Romans 2
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
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.
ROMANS 2:1–16

1Therefore [Wherefore] thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another [the other, thy neighbor, τὸν ἕτερον], thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.2But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them3which [those who] commit such things. And [But] thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do [those who practise] such things, and doest thesame, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? 4Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering; not knowing [not considering] that the goodness of God leadeth [is leading] thee to repentance?5But, after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up unto [for] thyself wrath against [in] the day of wrath1 and revelation2 of the righteous judgment of God;

6, 7Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them [those] who by patient continuance in well-doing [by endurance in good work] seek for glory and honour and immortality [will he render, ἀποδώσει, Romans 2:6], eternal life:38But unto them that [to those who] are contentious [self-seeking, or partisans], and do not obey [disobey] the truth, but obey unrighteousness, [shall be rendered]indignation and wrath [wrath and indignation],4 9Tribulation and anguish, [omit,] upon every soul of man that doeth evil [is working out to the end the evil, τοῦ κατεργαζομένου τὸ κακόν], of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;10[Greek.] But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good [is working the good, τῷ ἐργαζομένῳ τὸ ἀγαθόν], to the Jew first, and also to theGentile [Greek]. 11For there is no respect of persons5 with [before] God.

12For as many as have [omit have] sinned without law shall [will] also perish without law; and as many as have [omithave] sinned in [under] the law shall13[will] be judged by the law; [.] (For not the hearers of the law6 [of law] are just [righteous] before God, but the doers of the law [of law] shall [will] 14be justified [declared righteous]. For when [whenever] the [omitthe]7 Gentiles, which have not the law [Gentiles having no law, ἔθνη τὰ μη νόμον ἔχοντα], do8 by nature the things contained in the law [the things of the law, τὰ τοῦ νόμου, i.e., the things pertaining to, or required by, the law], these, having not the law [not having15(the) law, νόμον μὴ ἔχοντες],9 are a law unto [to] themselves: Which [Who] 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;) [their thoughts between one another, oralternately, μετἁξὺ ἀλλήλων,accusing or also, ἤ καὶ, excusing.]10 16In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by [through] Jesus Christ according to my gospel.


Summary.—These are the parts of this highly important section: 1. Every judgment pronounced on another becomes the self-condemnation of the one judging; for he is in the same condemnation with the one who is judged by him. Herein the sin of the Jews is already presupposed (Romans 2:1–5). 2. The righteousness of God is exalted above all partial righteousness; and in its retribution it distinguishes between men who earnestly long after righteousness, and those who obstinately resist; between men who constantly look toward things eternal, and those whose principle of life is contention and party spirit (Romans 2:6–11). This opposition constitutes a higher ideal and dynamic opposition between pious and ungodly people above the historical antagonism of Jews and Gentiles, and independently of it, so that, on the day of the declaration of the gospel, Jews may appear as Gentiles, and Gentiles as Jews (Romans 2:12–16).


Romans 2:1. Wherefore thou art inexcusable. It may be asked, To what does διὸ, wherefore, refer? 1. To the fundamental thought of the whole section of Romans 1:18–32 (Meyer, and others). 2. διό refers back to the δικαὶωμα in Romans 2:32 (De Wette, Philippi [Alford, Hodge]). 3. διό points proleptically to the sins of the Jews (Bengel, Tholuck). We need hardly mention Bullinger’s explanation: It is continuationis particula; prœterea. We here find a definite reference to Romans 1:32. The οἵτινες indicates chiefly the climax of Gentile corruption; but Gentile and Jewish corruption meet together at this climax. Gentile corruption culminates in the approval of evil, and Jewish in judging. But their common corruption is the perfect moral self-contradiction: sin against better knowledge and conscience. Therefore ἀναπολόγητοι, inexcusable, are not merely those who contribute aid to evil-doers, but those also who pronounce sentence on them. In other words, not the διό, but Romans 2:32 is proleptic, especially in connection with the ἀνελεήμονες in Romans 2:31.

O man, whosoever thou art. To whom is this address directed? 1 To the Gentiles, especially Gentile authorities (Chrysostom); their better-minded ones (Olshausen, Melanchthon); their philosophers (Clericus). 2. The Jews (De Wette, Rückert, and others). Meyer: “Judging the Gentiles as rejected by God (Midr. Tillin f. 6, 3; Chetubb. f. 3, 2, &c.) was a characteristicum of the Jews. [Alford: The Jew is not yet named, but hinted at.—P. S.] 3. All men, without distinction (Beza, Calovius). 4. All men, but with a special reference to the Jews (Tholuck).11 The last interpretation must be rendered more definite by the consideration that the merciless among Jews and Gentiles are meant. But, in reality, every one is meant who makes himself guilty of condemnatory judgment (for this is the sense of κρὶνειν, here, as in Matt. 7:1; 25:35). See Romans 2:9, 10. The Gentiles, too, were heartless judges. We need call to mind only Roman politics. Tholuck recalls the corruption of Jewish life at that time under Herod, and even among their scribes.—̓Εν ᾧ, wherein, is explained in Romans 2:21 sqq., and hence must not be understood as instrumental, by which means, whereby; still less eodem tempore quo, at the time when (Köllner), but in that wherein, in the matter in which (Luther [E. V., Meyer, Alford], and others). [Thou that judgest doest the same things, τὰ γὰρ αὐτὰ πρἀσσεις ὁ κρίνων. Uncharitable judging is itself a grave offence against the law which enjoins humility and charity as the very soul of virtue and piety. Besides, even the most moral men carry in themselves the seed of all vices, and if kept from open transgression, it is either by the grace of God preventing them, or by (Pharisaic and Stoic) pride, which is itself a sin against God, the sin of Satan and the fallen angels.—P. S.] The addition of ὁ κρίνων, “with reproachful expression” (Meyer).

Romans 2:2. But we are sure, Οἴδαμεν. Who? 1. The Jews, as knowers of the law (Rosenmüller, and others).12 2. Universal human knowledge (Rückert, Meyer, Philippi [Hodge]). 3. Jewish-Christian knowledge, with reference to Romans 3:19; 7:14 (Tholuck). 4. Yet the consciousness here declared is the specifically Christian one, which is, however, anticipated by the better universal consciousness in forebodings of the common misery of sin.

According to truth. Κατὰ ἀλήθειαν, not ἀληθῶς [revera. truly] (Raphel, Köllner, it is real), but [as in E. V.] according to truth (Tholuck, Meyer [Alford]); that is, corresponding to the internal and real relations of guilt [according to justice, without error, without respect of persons]. The condemnatory judgment of God on those who judge is according to the relations of truth, by which judgment they are the most condemnable who, without knowing it, pronounce judgment on themselves. Therefore they are hypocrites. [Κατὰ ἀλήθειαν belongs not to κρίμα, as the predicate of the sentence, but to ἐστὶν, as adverb: it proceeds according to truth, or the judgment of God, which is according to truth, is against those, &c.—P. S.]

Romans 2:3. And thinkest thou this, O man. According to Meyer and Tholuck, Romans 2:2 is the propositio major in relation to what here follows. If the Apostle had designed such a conclusion in Romans 2:5, the minor proposition of Romans 2:3 and 4 would have been otherwise expressed. We have here the beginning of the conclusion from the premise in Romans 2:2. Thinkest thou that, τοῦτο. Reference to the strange supposition that God will become, by way of exception, a partisan for him. Therefore also the σύ is emphasized. Meyer: “In opposition to Jewish conceit.” Matt. 3:7; Luke 3:7. Yet the expression here must not be limited to the Jews.—That thou [σύ, thou thyself, thou above all others, thou because a Jew] shalt escape. Not by acquittal (Bengel [Hodge]), but by exemption. So Meyer: “Only the Gentiles shall be judged, according to the false opinion of the Jews (Bertholdt, Christologie, p. 206), but all Israel shall have part in the Messiah’s kingdom as its true-born children (Matt. 8:12).” [Comp. Matt. 3:7, 9; John 8:33.] The expression escape refers at the same time to an approaching actual judgment which will overtake every guilty person.

Romans 2:4. Or despisest thou. This is a different case from the preceding. [ introduces a new error or objection.—P. S.] In what does the difference consist? Thou regardest thyself either exempt from punishment, because thou believest thyself a favorite of the Deity, and that thou shalt escape at the coming judgment; or thou dost wickedly regard the riches of God’s goodness in delaying the punishment as a sign that the general judgment will never come to pass at all. Paul frequently uses πλοῦτος as an expression for great fulness [Romans 9:23; 11:33; Eph. 1:7, 18; 2:7; 3:16; Col. 1:17. It is not a Hebraism, but found also in Plato and other Greek classics, to denote abundance and magnitude.—P. S.].—His goodness. The χρηστότης is, more specifically, mildness, beneficent goodness, in contrast with penal justice. It may be asked whether we should read: His goodness (χρηστότητος) and forbearance (ἀνοχῆς) and long-suffering (μακροθυμίας), or whether the χρηρτότης is here divided by καί-καί, as well, as also, into the idea of forbearance and long-suffering. We accept the latter, since the Apostle subsequently groups all again in τό χρηστόν. The Apostle Peter uses the same expression, μαχροθυμὶα, for the two ideas: forbearance toward the weakness of friends, and long-suffering toward the opposition of enemies [slowness in the infliction of deserved punishment]. But Paul distinguishes between patience or forbearance, Romans 3:25, and long-suffering, Romans 9:22, according to the relation already indicated. The ἀνοχή is about equal to the ὑπομονή, Col. 1:11, and the πραότης, Col. 3:12.—Compare ἀνεχόμενοι ἀλλήλων, Col. 3:13; μακροθυμεῖτε πρὸς πάντας. It is thus natural that one idea should sometimes run into the other. Tholuck: “The word of Christ (Luke 19:41; Matt. 24.) would cause the expectation of a judgment on Israel, which really occurred about twenty [ten] years after this Epistle. Here Paul may naturally have had this in view.”—Ἁγνοῶν. The translation Not knowing is too weak. [Dr. Lange translates ἀγνοῶν: Indem du misskennst, wilfully ignoring; while Grotius, Tholuck, Wordsworth, al., render it: not considering.—P. S.] Meyer opposes the interpretation of ἀγνοεῖν as wishing not to know (De Wette [Alford], and others). Yet wilful and culpable ignorance is certainly meant here (comp. ἄγνοια, Eph. 4:18).—Is leading thee to repentance. ἄγει means, at all events, not only the objective intention of God (Philippi), but also the real determination of Divine goodness. [Bengel: Deus ducit volentem duci; ducit suaviter, non cogit necessitate. Wordsworth: “The word ἄγει, leads, intimates the will of God, but also the will of man. God leads, but man may refuse to be led.” To this Dr. Hodge assents, but adds, from his strict Calvinistic standpoint: “Who gives the will to be led? Is there no preventing grace [gratia prœveniens]? Does not God work in us to will, as well as to do? Surely there is such a thing as being made willing without being forced. There is a middle ground between moral suasion and coërcion. God supersedes the necessity of forcing, by making us willing in the day of His power. The Apostle, however, is not here speaking of gracious influence, but of the moral tendencies of providential dispensations.”—P. S.]

Romans 2:5. But, after thy hardness [Κατὰ δὲ τὴν σκληπότητά σου]. Evidently not a continuation of the question (Lachmann [Alford]), but antithesis. The hardened one mistakes the benign purpose of Divine government, and by this means transforms the same into a judgment. The question can therefore not be one of mere frustration. [Κατά is taken by some, in proportion to, so that the degree of punishment corresponds to the degree of hardness and impenitence; but by most commentators in the sense of secundum, i. e., as may be expected from thy hardness, agreeably to its nature.—P. S.]—And impenitent heart. This takes away from the idea the harsh appearance of a fatalistic compulsion. The hardness is voluntarily continued and magnified by impenitence of heart.—Thou treasurest up for thyself [thou for thyself, not God for thee.—P. S.] The verb θησαυρίζειν is used in the wider sense of, every accumulation, and denotes also ironically the heaping up of evils and punishments. It here stands in striking opposition to the πλοῦτος of God’s goodness. The despising of the riches of God’s goodness in forbearance and long-suffering is the heaping up of a treasure of wrath. Unto thyself indicates voluntary guilt as well as completed folly.—In [or on, ἐν] the day of wrath. The construction is not θησαυρίζεις εἰς ἡμέραν, &c. (Luther [E. V., against], Tholuck), and also not an ὀργή which will break out on the day of wrath (Meyer [Alford, Hodge]). But the meaning is, that the day of wrath is even now ready to burst forth, and that that furious and senseless θνσαυρίζειν still continues; comp. James 5:3; ἐθησαυρίσατε ἐν ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις. Every catastrophe of judgment which succeeds a period of longsuffering is designated a day of wrath (Ezek. 22:24; Zephaniah 2:2). But each of these judicial catastrophes is a prelude to the last day of consummated wrath.—And revelation [manifestation] of the righteous judgment. The δικαιοκρισία (in the New Testament, ἅπαξ λεγόμενον, and but seldom elsewhere).13 The righteous judgment of God proceeds in an emphatic way through all periods of time; but it has special epochs of its ἀποκάλυψις. The whole contemplation of different judicial catastrophes consists in the certainty that the time of final decision is introduced with the coming of Christ. Tholuck cites Klopstock’s lines:

“Among the ways of men

God walks, with quiet tread, His unseen path;

But drawing near the goal, He rushes on,

Decided as the gleaming thunderbolt.”


[It may aid the reader in the exegesis of this paragraph to have in view the following parallel arrangement in lour stanzas of three lines each, which we adopt from the Analysis of Forbes, with some changes in the translation:


 Who will render to every man according to his deeds;



To those who by endurance in good work


Seek for glory, and honor, and immortality,


Eternal life:



But to those who are self-seeking,


And disobey the truth, but obey unrighteousness,


Indignation [shall be] and wrath:



Tribulation and anguish


Upon every soul of man that worketh evil,


Of the Jew first, and also of the Greek;



But glory, honor, and peace,


To every man that worketh good,


To the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

The first two stanzas, A and B, and the last two stanzas, B and A, are antithetically parallel in each of their lines, which indicate: (1) The character of the two opposite classes to be compared; (2) their respective pursuits; and (3) the appropriate rewards. In another point of view the four stanzas are introversively parallel, the first corresponding with the fourth, and the second with the third. The glorious reward of the righteous is put first and last in order to stimulate and encourage the reader. The lines in each stanza are also introversively parallel, as is made apparent to the reader by the typographical arrangement.—P. S.]

