Sunday, February 07, 2016

Part 4~Summary Introduction to the Epistle as a Whole

Division and Contents: Argument~There are four distinct parts in the Epistle to the Romans: an Introduction, a Dogmatic and a Moral Part, and a Conclusion.

1. The Introduction (Rom 1:1-15) is one of the longest and most solemn found in any of the Pauline Epistles. In the first seven verses the author tells the Romans of his call by grace to the Apostolate, of the object and universality of his mission, of the truth of the Gospel foretold in Scripture, of Christ's human descent from David, and of His establishment as "the Son of God in power according to the spirit of sanctification," by His Resurrection from the dead. In the eight following verses St. Paul praises the Roman Christians and thanks God for their faith, tells them of his anxiety to visit them, and thus takes a first step to prepare them for his coming and his preaching.

2. The Dogmatic or Theoretic Part of the Epistle (Rom 1:16-11:36) may be divided into three sections, the first of which (Rom 1:16-4:25) treats of the necessity of justification through faith. This necessity is shown, (a) because the wrath of God is upon the Gentiles, giving them up to uncleanness, to vile passions and to reprobate minds (Rom 1:18-32). (b) The wrath of God is upon the Jews, who judge the Gentiles, but commit the same sins, and are not shielded by special privileges (Rom 2:1-3:8). (c) All this is according to Scripture, which St. Paul cites to prove his position, and therefore every mouth is stopped (Rom 3:9-20). The Apostle then goes on to show that salvation is possible through faith in Christ and the Gospel. The faith of the Gospel is the only way to salvation, and this is offered to all men on the same conditions. All men, Jews and Gentiles, being sinners, deserve only punishment from God; but now salvation is gratuitously offered to all through faith in Christ Jesus (Rom 3:21-4:25).

The second section (Rom 5:1-8:39) is concerned with the results of Redemption; i.e., with the greatness and blessings of justification through faith. Here the superabundant fruits of grace and the redemption merited by Christ are described. These fruits are, (a) peace with God and hope of future glory which are within the
reach of all, so that the possibility of justification and salvation are as universal as the curse (Rom 5:1-21); (b) dominion over sin and liberation from its slavery (Rom 6:1-23); (c) freedom from the Law which led into bondage to sin (Rom 7:1-25); (d) grace for the present life to conquer sin and death and establish the divine kinship, and glory and triumph in the life to come (Rom 8:1-39).

In the third section (Rom 9:1-11:36) of this, the Dogmatic Part of the Epistle, after extolling the certainty and universality of salvation, the Apostle, forestalling doubts and difficulties that might arise because of the rejection or obduracy of the Jews, turns to Jewish history and explains the providence of God in regard to Israel. At first he makes pass in review God's deeds of love and power towards the chosen people (Rom 9:1-5), and then proceeds to show how the divine promises have not failed because of the actual exclusion of Israel from part in the redemption of the Messiah. This he proves, (a) because these promises did not apply to Israel according to the flesh, but were the fruit of grace, which God is free to grant as He pleases. God is only acting within His right when He gives grace to one, and not to another; and as Creator and Lord of all, He exercises this right according to His free pleasure, as we see from the cases of Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Moses and Pharaoh (Rom 9:6-24); and, what is more, God through the Prophets expressly
announced the exercise of this right towards Jews and Gentiles (Rom 9:24-29). (b) Israel's rejection was due to its own culpableness in relying on its origin and in seeking its justification in the Law (Rom 9:30-10:4), as well as to its blindness and disobedience toward the message of faith announced everywhere among the Jews (Rom 10:5-21). (c) In this is manifested the wisdom and goodness of God, for not all the Jews have been rejected—a remnant has embraced the faith (Rom 11:1-10), and Israel's loss is the Gentiles' gain (Rom 11:11-24). (d) Finally, Israel's rejection is not irrevocable, for the Jews will at last find mercy and salvation
(Rom 11:25-32). The Apostle closes his survey and study of these great problems with a song of praise to the wisdom and knowledge of God's inscrutable providence (Rom 11:33-36).

3. The Practical Part of the Epistle (Rom 12:1-15:13) contains directions and exhortations for the daily life of Christians, and is divided into two main sections, the first of which (Rom 12:1-13:14) gives counsels and instructions for the Christian life in general. It embraces exhortations (a) on complete self-consecration and faithful service of God (Rom 12:1-2); (b) on the need of humility and mutual charity (Rom 12:3-21); (c) on the obligations toward superiors and the civil authority (Rom 13:1-7); (d) on the necessity of charity and vigilance in view of the proximity of salvation (Rom 13:8-14). The second section (Rom 14:1-15:13) of the Moral Part of the Epistle contains particular recommendations for the Roman community: (a) they should not criticise and condemn one another on account of differences of opinion (Rom 14:1-13a); (b) self-denial is enjoined and mutual helpfulness is commended after the example of Christ (Rom 13:I3b-15:13).

4. The Conclusion of the Epistle (Rom 15:14-16:27) has three parts: The first (Rom 15:14-33) treats of the Apostle's calling, his intended relations with the Roman community and his proposed journey. In the second part (Rom 16:1-24) St. Paul commends Phoebe, salutes many and warns against divisions. The third part (Rom 16:25-27) contains the sublime doxology.

Part 3~Introduction to Romans: Its Theological Importance

Theological Importance: So doctrinal in character and so systematic in treatment are the contents of this Epistle that some, as seen above, have said that it partakes rather of the nature of a theological treatise than that of a letter. But, on the one hand, we find, especially in the beginning and toward the close of the Epistle, those personal elements and characteristic touches which properly belong to a letter; and on the other hand, as already explained, St. Paul had in mind a dogmatic purpose in writing to the Romans, and wanted for personal and objective reasons, to lay before his readers the chief features of his system of doctrine, which was in essence the teaching of Christianity. While, therefore, this is a true letter, it must be admitted also that its theological value is of highest importance and revolves about the great fundamental problem of justification. All other important questions dealt with receive their treatment only because they are in some way linked with justification. The Apostle is here not especially concerned with such particular theological questions as Christology, Eschatology and the Sacraments; these were not immediately connected with his present purpose in writing.

Justification and the first step toward salvation, according to St. Paul, are not dependent on the merits, the wisdom or the efforts of man or any creature; but proceed solely from God's free election and grace. To this first and supreme grace neither inclusion among the children of Abraham, nor the works and practice of the Law, nor the gifts and pursuit of human wisdom and the highest philosophy are sufficient to give a title. The only assistance we can lend, the only condition we can fulfil in the attainment of this great benefit is to have faith (Rom 1:16-17; 3:24-30, 32; Rom1-25; Rom 5:1-2.)—an active faith in Christ who redeemed us while yet we were enemies of God (Rom 3:24-31; 4:24-25; 5:6-10, 15-21; 7:25; 8:29-30); for we owe our salvation to the sanctifying blood of Christ (Rom 8:32-39).

But what is the nature of this faith which St. Paul requires as a condition for the grace of justification on the part of man? It is nothing less, in the first place, than that firm belief in the Word of God which was exacted from Abraham (Rom 4:3, 9, 13-22; Gal. 3:6), together with those supernatural dispositions possessed by the Patriarch (Gen. 15:6). The Christian must hold with unshaken faith that Christ is God, God's messenger and
Son, that He suffered, died and rose again for us; "that if we be dead with Christ we shall live also together with Christ: knowing that Christ rising again from the dead, dieth now no more" (Rom 6:8-9). "If thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in thy heart that God hath raised him up from the dead, thou shalt be saved" (Rom 10:9). For St. Paul Christianity is essentially and absolutely grounded on belief in Christ's Messiahship, His Divinity, the expiatory character of His death, the Resurrection, the necessity of Baptism and the like. Such is the faith that must be the basis of all our trust in God (Rom 1:5; 3:3; 4:17-21; 6:16-19; 10:16; 15:18). This justifying faith, then, consists in an intellectual adherence to the truths of the Gospel (Rom 4:19-22; 10:8-17), and in a practical submission to God's will manifested therein (Rom 1:5; 10:3, 16; 11:30, 32; 2 Cor. 10:5; Eph. 2:2; 5:6-14). Accordingly, though the works of the Mosaic Law or of the natural man avail nothing for sanctification, supernatural acts, such as hope, fear, repentance and the like, which are the expression of intellectual adherence to the Gospel, are presupposed for justification.

And as the faith required by St. Paul is that which is supported and followed by good works, a "faith that worketh by charity" (Rom 2:6, 7, 13; Gal. 5:6), so naturally his justification is no truce with the soul's enemy, no mere cloaking of sin ; but a real internal renovation, an exclusion of all that has separated man from God
(Rom 1:18-3:20), a total death to and freedom from sin, as the natural man dies to the sensible world around him (Rom 5:1-23; 8:1-13; 13:12-14).

