Saturday, August 04, 2018

Father MacEvilly's Commentary on Romans 2:1-16

Chapter 2
The Apostle, after having convicted the Gentiles, in the preceding chapter, of the grossest violations of the natural law, undertakes, in this, to prove that the Jews, notwithstanding their boasted privileges, were no less chargeable with grievous violations of the Law of Moses. In order to avoid offence, he alleges in a general way, however, without any express mention of the Jews, charges equally applicable to both Jews and Gentiles, and probably equally intended for both (Rom 1:1–16).
At verse 17, expressly applying himself to the case of the Jews in particular, he shows how much they abused the prerogatives and exalted favours of which they boasted, and how grievously they sinned against the law. The consequence of which was, that they dishonoured God and brought His holy religion into contempt among the idolatrous Gentiles (Rom 1:17–25).
The Apostle points out, in the next place, what the circumcision is, and who the Jew is, that are of any value in the sight of God

Rom 2:1  Wherefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest. For wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself. For thou dost the same things which thou judgest.

 (As, then, the philosophers were inexcusable, and deserving of death for their sins, having a knowledge of God and his justice), thou art no less inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest or condemnest the faults of others, whilst committing the same thyself; for, by the very fact of passing sentence on others, thou condemnest thyself, since thou dost perpetrate the very crimes condemned by thee in others.

“Wherefore.” Commentators are perplexed about the connexion of this particle. It may be regarded as a mere particle of transition; or, it may be connected with the foregoing in this way: since the philosophers were inexcusable (Rom 1:20), and deserving of death (Rom 1:32), for having deprived God of his glory, and for having committed sin and approved of it in others; thou art, therefore, no less inexcusable, whosoever thou art, be thou Jew or Gentile, that condemnest thy neighbour, and committest the same crimes thyself. In this sense the particle is a connecting link deducing an inference from what is asserted in the foregoing chapter. “Thou art inexcusable,” &c.; this is confined by some to the Jews who condemned in the Gentiles the crimes of which they themselves were also guilty. It is, however, more probable, that it expends to the Gentiles also, and includes all, whether Jews or Gentiles, who condemn in others what they themselves are guilty of. In fact, the proposition is announced as a universal proposition, “whosoever thou art,” &c.

Rom 2:2  For we know that the judgment of God is, according to truth, against them that do such things.

For, it is a matter well known and indubitable, that the judgment of God will be exercised agreeably to justice, and the real merits of the case, against those who commit the crimes of which thou art not less guilty than they are whom thou condemnest.

 Such persons will suffer from God the judgment of condemnation which their crimes deserve. “For we know,” as a matter of undoubted certainty, the Jews know it for certain, from the Law of Moses, the Gentiles, from the light of reason, “that the judgment of God is according to truth,” i.e., that God will judge with impartial justice, those “that do those things.” i.e., both those who condemn in others what they themselves commit, and those who approve of them (Rom 1:32). 

Rom 2:3  And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them who do such things and dost the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?

Can it be that thou art persevering in the commission of these crimes which thou art condemning in others from the delusive hope of escaping the just judgment of God?

This form of interrogative, addressed to the sinner in the second person, adds great force to the style. “And thinkest thou,” &c., i.e., thou art greatly mistaken if thou imaginest that thou, who sinnest knowingly, wilt escape the judgment of God, or, if thou construest God’s present forbearance into approbation of thy conduct.  

Rom 2:4  Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and patience and longsuffering? Knowest thou not that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance?

 Is not thy present impunity the effect of God’s boundless goodness, of his great patience in bearing with thee, and of his long-suffering in deferring thy punishment, all of which thou art slighting and despising by persevering in sin? Art thou not aware that this benignity on the part of God is shown thee for no other purpose than to induce thee to return to penance?

“The riches of his goodness,” i.e., his rich and immense goodness in bestowing so many favours on thee, “and patience” in bearing with and tolerating the wicked; “long-suffering” in deferring punishment. These, the sinner “despises,” when presuming on them, he sins with the hope of impunity. “Knowest thou not,” i.e., thou shouldst be aware, although thou appearest ignorant of it, “that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance.” The design of God in showering his blessings on thee, and in patiently enduring thy sins, is not to encourage thy continuance in sin, but to lead thee to do penance for them by a change of life. 

Rom 2:5  But according to thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up to thyself wrath, against the day of wrath and revelation of the just judgment of God: 

But, according to thy hardness and obduracy of heart, callous to the motions and impressions of grace, and thy impenitence, from which neither allurements nor threats can awaken thee, thou art stirring up for thyself a treasure of wrath against the terrible day of vengeance, when God shall display the righteousness of his judgment, and will pour forth all his vengeance on the wicked.

“But according to,” i.e., by reason of “thy hardness” inresisting the impressions of divine grace, which hardness the infinite goodness of God cannot soften; “and impenitent heart,” deaf to the allurements of mercy and the threats and menaces of divine justice, “thou treasurest up.” This word, strictly speaking, is understood of what is good; but sometimes also, as here, James 5:3, and elsewhere, of what is evil. “Wrath,” i.e., vengeance “against the day of wrath and revelation,” &c., i.e., against the day of judgment, which is called “the day of wrath,” because on that day there will be no place for mercy, “and of revelation,” because on it everything will be exposed, “and of just judgment,” because, then, each one will be treated according to his deserts. 

Rom 2:6  Who will render to every man according to his works. 

Then he shall render to every man according as his works deserved it, whether reward or punishment. 

“Who will render,” &c., to the wicked, eternal torments, and to the just, eternal life, as the reward of their good works, among which, sufferings for God’s sake are to be reckoned as being the most heroic deeds of merit.  

Rom 2:7  To them indeed who, according to patience in good work, seek glory and honour and incorruption, eternal life:

To those who, by patient perseverance in good works, seek honour, glory and immortality, he will give eternal life:

“According to patience in good works,” by patiently persevering in good works, “who seek glory and honour, life everlasting,” in Greek, τοις ζητοῦσι δοξαν, &c., seeking glory, &c. The construction may also run thus, to those who seek life everlasting, he will give honour and glory and incorruption. These terms express “eternal life” differently; “honour and glory” express the dignity to which the just will be raised, together with the praiseworthy celebrity conferred on them, “and incorruption” expresses the never-ending duration of this bliss. This passage furnishes a proof of the Catholic doctrine of merit. 

Rom 2:8  But to them that are contentious and who obey not the truth but give credit to iniquity, wrath and indignation.

But on the contentious, and those who obey not the truth, but follow their iniquity, will be inflicted heavy and condign punishment.

“But to them who are contentious, and obey not the truth,” i.e., who resist the divine truth of the Gospel announced to them, disbelieving its doctrines, and disobeying its precepts, “but give credit to iniquity,” i.e., adhere to the false teaching which favour their impure and iniquitous lives; “wrath and indignation,” i.e., heavy and severe punishment, such as is wont to be inflicted by an enraged and angry man. In the common Greek, the order of these two words is inverted, “indignation and wrath,” but the chief MSS. support the Vulgate. The words are in the nominative case, and hence, “will be inflicted,” or some such verb, is understood.

