Romans 2
Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.
1.] The address passes gradually to the Jews. They were the people who judged—who pronounced all Gentiles to be born in sin and under condemnation:—doubtless there were also proud and censorious men among the Gentiles, to whom the rebuke might apply, but these are hardly in the Apostle’s mind. This is evident by comparing τὰ γὰρ αὐτὰ πράσσεις ὁ κρίνων with vv. 21-23, where the same charge is implied in a direct address to the Jew.

διό, on account of this δικαίωμα θεοῦ decreeing death against the doers of these things—for thou doest them thyself. Therefore thy setting thyself up as a judge, is unjustifiable.

πᾶς ὁ κρίνων] The Jew is not yet named, but hinted at (see above): not in order to conciliate the Jews (Rückert), but on account of the as yet purposely general form of the argument. This verse is in fact the major of a syllogism, the minor of which follows, vv. 17-20, where the position here declared to be unjustifiable, is asserted to be assumed by the Jew.

ἐν ᾧ …] For wherein (not ‘in that’), as E. V.—i.e. ‘in the matter in which.’

2.] οἴδ. δέ, ‘atqui scimus’—now we know.

κατὰ ἀλ.] according to truth, as E. V., De Wette:—not, ‘truly,’ ‘revera’ (as Raphel, &c.)—for οἴδαμεν, on which the emphasis is, implies certain knowledge. Nor does κατὰ ἀλ. belong to κρῖμα, ‘judgment according to truth’ (as Olsh.),—but to ἐστίν, is, (proceeds) according to justice (John 8:16).

3.] Here he approximates nearer to the Jews. They considered that because they were the children of Abraham they should be saved, see Matthew 3:7, Matthew 3:9.

τοῦτο, viz. ὅτι σὺ ἐκφ., following.

σύ has the emphasis on it, thou thyself,—‘thou above all others.’

4.] ἤ, or (introducing a new error or objection, see ch. 3:29; 6:3; 11:2), ‘inasmuch as God spares thee day by day (see Ecclesiastes 8:11), dost thou set light by His long-suffering, ignorant that His intent in it is to lead thee to repentance?’

πλούτου,—a favourite word with the Apostle (see reff.),—the fulness, ‘abundance.’

χρηστ., as shewn by His ἀνοχή and μακροθ. (reff.)

ἀγνοῶν, not knowing,—being blind to the truth, that … Grot., Thol., al. would render it ‘not considering:’ but as De Wette remarks, it is a wilful and guilty ignorance, not merely an inconsiderateness, which is blamed in the question.

ἄγει, is leading thee: this is its intent and legitimate course, which thy blindness will frustrate, ‘Malo deducit quam invitat; quia illud plus quiddam significat. Neque tamen pro adigere accipio, sed pro manu ducere.’ Calvin.

5.] I am inclined with Lachmann to regard the question as continued. If not, the responsive contrast to the question in ver. 4 would begin more emphatically than with κατὰ δὲ …; it would be σὺ δὲ κατὰ.… or θησαυρίζεις δὲ σεαυτῷ κατὰ.… But the enquiry loses itself in the digressive clauses following, and no where comes pointedly to an end. I have therefore not placed a mark of interrogation at ἄγει or at θεοῦ, as Lachm. does,—but have left the construction to explain itself.

κατά] not, ‘in proportion to’ (Meyer), but as E. V. after, ‘in consonance with,’ ‘secundum,’—describing the state out of which the action springs: see ver. 7, καθʼ ὑπομονήν.

ἀμεταν.] not admitting that μετάνοια to which God is leading thee.

ἐν ἡμέρᾳ, not for, nor = εἰς ἡμέραν, nor should it be rendered ‘against the day,’ as E. V. I need hardly remind any accurate scholar, that such an interpretation as ‘ἐν for εἰς’ is no where to be tolerated. It belongs to ὀργήν,—wrath in the day of wrath, ‘wrath which shall come upon thee in that day,’—not to θησαυρίζεις, imagining which has led to the mistake. The ἡμέρα ὀργῆς is the day of judgment, viewed in its relation to sinners: see reff.

ἀποκαλ. δικαιοκρ.] the manifestation (public enforcement, it having been before latent though determined) of God’s righteous judgment. The reading ἀποκ. καὶ δικαιοκρ. would mean, ‘the appearance (reff.) of God, and his righteous judgment,’—not referring merely to the detection of men’s hearts, as Origen, Theophyl., Rückert. But the reading is not strongly upheld, nor is it according to the mode of speaking in the argument—see ch. 1:17, 18.