Part 2~Introduction to Romans: The Purpose of the Epistle

Purpose of the Epistle: The motive which prompted the writing of this letter St. Paul himself makes known to us. For a long time he had cherished an ardent desire to visit Rome and preach the Gospel there (Acts 19:21; Rom. 1:10-15; 15:22-23), but had till now been variously impeded from carrying out his purpose (Rom 1:13; 15:22). He considered his work in the East practically done, and was ready to turn his eyes toward the West, desiring to evangelize Spain and visit Rome on the way. For his work in the Occident Rome seemed the natural and providential centre from which his new missions should radiate; and as he had not been the founder of the Roman Church and was personally unknown to most of the faithful in the Eternal City, it was highly needful that he should endeavor first to enlist the good will and assistance of the Roman Christians for the progress and success of his labors there, in Spain, and in all the West. The present letter was therefore written, in the first place, to prepare the Roman community for his impending visit, and by thus introducing himself to them and gaining their favor, to provide a suitable and effective base for his future operations.

But from the length and profound character of the letter, if not from his expressed and primary intentions and purposes, we feel convinced that St. Paul, in writing to the Romans, had something more in mind than merely to announce his prospective coming and win the sympathy and assistance of the Roman Christians. Just what this was is not entirely certain. The views of Protestant authorities are multiple and various, although many of them differ only as to minor details. Weiss (Introd. to The New Testament I, p. 307) conjectures that Paul meant the Epistle to be his testament to the Church and to Christendom generally; that he felt his life to be uncertain, and so, while enjoying a time of peace at Corinth, took care to formulate more fully than before his whole body of doctrine, to be sent to the Capital City for the Christians of the whole empire. Others, like Tholuck, Reiche, Kolner and de Wette, have thought that the Apostle wanted to make known in the Capital of the Empire the value of Christianity as a universal religion, capable of satisfying the needs and demands of the human heart, as neither paganism nor Judaism had ever been able to do. Baur and the School of Tubingen generally have believed the essence of the Epistle to consist in chapters 9-11, and consequently they have held that St. Paul's purpose in writing to the Romans was to explain, by a beautiful page, God's eternal plan and designs for the salvation of the human race. Both similar and different views have been held by other non-Catholics.

Among Catholics two chief opinions have been advanced from the early centuries:

(a) St. Hilary, Ambrosiaster, St. Jerome, St. Augustine and many later interpreters, such as Estius, a Lapide, Calmet, etc., think the great purpose of the Epistle was to show that the Mosaic observances were not necessary for salvation, and to reconcile the disagreements between the Gentile and Jewish Christians, the latter of whom wished to subject the Gentiles to the Mosaic Law, to the faithful observance of which they attributed their own justification, while the former boasted of their philosophy, and perhaps considered that in it lay the secret merit of their call to the Gospel. Against both of these classes, we are told, St. Paul demonstrates the gratuity of justification and the impotency of the Law and of philosophy to lead man to salvation.

This opinion, however, seems out of harmony with the Epistle itself, in which the unity of faith and the charity of the Romans are so highly praised, and in which there is no trace of discord or division, especially with regard to so fundamental a doctrine as that of justification. Paul's conception of Christianity was identical with that of the Roman Church, and the polemics of the Epistle were directed, not against Jewish Christians, but
against unbelieving Jews. The minor contrasts which are mentioned, such as the weak and the strong, those who had attained to complete Christian freedom, those who had not, and the like, are mildly spoken of (Rom 14:5-10, 14:13-15:7) by way of precaution against uncharitable divisions which might arise and could easily develop into something serious. From his experiences in Corinth and Galatia St. Paul knew well what harm divisions could cause and how they impeded his work, and before entering upon his new field of activity in the West, he took wise precaution to exhort all the Romans to complete unity in faith and charity for their own spiritual well-being, and for the purpose of securing their confidence and assistance in his future labors.

(b) Origen, St. Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, St. Thomas, Drach, Comely and many others hold that St. Paul in writing to the Romans had a dogmatic purpose. It was not his aim to make known the Gospel in Rome, nor to teach a new doctrine, nor to correct the ideas of the Christians there, since he knew they were well organized and well instructed in the faith ; but he wanted to give them the main features of his own
preaching, so that when he should arrive and preach to them, they would be able to understand and profit by his teaching, and thus, while being confirmed in the faith they had received, be the better disposed to enter whole heartedly into cooperation with him. This was the more desirable, inasmuch as his stay in Rome would be comparatively brief (Rom 1:11-12; 15:24). The Apostle, therefore, discusses in this Epistle the great fundamental truths of his teachings and of Christianity, namely, the universal sinfulness of mankind, the universality of salvation gratuitously offered to men through faith in Jesus Christ, and the deep mystery of divine predestination., Hence also it was but natural that he should treat of the relation of the Mosaic Law and faith, of their relation to man, of the religious position of the Jews and of the Gentiles among themselves and towards God and Christ, and finally of the need in which all men stood of Christianity in order to attain salvation. Having been chosen by Christ Himself as the Apostle of the Gentiles, St. Paul felt his indebtedness to all (Rom 1:14; 15:15-16), and was eager, consequently, to preach also to the Romans. He does not forget the evil efforts of his adversaries everywhere, and so he often writes as if forestalling the attacks of the Judaizers upon his doctrine and upon his person.

Part 1~Introduction to the Letter to the Romans: Recipients of the Letter

The Composition of the Roman Church; readers of the Epistle: Scholars are not agreed as to the elements which formed the Church in Rome. From the foregoing it seems very probable that in the beginning the converts were mostly Jewish, but soon afterwards, and especially when St. Paul wrote his Epistle, the community was chiefly Gentile. This is now the opinion of the great majority of exegetes, and is based not only on individual texts, but upon the general character of the Epistle. St. Paul writes to the Romans because he is the Apostle of the Gentiles (Rom 1:5-6); he desires to visit them in order that he may have some fruit among them, even as among the other Gentiles (Rom 1:13-14) ; he calls himself the Apostle of the Gentiles
(Rom 11:13), and, referring to his Gentile Apostolate, justifies his vigorous language because he is the minister of Jesus Christ among the Gentiles (Rom 15:15-18). Finally, the address and application of Rom 11:13-29 presuppose a great majority of Gentiles, with whom the Jews (Rom 11:28, 31) are shown in contrast; and throughout chapters 9-11 the Apostle essays to explain to his Gentile readers the causes of the present deplorable state of his coreligionists and of God's mysterious dealings with His chosen people. From another point of view, however, it can rightly be maintained that these last-named chapters, 9-11, as touching the question of election and the mission of Israel, would be of more interest to Jewish than to Gentile readers, and that they are, therefore, addressed primarily to the former. Whatever may be said on this point, the considerations already given are sufficient to show that the greater part of the Christians in Rome when St. Paul wrote, were of pagan origin.

It must be admitted, nevertheless, that the Roman community was not without its Jewish element, and this perhaps a more or less potent one. For although the opinion of Zahn, Bauer and others, which—pointing to Rom 6:15-17; 7:1-6; 8:15— believes the majority of the Christians in Rome were Jewish, is not tenable, in view of what has been said above, still it seems beyond question that the Jewish Christians in the Eternal City
when Paul wrote were not at all few. The Apostle, consequently, addresses the Jews directly at times (Rom 2:17-24)., In Rom 4:1, 11 he speaks of "Abraham our father according to the flesh," and in Rom 7:1 he says, "I speak to them that know the law." Further, he treats here and there certain questions which could have little interest to the Gentiles, but were of highest importance to Jews. Such, for example, are the questions about the value of the Mosaic Law and the principle of justification (chapters 3-8), the election and the mission of Israel (chapters 9-11), the rules given to those who make distinctions between different foods (Rom 14:2-3), different days (Rom 14:5-6), etc. Obvious as is the import of these passages we must, notwithstanding, always remember that St. Paul was very Jewish by nature and training, and that he was at all times accustomed to adopt the standpoint of the Law, to regard the Old Testament as the basis of the New, and to look upon Christianity as the heir of God's promises, the true "Israel of God" (Gal. 6:16). He took this same position in the Epistle to the Galatians, and we know that that Epistle was chiefly written for Gentile Christians who were about to submit to circumcision. Hence, when the Apostle addresses Jews in the present letter, it seems not at all unlikely that he is speaking, at least in a measure, to those who were still subject to the Law, and not to Jewish Christians at all (cf. Acts 28:23-28).