Rom 2:9  Tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that worketh evil: of the Jew first, and also of the Greek.

Tribulation and anguish shall be the just portion of every man that doeth evil, of the Jew first (who resisted greater lights and graces), and also of the Gentile;

“Tribulation,” mental torture. “Anguish” expresses the straits to which the wicked will be reduced on the day of judgment, calling on “the mountains to fall upon them, and the hills to cover them.” “Of the Jew first,” because, having greater knowledge, he will be more guilty in sinning, “and also of the Greek,” i.e., the Gentile (Rom 1:16).

Rom 2:10  But glory and honour and peace to every one that worketh good: to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

On the other hand, glory, honour, and peace shall be given in reward to every one that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile

“Glory, honour,” &c., are a circumlocution for eternal life; “peace” expresses the quiet, uninterrupted, and secure possession of these blessings which they shall enjoy, “to the Jew first,” because, as the Jews were the principal objects of God’s predilection, they will be the first in the order of eternal rewards, if they correspond with divine grace. The Apostle places the Jews first in the order of remuneration, because he appeared to have lowered them before in placing them first for punishment (Rom 2:9); “and also the Greek,” i.e., the Gentile; he refers to the faithful Gentile, both before Christ, such as Job, Melchisedech, &c., and to the faithful Gentile converts after he came, whose actions were performed under the influence of grace and faith; for, such actions alone are entitled to an eternal reward. 

Rom 2:11  For there is no respect of persons with God

For with God, whether in rewarding or punishing, there is no respect paid to persons; he solely regards men’s deserts, and the merits of the case

The charge of “respect of persons” has reference to the claims of justice, and is incurred when, in the distribution of justice, the dispenser of it regards circumstances extrinsic and quite foreign to the merits of the case, as if a judge were to look to the lace, appearence, dignity, &c., of the parties. Hence, as God owes nothing to his creatures—since all his gilts are quite gratuitous—the charge of having “respect of persons” can never be incurred by him; but even when, by his own free will, he gives his creatures a claim upon him, he never admits “respect of persons;” for, although the Jew is placed first in the order of merit, it is but perfectly just, since he receives greater graces and was first called, which graces and call were perfectly gratutious in the first instance, and established a claim on the ground of merit afterwards; and vice versa, he should be the first punished for having abused greater graces. 

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.

For those who have sinned without having the written law proposed to them, shall be punished, not as transgressors against the Law of Moses, but for having violated the natural or unwritten law; and those who have sinned in the Law of Moses shall be punished and condemned for the transgression of this law.

In this verse is proved, that with God there is no such thing as a “respect of persons,” but that his judgment is perfectly just, founded on men’s merits. The rule for guiding their conduct possessed by Jew and Gentile respectively will be the measure of God’s judgment regarding them, “for whosoever have sinned without the law,” i.e., receiving the written law of Moses (for no one can sin without violating some law, natural or revealed), and in this he refers to the Gentiles, “shall perish without the law,” in Greek, ανομως και απολοῦνται shall also perish, &c., will not be responsible, and will not have to render account for the law of Moses which they received not, although they shall “perish,” i.e., be condemned for their violation of the natural law, “and whosoever have sinned in the law,” i.e., the prevaricating Jews, will be held responsible and shall be judged by the Law of Moses which they violate, and will suffer all the punishments annexed to its violation. 

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

For it is not those who merely receive and hear the law that are regarded as just before God, but those only who observe and fulfil the law, whether they received it in writing, like the Jews, or had it imprinted on the heart, like the Gentiles, that will really become just and be reputed as such in his sight.

This verse is connected in Paraphrase with verse 11. It is further evinced that with God there is no respect of persons (Rom 2:11) if we look to the means of justifying both Jew and Gentile—a means within the reach of each—which he has fixed upon. That means is not the external hearing of the law, which means the Jew alone possessed, but the observance of the precepts of the law. That the Jews had this law needs no proof, and that the Gentiles had it, is proved next verse. It may be asked how can the general proposition, “the doers of the law shall be justified,” be verified regarding the Gentiles, or be applied at all to them, since without grace and faith no man can be justified? Resp.—It is clear from the following verse that the Apostle includes the Gentiles in the general proposition, and hence, he refers to the Gentiles before Christ, who, enlightened by divine faith, and assisted by grace, observe the precepts of the natural law. It also includes the Gentiles after Christ, who embrace the faith: and hence, faith alone does not justify, since, those who merely believe are only “hearers of the law,” and, therefore, not “doing the law,” or performing good works, they will not “be just or justified before God.” 

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.

For when the Gentiles, who have not received the Mosaic Law, by the natural and free motion of their own will, prevented and animated by divine grace and enlightened by divine faith, fulfil the precepts of the law, such persons are a law to themselves.

It is needless to prove that the Jews have a law; and as to the Gentiles, by performing naturally the precepts which the law inculcates, they show that they are a law to themselves. If the words, “those things that are of the law,” comprise the entire natural law or moral law of the Jews, then, the words, “by nature” are opposed to the Law of Moses; and mean, that by the strength of nature, prevented and animated by grace, they perform the works of the law, without the Law of Moses. In this signification, grace and faith are implied; but if they are taken to mean some precepts of the law, then, “by nature” will refer to the sole aid of nature, unassisted by the Law of Moses; for, a Pagan can, by the sole aid of nature, unaided by grace, perform some actions morally good, which, though not deserving of an eternal reward, are not, still, deserving of punishment. It more probably refers to the faithful Gentiles, both before Christ, such as Job, Melchisedech, &c., and those after him converted to the faith: for this is shown from the context. In verse 13, it is said that “the doers of the law will be justified,” which must certainly refer to those who act from grace and faith, and it is to show how this applies to the Gentiles, that this verse is introduced. Moreover, he says, verse 16, “in the day,” &c., when no action of an unbelieving Pagan will be rewarded.  

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,

Since by performing without the impulse of a law, what the law exteriorly inculcates, they show that they have the precepts or mandates of a law engraven on their hearts, to the existence of which the dictates of their conscience urging them to perform one thing and avoid another, bear testimony; and this is still further confirmed by the applauses and remorses which they alternately experience, when they turn their thoughts to examine the nature of the actions.

“Who show the work,” &c. They prove that they are to themselves a law (verse 14), because they show by their exterior actions the mandates of the law engraven on their hearts; and of the existence of this law, the dictates of conscience, and the applauses and remorses consequent on their actions, are a further proof and testimony (vide Paraphrase); “their conscience bearing witness,” refer to the internal dictates of conscience, pointing out certain things to be done as good, and certain things to be shunned as evil. “Their thoughts” (in Greek, τῶν λογισμῶν, their reasonings) “between themselves,” this is the proper rendering of μεταξυ αλληλων; “accusing them,” &c., refer to the remorses and applauses of conscience, consequent on the performance of good or bad actions, which are an additional proof of the existence of this natural law. 

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

And these applauses or remorses have reference to the punishments or rewards to be administered, on the day of judgment, when God will judge through Jesus Christ, the Sovereign Judge, the most secret and private actions of men, which will then be publicly exposed according to the gospel which I preach.

