Saturday, April 30, 2016

Outline of Philippians

Philippians consists of three major blocks of material arranged in a concentric (reverse parallel) structure (note the color coding). In addition, part 1 of the Letter has 3 subsections, also concentrically arranged (note the underlining, italics, and boldface print).

PART 1: Philippians 1:1-3:1. Paul And The Philippians' Partnership In The Spread And Defense Of The Gospel In Spite Of Enemies And Threats To Freedom And Life. A Life Worthy Of The Gospel Will Have Its Reward. Joy And Rejoicing.

A1. Philippians 1:1-30. In Spite Of Conflict, Oppression And Danger To Life, Christians Must Spread The Gospel While Living A Manner Of Life Worthy Of It And Obedient To It. Joy and Rejoicing.
B. Philippians 2:1-18. To Live And Act In This Way is To have The Mind Of Christ And To Imitate His Obedience. Because Of His Obedience Christ Was Exalted (rewarded, saved from death).
A2. Philippians 2:19-3:1. The Gospel Service Of Timothy And Epaphroditus (the latter nearly died for "the work of Christ"). Joy and Rejoicing
PART 2: Philippians 3:2-16. Growth And Gain In Christ Is Dependent On Faith.

PART 3: Philippians 3:17-4:23. One Must Live Worthily And Not As Enemies Of The Cross of Christ. Paul's partner in the Gospel (Clement) must help Euodia and Syntyche end their conflict. The Philippians Partnership In Giving And Receiving. Joy And Rejoicing

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Commentary on Romans 11:1-10

THE REJECTION OF ISRAEL IS AFTER ALL ONLY PARTIAL
A Summary of Romans 11:1-10

Having shown in the preceding chapter that the rejection of the Jews was due to their own persistent disobedience and obstinacy to the will of God and the divine overtures, St. Paul now is at pains to observe that God, notwithstanding, has by no means ceased to be merciful to His chosen people. For their rejection is not complete; a good number have been converted, although the others have been hardened.

Rom 11:1. I say then: Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

After all the Apostle has said about the culpability and responsibility of the Jews (Rom 9:30-10:21), one would be inclined to think that Israel had been entirely rejected and had ceased to be the people of God. But even before this, when speaking of the absolute right of God to choose or to reject whom He will (Rom 9:6-26), the Apostle had insinuated, in a passing way, that there was still, as in former times of apostasy, a faithful remnant in whom the mercy of God was manifest. Here, borrowing the words of Psalm 94:14, he asks the question plainly whether God hath cast away his people. The answer must be negative, first because the Apostle's teaching cannot be contrary to the promise of the inspired Psalmist. In the second place, he refers to himself, who was an Israelite of the seed of Abraham, i.e., a carnal descendant of the father of the Jewish race, and a member of the tribe of Benjamin which, with the tribes of Juda and Levi, had, in the past, remained faithful to the Lord (2 Cor. 11:22; Philip, 3:5). Finally, if God had entirely rejected the Jews, He would not have selected from among them "the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of his mysteries" (1 Cor. 4:1), and sent them out to preach the faith to the Gentiles (Rom 1:5). So much for an indirect reply to the question proposed.

Rom 11:2. God hath not cast away his people, which he foreknew. Know you not what the scripture saith of Elias; how he calleth on God against Israel? 

St. Paul now responds directly to the above question. It is impossible that God should reject entirely and definitely all the Jews, because God does not thus change His eternal decrees (see Rom 11:28-29).

Which he foreknew, i.e., which he formerly recognized and willingly approved as His own people. There is no question here of those who God foreknew would be faithful to Him, or of the predestined (Cornely), but of the Jewish people as a whole, who would not be finally cast off by God.

Know you not, etc. The Apostle draws an example from the history of Elijah (1 Kings 19:10) to illustrate the designs of God in the present instance. It seemed to Elijah that the whole people had fallen into idolatry and had been rejected by God; but God revealed to the Prophet that a remnant had been preserved. So it is now. While it seems that all Israel has been rejected, there is no doubt that some will be saved.

The scripture, i.e., that section of the Old Testament which deals with Elijah (cf. Mark 12:26; Luke 20:37).

Against Israel, i.e., accusing Israel.

Rom 11:3. Lord, they have slain thy prophets, they have dug down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.

The words of Elijah and the reply of God (1 Kings 19:10, 14, 18) are here abbreviated and cited according to the LXX. They have slain, i.e., the Israelites, at the command of the impious Jezabel, killed the Prophets (2 Kings 18:4).

They have dug down, etc., likely refers to private altars erected by pious Israelites on high places for good purposes, although contrary to the Law (Deut. 12:4 ff.). Living under an idolatrous king these Israelites were not able to adore God in Jerusalem (1 Kings 18:30), and so felt justified in building private altars. At any rate, to destroy these altars, as was done, out of hatred toward God, was very impious.

Alone, of the faithful who adored the true God; or of those faithful who were able to act for God, that is, of the Prophets (Lagrange, Beelen).

Rom 11:4. But what saith the divine answer to him? I have left me seven thousand men, that have not bowed their knees to Baal.

Answer. The word χρηματισμός (= chrēmatismos) here has the sense of an oracle; but it may also have the meaning of answer or reply, because generally the oracles responded to questions proposed. In reality there was an interrogation at the bottom of Elijah's words to God: he was imploring God to intervene. To this God replied: I have left me, etc. In 1 Kings 19:18 we have the future: "I will leave me," etc. The fact remains that seven thousand were preserved from idolatry. The divine reply makes manifest the power of God's grace. In spite of the extraordinary persecution instituted by Ahab and Jezebel, under which it seemed that all Israel had suffered defection, the grace of God was able to preserve from idolatry and hold fast in the worship of the true God seven thousand men, i.e., an indeterminate but very great number (cf. Gen. 4:15; Lev. 26:18, 24, etc.).

Baal was the chief God of all the Canaanite tribes. Baal or Bel means the Lord, and especially the husband. We have here the feminine article with the masculine name, τη βααλ (= ho Baal), most probably because the Hellenist Jews wished to avoid the utterance of the idol's name, and substituted in the reading, the shame, just as the name YHWH was written with the pointing of Adonai. Likely the LXX MS. which Paul was using had the reading τη βααλ (= ho Baal).

Rom 11:5. Even so then at this present time also, there is a remnant saved according to the election of grace.

Applying to his purpose the lesson of the preceding verses St. Paul says that, as in the time of Elias a number were preserved faithful, so now there is a remnant of the Jews saved, i.e., brought to Christianity.

According to the election of grace, i.e., in virtue of an election altogether gratuitous, and independent of merit on the part of the saved. The grace of justification can never be merited (Cone. Trid., Sess. VI, cap. 8).

St. Paul leaves all indeterminate the number of Jews that were actually converted to the faith. He is satisfied to note, (a) that the designs of God were not frustrated, because a remnant has been saved, which is a pledge of future restoration; and (b) that grace is the sole principle of one's call.

In the Vulgate salvae should be omitted, and factae sunt should be fuerunt (Lagrange). 

Rom 11:6. And if by grace, it is not now by works: otherwise grace is no more grace.