Romans 2:6. Who will render to every man. The negative form of this declaration, see Romans 2:11. The righteousness of God is far above the partisan righteousness of man, and also above that partisan justice which believes that God’s government is restrained by the historical difference between Judaism and heathendom. The decision stated by the Apostle is pronounced by the fundamental law of the entire Scriptures, of all Christendom, and of all religion (comp. Ps. 62:12; Isa. 3:10, 11; Jer. 17:10; Matt. 7:21–24; 12:36; 16:27; 25:35; John 5:29; Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10). The supposition that there is a great difficulty here, and an apparent contradiction between this sentence and the doctrine of justification by faith, is a remarkable indication of an inadequate view of works on one hand, and of justification by faith on the other. Tholuck gives an account of the question in discussion, p. 88 sqq. Solutions of the imaginary difficulty: 1. The Apostle speaks here only hypothetically of the judgment of believers, as God would judge them, apart from the standpoint of the gospel (Melanchthon, &c.). Tholuck: Here, and in Romans 2:16, the Apostle regards only the Divine valuation placed on men, apart from redemption. [So, substantially, Alford and Hodge.—P. S.]. 2. He speaks of the final judgment, when faith will be proved to be the absolute fulfilment of the law (Olshausen). This is adopted by Philippi, but under the restriction: That the δικαιοσύνη ἐκ πίστεως will remove the deficiency in the works of the regenerate. Gerhard: Opera adducentur in judicio non ut salutis merita, sed ut fidei testimonia et effecta. 3. Fritzsche: The Apostle is inconsistent, and here opens a semita per honestatem near the via regia of justification. 4. Luthardt: The new vital form of faith must be regarded as the product of a previous direction of life; the ἔργα are perfected in faith (Studien und Kritiken for 1852, No. 2, p. 368). [This view seems inconsistent with the Scripture doctrine of regeneration as a new creation, and of the new life as the reverse of the old (Rom. 6:4, 19 ff.), and with the personal experience of Paul. But see Dr. Lange’s remarks below, and consider the remarkable concession of Peter, Acts 10:34, 35, where a disposition to fear God and to work righteousness is supposed to exist before conversion, even among heathen, and to qualify them for acceptance with God.—P. S.] 5. Cocceius and Limborch: The faith in Christ must also be included as the highest work (ἔργον). This view is undoubtedly correct; and Tholuck’s explanation, that πίστις εἰς χριστόν must not be included here (with reference to Romans 4:5; 11:16; 10:6), obscures the whole question. The passages cited by Tholuck plainly relate altogether to a life in the works of the law. But in John 6:29 Christ calls faith a work of God which believers should exercise. Paul also calls faith a good work (ἔργον ἀγαθόν), Phil. 1:6; viewing it, however, as the operation of God. In 1 Thess. 1:3, he speaks of an ἔργον τῆς πίστεως; also in 2 Thess. 1:11. He means in these passages, of course, such a faith as proves itself by works. But it follows, nevertheless, most decidedly, that he distinguishes just as positively two kinds of works, just as James distinguishes two kinds of faith. We must therefore distinguish a two-fold conception of works with the Apostle, if we would escape the confusion made by a timid species of orthodoxy. The direction of faith as well as of unbelief has, according to Paul—as Luthardt has properly remarked—its antecedens in the antithesis of the fundamental tendencies which he describes in Romans 2:7, 8. The one class are, in their inward frame of mind, ζητοῦντες, striving souls—therefore men of longing and aspiration, poor in spirit [Matt. 5:3]. Their good works constitute a unity of effort, ὐπομονὴ ἔργου; their aim is the δὸξα, τιμή, ἀφθαρσία (goodly pearls; precious pearls, Matt. 13:45). The other class are, in their mental disposition, ἐξ ἐριθείας, contentious, even when they confess an orthodox form of faith. They are men animated by the bigotry of party spirit, and therefore wantonly rebelling against the truth, while they are the narrow-minded slaves of the unrighteousness of party spirit. But the retribution of both classes will be determined by the respective degrees of virtue and vice which they reach. As seekers, they find faith and justification by faith, which, according to chap. iii., proceeds also from righteousness. As believers, they strive for the treasure of their heavenly calling, and strive after those things which are before them, until they reach the goal of perfection. But there they do not appear with works of the law, nor with a mixture of perfect justitia imputata and imperfect works. In the kingdom of perfect love the antagonism of merit and grace disappears in a higher unity of both. It is observable that, with the Apostle, all the ideas of the Old Testament become more profound, and are made perfect: 1. The law becomes the law of the Spirit; 2. work becomes the work of faith; 3. righteousness becomes justifying righteousness; 4. retribution becomes free, rewarding love. The observation of Meyer, that we have here the law of the Jews only, and with it the natural law of the Gentiles as the medium affecting the decision, does not relieve the matter. He indeed also adds, that Paul had good reason for this statement, since the Christian, too—because he is to be judged according to his conduct—must be judged according to the law (comp. the doctrine of the tertius usus legis), and according to the πλήρωσις τοῦ νόμου introduced by Christ [Matt. 5:17; 25:31 ff.; Rom. 13:8–10]. He justly rejects the opinion of Reiche, that the doctrine of justification by faith implies a partial abrogation of the moral order of the world.14

Romans 2:7. To those who by endurance (or perseverance) in good work [καθ̓ ὑπομονὴν ἔργου ἀγαθοῦ, an adverbial qualification of the verb ζητοῦα], &c. Where the different works are only one good work, and where there is this perfect endurance of life and effort, the direction toward higher and eternal things can only be meant. The genitive ἔργου ἀγαθοῦ is genit. subj. (not obj.; Meyer); that is, the endurance which is peculiar to the truly good work. [Comp. ὑπομονὴ τῆς ἐλπίδος, 1 Thess. 1:3.—P. S.]. It may be asked, whether the Apostle here uses the words δόξα, τιμή, and ἀφθαρσία, in the specifically Christian sense, or in the more general sense. If the former be the case, they mean future salvation in its glory (2 Cor. 4:17; Matt. 13:43), in the honor connected with it (for it is the reward of victory, 1 Cor. 9:25; joint heirship with Christ, Romans 8:17; reigning together with Him, 2 Tim. 2:12), and in its incorruptibility (1 Cor. 15:52 sqq.; Rev. 21:4; 1 Peter 1:4). But then it must be said that the passage refers to a seeking whose object (goodly pearls, Matt. 13) is, at the beginning, more or less concealed from the seekers themselves (comp. Acts 17:23). It seems more natural, however, to interpret the above ideas as stages of the development of noble seeking; the first aim is δόξα, spiritual splendor of life, ideality; then τιμή, integrity, honorableness of character; then ἀφθαρσία, deliverance from corruption. The ζωὴ αἰώνιος, as the grace and gift of God, is very nearly related to this last object of ζητεῖν. The restless ζητεῖν—dissatisfaction, and further striving, until the object is reached, here or there—(Matt. 5, the first beatitudes; Acts 17) remains the key-note. Other constructions: 1. Œcumenius, Luther: ἀποδώσει [to be supplied from Romans 2:6] is connected with the accusatives δόξαν, τιμήν, ἀφθ.; and ζητοῦσι with ζωὴν αἰώνιον [i.e.,Who will give glory, honor, and immortality to those who, by patience in good works, seek eternal life]; 2. Reiche [Ewald]: τοῖς μὲν [to the one] καθ̓ ὑπομονήν ἔργου ἀγαθοῦ δόξαν και τιμὴν καὶ ἀφθαρσίαν (ἀποδώσει)—ζντοῦσιν ζωὴν αἰώνιον [ζητοῦσιν as apposition to τοῖς μέν]. 3. Bengel [Fritzsche] and others: τοῖς μὲν καθ̓ ὑπομ. ἔργου ἀγαθοῦ (οὖσιν), δόξαν, &c. ζντοῦσινζωὴν αἰώνιον (ἀποδώσει) [i.e., to those who persevere in good work, seeking glory, &c., He will give eternal life]). Beza suggests still another and very dogmatic construction: Qui secundum patientem exspectationem quœrunt boni operis gloriam. Our construction has most expositors in its favor [Vulgate, Calvin, Grotius, Tholuck, Olshausen, De Wette, Meyer, Philippi, Alford, Hodge, &c.]; also the clearness of the parallel, in consequence of which, righteous retribution constitutes the conclusion both times.—̔Υπομονή, not patience, but perseverantia (Erasmus). “Ἔργον, not collectively (Tholuck [Hodge] ), but dynamically. [The singular indicates the general course and habit of life, or the moral character as a unit, as distinct from isolated resolutions and actions, comp. Gal. 6:4; 1 Thess. 1:3; James 1:4, &c. The E. V., patient continuance in well-doing, though not literal, is well expressed.—P. S.] Λόξα, τιμή, ἀφθαρσία, are the phases of the manifestation of the ζωὴ αἰώνιος for those who have from afar been striving for salvation. The matter is inverted in the case of believers: Power of life, worth of life, glory of life.15 Tholuck’s remark is strange, that “the Apostle characterized here the striving of the better class of unbelievers in such a manner as he could hardly expect to find it by any possibility among them.” But Paul had become acquainted with such men as Gamaliel, Sergius Paulus, Gallio, and others.

Romans 2:8. But to those who are self-seeking partisans.16 [Literally, those of self-seeking—a periphrase of the subject, indicating the origin (ἐκ, out of, as from a root) and moral character; comp. οἱ ἐκ νόμου, the legalists; οἱ ἐκ πὶστεως, the believers; οἱ ἐκ περιτομῆς, the circumcised, &c., and the cognate use of υἱοί and τέκνα.—P. S.]. On ἐριθεία, compare Tholuck and Meyer. We must not, with the elder commentators, derive it from ἐρίζω or ἔρις [from which it is distinguished, 2 Cor. 12:20; Gal. 5:20.—P. S.], and therefore not identify it with φιλονεικία, contentiousness (Vulgate: Qui sunt ex contentions, die Streitsüchtigen); but it comes from ἔριθος, a hireling; ἐριθεύω, to work for wages, to act selfishly. Its first meaning is greediness, then trickery, partisanship. Aristotle, Polit. v. 2, 3, &c.; see Fritzsche, Excursus on Rom. 2.17 Meyer: “The latter signification [Ränkesucht, Parteitreiberei] must be retained in all passages of the New Testament; 2 Cor. 12:20; Gal. 5:20; Phil. 1:16; 2:3; James 3:14, 16.” The succeeding words also establish this explanation. [The opposite of οἱ ἐξ ἐριθείας is οἱ ἐξ ἀγάπης, Phil. 1:16, 17. Ignatius, Ad Philad. 8, opposes ἐριθεία to χριστομάθεια.—P. S.] Tholuck: The Apostle has here in view those Jews who surpassed the Gentiles in opposition to the gospel. He recalls to mind the intrigues of the “Zealots,” and supposes that the popular sense has extended to the meaning of contention, probably on the ground of the supposed derivation from ἐρίζειν. Remember the contentious spirit of the Talmudist Jews. In point of fact, the party spirit is always united with the love of contention. But the ἐριθεία is a corruption, which exists in Gentiles and Jews alike. There are only two kinds of men: Men who are of the truth, whose ethical principle of life is the truth (the upright; Prov. 2:7; John 3:21), and who, being such, do not lose themselves in grasping after temporal objects; and men whose ethical principle of life is a contentious spirit, that is, the spirit of any bad temporal object, and who for this very reason seditiously oppose the truth as partisans, and are subject to unrighteousness, as slaves to party. In this direction every temporal form of divine things can be converted into a party affair, and destroyed by party spirit; just as the Jews of that period made even an ἐριθεία out of the Old Testament religion. Nevertheless, the definite idea is obliterated, if ἐριθεία is made to mean, without qualification, ungodliness, or vileness (Köllner, Fritzsche).—Disobey the truth. Ἀπειθεῖν; the truth has the right of a king, and Christ is King, as King of the truth. Therefore, to strive against the truth, involves not only religious opinion, but moral misconduct. Such revolters against what is high are necessarily slaves to what is low; they bow before unrighteousness (Romans 1:18).—Wrath and indignation. The nominative ὀργὴ καὶ θυμός is supplied by ἀποδώσεται, or ἔσται, as constructio variata.18 Θυμός as excandescentia enhances the idea of ὀργή. The historical form of the judgment pronounced on the self-seeking party spirit is therewith intimated; ὀργή and θυμός of the party spirit are judged by ὀργή and θυμός of an opposite kind; and therein the ὀργή and θυμός of the Lord are revealed. (See the history of the destruction of Jerusalem, Matt. 18:33, 34).—[The majority of philologists and commentators make ὀργή express the permanent feeling and settled disposition (comp. John 3:36; the wrath of God abideth on him); θυμός, the momentary impulse or actual outbreak of wrath on the day of judgment. Ammon.: θυμός πρόσκαιρος, ὀργὴ πολυχρόνιος. θυμός (Gemüth) is the mind as the seat of the emotions, and hence denotes vehement affection, anger, fury. According to the correct reading, it fitly follows after ὀργή, as its execution and outbreak; irœ excandescentia (Cicero, Tusc. iv. 9). “ὀργή is the heat of the fire; θυμός is the bursting forth of the flame.”—P. S.]

Romans 2:9. Tribulation and anguish (θλῖψις χαὶ στενοχωρία). Romans 2:9 and 10 repeat the same thought of retribution, but in greater precision and increased force: 1. The retribution of evil and good does not merely stand as the limit at the close, but it is ordained from the beginning, and follows man like a shadow; 2. it does not only overtake all in general, but will visit every individual; 3. it reaches to the soul; 4. it comes also as punitive retribution, first to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles. The same may be said also of the reward of the righteous. Punishment goes from without inwardly; the external tribulation, or oppression, becomes an internal anguish, or agony, from which the burdened soul knows no escape.19Every soul of man [כָּל־נֶפֶשׁ אדָם]. Ψυχή is not merely a circumlocution of ἄνθρωπος (according to Grotius, Fritzsche). [It expresses the idea that the soul, and not the body, is to suffer the penalty, according to Rückert, Meyer, Fritzsche. But ψυχή rather denotes the whole person, as in Romans 13:1.—P. S.]