“In the day,” i.e., unto the day when God will judge, &c., as in verse 5, “against the day of wrath,” &c. The meaning is, that these remorses and applauses of conscience have reference to the great day of judgment—(Paraphrase). Others understand the words thus: This testimony of conscience will be made still more manifest on the day of judgment; others connect this verse with Rom 2:12, “shall be judged by the law—on the day,” &c., including the verses Rom 2:13-15, within a parenthesis. The interpretation and construction adopted in the Paraphrase are more simple and seem more probable; “my gospel,” the Gospel delivered to me (Gal. 1:11-12). 

Father MacEvilly's Commentary on Romans Chapter One


After premising with the usual Apostolical salutation (Rom 1:1-7), the Apostle enters on the exordium of this Epistle, in which he displays consummate prudence, admirably calculated to render the Romans well affected towards him, and attentive to the instructions which he intends proposing to them (Rom 1:7–17). He next lays down the proposition or great subject of the Epistle, viz., that Justification is derived neither from the Law of Moses nor from the strength of nature, as the Jewish and Gentile converts at Rome respectively imagined, but from a source quite different, viz., from faith (Rom 1:17). With a view of showing how far their multiplied sins rendered the Gentiles deserving objects of the heavy anger of God, with which sinners are menaced in the Gospel (Rom 1:18), the Apostle, in the next place, draws a frightful picture of the abominable crimes into which those who were reputed the wisest among the Pagans, viz., their learned Philosophers, had fallen; he describes their abandonment of God, their idolatry, their unnatural lusts, and their other violations of the Natural Law; and leaves it to be inferred, that whereas these Philosophers were reputed the wisest and the most virtuous among the Gentiles, and the virtues which they practised made a subject of boasting among the people, the great mass of the Gentile world must, therefore, be sunk still deeper in vice and immorality; and, consequently, instead of having a claim to the Gospel on the ground of their exalted natural virtues, as the Gentile converts pretended, they were rather deserving of death and punishment.

Rom 1:1  Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, by divine vocation, an apostle, by a special and singular choice of the Holy Ghost set apart to announce the glad tidings of Redemption contained in the Gospel of God,

“Paul.” The original name of the Apostle was “Saul.” He assumed the name of “Paul,” according to St. Jerome, Baronius, and others, in compliment to his illustrious convert, Sergius Paulus, Proconsul of Cyprus (Acts 13:12). Paul, being a Roman name, is employed by him, when addressing the Gentiles; Saul, when addressing the Jews. Others, with St. Thomas, say he had both names from his infancy. They say that, in consequence of Tharsis, his native place, being a free city of the Roman Empire, he received the Roman name “Paul” with the Jewish name Saul. Hence; in the Acts of the Apostles (cts 13:9), he is called “Saul, otherwise Paul.” St. Augustine says, he assumed the name of Paul from a feeling of humility, and to express his diminutive stature. He prefixes his name in conformity with the usage of the time. In modern letter writing, it is needless to remark, the usage in this respect is the reverse of that which formerly prevailed.

“A servant of Jesus Christ.” He might be called the “servant of Jesus Christ,” on several titles, on account of his Creation, Redemption, call to the Faith, &c.; the word “servant” in this passage most likely regards his special engagement in the duty of preaching the Gospel, in quality of Apostle, as is more fully explained in the following words.

“Called.” The Greek word, κλητος, is a noun, and means “by vocation.” This the Apostle adds to show that he was not self-sent or self-commissioned, but that his authority was derived from a proper source. “He was called by God as was Aaron.”—(Hebrews 4:4)

“An Apostle.” This word, according to strict etymology, means one sent; but, in Ecclesiastical usage, and as designating the first office in the Church, as described (Ephesians 4:11), it means one sent to preach the Gospel, with power to found and establish churches. There were only twelve of this class, with whom were associated Paul and Barnabas.—(For a full exposition of this word, see Epistle to Galatians, chap. 1 verse 1—Commentary).

“Separated” expresses the singular and exalted choice made of him by the Holy Ghost, when he said, “Separate unto me Paul and Barnabas for the work whereunto I have taken them.”—(Acts 13:2).

Rom 1:2  Which he had promised before, by his prophets, in the holy scriptures,

A Gospel proposing nothing either false of novel; but long since promised by God through the oracles of the prophets contained in the inspired Scriptures.

“Which he had promised,” &c. This the Apostle adds in order to show the Christians of Rome, both converted Jews and Gentiles, that the Gospel which he preached contained nothing false or novel, nothing opposed to Moses or the prophets (whom he was calumniously charged with undervaluing), since it was no more than a fulfilment of the prophecies of the Old Testament, all of which regarded Christ—the principal subject of the Gospel—as their term. The word “promised,” also conveys in limine, that this Gospel, and the justification through Christ, was given gratuitously as a matter of free promise, on the part of God, and independently of the merits of man, whether actual or foreseen. For the meaning of the word “prophet,” see 1 Cor. 11:5. Here, it refers to the sacred writers of the Old Testament.

Rom 1:3  Concerning his Son, who was made to him of the seed of David, according to the flesh,

This Gospel had reference to the Son of God, endowed with divine and human natures, who, according to his human nature, was born to Him in time of the Virgin Mary, being herself of the seed of David.

The chief subject of this Gospel, as well as of the prophecies which ushered it in, was the Son of God, “who was made,” &c., who, even in his human nature, was of kingly descent, being born of the royal house of David. These words refer to the human nature of Christ.

Rom 1:4  Who was predestinated the Son of God in power, according to the spirit of sanctification, by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead:

Who, regarded according to this same human nature, or, as terminating human nature, was predestinated from eternity to become, in time, the Son of God (by being united personally with the Second Person of the Adorable Trinity); and this he was shown to be, by the divine power, which he had, of working miracles, by the sending of the Holy Ghost upon the faithful; and particularly, by raising himself from the dead.

The Greek of verses 3 and 4 runs thus:—περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ, τοῦ γενομένου εκ σπέρματος Δαβὶδ κατὰ σάρκα· verse 4, τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει, κατὰ πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης, ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ Κυριου ἡμῶν.

According to the Vulgate rendering of the word ὁρισθέντος “qui praedestinatus est,” “who was predestinated,” the words mean, that this seed of David, according to the flesh, i.e., according to human nature, or, which amounts to the same in sense, that this Divine Person, considered not as terminating the divine nature, but as terminating human nature, was predestinated to become in time the Son of God, by a personal union with the Second Person of the Adorable Trinity. In this interpretation, generally adopted by the Latins, the word “who” refers not directly to the Divine Person of the Son of God, but to his human nature viewed in the abstract, and prescinding from its personal union with the Son of God.—(A’Lapide). It is to be borne in mind, that the God-man, Christ, had but one Person, the Person of the Eternal Word, and it could not be well said, that the person of the Son of God was from eternity predestinated to be the Son of God. It was, then, the human nature of Christ, that was from eternity predestinated to be the Son of God, by its personal union with the Word for, as man, Christ is the natural Son of God. Most likely, the Vulgate interpreter read προορισθεντος; but, this reading is not found at present in any Greek copy.