6, 7.] This retribution must be carefully kept in its place in the argument. The Apostle is here speaking generally, of the general system of God in governing the world,—the judging according to each man’s works—punishing the evil, and rewarding the righteous. No question at present arises, how this righteousness in God’s sight is to be obtained—but the truth is only stated broadly at present, to be further specified by and by, when it is clearly shewn that by ἔργα νόμου no flesh can be justified before God. The neglect to observe this has occasioned two mistakes: (1) an idea that by this passage it is proved that not faith only, but works also in some measure, justify before God (so Toletus in Pool’s Syn.), and (2) an idea (Tholuck 1st edn. and Köllner) that by ἔργου ἀγαθοῦ here is meant faith in Christ. However true it be, so much is certainly not meant here, but merely the fact, that every where, and in all, God punishes evil, and rewards good.

7, 8. τοῖς μὲν καθʼ ὑπ.… ὀργὴ κ. θυμός] To those who by endurance in good works seek for glory and honour and immortality (will He render) eternal life: but to those who are (men) of self-seeking, and disobey the truth, but obey iniquity (shall accrue) anger and wrath, &c. The verb ἀποδώσει, ver. 6, should have two accusatives, representing the two sides of the final retribution,—ζωὴν αἰών. and ὀργήν, &c. But the second of these is changed to a nominative and connected with ἔσται understood, and made the first member of the following sentence, δόξα δὲ κ.τ.λ. being opposed to it. Thus also two datives belong to ἀποδώσει, viz. τοῖς.… ζητοῦσιν,—and τοῖς … ἀδικίᾳ. To ζητοῦσιν belong δόξ. κ. τιμ. κ. ἀφθ. as its accusatives, and καθʼ ὑπομ. ἔργ. ἀγ. as its adverb. This, as De Wette remarks, is the only admissible construction: in opposition to (α) Œcum. and Beza, who divide ἔργ. ἀγ. from καθʼ ὑπομ. (iis quidem qui secundum patientem expectationem quœrunt boni operis gloriam),—(β) Bengel, Knapp, Fritzsche, Olsh., and Krehl, who take τοῖς.… ἀγαθοῦ as meaning ‘those who endure in good works’ (as Œ does τοῖς καθʼ ὑπομ. those who endure, absol.), and δόξαν.… ζητοῦσιν, as in apposition with it,—(γ) Photius (in Œcum.), Luther, and Estius, who take it, τοῖς.… ζητοῦσιν ζωὴν αἰών.,—δόξαν κ.τ.λ.,—(δ) Reiche, who takes τοῖς μέν,—‘to the one,’—alone, and makes καθʼ ὑπομ. parallel to κατὰ τὰ ἔργα, representing the rule of judgment, taking the rest as (γ).

ἔργου, sing. of moral habitude in the whole, the general course of life and action (see reff.).

δόξαν, absolute imparted glory like His own, see Matthew 13:43; John 17:22:—τιμήν, recognition, relative precedence, see Matthew 10:32; Matthew 25:34:—ἀφθαρσίαν, incorruptibility: so the aim of the Christian athlete is described, 1Corinthians 9:25, as being to obtain στέφανον ἄφθαρτον.

8. τοῖς δὲ ἐξ ἐριθείας] as in reff., to be supplied by οὖσιν, those who live in, act from, are situated in and do their deeds from—ἐριθεία as a status, as οἱ ἐξ spoken of place.

ἐριθεία,—not from ἔρις, from which it is distinguished 2Corinthians 12:20; Galatians 5:20, but from ἔρῑθος, a hired workman, whence ἐριθεύω or -ομαι, properly ‘to work for hire,’ but met. and generally, ‘ambitum exercere,’ used principally of official persons, who seek their own purposes in the exercise of their office, and (according to the analogy of παιδεία from παιδεύω, δουλεία from δουλεύω, ἀλαζονεία from ἀλαζονεύομαι) ἐριθεία, ‘ambitus,’ ‘self-seeking,’ ‘greed.’ It stands opposed to ὑπομονὴ ἔργου ἀγαθοῦ, which requires self-denial and forbearance. There seems to be no reason why this, the proper meaning, should not here apply, without seeking for a more far-fetched one, as ‘the party spirit of the Jews.’ Rückert.

