An Exegetical Commentary
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 12 May 2010; Revised 26 February 2020
Scripture Text: The Scripture text of used in this chapter commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison and based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. Other Scripture quotations may be taken from different Bible versions. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Messianic Jewish versions are CJB, GNC, HNV, MW, OJB, & TLV. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. The LXX with English translation may be found here.
Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found at the end of this chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. Links to other ancient Jewish literature may be found at EarlyJewishWritings.com.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Torah (Law), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ).
Grammar: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009). The meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB," found online at BibleHub.com. Explanation of Greek grammatical forms and a pronunciation guide for New Testament Greek may be found here. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance reference numbers are identified with "SH" for Hebrew and "SG" for Greek.
Methodology: For an explanation of abbreviations, acronyms, terminology, spelling conventions, and other information on organization of the commentary see my Commentary Writing Philosophy. Click here for a Study Questions for small group learning or self-study.
Prologue: Paul's Manifest Mission, 1:1-17
See the article Introduction to Romans.
Introduction and Greeting, 1:1-7
Paul's Thanksgiving and Travel Plan, 1:8-13
Summary of the Good News, 1:14-17
The History of Rebellion Against God, 1:18-27
The Catalogue of Rebellion, 1:28-32
Introduction and Greeting, 1:1-7
1― Paul, a servant of Messiah Yeshua, a called apostle, having been set apart for the good news of God,
Paul: Grk. Paulos, from the Latin Paulus, meaning small or humble, which first occurs in Acts 13:9. He no doubt engages in a word play on this meaning of his name when he said, "I am the least of the apostles" (1Cor 15:9). When he acquired the name of Paul is not mentioned, but as a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28) it likely occurred at birth. Roman citizens had three names. The praenomen (first name) was little more than a formality. The nomen (second name) denoted the Roman tribe to which one belonged. The third name was the cognomen, the family name. Paulus was most likely his cognomen, probably taken from the patron who freed Paul's ancestors from slavery (Polhill 16).
Paul's Hebrew name was Sha’ul (Saul, lit. "asked for" or "prayed for"). Of interest is that Luke uses Saulos, a Graecized form of Sha'ul, 14 times to identify Paul in his history (e.g., Acts 7:58; none after 13:9), but Yeshua speaking to Paul on the Damascus Road addresses him with his Hebrew name (Acts 9:4; 22:7; 26:14), as did Ananias (Acts 22:13), which Luke transliterates exactly as Saoul, in accordance with LXX usage. (The Greek has no letter with an "sh" sound.). Paul was apparently proud of his Roman name, since this is the only name by which he refers to himself in all his writings. Paul's life is the best documented of the apostles. He was born in Tarsus of Cilicia (Acts 21:39) of the tribe of Benjamin (Php 3:5). He was an observant Jew throughout his life (Acts 16:3; 18:18; 20:16; 21:26), educated under Gamaliel (Acts 5:34), served in some capacity with the Sanhedrin (Acts 8:1; 9:1-2; 26:10), spoke several languages (Acts 21:37-40; 1Cor 14:18), and lived and remained a Pharisee (Acts 23:6; 26:5; Php 3:5).
Paul persecuted disciples of Yeshua (Acts 8:1), but was transformed by an encounter with Yeshua on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-4). He was then equipped for ministry by the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:5-20). Contrary to common belief among Christians Paul did not convert to Christianity or found Christianity, but embraced the Messianic hope of his people fulfilled in Yeshua. (This new understanding is eloquently argued in David Wenham, Paul: Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity? William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1995). One only needs to compare the Christianity of history and today (whether Catholic, Protestant or Evangelical) to see the many differences with the religion espoused and practiced by Paul.
Paul's ministry consisted of three missionary journeys (Acts 13–21) and wherever he went he made disciples in accordance with the Great Commission, established congregations, equipped leaders and appointed elders. His written corpus consists of letters to seven congregations and three individuals. There is strong evidence that Paul also wrote Hebrews. According to tradition he died as a martyr in Rome by the decree of Nero in 67.
a servant, Grk. doulos can mean either slave or servant. In the LXX doulos translates the Heb. word ebed, which similarly described someone enslaved after being captured in war or in order to pay a debt, whether voluntarily or involuntarily (cf. Ex 21:7; Lev 25:39, 44, 47). In addition, ebed identified those that served God, especially service in the temple (DNTT 3:593ff).