Having spoken of grace the Apostle takes occasion again to insist that grace and works are two opposing principles. What is of grace is entirely gratuitous; that which is from works is due as a recompense. The Council of Trent (1. c.) says: Nihil eorum, quae justificationem praecedunt, neque fidem neque opera, ipsam
justifications gratiam promereri.

While St. Paul is speaking here of the call of God to Christianity, the principle he lays down is absolute. Both the call to justification and to eternal glory are equally gratuitous; but when one is already justified and living the life of grace there is no opposition between the works he performs, proceeding from grace, and grace itself. Therefore, works performed under the influence of grace are meritorious of life eternal. Of these latter works, however, there is no question in the present verse. Some of the Greek MSS. and a Syriac version add here: "But if of works, it is no longer grace: otherwise the work is no longer a work." The addition contributes nothing to the sense already expressed.

Rom 11:7. What then? That which Israel sought, he hath not obtained: but the election hath obtained it; and the rest have been blinded.

This verse concludes what precedes in the present chapter.

What then, i.e., what should we say of Israel? As a nation the great majority of the Jews have not attained that which they sought; namely justification, because they sought it through works without the aid of faith and grace.

But the election, i.e., those who were chosen by God have obtained justification through faith and the grace of their divine election.

The rest have been blinded, hardened (επωρωθησαν = eporothesan), so that they have not recognized the Messiah and the true way of salvation. 

That which Israel sought should be "that which Israel is seeking"; and hence also the quaerebat of the Vulgate ought to be present, quaerit, to correspond with the Greek.

Rom 11:8. As it is written: God hath given them the spirit of insensibility; eyes that they should not see; and ears that they should not hear, until this present day.

The blindness of the Jews had already been foretold. St. Paul is citing freely, according to the LXX, and combining two texts,—the first from Isa. 29:10, the second from Deut. 29:3.

God hath given them, etc., i.e., on account of their own perversity and infidelity God withdrew His grace from the Jews, thus permitting them to have a spirit of insensibility, or moral torpor which made them incapable of seeing, hearing or understanding the truth, although it was in their very midst. The term κατανυξεως (= katanyexeos) (Vulg., compunctio) properly means a violent puncture (from κατάνυξις = katanuxis), and therefore great, numbing pain; but in its figurative sense, as used here by St. Paul and in the LXX (Isa 29:10; Ps. 60:5), it signifies torpor, profound sleep, deafness, etc. By reason of their blindness and deafness the Jews failed utterly to recognize Christ and His preaching, or the Apostles and their preaching, in spite of all the miracles that were worked in their presence in confirmation of that preaching.

Until this present day. These words show the persistence of the divine plan, and that the Jews of the time of Moses and Isaias were a type of the Jews in the time of our Lord (Matt 23:32).

Rom 11:9. And David saith: Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a
stumbling block, and a recompense unto them.
Rom 11:10. Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see : and bow down their
back always.

The better to point out the blindness of the Jews, St. Paul now cites the testimony of the Psalmist (Ps. 69:23-24), whose imprecated curses on the Jews of his own time were typical of the punishment that had justly fallen on those of the Apostle's time. The Jews, says the Apostle, have come to regard as advantageous for themselves that which is their ruin.

Let their table be made a snare, etc., i.e., let their table be like a bait which draws the bird to the trap (Cornely); or let their table be set with poisoned dishes destined for certain guests who, nevertheless, will oblige the hosts themselves to consume those dishes (Lagrange). The term "table" principally means the Sacred Scriptures, which were spread out before the Jews as spiritual nourishment, but which were converted by them into sources of error and mischief, and were turned by the Christians against them (MacEvilly).

Let their eyes be darkened, etc. What the Psalmist imprecates for his enemies, who were also his own people, St. Paul applies to the Jews. The Law, which was intended to be a help and a guide for the Jews, and to lead them to Christ, on account of their willful perversity became a grievous yoke and burden that bowed them down to earthly things.

According to St. Paul the hardening of the Jews was the chastisement of a first fault (Rom 1:26). It was, therefore, voluntary (Rom 10), but was not directly relative to life eternal. It prevented the Jews from recognizing the Messiah; but, being only temporary, it can always be changed for the nation as a whole, to
say nothing of individuals, for whose conversion the Apostle was ever solicitous (Lagrange).

A Commentary on Romans Chapter 10

THE JEWS MISUNDERSTOOD THE JUSTICE OF GOD
A Summary of Romans 10:1-4

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), i.e., my strong desire (St. Chrysostom), 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 translated above as "indeed" (Lagrange).


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; 41-25). 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. Philip, 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, "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 Law, as is clear from the context (Lagrange, Cornely, etc.), and not law in general (Weiss, Zahn, etc.).

That believeth. To obtain justification and salvation faith in Christ has at all times been the indispensable means,—in Christ to come under the Old Law, and in Christ already come under the New Dispensation.

THE JUSTICE OF LAW AND THE JUSTICE OF FAITH
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; 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; 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 of the Vulgate should be scribit, 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 down Christ, 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, understood from verse 6, is the subject of dicit.

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; 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), and not εις δικαιοσιη (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 (homologeitai = "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 (= pas), whosoever, to the text of Isaias, 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 over 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 (Comely, Lagr., 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; Philip, 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 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.

THE JEWS REFUSED TO BELIEVE IN THE GOSPELA Summary of Romans 10:14-21

 In these verses St. Paul shows all that God has done to lead the Jews to the faith. He has shown already (verse 3) that they misunderstood the justice of God, although it was easily within their reach to grasp and understand, if only they would have had faith (verses 6-13). Now he goes on to prove that they could have made this act of faith, and that if they have not done so, it is manifestly their own fault. Faith should be supported by authorized preaching, and such preaching faith has had, as Isaias proves. But all have not believed. Yet they have heard and understood, and it is their own fault if they have not believed. Cf. St. Chrys., Lagr., h. 1. 

Rom 10:14. How then shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed? Or how shall they believe him, of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear, without a preacher?
Rom 10:15. And how shall they preach unless they be sent, as it is written: How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, of them that bring glad tidings of good things!

In the preceding verse it was said that invocation of the name of Christ was necessary for salvation. But to invoke a person, it is first necessary to believe in him; and to believe, one must first have learned. One learns through preaching, provided the preaching be duly authorized and reliable. These conditions being presupposed, there is no reason for not believing.

Preaching, therefore, is the ordinary means of learning the truths of faith; but it must be done by those who have the proper authority and the right to preach : there are many pseudo-apostles and pseudo-prophets (2 Cor. 11:13; Titus 1:11). God, of course, is free to make known the truths of salvation otherwise than through preaching, if He wishes, but that would be something out of His ordinary way of acting.

How shall they believe him, etc. The Vulgate querm non audierunt, corresponding to the Greek ου ουκ ηκουσαν (hou ouk ekousan = "whom they have not heard"), would seem to suggest that those who had not heard Christ could not believe in Him. But ηκουσαν (ekousan = "heard") with the genitive sometimes means in classic Greek to hear of or about a person (Cornely). Our English translation, “of whom they have not heard,” is therefore correct, and the Vulgate should read, de quo non audierunt. At any rate, the fact that very few who were then living had seen Christ or heard Him was an argument for the necessity of duly authorized preachers, Apostles, envoys of Christ.