Pope Benedict XVI~Life of St Paul

Paul VI Audience Hall
Wednesday, 27 August 2008
Saint Paul (2)
Life of Saint Paul before and after Damascus.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the last Catechesis
I began a new series of topics on the occasion of the Pauline Year, examining the world in which St Paul lived. Today I would like to resume and continue the reflection on the Apostle to the Gentiles, presenting a brief biography of him. Since we shall be dedicating next Wednesday to the extraordinary event that occurred on the road to Damascus, Paul's conversion, a fundamental turning point in his life subsequent to his encounter with Christ, let us briefly pause today on his life as a whole. We find Paul's biographical details respectively in the Letter to Philemon, in which he says he is "an old man" (Phlm 9 presbytes) and in the Acts of the Apostles in which, at the time of the stoning of Stephen, he is described as "a young man" (7:58 neanías). Both these expressions are obviously generic but, according to ancient calculations, a man of about 30 was described as "young" whereas he would be called "old" by the time he had reached the age of about 60. The date of Paul's birth depends largely on the dating of the Letter to Philemon. He is traditionally supposed to have written it during his imprisonment in Rome in the mid-60s. Paul would have been born in approximately the year 8. He would therefore have been about 30 at the time of the stoning of Stephen. This ought to be the correct chronology and we are celebrating the Pauline Year in accordance with precisely this chronology. The year 2008 was chosen with a date of birth of about the year 8 in mind. In any case, Paul was born in Tarsus, Cilicia (cf. Acts 22:3). The town was the administrative capital of the region and in 51 B.C. had had as Proconsul no less than Marcus Tullius Cicero himself, while 10 years later, in 41, Tarsus was the place where Mark Anthony and Cleopatra met for the first time. A Jew from the Diaspora, he spoke Greek although his name was of Latin origin. Moreover, it derived by assonance from the original Jewish Saul/Saulos, and he was a Roman citizen (cf. Acts 22:25-28). Paul thus appears to be at the intersection between three different cultures - Roman, Greek and Jewish - and perhaps partly because of this was disposed for fruitful universalistic openness, for a mediation between cultures, for true universality. He also learned a manual trade, perhaps from his father, that of "tentmaker" (Acts 18: 3: skenopoios). This should probably be understood as a worker of uncarded goat wool or linen fibres who made them into mats or tents (cf. Acts 20:33-35). At about the age of 12 to 13, the age in which a Jewish boy becomes a bar mitzvah ("son of the commandment"), Paul left Tarsus and moved to Jerusalem to be educated at the feet of Rabbi Gamaliel the Elder, a nephew of the great Rabbi Hillel, in accordance with the strictest Pharisaic norms and acquiring great zeal for the Mosaic Torah (cf. Gal 1: 14; Phil 3: 5-6; Acts 22: 3; 23: 6; 26: 5).

On the basis of this profound Orthodoxy that he learned at the school of Hillel in Jerusalem, he saw the new movement that referred to Jesus of Nazareth as a risk, a threat to the Jewish identity, to the true Orthodoxy of the fathers. This explains the fact that he proudly "persecuted the Church of God" as he was to admit three times in his Letters (1 Cor 15: 9; Gal 1: 13; Phil 3: 6). Although it is not easy to imagine in what this persecution actually consisted, his attitude was intolerant. It is here that the event of Damascus fits in; we shall return to it at our next Catechesis. It is certain that from this time Paul's life changed and he became a tireless apostle of the Gospel. Indeed, Paul passed into history for what he did as a Christian, indeed as an Apostle, rather than as a Pharisee. Traditionally his apostolic activity is divided on the basis of his three missionary journeys, to which can be added a fourth, his voyage to Rome as a prisoner. They are all recounted by Luke in the Acts. With regard to the three missionary journeys, however, the first must be distinguished from the other two.

In fact, Paul was not directly responsible for the first (cf. Acts 13-14), which was instead entrusted to the Cypriot, Barnabas. They sailed together from Antioch on the Orontes River, sent out by that Church (cf. Acts 13: 1-3) and having sailed from the port of Seleucia on the Syrian coast, crossed the island of Cyprus from Salamis to Paphos; from here they reached the southern coasts of Anatolia, today Turkey, and passed through the cities of Attalia, Perga in Pamphylia, Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, from which they returned to their starting point. Thus was born the Church of the people, the Church of the Gentiles. And in the meantime, especially in Jerusalem, a discussion had been sparked, lasting until, in order to participate truly in the promises of the prophets and enter effectively into the heritage of Israel, these Christians who came from paganism were obliged to adhere to the life and laws of Israel (various observances and prescriptions that separated Israel from the rest of the world). To resolve this fundamental problem for the birth of the future Church the so-called Council of the Apostles met in Jerusalem to settle on a solution, on which the effective birth of a universal Church depended. And it was decided that the observance of Mosaic Law should not be imposed upon converted pagans (cf. Acts 15: 6-30): that is, they were not to be bound by the rules of Judaism; the only thing necessary was to belong to Christ, to live with Christ and to abide by his words. Thus, in belonging to Christ, they also belonged to Abraham and to God, and were sharers in all the promises. After this decisive event Paul separated from Barnabas, chose Silas and set out on his second missionary journey (Acts 15: 36-18: 22). Having gone beyond Syria and Cilicia, he saw once again the city of Lystra where he was joined by Timothy (a very important figure in the nascent Church, the son of a Jewish woman and a pagan), whom he had circumcised; he crossed Central Anatolia and reached the city of Troas on the northern coast of the Aegean Sea. And here another important event happened: in a dream he saw a Macedonian from the other side of the sea, that is, in Europe, who was saying: "Come and help us!". It was the Europe of the future that was asking for the light and help of the Gospel. On the impetus of this vision he set sail for Macedonia and thus entered Europe. Having disembarked at Neapolis, he arrived at Philippi, where he founded a beautiful community. He then travelled to Thessalonica. Having left this place because of the problems the Jews created for him, he passed through Beroea to Athens. In this capital of ancient Greek culture, he preached to pagans and Greeks, first in the Agora and then on the Areopagus. And the discourse of the Areopagus, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, is the model of how to translate the Gospel into Greek culture, of how to make Greeks understand that this God of the Christians and Jews was not a God foreign to their culture but the unknown God they were awaiting, the true answer to the deepest questions of their culture. Then from Athens he arrived in Corinth, where he stayed for a year and a half. And here we have an event that is chronologically very reliable. It is the most reliable date in the whole of his biography because, during this first stay in Corinth he was obliged to appear before the Governor of the Senatorial Province of Achaia, the Proconsul Gallio, who accused him of illegitimate worship. In Corinth there is an ancient inscription, found in Delphi, which mentions this Gallio and that epoch. It says that Gallio was Proconsul in Corinth between the years 51 and 53. Thus we have one absolutely certain date. Paul stayed in Corinth in those years. We may therefore suppose that he arrived there in about the year 50 and stayed until 52. Then from Corinth, passing through Cenchreae, the port on the eastern side of the city, he set sail for Palestine and arrived in Caesarea Marittima. From here he sailed for Jerusalem, before returning to Antioch on the Orontes.

The third missionary journey (cf. Acts 18: 23-21: 16), began, like all his journeys, in Antioch, which had become the original core of the Church of the Gentiles, of the mission to the Gentiles, and was also the place where the term "Christian" was coined. It was here, St Luke tells us, that Jesus' followers were called "Christians" for the first time. From Antioch Paul started out for Ephesus, the capital of the Province of Asia where he stayed two years, carrying out a ministry whose fruitful effects were felt throughout the region. It was from Ephesus that Paul wrote the Letters to the Thessalonians and the Corinthians. The population of the town, however, was set against him by the local silversmiths, who saw their income diminishing with the reduction in the number of those who worshipped Artemis (the temple dedicated to her in Ephesus, the Artemysion, was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world); Paul was thus forced to flee north. He crossed Macedonia once again and went back to Greece, probably to Corinth, where he remained for three months and wrote his famous Letter to the Romans.

From here he retraced his steps: he went back through Macedonia, reaching Troas by boat, and then, staying very briefly on the islands of Mitylene, Chios and Samos, arrived at Miletus where he delivered an important discourse to the elders of the Church of Ephesus, outlining a portrait of a true Pastor of the Church (cf. Acts 20). From here he set sail for Tyre from whence he came to Caesarea Marittima, on his return journey to Jerusalem. Here he was arrested on the basis of a misunderstanding. Certain Jews had mistaken other Jews of Greek origin for Gentiles, whom Paul had taken into the temple precinct reserved for Israelites. He was spared the inevitable death sentence by the intervention of the Roman tribune on guard in the Temple area (cf. Acts 21: 27-36); this happened while the imperial Procurator in Judea was Antonius Felix. After a spell in prison (the duration of which is debated), and since Paul as a Roman citizen was an appellee of Caesar (at that time Nero), the subsequent Procurator, Porcius Festus, sent him to Rome under military escort.