That worketh out the evil. The χατεργαζομένου must be regarded as a strong form. It is the consistent consummation. [Alford: “χατερψάζομαι, to commit, is more naturally used of evil, while ἐρψάζομαι, to work, is used indifferently of both good and evil.” But χατεργάζεσθαι is also used of the good; 5:3; 15:18; Phil. 2:12. As distinct from the simple ἐργάζεσθαι, it signifies, to work out, to bring to an end, to consummate. Comp. Meyer on Rom. 1:27 (p. 77).—P. S.]

Romans 2:10. But glory and honor and peace. Instead of ἀφθαρσία, we have here εἰρήνη [“here in its highest and most glorious sense”] as the subjective enjoyment of ἀφθαρσία, by which the expression ψυζχή is supplied (Romans 2:9).—Of the Jew first, and also of the Greek. Greek represents the Gentile, as i. 16. As the Jew is first in privilege and opportunity, so he is first in responsibility and guilt. Comp. Luke 12:47, 48, and Exeg. Notes on 1:16. It becomes now evident that the second chapter refers especially to the Jews, as Romans 1:18–32 to the Gentiles.—P. S.]

Romans 2:11. For there is no respect of persons. This conclusion reproves especially the exclusive party spirit of the Jew—who thought himself under the particular favor of God—by reference to a parallel expression in the Old Testament, Deut. 10:17; see Gal. 2:6. The expression, to respect the person (to accept the face),20 is used in the Old Testament in a good as well as bad sense; but in the New Testament it occurs only in a bad sense, because it is here employed always in combating the conceit of Jewish bigotry, which changed God into a partisan.


Romans 2:12. For as many as sinned without law. Tholuck: The Apostle here mentions the judgment only on its condemnatory side, because, according to his purpose in Romans 3:20, it was not necessary that he should take a broader view here. But he also wishes to prepare for the doctrine of justification by faith. Thus, Romans 2:12 and 13 establish Romans 2:9; and, on the other hand, Romans 2:14, 15, and 16 establish Romans 2:10.—Without law, ἀνόμως; that is, without the knowledge and norm of the Mosaic law (comp. Rom. 5:13)—that is, without a definite consciousness of definite transgression (1 Cor. 9:21). [Νόμος and ἀνόμως throughout here refer to the written or revealed law of Moses, as the expressed will of God concerning our moral conduct. The heathen are called ἄνομοι, not absolutely—for they have the unwritten law of conscience—but as distinguished from the Jews, who were ὑπὸνόμον. ἀνὅμως therefore is equivalent to χωρὶςνόμου.—P. S.]—Shall also perish without law. Meyer: “ἀπολοῦςται is the opposite of the σωτηρία in 1:16, of the ζήσεται in 1:17, of the ζωὴαἰώνιος in 2:7, of the δόξα, &c., in 2:10. Comp. John 3:15; Rom. 14:15; 1 Cor. 1:18.” Since the ἀπολοῦνται has its degrees (comp. Matt. 11:22; Luke 12:48), Meyer should not deny that (as Chrysostom, Theophylact, Œcumenius assert) there is something alleviating in the ἀνόμως. The external consequences of sin could be similar, yet the internal consequences could be different, according to the different degrees of the knowledge of transgression; and χριθήσονται is accordingly a stronger expression than ἀπολοῦνται. We should all the more reject the barbarous view of Dodwell, Weisse, Billroth, and others, by which the ἀπολοῦνται is made to express the aunihilation of those who do not possess the Christian principle (see Tholuck, p. 99). It is evident that also the ἀνόμως must not be understood absolutely (see Romans 2:15). They only do not possess the law in the clearness and fulness of the Mosaic code. [The passage certainly teaches, 1. That the immoral heathen will not escape punishment, since they, too, are inexcusable, having the light of God’s general revelation in nature (1:20), and in their conscience (2:14, 15); 2. that they will be judged ἀνόμωςi.e., not with the rigor of the written law, as the disobedient Jews and unfaithful Christians, but impartially, and hence more mildly, according to the common law of reason and of conscience. The unfaithful Jews will fare worse than the Gentiles, and the unfaithful Christians worse than the Jews. The severity of punishment corresponds to the measure of guilt, and the measure of guilt depends on the amount of opportunity. The Bible plainly teaches different degrees of punishment; comp. Luke 12:47, 48; Matt. 11:21–24; 12:41, 42. In the interpretation of this passage, moreover, we should not overlook what Paul says immediately afterward of the better class of heathen, Romans 2:14, 15, and 26–29; comp. the Notes below.—P. S.]

And as many as sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law. They shall be condemned, according to the law. Νόμος, even without the article, signifies here the Mosaic law. The ἐννόμω—De Wette: in the law; Tholuck, Meyer: in the possession of the law. The sense of the word seems to require a stronger expression. See Romans 7:8. [ἐν signifies the status, under the law.—P. S.] This sentence verifies Romans 2:9: first upon the soul of the Jew, in contrast with the presumed righteousness of the Jew. Peter institutes a similar law for the Christian Church (1 Pet. 4:17).

Romans 2:13. For not the hearers of the law. Griesbach and Reiche parenthesize Romans 2:13–15; Koppe, Romans 2:13; Lachmann, Meyer, Baumgarten-Crusius, Romans 2:14, 15. All these parentheses disturb the connection. Romans 2:13 proves the damnableness of those who sinned against the law (see Romans 2:17, and James 1:22), and accordingly constitutes the transition to what follows.—Not the hearers. “Because the Mosaic law was known to the majority only by being read to them; Gal. 4:21; Matt. 5:21; James 1:22; John 12:34.” Josephus, Antiq., 5. P, &c., Meyer.—But the doers of the law shall be justified. Philippi: “διχαιωθήσονται corresponds to δίκαιοι παρὰ τῶ̣ θεῶ̣ of the first member of the sentence: They shall be just before the judgment-seat of God—pronounced just by God. Διχαιοῦν, like the Hebrew הִצְדִּיק, as this passage already proves, is terminus forensis: to declare just, not to make just; for the doers of the law are already just, and need not be made just by God. Διχαιοῦν, from δίχαιος, according to the analogy of τυφλοῦν (to make blind), and other verbs in ὀω derived from adjectives of the second declension, means properly, it is true, according to the etymology, = to make just. Yet, as the Septuagint and the New Testament usage shows, we must supply, by declara ion.” then διχαιόω is, originally, to make just, on the part of the δίχη [right, righteousness, also the goddess of righteousness], and according to its tribunal; that is, to acknowledge just, which has throughout a forensic, but never an abstractly forensic sense; as διχαιόω means also, in the classic sense, to think or esteem just, according to the tribunal of personal opinion. Therefore the innocent man also, when once he stands at the tribunal, must be declared just; and the guilty one, who is declared just in the tribunal of grace, receives with this declaration the διχαίωμα of Christ in his faith, without which he could never be pronounced just according to Divine truth. See the Bible-Work on James 2:21 [p. 66 of the German, p. 85 of the Amer. ed.]. Even the punishment, according to the classical use of the term, becomes a διχαιοῦν, because the punished one, by punishment, becomes again conformable to the δίχη. According to Meyer, the Apostle has here only set forth the fundamental law of God judging in righteousness. According to Philippi, the ποιηταὶ τοῦ νόμου are here only placed as the true rule, in opposition to the false rule of the Jews, that the ἀχροαταὶ should be just before God, apart from the question whether there are such ποιηταί; but the whole argument of the Epistle to the Romans proves, that no man is by nature such a ποιητὴς τοῦνόμου. This construction does not coincide with Romans 2:14 and 15. We should rather observe here the deeper idea of ποιεῖν [ἐργάζεσθαι τὸ ἀγαθόν] in Romans 2:10, and of νόμος in Romans 2:14; and, at the same time, with Tersteegen’s view of God’s different tribunals, we must acknowledge that the Apostle can also use here the διχαιοῦν in the wider sense. Comp. 1 Cor. 4:4. The connection of this passage with the following verses cannot be destroyed by a dogmatizing exegesis.21

Romans 2:14. For when Gentiles [ἔθνη, without the article, meaning some, not all]. The confirmation of Romans 2:10 is introduced by what the Apostle has already said. The expositors seem here to have thoroughly wandered from the proper path, and to be influenced by a common misunderstanding of Romans 2:16. 1. According to Bucer, Calvin, Tholuck [Hodge], and others, Romans 2:14 refers to the first half of Romans 2:12. While there the question is concerning those who shall perish without law, the objection here to be met is, that there is only condemnation where a νόμος is present; in consequence of this, Koppe regards Romans 2:13 as parenthetical. Yet not only is the ἀπολογουένων against this view, but also the τὰ τοῦ νόμου ποιῶσιν. 2. Philippi: The Apostle refers to the first half of Romans 2:13. “Not the hearers of the law are just before God, for the Gentiles have also a law; the Gentiles are also ἀχροαταὶ τοῦ νόμου.” But this was not the case in the opinion of the Apostle. 3. According to Meyer, he refers to the second half of Romans 2:13. “The Gentiles possess a certain substitute for the Mosaic law. Therefore they are also subject to the rule: οἱποιητ. νόμ. διχαιωθήσονται.” But the fundamental rule is adduced only hypothetically by the Apostle, and not in the sense that the Gentiles actually are doers of the law. The deduction of Romans 2:14 and 15 will evidently establish the proposition of Romans 2:10, “But glory, honor,” &c., and “also to the Greek,” after Romans 2:12 and 13 have established the proposition of Romans 2:9. The fundamental thought is, that also the Gentiles can obtain eternal life; for it was not necessary that he should first prove this in reference to the Jews. This thought is mediated neither by the first half of Romans 2:13 alone, nor by the second alone, but by the whole rule: Not the hearers of the law are already just before God, but the doers of the law, in the sense of Romans 2:7. The ζητοῦντες, as poor in spirit, who are penitent, shall be justified in the new economy of salvation.—For when. ὅταν “supposes a case whose frequent occurrence is possible: in case when, whenever, as often as” (Meyer [who refers to Kühner, ii. p. 535 f., and Matthiæ. 1195]).—Gentiles, ἔθνη, without the article. The rule might refer, as hypothetically expressed, to the whole body of the Gentiles (according to De Wette, Reiche [Philippi, Alford, Hodge], and others); but as it is too evident from the first chapter that this case did not really occur, there is very properly no article; and the supposition that there is really “an election” of such Gentiles thereby gains greater probability. [Comp. Meyer in loc., and Hofmann, Schriftbeweis, i. p. 567, who likewise press the absence of the article, and justly reject the reference to 3:29; 9:30; 1 Cor. 1:23 (quoted by De Wette, Alford, and Hodge, in favor of the other view). On the other hand, ἔθνη is not identical with ἐθνιχοί, but indicates a species or class of Gentiles.—P. S.]

Who have no law, τὰμὴ νόμον ἔχοντα. The absence of the article means not only that they have not the Mosaic law, but that they have no revealed religious law whatever.—Do perchance by nature. By nature (φύσει) must not, with Bengel and Usteri, be referred to the preceding. For also the Jews do not have the law by nature. Nature is here the original nature, as it proves itself active, especially in the noble few—in the impulse or tendency toward the noble.—The things of the law. It is the material substance of the religious and moral law, apart from the formal definitions of the Mosaic code. The exposition of Beza and others is dogmatizing: Quœ lex facit (lex jubet, convincit, damnat, punit; hoc ipsum facit et ethnicus, &c.; Cappell). [Hodge: “There are two misinterpretations of the phrase τἀ τοῦ νόμου ποιεῖν. The one is, that it means, to fulfil the law; the other, to do the office of the law—i.e., to command and forbid. The former is unnecessary, and is in direct opposition to the express and repeated declaration of the Apostle, that none, whether Jew or Gentile, have ever fulfilled the law. To do the things of the law, is indeed to do what the law prescribes (comp. 10:5; Gal. 3:12); but whether complete or partial obedience is intended, depends upon the context. The man who pays his debts, honors his parents, is kind to the poor, does the things of the law, for these are things which the law prescribes. And this is all the argument of the Apostle requires, or his known doctrine allows us to understand by the phrase, in the present instance. This being the case, there is no need of resorting to the second interpretation mentioned above, which was proposed by Beza, and adopted by Wetstein, Flatt, and others. Though ποιεῖν τὰ τοῦ νόμου might mean to do what the law does, prescribe what is good, and forbid what is evil, it certainly has not that sense elsewhere in Paul’s writings—see 10:5; Gal. 3:12—and is especially out of place here, in immediate connection with the phrase ποιηταὶ τοῦ νόμου, in the sense of the doers of the law.—P. S.]

These, not having (the) law, are a law to themselves, οὗτοι is emphatic with approbation, νόμον μὴ ἔχοντες, in distinction from ἔχοντα, indicates want. Meyer: Their own moral nature supplies in them the place of the revealed law (see the classical parallels in Meyer). Philippi distinguishes between. τὸν νόμον ποιεῖν [Romans 2:13, or τὸν νόμον τελεῖν, Romans 2:27] and τὰ τοῦ νόμου ποιεῖν. They perform what belongs to the law; they observe only single outward commands of the law, one man this, another that. “Therefore they do not observe the law in its spirituality or deep inner meaning.”22 An utter perversion of the proper relation. Without knowing the laws of Moses, they observe the essential part of the law, τὰ διχαιώματα τοῡ νόμου. Romans 2:26, τὸν νόμον τελοῦντες, that is, performing it according to its defined purpose, Romans 2:27.

Romans 2:15. Who shew, &c. Οἵτινες is not “explaining or proving,” but emphasizing, recommending (see the antithesis in Romans 2:1). What and how do these prominent Gentiles show? They show, or exhibit, the work of the law; that is, the work required by the law. Not the law itself (Wolf, Koppe, &c.); for the Ten Commandments are not formally written in their heart, but the essential meaning of their requirement. Meyer: “The conduct corresponding to the law.” More properly expressed, the conduct intended by it. Luther: The contents of the law; likewise Seiler and Baur. According to Meyer and Tholuck, the singular stands collectively instead of ἔργα. “As Romans 2:7” (Tholuck). But Romans 2:7 rather means that the ἔργα are only good when they proceed from the unity of a ὑπομονὴ ἔργου ἀγαθοῦ. In the higher aspiration of the Gentile there was this analogy to Christian faith: that it consisted really in the unity and consistency of sentiment and life.