The Greek Commentators, taking the word ὁρισθεις, in its literal meaning of defined, declared, interpret the words thus:—This Jesus Christ, whom the Apostles proclaim as the Eternal Son of God, was most clearly shown to be such, by the prodigies of “power” or miracles performed at the invocation of his name, through the operation of the Holy Ghost, after his Resurrection from the dead. Ita Theodoret, who admits only one source of argument demonstrative of the eternal Sonship of Christ in the passage. Others, with St. Chrysostom, Theophylact, &c., contend that there are three sources of argument (as in the Paraphrase), miracles,—“in power;”—the gifts of the Holy Ghost plenteously showered down by him on his Apostles and the first believers,—“according to the spirit of sanctification;”—and the power displayed in his own resurrection,—“by the resurrection from the dead.” In this latter interpretation, the resurrection of Christ is placed last, although, in point of time, occurring prior to the sending down of the Holy Ghost; because, though hardly immediately intended here, it was the most splendid argument of Christ’s Divinity; and, moreover, the word “resurrection” might be regarded, as embracing the general resurrection of all men, of which that of Christ was the cause and the exemplar. The interpretation of the Greek is preferred by many eminent Commentators, Estius among the rest. It is also embraced by Beelen, who prefers that of Theodoret, who admits only one source of argument. The interpretation, according to the Vulgate, and that according to the literal meaning of the simple Greek word, ὁρισθεις, are united in the Paraphrase.

“The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead,” are interpreted by A’Lapide to mean, by a Hebrew idiom, “by the resurrection, or resuscitation, of himself from the dead.” Others include from, “who was made unto him” (verse 3), as far as, “by the resurrection from the dead” (verse 4), inclusively, within a parenthesis; and they connect the words, “of our Lord Jesus Christ,” with the words, “his Son” (verse 3), putting them in apposition, as if the Apostle meant to say, by the Son of God to whom I refer as preached by the Apostles and predestinated from eternity. I mean, “our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Greek in which the words, “from the dead” are joined to “by the resurrection,” thus “by the resurrection from the dead,” will clearly admit of this construction; which is regarded by many as the more natural meaning of the passage (vide Beelen, in hunc locum).

Rom 1:5  By whom we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith, in all nations, for his name:

Through him, both as God and man, we have received the grace and office of Apostleship to be exercised in his name and behalf, throughout all nations, in order that they may be brought to submit their reason to faith and embrace the Gospel.

“By whom,” both as Son of God and son of David, “we,” i.e., I myself and the other Apostles, “have received grace and Apostleship.” This by the figure, Hendiadys, is put for the grace of Apostleship, “in his name,” to be exercised by us, as his legates and vicegerents, “for the obedience of faith, &c.,” so as to bring all nations to embrace the Gospel, to submit their intellects to the obscure truths of faith, which requires the “obedience,” the pious motion of the will, aided by grace. “With the heart we believe unto justice.”—(Rom. 10:10; see also 2 Cor. 10:5). Note: concerning the term hendiady, see here.

Rom 1:6  Among whom are you also the called of Jesus Christ:

Among which nations given in charge to me, you, Romans, who by divine vocation are Christians, are to be reckoned; hence, it is in quality of Apostle, I address to you this Epistle.

“Among whom.” &c. Hence it is that St. Paul, as Apostle of nations, addresses this Epistle to them. “Called,” κλητος, is a noun, signifying “by vocation” Christians. This he adds to show them that the grace of Christianity bestowed on them was the result of a purely gratuitous call on the part of God. The passage, from the words, “who was made to him,” verse 3, to the end of this verse inclusively, is to be read within a parenthesis.

Rom 1:7  To all that are at Rome, the beloved of God, called to be saints. Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

(Salutes) all who are at Rome, the beloved of God called to a state and profession of sanctity. May you enjoy the abundance of all spiritual gifts, and the quiet, undisturbed possession of the same from their efficient cause, God the Father, and their meritorious cause, Jesus Christ, who is, in a special manner, our Lord, in right of Redemption.

After the long parenthesis, he now enters on the salutation. The word salutes, (writes to), or some such, is understood. “To all that are at Rome, the beloved,” &c., i.e., to all the Christians of Rome. “Called to be saints.” Every Christian is, by his very profession, bound to be a saint. How few are there who correspond with this sublime end of their vocation! “Grace to you and peace,” the usual form of Apostolical salutation. “God our Father” may refer to the entire Trinity; it more probably refers to the First Person; “and from the Lord Jesus Christ,” we are his purchased slaves; hence, he is our “Lord,” in a special manner, by Redemption.

Rom 1:8  First, I give thanks to my God, through Jesus Christ, for you all: because your faith is spoken of in the whole world.

And indeed, in the first place, I give thanks, on your account, to my God, through Jesus Christ, the source of all spiritual blessings, because your faith is a subject of universal celebrity throughout all parts of the known world.

In this verse, the Apostle commences the exordium, in which he displays consummate prudence, admirably calculated to gain the good-will of the Romans, in order to render them afterwards docile and attentive to his instructions. Masters of eloquence would call this “captatio benevolentiæ(to capture or gain goodwill) “I give thanks to my God;” thanksgiving for past favours is a homage due to God for his benefits, and is the most efficacious means of insuring their continuance; “through Jesus Christ,” through him all graces have to come to us; hence, he is the fittest and most acceptable channel to convey back thanksgiving for these graces; “because your faith is spoken of,” i.e., is celebrated and rendered famous “in the whole world,” i.e., throughout the known parts of the entire world, then included in the Roman Empire.

Rom 1:9  For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make a commemoration of you:
Rom 1:10  Always in my prayers making request, if by any means now at length I may have a prosperous journey, by the will of God, to come unto you.

For, I call God to witness, whom I worship and serve with all the ardour and energies of my mind in the cause of the Gospel of his Son, that I make continual commemoration of you (10) in my prayers, always entreating him, that by some means I may possibly obtain the fulfilment of my anxious wishes of paying you a visit, should God will it so.

“For God is my witness.” This is a form of oath, which the Apostle finds it necessary to resort to at present, in order to remove any prejudices the Romans might conceive against his addressing them. 

“Whom I serve,” λατρευω (latreuo), i.e., minister to; “with my spirit,” is understood by some to mean spiritually and interiorly, in opposition to the carnal and merely external service of the Jews; “in the gospel of his Son,” in preaching the Gospel, and not in teaching the legal ceremonies; “that without ceasing I make a commemoration of you,” he shows in next verse how this commemoration is made.
“Always in my prayers,” not that he was continually engaged in prayer, but that as often as he prayed—and that was frequently—he remembered them, and the object of his unceasing prayer was to be permitted to see them. The crowding together of particles, “that,” “by any means,” “at length,” shows the ardent desire the Apostle had of seeing them but this was always in conformity and strict submission to the will of God, “by the will of God.”

Rom 1:11  For I long to see you that I may impart unto you some spiritual grace, to strengthen you:

For I eagerly long to visit you, not from worldly or selfish motives, but in order to impart to you some spiritual gift which will serve to confirm you in the faith you have already received.