The voyage to Rome involved putting in at the Mediterranean islands of Crete and Malta, and then the cities of Syracuse, Rhegium Calabria and Puteoli. The Roman Christians went down the Appian Way to meet him at the Appii Forum (about 70 km from the capital), and others went as far as Three Taverns (c. 40 km). In Rome he met the delegates of the Jewish community, whom he told that it was for "the hope of Israel" that he was in chains (Acts 28: 20). However, Luke's account ends with the mention of two years spent in Rome under mild military surveillance. Luke mentions neither a sentence of Caesar (Nero) nor, even less, the death of the accused. Later traditions speak of his liberation which would have been propitious for either a missionary journey to Spain or a subsequent episode in the East, and specifically in Crete, Ephesus and Nicopolis in Epirus. Still on a hypothetical basis, another arrest is conjectured and a second imprisonment in Rome (where he is supposed to have written the three so-called Pastoral Letters, that is, the two to Timothy and the Letter to Titus), with a second trial that would have proven unfavourable to him. Yet a series of reasons induce many scholars of St Paul to end his biography with Luke's narrative in the Acts.

We shall return to his martyrdom later in the cycle of our Catecheses. For the time being, in this brief list of Paul's journeys it suffices to note how dedicated he was to proclaiming the Gospel, sparing no energy, confronting a series of grave trials, of which he left us a list in the Second Letter to the Corinthians (cf. 11: 21-28). Moreover, it is he who writes: "I do it all for the sake of the Gospel" (1 Cor 9: 23), exercising with unreserved generosity what he called "anxiety for the Churches" (2 Cor 11: 28). We see a commitment that can only be explained by a soul truly fascinated by the light of the Gospel, in love with Christ, a soul sustained by profound conviction; it is necessary to bring Christ's light to the world, to proclaim the Gospel to all of us. This seems to me to be what remains for us from this brief review of St Paul's journeys: to see his passion for the Gospel and thereby grasp the greatness, the beauty, indeed the deep need of the Gospel for all of us. Let us pray the Lord who caused St Paul to see his light, who made him hear his word and profoundly moved his heart, that we may also see his light, so that our hearts too may be moved by his Word and thus that we too may give the light of the Gospel and the truth of Christ to today's world which thirsts for it.

A Study of Romans 10:1-13


A Summary of Romans 1:1-4~The Apostle protests again (cf. Rom 9:1-3) to the Romans his sincere affection and sympathy for his fellow-Jews. Their failure, he says, is due, not to lack of zeal, but to the error of insisting on their own false notion in preference to the true notion of justice. The theme is the same as in Rom 9:30-33; but, while there he was speaking of Israel stumbling at the stumbling-block, he is here entering into a psychological analysis of the Jewish mind which, in observing the Law, came short of Christ, the end of the Law.

Rom 10:1. Brethren, the will of my heart, indeed, and my prayer to God, is for them unto salvation. 

Here St. Paul gives renewed assurance of his abiding interest in the salvation of his fellow-Jews. And yet, their incredulity has put a chasm between him and them, as is evident from the fact that he speaks of them in the third person, while addressing the Romans in the second person as brethren.

The will of my heart (ευδοκια = eudokia = wish, purpose, desire), i.e., my strong desire (St. Chrys.), or my inclination, purpose (Lagrange). The particle μεν (= men), not followed by δε (= de), is most probably to be used in its adverbial sense of confirmation, meaning here, certainly (Lagrange). The Greek  μεν is usually left untranslated in English versions of Rom 10:1. The Vulgate translated it as quidem ("indeed"/"certainly") and this is reflected in Fr. Callan's/Lagrange's translations. Some scholars hold that μεν (= men), without the adversative δε (de = "but") should be taken as implying an antithesis from the context. Thus to St Paul's affirmation: the will of my heart, indeed, and my prayer to God, is for them unto salvation, assumes an antithesis such as: "but they desire not this salvation."

Rom 10:2. For I bear them witness, that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
I bear them witness, etc. The Apostle, who had been a zealous Pharisee, and had himself been eaten up with zeal for God (Gal. 1:14; Acts 22:3), was well able to testify to the zeal of his fellow-Jews. They certainly were most assiduous in studying the law of God, but they failed to understand God's designs. They were at great pains to promote the honor and glory of God, but they were little concerned to scrutinize their own conceptions to see what God's honor and glory might consist in. Hence their ignorance was culpable. Thus St. Paul (1 Tim. 1:13) blamed his own ignorance, and St. Peter (Acts 3:17) said that the Jews crucified Christ through ignorance.

A zeal of God, i.e., a zeal for the cause of God.

Knowledge, i.e., a profound understanding (επιγνωσιν = epignosin) . Cf. Eph 1:17; 4:13; Col. 1:9-10; etc.

Rom 10:3. For they, not knowing the justice of God, and seeking to establish their own, have not submitted themselves to the justice of God.

They not knowing, through their own culpable ignorance, the justice of God, i.e., the system of gratuitous justification by means of grace through faith in Christ to come, as the Scriptures had announced (Rom 3:21; 4:ff.). To receive this grace of justification it was needful that the Jews should recognize themselves as sinners, even like the Gentiles ; but they were persuaded that it was necessary for the honor of God to establish their own, i.e., to defend as true justice their own idea of justification, based on the external observance of the Law, and the result of their own personal efforts. Considering this frame of mind we can readily understand how they would not submit themselves to "the justice of God," i.e., the justification which God communicates to men, which is a gratuitous gift of God dependent upon faith in Christ. Cf. Phil 3:9.

Rom 10:4. For the end of the law is Christ, unto justice to every one that believeth.

For (γαρ = gar) explains why the submission of the preceding verse was required.

The end, etc., i.e., the purpose of the Mosaic Law was to lead to Christ. All the precepts and ceremonies of the Law were types of Christian mysteries, intended to prefigure Christ and to prepare man for His coming. How far astray, then, were the Jews in trying to establish a system of justification independent of faith in Christ! But Fr. Lagrange and others understand τελος νομου (= telos nomou = "the end of the law") here to mean not that the Law was ordained and led to Christ, or that Christ was its perfection and fulfillment; but that, since the justice of God is now given in Christ, the Law has come to an end, as an instrument of justice, and has no further purpose (cf. also Gal. 3:25). Hence in the first explanation τελος (telos) would mean purpose; in the second, end, or term. We see no reason why both explanations cannot stand.

Law, although without the article in Greek, means the Mosaic


A Summary of Romans 10:5-13~The Apostle speaks in these verses, first of the justice of the Law, as contrasted with the justice of faith; he then shows that this latter is also necessary for the salvation of the Jews; there is no distinction, both Jew and Gentile must be saved by faith.

Rom 10:5. For Moses wrote, that the justice which is of the law, the man that shall do it, shall live by it.

The Apostle quotes Moses (Lev 18:5, according to the LXX) to show the difference between the justice of the Law and that of faith. If a man is able to obtain the justice of the Law, he will have as his reward, temporal, and even eternal life; but this justice is very difficult, being beyond man’s natural strength.

The justice … of the law, i.e., the justice which resulted from an observance of all the precepts of the Mosaic Law.

The man that shall do it, etc., i.e., the man that is able to do such a difficult thing.

Shall live by it. To the observers of the Law there was promised a life of temporal blessings (Deut 28:2-13; Deut 30:9-10), and also life eternal (Matt 19:17; Luke 10:25-28). But to obtain this latter it was necessary to observe, not only externally, but also internally, all the precepts of the Law; and, in particular, to love God and have faith in Christ to come (Deut 6:5; Matt 22:36; Rom 2:13; Rom 4:11)—a task utterly beyond the powers of fallen human nature unaided by grace (Rom 7:22-25). This grace, however, which the Law could not provide, would be given by God in virtue of faith in Christ to come. The Jews erroneously thought they could keep the Law by their own mere natural strength, and thereby obtain the rewards promised.

Wrote should be “writeth,” and scripsit (wrote) of the Vulgate should be scribit (writes), to conform to the Greek.

Rom 10:6. But the justice which is of faith, speaketh thus: Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? that is, to bring Christ down; Rom 10:7. Or who shall descend into the deep? that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.

To show that the justice of faith, unlike that of the Law, is not difficult to obtain St. Paul here personifies it, and makes it address man in the words of Deut 30:11-14. These words, in their primary and literal meaning, refer to the Law of Moses, the precepts of which were not difficult to understand; but in their accommodated sense, here made use of by the Apostle (Calmet, Beelen, Cornely, etc.), they relate to the justice of faith,—to Christian faith, which is comparatively easy to obtain, involving no such insurmountable difficulty as ascending into heaven, to bring Christ down, the object of faith; or descending into the deep, i.e., into the grave, to bring up Christ again from the dead, i.e., to believe that Christ, the object of our faith, descended there. As Moses told the Hebrews that it was not necessary “to ascend into heaven,” or “go over the sea” in search of the Law which was indeed very near to them; so here the Apostle, accommodating the words of the Prophet, says that, since Christ descended from heaven and became incarnate once, and likewise once died, was buried and rose again for our salvation, it is not necessary that we should try either to ascend into heaven or descend to the abode of the dead to work out the redemption which Christ already has wrought for us. Since, therefore, the two fundamental mysteries of our redemption, the Incarnation and the Resurrection, have already been accomplished for us, our justification is easy, provided we have proper faith in God through His incarnate and risen Son.