Written in their hearts. The adjective γραπὸν (supply ὄν) is stronger than the participle γεγραμμένον. [It implies the idea of permanency.] Evidently a contrast to the Mosaic record of the law on the tables of stone. See 2 Cor. 3:7; Jer. 31:33. Therefore a higher order of Judaism, similar to the New Testament life, is exhibited in its essential features in these chosen Gentiles (see the history of the Centurion at Capernaum). [The Greek poet Sophocles speaks of “the unwritten and indelible laws of the gods” in the hearts of men; and the Platonic philosopher Plutarch speaks of “a law which is not outwardly written in books, but implanted in the heart of man.—P. S.]

Who shew, ἐνδείχνυνται. And how do they exhibit or prove this? (see Romans 9:17, 22.) 1. By the doing of the law (Zwingli, Grotius, and the majority of recent commentators; De Wette, Meyer). 2. By the mark of their better endeavors in many ways (in a certain measure, Calvin; but better Cocceius, tom. v. p. 46. Yet both are biassed by the Augustinian view). 3. By the law of conscience. Tholuck (according to Theodoret and Erasmus): “Who, indeed, bear the impress of the judgment of the law in themselves, and in correspondence therewith their consequent conscience assumes in them the office of judge. For where we find the exercise of the judicial power in man, we must also presuppose the legislative power.” But this view is inconsistent not only with σύν in συμμαρτυρούσης (for the extended treatment of this question, see Tholuck, p. 105, and Meyer [p. 98, ed. iv., the note] ), but also with ἐνδείχνυνται. Here the language is concerning proofs of conscientiousness becoming outwardly manifest. Numbers 1 and 2 are to be united, since the well-doing, according to Romans 2:7, is only the perseverance in a noble endeavor (under the gratia prœveniens) , which attains its object only in Christianity.

Their conscience also hearing witness [συμμαρτυρούσης αὐτῶν τῆς συνειδήσεως]. It gives witness with, in connection with their better manner of action. Both bear witness to the belief that they are a law to themselves, in their natural spontaneity. De Wette: “συμμαρτυρεῖν is neither equal to μαρτυρεῖν (Grotius, Tholuck), nor una testari, with reference to the ποιεῖν τὰ τοῦ νόμ (Meyer, Fritzsche, &c.) But the σύν, like con in contestari, refers in part to the relation of the witness to him for whom he testifies; and in part, as in συνείδησις itself, to the inner relation of the consciousness.”23 But as the συνείδησις is a consciousness in man which is both objective and subjective, and hence independent of his merely subjective consciousness, so is the συμμαρτυρεῖς an independent witness of the right, which, in the case before us, corresponds with the witness of man in his deed. It is the Gentile’s cheering and often even joyous consciousness of his right direction; as, for example, of the Wise Men from the East under the guidance of their star.

And between one another their thoughts accusing or also excusing. [Dr. Lange translates: Indem zwischen ihnen die Gedankenurtheile anklagende oder auch entschuldigende sind. He refers, with Meyer, μεταξὺ ἀλλήλων to the heathen, not to the thoughts.—P. S.] Different expositions: 1. Their thoughts inwardly accuse each other (Luther, Calvin, Tholuck [Alford, Hodge] ). There are different views on μεταξὺ ἀλλήλων: at a future time, ἐν ἡμέρᾳ of judgment (Koppe); post rem actam (Vater); between (two portions of time), at the same time, meanwhile (Köllner [E. V.] ). But we must observe, on the contrary, that Paul does not speak of the inner facts of the consciousness, since these facts here fall under the conception of the historical ἔνδεξις. 2. The accusations and defences which were conducted between Gentiles and Gentiles (Storr, Meyer). Against this interpretation Tholuck raises the question: “How can τῶν λογισμῶν, without a more special indication, refer to any other subject than the one whose witness of conscience has just been mentioned?” But if the μεταξὺ ἀλλήλων refers to the intercourse between Gentiles, then the following must have the meaning: since the judgments of their thoughts are throughout accusing or excusing; that is, therefore, moral judgments, which refer to the origin of an immanent moral law. The accusing thoughts come first here, because the language refers first of all to the nobler Gentiles, whose opinions are related to the ordinary popular life as judicial ideals. But also in their excusing they often appeal from barbarian legal practices to the unwritten law (see Sophocles, Antigone). In short, the whole intercourse between the nobler heathen is a kind of moral dialectics, a continual moral process of thought. [Paul describes the moral process which takes place in the heart of man after a good or bad act; the conscience, συνείδησις, sits in judgment, and pronounces the sentence in God’s name according to the law; the διαλογισμοί are the several moral reflections and reasonings which appear as witnesses testifying and pleading in this court of conscience, and are often conflicting, since the sinful inclinations and passions interfere and bribe the witnesses; the object of the χατηγορεῖν, or ἀπολογεῖσθαι, is the moral action which is brought before the tribunal of the conscience. The ἢ χαὶ indicates that the conscience finds more to accuse than to excuse. This judicial process, which takes place here in every man’s heart, is a forerunner of the great judgment at the end of the world.—P. S.]

Romans 2:16. In the day. The commentators seem here to overlook the obvious, proper meaning, because they suppose that the ἡμέρα on which God will judge the secrets of men, must be referred to the day of final judgment. But, in the first place, the connection does not support this view, and hence an artificial connection has been variously constructed (the Gentiles show that on the day, &c.). Calvin explains ἐν ἡμέρᾳ as εἰς ἡμέραν, unto or until the day. [Others modify this by making ἐν to include εἰς “until and on that day.”—P. S.] Tholuck fills up the apparent chasm between Romans 2:15 and 16 by supposing that the Apostle probably had in mind a transition such as χαὶ τοῦτο μάλιστσ, and this especially, with the remark: “This view has now become the general one.”24 Others have helped themselves by parentheses. “So Stuart inclines to unite Romans 2:16 with Romans 2:11; Beza, Grotius, Reiche, &c. connect it with χριθν́σονται, Romans 2:12;25 Vatabl., Pareus, and Lachmann, with διχαιωθήσονται, Romans 2:13.” Meyer also, with Lachmann, parenthesizes Romans 2:14 and 15, and not, with Beza, and others, Romans 2:13–15. [Alford refers Romans 2:16 to the affirmation concluding with Romans 2:10, and regards Romans 2:11–15 as a series of quasi-parenthetic clauses, οὐ γάρὅσοι γάροὐ, γάρ—ὅταν γάρ assigning the reasons for the great retribution on the last day. Ewald goes back even to Romans 2:5.—P. S.] Secondly, the declaration that “God shall judge according to my gospel,” pronounces against the reference of ἡμέρα to the day of final judgment. Meyer passes over this difficulty with the remark of Calvin: Suum appellat ratione ministerii. His quotation of 1 Tim. 2:8 does not argue any thing for his interpretation. On the opinion that, according to a number of the Fathers, the gospel of Paul must be understood to be the gospel of Luke, compare the quotation in Meyer. But the Scriptures take cognizance not merely of one day of judgment. The day on which God judges the secrets of men according to the gospel of Paul, is the day when the Apostle preaches the gospel to them. On this day, in this time of decision, it becomes manifest that there are Gentiles who are a law to themselves; that there is another opposition than that of external Judaism and paganism; that there are Gentiles who must be counted for the circumcision, and Jews whose circumcision must be counted for uncircumcision (see Romans 2:26 and 27). It is a thought whose root is found already in the Old Testament, that the time of the appearance of Christ and of the preaching of the gospel is a time of judgment. See Joel 3:6, 7, and in other places; Malachi 3:2 ff. In John 3:19, even the appearance of Christ is relatively called the judgment. John 5:25: “The hour is coming, and now is.” The time of perfect faith is denoted a day (John 16:23, 26). Also, in Rom. 13., Romans 2:12 connected with Romans 2:13, the language cannot relate exclusively to the day of final judgment. The same applies to ἡμέρα in 1 Cor. 3:13. Comp. 2 Cor. 6:2, ἡμέρα σωτηρίας. The Apostle mentions this day without the article, without a solemn addition. He marks the day as the day when God shall judge the secrets of men. He uses the same word χρυπτά as in Romans 2:29, ὁ ἐν τῶχρυπτῶ ̓Ιουδαῖος. He says men—not merely the Gentiles—because the gospel, according to chaps. 9–11, manifests God’s judgment not only on the Gentiles, but also on the Jews; and this is a judgment pronounced on their internal good conduct or misconduct toward the internal nature and spirit of the law. In this relation the gospel of the Apostle was the real medium and measure of the judgment (see 1 Cor. 1:18); and Jesus Christ was the real judicial authority. See John 3:16; Acts 17:30, 31; 1 Cor. 4:5, and other places.—On the day of the promulgation of the gospel the better Gentiles manifested their ordination to salvation, just as the majority of the Jews made manifest their hardness of heart.

[According to my gospel. The μου is to be either understood, ratione ministerii (Calvin, Meyer), or better, the gospel of free grace for the uncircumcision, which was especially committed to Paul, as the gospel for the circumcision was to Peter, Gal. 2:7. The same expression occurs Rom. 16:25, 26.—Through Jesus Christ, as the appointed Judge of the world; Acts 17:30, 31; 1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:10; Matt. 25:31; John 5:27, &c. While χατὰ τὸ εὐαγγέλιόν μου favors Dr. Lange’s interpretation of ἐν ἡμέρα, the διὰ ̓ΙησΧρ. seems to refer rather to the future judgment; yet Christ has His hand in all the preparatory judgments of the history of the Church.—P. S.]


1. The common characteristic in the condemnable condition of the Gentiles and Jews is their religious and moral self-contradiction. In this self-contradiction Paul (Romans 1:21) discovers the beginning of the offence of the Gentiles, whom he represents as inexcusable (ἀναπολογήτους). The same self-contradiction is consummated, on one side, in the man who approves sin against better knowledge and conscience (Romans 1:32,), and, on the other side, in the man who condemns the sinner, and yet is guilty of weighty offences himself (Romans 2:1). Therefore the expression inexcusable (ἀναπολόγητος) is also repeated here. The judgment of God is ever also a self-judgment of man. See Matt. 12:37; 18:23; 25:26, 27. In the one who judges, the self-contradiction is completed as falsehood of the inner life in the very strongest degree. The sincere man, on the other hand (we can by no means speak of sincerity as absolute, but yet as gradually predominating), by looking into his own heart and life, arrives at that μαχροθυμία, in relation to human sin and misery, which is akin to compassion, and points not to the judgment of condemnation, but to the saving judgment of the gospel.

2. The condemnatory judgment pronounced by the sinner on the sinner does not only condemn him in form, but transposes him also actually to a condition similar to condemnation. Fanaticism is never more unhappy than when it would compel, by measures of deceit and violence, those who think differently to adopt its pretended forms of happiness (James 2:13).

3. The one who judges, says Paul (Romans 2:3, 4), has always a false idea of God. He either regards himself as the favorite of a partial God, on account of His conformity to theocratical, ecclesiastical, or legal forms, or he is inwardly vicious and wicked, and despises the real manifestations of God (see Ps. 50: 16–21). An atheistic element is common to both classes.

4. The long-suffering of God, or the forbearance of God’s justice toward the sinner, stands in reciprocal action with the wrath of God. Both denote the polar antagonism in the government of absolute justice, which is no rule of abstract law, but has a living, pedagogic form corresponding to the relation of the Divine personality to the human personality. See my Positive Dogmatics, p. 119. God’s forbearance and clemency, no less than His wrathful judgment, looks to the working of repentance.

5. The unbeliever and hardened one, by his own deeds, transforms the works of God’s forbearance and goodness into the preliminary conditions of His wrathful judgment, and accumulates for himself, out of the riches of God which he has experienced, a store of destruction.

6. The day of the rejected gospel is to man a day of inward judgment, as is proved by the destruction of Jerusalem. See the Exeg. Notes on Romans 2:5. But all judgments are prophecies and preludes of the last day of wrath. It is a narrow view, to suppose that the conception of historical periods excludes epochs, or that single epochs exclude the final catastrophe. This may also be applied to the idea of judgments. Just because the world’s history is the world’s judgment, the former pursues its course toward the latter.

7. The embarrassments of commentators on the sense of Romans 2:6–10 give evidence of timid and narrow views on the doctrine of justification. The passage gains its true light from the biblical doctrine that there is a gratia prœveniens over the Gentile world, which even Augustine did not yet wholly ignore, but which, through his influence, was lost sight of in the orthodox theology of the Middle Ages, and, indeed, of more recent times. The seekers who are portrayed in Romans 2:7 and 10 will never think seriously of relying upon their works before God, because they are in a gravitation toward the Eternal, which will find rest only when they see God in Christ, either in this or the other world. But the opposite class—whose principle of life is party spirit, and reliance upon temporal association—will ever place their confidence in their own achievements, even when they vigorously reject the doctrine of the meritoriousness of good works. For, besides the righteousness of works (Werkgerechtigkeit), there is also a righteousness of doctrine, of orthodoxy (Lehrgerechtigkeit), a righteousness of the letter (Buchstabenge echtigkeit), a righteousness of negation and protest (Negationsgerechtigkeit), which have, in common with the righteousness of works, the fundamental characteristic of party righteousness (Parteigerechtigkeit), and may be the more dangerous forms as they are the more subtle. On the salvation of the heathen, comp. Tholuck, Comm., pp. 92 ff.—The doctrine of justification cannot conflict with the doctrine of God’s righteousness, by virtue of which He will reward every man according to his works.

8. Glory and honor and immortality—precious pearls; eternal life—the goodly pearl. See Matt. 13:45, 46.

9. It is the character of all party spirit to be a rebel upwardly against the royal right of truth, and, on the other hand, a slave downwardly to the tyrannical and terrifying spirit of party.

10. Because God, as the Righteous One, looks at the substance of personal life, He does not regard the person according to its external and civil conception, nor according to its external appearance and estimate.