The great Hebrew and Jewish heroes of the faith considered themselves servants of God the King and it was considered a high honor for a person to be called a servant of God. Abraham was the first to use this title (Gen 18:3; 26:24), but the most frequent usage is in relation to Moses (Ex 4:10; Deut 34:5) and over 40 citations remind Jews of his status, including 18 in the book of Joshua alone. Many other Israelite leaders also bore this title. Others called "servant of the Lord" include Isaac (Gen 24:14), Jacob (Deut 9:27), Job (Job 1:8), Caleb (Num 14:24), Joshua (Josh 24:29), Samson (Jdg 15:18), Samuel (1Sam 3:10), David (2Sam 3:18), Elijah (2Kgs 9:36), Jonah (2Kgs 14:25), Hezekiah (2Chr 32:16), Nehemiah (Neh 1:11), Isaiah (Isa 20:3), Zerubbabel (Hag 2:23), Daniel (Dan 6:20) and all the Hebrew prophets (Jer 25:4). The nation of Israel is also considered a servant of the Lord (Isa 44:2).
In his earthly ministry Yeshua was the preeminent servant of the Lord (Php 2:7), but other notable spiritual leaders are named, including Miriam (Luke 1:38), Simeon (Luke 2:29), Phoebe (Rom 16:1), Apollos (1Cor 3:5), Timothy (Php 1:1), Epaphras (Col 1:7), Tychicus (Col 4:7), Jacob (Jas 1:1), Peter (2Pet 1:1), Judah (Jude 1:1), John (Rev 1:1) and particularly the apostle Paul. Noteworthy is the fact that Paul does not identify himself as a "Christian," nor does the label "Christian" occur anywhere in his writings.
of Messiah: Grk. Christos, the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer and ruler, the Anointed One or Messiah. In Greek culture christos comes from chriein, to rub lightly, and in its secular use had no religious connotation at all. Christos as an adjective described someone smeared with whitewash, cosmetics or paint, and was anything but an expression of honor. As a personal reference it even tended toward the disrespectful (DNTT 2:334). Christos was chosen deliberately by the Jewish translators of the LXX to render Mashiach and in so doing infused new meaning into the Greek word. The Heb. title Mashiach lit. means ‘anointed one’ or ‘poured on.’ Mashiach was used in the Tanakh for (1) the patriarchs (1Chr 16:16-22; Ps 105:15); (2) the High Priest, Lev 4:5; (3) the King of Israel, 1Sam 12:3; 2Sam 22:51; and (4) the Messianic King, Ps 2:2 and Dan 9:25-26 (BDB 603). This last usage defined the term among first century Jews.
The significance of being known as "The Anointed One" is that Israelite kings were crowned and priests were ordained in a ceremony of anointing with olive oil, which invested them with the authority of their positions. There was no comparable concept in Greek culture. Yeshua's anointing was not in the customary manner. He was first anointed with the Holy Spirit to fulfill the ministry prophesied in Isaiah 61:1 (Matt 3:16; Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38). Then he was anointed with nard in preparation for the ministry of being an atoning sacrifice (Mark 14:3-8; John 12:3). Finally he was anointed with the power of resurrection to assume his rightful place on the throne of David as King and Judge over the earth (Luke 1:32; Acts 3:18-26; 10:40-42; 13:30-34; 17:31; Eph 1:18-23).
After the first century Jewish rabbis posited separate, but still anticipated Messiahs, because they recognized the paradoxical nature of Messianic prophecies. On the one hand some prophecies speak of a victorious Messiah descended from King David who will destroy the enemies of Israel and reign as king. Other prophecies speak of a suffering Messiah who dies for Israel. So the rabbis called the former Mashiach ben David (Sanhedrin 97a) and the latter Mashiach ben Yosef (Sukkah 52a). In the first century the expectation among Jews was of the return of King David's throne accomplished by a mighty deliverer. The apostolic writings, of course, show that Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David are the same person, Yeshua, whose human descent was from King David, whose legal but not physical father was Yosef, and whose resurrection has made it possible for him to come twice and fill both roles (Stern 548).
Contrary to Christian usage Christos does not mean "second person of the triune Godhead" nor is it a last name. It cannot be emphasized too many times that the title Christos was the invention of Jews long before Yeshua was born and not by Gentile Christians. The Christos of the apostles is the great priest-king after the order of Melchizedek (Heb 6:20), King of the Jews (Matt 2:2; 27:11, 37) and King of the nations (Gen 49:10; Rev 15:3), one who fulfilled all the promises made to the patriarchs and the nation of Israel and will be the future king reigning from Jerusalem in the millennial age. This is the Christos Paul preached. Christos is a significant word in Romans, occurring 66 times. Only in chapters four and eleven is it not mentioned. Paul employs the Jewish title of his Lord repeatedly in order to emphasize the Messiah as the authority behind the letter's instruction and as a model of behavior for all disciples.
Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, perhaps "yay-soos," is a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua (Yod-Shin-Vav-Ayin). Greek does not have a letter with the "sh" sound, so "s" is substituted for the Heb. letter shin. Iēsous does not translate the meaning of Yeshua. Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua, which means "YHVH is salvation" (BDB 221). Yeshua has the same Hebrew root as yoshia ("He will save") and is also the masculine form of the Hebrew word yeshu‘ah, ("salvation") (Stern 4). Miriam and Joseph were directed to give this name to their son because he would "save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). In the LXX both Yeshua ("Jeshua") and Y’hoshua ("Joshua") were common names and rendered as Iēsous.
The name of Yeshua was given to six men in the Tanakh and translated as "Jeshua" in English versions, four of whom were of the tribe of Levi (1Chr 24:11; 2Chr 31:15; Ezra 2:6; 3:2; Neh 3:19; 8:7). Three men bore the name Y’hoshua ("Joshua") (Deut 3:21; 1Sam 6:14, 18; 2Kgs 23:8). In the Besekh three men have the name Yeshua. There is Bar-Yeshua (Acts 13:6), a Jewish false prophet and magician whom Paul cursed so that he became blind (Acts 13:11), and Yeshua called Justus, a fellow minister of Paul (Col 4:11). By far the most important of the three is the Yeshua born of Miriam and Joseph in Bethlehem, the Son of David, Son of Man and Son of God. Interestingly, there are just three occasions when he was addressed directly by name: by ten lepers (Luke 17:13), by blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:47; Luke 18:38) and by the thief on the cross (Luke 23:47).
So, how did Yeshua become Jesus? The church father Jerome transliterated the Greek Iēsous with Latin Iesus for his Bible, called Vulgate (AD 405). The Wycliffe Bible (1395), the first English version and a translation of the Vulgate, rendered the Latin Iesus with Jhesu. The English alphabet is derived from the Latin alphabet and originally the "J" was a vowel, simply a fancy "I." After the Renaissance (14th-17th century) "J" became a consonant with a hard sound. The next five English versions (1526-1611) spelled the name "Iesus," but preserved the name with a vowel first letter. The Mace New Testament in 1729 reintroduced the letter "J" for the "I," which had become a consonant. Wesley's New Testament followed suit in 1755, but the adoption of the new spelling convention in the 1769 revision of the KJV ensured its permanence in Christianity. Unexplained is why Bible translators use the transliteration of "Jesus" instead of "Jeshua," which is used for the same name that occurs in the Tanakh.
For many Jews the name "Jesus" is a distinctly Christian word. Sadly, for many Christians the name "Jesus," while precious, does not evoke the reality of his Jewish identity. In his thirty-some years on earth people called him Yeshua. Gentile believers must never forget that Yeshua was born to a Jewish mother, raised in a Jewish home in a Jewish community situated among the Jewish people in the land God gave to Abraham and his Jewish posterity. Jews expected the Messiah to function as a rabbi and teacher as the woman at the well said, "I know that Messiah is coming; when that One comes, He will declare all things to us" (John 4:25). Yeshua embodied that expectation and functioned as a rabbi as he roamed the country teaching about the kingdom and how to live by Torah as God intended.
Like other rabbis of his time Yeshua gathered disciples, developed a close relationship with them, taught his disciples and others using methods common to the scribes and rabbis of the day, and expected his disciples to change and conform to his will. Unlike other rabbis Yeshua taught as one possessing independent authority (Matt 7:29). He did not need to speak in the name of one of the Sages or one of the two prominent authorities of the day, Hillel and Shammai. Yeshua never appealed to any other authority other than his Father or the Scriptures. This is the "Jesus" Jacob knew. By virtue of His incarnation and Jewish mother, Yeshua must still be a Jew. For more information on the name and person of Yeshua see my web article Who is Yeshua?
a called: Grk. klētos, adj., originally meant invited to a meal (e.g., 3Macc 5:14) (BAG). Klētos occurs only ten times in the apostolic writings, first occurring in Matthew 22:14 in a figurative sense meaning an invitation to the Kingdom of God, "many are called, but few are chosen." The adjective is applied a number of times to the saints (Rom 1:6, 7; 8:28; 1Cor 1:2, 24; Jude 1:1). Paul gives the word a distinctly personal meaning in reference to the invitation he received on the Damascus road (also 1Cor 1:1). It is noteworthy that Paul describes himself as "called," not converted, as frequently described by Christian interpreters. Indeed, Paul didn't change religions or start one, but continued the mission of God that began with the Hebrew prophets.