The mistake of rendering it ‘contentiousness,’ and imagining a derivation from ἔρις prevailed universally (, Chrys., Theodoret, Theophyl., Œcum., (ἠριθεύετο, ἐφιλονείκει), Vulg., Erasm., Grot., &c., and even the more recent English Commentators, Bloomf., Slade, and Peile, τοῖς ἐξ ἐριθείας, i.e. τοῖς ἐρίζουσι) according to De Wette, down to Rückert, who first suggested the true derivation. It appears to have arisen from ἐρεθίζω being somewhat similar in sound. Aristotle uses it in the sense of ‘ambitus,’ canvassing for office, in Polit. v. 3,—μεταβάλλουσι δὲ αἱ πολιτεῖαι καὶ ἄνευ στάσεως διά τε τὰς ἐριθείας, ὥσπερ ἐν Ἡραίᾳ· ἐξ αἱρετῶν γὰρ διὰ τοῦτο ἐποίησαν κληρωτάς, ὅτι ᾑροῦντο τοὺς ἐριθευομένους. Fritzsche, who has an excursus on the word, renders οἱ ἐξ ἐριθ.,—‘malitiosi fraudum machinatores.’ Ignatius, ad Philad. § 8, p.704, opposes ἐριθ. to χριστομαθία. On the whole, self-seeking seems best to lay hold of the idea of the word: see note on Philippians 1:16, Philippians 1:17.

ἀπειθ. μ. τῇ ἀλ.] Hindering (see ch. 1:18) the truth which they possess from working, by self-abandonment to iniquity.

ὀργὴ κ. θυμός] According to this arrangement (see var. readd.) the former word denotes the abiding, settled mind of God towards them (ἡ ὀργὴ τ. θεοῦ μένει ἐπʼ αὐτόν, John 3:36),—and the latter, the outbreak of that anger at the great day of retribution. So the grammarians: θυμὸς μέν ἐστι πρόσκαιρος (excandescentia, as Cicero)· ὀργὴ δὲ πολυχρόνιος μνησικακία, Ammon. See the same further brought out by Tittmann, Syn. i. p. 131.

9. θλῖψ. κ. στεν.] An expression from the LXX (see reff.): the former signifying more the outward weight of objective infliction,—the latter the subjective feeling of the pressure. It is possible, in the case of the suffering Christian, for the former to exist without the latter: so 2Corinthians 4:8, ἐν παντὶ θλιβόμενοι, ἀλλʼ οὐ στενοχωρούμενοι. But here the objective weight of infliction and the subjective weight of anguish, are co-existent.

ἐπὶ πᾶσαν ψ. ἀνθ.] probably a periphrasis for the sake of emphasis and solemnity. Had it been (as Fritzsche and Meyer) to indicate that the soul is the suffering part of the man (nearly so Olsh.), it should have been as De W. observes, ἐπὶ ψυχὴν παντὸς ἀνθρ., or ἐπὶ πᾶσαν ψυχὴν ἀνθρώπων (see reff.).

κατεργ.] κατεργάζομαι and ἐργάζομαι seem to have but this slight difference,—that κατεργάζομαι, answering rather to our ‘commit,’ is more naturally used of evil, as manifested and judged of by separate acts among men, whereas ἐργάζομαι, answering to our ‘work,’ is used indifferently of both good and evil. That this is not always kept to, see reff., especially ch. 7:18, and Plato Legg. iii. p. 686, end, in both which places, however, definite acts are spoken of. The pres. part. denotes the status or habit of the man.

Ἰουδ. τε πρῶτον] Because the Jew has so much greater advantages, and better opportunities of knowing the divine will: and, therefore, pre-eminent responsibility.

10. εἰρήνη] Here in its highest and most glorious sense, see reff.

11.] This remark serves as the transition to what follows, not merely as the confirmation of what went before. As to what preceded, it asserts that though the Jew has had great advantages, he shall be justly judged for his use of them, not treated as a favourite of Heaven: as to what follows, it introduces a comparison between him and the Gentile to shew how fairly he will be, for those greater advantages, regarded as πρῶτος in responsibility. And thus we gradually (see note on ver. 1) pass to the direct comparison between him and the Gentile, and consideration of his state.

12-16.] The justice of a general judgment of all, but according to the advantages of each.