11. In Romans 2:12, different degrees of punishment are evidently indicated. See the Exeg. Notes.

12. On διχαιοῦν, comp. the Exeg. Notes on Romans 2:13 [also 1:17, and 3:21–31]. Likewise the Bible-Work on James 2:20 ff. Since διξαιοῦν, even according to the idea of making just, can only mean to declare just, because the question is always concerning justification in some legal tribunal, the supposed exceptions where διχαιοῦν in the Scriptures is made to signify to make just, should be investigated anew. The passage, Isa. 53:2, can really not otherwise be explained, than that He will, by virtue of his knowledge as the righteous servant of God, declare many just; and this because He shall bear their iniquities. The passage in Daniel, Romans 12:3, must by all means be explained thus: That the subject is the judgment of the world, in which, according to the biblical representation, the righteous shall take part (1 Cor. 6:2); and even if מַצְדִּיקֵּי refers to this life, it no more means one who makes just, than מַשְכִּילִים means one who makes wise. The reading, διχαιωθήτω, Rev. 22:11, cannot be sustained against the more strongly credited rendering, διχαιοσύνην ποιησάτω. See more on this subject ad Romans 3:26.

13. On the occurrence of a fulfilment of the law among the Gentiles, see Tholuck, pp. 101, 102. The author, following the older theologians, very justly opposes Flacianism [i.e., that sin is a substance, a revival of the old Manichæan heresy, by Flacius Illyricus, the editor of the Magdeburg Centuries, and a Lutheran controversialist of the 16th century.—P. S.]. To speak of virtues of the heathen, is liable to misunderstanding, unless we mean thereby a search after the Infinite. As heathen virtues, they can only be virtues of progress toward poverty in spirit (Matt. 5:3), under the guidance of the gratia prœveniens, or fundamental forms of the development of a desire after salvation. The attempt, in Rothe’s Ethik, part ii. p. 398 [1st ed.], to explain this class of virtues, is not very clear.

14. The three objective forms of seeking higher attainments in the Gentile world are: The state, as the expression of the search after righteousness in the conscience, or in the will; philosophy, as the expression of the search for an intelligent comprehension of the truth; and art, as the expression of the search for ideal contemplation, and the representation of life by means of the sentiments.

15. The three subjective forms of search for higher attainments in the Gentile world are: 1. Works of magnanimity. 2. The conscience, especially the cheerful impulses of the moral consciousness. “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” 3. An intercourse of moral judgments, of either an excusing or accusing character. [Bishop Sanderson, as quoted by Wordsworth: Paul teaches here (Romans 2:15) that every man, however unholy, has a conscience, though depraved; and that, at the fall of man, conscience itself was not lost, but its rectitude and integrity were impaired; and that, when we are born again in baptism, we do not receive the infusion of another conscience, but our conscience, which was before unclean, is washed by the blood of Christ, and is cleansed by faith, and is enlightened by the Holy Spirit, in order that it may please God.—P. S.]

16. On the day of the crisis which the gospel brings to pass, it will appear that many Gentiles are really Jews, and that many Jews are really Gentiles. Likewise, many Christians of the Middle Ages were essentially believers of evangelical truth, while many so-called evangelical persons whose righteousness consists of works, and others whose righteousness consists of doctrines, and still others whose righteousness consists of their Protestantism, are, after all, only Roman Catholics at heart. Ideal dynamical antitheses, which the day of the Lord will bring to light, predominate over the historical antitheses, which possess very great significance. On the day mentioned here, see the Exeg. Notes.


God’s impartial righteousness is shown: 1. He does not give preference to the Jews, although they possess the law; 2. He is not prejudiced against the Gentiles, although they are without the law; but, 3. of one, just as of the other, He asks whether they have done good or evil (Romans 2:1–16).—Because others are black, we do not become white (Romans 2:1).—Judging our neighbor is the worst depravity, because: 1. We are blind toward ourselves; 2. we are unjust toward our fellow-men (Romans 2:1).—By our judgment of others we fall under the judgment of God pronounced on ourselves (Romans 2:3).—What does the celebration of a day of fasting and prayer require us to do? 1. Not to despise the riches of God’s goodness, patience, and forbearance; but rather, 2. to remember that His goodness should lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4).—God’s goodness regarded as the pure source of repentance (Romans 2:4).—Treasure not up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath (Romans 2:5).—Dies irœ, dies illa, solvet sœcla in favilla (Romans 2:5, 6).—What will God give to every man according to his works? 1. To some, glory and honor and immortality, together with precious peace; 2. to others, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish (Romans 2:6–11).—What it is to continue patiently in well-doing for eternal life (Romans 2:7).—God’s indignation! 1. Not unmerited, but deserved; 2. not temporary, but eternal (Romans 2:8).—God’s wrath: holy displeasure, not unholy anger.—No one is without law. For, 1. God has given His law to the Jews by Moses; 2. he has written the substance of it upon the hearts of the Gentiles (Romans 2:12–16).—The universal revelation of God in the conscience (Romans 2:14, 15).—The conscience, and human thoughts in their relation to each other. This relation is such, that, 1. The witness of the former testifies of the work of the law; 2. the latter, in the presence of such witness, accuse or excuse one another (Romans 2:14, 15).—Impossibility of preaching the gospel among the heathen, if they were deprived of conscience.—The revelation of God in the conscience, on the one hand, not to be despised; and, on the other, not to be overvalued.—Conscience regarded as the connecting link for every missionary sermon among the heathen.

LUTHER:26 The little word “law” must not be understood here after a human fashion, that it teaches which works are to be done, and which are to be left undone; as is the case with the laws of men, which can be obeyed by works, without the feeling of the heart. God judges according to the intent of the heart, and will not be satisfied by words; but all the more punishes as hypocrisy and lying those works which are done without the feeling of the heart. Therefore Paul says that nobody is a doer of the law by the works of the law (Romans 2:15).

STARKE: The ungodly are as the swine, which do not look at the tree whose acorns they gather up. Thus, with all their enjoyment of temporal mercies, they do not look up to God, who gives them richly to enjoy every good thing (Hosea 2:7; Isa. 1:3; Jer. 5:24); for by every morsel of bread He seeks their improvement (Romans 2:4).—He who does not grow better, will grow worse by Divine goodness (Romans 2:5).—As the labor, so the reward; and each one must reap what he has sown (Romans 2:6).—The pious will gain in perfection in the kingdom of glory that which they had sought in the kingdom of grace (Romans 2:10).—HEDINGER: To censure others, is the same as to condemn one’s self. He who therefore loves to judge, pronounces sentence upon himself (Romans 2:1).—Blindness! Delay produces deception. Security follows Divine forbearance. Take care! The longer the storm gathers, the greater its devastation. The one who has received the long loan, has not therefore received it as a gift (Romans 2:4).—Every sin will receive its due reward. Who will trifle with it? (Romans 2:8.)—A greater measure of knowledge brings only greater condemnation, and no excuse. This much a Gentile knows of the will of God, that he may be condemned to death justly; much more may the Christian be justly condemned who can and should know perfectly the will of God in the law (Romans 2:14).—Nova Bibl. Tub.: The sinner can persuade himself, and by many kinds of misconception stupefy himself, so as to believe that his sins will go unpunished. Ah, how common is this deception! (Romans 2:3.)—Eternal life is a jewel for which we should strive, a crown for which we should fight, a gift which we should accept, hold, and keep until the end. He who perseveres, will be saved. The question at the judgment-day will not be one of words, but of deeds (Romans 2:7).—No one is without law! If it is not written in stone, it is nevertheless engraved upon the heart. Every one knows by nature what is just and what is unjust, what is good and what is evil (Romans 2:4).—CRAMER: God must be truly in earnest for human salvation, which He seeks by prosperity and adversity. When words cannot avail, He punishes, and waits with great forbearance and patience until the sinner is converted (Romans 2:4).—The law of nature is a source of the written law of God, embraced in the two rules: Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; and what you would not have them do unto you, do not unto them (Romans 2:14).—No one can sin so that his sins shall remain concealed; for, if they are not revealed before, they will be brought to light at the last day (Romans 2:16).—Würtemb. Bibl.: Works are witnesses of faith. We must therefore do good works, not in order to be saved, but in order that with them we may testify of our faith, and by faith may inherit eternal life (Romans 2:7).—LANGE: Abandon all the excuses of age, or condition, or other personal circumstances, that you, with your want of honest Christianity, bring forward; for you can derive no advantage from them before God’s judgment-seat (Romans 2:11).—The law of nature must be of great advantage, and be written very deeply on the hearts of all men, since its wilful transgression brings upon men so great guilt, and punishment or condemnation (Romans 2:12).

BENGEL: As long as man does not feel the judgment of God, he is apt to despise His goodness, Matt. 28:18. Mark here the antithesis of the richness of Divine goodness despised, and the accumulated treasure of wrath.

O. V. GERLACH: The goodness of God is manifested in the exhibition of blessings; His patience, in bearing with the sinner; and His long-suffering, in withholding from punishment (Romans 2:4).—Christianity is not something lately discovered among men; but its Founder, the Son of God Himself, is the King and Judge not only of Christians, but likewise of Jews and Gentiles, whom He, in His preparatory households of grace—the former in His Father’s house, the latter by an awakened longing for the same—is seeking to train up for His kingdom, though now they are far distant from home (Romans 2:16).—LISCO: Merely external honesty is also punishable (Romans 2:1).—Glory, splendor, instead of lowness, honor instead of contempt, and immortality instead of the mortal condition (1 Cor. 15:53, 54), are the reward of patience, of the continuous striving for eternal life in spite of all impediments and difficulties (Romans 2:7).

HEUBNER: God’s judgment is righteous: 1. Objectively: in accordance with sacred laws; not arbitrarily or capriciously, without regard to the person; 2. subjectively: according to the true character of the man, taking each one for his internal and external worth (Romans 2:2).—The dealing of God toward sinful men is simply this: He first tries each with goodness, before He pronounces punishment; it is our salvation to acknowledge this goodness, but it is our ruin to despise it (Romans 2:4).—The hardened heart is accusable: its operation is not that of nature, but of its own degeneration. How is it first hardened? 1. By frivolity; 2. by obstinacy and pride; 3. by actual, continued sinning (Romans 2:5).—The righteous impartiality of God. God does not judge: 1. By outward advantages, form, birth, pedigree, power, respect, wealth; nor, 2. by gifts of mind, acquisitions, skill; nor, 3. by external performances as such, by merely external works, external piety;—but by the whole inward sense, by the simplicity and clearness of the heart; by faith and fidelity. He has regard to what is given to each man (Romans 2:11).

THE PERICOPE (Romans 2:1–11) for 10th Sunday after Trinity (Memorial of the destruction of Jerusalem), instead of 1 Cor. 12:1–11: The impenitent sinner has no excuse before God.: 1. Proof; 2. application.—Man before the Divine judgment: He must, 1. Acknowledge himself guilty; 2. regard God’s judgment righteous and inevitable; 3. take refuge in God’s goodness, and listen to its call to repentance; 4. fear the future; 5. listen to revelation.—We should see ourselves reflected in the example of the impenitent Jews.

DANIEL SUPERVILLE: The sovereign equity of God (Romans 2:11).—MENKEN: The universal equality of men before God’s judgment.

SPENER: The whole law was written on the heart of the first man, for his soul was an image of God’s perfect holiness and righteousness. But after this complete law had been erased from the heart, there remained, so to speak, only some of the larger letters, some portion of the knowledge of the manifest evil and good (Romans 2:15).—Conscience is nothing else than a voice of God (Romans 2:15).—Roos: Conscience is the consciousness or the judicial declarations of the law (Romans 2:15).

BESSER: From man’s knowledge of God’s law written on his heart, there arises conscience, which testifies to him, as Luther excellently describes, the power with which conscience presses its judicial witness upon man (Romans 2:15).—To the question, “What disease is killing you?” the poet Euripides makes a matricide answer: “Conscience; for I am conscious that I have done evil” (Romans 2:15).

J. P. LANGE: The judgment of men in the judgment of God.—The sources of judgment (Romans 2:4, 5).—How the sinner changes the treasures of God’s goodness into treasures of wrath.—The great judgment-days in the world’s history, especially the destruction of Jerusalem.—Justification and God’s righteousness: 1. Apparent contradiction; 2. perfect unity.—Two kinds of men perceptible: 1. In two purposes; 2. two kinds of seeking; 3. two results (Romans 2:7–10).—God does not regard the person because He looks at it: 1. He does not regard it in a worldly sense; 2. He regards it according to its spiritual significance.—The gospel reveals the thoughts of the heart: 1. As a savor of death unto death; and 2. as a savor of life unto life.—But this does not apply to every form of Christianity.

[BURKITT: On the day of judgment as the time when God’s character and dealings shall be displayed, Romans 2:5.—It will be a day when His righteousness shall be universally manifested and magnified; when all His attributes shall be glorified; His wonderful clemency sweetly displayed; His exact justice terribly demonstrated; His perfect wisdom clearly unfolded; all the knotty plans of Providence wisely resolved; all the mysterious depths of His counsels fully discovered; and His injured honor and glory elearly repaired, to the joyful satisfaction of all good men, and to the dreadful consternation and confusion of the wicked and impenitent world.—On Romans 2:16: Here, 1. A doctrine is boldly asserted—a coming day of judgment; and 2. its proof and confirmation—“according to my gospel.”

[M. HENRY (condensed) on the whole passage, Romans 2:1–16: The Apostle, 1. Arraigns the Jews for their censoriousness and self-conceit; 2. asserts the invariable justice of the Divine government; 3. draws up a charge against the Jews; 4. describes the measures by which God proceeds in His judgment; and 5. proves the equity of all His dealings with men when He comes to judge them.

[MACKNIGHT: Paul distinguishes between meritorious and gratuitous justification; the former being that which is unattainable by works of the law, the latter that which is attainable, as James says, not by faith only, but by works also.

Romans 2:15: That there is a natural revelation made to the heathen, is proved by Paul by three arguments: 1. By many virtuous acts performed by the heathen; 2. by the natural operation of their consciences; 3. by their reasonings with one another, by which they excused or accused one another.

[JORTIN: These suppositions agree both with Scripture and reason: 1. All men can do all that God requires of them; 2. all who do the best they can, derive help from God as far as is needful; 3. they all have Christ as their Redeemer, though. He was never revealed to them.—Who knows whether the lot of the savage be not better than that of the philosopher, and the lot of the slave than that of the king? But this much we know, that every one ought to be contented with that state in which his wise and good Creator has placed him, and to conclude that it will be the best for him if he makes the best use of it. Upon this supposition the Divine impartiality stands fully justified.

[TIMOTHY DWIGHT: 1. Our eternal life is in itself an immense good; 2. eternal happiness consist in eternal disinterestedness and its consequences. (See sermon on Consistency of Benevolence with seeking Salvation, in which Lord Shaftesbury’s celebrated theory, that disinterestedness is virtue, and the only virtue, is controverted.)