The words of Deut 30:13 (“which of us can cross the sea”) are here somewhat modified by St. Paul (“who shall ascend into the deep”), in order to render more vivid the contrast between heaven and the abyss, and better to accommodate the words of Moses to Christ’s burial and Resurrection from the dead.

Rom 10:8. But what saith the scripture? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart. This is the word of faith, which we preach.

The word scripture is wanting in Greek, and is considered a gloss. This verse is the positive complement of the thought of the preceding verses. Justice personified is still speaking. It is not necessary to seek salvation afar off, it is very near. It consists in a word which must be received by faith. As Moses said the word, i.e., the Law, was nigh and easy to understand; so, says St. Paul, it is with the word of faith, which we preach, i.e., the Gospel truths that are  necessary for salvation. These words, through the preaching of the Apostles,  are carried to all in such a way that all may have them in their mouth and in their heart, without the necessity of long journeys or grave fatigue.

In the Vulgate scriptura should be omitted; justitia (justice, righteousness), understood from verse 6, is the subject of dicit (says). The beginning of Rom 10:8 simply reads: "But what says...," thus a subject has to be supplied. The Vulgate, because a quote from Scripture follows, added the subject scriptura, but in Rom 10:6 justice, or righteousness, was said to "speak," suggesting that should be taken as the subject.

Rom 10:9. For if thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thy heart that God hath raised him up from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

The Apostle explains yet more clearly what is required in order to have part in the salvation of Christ. Not only is it necessary to believe, but thou must also confess with thy mouth, i.e., make public confession that Jesus is Lord (the literal order) of the universe, and therefore truly God. This means a public confession of Christ’s Divinity, such as was required before Baptism (Acts 8:37; Acts 16:31). Further, besides believing and confessing the Incarnation of the Son of God, it is necessary to believe in His Resurrection from the dead. Paul mentions these two mysteries because they are the principal ones of Christianity, those on which all others depend. If he speaks first of external, and then of internal faith, it is only because he is following the order of Moses’ words, which speak of the mouth first, and secondly of the heart.

Rom 10:10. For, with the heart, we believe unto justice; but, with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation.

St. Paul here returns to the natural order and speaks first of internal belief, and then of external profession of faith.

With the heart, etc., i.e., the internal act of faith is the beginning and foundation of justification.

We believe. More literally, Faith is formed (πιστευεται = pisteuetai), i.e., a state of faith is formed on our part, as the present tense indicates. The phrase  εις δικαιοσυνην (= eis dikaiosynen, "unto righteousness"), and not εις δικαιωσιν (= eis dikaiosin), shows that one attains real justice, and not a mere declaration of it, just as salvation will be really possessed (Lagrange).

Confession . . . unto salvation, i.e., salvation will follow upon our faith and justification, provided we persevere to the end of life in the justification we have received, and do not fail to make at times external profession of our faith. Again the present tense, ομολογειται (= homolgeitai, "confession"), marks a state of justice, and not a mere act, on man’s part. Of course, justification, if ever lost through mortal sin, can always be regained by a proper use of the Sacrament of Penance.

Rom 10:11. For the scripture saith: Whosoever believeth in him, shall not be confounded.

The New Dispensation is one of faith which gives to all the same rights to salvation. This doctrine of faith, however, is not new, having been already announced by the scripture, i.e., by Isaiah 28:16. St. Paul had previously (Rom 9:33) quoted these same words of the Prophet; but here he adds the word πας, whosoever, to the text of Isaiah, in order to express more clearly the universality of salvation through faith.

In him, in the context of Isaias, refers to the “corner-stone,” which was a figure of Christ.

Shall not be confounded, because through faith in Christ we are reconciled with God and have a firm hope of attaining salvation.

Rom 10:12. For there is no distinction of the Jew and the Greek: for the same is Lord oyer all, rich unto all that call upon him.

There is no distinction, etc. The Apostle had used the same argument, only more openly, to prove the universality of salvation in Rom 3:29. There he said God was the God of the Gentiles as well as the Jews; here he insists that both have the same Saviour.

Lord means Jesus Christ (Cornely, Lagrange, etc.), and not God the Creator, as some of the older commentators thought, because there is question here of faith in Christ. Jesus is the κυριος παντων (= kyrios panton), Lord over all, as in Acts 10:36; Phil 2:11.

Rich unto all, because by His death Christ has provided an infinite treasury of merits (Eph 3:8) which He holds at the disposition of all, on condition that they call upon him, i.e., that they believe in Him with their hearts and confess Him with their mouth (verse 10).

Rom 10:13. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved.

St. Paul appeals to the Prophet Joel 2:32 (3:2 in NAB and other translations) to prove that whosoever will call upon the name of Jesus shall be saved. The same text from Joel was quoted by St. Peter in his sermon to the faithful on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:21). The Apostle applies to Christ what Joel had said of Yahweh, which is a clear proof of the Divinity of Jesus.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

A Study of Romans 2:17-24

Text in red are my additions.


A Summary of Romans 2:17-24. Paul now openly addresses the Jews, and vehemently denounces their delusion in thinking that they could be saved by the sole fact that they had received a written law from God. At first he enumerates (verses Rom 2:17-18) the privileges which they had in possessing the Law, thereby knowing God’s will and things right and wrong, and then he ironically relates (verses Rom 2:19-20) certain claims and prerogatives on which they prided themselves, in order, in the following verses (Rom 2:21-24), to show more clearly the disagreement between their doctrine and their lives.

Rom 2:17. But if thou art called a Jew and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,

In verses 17-20 we have a case of anacoluthon—a protasis without an apodosis; but the irregularity is lessened if we read  ιδε in place of  ει δε (Lagrange). Still, the particle of contrast seems to be proper, since the thought is now passing from the Gentile to the Jew with the latter’s special conditions (Parry).

Called a Jew, i.e., called by a praised and honored name. In St. Paul’s time the term “Jew” was more in esteem than at present. It signified the Lord’s people, the worshippers of the true God, the chosen race to whom the Messiah was promised.

Restest in the law. The principal benefit conferred on the Jews by God was the giving of the Law, which taught them what to do and what to avoid, and in which they could rest with assurance and safety. They could boast of God, because they were God’s people, bound to Him by alliance and special privileges and benefits.

Rom 2:18. And knowest his will, and approvest the more profitable things, being instructed by the law,

The Jews, being instructed by the Law, knew God’s will and the things that pleased Him, as well as the things that displeased Him.

In the Vulgate, eius after voluntatem is not represented in the Greek.

Rom 2:19. Art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of
them that are in darkness,
Rom 2:20. An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, having the form
of knowledge and of truth in the law.

Guide . . . light . . . instructor . . . having the form, etc. Here the Apostle ironically enumerates certain claims to excellence in which the Jews gloried. Their morals in many respects were not above those of the Gentiles, and yet they considered themselves immeasurably superior to the latter. It was true, indeed, that the Gentiles, being deprived of God’s revelation through the Law, were to a great degree “blind” and “in darkness,” “foolish” and “infants,” as regards the true knowledge of God and their consequent duties toward Him. On the contrary, the Jews, possessing the Law, had the truth, and were in a position to guide, enlighten and instruct the Gentiles; but their error lay in this, that they thought the mere possession of the Law, without its practice on their part, to be all that was required of them.

Rom 2:21. Thou therefore that teachest another, teachest not thyself: thou that preachest that men should not steal, stealest:

The Apostle now interrupts his enumeration of the Jews’ privileges and prerogatives to call attention to the difference between their boasted pretensions and their own lives. Their possession of the Law, their better knowledge of God and their obligations to Him only increased their sins and culpability in failing to practice what they taught and preached to others. The Jews were often guilty of stealing, especially in business and commercial affairs.

Rom 2:22. Thou that sayest, men should not commit adultery, committest adultery: thou that abhorrest idols, committest sacrilege:

Sacrilege (ιεροσυλεις) . The Greek word ἱεροσυλέω properly signifies to despoil, to pillage the temples. St. Paul wishes to say that some Jews, who were so hateful of idols that they would not even touch them, had no scruples about robbing the temples of idols for the pecuniary gain they thus acquired (cf. Acts 19:37. As I sure most are aware, such blatant hypocrisy-a kind of double standard-is widespread among humanity in religion, secularism, business, sports etc.). “The Jews were severely forbidden to touch the wealth lying in the temples of idols, as being an abomination (Deut 6:25-26; 2 Macc 12:4); but the tyranny of love of money induced them to trample on this law” (St. Chrys.).

Rom 2:23. Thou that makest thy boast of the law, by transgression of the law dishonourest God.

The Jews knew very well that the crimes of which they were guilty were a reproach to their religion. Their sins dishonored the Law of which they were so proud; and they themselves dishonored God, the Lawgiver, whose representatives in declaring and interpreting the Law they boastfully pretended to be.