12. ὅσοι γ. ἀνόμως.…] For as many as have sinned without (the) law (of Moses): shall also perish without (the) law (of Moses): i.e. it shall not appear against them in judgment. Whether that will ameliorate their case, is not even hinted,—but only the fact, as consonant with God’s justice, stated. That this is the meaning of ἀνόμως is clear from 1Corinthians 9:21. That even these have sinned against a νόμος, is presently (ver. 14) shewn. Chrys. says (Hom. vi. p. 466),.… ὁ μὲν γὰρ Ἕλλην ἀνόμως κρίνεται· τὸ δὲ ἀνόμως ἐνταῦθα οὐ τὸ χαλεπώτερον, ἀλλὰ τὸ ἡμερώτερον λέγει· (this is perhaps saying too much, see above) τουτέστιν, οὐκ ἔχει κατηγοροῦντα τὸν νόμον. τὸ γὰρ ἀνόμως τοῦτʼ ἐστι, χωρὶς τῆς ἐξ ἐκείνου κατακρίσεως, φησίν, ἀπὸ τῶν τῆς φύσεως λογισμῶν καταδικάζεται μόνων. ὁ δὲ Ἰουδαῖος, ἐννόμως, τουτέστι, μετὰ τῆς φύσεως καὶ τοῦ νόμου κατηγοροῦντος· ὅσῳ γάρ πλείονος ἀπήλαυσεν ἐπιμελείας, τοσούτῳ μείζονα δώσει δίκην.

καί (De W.) serves to range ἀπολ., as well as ἥμαρτ. under the common condition ἀνόμως: As many as without the law have sinned, without the law shall also perish.

ἀπολοῦνται, the result of the judgment on them, rather than κριθήσονται, its process, because the absence of the law would thus seem as if it were the rule by which they are to be judged,—whereas it is only an accident of that judgment, which depends on other considerations.

ἐν νόμῳ, under (in, as a status) the (Mosaic) law; not ‘a law,’ which would make the sentence a truism: it is on that very undeniable assumption, ‘that all who have had a law given shall be judged by that law,’ that the Apostle constructs his argument, asserting it with regard to the Mosaic law in the case of the Jews, and proving that the Gentiles have had a law given to them in the testimony of their consciences. As to the omission of the article, no inference can be drawn, as the word follows a preposition: see ver. 23, where ἐν νόμῳ unquestionably means ‘in the law of Moses.’ Besides, these verses are no general assertions concerning men who have, and men who have not, a law revealed (for all have one), but a statement of the case as concerning Jews and Gentiles.

νόμος, throughout, signifies the law of Moses, even though anarthrous, in every place, except where the absence of the article corresponds to a logical indefiniteness, as e.g. ἑαυτοῖς εἰσιν νόμος, ver. 14: and even there not ‘a law:’ see note. And I hope to shew that it is never thus anarthrously used as = ὁ νόμος, except where usage will account for such omission of the article.

διὰ νόμ. κριθ.] Now, shall be judged by the law: for that will furnish the measure and rule by which judgment will proceed.

13.] This is to explain to the Jew the fact, that not his mere hearing of the law read in the synagogue (= his being by birth and privilege a Jew) will justify him before God, but (still keeping to general principles and not touching as yet on the impossibility of being thus justified) the doing of the law.

τοῦ has been apparently inserted in both cases in the later mss. from seeing that νόμος was indisputably the law of Moses, and stumbling at the unusual expression οἱ ἀκροαταὶ νόμου. But the οἱ in both cases is generic, and ἀκροατὴς-νόμου, ποιητὴς-νόμου (almost as one word in each case), ‘a hearer-of-the-law,’ a ‘doer-of-the-law.’ So that the correct English for οἱ ἀκροαταὶ νόμου is hearers of the law, and for οἱ ποιηταὶ νόμου, doers of the law. It is obvious, that with the omission of the τοῦ in both places, the whole elaborate and ingenious criticism built by Bp. Middleton on its use, falls to the ground. (See Middleton, Gr. Art. in loc.) His dictum, that such an expression as οἱ ἀκροαταὶ νόμου is inadmissible, will hardly in our day be considered as deciding the matter.

14.] ἔθνη, the Gentiles [in general]; see ch. 3:29; 11:13; 15:10, 12. In this place, ἔθνη τὰ μὴ νόμ. ἔχοντα is the only way in which the sense required could be expressed, for τὰ ἔθνη τὰ μὴ ν. ἔχ., would mean ‘those Gentiles who have not the law,’ as also would ἔθνη μὴ νόμον ἔχ., whereas the meaning clearly is, the Gentiles not having the law.

νόμον] Again, ‘the law,’ viz. of Moses. A law, they have; see below.

φύσει, by nature, τοῖς φυσικοῖς ἑπόμενα λογισμοῖς, Schol. in Matthaï.