[JOHN FOSTER: To the present hour in each life, the series of the Divine goodness may be counted by the succession of a man’s sins. Not one sin, small or great, but immediately close by it were acts and proofs of this goodness. If this had been realized to thought, what a striking and awful admonition! Every sin a testimony, a representative of good; and the wonder is that the goodness goes on!

[Annot. Parag. Bible (London): The question is not (Romans 2:14, 15) whether any of the Gentiles have actually attained to eternal life without a Divine revelation, but whether they had the law of nature or conscience. They had this; and by it they shall be judged.—TAYLOR: Note Paul’s wisdom in appealing to Jew and Gentile: 1. If the Jew could be convinced that a right-minded Gentile might be blessed with eternal salvation, why should he not now be pardoned, and taken into the visible Church? 2. the Gentile, made despondent by the representations of his guilt in the last chapter, here finds himself placed with the Jews, and entitled to hope in God’s mercy.

[HODGE: The principles on which the Apostle assures us all men are to be judged, are, 1. He who condemns in others what he does himself, ipso facto condemns himself; 2. God’s judgments are according to the real character of men; 3. the goodness of God, being designed to lead us to repentance, is no proof that He will not punish sin; 4. God will judge strictly according to works, not profession; 5. men shall be judged strictly according to their knowledge of duty.—Further Remarks by HODGE (condensed): 1. The deceitfulness of the heart strikingly exhibited in the different judgments they pass on themselves and others; 2. ask yourself, “How does the goodness of God affect me?” 3. genuine repentance produced by discoveries of God’s mercy, legal repentance by fear of His justice; 4. any doctrine that tends to produce security in sin, must be false; 5. how vain the hopes of blessedness founded on God’s partiality, or forgetfulness of sin; 6. to escape our guilt, we must seek the Saviour’s righteousness; 7. He who died for the sins of men, will sit in judgment on sinners.

[Romans 2:16. BARNES: On the propriety of a day of judgment, when all the thoughts of the heart will be revealed: 1. It is only by revealing these that the character is really determined, and impartial judgment administered; 2. they are not judged or rewarded in this life; 3. men of pure motives and pure hearts are often basely caluminated, and overwhelmed with ignominy; while men of base motives are often exalted in public opinion. It is proper that the secret principles of each should be revealed.—J. F. H.]

[Romans 2:7. By patient continuance in well-doing. BARROW: No virtue is acquired in an instant, but by degrees, step by step; from the seeds of right instruction and good resolution it springs up, and goes forward by a continual progress and customary practice. ’Tis a child of patience, a fruit of perseverance, and, consequently, a work of time; for enduring implies a good space of time.

Romans 2:9. ADAM: Every sin, when newly committed, amazes and terrifies the soul, though the sense of it soon wears off. How shall we bear the anguish of all our sins together, when conscience, which forgets and extenuates none, brings them to our remembrance?

Romans 2:14. A law unto themselves. BISHOP PEARSON: Every particular person has a particular remembrance in himself, as a sufficient testimony of his Creator, Lord, and Judge. That man which most peremptorily denieth God’s existence, is the greatest argument to himself that there is a God. Let Caligula profess himself an atheist, and, with that profession, hide his head or run under his bed, and when the thunder strikes his ears, and lightning flashes in his eyes, those terrible works of nature put him in mind of the power, and his own guilt, of the justice of God; whom, while in his wilful opinion he weakly denies, in his involuntary action he strongly asserteth. So that a Deity will either be granted or extorted, and, where it is not acknowledged, it will be manifested.

Romans 2:5 and 16. BISHOP J. TAYLOR: There are two great days in which the fate of all the world is transacted. This life is man’s day, in which man does what he pleases, and God holds His peace. But then God shall have His day too, in which He shall speak, and no man shall answer. If we do the work of God in our own day, we shall receive an infinite mercy in the day of the Lord.

Romans 2:16. My gospel. The gospel: 1. A voice of love (vox amoris); 2. a voice of challenge (vox contestationis); 3. a voice of certainty (vox certitudinis); 4. a voice of persuasion and invitation (vox invitationis); 5. a voice of decision and judgment (vox judicii).—P. S.]


[1]Romans 2:5.—[ἐν ἠμέρᾳ ὀργῆς, i.e., wrath which will be revealed in the day of wrath. It belongs to ὀργἠν, not to θησαυρίζεις. The E. V. confounds ἐν with εἰς, which is inadmissible, unless we take it as a constructio pregnans, so that ἐν includes εὶς.—P. S.]

[2]Romans 2:5.—καί after ἀποκαλύψεως is nowise sustained either by the Codd. or by the connection. [Probably inserted to relieve the number of genitives. Meyer: The καί would make the sense: the appearance of God and His righteous judgment. But the term ἀποκάλυψις τοῦ θεοῦ is unusual. Paul speaks only of the ἀποκ. χριστοῦ, 1 Cor. 1:7; 2 Thess. 1:7.—P. S.]

[3]Romans 2:7.—[On the different constructions see the Exeg. Notes.—P. S.]

[4]Romans 2:8.—The rec. θυμὸς καὶ ὸργή. [The reverse order is intrinsically preferable and sustained by א. A. B. D *. G. Vulg. Syr., &c., and adopted by the critical editors. The change in the construction from the accusative ζωὴν αίώνιον (ἀποδώσει), Romans 2:7, to the nominative ὸργὴ καὶ θυμός (ἀποδώσεται or ἒσται), Romans 2:8, is no doubt intentional; God gives eternal life, and wills all men to be saved; but condemnation is man’s own guilt and comes, so to speak, Deo nolente. Comp. Œcumenius, Wordsworth, Hodge, and Forbes in loc. Bengal, on Matt. 7. 24, says: “Salutaria Deus ad se refert; mala a se removet.”—P.S.

[5]Romans 2:11.—[Literally, acceptance of faces. For προσωποληψία, several Codd. (A. D. G. and Sinaiticus) read προσωπολημψία, with an μ, and this reading has been adopted by Lachmann, Alford, and others here and elsewhere (Acts 10:34; James 2:9). The insertion of a μ is probably Alexandrian usage, and due to a vicious pronunciation of β and π..—P. S.]

[6]Romans 2:13.—The article [before νόμου in both cases, which is found in the text. rec.] is wanting in A. B. D. E. [and in Cod. Sin., and is probably inserted to indicate that the written law of Moses is meant here. Nevertheless the article before law may be properly retained in the E. V. Alford proposes to omit the article before hearers, and doers, since οί in both cases is generic. οί ἀκροαταὶ νόμου and οί ποιηται νομου form properly one word: Gesetzeshörer, Gesetzesthäter, law-hearers, law-doers.—P. S.]

[7]Romans 2:14.—[ἒθνη, not τὰ ἒθνη. The omission of the article is important to avoid the appearance of conflict with the general moral depravity of the heathen, as taught 1:22 ff.—P. S.]

[8]Romans 2:14.—[Dr. Lange translates: etwa thun, and so renders the force of the subjunctive ποιῶσιν, which is better attested (א. A. B.) than the indicative ποιοῦσιν, and is adopted by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford. Others read the singular ποιῇ with reference to the neutral plural ἒθνη (Meyer, Wordsworth).—P. S.]

[9]Romans 2:14.—[There is, as Meyer remarks, a difference of emphasis between μὴ νόμον ἒχ. and νόμον μὴ ἒχ.; the first denies the possession of the law, the second the possession of the law. This difference can perhaps best be rendered in English by: having no law, and, not having the law—P. S.]

[10]Romans 2:15.—[The inward monitor of the heathen condemns or acquits their moral conduct. The καί after is concessive, and implies that the acquittal is the exception, the condemnation the rule. μεταξὺ ἀλλήλων must not be separated, and μεταξὐ is to be taken not as adverb, as in the E. V. , but as preposition, inter se, between one another, invicem, alternately; comp. Acts 15:9: διέκρινε μεταξὐ ὴμῶν τε καὶ αὐτῶν; Matt. 18:15: μεταξὺ σοῦ καὶ αὐτοῦ. The ἀλλήλων may refer either to the ἒθνη, as the preceding αὐτῶν (Meyer, Lange), or to the following τῶν διαλογισμῶν, i.e., thought against thought in inner strife. See Exeg. Notes. Omit the parenthesis Romans 2:13, 14, and 15 (E. v.), or of 14 and 15 (Lachmann, Meyer), which only disturbs the connection. See Exeg. Notes on Romans 2:16.—P. S.]

[11][Similarly Hodge: Though from what follows it is plain that the Jews are here intended, yet the proposition is made general. Wordsworth: Paul uses ἂνθρωπε instead of ̓Ιουδαἲε, because the proposition is of universal application, and because he would approach the Jew with gentleness, and not alienate him by an abrupt denunciation.—P. S.]

[12][Wordsworth: We who are Jews and have the Scriptures. The Apostle charitably and wisely identifies himself with the Jews to convince them from the conceded ground of the O. T.—P. S.]

[13][In the writings of Justin Martyr and other fathers. See Meyer in loc.—P. S.]

[14][Of the English and American commentators, whom I have consulted, Dr. Hodge is the only one who takes some pains to solve the dogmatic difficulty presented by this apparent contradiction of the doctrine of retribution according to works, and the doctrine of justification by faith. I quote the substance of his remarks: “First, notwithstanding the doctrine of gratuitous justification, and in perfect consistency with it, the Apostle still teaches that the retributions of eternity are according to our works. The good only are saved, and the wicked only are condemned. * * * The wicked will be punished on account of their works, and according to their works; the righteous will be rewarded, not on account of, but according to their works. Good works are to them the evidence of their belonging to that class to whom, for Christ’s sake, eternal life is graciously awarded; and they are in some sense and to some extent, the measure of that reward. But it is more pertinent to remark, in the second place, that the Apostle is not here teaching the method of justification, but is laying down those general principles of justice, according to which, irrespective of the gospel, all men are to be judged. He is expounding the law, not the gospel. And as the law not only says that death is the wages of sin, but also that those who keep its precepts shall live by them, so the Apostle says, that God will punish the wicked and reward the righteous. This is perfectly consistent with what he afterwards teaches, that there are none righteous; that there are none who so obey the law as to be entitled to the life which it promises; and that for such the gospel provides a plan of justification without works, a plan for saving those whom the law condemns. He is here combating the false hopes of the Jews, who, though trusting to the law, were by the principles of the law exposed to condemnation. This he does to drive them, from this false dependence, and to show them that neither Jew nor Gentile can be justified before the bar of that God, who, while He promises eternal life to the obedient, has revealed His purpose to punish the disobedient. All, therefore, that this passage teaches is, that irrespective of the gospel, to those who either never heard of it, or who having heard, reject it, the principle of judgment will be law.” This is a combination of the interpretation of Tholuck with that of Olshausen, enumerated above as Nos. 1 and 2. Stuart: “There is some real goodness in the works of the sanctified; and this will be rewarded, imperfect as it is, not on the ground of law, but on the ground of grace.” Very unsatisfactory. Dr. Wordsworth says not a word on this difficulty, but gives a long extract from Jerome’s work against Pelagius in explanation of Romans 2:5.—P. S.]

[15][Tholuck makes δόξα the condition, τιμή the recognition, ἀΦθαρσία the unbroken continuance of the blessedness of the saints. Hodge: The manifested excellence or splendor of the future condition is expressed by τιμή, the honor due such excellence by δόξα, and the endless nature of blessedness by ἀΦθαρσία. Similarly Meyer.—P. S.]

[16][Lange renders οἰ ἐξ ἐριθείας, die vom Parteitreiben her sind.—P. S.]

[17][Fritzsche renders the word malitiosi fraudum machinatores. This derivation was first suggested by Rückert and is now generally adopted; also by Alford, Wordsworth, and Hodge, although Hodge renders the word contentious, and gives it in the present case a wider meaning, like De Wette and Tholuck. Conybeare and Howson: “Ἐριθεία seems to mean selfish party intrigue conducted in a mercenary spirit, and more generally, selfish cunning … ἐριθευομένους is used for intriguing partisans by Aristotle (Polit. 5:3). The history of the word seems to bear a strong analogy to that of our term job.” Moses Stuart adheres to the old derivation from ἒρις; Robinson adopts the correct derivation from ἒριθος, ἐριθεύω, but gives it the same meaning as ἒρις, party-strife, faction, contention.—P. S.]

[18][The change of construction is a delicate adjustment in the Greek, to express the nice distinction that God is directly the Author and Giver of eternal life, but not strictly and primarily of eternal punishment, which is the necessary result of the sinner’s own conduct. A similar distinction is intended by the change of construction from the active προητοίμασεν to the passive κατηρτισμένα, Rom. 9:22, 23: The vessels of mercy God Himself had before prepared unto glory, but the vessels of wrath are filled, or have fitted themselves, for perdition. Comp. Textual Note4.—P. S.]

[19][Meyer and Alford: “θλῖψις signifies more the outward weight of objective infliction, στενοχωρία the subjective feeling of the pressure.” They are often associated, 8:35; 2 Cor. 4:8; 6:4. The latter is the stronger term, and hence it always follows by way of climax.—P. S.]

[20][נָשׂא פָּנִים, to lift up, or accept the face of some one, i.e., to be favorable or partial to him from personal considerations. In the N. T. the terms προσωποληπτέω, προσωποληψία, προσωπολήπτης (in some Codd. written with an µ before ψ) always denote the unjust partiality, and are denied to God and forbidden to man.—P. S.]

[21][On the meaning of the terms δικαιόω, δικαίωσις, δικαιοσύνη, the reader is referred to the Exeg. Notes, chap. i. 17, and iii. 21–31. Dr. Hodge holds to the strictly forensic view, and agrees here with Philippi. “To be just before God,“ he says,“ and to be justified, are the same thing. They are both forensic expressions, and indicate the state rather than the character of those to whom they refer. Those are just in the sight of God, or are justified, who have done what the law requires, and are regarded and treated accordingly; that is, are declared to be free from condemnation, and entitled to the favor of God. In obvious allusion to the opinion, that being a Jew was enough to secure admission to heaven, the Apostle says, It is not the hearers but the doers of the law that are justified. He is not speaking of the method of justification available for sinners, as revealed in the gospel, but of the principles of justice which will be applied to all who look to the law for justification. If men rely on works, they must have works; they must be doers of the law; they must satisfy its demands, if they are to be justified by it. For God is just and impartial; He will, as a judge administering the law, judge every man, not according to his privileges, but according to his works and the knowledge of duty which he has possessed. On these principles, it is his very design to show that no flesh living can be justified.” Similarly Melanchthon: “Hæc descriplio est justitiæ legis, quæ nihil impedit alia dicta de justitia fidei.” But the real difficulty consists in the apparent conflict of Paul’s doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith, and his doctrine of judgment by works, as taught not only here from the standpoint of the law, but elsewhere from the standpoint of the gospel as well, 2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:10; Gal. 6:7; Eph. 6:8; Col. 3:24, 25; Matt. 12:36; 25:31–46; John 5:29. Comp. the comments on Romans 2:6, p. 96 ff.—P. S.]