Rom 2:24. (For the name of God through you is blasphemed among the Gentiles, as it is written.)
The Jews, by their disorderly and sinful lives and actions, caused the name of God to be blasphemed among the idolatrous Gentiles. As the observation of the Law of God causes both God and the Law to be praised, so its transgression causes it and its giver to be despised.

As it is written refers to Isaiah 53:5, according to the Septuagint. The same thought is found in Ezek 36:20-23.

There is no reason for parentheses here.

Per vos of the Vulgate should be propter vos; hence through you means “on account of you.”

A Study of Romans 2:12-16

Notations in red are my additions. 


A Summary of Romans 2:12-16~The Jews shall be judged according to their own written Law. And although the pagans had not the Law of Moses, yet they were not without a rule of conduct which they were obliged to follow, and this was the law of nature written on each one’s heart. It was this natural law that clearly indicated to them what things God had forbidden under pain of death (Rom 1:32), and that made them responsible for having failed to render to God the honor which was His due (Rom 1:18-28). By the law of nature, therefore, the Gentiles shall be judged on the last day.

Rom 2:12. For whosoever have sinned without the law, shall perish without the law; and whosoever have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law.

To show the impartiality of God’s justice the Apostle here says that all men will be judged according to their knowledge; and hence the Gentiles, who have sinned without the law, i.e., without the written Law of Moses, will be judged by another, namely, the natural law, written on every man’s heart (Rom 1:18-28, 32). On the other hand, the Jews will be judged according to the Law of Moses, which they have violated.

The term law, νομου (= nomou), without the article means here the Jewish Law as distinguished from the natural law of the Gentiles.

In the Vulgate et (also, likewise, etc., when used as an adverb) should precede peribunt (perish), to agree with the Greek και (kai).

Rom 2:13. For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

Paul now explains how the Jews can be condemned, although they have the Law of Moses. Every Sabbath they heard this Law read to them in the synagogues, but it was not given to be heard only; it was to be put into practice. Therefore, those who did not practice the precepts of the Law could not be considered just before God.

The Apostle is not saying here that justification comes from the Law; he is speaking only of God’s future judgment, without at present making any allusion to justification or to the manner by which it is effected. He will later (Rom 3:20 ff.) show that justification comes not from the works of the Law, but from faith, and from works performed through the grace of Christ’s redemption. Hence the doers of the law shall be justified only on condition that they act through faith and with the aid of grace; without faith in Christ and the help of God’s grace “no flesh shall be justified before him” (Rom 3:20).

Rom 2:14. For when the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature those things that are of the law; these having not the law are a law to themselves:

Having pointed out (verse 13) how the Jews can be condemned in spite of their having the Law, St. Paul now goes on to show in this and the two following verses, how the Gentiles can be saved, although they have not received the Law. The Jews held that it was the Gentiles’ fault that they had not the Mosaic Law, and that, consequently, they were bound to observe its precepts (Apoc. Bar. 48:40, 47). But while St. Paul admits the culpability of the Gentiles, he does not reproach them for not having received the Law. He takes it for granted that the Law is not their express rule; but he supposes, nevertheless, that in certain instances, by following the light of reason, they have fulfilled its essential obligations and thus have become a law unto themselves (Lagr.).

By nature does not here mean that the Gentiles could observe all the moral precepts of the Law without the supernatural aid of grace, but only that they were able to do this without the written Law of Moses. The Apostle is speaking of those Gentiles, like Job, Melchisedech and Cornelius, who, assisted by God’s grace, were able, without any help from the written Law, to know the true God, to observe the precepts of the natural law and thus attain to salvation.

Nature, i.e., the light of natural reason, in the absence of the Mosaic Law, dictated to the Gentiles what they should do and what they should avoid. Thus “The Apostle shows that even in early times before the giving of the Law, mankind had the benefit of a perfect Providence” (St. Chrys.).

The Pelagians used this verse to prove that man without grace can observe all the precepts of the natural law. Baius was condemned (Denzing., 1022) for teaching that it was Pelagian to interpret this text of those Gentiles who had not received the grace of faith.

Rom 2:15. Who shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to them, and their thoughts between themselves accusing, or also defending one another,

That the Gentiles who obeyed the moral precepts of the Law were therefore a law unto themselves, is manifest in the first place from their good moral lives, of which their own consciences were witnesses. The law inscribed on their hearts gave them a knowledge of moral good and evil, and by the help of grace they were able to do the former and avoid the latter. The second proof that they were a law unto themselves comes from the thoughts and judgments which they formed concerning one another’s lives and actions. The common and impartial judgment of men regarding good or evil is a proof of the reality of natural obligation.

According to this interpretation, which is that of S. H., Lipsius, etc., there are two guaranties of the certitude of the natural law: (a) the conscience of each one; (b) the verdict of man. According to Cornely and others, however, there is here given only one witness, i.e., the conscience, and St. Paul explains how it asserts itself, namely, in the struggle of the thoughts (λογισμων = logismon), of which some condemn, others approve. Our English translation here should read: “accusing them, or also defending them,” i.e., the thoughts accuse or condemn, not themselves, but their subject or possessor (Cornely). This interpretation agrees better with the following verse.

Rom 2:16. In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.

This verse is a conclusion to what has been said in the two preceding verses. The existence of the natural law having been proved for the Gentiles, they, like the Jews, are in a condition to be judged. The dictates of conscience which condemn or approve the actions of the pagans will be manifested on the day of judgment, when there shall be needed no other witness for their condemnation or justification than the voice of their own conscience.

The secrets, etc. Only God can read the heart with certainty, and hence He only can judge the secret sins which the Gentiles committed against the law written on their hearts. For the Jew it sufficed to refer to the text of the Law, which condemned also secret sins; but for the pagan there was only the testimony of his conscience.

The incredulous Jews judged only those things which were external, and so they condemned all pagans as not obeying the Law simply because the latter had not the external written Law; but God, who is no respecter of persons (verse 11), will judge all, Jews and Gentiles, not according to things external, but according to what is written in the heart and conscience. This He will do through Jesus Christ whom He has constituted judge of all men (Matt 10:31; John 5:22, 27; Acts 17:31).

According to my gospel means according to Paul’s preaching, which was not different from that of the other Apostles, and clearly indicated that Jesus Christ would judge men by the secrets of their hearts (1 Cor 3:13; 4:5; 14:25). We are not, therefore, to understand Paul’s preaching as the manner or norm according to which God will judge, since Paul himself has plainly insisted that this norm will be the law, natural or written, as obeyed or disobeyed according to each one’s conscience.

Friday, February 05, 2016

A Study of Romans 1:24-32

Text in red are my additions. 


A Summary of Romans 1:24-32~Moral disorders follow upon religious error as a chastisement.  They who dishonored God were consequently permitted to dishonor themselves. First they degraded their own bodies by impurities; then they turned to sins against nature; and finally they were given up to a reprobate sense, plunging into every kind of sin, thus meriting the punishment of eternal death.

Rom 1:24. Wherefore God gave them up to the desires of their heart, unto uncleanness, to dishonour their own bodies among themselves.

God gave them up, etc., i.e., God in just punishment of their perversity withdrew grace from the pagans, and thus permitted them to fall into hateful and disgraceful sins (St. Aug., Serm. LVII. 9). That which was most noble in them, their reason, became the slave of their sensual passions. This judgment of God, however, was not definitive, because, according to St. Paul himself, the fallen Gentiles could rise again through the grace of Christ; neither does it mean that every individual among the pagans was a reprobate. On the contrary, we know that the grace of Christ’s death reached out beyond the saints of the chosen people and touched some of the Gentiles also, as is recognized by the Apostle in Rom 2:14-16.

Rom 1:25. Who changed the truth of God into a lie; and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

Who changed the truth of God, etc. Better, “Seeing that they changed,” etc. This can be understood in two ways, according to St. Thomas: (a) Either that, in their perversity, they changed the true knowledge which they had received from God into false doctrines; or (b) that they attributed the nature of the Divinity, which is truth itself, to an idol, which is a lie, inasmuch as it is not God. The Prophets often spoke of idols as lies (Isa 44:20; Jer 13:25; 16:19). The first meaning is preferred by Toletus, Lipsius, Lagrange, etc.; the second by Cornely, Godet, etc.

Rom 1:26. For this cause God delivered them up to shameful affections. For their women have changed the natural use into that use which is against nature.
Rom 1:27. And, in like manner, the men also, leaving the natural use of the women, have burned in their lusts one towards another, men with men working that which is filthy, and receiving in themselves the recompense which was due to their error.

In these two verses St. Paul speaks of the unnatural sins of the pagans, which were committed by women as well as men. St. Thomas says that every sin is against man’s rational nature, but that sins of impurity which are not directed to the act of generation are also against man’s animal nature.

(vs 27) The recompense, i.e., the reward that was due to their idolatry.