τὰ τοῦ νόμου π.] do things pertaining to the law [i.e. the things about which the law is concerned], e.g. abstain from stealing, or killing, or adultery. But it by no means follows that the Apostle means that the Gentiles could fulfil the law, do the things, i.e. all the things enjoined by the law (as De Wette): he argues that a conscientious Gentile, who knows not the law, does, when he acts in accordance with requirements of the law, so far set up the (see below on the art.) law to himself.

τὰ τοῦ νόμου is interpreted by Beza, Wetst., and Elsner, ‘that which the law does,’ i.e. make sanctions and prohibitions: but this can hardly be.

The Apostle does not deny certain virtues to the Gentiles, but maintains the inefficiency of those, and all other virtues, towards man’s salvation.

ἑαυτοῖς εἰσιν νόμος] are to themselves (so far) the law, not ‘a law,’ for a law may be just or unjust, God’s law or man’s law: there is but one law of God, partly written in men’s consciences, more plainly manifested in the law of Moses, and fully revealed in Jesus Christ. The art. could not have been here used without stultifying the sentence by distributing the predicate, making the conscientious heathen to be to himself the whole of the law, instead of ‘the law, so far as he did the works of the law.’ Cf. Aristot. Eth. iv. 14, ὁ δὲ χαρίεις κ. ἐλευθέριος οὕτως ἕξει οἷον νόμος ὢν ἑαυτῷ.

15.] ἐνδείκν., by their conduct shew forth,—give an example of.

τὸ ἔργ. τοῦ νόμου = τὰ τοῦ νόμου above: but sing. as applying to each of the particular cases supposed in the ὅταν.… ποιῶσιν. If it had here been τὰ ἔργα τοῦ νόμου, it might have been understood to mean the whole works of the law, which the indefinite ὅταν prevents above.

γραπτὸν ἐν τ. κ. αὐτ.] Alluding to the tables of stone on which the law was written: see a similar figure 2Corinthians 3:3.

συμμαρτ. αὐτ. τ. συνειδ.] This is a new argument, not a mere continuation of the ἔνδειξις above. Besides their giving this example by actions consonant with the law, their own conscience, reflecting on the thing done, bears witness to it as good.

συμμ., not merely = μαρτ., as Grot., Thol., nor = una testatur, viz. as well as their practice,—but confirming by its testimony, the συν signifying the agreement of the witness with the deed, as con in contestari, confirmare:—perhaps also the συν may be partly induced by the συν in συνειδήσεως,—referring to the reflective process, in which a man confers, so to speak, with himself.

καὶ μετ. ἀλλ. κ.τ.λ.] and their thoughts (judgments or reflections, the self-judging voices of the conscience, which being corrupted by sinful desires are often divided) among one another (i.e. thought against thought in inner strife) accusing, or perhaps excusing (these two participles are absolute, describing the office of these judgments,—and nothing need be supplied, as ‘them,’ or ‘their deeds’). Notice the similarity of this strife of conscience, and its testimony, as here described, to the higher and more detailed form of the same conflict in the Christian man, ch. 7:16.

16.] To what has this verse reference? Hardly to that just preceding, which surely speaks of a process going on in this life (so however Chrys. takes it. See also a fine passage in Bourdaloue’s Sermons, Vol. i. Serm. ii. p. 27, ed. Paris, 1854): nor, as commonly assumed, to κριθήσονται (ver. 12), which only terminates one in a series of clauses connected by γάρ:—but to the great affirmation of the passage, concluding with ver. 10. To this it is bound, it appears to me, by the τὰ κρυπτὰ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, answering to πᾶσαν ψυχὴν ἀνθρώπου, ver. 9. This affirmation is the last sentence which has been in the dogmatic form:—after it we have a series of quasi-parenthetic clauses οὐ γάρ—ὅσοι γάρ—οὐ γάρ—ὅταν γάρ; i.e., the reasons, necessitated by the startling assertion, are one after another given, and, that having been done, the time is specified when the great retribution shall take place.

κατὰ τὸ εὐαγγ. μου] See reff.

according to (not belonging to κρινεῖ as the rule of judgment, but to the whole declaration, ‘as taught in,’ ‘as forming part of’) the Gospel entrusted to me to teach.

διὰ Ἰης. χρ.] by Jesus Christ, viz. as the Judge—see John 5:22:—belongs to κρινεῖ. See also Acts 17:31.

17-24.] The pride of the Jews in their law and their God contrasted with their disobedience to God and the law.