Unless they be sent, i.e., by God, either directly, as was St. Paul himself, or indirectly, through the authority constituted by God, as are all those who receive their commission from the Apostolic body and Church instituted and empowered by Christ. This Apostolate which, through its preaching, is to convert souls to Christ, had already been foretold by Isaias 52:7. The citation is more according to the Hebrew than the LXX. The Prophet’s words refer literally to the messengers who announced the fall of Babylon and the return of the Jews from captivity; but in their mystical sense, as here used by St. Paul, they have reference to the preachers of the Gospel. 

Of them that preach the gospel of peace is an addition to Isaias which is not found in the best Greek MSS. 

Glad tidings, etc., literally refers to the announcement made by the messengers of whom Isaias spoke, but figuratively, to the preachers of the Gospel of Christ. 

Rom 10:16. But all do not obey the gospel. For Isaias saith: Lord, who hath believed our report? 

Although the Gospel was preached, St. Paul here affirms that generally, especially by the Jews, it was not obeyed. He says all do not, etc.; better, “all have not,” etc., simply to soften, as much as possible, the sad truth of Jewish indifference and obduracy. This deplorable fact of disobedience to the Gospel and to the preaching of the Apostles was foretold by Isaias 53:1, whom St. Paul cites almost literally according to the LXX. The word Lord is added to the citation. Isaias was about to describe the passion and humiliation of the future Messiah, and he cried out full of anguish and fear, who will believe what I am going to announce? How few they were who afterwards did believe in the Messiah we are told by St. John 12:
37, 38. 

Our report literally means “our hearing,” i.e., our preaching, what they heard from us.

To conform to the Greek the obediunt of the Vulgate ought to be obedierunt. 

Rom 10:17. Faith then cometh by hearing; and hearing by the word of Christ. 

As said above (verse 14), faith cometh by hearing, i.e., by preaching, according to God’s ordinary Providence, and hearing, i.e., preaching, comes by the word of Christ, i.e., by the commission and mandate of Christ given to the Apostles and their successors (Cornely), or by the word revealed through Christ (Lagr.).

Rom 10:18. But I say: Have they not heard? Yes, verily, their sound hath gone forth into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the whole world.

St. Paul anticipates an objection or excuse on the part of the Jews. Will they, i.e., the Jews, say they have not heard the preaching of the Gospel? That they certainly have heard it, he proceeds to prove by a quotation from Psalm 19:4, cited according to the LXX. The Psalmist is speaking of the glory of God being declared by the heavens; and St. Paul, accommodating the text to his purpose (Cornely, Zahn, etc.), says that as the heavens declare everywhere the glory of the Creator, so has the preaching of the Gospel been heard everywhere in the world. Hence there is no excuse for the incredulity of the Jews. 

All the earth and the ends of the whole world are obviously hyperboles, used to express a great truth. The Apostle merely wishes to say that the Gospel was then widely known in the Roman world, and so could not be unknown to the Jews (cf. Acts 1:8).

Rom 10:19. But I say: Hath not Israel known? First, Moses saith: I will provoke you to jealousy by that which is not a nation; by a foolish nation I will anger you.

Another objection is forestalled and refuted by the Apostle. It having been proved that the Jews had heard the Gospel preaching, could it be that they would say that they did not understand it? That is impossible; for the Apostle adduces certain texts from the Old Testament (Deut. 32:21) in which it had been foretold that the Gentiles, far less prepared than the Jews, would understand and embrace the faith ; from which it follows that the Jews could not plead an obscurity in the preaching of the Gospel that would excuse their failure to understand.

Hath not Israel known? i.e., have not the Jews understood (ουκ εγνω = ouk egno)? There is question here of the Jews understanding that which they had heard, namely, the Gospel.

First, Moses, i.e., God through Moses first, in order of time among the inspired writers, threatened the Jews on account of their obstinacy in not understanding, that is, in rendering homage to "that which was no god" (Deut. 32:21), i.e., to an idol; and He told them that He would incite them "to jealousy and anger" by
bestowing first temporal, and later spiritual blessings upon that which is not a nation, upon a foolish nation, i.e., the Gentiles. The pagans were called "not a nation," i.e., an inferior nation, as compared with the religious and moral standard of the Jews. They were looked upon as "a foolish nation," i.e., as almost incapable of understanding the things of God; and yet they understood the preaching of the Gospel which the Jews, with all their superior privileges and divine assistances, did not grasp and obey. The words of Moses found their entire fulfillment when the Jews were rejected and the spiritual blessings of the Messiah were conferred upon the Gentiles.

Rom 10:20. But Isaias is bold, and saith: I was found by them that did not seek me: I appeared openly to them that asked not after me.

St. Paul now cites Isaiah 65:1, whose words clarify the obscurity that might lurk in Moses' words of the preceding verse. God is speaking through the Prophet.

Isaias is bold, i.e., outspoken, without regard for the sensibilities and prejudices of his fellow-Jews.

I was found, etc., i.e., I permitted myself to be discovered, through the preaching of the Gospel, by the Gentiles that did not seek me, i.e., that were wrapped in the darkness of idolatry, and that consequently neither knew Me nor adored Me.

I appeared openly, through the same preaching of the Gospel, to them, i.e., to the Gentiles, that cared not for Me, nor desired My revelation. How much more, therefore, should the Jews have known and understood the Gospel message! In their failure to do this how great was their culpability!

Rom 10:21. But to Israel he saith: All the day long have I spread my hands to a people that believeth not, and contradicteth me.

 Isaiah 65:2 is here cited directly against the Jews. It was said in verses 19, 20 that if a people that did not know God have recognized Him in His manifestations, much more should Israel have known and understood His messages. And why has Israel not recognized and understood the revelation of God in the Gospel? Simply because it was incredulous and resisted God's proffered gifts, because of its continual disobedience and opposition to God. On the part of God there were invitations the most tender; on the part of Israel, obstinate refusal. St. Paul is not retracting what he said in Romans 9 about the designs of God ; he is picturing here the problem under the aspect of the responsibility incurred by human wills deaf to the call of God (Lagrange).

To Israel. The preposition "to," προς (= pros), according to modern interpreters should rather be concerning, with regard to. "To," however, sufficiently renders the meaning of the Vulgate ad and of the Greek προς (pros), in the present instance.

All the day, etc., i.e., God at all times, like a loving father, stretched out His arms and desired to embrace Israel, but in vain.

To a people, etc., i.e., to Israel, incredulous and rebellious. Throughout its history Israel was unfaithful and rebellious to the law and will of God, but its obstinacy and disobedience became most manifest when it rejected the Messiah and His Gospel. To itself alone, therefore, is due Israel's exclusion from the Messianic kingdom. Cf. Matt 23:37; Luke 11:15; John 8:48; 9:10, etc.




Saturday, April 23, 2016

First Thessalonians: Controversies

 Note: Most scholars who hold the opinions I am arguing against in this post accept only 6 or 7 of the Letters of St Paul as authentic. These so-called "undisputed letters" are 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, Philemon, Philippians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians(?), and Romans. I accept as authentic all the letter in the pauline corpus, however, in this post I have tried for the most part to limit myself to the narrower parameters.   