His motive for wishing to see them was not the result of curiosity or avarice, it was solely for the purpose of imparting to them, by his ministry, some spiritual gift, in addition to those they had already received, and thus to confirm their faith which had been imparted to them by St. Peter. By “spiritual grace” is more probably understood some external grace, such as tongues, prophecies, &c., given for the benefit of others, to which he refers, 1 Cor. 14, and chap. 12 of this Epistle. 

The Greek for “grace” χαρισμα (charisma), admits of this interpretation.

Rom 1:12  That is to say, that I may be comforted together in you by that which is common to us both, your faith and mine.

Or, to speak more correctly, in order to derive together with you, consolation from the mutual communication of our common faith.

Lest the preceding words might savour of arrogance, and might convey a depreciation of their faith and of the gifts already received, the Apostle now, in the depth of his humility, and to render them well affected toward him, says, that the advantages of his visit would be as much his own as theirs in the consolation he would receive as well as they, from the mutual communication of their common faith; mutual edification and consolation would be the result.

Rom 1:13  And I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that I have often purposed to come unto you (and have been hindered hitherto) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.

For, I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that I have often purposed visiting you (but certain obstacles intervened up to the present moment), in order to reap some fruit among you also, as I have done among other nations.

St. Paul now vindicates his right as Apostle of nations. He desired to visit them in order to reap some fruit of faith and edification among them, as he had already among the other nations—(“and I have been hindered hitherto.”) What this impediment was is mentioned (chap. 15), viz., his being occupied too much elsewhere. 

Rom 1:14  To the Greeks and to the barbarians, to the wise and to the unwise, I am a debtor.

To the civilized and uncivilized nations, to the learned and unlearned, I am, in virtue of my office as Apostle, bound to preach the Gospel.

“Barbarians.” The Greeks regarded all nations not using the Greek language, barbarians. Even the Romans were not excepted from this class until they became masters of Greece. Hence, the words “Greeks” and “Barbarians,” here designate civilized and uncivilized nations; “the wise” refer to the philosophers reputed wise and learned; and “unwise,” to the ignorant and untutored; “a debtor,” i.e., in virtue of his office, as Apostle of nations, bound to preach the Gospel.

Rom 1:15  So (as much as is in me) I am ready to preach the gospel to you also that are at Rome.

And hence (as far as in me lies, and in the absence of contrary obstacles), I am willing and ready to discharge this debt towards you at Rome, by announcing to you also the glad tidings of Redemption.

“So,” i.e., therefore, because bound to preach to all without distinction, he is ready to preach the Gospel at Rome also, in the absence of contrary obstacles.

Rom 1:16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel. For it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth: to the Jew first and to the Greek.

For, although the preaching of the Gospel of a crucified God be to the Jew a scandal, and to the Gentile folly; still, I am not ashamed to announce it even in the mighty city of Rome, for, it is the powerful instrument whereby is conferred salvation on every one who embraces it, by believing its doctrine, on the Jew first and on the Gentile.

In some Greek copies, the words “of Christ” are added to the word “gospel,” but it is omitted in the chief MSS. and versions generally. He is ready and not ashamed to preach the scandal and folly of the cross even at Rome, where learning and science were united with the greatest dissoluteness of morals; where honours and riches alone were held in estimation; and where, consequently, the mysterious and humbling truths of the Gospel, as well as its precepts of self-denial, must prove particularly foolish and distasteful. “For it is the power of God, &c.,” it is the powerful instrument by which God confers salvation, of justice here, and glory hereafter, on all who believe it (for, to those who reject it, it becomes the source of greater damnation,), and observe the precepts which faith points out. The preaching of the Gospel, through the hearing of which alone faith comes, contains under it, the grace of the Holy Ghost, so necessary for faith. “To the Jew first,” the Jews were the first in the order of time to whom Christ directed the Gospel to be preached, “and to the Greek,” i.e., the Gentile; the Greek language was the most extensively used among the Gentiles; hence, the Apostle calls the Gentiles, “Greeks.” Moreover, the Hebrews divided the world into Jews and Gentiles.

Rom 1:17  For the justice of God is revealed therein, from faith unto faith, as it is written: The just man liveth by faith.

For it stimulates men to seek true justice by revealing to us the source from which real justification is derived; and that source is,—neither the law of Moses nor the law of Nature, but—faith as the root, faith as the abiding, conservative principle of this justice. And this is no new doctrine, but a doctrine revealed to us of old by the prophet Habacuc (chap. 2) who tells us, the just man liveth by faith.

He proves that the preaching of the Gospel is the powerful instrument, &c., “for the justice of God,” i.e., his justice bestowed on us, whereby we are rendered truly just before Him, it is called “the justice of God,” because it comes from Him alone. This justice is revealed in the Gospel to come “from faith,” (and not from the law of Moses, as the Jews supposed, nor from the strength of nature, as the Gentiles vainly imagined). “From faith to faith,” means, that faith is the beginning, the root, by which justice is acquired; faith increasing and supported by good works is the principle by which justice once obtained, is upheld and preserved. “As it is written;” this doctrine of justification by faith, is no new doctrine; the prophet Habacuc (chap. 2) says, “the just man liveth,” &c. For “liveth,” the Greek is, ζησεται (zesetai), shall live. The spiritual life of the just man consists in faith. Of course he includes good works; for, the words of the prophet, “the just man shall live by faith” (chap. 2) literally refer to the just Jew, under the Babylonish capativity, expecting the deliverer Cyrus, promised him by God, and in this faith and consequent expectation, patiently enduring the evils of his state and performing the works of justice. They are quoted by the Apostle in their mystical sense (the sense principally intended by the Holy Ghost), and refer to the persevering faith of the Christian, which, like that of the faithful Jew, must be supported in its progress by good works and patience; and in that sense, will constitute his spiritual life, will serve to obtain first, and uphold second justification. In this verse, the Apostle lays down the great proposition of the Epistle, viz., that justice comes from a source quite different from that which the Jews and Gentiles imagined, that is, from faith.

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:

The Gospel of God is the powerful instrument of salvation on another ground; for, it serves to deter us from the commission of sin by clearly revealing the heavy anger of God, which will one day (on the day of judgment) be visited on those men from heaven, who by impiety have sinned against religion, and by injustice have injured their neighbour, unjustly concealing the truth of God, and not showing it forth in their conduct.

The connexion of this verse with verse 16, as given in the Paraphrase, appears the most probable. The Gospel is also a most powerful means of salvation, by deterring men from the commission of sin—such as the Gentiles had committed against the natural law—which carried no strength for self-observance; and the Jews against the law of Moses, which also contributed no help for self-observance either; and the remainder of this chapter is devoted by the Apostle to point out how far their multiplied crimes rendered the Gentiles deserving objects of the heavy threats held out in the Gospel against sinners. In the next chapter, the same is shown in reference to the Jews, so that after having shown (chap. 3) that all, both Jews and Gentiles, were under sin, he shows the only means of rescuing them from this state, and rendering them just, to be faith. “That detain the truth of God in injustice.” The words “of God,” are not in the Greek. How many are there now-a-days, whose conduct is in opposition to their knowledge? To whom can the charge of “detaining the truth of God in injustice” so strictly apply as to pastors, and parents and all those who, having the care of others, and therefore, in some measure, bound injustice to teach them the knowledge of God, still neglect this most important duty? The Apostle directly and immediately alludes to the Gentile philosophers, whose crimes he is about enumerating.