17. εἰ δέ] This has been in the later mss. changed into ἰδέ, apparently to avoid the anacoluthon, or perhaps merely by mistake originally. The anacoluthon, however, is more apparent than real. It is only produced by the resumption of the thread of the sentence with οὖν, ver. 21. Omit (in the sense) only that word, and all proceeds regularly—‘But if thou art denominated a Jew, and &c.…, thou that teachest thy neighbour, dost thou not teach thyself?’ &c. The εἰ δὲ σύ carries on the apostrophe from ver. 5, since when it has been broken off by reference to the great day of retribution and its rule of judgment; the σύ identifies the person addressed here as the same indicated by the σου and σεαυτῷ there, and by ὦ ἄνθρωπε in ver. 1. Thus the Apostle by degrees sets in his place as a Jew the somewhat indefinite object of his remonstrances hitherto,—and reasons with him as such.

ἐπον.] No stress on ἐπ-,—art named, ‘denominated,’—‘hast the name put on thee;’ see reff.

ἐπαναπ.] Used of false trust, see reff.

The τῷ of the rec. has been inserted in the later mss. before νόμῳ, because it here clearly applied to the ‘law of Moses,’ and the absence of the article gave offence. It is omitted, because ‘the law’ is not here distributed—it is not the law itself in its entirety, which is meant, but the fact of having or of knowing the law:—the strict way of expressing it would perhaps be, ‘in the fact of possessing a law,’ which condensed into our less accurate English, would be in one word, in the law: viz. ‘which thou possessest.’

καυχ. ἐν θ.] viz. ‘as thy Covenant God:’ ‘as being peculiarly thine.’

18. γιν. τὸ θέλ.] θεός having been just mentioned, it is left to be inferred that θέλημα refers to Him.

δοκιμ. τ. διαφ.] provest (in the sense of sifting and coming to a conclusion on) things which differ,—ἐναντία ἀλλήλοις, δικαιοσύνην κ. ἀδικίαν, κ.τ.λ. Theod. κρίνεις τί δεῖ πρᾶξαι κ. τί μὴ δεῖ πρᾶξαι, Theophylact. The Vulg. ‘probas utiliora,’ and E. V. ‘approvest the things that are more excellent,’ is somewhat flat in meaning, and not so applicable.

κατηχ. ἐκ τοῦ νόμ.] being (habitually, not in youth only,—force of pres.) instructed (not merely catechetically but didactically, in the synagogues, &c.) out of the law (τοῦ νόμου, though after a preposition—because the law is distributed—it is the book of the law, the law itself, out of which the κατήχησις takes place).

19.] πέποιθας, sometimes with ἑαυτῷ or ἐφʼ ἑαυτῷ (see Luke 18:9), and sometimes with ὅτι (Luke, ib.; Galatians 5:10; Philippians 2:24; Hebrews 13:18),—regardest thyself as,—art confident in thyself as being.

ὁδηγὸν τυφλ.] We can hardly say with Olsh., that the Apostle undoubtedly refers to the saying of our Lord, Matthew 15:14—but rather that both that saying and this were allusive to a title ‘leaders of the blind’ given to themselves by the Pharisees, with which Paul as a Pharisee would be familiar. Similarly, the following titles may have been well-known and formal expressions of Jewish pride with reference to those who were without the covenant.

20.] μόρφωσιν, not the mere apparent likeness (Theophylact, &c.), but the real representation. The law, as far as it went, was a reflexion of the holiness and character of God. Hardly so much is here meant (Olsh.), as that the law contained a foreshadowing of Christ,—for the Apostle is speaking now more of moral truth and knowledge, by which a rule of judgment is set up, sufficient to condemn the Jew as well as the Gentile. But after all, this clause (ἔχοντα … νόμῳ) is not to be pressed as declaring a fact, but taken subjectively with regard to the Jew, after πέποιθας, and understood of his estimate of the law.

ἐν τῷ νόμῳ, because the book of the law, the whole law, is denoted.

[21.] “And now the righteous rebuke may no longer be restrained. Such advantages and such pretensions ought undoubtedly to be followed and justified by a corresponding course of holy conduct.” Ewbank.]

22. ὁ βδελ. τὰ εἴδ. ἱεροσυλεῖς] The contrast here must be maintained; which it will not be if we understand ἱεροσυλεῖς of robbing the temple of God of offerings destined for him (Jos. Antt. xviii. 3, Antt. xviii.4). And τὰ εἴδωλα leads into the kind of robbery which is meant. Thou who abhorrest idols, dost thou rob their temples? That it was necessary to vindicate Jews from such a charge, appears from Acts 19:37: and Jos.Antt. iv. 8.10 gives as a law, μὴ συλᾷν ἱερὰ ξενικά, μηδʼ ἂν ἐπωνομασμένον ᾖ τινι θεῷ κειμήλιον λαμβάνειν.