FIRST CONTROVERSY
First Thessalonians originates from St Paul, but not as a single letter. It is, in fact, two of Paul's missives  carpentered together by an editor

 ARGUMENT 1: According to Earl J Richard, what we have in 1 Thessalonians is two letters sent at two different times, but we possess them now as a single letter because someone interpolated an early letter (EL), which he identifies as 1 Th 2:13-4:2, into a later letter (LL, identified as 1 Th 1:1-2:12, 4:3-5:28). Several things are said to confirm this; for example, unlike the other undisputed letters, this one contains two thanksgivings (the LL at 1 Th 1:2-10 and the EL at 1 Th 2:13), and it also contains two conclusions (the EL at 1 Th 3:11-4:2 and the LL at 1 Th 5:23-28). What could possibly account for this except the fact that two letters have been combined?

RESPONSE: First point. Why bother with interpolating one "letter" into another and destroying the integrity of both in the process? It would have been just as easy (and far saner) to keep each "letter" intact, one following the other.

Second Point. Rather than a clumsily constructed, composite document, 1 Thess. is--as the following outline shows--a finely structured, unified letter. It consists of three major parts, each containing three subsection which are concentrically arranged, i.e., parallels (the "A" subsections) constructed around a center ("B" subsections). Such an arrangement explains the second thanksgiving (note: parallels are indicated by underlining and/or italics):

PART 1: 1 Thess 1:1-2:16.
A1. 1 Th 1:1-10. Opening greeting and thanksgiving.
B. 1 Th 2:1-12. Having been entrusted with the Gospel the missionaries acted uprightly in preaching it.
 A2. 1 Th 2:13-16. A second thanksgiving.

PART 2: 1 Thess 2:17-3:19.

A1. 1 Th 2:17-20. The missionaries desire to return to the Thessalonians who will be their hope, joy, and crown of boasting at the Second Coming of Lord Jesus.
B. 1 Th 3:1-8. The missionaries send Timothy to Thessalonica.
A2. 1 Th 3:9-13. The missionaries pray to be able to return to the Thessalonians and that they will be kept blameless and holy until the Second Coming of Lord Jesus.
PART 3: 1 Thess 4:1-5:28.
A1. 1 Th 4:1-12. General moral exhortations concerning the will of God.
B. 1 Th 4:13-5:11. Moral exhortations relating to aspects of the Second Coming.
A2. 1 Th 5:12-28. General moral exhortations concerning the will of God. A closing prayer and final greeting.
ARGUMENT 2: The outline is interesting but it does not really address the two problems mentioned in argument 1. No other letter in the pauline corpus contains two thanksgiving except 2 Thess., a letter not written by Paul, so why does this one have two? Also, what about the two conclusions? Consider this: the conclusion to the earlier letter employs the Greek word λοιπον (loipon) at 4:1 and is rightly translated as "finally." It is properly used at the end of letters as in 2 Cor 13:11, Philippians 3:1, 4:8. If 1 Thess is a single, unified letter, the word's appearance here makes no sense given the length and varies subject matter that follows it.

RESPONSE: First Point. (Note: I wont be dealing with the false claim the 2 Thess is not by St Paul). Prayer/thanksgiving defines the very structure of this letter. Note that the letter begins with an opening greeting and a blessing for grace (1 Th 1:1) followed by a thanksgiving prayer (1 Th 1:2-10). The letter ends in reverse fashion--St Paul loves reverse parallels. Specifically, St Paul prays for the Thessalonians (1 Th 5:23); asks for their prayers on his behalf (1 Th 5:25); gives a final greeting and blessing for grace (1 Th 5:26, 28). But prayer doesn't just bookend the opening and closing of this letter. Note that each the the three major parts of this letter ends with a prayer which is directly related to the major theme(s) of the part it concludes. Part 1 ends with a thanksgiving prayer (1 Th 2:13-16) that picks up the themes mentioned earlier in that part: receiving God's word (cf. 1 Th 1:6); imitating suffering (cf. 1 Th 1:6);  God's wath (cf 1 Th 1:10). Part 2 ends with a prayer (1 Th 3:9-13) which picks up the part 2 themes of seeing the Thessalonians face to face (cf. 1 Th 2:17)' the Lord's coming (cf. 1 Th 2:19); and joy (cf. 1 Th 2:20). Part 3 ends with a prayer (1 Th 5:23) focusing on that part's theme of sanctification and blamelessness (cf. 1 Th 4:3-4).

Second Point. The Greek word λοιπον (loipon) is used 15 times in the NT and has a variety of meanings:  finally, moreover, now, then, besides, it remains, furthermore, henceforth. In the so-called "undisputed" letters of St Paul it appears 7 times (1 Cor 1:16, 4:2, 7:29; 2 Cor 13:11, Philip 3:1, 4:8; 1 Th 4:1). Only two of these are unequivocally letter closings (2 Cor 13:11, Philip 4:8). The claim that Philip 3:1 and 1 Th 4:1 are letter closings relies on the assumption that these documents are composite. In fact, Philippians, like 1 Thess, is a unified, concentrically structured document (see the link to an outline of Philippians at the end of this post). 

As for the translation of poilon as finally, the NABRE gives a much better translation of 1 Thess 4:1~As to the rest. With the word St Paul is introducing the final section of the letter, not the end of an alleged letter. The KJV has furthermore; DRV, as for the rest; NIRV, Now I want to talk about other matters; NIV As for other matters

SECOND CONTROVERSY
1 Thessalonians 2:13-16 is clearly an interpolation.


Argument A. Let's look at verses 2:11-12 with verse 17; it reads as follows: for you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. But since we were bereft of you, brethren, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face. It is clear that they go together intentionally and that verses 13-16 interrupts the flow.

RESPONSE: The outline to the letter given above, along with the stylistic feature of prayer closing out each of its three main parts, is good evidence that 2:11-12 was not intended to directly connect with 2:17. As one would expect in a concentric arrangement, the disputed "A2" subsection (1 Th 2:13-16), inasmuch as it closes out part 1 of the letter (subsection "A1", 1 Th 1:1-10 and Subsection "B", 1 Th 2:1-12) recapitulates major themes of these subsections. Most obvious (next to the theme of thanksgiving) is the emphasis that the word of God which the Thessalonians received was not a human word (2 Th 2:13). This builds upon the statement of 1 Th 1:5 that the gospel came to them not in word only, but with power and with the Holy Spirit. 1 Th 1:5-6 also introduces the theme of the missionaries' behavior while in Thessalonica and suggest this as a basis for imitation. 1Th 2:1-12 focuses primarily on that behavior, and opens with a reference to the missionaries sufferings, drawing a connection with the afflictions undergone by the Thessalonians for embracing the gospel (1 Th 1:6). These themes come to a head in the disputed passage, 1 Th 2:13-16.

ARGUMENT B: 1 Th 2:14 speaks of imitating μιμητής (mimētēs) the churches in Judea, an oddity in Paul's writing, for elsewhere, including this letter, he speaks only of imitating the Lord or himself/fellow missionaries (see 1 Th 1:6). This suggests that the verse, and by implication the context to which it belongs

RESPONSE:  Outside of 1 Thess 1:6, 2:14, St Paul uses μιμητής (mimētēs = imitate, mimic) only in the "undisputed" 1 Corinthians 4:16, 11:1. In the rest of the pauline corpus there is only one other usage (Eph 5:1). Of these five instances only the two in 1 Cor are identical (both speak of imitating Paul). The two uses in 1 Thess are each unique (imitators of us and the Lord, 1:6; imitators of the churches 2:14). The Ephesians usage is also unique (imitators of God).  The infrequent use of mimētēs and the fact that outside of the two uses in 1 Cor there is no standard, makes the above argument quite irrelevant. 