St. Paul’s words are directed, not to the philosophers alone, but to all the pagans. Naturally, however, those were more responsible and culpable who had the intellectual and moraldirection of others. It is surprising that such degrading sins asare here mentioned could have existed in the midst of a culture so high as was the Greco-Roman. These vices, however, did not have their beginning in Greece, but were very widespread among the Semites, even in the higher classes, as we learn from Babylonian inscriptions. Also the ancient Hebrews practiced them in forms the most repugnant and forbidden by the Law (1 Kings 14:24; 22:47; 2 Kings 23:7; Deut 23:18). In Greece art and literature, which glorified unnatural vices, contributed much to corrupt the youth and to spread the immorality which St. Paul is here condemning (cf. Aristotle, Politics, II. 10, 9; Plato, Laws, VII. 836-841).

Rom 1:28. And as they liked not to have God in their knowledge, God delivered them up to a reprobate sense, to do those things which are not convenient;

Because the Gentiles failed of their own volition to use their natural light of reason to acquire a more correct and accurate knowledge of the one true God, they were permitted to fall into a reprobate sense, which took wrong for right and right for wrong.

The Greek word for sense here is (νοῦς = nous), mind, which embraces not only the speculative judgment, but also the principle of moral actions, or practical judgment. It is this meaning of the word νοῦς (nous) that explains sensum, in place of mentem, of the Vulgate (cf. 1 Cor 9:27; 2 Cor 13:5-7).

Things . . . not convenient, i.e., abominable, unnatural vices.

It is to be noted here that this perversity of the pagans, which led them to regard wrong as right and right as wrong, was especially manifested in their aversion for sexuality that was legitimate and natural, and in their affection for and praise of such unnatural vices as pederasty, which, as we learn from Anacreon and Theognis, among the Greeks, and Lucian and Plutarch, among the Romans, was considered not only as lawful, but as the privilege of the higher classes. There seems to be a striking analogy between this perverted judgment of the Gentiles, which St. Paul is here reprobating, and the similar distorted reasoning of many people of our own time, who look upon such unnatural sins as onanism, unnecessary sterilization and race-suicide not only as legitimate, but as marks of a higher civilization and culture. Having forsaken the true religion and teachings of Christ these unfortunate persons have become perverse in their judgments, so that their condition and culpability seem not unlike those of the pagans of old who are condemned by St. Paul.

Rom 1:29. Being filled with all iniquity, malice, fornication, avarice, wickedness, full of envy, murder, contention, deceit, malignity, whisperers,

As a consequence of the reprobate sense to which God abandoned the pagans they fell into all kinds of sins against God, their neighbor and themselves.

Cornely observes that the Vulgate, having translated ποιειν ( = poiein = to do those things verse 28) by ut faciant, should have begun this verse with the nominative repleti, filled, instead of the accusative repletos. In Greek the accusative follows naturally αυτους (= autous = them), with which it is in apposition as the subject of ποιειν (God delivered them [autous] up to a reprobate sense, to do [poiein] those things).  The word fornication, found also in the Vulgate, is omitted from the principal Greek MSS. It seems out of place in the present enumeration, since the vices of impurity had been sufficiently noted in verses 24, 26 and 27.

Malice and wickedness were used promiscuously by both sacred and profane writers, but St. Paul mentions them separately, together with other general sins, to show that the Gentiles were guilty of crimes of all kinds.

Avarice, like impurity, was widespread among the pagans.

Malignity is a vice which accepts and explains all things in the worst light.

Whisperers are those who secretly spread calumnies.

Rom 1:30. Detractors, hateful to God, contumelious, proud, haughty, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

Detractors are those who openly and unjustly reveal the crimes and sins of others.

Hateful to God. The Greek here has θεοστυγεις (= theostygies), which Cornely and others understand to mean haters of God. But since this meaning of the word is never found in profane Greek, Lagrange prefers the Vulgate translation, Deo odibiles. It is perhaps a general term, expressive of the condition of those who were guilty of the crimes mentioned in the present series, especially pride and detraction, which are particularly hateful to God (cf. Sirach 10:7; Prov 6:16).

Haughty. Haughtiness comes from pride and is the fault of those in particular who have power or influence.

Inventors of evil things are those who are always studying new methods and means of sin (cf. 2 Macc 7:31).

Rom 1:31. Foolish, dissolute, without affection, without fidelity, without mercy.

Foolish, i.e., irreligious, those who have no taste for things religious, or who do not understand the divine Wisdom (cf. Ps 92:7; Wis 1:5; 11:15; Sirach 15:7; Mark 7:22).

Dissolute, i.e., those who are unfaithful to their engagements, those without honor (cf. Jer 3:7, 8, 10, 11).

Without fidelity (Vulg., absque foedere), is not represented in many MSS., and is perhaps a gloss that has crept into the text.

Without mercy, i.e., without pity and humanity toward their needy brethren.

Rom 1:32. Who, having known the justice of God, did not understand that they who do such things, are worthy of death; and not only they that do them, but they also that consent to them that do them.

Who, having known, etc. Better, “For, realizing” (οιτινες = hoitines), etc. In this verse, which explains how to understand the “reprobate sense” of verse 28, St. Paul says that the Gentiles knew in theory that God is just, but that they did not understand this in practice. There is some difference between the Greek and Vulgate readings here, but the sense is practically the same.

Are worthy of death. Neither in the Mosaic nor in the Gentile law was death promulgated as the punishment for all faults; but St. Paul wishes only to say here that those who give themselves up to vices for which they are fully responsible are deserving of death. The pagans knew the moral law and its sanction, but so far did they go astray that they were not only guilty of committing sins themselves, but approved of others who committed them; in this, certainly, their perversity was extreme. Thus the philosophers, who favored idolatry, although they themselves did not believe it, and the writers who glorified sins against nature were beyond doubt deeply guilty.

As there is question in this verse of the moral conscience of the pagans, St. Paul was doubtless referring principally to their Stoic and Cynic philosophers, who preached virtue and a moral code in some respects more austere than that practiced by the Jews. The Greco-Romans, for example, had no legal polygamy; they did not admit that a master could have relations with his servant; and they considered as an adulterer a husband who, in his conjugal relations, sought only pleasure.

The conclusion of the present chapter is that the wrath of God is upon the Gentiles for their sins, and that therefore they are in need of redemption. Neither their philosophy, nor their culture, nor the natural virtues which some of them preached and practiced were able to keep them from sin or establish in their regard any merited claim to the Gospel. All are in the same condition. St. Paul in this chapter has not enumerated faults peculiar to the philosophers, nor to the Romans in general, but those rather that were common to all the pagan world. Hence, after speaking of the vices of luxury, his enumeration is restricted to sins against justice and charity. If particular attention is given to pride, it is not so much because this was a Roman vice, as that it is a principle or common source of social disorder. In his Epistles to the Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, etc., the Apostle was moved by the needs and special evils of those to whom he wrote; but not so here. In the present letter his aim is to show the degradation of the pagan world. His words are addressed to all, and they are of special import to the Romans only because Rome, as the capital and centre of the Empire, pretended to maintain and was responsible for the social order and general welfare of all her people. Without charity toward God and the neighbor these benefits could not be secured, and because these virtues were not practiced, St. Paul saw that, in spite of philosophy, reason did not guide the pagans, in spite of the splendid government and laws of Rome, peace and friendship were wanting, in spite of certain natural virtues, the causes of dissolution were many and widespread, and therefore there was need of a radical change and of a new and more potent means of salvation (Lagrange, h. 1.).

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Basic Study of Romans 1:18-23

A Summary of Romans 1:18-23

Read Romans 1:18-23~Having asserted that justification comes only through faith (Rom 1:1-17), the Apostle here proceeds to indicate that both Gentiles and Jews have grievously sinned, and are therefore in need of redemption (this is the dominant theme of Rom 1:18-3:20); this redemption can now be obtained through faith in Christ (the major point of 3:21-4:25).

In the present section St. Paul points out the sinfulness of the pagans. They could have known God, and did know Him, to some extent; but they failed to render Him the homage which was His due, with the result that the notion of Him which they had through human reason became obscured, and they turned in their wickedness to dumb idols.

Due to the brevity of today's post it might not be a bad idea for you to read Romans 1:1-4:25 in one sitting. As the first paragraph above indicates, this block of material forms a major unit within the letter. The thesis St Paul announced explicitly in Romans 1:16-17 is taken up and developed in Rom 3:21-4:25 in light of what was said in the intervening material (Rom 1:18-3:20).  

Concerning The wrath of God in Rom 1:18. The phrase indicates "God's vindictive justice in punishing sin. While this is ultimately reserved for the Last Judgment, it is visited upon men even in this life, hence (Paul says, using the present tense) it 'is revealed'" (CBA, Comm. on the N.T.). Although "vidictive" often has a pejoritive sense in modern usage, it should be remembered that it is related to "vindicate."  