[22][Forbes, p. 148, fully adopts this distinction of Philippi, and thinks it essential to the proper understanding of the whole passage.—P. S.]

[23][Similarly Alford: “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.—P. S.]

[24][Wordsworth also adopts this connection with Romans 2:15, and quotes from Bishop Pearson (Art. VII. on the Creed): “Conscience is a witness bound over to give testimony for or against us at some judgment after this life to pass upon us.”—P. S.]

[25][So do the editions of Griesbach and Knapp and the E. V., who parenthesize Romans 2:13, 14, 15.—P. S.]

[26]Long-suffering is a virtue which is slow to become wrathful and to punish wrong. Patience is that which bears misfortune in property, body, or reputation, whether it happen justly or unjustly. Goodness is temporal reciprocal beneficence, and a friendly nature (Romans 2:4).

Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,
FOURTH SECTION.The aggravated corruption of the Jew in his false zeal for the law (a side-piece to the corruption of the Gentile in his idolatrous worship of symbols). The fanatical and wicked method of the Jews in administering the law with legal pride, and in corrupting it by false application and treachery—an occasion for the blasphemy of God’s name among the Gentiles.

ROMANS 2: 17–24

17Behold,27 [But if] thou art called [named, denominated, ἐπονομάζῃ] a Jew, and restest in [upon] the law,28 and makest thy boast of God [boastest in God], 18And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent [provest, or, discernest the things that differ],29 being instructed out of the law; 19And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which 20[those who] are in darkness, An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast [having] the form [the representation, model, pattern, τὴν μόρφωσιν] of knowledge and of the truth in the law. [,—] 21Thou therefore which [Thou, then, who] teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? 22Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege [literally, robbery of temples]?30 23Thou that makest thy boast of [in] the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? [through the transgression of the law thou dishonourest God.]3124For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you,” as it is written [Isa. 52:5; Ezek. 36:20].


The connection with the foregoing is explained by Tholuck [p. 110] thus: “The Jew was already humbled by the proof that the Gentile was also in possession of the law. But it is further charged upon him that his possession of the law has become a dishonor to Him who gave it to him.” We have seen already that the connection consists in a sharp antithesis: a Gentile who is a Jew at heart; a Jew who, according to the spirit of the law, is the most wanton Gentile. [Estius justly calls the following apostrophe, “oratio splendida ac vehemens.”]

Romans 2:17. But if thou art named a Jew. There seems to be an anacoluthon in the following verses, which it was probably intended to remove by the reading ἰδέ. Tholuck: “The apodosis appears to be wanting to the protasis, Romans 2:17–20.” But we may explain without an anacoluthon (Meyer): “But if thou art called a Jew, &c. thou therefore (οὖν, Romans 2:21, in consequence of what has been said, who teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?” We would find an easier solution, if we could read the verbs ἐπονομάζῃ and ἐπαναπαύῃ as conjunctives for the formation of a hypothetical protasis; the following indicatives would then constitute the apodosis. But the ἄν is wanting to the εἰ. [See Textual Note1.]—Named. Jew was the designation of the Hebrew according to his religion; therefore the theocratic name of honor, which is also contained in the etymology of the word itself.32 Ἐπονομάζ ῃ is translated cognominaris by the Vulgate and Bengel. [Wordsworth: ἐπονομάζῃ, thou hast a title in addition to (ἐπί) that which other men possess.—P. S.] But the compound verb is also used in the sense of the Simple ὀνομάζειν, and the name ̓Ιουδαῖος was not a surname, although it might become a surname for the false Jew. Tholuck [Meyer, Philippi, Hodge; comp. LXX. Gen. 4:17, 25, 26, and the classical quotations of Meyer in loc.—P. S.].—And restest. Intimation of Jewish pride. Strictly: Thou liest on it for rest. Thus the Jew abused his privilege; Ps. 147:19, 20.—Israel perverted into a false trust its ideal destination for the nations, according to Isa. 42:6, 7, and other passages; and it so caricatured the single elements (which are designated in the following verses) of this destination, that the most glaring moral contradiction took place in its character.—Thou makest thy boast33 in God, as thy [exclusive] guardian God; Isa. 45:25; Jer. 31:33. [To boast or glory in God, or in Christ (Gal. 6:14), is right, if it proceeds from a sense of our weakness and unworthiness, and a corresponding sense of the goodness of God, as our sure refuge and strength; but it is wrong if it arises from religious bigotry and conceit, which would monopolize the favor of God to the exclusion of others. Calvin: “Hœc igitur non cordis gloriatio, sed linguœ jactantia fuit.” The false Jewish boasting in God amounted to a boasting in the flesh, against which we are warned, Gal. 6:13; 2 Cor. 10:15; Phil. 3:3. Ἰουδαῑος ἐπανομάζῃχαὶ ἐπαναπαύσῂ νόμῳχαὶ χαυχᾶσαι ἐν θεῷ, form a rising climax.—P. S.]

Romans 2:18. And knowest his will [τὸ θέλημα is emphatic.—P. S.] That is, His will as the inward part of the law; Eph. 3:18, &c.; or rather, the absolute will which has become manifest in the law.—And discernest the things that differ [δοχιμάζεις τὰ διαφέροντα]. Three explanations of this expression: 1. The difference between right and wrong (Theodoret, Theophylact, Grotius, &c., Tholuck, Philippi, and others); 2. what is at variance with the will of God, sinful (Clericus, Glöckler); 3. thou-approvest the excellent (Vulgate: probas utiliora, Bengel, Meyer [Hodge]). According to the meaning of διαφέρειν (to be prominent; to be distinguished; to excel), and διαφέροντα (the distinctions; the excellent), these different explanations are equally allowable; and the connection must therefore determine which is the best one. But the explanation: thou approvest the excellent, is not strong enough; although Meyer sees in it the completion of a climax.34 The Jew was, as פָּרוּשׁ,35 the distinguishing, the sharply deciding between what was allowed and disallowed; he was skilled in the διάχρισις χαλοῦ τε χαὶ χαχοῦ, Heb. 5:14; the διαστολὴ ἁγίων χαί βεβήλων [a term frequently used by Philo]. This explanation passes over into a fourth: τὰ διαφέροντα, the controversies (De Dieu, Wolf).—Being instructed. After his fashion he lives in the law, χατηΧούμενος, not χατηΧηθείς. [Being instructed, not only catechetically in youth, but didactically and continually by the reading and exposition of the Scriptures in the synagogue on the Sabbath day.—P. S.]

Romans 2:19. And art confident. He should be every thing that follows, according to Old Testament intimations; see Isa. 42:6, 7, and other passages. So much less is there a reason why Reiche should find here reminiscences from the Gospels (Matt. 15:14; Luke 20:32). The corruption of Judaism consisted throughout in perverting the Old Testament attributes of the people, and of its future, into the literal and the carnal. From this arose also its proselytism (Matt. 23:15), which is here described.—Guide of the blind. The Jew called the Gentiles blind; σχότος, in Isa. 60:2, means, therefore, the Gentiles; and φῶς εἰς ἀποχάλυψιν ἐθνῶν, in Isa. 49:6, means the Jews; νήπιοι, the proselytes (see Tholuck).

Romans 2:20. Form (pattern) of knowledge. μόρφωσις—classically, μόρφωμα; Hesychius: αχηματισμός. [In the New Testament it occurs only once more—2 Tim. 2:5—where it is opposed to δύναμις, and means the mere outward form or appearance. Here, on the contrary, it is the real representation or expression, exemplar, effigies Grotius: forma quœ rem exprimit.—P. S.] According to Meyer, the doctrines and commandments of the law itself are the form of knowledge and truth. We are nearer right when we remember the didactic impression of the Old Testament revelation of the law in the rabbinical tradition from which the Talmud subsequently arose; for the Apostle speaks of a μόρφωσις τῆς γνώσεως, which should be indirectly μόρφ. τῆς ἀληθείας ἐν τῷ νόμῳ. Œcumenius and Olshausen, without cause, think of the typical character of the Old Testament; others (with Theophylact) of the mere phantom of truth. The question is concerning an object of which the Jew boasts. His μόρφωσις. is indeed the gloomy antitype of the personal incarnation of the truth in Christ, as in Ecclesiasticus 24:25 (23) we read of the σοφία becoming a book in the Thora. All these are now the characteristics of the Jew’s pretensions. There now follow the proofs of the contradiction in which he stands to himself.

Ver 21. Thou, then, that teachest another. [The virtual apodosis of Romans 2:17. The several clauses are more lively and forcible if read interrogatively, so as to challenge the Jew to deny the charge, if he dare.—P. S.] The analogy of the following charges to the Apostle’s judgment on the Gentiles lies herein: the Jews, by their pride of the law and by their legal orthodoxy, were led into the way of ruin, just as, the Gentiles had been by their intellectual conceit indulging in symbols and myths. The first charge is general: Teachest thou not thyself? Ps. 50: 16. After this, three specific charges follow in strong gradation. Meyer: “The following infinitives [μὴ χλέπτειν, μὴ μοιχεύειν] do not include in themselves the idea of δεῖν or ἐξεῖναι, but are explained by the idea of command which is implied in the finite verbs” [viz., χλέπτεις, The verba jubendi here are χηρύσσων and λέγων.—P. S.] In the charge of stealing, there was undoubtedly special reference to the passionate and treacherous method of transacting business adopted by the Jews (James 4:2 13); in the charge of adultery, to the, loose practice or divorces (Matt. 19:8, 9; James 4:4).—[Μοιχεύεις. The Talmud charges adultery upon some of the most celebrated Rabbins, as Akiba, Meir, Eleasar.—P. S.] The strongest charge is the third:

Romans 2:22. Thou that abhorrest idols, &c. Βδελύσσομαι, from βδελύσσω, to excite disgust by a loathsome odor. In the religious sense, to abhor. The Jew called the idols βδελύγματα (1 Mac. 6:7; 2 Kings 23:13, תּוֹעֵכוֹת). Explanations: 1. By plundering the temples of idols (Chrysostom, Theophylact, and many others; Meyer, Philippi [Alford, Conybeare and Howson] ). Tholuck: “The law, in Deut. 7:25, forbids the appropriation of the gold and silver ornaments of the images of gods; and in the paraphrase of this prohibition in Josephus (Antiq. iv. 8, 10), express reference is made to the robbing of heathen temples. Acts 19:36, 37, shows that the Jews had the name of committing such an offence. [The objection to this view is” that the Jew, attaching no sacredness to the temples of idols, regarded the despoiling of heathen temples as no sacrilege, but simply as robbery, which might be justified under certain circumstances.—P. S.]. 2. ἱροσυλεῖν in the figurative sense: profanatio majestatis divinœ (Calvin, Luther, Bengel, Köllner).36 3. Embezzlement of taxes [tithes and offerings] for their own temple (Pelagius, Grotius [Ewald, Wordsworth, and others; comp. Mal. 1: 8, 12, 14; 3:8–10]). To the charge of robbing heathen temples, the idea of pollution—which this robbery carries with it—may also be added, as is done by Meyer. But it seems strange that the Apostle should have established, on isolated occurrences of such robbery, so general and fearful a charge. As in the charges: “Thou stealest, thou committest adultery,” he had not merely in mind occasional great transgressions, but also the universal exhibitions of Jewish avarice and concupiscence, so we must also here accept a more general and spiritual significance of his accusation. We must indeed suppose here transgressions that were an occasion of offence to the Gentiles; and Luther goes much too far in spiritualizing the charge: “Thou art a robber of God; for it is God’s honor that all those who rely on good works would take from Him.” But the worst outrage on the temple, according to John 2:19, consisted in the crucifixion of Christ (comp. James 5:6). It was therefore as a sign of judgment that the temple in Jerusalem itself was desecrated by the Jews in every possible way before its destruction. In a wider sense, the transgression of the Jews consisted in their causing, by their, fanaticism, not only the downfall of the temple, but in frivolously abusing and insulting the sanctuaries of Gentiles, and, where occasion offered, in converting their treasures into spoils and articles of commerce.

Romans 2:23. Thou that makest thy boast in the law. Since this judgment is the result of the foregoing question, Meyer has good reason for reading this verse not as a question, but as a categorical impeachment. This is supported by the γάρ in Romans 2:24.

Romans 2:24. For the name of God. That is, the Gentiles judged the religion of the Jews by the scandalous conduct of the Jews themselves, and thus were led to blaspheme their God, Jehovah. The Jews boasted of the law (which, Baruch 4:3, is termed ἡ δόξα τοῦ ̓ Ιαχώβ), and reflected disgrace on the lawgiver. For the Jews, the Apostle here seals again his declaration, by concluding with a quotation from the Old Testament—Isa. 52:5: “My name continually every day is blasphemed” [in the Septuagint: δἰ ὑμᾶς διαπαντὸς τὸ ὄνομά μου βλασφημεῖται ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσι]. Comp. Ezek. 36:23: “I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them.”


1. The Apostle now passes over from his indirect representation of the corruption in Judaism, which he had given from a general point of view, Romans 2:10–16, to paint its life-picture from experience. In Romans 3:10–19, he proves that the Old Testament had already testified to the corruption of the Jewish people. But this, description of the actual corruption must be distinguished from the sketch of the original transgression, Romans 5:12 ff., and from the development in part of the judgment of hard-heartedness, chaps. 9 and 10.