ARGUMENT C: The anti-Semitic sentiment of these verses "can hardly be attributed to Paul, who even in his last letter still proudly speaks of himself as an Israelite (Rom 11:1). He never attributes Jesus' death to the Jews but only to 'the rulers of this age' (1 Cor 2:8). Far from being despised by God, the Jews have not been abandoned by him, for 'all Israel will be saved' (Rom 11:26). And according to 1 Thess 1:10 the wrath of God is still to come; it is not something that has already shown itself" (Ivan Havener, O.S.B., Collegeville Bible Commentary on the New Testament, Vol. 8. Collegeville, Minn: The Litrugical Press, 1983, pgs. 25-26).  

RESPONSE: I will respond to the above argument in five points.

Point 1. Among both ancient Pagans and modern men the term "Jew" could/can be used in a pejorative sense; but it is not always used pejoratively. The Jews themselves often did, and still do, use it in reference to themselves. In the pauline corpus "Jew(s)" appears 28 times, 22 of these in the "undisputed letters" (specifically, Rom., 1 Cor., Gal.). Does the charge of anti-Semitism by this alleged anti-Semitic, Gentile interpolator make any sense in light of the reference to the churches of God that are in Judea (2:14)? Are we to assume that this alleged interpolator was under the delusion that those churches were made up of Gentiles, like his alleged self? 

Point 2. St Paul "still proudly speaks of himself as an Israelite." So what! Ulysses S. Grant served the United States of American in two wars and was also President for two terms; yet when he wrote his autobiography he did not refrain from criticizing the War with Mexico in which he had taken part. Only a moral reprobate arrogantly addicted to nationalism, patriotism, race or religion would be incapable of criticizing aspects of his country, race or religion. 

Point 3. "He never attributes Jesus' death to the Jews but only to 'the rulers of this age' (1 Cor 2:8)." This is a very common argument; and a very fallacious one. In 1 Cor 1:10-4:21 St Paul is contrasting various forms of worldly wisdom with the "wisdom of the cross." The worldly wise include Jews who demand signs and Greeks who seek wisdom (1 Cor 1:18-25). Both will be destroyed, "For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart.'”  This quote used verse 19 of 1 Cor 1 is quite instructive regarding what Paul is up to in the first part of the letter. It comes from Isa 29:14, part of a broader context wherein the Prophet is inveighing against the rulers of Judea who, in their "wisdom," are making alliances with Babylon and Egypt, rejecting God's wisdom and revelation (see Isa 28:15-18; 30:1-22; 31:1-3). The Gospels and Acts make it clear that the Jewish leaders (rulers) and many of the Jerusalem Jews aligned themselves with Roman rule to bring about the death of Jesus (e.g., Mt 20:18-19; Jn 19:15; Acts 3:17; 4:27-28). 

Point 4: "Far from being despised by God, the Jews have not been abandoned by him, for 'all Israel will be saved' (Rom 11:26)."  Where does the alleged interpolation in 1 Thess. say that God despises Israel or has abandoned it? An anti-Semitic interpretation of the disputed verses is hardly a valid reason for excising them. Oddly, those who perpetrate an anti-Semitic interpretation of the verses and those who want to excise them both ignore St Paul's teaching regarding God's wrath and His plan for Israel.  

St Paul in Rom 11:26 is referring to a future event; 1 Thess 2:13-16 is dealing with a present reality. But note that the verse has been ripped from both its immediate and broader contexts. 

Regarding the broader context of Rom 11:26:  St Paul, speaking of the present reality says that their zeal for God has not been enlightened by the Gospel and they have not submitted to God's righteousness (Rom 10:1-4). Their current state of rejection by God--brought about by their rejection of the Gospel--is for the sake of the Gentiles and is not permanent (Rom 11:11-16). 

Regarding the Immediate context of Rom 11:26: In verse 25 we read, a hardening has (at the present time) come upon a part of Israel. In verse 28 we read, as regards the gospel they are (at the present time) enemies of God

Point 5. "And according to 1 Thess 1:10 the wrath of God is still to come; it is not something that has already shown itself"" Scripture speaks of God's wrath as both a present reality (Rom 1:18) and a future one. God's manifestation of present wrath is oriented towards repentance and conversion so that his final wrath may be escaped from (Mt 3:7). 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Commentary on Romans 3:9-20

THE SCRIPTURES PROVE THAT BOTH JEWS AND GENTILES ARE
ENSLAVED BY SIN A Summary of Romans 3:9-20 

St. Paul takes up here the question interrupted at verse 5. Having shown that all mankind, Jews as well as pagans, are under the cloud of sin, and that neither the privileges and divine favors of the one, nor the gross errors of the other are able to shield from the divine wrath, the Apostle now proceeds to confirm his argument by an appeal to the authority of Sacred Scripture. The Psalmist and the Prophet Isaias are cited to prove the universal sinfulness of men and the need of redemption. And, lest the Jews might contend that these texts applied only to the Gentiles, the Apostle reminds that the Scriptures have reference primarily to the Jews, to whom they were given, and that they plainly declare no man to be made just before God by the works of the Law.

This section is generally regarded as a conclusion to all that has preceded regarding Jews and Gentiles. The Scriptural terms used in it are very general and applicable to all, even though they seem to pertain somewhat more directly to Jews than to Gentiles (Lagrange, Cornely, etc.).

Rom 3:9  What then? Do we
(i.e., Jews) excel them (Greeks, Pagans)? No, not so. For we have charged both Jews and Greeks, that they are all under sin.
 
The Apostle asks in the name of his fellow-countrymen whether, in spite of their many privileges, the Jews excel the pagans from a moral viewpoint, and are therefore more free from sin than the Gentiles? And he replies in the negative, because both Jews and Gentiles have sinned and are under the yoke of sin, from which neither the natural law, nor the Law of Moses is able to free them (Rom 1:11). The superior privileges of the Jews (Rom 3:1-2) did not make those of the Apostle’s time less sinful as a class than the pagans.

There is much difference of opinion regarding the meaning of προεχομεθα, literally, “are we surpassed,” but here translated, “do we excel”; but these different opinions can be reduced to the following: (a) The verb is to be taken in the middle voice, meaning, to seek pretexts or excuses : “What excuse have we then to sustain us at the Judgment?” (Julicher). (b) The verb is passive: “Are we then surpassed by the Gentiles?” (H. S., Field), (c) The verb is middle, but equivalent to an active: “Do we excel the Gentiles” (Cornely, Lagrange, etc.). This last is the traditional interpretation.

Rom 3:10  As it is written: There is not any man just.

Rom 3:11  There is none that understandeth: there is none that seeketh after God.
Rom 3:12  All have turned out of the way: they are become unprofitable together: there is none that doth good, there is not so much as one.

