθη). First aorist (effective) passive indicative. "It is completely shut out." Glorying is on man's part.

Nay; but by a law of faith (ουχι, αλλα δια νομου πιστεως). Strong negative, and note "law of faith," by the principle of faith in harmony with God's love and grace.

Verse 28

We reckon therefore (λογιζομεθα ουν). Present middle indicative. Westcott and Hort read γαρ instead of ουν. "My fixed opinion" is. The accusative and infinitive construction occurs after λογιζομεθα here. On this verb λογιζομα, see Romans 2:3; Romans 4:3; Romans 8:18; Romans 14:14. Paul restates verses Romans 3:21.

Verse 29

Of Gentiles also (κα εθνων). Jews overlooked it then and some Christians do now.

Verse 30

If so be that God is one (ειπερ εις ο θεος). Correct text rather than επειπερ. It means "if on the whole." "By a species of rhetorical politeness it is used of that about which there is no doubt" (Thayer. Cf. 1 Corinthians 8:5; 1 Corinthians 15:15; Romans 8:9.

By faith (εκ πιστεως). "Out of faith," springing out of.

Through faith (δια της πιστεως). "By means of the faith" (just mentioned). Εκ denotes source, δια intermediate agency or attendant circumstance.

Verse 31

Nay, we establish the law (αλλα νομον ιστανομεν). Present indicative active of late verb ιστανω from ιστημ. This Paul hinted at in verse Romans 3:21. How he will show in chapter 4 how Abraham himself is an example of faith and in his life illustrates the very point just made. Besides, apart from Christ and the help of the Holy Spirit no one can keep God's law. The Mosaic law is only workable by faith in Christ.

Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Romans 3". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/romans-3.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.