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

They unjustly concealed the knowledge of God. For, the Pagan philosophers to whom I refer, had a knowledge of whatever could be known concerning God, from the light of reason; for, God himself gave a clear, certain knowledge of himself to them, by the aid of natural reason.

“Because that which is known by God,” i.e., whatever could be known of Him from the light of reason, “is made manifest to them. For, God had manifested it to them,” by giving them the natural light of reason to arrive at this knowledge, and by placing this knowledge within the reach of reason (next verse).

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.

For, since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes are clearly seen: not by the eyes of the body, but by the light of the understanding, inferring them from the visible effects of creation; and among these attributes the most prominently displayed in creatures, are his eternal omnipotence and divine essence—the first beginning and last end of all things. So that no excuse, on the ground of ignorance, was left them.

“For the invisible things of him,” i.e., his invisible Attributes or Perfections, “from the creation of the world, are clearly seen.” The Greek word for “creation,” απο κτισεως, may mean “creature,” as if he said “his invisible attributes are perceived from the creature, called the world.” However, as the following words, “understood by the things that are made,” sufficiently convey this idea, and, in this construction, they would appear to be an unnecessary repetition, the construction given in the Paraphrase seems, therefore, preferable. “His eternal power and divinity.” “Divinity” refers to the leading Attributes of the Godhead, which have a peculiar claim on the worship of creatures, who are, therefore, without excuse for not adoring him, having these means of knowledge within reach—nay, having actual knowledge (as in next verse). The works of creation serve as the great book in which are read in legible characters, and the mirror in which are faithfully reflected, the Attributes of the Divinity. Hence, this visible word is, as it were, a natural gospel to the Pagans, whereby they are brought to the knowledge of God; and St. Chrysostom tells us, “The wonderful harmony of all things speaks louder on this subject than the loudest trumpet. “So that they are inexcusable,” not having the excuse of ignorance, for not adoring him, as in the following verse.

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.

For, having known God, they did not exhibit the worship due to his Supreme Majesty, nor did they thank him, as the author of all blessings; but they vainly and foolishly confined themselves to idle disquisitions regarding Him, referring their knowledge to no practical useful conclusion; and in punishment of this abuse their senseless intellect was darkened, and … their will perverted.

“They have not glorified him as God.” Having an actual knowledge of God and of his divine perfections, they neither properly adored nor praised those perfections, nor did they pay Him the supreme honour due to Him as God; in which praise of his perfections and exhibition of due worship. “glorifiying him as God” consists. “Nor gave thanks” by referring to him, by grateful acknowledgement, the benefits received from him, an homage which reason dictates should be paid to him as the author of all blessings, “but became vain in their thoughts.” The Greek word for “thoughts,” διαλογισμοις, means, reasonings. They became vain in their reasonings; because they confined their knowledge of God to mere idle reasonings or disquisitions regarding him, without making this knowledge subserve to his worship. Hence as they did not attain the great end for which this knowledge was given them as a means, viz.: the worship and honour of God, they became “vain” in its exercise. “And their foolish heart was darkened.” Their mind, rendered stolid in punishment of so much ingratitude, was more and more darkened, and their will perverted. Religious error has been at all times the consequence of pride of intellect and depravity of will.

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

While publicly boasting of, and arrogating to themselves the reputation of wisdom, they have fallen into the excess of folly.

“Professing themselves wise.” Laying claim to the character of wisdom, “they (in reality) became fools,” since they failed in attaining the end of all true wisdom, viz.: the love and worship of God. Some interpreters regard this verse as parenthetical.

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.

Which folly they carried to such an extreme as to transfer the glory, due only to the incorruptible God, to the image representing corruptible man, and birds, and four-footed beasts, and even the veriest reptiles.

And not only did they withhold from God the glory, due to him (verse 21), but they became foolish to such a degree as to transfer the glory, which is his inalienable due, to men, beasts, birds and reptiles, including fishes: and, what is worse, “to the likeness of the image” of them, or to the image representing these different creatures. The words, “likeness of the image,” mean, “the image like or representing them;” for, an image itself is nothing else but the likeness of an object.

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

In punishment whereof, God left them to the tyrannical dominion of their corrupt passions, suffering them to commit deeds of uncleanliness, dishonouring each other’s bodies by shameful impurities.

“Gave them up to the desires of their hearts.” (In Greek, “wherefore God also gave,” &c.; also is omitted in the chief MSS). The words “gave them up” do not imply a positive act of “giving them up” on the part of God, but merely the negative act of deserting them, of withholding his graces, which are indispensable for them in order to avoid sin. “Tradidit,” says St. Augustine, “non cogendo, sed deserendo.” (Serm. 57). He may also act positively, by throwing in their way obstacles, (v.g.) riches, honours. &c., things in themselves, good or indifferent, not necessarily inducing to sin, but which will as infallibly prove, owing to their abuse, the cause of sin to them, as if God had positively given them up to sin. In the same sense, God is said “to send to men the operation of error” “to harden their hearts,” &c.—(See 2 Thess. 2:10).

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.

Because they exchanged the true God for false and imaginary deities, to whom they transferred the supreme honour due to Him alone; and they worshipped in their heart and served exteriorly the creature rather than the Creator, to whom may due honour and praise be rendered for ever and ever.

This verse contains but a repetition, in different words, of the idea conveyed in verse 23. “Into a lie,” i.e., idols, false divinities, which, as gods, have no real existence; and hence, as such, are “a lie.” “Who is blessed for ever;” these words convey that this God, whose worship they transfer to false and imaginary deities, is deserving of everlasting honour and glory. And the word “Amen” expresses, on the part of the Apostle, an earnest longing that this due worship may be rendered to him

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Father Callan's Commentary on Galatians 3:6-14

Text in red, if any, are my additions.


A Summary of Galatians 3:6-9~This section was rejected by Marcion on account of his opposition to the Old Testament; it showed too plainly against his heretical views that the principle of salvation is the same both in the Old and in the New Testaments (cf. St. Jerome here; Tertull., Adv. Marc. v. 3).
The Judaizers taught that in order to have part in the blessings promised to Abraham and his posterity, it was necessary for the Gentile converts to establish, through circumcision, that filial relationship with the father of their race by which they could really be called the children of Abraham. They erred, as St. Paul now points out, in not understanding that Abraham’s justification was through faith, and that consequently the faithful are truly his sons and heirs of the blessings promised him.

Gal 3:6  As it is written: Abraham believed God: and it was reputed to him unto justice.

See on Rom 4:3-5. Here is what Father Callan wrote regarding those verses: 

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.

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

It is written (Vulg., scriptum est) is not represented in the Greek.

Gal 3:7  Know ye, therefore, that they who are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.

The Apostle here concludes that, since Abraham was justified by faith and not by works, they are his sons who imitate his faith.

Know ye (γινώσκω = ginōskō) can be imperative or indicative. St. Jerome
understood it as indicative.