These verses are a free citation of Psalm 14:1-3, according to the Septuagint. David in this Psalm is affirming that all men are sinners, and the Apostle, in order to prove his conclusion, that not a few among the Jews and Gentiles, but all as a class are sinners, cites the Psalmist as a witness that all, whether under the law of nature, or under the Law of Moses are wanting in true justice. The Psalmist is speaking of man left to his own corrupt nature without the aid of grace, and he means to say that not all, but some at least of the sins enumerated in these and in the following verses (Rom 3:13-18) were found in each person.

None that understandeth
was applicable to the pagans, who had not the true knowledge of God.

None that seeketh after God
referred to the Jews who failed to serve the God whom they knew.

Unprofitable
, i.e., useless in God’s service.

None that doth good
is descriptive of man without the aid of grace.

Rom 3:13  Their throat is an open sepulchre: with their tongues they have dealt deceitfully. The venom of asps is under their lips.

The first part of this verse is freely borrowed from Psalm 5:10; the last part, from Psalm 140:4. Although verses 13-18 follow in our Vulgate the preceding verses of Psalm 14, they really pertain to several other Psalms and to the Prophet Isaias. This custom of citing passages from different parts of Scripture to prove or illustrate the subject in hand was freely made use of by St. Paul, and by the Jewish Rabbis generally.

Their throat
, etc. The throat of the sinner, because of the corrupt and evil discourses that proceed from it, is compared to a sepulchre from which vile and poisonous odors are exhaled.

The venom of asps
, i.e., a deadly poison.

Rom 3:14  Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
This verse is a free citation of Psalm 10:7, according to the Hebrew.

Rom 3:15  Their feet swift to shed blood:

Rom 3:16  Destruction and misery in their ways:
Rom 3:17  And the way of peace they have not known.

These verses are freely borrowed from Isaiah 49:7-8. They show the degradation of the sinner who, with slight provocation, spills innocent blood and spreads misery and destruction everywhere around him, and who has no peace because filled with hatred, bitterness and sinister designs.

Rom 3:18  There is no fear of God before their eyes.
This verse, which is almost literally from Psalm 36:2, gives the cause of the foregoing disorders, namely, the lack of fear of God.

Rom 3:19  Now we know that what things soever the law speaketh, it speaketh to them that are in the law: that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may be made subject to God.
 
The Apostle now warns that the Scriptural testimonies just cited have reference principally to the Jews for whom they were primarily written and to whom the Law was given. Hence there is no reason for boasting on the part of the Jews.

The law speaketh
. Law is here used for the whole of Scripture, i.e., of the Old Testament. Both the inexcusable Gentiles and the proud Jews are reduced to silence, and are become liable to condemnation before God for their sins.

Rom 3:20  Because by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified before him. For by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Another reason why there can be no boasting on the part of the Jews, nor for greater reason on the part of the Gentiles, is that no one shall ever be, or ever has been, justified before God by the works, i.e., by the legal prescriptions of the Law. This the Apostle here affirms by the words of Ps 143:2. All the Law could do was to point out what ought to be done and what ought to be avoided, but it was as powerless to give the interior help and strength necessary for the observance of its precepts, as it was to free from sin committed. Obviously the works here spoken of were the legal prescriptions of the Law performed without faith and without the aid of grace. It is not the knowing, but the doing of the Law (Rom 2:13), i.e., the observing of the moral precepts of the Law, which grace alone can secure, that will justify and lead to salvation.

Commentary on Romans 4:21-31

TRUE JUSTIFICATION AND SALVATION ARE GRATUITOUS GIFTS OF GOD BESTOWED ON ALL WHO BELIEVE IN CHRIST
A Summary of Romans 3:21-31

The Apostle now proceeds to show in the rest of the present chapter that, since the advent of Christ, the justice of God, i.e., justification independently of the Law, has by the grace of God been made manifest through the preaching of the Gospel.  And this mode of justification independent of the Law, and due only to faith and the grace of God, is not something new and contrary to the Law, but rather all along has been witnessed to and foretold by the Law and the Prophets. As St. Augustine says: Novum testamentum in vetere latet, vetus in novo patet. This justification is new only in the clearer declaration of the condition by which it is to be obtained, namely, through faith in Christ, and in the universality of its extension, which is to all nations, Gentiles as well as Jews.

Rom 3:21. But now without the law the justice of God is made manifest, being
witnessed by the law and the prophets.

Now
, i.e., under the Gospel dispensation.

The justice of God
is the same as that spoken of in Rom 1:17, which is given to every man, Jew or Gentile, provided he duly believe in Christ. This and the following verse give the key to the main argument of the whole Epistle.

Rom 3:22. Even the justice of God, by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon
all them that believe in him: for there is no distinction:

Even
(δέ = de) does not indicate opposition but rather introduces a further explanation of what is meant by the justice of God, namely, that justice which is given by God to man through faith in Jesus Christ, or through the faith of which Christ is the object. Justification is attributed to faith as to its root and foundation, not as to its formal cause, which is grace. This faith, therefore, which is the root and beginning of justification, is not something natural in man, not the result of natural favors or gifts, as the Pelagians taught, but the product and fruit of the grace of God.

Upon all
. These words are wanting in the oldest Greek MSS. and in some versions, but they are generally regarded as authentic, since they are in full conformity with the Apostle’s mode of speaking. Likewise the words in him are not represented in the Greek of some MSS. and in some copies of the Vulgate.

Rom 3:23. For all have sinned, and do need the glory of God.

All, Jews and Gentiles, have sinned and are in need of justification (see Rom 1:18-3:20), which all may have through faith in Jesus Christ.

The glory of God
(δοξης του θεου) may mean the glory of the elect in heaven (Cornely); or, by a metaphor, it may signify the beauty of a soul in the state of grace, of which sinners are deprived. Probably the phrase means here the good opinion which God has of the just (Cajetan, Lagrange). Sinners by their lack of grace, are in need of (υστερουνται), i.e., they are without, the favor and good opinion of God.

Rom 3:24. Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption, that is in
Christ Jesus,

Here the Apostle tells us that the justification, offered to Jews and Gentiles, by which they pass from a state of enmity to a state of friendship with God is freely, i.e., gratuitously, granted to all through the grace merited by Christ’s Redemption. It presupposes no right on man’s part, and hence cannot be merited either by his preceding faith or good works, as the Council of Trent has declared (Sess. VI. cap. 8). Acts of faith, hope, fear and other good works which precede justification are, nevertheless, good dispositions, necessary in adults, that come from the mercy and grace of God (Conc. Trid., Sess. VI. cap. 6).

By his grace
. God is the efficient cause of justification; grace, its formal cause; and the redemption of Christ, its meritorious cause (Conc. Trid., Sess. VI. cap. 7).

The redemption
, i.e., the ransom that was paid by Christ for our delivery from the slavery of sin. Our justification is gratuitous as regards ourselves, inasmuch as we have been able to merit nothing towards it; but it is not so with regard to Christ who has purchased us at the price of His own precious blood (Matt 20:28; Mark 10:15; 1 Cor 6:20; Gal 3:13).

Rom 3:25. Whom God hath proposed to be a propitiation, through faith in his
blood, to the shewing of his justice, for the remission of former sins,

Rom 3: 26. Through the forbearance of God, for the shewing of his justice in this time; that he himself may be just, and the justifier of him, who is of the faith of Jesus Christ.

In these two verses St. Paul continues to explain the nature of justification. Christ has not only paid our ransom, but has also expiated for us.

