Romans 2
ICC New Testament Commentary
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.

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

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

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

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

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

διό links this section closely to the last; it is well led up to by 1:32, but ἀναπολ. pointing back to 1:20 shows that the Apostle had more than this in his mind.

2. οἴδαμεν δέ A B D &c., Harcl., Orig.-lat. Tert. Ambrstr. Theodrt. al. WH. text RV. text: οἴδαμεν γάρ א C 17 al. pauc. Latt. (exc. g) Boh. Arm., Chrys., Tisch. WH. marg. RV. marg. An even balance of authorities, both sides drawing their evidence from varied quarters. A more positive decision than that of WH. RV. would hardly be justified.

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

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

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

4. χρηστότητος: bonitatis Vulg., in Titus 3:4 benignitas: see Lft. on Galatians 5:22. χρηστότης = ‘kindly disposition’; μακροθυμία = ‘patience,’ opp. to ὀξυθυμία a ‘short’ or ‘quick temper,’ ‘irascibility’ (cf. βραδὺς εἰς ὀργήν Jam 1:19); ἀνοχή = ‘forbearance,’ ‘delay of punishment,’ cf. ἀνέχομαι to hold one’s hand.

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

But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.
And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?
Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;
Who will render to every man according to his deeds:
To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,
Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;
But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:
For there is no respect of persons with God.
For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;
(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)
In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,
And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;
And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,
An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.
Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?
Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?
Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?
For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.
For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.
Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?
And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?
For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
ICC New Testament commentary on selected books

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