2. The description of the corruption in Judaism presents only legalistic features, as the account of Gentile corruption presents Antinomian features. In the former case, the disfiguration of religion proceeded from legal conceit, while in the latter it arose from the conceit of wisdom; the root of pride is therefore common to both lines of corruption. The self-contradiction of the Gentiles was developed thus: he, the pretended wise man, becomes a fool by disfiguring his symbolical religion of nature; with all his self-glory, he becomes a worshipper of the creature, and loses the dignity of his human body; with all his deification of nature, he sinks thereby into abominable unnaturalness; with all his efforts for vigor of life and enthusiasm, he sinks more and more into the degradation of wicked characters; and finally, with all his better knowledge, he ornaments and varnishes sin theoretically and æsthetically. The self-contradiction of the Jew, on the other hand, developed itself thus: he, the pretended teacher of the nations, becomes an Antinomian blasphemer, by the perversion of his religion of revelation and law, while he teaches others, and not himself, and, by a succession of transgressions of the law, goes so far as to profane sacred things, by abusing and robbing the temples (see Matt. 21:13). To the profanation of the temple was added that of the high-priesthood, which reached its climax in Caiaphas. Likewise the ministry of the Jew was thoroughly profaned by proselytism and falsification of the law, and his religiousness was converted into a cloak for hypocrisy.

3. The fanatic grows ever more profane by the consistency of his course of conduct—a despiser of the substantial possessions of religion. Church history furnishes numerous examples, how fanatics of the churchly as well as unchurchly type become at last, out of pretended saints, profaners and robbers of the temple.

4. Priests and preachers have certainly corrupted religion as often as philosophers have corrupted wisdom, politicians the State, jurists the law, &c.

5. The dogmatic and legalistic spirit of the Middle Ages, too, which, in a better form, was really a “teacher of the blind,” has finally gone so far as to present the greatest variety of religious and moral hindrances to modern Gentiles. It is not without serious significance, therefore, that the Epistle to the Romans contains this very section.


The false zeal for the law practised by the Jews as occasion for blaspheming the name of God by the Gentiles: so far as, 1. such false zeal knows God’s will; but, 2. wantonly transgresses it (Romans 2:17–24).—The mere name of Christianity goes no further than the name of Judaism (Romans 2:17–24).—Do not depend upon your orthodoxy, if you do not act right by faith (Romans 2:17–24).—Notwithstanding brilliant knowledge, one is a bad teacher if he does not do what he knows (Romans 2:17–24).—Blasphemy of the name of God (Romans 2:24).—God’s name has already been often blasphemed among the heathen (and Mohammedans) because of Christians. Proof: 1. From the outrages of persons professing Christianity in the Middle Ages (Charlemagne, and the Saxons, the Brethren of the Sword, the Spaniards in America, &c.); 2. from the abuses in trade in the present time (the slave trade, opium trade, sandal-wood trade).

STARKE: When one does any thing which has ever so good appearance, it is sin if it does not come from faith (Romans 2:18).—Theological learning is by no means enough for a teacher, when he is not taught in the school of the Holy Spirit (Romans 2:20).—That teacher cannot be an example of good works who can only say of himself: “Judge according to my words, and not according to my deeds” (Romans 2:21).—Boasting and vain-glory—the manner, alas, of many Christians! (Romans 2:23.)—CRAMER: The titles and names of honor that we may possess should be to us a continual reminder to conduct ourselves in harmony with such titles (Romans 2:17).—Nova Bibl. Tub.: Oh, how many external privileges a soul can have! Communion in the true Church, knowledge of God and His word, of His will and His works, the best instruction, a skilful sense of the difference between good and evil; and yet, in spite of all this, it can be at fault, and quite removed from the inner fellowship with God (Romans 2:17).—Look, teacher! You must commence with yourself; you must, first be your own teacher, guide, and chastiser; first preach to your own self, first break your own will, and perform what you preach. But to desire to guide, discipline, and control others, and yet steal and commit adultery yourself, &c.—that will enter in judgment against you. Oh, how great is this corruption! (Romans 2:20.)—QUESNEL: Oh, how rare a thing it is to be learned without being proud! (Romans 2:19).

HEUBNER: There is a false and a true boasting on the part of a believer in revelation. He does it falsely when he imagines, 1. that he thereby makes himself more acceptable to God; 2. that merely having and knowing are sufficient, without practice; 3. when, at the same time, he despises others. He boasts properly when, 1. he gives God all the glory; 2. makes use of the revealed truth; 3. does not despise others (Romans 2:17).—It is a great grace when God gives a tender conscience (Romans 2:18).—To know the right, is in the power of every Christian; and sin does not consist in ignorance or misunderstanding, but has its root in the will (Romans 2:19).—Melancholy contradiction between knowledge and deeds (Romans 2:21–23).—The honor of Christianity is dependent upon us.—A holy life is the final vindication of faith (Romans 2:24).

BESSER: Legalists, who would be righteous by their works, deprive the law of its spiritual clearness (Romans 2:17).

LANGE: The internal self-contradiction between knowledge and disposition extends to external life: 1. As self-contradiction between word and deed; 2. between the vocation and the discharge of it; 3. between destination to the welfare of the world, and degeneration, on the contrary, to the misery of the world.—The teacher of the law in olden times, and the (religious) teacher of the law in recent days—the offence of modern Gentiles.

[BURKITT: Romans 2:17-20. Learn: 1. That persons are very prone to be proud of church privileges, glorying in the letter of the law, but not conformed to its spirituality either in heart or life; and 2. that gifts, duties and supposed graces, are the stay and staff which hypocrites lean on. The duties which Christ has appointed, are the trust and rest of the hypocrite; but Christ Himself is the trust and rest of the upright.

Romans 2:21–24. 1. It is much easier to instruct and teach others, than to be instructed ourselves; 2. it is both sinful and shameful to teach others the right way, and to go in the wrong ourselves. While this is a double fault in a private person, it is inexcusable in the teacher; 3. the name of God suffers by none so much as by those who preach and press the duties of Christianity upon others, but do not practise them themselves. The sins of teachers are teaching sins. Lord, let all that administer unto Thee in holy things consider that they have not only their own sins to account for, but also the sins of their people, if committed by their profligate example.—MATTHEW HENRY: The greatest obstructors of the success of the Word, are those whose bad lives contradict their good doctrine; who in the pulpit preach so well, that it is a pity they should ever come out; and out of the pulpit live so ill, that it is a pity they should ever come in.—DODDRIDGE: We pity the Gentiles, and we have reason to do it; for they are lamentably blind and dissolute: but let us take heed lest those appearances of virtue which are to be found among some of them condemn us, who, with the letter of the law and the gospel, and with the solemn tokens of a covenant relation to God, transgress His precepts, and violate our engagements to Him, so turning the means of goodness and happiness into the occasion of more aggravated guilt and misery.—CLARKE: Romans 2:17. It is the highest honor to be called to know God’s name, and be employed in His service.—HODGE (condensed): The sins of the professing people of God are peculiarly offensive to Him, and injurious to our fellow-men.—The sins and refuges of men are alike in all ages.—Were it ever so certain that the church to which we belong is the true, apostolic, universal Church, it remains no less certain, that without holiness no man shall see the Lord.—BARNES: It matters little what a man’s speculative opinions may be; his practice may do far more to disgrace religion, than his profession does to honor it.—J. F. H.]


[27]Romans 2:17.—[Instead of the text. rec., ἰδέ, behold, which is not sufficiently sustained, read εἰδέ, but if, with א. A. B. D*. K., Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Bloomfield, Alford, and nearly all the recent commentators. The reading ἰδέ is either a mistake, or a change for the purpose of avoiding the anacoluthon, which, however, is more apparent than real. The apodosis must he supplied (why dost thou not act accordingly, or, how great is thy responsibility), or it may be found in Romans 2:21, by simply omitting the οὖν, which is often epanaleptic, resuming the thread of the sentence. So Meyer, who regards Romans 2:17–28 as the protasis, and 21, 22 as the apodosis.—P. S.]

[28]Romans 2:17.—[ἐπαναπαύῃ νόμῳ, without the article, א. A. B.D1.The later MSS. and the text. rec. insert τῳ before νόμῳ, because it here clearly applies to the written law of Moses as representing the whole Mosaic system, the civil and religious polity of the Jews. νόμος has here as in Romans 2:14 the force of a proper name. Alford: “The article 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.”—P. S.]

[29]Romans 2:18.—[On the different interpretations of δοκιμάζεις τὰ διφεάροντα, see the Exeg. Notes. Lange (with Tholuck, Fritzsche, Reiche, Rückert, Philippi, Alford) translates: Du beurtheilest die widerstreitenden Dinge. Tholuck: Du piüfst das Unterschiedene. Tyndale: Hast experience of good and bad. Conybeare and Howson: Givest judgment upon good or evil. Robert Young, too literally: Dost approve the distinctions. But the versions of Cranmer, Geneva, James, Rheims, and Am. Bible Union agree substantially with the Latin Vulg.: Probas utiliora. So also Meyer, who translates: Du billigst das Vorzügliche. Wordsworth: Thou discernest the things that are more excellent. The same phrase occurs, Phil. 1:10, where the E. V. renders it in the same way. Grammatically, both interpretations are correct, and hence the connection must decide. δοκιμάζειν means first to examine, to try. to prove (1 Cor. 3:13; 1 Peter 1:7); and then, as the result of examination and trial, to discern, to distinguish, and to approve (1 Cor. 16:3; Rom. 14:22). διαφέρειν is: (1) To differ; (2) to differ to advantage, to excel. Hence τὰ διαφέροντα: (1) The difference between right and wrong, good and bad; (2) the excellent things, utilia.—P. S.]

[30]Romans 2:22.—[Alford translates: Thou who abhorrest idols, dost thou rob their temples To maintain the contrast, he refers (with Chrysostom, Meyer, Tholuck, and others) ἱεροσυλεῖς to the robbing of idol temples (εἴδωλα); but this was no sacrilege in the eyes of the Jew; and hence others refer it to the temple of God in Jerusalem. See Exeg. Notes.—P. S.]

[31]Romans 2:23.—[Lange and Meyer take this verse as a categorical charge, resulting from the preceding questions which the Jew could not deny. This view is supported by the following γάρ. παράβασις, in the six other passages of the N. T. where it occurs, is uniformly translated transgression in the E. V.—P. S.]

[32][יְהוּדָה is the verbal noun from the future hophal of יָדָה, to praise, and means praised, sc. Jah, God (Gottlob); see Fürst, Dict., sub יָהּ, vol. 1:491; Gen. 29. 35 (where Leah, after the birth of Judah, says: “Now will I praise the Lord: therefore she called his name Judah”); 49:8; Rev. 2:9. To be a Jew in this proper sense was to belong to the covenant people of God selected for His praise.—P. S.]

[33][Καυχᾶσαι (also in 1 Cor. 4:7), like κατακαυχᾶσαι, Rom. 11:18, δύνασαι (for δύνη). Matt. 5:36, ὀδυνᾶσαι, Luke 16:25, is the original uncontracted form for κανχᾷ. in use with the poets and later prose-writers, see Winer, Gram., p. 73, 7th ed. The ἐν signifies the sphere in which the boasting moves, or the object of boasting, as χαίρειν ἐν.—P. S.]

[34][So does Hodge: “To approve of what is right, is a higher attainment than merely to discriminate between good and evil.” But there is a difference between an instinctive and an intelligent approval of what is right. The latter is the result of reflection and discrimination, resting on superior knowledge, which was the peculiar advantage of the Jew having the touchstone of the written law and the continual instruction of the Scriptures. What immediately follows agrees better with the interpretation of Lange. Comp. Textual Note3.—P. S.]

[35][פָּרַשׁ, to distinguish, clearly to discern, also to separate. From this the term Pharisee Perishin, the Aramaic form of the Hebrew Parushim, “separated”) is derived.—P. S.]

[36][So Hodge: “The essence of idolatry was profanation of God; of this the Jews were in a high degree guilty. They had made His house a den of thieves.”—P. S.]

For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.
CHAPTER 2:25–3:20

FIFTH SECTION.The external Judaism of the letter, and the internal Judaism of the spirit. The OBJECTIVE advantage of historical Judaism. The SUBJECTIVE equality of Jews and Gentiles before the law of God, according to the purpose of the law itself—to bring about the knowledge of sin. (The utility of circumcision;—an accommodation to the need of salvation by the knowledge of sin. The circumcision which becomes uncircumcision, and the uncircumcision which becomes circumcision; or, the external Jew possibly an internal Gentile, while the external Gentile may be an internal Jew. Not the mere possession of the law, but fidelity to the law, is of avail. The latter does not create pride of the law, but knowledge of sin—that is, the need of salvation. The advantage of circumcision therefore consists in this, that to the Jew were committed the oracles of God—that law by which all men are represented in the guilt of sin. Sin, as acknowledged guilt, represented in contrast with the law.)

ROMANS 2:25–29

25For circumcision verily [indeed] profiteth, if thou keep [keepest] the law: but if thou be [art] a breaker [transgressor] of the law, thy circumcision is made [has 26become, or, is turned into] uncircumcision. Therefore, if the uncircumcision [so-called, i. e., the uncircumcised] keep the righteousness [decrees, commandments, moral requirements, διχαιώματα] of the law, shall [will] not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? 27And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by37 the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? [He who is uncircumcised by nature, if he fulfils the law, will even judge thee, who, with the letter and circumcision, dost transgress the law.]38 28For he is not a Jew, which [who] is one outwardly; neither is that 29circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which [who] is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and [omit and] not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.


[37]Romans 2:27.—[The E. V. here, as often, follows Beza, who translates διά, per, which is its fundamental meaning when it rules the genitive. But here it expresses the state or the circumstances under which the transgression takes place—i.e., with or in spite of, notwithstanding, the written law and circumcision; comp. δι ̓ ὑπομονῆς, with patience; δι ̓ ἀκροβυστίας, while is circumcision, Rom. 4:11; διὰ προσκόμματος, with offence, 14:20; and Winer, Gramm., 7th ed., p. 355 f.—P. S.]

[38]Romans 2:27.—[Lange, with Erasmus, Luther, Bengel, De Wette, Meyer, Tholuck (ed. 5), Alford, and others, takes Romans 2:27 to be categorical, and makes a period after “law.” Hence κρινεῖ is emphatically put first, and καί has the sense of even: Yea, verily, he will even condemn you. The E. V. regards Romans 2:27 as a continuation of the question in Romans 2:26, and supplies οὐχί before κρινεῖ. So also Fritzsche, Olshausen, Luther, Philippi, Ewald, Wordsworth.—P. S.]

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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