25. Whom God hath proposed
(προεθετο), i.e., God in His eternal designs has determined to exhibit publicly, on the cross, Jesus Christ, as a propitiation, or victim of expiation, who, by virtue of the shedding of His blood, has satisfied for our sins, thus appeasing the wrath of God and reconciling man to God.

Propitiation
. The Greek word (ἱλαστήριον = hilastērion) may signify either a propitiation or a propitiator; and in this latter sense it is found in the Old Itala and Syriac versions, and it is preferred by some interpreters. Most probably, however, the term here means propitiation, or rather, an instrument of propitiation, or of expiation. God set forth Jesus as an instrument of propitiation and expiation towards Himself; and “through faith” the sinner has access to the fountain of expiation which is in the blood of Jesus Christ glorified. Faith is the means through which the fruits of Christ’s expiation are applied to men; the blood of Christ was the means by which God effected the propitiation.

26.  To the shewing
, etc. The purpose, or final cause of this expiation wrought by the blood of Christ was to manifest God’s eternal justice which, outraged by sin, demanded an adequate satisfaction, but which, in times past, was not sufficiently manifested, being held, as it were, in abeyance by His mercy and patience, thus permitting sins to pass unpunished, in order to exhibit more clearly in this present time that He is just in Himself (in demanding an adequate satisfaction for sin), and to render just him who believes in Christ. The Apostle, therefore, considers two epochs: (a) that before the time of Christ, the time of ignorance (Acts 17:30), when God, with the exception of a few instances, like the Deluge and the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, bore with sin in patience; and (b) that of the present time, after the coming of Christ, when God’s eternal justice is clearly vindicated by the bloody immolation of Christ on the cross, and the sins of men are washed away through faith in that same blood of Christ.

According to the foregoing interpretation “the justice of God” means both God’s attribute of justice (verse 25), which in times past was held in abeyance, but in the shedding of Christ’s blood has been clearly manifested and satisfied, and the justice (verse 26) which God communicates to man, rendering him just, free from sin. This seems to be the most probable interpretation of the phrase as it occurs in both verses. Certainly “justice” in verse 26 is wider in its meaning than in the preceding verse (cf. Rom 1:17). Also, according to the interpretation given, the remissionem of the Vulgate (verse 25) should be rather praetermissionem.

Rom 3:27. Where is then thy boasting? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.

Having proved that justification is not from the works of man, but is entirely due to the goodness of God and the merits of the blood of Christ, the Apostle now asks the Jews what they have to boast of; and he himself replies that their cause for boasting has been excluded; it has no further place.

By what law
. Better, “By what kind of law,” he further asks, is boasting done away with? By the law of works, i.e., the Old Law? No, certainly not; but by the New Law, i.e., the law of faith, which makes justification depend on faith in Jesus Christ, which faith, being a gratuitous gift of God, renders our pride and boasting impossible.

The Old Law did not remove every cause for boasting, because it required works; but the New Law requires only faith (as already explained), and faith is a gift of God requiring only acceptance on man’s part. Of course the Old Law was at all times powerless to confer the help needed for its faithful observance. This help, through grace, is amply conferred by the New Law. As St. Augustine says, “The law of works is that which commands what is to be done; the law of faith is faith itself, which obtains the grace to do what the law commands. The law of works is the old law; the law of faith, the new law. The law of works contains the precepts; the law of faith, the help. The law of works gives us light to know; the law of faith, the power to perform,” etc. (De spiritu et littera, 13, 21).

Rom 3:28. For we account a man to be justified by faith, without the works of
the law.

For
. The connective γαρ ( = gar, “For”) is here preferred by many of the best MSS. to the ουν (oun = “Therefore”) of the ordinary Greek.  St. Paul is not deducing an inference in this verse, but is rather appealing to the doctrine already established. Throughout this whole chapter he has been opposing faith to the works of the Mosaic Law. Therefore we should translate λογιζομεθα not by “we infer,” but by “we think,” “we hold.”

A man,
i.e., every man, Jew or Gentile.

To be justified by faith,
i.e., faith is the source, the beginning of every one’s justification (see on verse 22; Conc. Trid., Sess. VI. cap. 8). It is well known that Luther added here the word only to faith, thus altering the text and creating between faith only and faith with works, an opposition which is found nowhere (Lagrange.).

Without the works
, etc., i.e., apart from the works of the Mosaic Law, or, for that matter, any other works performed by man alone, without the aid of grace. Justification comes only through faith, and faith is a gratuitous gift of God. Clearly there is question here only of works which precede justification and which are performed without faith or grace,—of which works, whether they be of the Law or purely natural, it is affirmed that they cannot be the source of man’s justification. Even those good works preceding justification that are the result of grace cannot be said to merit justification. Works which accompany or follow justification, and which are performed by the aid of grace, are most surely not thought of in this present verse.

The Apostle, therefore, addressing his Jewish and Gentile readers, is speaking in this verse only of works done by the sole help of the Mosaic Law and of the natural law, without faith and without grace. The Jews thought their observance of the prescriptions of the Law of Moses was the source of their justification, while the Gentiles attributed their call to the faith to their philosophy and natural virtues.

That St. Paul never meant to teach anything opposed to the necessity of good works is evident (a) from the preceding chapter where he says (Rom 3:13) “that only the doers of the law shall be justified”; (b) from the Epistle to the Galatians (Gal 5:6) where he says that the only thing that availeth in Christ Jesus is “faith that worketh by charity”; (c) from the first Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor 13:2) where he says that faith is nothing without charity.

Rom 3:29. Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes,
of the Gentiles also.

Rom 3:30. For it is one God, that justifieth circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

29, 30. In these verses St. Paul calls attention to the fact that God is the God of the Gentiles as well as the Jews, and that, being One, He will justify all in the same way, namely, through faith. If justification depended on the works of the Law of Moses, then God would be the God of the Jews only, for whom He provided the means of salvation, namely, the Law, and not of the Gentiles, who were deprived of those means.

Justifieth
, justificat (verse 30), should be future, “will justify,” justificabit (δικαιωσει).  The Apostle is speaking about the means through which God in future will justify all men.

The difference in the phrases by faith (εκ πιστεως) and through faith (δια της πιστεως) does not mark any real distinction between Jews and Gentiles. The different prepositions are used only to vary the style. Furthermore, the Apostle elsewhere (Gal 2:16; Gal 3:8) says that the Gentiles are justified “by faith” (εκ πιστεως = ek pisteos).

Rom 3:31. Do we, then, destroy the law through faith? God forbid: but we establish the law.

This verse is better connected with the following, than with what precedes in the present chapter. From the doctrine of justification through faith, so far explained, it might seem that the law, i.e., the whole economy of revelation in the Old Testament, was useless and devoid of all authority. But the Apostle vigorously rejects such a false conclusion, and declares, on the contrary, that the Law and the Prophets have all along foretold this justification by faith, independently of the works of the Law. Therefore this new mode of justification does not destroy, but rather confirms the teaching of the Old Testament. “Of old the Law and the Prophets have rendered testimony to faith. Therefore, in receiving the faith we show the true role of the Law” (Theodoret).
 