23.] ἐν νόμῳ, see above (ver. 17) for the omission of the art.—but it is not διὰ παραβάσεως νόμου, because a παράβασις is τοῦ νόμου, the law being broken as a whole (see James 2:10: and on παραβάτης νόμου below, ver. 25). And τῆς παρ. τ. νόμ., is thy breaking of the law.

This question comprehends the previous ones.

24.] ‘For what is written in the prophet Isaiah [also in Ezekiel, 36:20, 36:23], is no less true now of you:’ ‘the fact is so, as it is written.’

25-29.] Inasmuch as circumcision was the especial sign of the covenant, and as such, a distinction on which the Jewish mind dwelt with peculiar satisfaction: the Apostle sets forth, that circumcision without the keeping of the law is of no avail, and that true circumcision and true Judaism are matters of the heart, not of the flesh only. ἀλλʼ ἡ περιτομὴ μέγα, φησίν. ὁμολογῶ κἀγώ, ἀλλὰ πότε; ὅταν ἔχῃ τὴν ἔνδον περιτομήν. καὶ σκόπει σύνεσιν, πῶς εὐκαίρως τὸν περὶ αὐτῆς εἰσήγαγε λόγον. οὐ γὰρ εὐθέως ἀπʼ αὐτῆς ἤρξατο, ἐπειδὴ πολλὴ ἦν αὐτῆς ἡ ὑπόληψις· ἀλλʼ ἡνίκα ἔνδειξεν αὐτοὺς ἀπὸ τοῦ μείζονος προσκεκρουκότας καὶ τῆς εἰς θεὸν βλασφημίας αἰτίους, τότε λοιπὸν λαβὼν τὸν ἀκροατὴν κατεγνωκότα αὐτῶν, καὶ γυμνώσας τῆς προεδρίας, εἰσάγει τὸν περὶ περιτομῆς λόγον, θαῤῥῶν ὅτι οὐδεὶς αὐτῇ ψηφιεῖται λοιπόν. Chrys. Hom. vii. 474.

25.] περιτομή, chosen as an example in point, and as the most comprehensive and decisive example; and μὲν γάρ binds it on to the foregoing reasoning: q. d. ‘in the same way circumcision, &c.’

νόμον, not τὸν νόμον, πράσσῃς,—because the latter would import the perfect fulfilment of the whole law: whereas the supposition is of acting according to the law, doing the law. παραβάτης νόμου here, not τοῦ νόμου, the παραβάτης νόμου, like ἀκροατὴς-νόμου and ποιητὴς-νόμου, ver. 13, being a designation generally of a law-breaker, as those of a law-hearer and law-fulfiller.

ἀκροβ. γέγ.] counts for nothing: the Jewish transgressor is no better off than the Gentile transgressor.

26. ἡ ἀκροβ.] i.e. οἱ ἐν τῇ ἀκροβυστίᾳ.

τὰ δικαίωμ.] plainly, the moral requirements, not the ceremonial: for one of the very first of the latter was, to be circumcised. The case is an impossible one: nor does the Apostle put it as possible, only as shewing manifestly, that circumcision, the sign of the covenant of the Law, was subordinate to the keeping of the Law itself. The articles shew how completely hypothetical the case is—no less than entire fulfilment of all the moral precepts of the law being contemplated.

οὐχὶ ἡ …] ‘In such a case would not he be counted as a circumcised person?’

27.] I prefer with De Wette (and Erasm.), Luth., Bengel, Wetst., Knapp, and Meyer, to regard this verse not as a continuation of the question, but as a separate emphatic assertion, and as leading the way to the next verse.

κρινεῖ, ‘shall rise up in judgment against,’ judge indirectly by his example. See Matthew 12:41, Matthew 12:42, where κατακρίνω is used in a sense precisely similar.

ἡ ἐκ φύσεως ἀκροβ.] ‘he, who remains in his natural state of uncircumcision.’ ἐκ φύς. is contrasted with διὰ γράμ. κ. περιτ. below. The position of ἐκ φύσεως decides for this rendering and against joining it with τελοῦσα, which would require ἡ ἀκροβυστία, ἐκ φύσεως τὸν νόμον τελοῦσα.