They who are of faith, etc., i.e., those who make faith the principle of their religious life and activities. Faith is here contrasted with the ceremonial works of the Law (verse 10).

The same, i.e., these only (οὗτοι = houtoi) in an exclusive sense. Are the children (υἱός = huioi), i.e., enjoy the real sonship with all its privileges. The Jews thought physical relationship with Abraham was sufficient to establish also spiritual sonship.

Gal 3:8. And the scripture, foreseeing, that God justifieth the Gentiles by faith, told unto Abraham before: In thee shall all nations be blessed.

The scripture, foreseeing. Better, “The Scripture foresaw.” Scripture is personified, because of the personality of God behind it. The meaning is that the Holy Ghost, the author of Scripture, foresaw before the Law was given that God the Father had determined to justify the Gentiles by faith. Of this truth the Galatians had had actual personal experience, and were therefore a confirmation; it was through faith that they had obtained the grace of Christianity.

Told unto, i.e., “announced the good news” (προευηγγελισατο = proeuengelisato) to Abraham. This announcement was really the beginning of the Gospel.

In thee, i.e., in thy person.

All nations, i.e., all those who shall imitate the faith of Abraham. The quotation is a fusion of Gen 12:3 and Gen 18:18, perhaps in order to emphasize the fact that the pagans were to participate in the blessings of Abraham. See on Rom 4:1. Here is what Fr. Callan wrote on that passage:

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

What shall we say thenThen (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.

Gal 3:9  Therefore, they that are of faith shall be blessed with faithful Abraham.

Therefore. Better, “And so,” or “So that” (ὥστε = hoste).

Shall be blessed. Better, “Are blessed.”

A conclusion is drawn from what has been said. As the Gentiles, at the time of the promise made to Abraham, were blessed in his person, so now, in consequence of their faith, are they blessed with faithful Abraham. This blessing could not come to the Gentiles because they were his natural children, nor again because they had received circumcision; therefore only because they imitated his faith.


A Summary of Galatians 3:10-14~After having proved that the blessings of Abraham have come to the Galatians through faith the Apostle now shows first, that neither blessing nor justification, but only a curse, could come through the Law; and then, that Christ, by becoming a curse for our sakes, has extended the blessings of Abraham to the Gentiles, in order that we may, through faith, receive the promise of the Spirit. Gal 3:13 is a return to the thought of Gal 3:10, and Gal 3:14 (“by faith”) looks back to verses Gal 3:11-12.

Gal 3:10  For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse. For it is written: Cursed is every one that abideth, not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

Far from giving a part in the blessings of Abraham the Law brought a curse upon those who, without grace, tried to fulfil it. This is proved by a citation from the Law itself (Deut 27:26).

As many as, etc., i.e., all, whether Jews or Christians, who think that their salvation is not to be obtained by faith, but through the fulfillment of the works of the law, such as, circumcision, the observance of the Sabbath and the like, are under a curse, i.e., in a state of permanent hostility to God, simply because they cannot, without the grace that comes through faith in Christ, keep the commandments and precepts of the Law.

St. Paul is not saying that no one could keep the precepts of the Law, but only that the Law itself, independently of God’s grace, gave no help for the fulfillment of its commands. The Law pointed out what should be done and what should be avoided, and in so doing, without at the same time giving any help towards keeping its mandates, it only multiplied transgressions.

Those, therefore, who trusted in the Law only, put themselves in a perilous position.

The citation of Deut. is according to the LXX, and is in conformity with the Hebrew, except for every one (πᾶς = pas) and in all things (πασιν = pasin), whose equivalents are not in the Hebrew, although St. Jerome thinks originally they were there. He suspects the Jews to have omitted the second (πασιν = pasin), so as not to be under a curse in case they were not able to observe the whole

Gal 3:11  But that in the law no man is justified with God, it is manifest: because the just man liveth by faith.

The meaning of this verse is that no one is rendered really and truly just before God in virtue of the Law. True justice in the sight of God comes only through faith.

In the law. The Greek is εν νομω (=en nomo), without the article, but the Jewish Law is clearly meant, as elsewhere in this Epistle.

Because the just man, etc. See on Rom 1:17.

Gal 3:12  But the law is not of faith: but he that doth those things shall live in them.

The last words of the preceding verse form the major of a syllogism; in the present verse we have the minor; the conclusion is in Gal 3:10 above.

The law is not of faith, i.e., the Law, as such, has not the same nature as faith; faith is concerned primarily with internal dispositions, while the Law regards only external acts. “The precepts of the Law are not concerned with things to be believed, but with things to be done” (St. Thomas).

He that doth, etc. This citation is a free rendering of the Hebrew of Lev 18:5. It means that he who keeps the Law shall live; but St. Paul’s point is that this keeping of the Law is impossible without some further help which the Law itself could not provide. The just of the Old Testament were not justified by the Law, but through their faith in the Messiah to come. It was this faith that procured for them the grace necessary to keep the precepts of the Law. See on Rom 10:5. Here is what Father Callan wrote there:

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.

Very probably the Judaizers had used the above text to prove to the Galatians the necessity of observing the Law, but St. Paul turns it against his adversaries, taking it for granted that his readers will understand that the Jews did not and could not observe the Law by virtue of any help that it afforded them.

Gal 3:13  Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us (for it is written: Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree).

What the Law could not do Christ, dying on the cross, has accomplished. He redeemed us, i.e., us Jews, from the malediction under which we lived by reason of the Law. “Us” could not include the pagans, because they were not under the curse of the Law; but the liberation of the Jews who became Christians brought about the diffusion of the blessing among the Gentiles

Hath redeemed, i.e., has satisfied for our sins by the pouring out of His blood on the cross. Here there is question of being ransomed from the curse of the Law.

Being made a curse, etc., i.e., He took upon Himself all the maledictions of the Law in order to liberate those who were under the Law; He put Himself in the place of the enslaved that He might free them, becoming Himself an object of malediction for their sakes. Christ was an object of malediction, inasmuch as upon Him the fury of God’s wrath was poured out, not because of any personal wrong, but as bearing the sins of the whole world.

For it is written. St. Paul cites as an illustration the text of Deut 21:23, which shows that Christ, having been a victim for sin, incurred also the curse of sin. The Law declared him cursed by God who hung on a tree; and Christ was nailed to the wood of the tree. The citation is made freely according to the LXX.

Crucifixion was not a Jewish form of execution, and was resorted to only in rare cases (Num 25:4). The dead body of a criminal was sometimes raised on a cross as a deterrent against crime, but it had to be taken down the same day, lest, being a thing accursed of God (Deut 21:23), it should pollute the land.

Gal 3:14  That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Christ Jesus: that we may receive the promise of the Spirit by faith.

This shows the end for which Christ suffered on the cross, namely, that the blessings promised to Abraham, i.e., justification by faith and all the Messianic gifts, might come to the Gentiles as well as the Jews, and that we, i.e., the Jews, might receive the promise of the Spirit, i.e., all the gifts of the Holy Ghost which make us sons of God and heirs of heaven.

Through Christ Jesus. Better, “In Jesus Christ,” the Redeemer, who ransomed the Jews, and in and through whom both Jews and Gentiles are united and receive the gifts of the Spirit by faith, and not by the works of the Law.