There are other explanations of the phrase, we establish the law: (a) In maintaining that the promises of God are fulfilled, we confirm the prophecies (Orig., Ambrst.); (b) grace permits the accomplishment of the law (Aug.). According to Fr. Lagrange these two explanations are to be rejected. The following chapter will show how “we establish the law.”

Commentary on Romans 4:1-8

ABRAHAM WAS JUSTIFIED BY FAITH

A Summary of Romans 4:1-8~
To prove that the Old Testament (see Rom 3:31) had already taught that man was justified by faith and not by works, St. Paul cites the case of Abraham, who was declared just by the Scripture (Gen 15:6), and was regarded by the Jews not only as their father, but as a type of justice (Rom 9:35; Gal 4:22), and as the norm according to which his descendants should model their lives. He then goes on to show that Abraham did not receive his justification as a reward of his works, but as a gratuitous gift through faith. David is likewise cited (Ps 32:1-2) as proclaiming that man blessed whose justice is conferred by God independently of works.

Rom 4:1. What shall we say then that Abraham hath found, who is our father
according to the flesh.

What shall we say then
Then (ουν, “therefore”) shows the connection between this and verse 31 of the preceding chapter. If it be true that justification through faith was taught by the Old Testament, how was Abraham justified? by works or by faith? From the following verse it is evident that Abraham’s justification was not by works, but by faith.

According to the flesh
. These words, according to the best authorities, should be joined to our father, thus: “What hath Abraham, our father according to the flesh, found?” i.e., how was he justified? Abraham was called the father of the Jews “according to the flesh” in opposition to a more extensive spiritual paternity which belonged to him by reason of his faith; by faith he became the spiritual father of all who believe.

Some exegetes join the above phrase to hath found, thus: “What hath Abraham found according to the flesh?” i.e., what profit or advantage had Abraham from circumcision? In this interpretation “flesh” means circumcision. Others understand “flesh” to mean works performed by natural strength, hence the meaning would be: “What profit had Abraham in the works performed by his natural strength?” “Before Abraham believed God, what justice do we hear of in him accruing from works?” (Theodoret). This last interpretation is made probable by the sense in which “works” is used in the following verse.

Rom 4:2. For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory,

but not before God.

By works
. There is question here only of natural works performed without the aid of grace. The works of the Law of Moses could not be referred to, since the Law did not exist in Abraham’s time. The sense of the verse, therefore, is: If Abraham were justified by natural works, he would have reason to glory before men, i.e., in the natural order, but not before God, i.e., in the supernatural order of grace, because in that case justification would not be so much a benefit from God as a reward due to Abraham. We know, however, from the Scriptures that Abraham was justified in the supernatural order, and that, consequently, his justification was due to faith and grace, and not to works.

Rom 4:3. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was reputed to him unto justice.

St. Paul now appeals to Scripture (Gen 15:6) to prove whereby Abraham was justified, and he finds there no mention of works, but of faith only; it was, therefore, on account of his faith, and not on acount of his works, that Abraham was declared just by God. We have not, however, in this verse an explanation of the manner in which Abraham acquired his justification; this is the problem which engages the Apostle’s attention in the following verses (Lagrange).

Abraham believed God
, i.e., when God promised him a numerous progeny, although he was without child at the time. Of course, the Apostle is speaking here of the faith which animated the whole life of Abraham, beginning with his vocation (Gen 17:4: Gen 17:15; Gen 4:19-21).

It was reputed
, i.e., it was reckoned (ελογισθη).

The Lutherans pretend to find in this verse a basis for their doctrine of imputed justice, according to which one’s sins are not really pardoned, but only covered by God for Christ’s sake. They say Abraham believed in God, and this faith sufficed that God should declare him just without his actually being so. This is as contrary to the true sense of Gen 15:6, as it is opposed to the doctrine of St. Paul.

Rom 4:4. Now to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned according to grace, but according to debt.

Rom 4:5. But to him that worketh not, yet believeth in him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reputed to justice, according to the purpose of the grace of God.

In these verses St. Paul adduces an example drawn from daily life to show that Abraham’s justification was not due to works, but was a gratuitous gift of God. A workman, he says, is rewarded not according to favor, i.e., gratuitously, but according to what he deserves in strict justice for his labor. Hence the laborer has a claim to his wages. If, therefore, without works, and only on condition of faith, which is a gratuitous gift of God, one is freely justified, as in the case of Abraham, it cannot be said that one is receiving what is his due; but rather that he is the object of favor and of a gratuitous benefit because of which he has no reason for boasting, either before men or in the sight of God. The works to which St. Paul is referring here, as elsewhere in the same connection, are those which are performed without faith and the help of grace.

(vs 5)
. In him that justifieth, etc., i.e., in God who has the power to render just him who is unjust or sinful.

His faith is reputed
, etc., i.e., his faith is reckoned, etc. Faith does not merit justification, but is the necessary foundation of it. “Nothing of those things which precede justification, whether faith or works, merits the grace itself of justification” (Conc. Trid., Sess. VI. cap. 8).

According to the purpose of the grace of God
, i.e., according to the decree of God’s mercy by which He has determined from all eternity gratuitously to save men through faith in Christ. These words, however, are most probably a gloss, since they are not found in the Greek MSS., nor in any of the versions, except the Latin. Being a marginal explanation of how “faith is reputed,” they at length crept into the text.

In the Vulgate imputantur and reputatur would better be deputatur. Secundum propositum gratiae Dei should be omitted (see previous paragraph).

Rom 4:6. As David also termeth the blessedness of a man, to whom God reputeth justice without works:

In Romans 3:21 St. Paul showed that justification through faith was not something new and strange, having been witnessed to by the Law and the Prophets. Likewise here, after having invoked the authority of the Law, the Apostle adduces a passage of David to prove the gratuitousness of justification. The passage cited is Ps 32:1-2. The royal Prophet composed this Psalm after having done penance for his sins of murder and adultery (2 Sam 12:1-25) and been pardoned by God according to the promise of Nathan. Supposing that sins cannot be remitted without an infusion of sanctifying grace the Apostle argues as follows: David declares his sins remitted without making any mention of works; therefore justification is not due to works, but is a gratuitous gift of God. David believed that God spoke to him through Nathan, and this faith was reputed to him unto justice; hence justification is due to faith and not to works, as explained above.

Here also the Protestants falsely claim to find an argument for their imputed justice. If sins are not imputed by God it means that they do not exist—that they have never existed, or have been forgiven. It is absurd and impious to think that God, who hates sin, could impute justice in any way to one whose sins still existed. The reconciled are holy and unspotted, and blameless before him (Col 1:22).

Rom 4:7. Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.

Rom 4:8. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord hath not imputed sin.

(vss 7, 8)
. Blessed, i.e., happy, because just, free from sin.

Iniquities forgiven, sins covered, not imputed sin
, are synonymous phrases which express in different ways how sins no longer exist in the sight of God. There is question throughout here of sins being forgiven without works and without any merits on the part of the sinner. The example of Abraham illustrates the positive side of justification through the infusion of grace in view of faith, but without regard for works; while the example of David, the justified sinner, shows the negative side, i.e., the forgiveness of sins without works. In both cases, however, faith is supposed, and this shows the connection between the ideas of verses 5-8.

The imputavit of the Vulgate does not so well express the Greek as would imputaret (according to Lagrange).