τὸν νόμ. τελ.] such is the supposition—that an uncircumcised man could fully act up to the (moral) requirements of the law. It is not ἡ τὸν νόμ. τελ.; because ἀκροβ. is used in the widest abstract sense: no distinction is made between one and another uncircumcised person, but some one man is taken as an example of ἀκροβυστία. So that the omission of the art. does not give a new hypothetic sense, ‘if it fulfil the law,’ but merely restates the hypothesis: fulfilling (as it does, as we have supposed) the law.

σὲ τὸν.… παραβάτην νόμου] Here again the position of διὰ γράμματος κ. περιτομῆς, between τὸν and παραβάτην, sufficiently shews that, as ἐκ φύσεως above, it is a qualification of σὲ τὸν παραβάτην νόμου. Bp. Middleton (it appears, Gr. Art. in loc. and compare his ref.) would take σὲ τὸν διὰ γράμματος κ. περιτομῆς (ὄντα), ‘thee who art a professor of the law and a circumcised person,’ and understand εἶναι after παραβάτην,—shall adjudge thee to be a transgressor of the law. But this appears exceedingly forced, and inconsistent with the position of παραβ. νόμου, which if it had been thus emphatic, would certainly have been placed either before, or immediately after κρινεῖ. We may well imagine that such an interpretation would not have been thought of, except to serve the supposed canon, that, ‘if τόν were immediately the article of παραβάτην, νόμου depending on it could not be anarthrous.’ See above on παραβ. νόμ. ver. 25, and on ver. 13.

διὰ γρ. κ. περ.] διὰ (see reff.) is here used of the state in which the man is when he does the act, regarded at the medium through which the act is done. It is rightly rendered by in E. V. [though this gives too much the idea of the state being the instrument by means of which] (not, ‘in spite of,’ as Köllner and al.).

γράμματος] ‘litera scripta,’ the written word: here in a more general sense than in ver. 29, where it is pressed to a contrast with πνεῦμα: thee, who in a state of external conformity with the written law and of circumcision, art yet a transgressor of the law.

In vv. 28, 29, supply the ellipses thus: in ver. 28, fill up the subjects from the predicates,—οὐ γὰρ ὁ ἐν τῷ φανερῷ (Ἰουδαῖος) Ἰουδαῖός ἐστιν, οὐδὲ ἡ ἐν τῷ φανερῷ ἐν σαρκὶ (περιτομὴ) περιτομή (ἐστιν); in ver. 29, fill up the predicates from the subjects,—ἀλλʼ ὁ ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ Ἰουδαῖος (Ἰουδαῖός ἐστιν), καὶ περιτομὴ καρδίας ἐν πνεύματι οὐ γράμματι (περιτομή ἐστιν). Thus the real Jew only, and the real circumcision only, are expressed in both verses. This is the arrangement of Beza, Estius, Rückert, De Wette: Erasm., Luther, Meyer, Fritzsche, take Ἰουδαῖος, and ἐν πν. οὐ γράμ., as the predicates in ver. 29; but the latter gives a very vapid sense, besides that the opposition of ὁ ἐν τῷ φανερῷ, and ὁ ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ is, as De W. observes, also vapid.

29.] ἐν τῷ κρ. as belonging to Ἰουδ. is parallel with καρδίας as belonging to περιτομή, both designating the inner and spiritual reality, of which the name of Jew and the carnal circumcision are only the signs.

περ. καρδ. is no new expression:—we have it virtually in Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4: see also Acts 7:51.

ἐν πν. οὐ γρ.] in [the] spirit, not in [the] letter. Not merely ‘spiritually, not externally:’ nor does πν. allude to the necessitating cause of circumcision (the uncleanness of the inner man) (Œc., Grot., Estius, Fritzsche):—nor signify the material (‘quæ spiritu constat,’ Erasm.): nor the rule (Meyer),—but as De Wette rightly, the living power or element, wherewith that inner sphere of being is filled—ἐν being [used] as in Acts 17:28, of that in which any thing lives and moves,—compare χαρὰ ἐν πν. ἁγίῳ, ch. 14:17,—ἀγάπη ἐν πν., Colossians 1:8,—δουλεύειν ἐν καιν. πν., ch. 7:6,—εἶναι ἐν πν., ch. 8:9. So that πνεῦμα here is not man’s spirit, nor properly the Holy Spirit, but the spirit, as opposed to the letter, of the Jewish law and of all God’s revelation of himself.

οὗ] viz. Ἰουδαίου,—of the true Jew. περιτομὴ καρδ. as belonging to him, is subordinate.

The ἔπαινος of such a character, (for ἔπαινος it must be,) can only come from him who sees ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ (Matthew 6:4, Matthew 6:6), and can discern the heart.

Henry Alford - Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

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