Father Callan's Commentry on Galatians 3:1-5

I’ve included in this post Father Callan’s summary of the dogmatic portion of the Epistle (3:1-5:12) and his summary of 3:1-5. Text in red are my additions.


A Summary of Galatians 3:1-5:12~Since Christ was the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham, and since the entire revelation of the Old Testament was a preparation for, and a leading up to Christ, it could most reasonably occur to the Galatians that the ancient Scriptures, including the Law of Moses, were sacred, and that the Gospel, with its perfect revelation, had grown out of them, like the fruit out of the vine. Would it not follow, then, that the observance of the Law was necessary to salvation also for Christians, and that thus only is justification to be obtained?

It is beyond doubt that the Gentiles were partakers of the salvation foreshadowed in the Old Testament, but as heirs of the promise and blessing made to Abraham long centuries before the Law was given. The Law was only an intermediate measure for the Jewish people, a special help to lead them to Christ and to the fruition of those blessings which were promised to the father of their race. To return to the Law after having found Christ would be to go backwards; it would be to give up the end and return to a particular means which were intended for a particular people.

St. Paul, therefore, after having reviewed the history of his divine call and mission, and having shown the conformity of his Gospel with that of the other Apostles, passes on now, in the second part of his letter, to prove that the doctrine and fact of justification are not dependent on the works of the Law, but only on faith in Jesus Christ (Gal 3:1-5:12).


A Summary of Galatians 3:1-5~The Apostle had just said (Gal 2:21) that to seek salvation through the Law was to render null the death of Christ; and reflecting now on the situation in Galatia, where there was imminent danger of an attempt to do this very thing, he breaks forth in holy indignation, exclaiming, “O senseless Galatians, who hath bewitched you?” He asks if Christ crucified, whom he had preached to them, was not power and charm enough to keep them from error, and if their own experience in receiving the Holy Spirit through faith, independently of the Law, was not sufficient proof that their justification was from faith and not from the Law.

Gal 3:1. O senseless Galatians, who hath bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been set forth, crucified among you?

Senseless, i.e., dull of mind, slow to penetrate the mystery of Christianity and to perceive things of deep spirituality. Galatians.

Hath bewitched you, i.e., has cast about you a spell or charm, thus inducing you to turn your eyes away from the crucified Christ and fix them upon the doctrine of the Judaizers.

St. Chrysostom, Theodoret and other Greek Fathers have understood in “bewitched” (βασκαίνω = baskainō) an allusion to the “evil eye” of folk-lore, especially in Babylon and Assyria. But in both the Old and the New Testaments it usually has the meaning of “envy.” St. Jerome understands the term in the sense of fascination that is exercised on children.

That you should not obey the truth. These words are wanting in the best MSS. and in some versions. As St. Jerome observed, they are doubtless a gloss from Gal 5:7. Modern translations omit the words here.

Before whose eyes, etc. So vivid, so definite had been the preaching of St. Paul to the Galatians that Christ crucified was made to appear before their very eyes as if actually existing in the flesh. Such a picture ought never to fade from their minds, and should ever protect them against attractions of a contrary sort.

Set forth, i.e., pictured, depicted (προγράφω = prographō). The literal meaning is to placard, post in public; or, as the Greek Fathers think, to paint.

Among you (Vulg., in vobis) is not found in the best MSS. It was added in the Received Text. Some of the Latin Fathers, following the old Latin version, read proscriptus (banned, condemned), instead of praescriptus (prefixed, ordered). This is difficult to understand unless we add et (and), thus: proscriptus est, et in vobis crucifixus, “(Christ) condemned anew and crucified among you.”

Gal 3:2. This only would I learn of you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

To bring out more plainly the folly of their conduct St. Paul reminds the Galatians of their own experience. They themselves know that their reception of the Holy Spirit, with His sanctifying grace, His manifest special gifts (Gal 3:5), was when they received by faith the truths of Christ crucified which had been preached to them, and not by the observing of the Law which they, as Gentiles, did not know.

The hearing of faith (ακοης πιστεως) means the hearing which led to faith and was accompanied by faith.

Works are here contrasted with hearing; and law with faith, i.e., believing. That Christ was the object of their faith and belief is evident (Gal 2:16-21).

Gal 3:3. Are you so foolish, that, whereas you began in the Spirit, you would now be made perfect by the flesh?

St. Paul reduces the conduct of the Galatians to an absurdity. They would go from the law of grace and liberty to that of works and slavery; they would begin with the Holy Spirit, and attain to their end and perfection by the flesh (St. Chrys., Cornely).

The Spirit means the Holy Ghost, the principle of the new life of grace, whom the Galatians had received with faith (see Gal 3:2).

Flesh stands for Judaism, which was embraced through circumcision. In the one there is the action of the Spirit; in the other, the use of certain corporal rites. Spirit and flesh are the respective characteristics of Christianity and Judaism (Theodoret, Lagr.).

The spiritu of the Vulgate ought to be capitalized, because there is question of the Holy Ghost.

Gal 3:4. Have you suffered so great things in vain? If it be yet in vain.

Have you suffered, etc. Can it be that the Galatians, who had suffered so many persecutions for their faith, would now be so foolish as to lose all the merit and reward of their trials by renouncing the Gospel and going back to Judaism? What these sufferings were we do not know, since no record of them has come down to us. We have in Acts 13:50; 14:2, 5, 6 accounts of persecutions endured by the Lycaonians, but this does not prove the identity of the Lycaonians and the Galatians.

In vain, i.e., to no purpose, without hope of reward, which would certainly be the case if the Galatians renounced the Gospel.

If it be yet in vain (ει γε και εικη = ei ge kai eike), i.e., “If indeed it be to no purpose.” St. Paul is not expressing apprehension, but the hope that the Galatians will not have suffered to no purpose (Theodoret, Comely, Light., Zahn, etc.). This interpretation corresponds to the Galatian situation, where apostasy was menacing rather than actually committed. But ειγε with και usually means, “If, as I believe,” or “if, as I fear”; and this is the sense in which it is here understood by Lagrange, Lipsius and Sieffert.

Some theologians draw from the last phrase of this verse an argument for the reviviscence (an act of reviving or the state of being revived), through Penance, of merits lost by mortal sin. However sound or weak the inference from this text might otherwise be, it is rendered of little value by the fact that it is not at all certain that the Galatians had actually turned from Christ.

Gal 3:5. He therefore who giveth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you; doth he do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of the faith?

The Apostle returns to the question proposed in verse Gal 3:2.

Giveth to you . . . worketh. These verbs, in the present tense, show that the situation among the Galatians was not altogether hopeless; some, doubtless, had gone farther than others. The gifts of the Spirit here referred to were experienced internally, in the souls of the faithful, such as, science, wisdom, etc. (1 Cor 12:6-11); whereas miracles (δύναμις = dunamis) were exterior manifestations of the Spirit within, such as, prophecy, the gifts of tongues, and the like (1 Cor 12:10). All these gifts, internal and external, had been received through faith, independently of the works of the Law.

The in vobis of the Vulgate (εν υμιν) means among you.