Concerning suppress the truth in Rom 1:18. "Wickedness is a force opposed to truth which, if unrestrained, would expand injustice" (CBA Comm. on the N.T.).

Here I will first encourage everyone to acquire a decent Catholic Bible Dictionary as an aid for gaining a better understanding of such difficult mysteries as "the wrath of God" (I've listed a couple suggestions at the end of this post). Also, I would recommend reading these two articles (1) What is the Wrath of God? by Msgr. Charles Pope. (2) This online excerpt from the Navarre Bible Commentary on Romans 1:16-25. See especially the summary it gives of verses 18-32

Lectionary Link and Discussion Prompt: Romans 1:16-23 is part of the first reading for the Tuesday of the 28th day in Ordinary Time, Year I. It is used in conjunction with Ps 19:2-5 and Luke 11:37-41. What connections do you see? 

Catechism Link for Romans 1:19-20: Ways of Coming to Know God~CCC 31-38;   

Catechism Link for Romans 1:21-23:  Honoring God as Creator~CCC 2084-3141. 

Fr. Callan is using his own translation. Links are to the NABRE 

 Rom 1:18. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and injustice of those men that detain the truth of God in injustice: 

For (γάρ = gar) indicates the reason why a revelation of the “justice of God” was necessary. Some, however, think that γάρ does not here denote a strict consequence, but rather a mild opposition (Lagr.). The threefold use of γάρ in verses16, 17 and 18 establishes a close connection between the content of those verses. According to Shedd, γάρ “introduces the reason why God has revealed the δικαιοσυνη (= righteousness) spoken of: namely, because he had previously revealed his ὀργή (orgē = wrath). This shows that mercy is meaningless except in relation to justice, and that the attempt, in theology, to retain the doctrine of the divine love, without the doctrine of the divine wrath, is illogical.” (Text in blue my additions to the quote from Shedd).  For some reason that escapes me, the Protestant NIV Bible simply eliminates the word, beginning the verse with The wrath of God.  James Moffatt and C.H. Dodd insist on taking γάρ as an adversative (But the wrath of God); a usage it rarely has. On cannot introduce a dichotomy between God’s Justice and his wrath, they are “two sides of the same coin” (Frank J.Matera).  But if our injustice commend the justice of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust, who executeth wrath?  (I speak according to man.) God forbid! Otherwise how shall God judge this world?  For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie, unto his glory, why am I also yet judged as a sinner?  And not rather (as we are slandered and as some affirm that we say) let us do evil that there may come good? Whose damnation is just (Rom 3:5-8). 

The wrath of God is revealed, etc., is understood by older critics to refer to the anger which God will display at the Last Judgment. Cornely and other modern authorities understand it of anger already manifested. Doubtless it is to be understood of anger already displayed, the full and final issue of which, however, will be felt only at the Last Judgment. The Greek word αποκαλυπτεται ( = apokalyptetai, "is revealed") is a present indicative middle. In other words, it denotes action already in progress (present indicative). the wrath of God is already  being manifested. 

Wrath is attributed to God anthropomorphically, and means here nothing more than a manifestation of His justice (2 Sam 19:2; Neh 1:6). Without doubt God will at the Last Judgment manifest His justice towards all sinners in ways unseen and unrealized here below. St. Paul often speaks of God’s wrath in the eschatological sense (Rom 2:5; 5:9; 1 Thess 1:10, etc.), but it is evident from the present tense of the verb here, αποκαλυπτεται ( = apokalyptetai, "is revealed"), and from the context, that the Apostle is now speaking of wrath which God has already exercised on the Gentiles. Father Callan’s reference to the context is a reference to verses 24, 26 and 28 and the phrase “God gave them up”. 

Is revealed from heaven, i.e., God’s judgments on the sins of the Gentiles are sent out, so to say, from the place of His dwelling, from the seat of His presence. 

Ungodliness means impiety, as opposed to the virtue of religion, which renders to God His due. 

Injustice expresses more openly what is also implied in “ungodliness”; for to fail in piety is likewise to fail in justice to God. Both words refer to the injustice, immorality and other sins of the Gentiles.

The pagans are said to detain (κατεχοντων) the truth of God, etc., inasmuch as their state of injustice and sin excluded possession of the truth, and kept it, as it were, locked up from them. Truth and injustice are opposing forces; and as there is question here  of religious or moral truth, the former (i.e., truth) is said to be excluded, kept away, enslaved (κατεχοντων) by the latter. 

Of God is not in the Greek; hence Dei after veritatem of the Vulgate should be omitted.

Rom 1:19. Because that which is known of God is manifest in them. For God hath manifested it unto them.

In this verse St. Paul says that a natural knowledge of God, of His existence and of some of His attributes, to which unimpeded human reason can always attain, was possible to the pagans; and thence it follows that, had they rendered to God, as they could and should have known Him, the homage that was His due, they would have received further help from Him to enable them to lead moral lives and thus attain salvation. The words to το γνωστον (= gnoston, "is known") of this verse mean the objective notion or knowledge of God, which man is able to acquire from the visible universe, notitia Dei objective sumpta (= the notion or knowledge of God objectively taken); γνωστον (gnoston) is always used in this sense in the New Testament. 

Is manifest, etc., i.e., is clear to them, made manifest externally among them. The Gentiles had before them that clear knowledge of God which is possible to man through the natural light of reason operating on the visible world around him (St. Thomas). 

Rom 1:20. For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; his eternal power also, and divinity: so that they are inexcusable.

The Apostle wisely addresses to the Gentiles first an argument from the natural order. The nature and attributes of God are called invisible things because they are not naturally perceptible as they are in themselves; but, by reason of things created and naturally visible, human reason has been able from the beginning of the world to rise to a knowledge of the existence of those things which it otherwise could not know, and which are at all times invisible to the senses (1st Vat. Conc., Sess. III. cap. 2). Ever since there was a created mind capable of reflecting on the visible universe, therefore, it has been possible for man to rise to a knowledge of the existence of a Creator.

Naturally the first attribute of the Creator, which would be suggested to man’s mind, would be that of power; and upon further reflection it would be clear that such power could reside only in divinity. Hence the Gentiles were inexcusable in not knowing the existence of some of the attributes of the one true God, and in not rendering to Him the homage which was His by right. 

Rom 1:21. Because that, when they knew God, they have not glorified him as God, or given thanks; but became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Because (διότι = dioti) shows the connection with the preceding verse and introduces a development of the theme therein stated. St. Paul now goes on to explain why the pagans were inexcusable. Not because they had a perfect and explicit knowledge of God, and then refused to pay Him due honor and worship; but because they could have had sufficient notion of His existence and nature not to be guilty of the ignorance with which they are here reproached. Hence St. Thomas says that the first fault of the Gentiles was one of ignorance. Had they made proper use of the first knowledge which they had of God, they would have progressed to further understanding of Him, and would have recognized Him as God; they would have worshipped His supreme majesty, and rendered to Him honor and thanks as the Master and source of all good and blessings. But, having wilfully paralyzed the first help and obscured the first light that was given them, they were plunged into deeper darkness and error, with the result that, instead of thanking God as the cause of benefits, they potius suo ingenio et virtuti suae bona sua adscribebant (St. Thomas). 

Heart here represents all of man’s higher faculties, both volitional and intellectual. 

Rom 1:22. For professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.

This verse does not explain what precedes, but rather indicates the supreme degree of error into which the pagans had fallen. The words are general and embrace not only philosophers, but all the Gentiles, represented by the most cultivated people. 

For (Vulgate, enim) is not represented in the Greek. 

Rom 1:23. And they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of the image of a corruptible man, and of birds, and of fourfooted beasts, and of creeping things.

So far in their perversity and ignorance did the pagans go that they paid to mere creatures, such as men, birds, beasts, and reptiles,—nay, even to the images and representations of these things, the honor and worship which is due to the eternal God alone. The folly of the Gentiles was in their conception
of the Deity, whom they came to regard as represented by created and material objects; and their false notions begot a false worship. 

The likeness of the image, i.e., the image which represented such things as man, birds, beasts and the like. Among the Greeks and Romans idols had the figure of a man, but among the Egyptians they took the form of animals.

Links to

New World Dictionary To the New American Bible. The most succinct and inexpensive of the volumes listed here. I think it's out of print but used copies can still be found for sale online.

McKenzie's Dictionary of the Bible. By Fr. John McKenzie. Was (and probably still is) the standard Catholic Bible Dictionary. It is somewhat outdated. 

Catholic Bible Dictionary. Edited by Dr. Scott Hahn. The most recent Catholic Bible dictionary. 

Dictionary of Biblical Theology. By Fr. Xavier Leon-Dufour. This is somewhat different than a Bible Dictionary. The content is much less broad (350 articles compared with 2,000 + in McKenzie's), but the subjects that are treated are presented in some detail. This is for the more advanced or committed.