As a word signifying religious devotion the word "called" is used four different ways in Scripture. The first kind of call is the covenantal call to Israel who was called to bear witness to the Name of Adonai and be a light to the nations (Isa 42:6; 43:1, 7; 48:12; 61:6). Paul's ministry to the Gentiles served particularly to fulfill Isaiah's prophecy. In the apostolic writings "call" is used of the spiritual call to salvation and fellowship with God (Matt 9:13; Rom 8:28; 1Cor 1:9; Col 3:15; 1Pet 2:9), then the call to a moral and ethical life based on Torah commandments and the example of Yeshua (Rom 1:7; Gal 5:13; 1Th 4:7; 1Pet 2:21), and then to the vocational call experienced by the apostles (Matt 4:21; Acts 9:3).
apostle: Grk. apostolos, a delegate, ambassador, envoy, messenger, emissary or official representative. Apostolos occurs one time in the LXX where it translates shaluach, Qal pass. part. of the verb shalach (SH-7971), "sent," in 1Kings 14:6 of Ahijah the prophet. Josephus also uses apostolos one time of a group of Jewish ambassadors sent to Rome to complain about the appointment of Archelaus (Ant. XVII, 11:1). Apostolos appears in no other early Jewish literature, but it is grounded in Jewish culture in the office of shaliach. In first century Judaism a shaliach acted as an official messenger or a proxy for and with the full authority of the sender (Ber. 5:5). The shaliach's mission was "limited in scope and duration by definite commission and terminating on its completion" (DNTT 1:128).
When the high priest authorized Paul to initiate persecution against the disciples he was acting as the priest's shaliach (Acts 9:1-2). A peculiarity of the shaliach is that these representatives were not missionaries to win others to Judaism. The shaliach’s mission was "limited in scope and duration by definite commission and terminating on its completion" (DNTT 1:128). Nevertheless, when Yeshua, the Great High Priest, appointed the twelve disciples and Paul as his shlichim (pl. of shaliach), the mission was broad and its duration indefinite. In the Besekh the term "apostle" is first applied to the original Twelve disciples (Matt 10:2), then Mattathias (Acts 1:25-26), Paul (Acts 9:15; 14:14), Barnabas (Acts 14:14), and Jacob (the half-brother of Yeshua, Gal 1:19).
All the apostles named in the Besekh were Jewish. Those named as apostles had "seen the Lord" and been approved to speak on His behalf (Acts 9:27; 1Cor 9:1; 15:6; 1Jn 1:1). All true apostles had the authority to proclaim the good news, determine orthodox doctrine, impose requirements ("bind and loose," Matt 16:19; 18:18), and shepherd the congregations they founded (cf. 1Cor 14:37). Paul introduces all but three of his letters by identifying himself as an apostle of Yeshua to emphasize his divine appointment. The mention of "apostles" in 1Corinthians 12:28 refers to apostles then alive and not to a continuing office of apostle. The office ceased with the death of John. However, the authority of the apostolic canon continues to the present day (Eph 2:20).
having been set apart: Grk. aphorizō, perf. pass. part., set apart or appoint, which etymologically referred to his separation as a Pharisee (Robertson), but since his divine appointment on the Damascus road he has been separated to bring good news to the Gentiles. for the good news: Grk. euangelion originally meant a reward for good news and then simply good news. It occurs 76 times in the apostolic writings. In the LXX euangelion renders besorah, which may mean either a reward for good news (2Sam 4:10) or glad tidings (2Sam 18:20, 22). Christian versions translate the noun as "gospel," which originated from the Old English gōdspell ("good-telling"). Most Christians think of the "gospel" only as 'Yeshua died on the cross to save me from my sins,' a message totally divorced from its Jewish context. However, the message of the apostles was that God had fulfilled the promises given to Israel through the prophets.
The good news is the same message the angel Gabriel gave to Zechariah (Luke 1:13-17), to Joseph (Matt 1:20-23) and Miriam (Luke 1:30-37). This is the same message that Zechariah then declared to his fellow Jews (Luke 1:68-75), all of which reflected the Jewish hopes and expectations of a redeemer and deliverer. Consistent with these prior announcements the apostles declared that Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah, who fulfilled the promises made to Israel through the prophets; that God has made Yeshua Lord; that forgiveness of sins is available to all through Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice; and that the proof of God’s Word is that Yeshua was raised from the dead (Acts 2:14-40; 10:34-43).
of God: Grk. theos, is the God of Israel. In secular Greek writings a number of deities, always represented in anthropomorphic form, were called theos. In ancient polytheistic culture theos was not one omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe and certainly not spirit as described in Scripture (John 4:24). All of the gods and goddesses of polytheistic pantheons were strictly non-personal, which stands in sharp contrast to the Hebraic view that God loves and desires a relationship with men. In the LXX theos renders the generic designations of God, El (which occurs over 200 times) and Elohim (which occurs over 2300 times), as well as the tetragrammaton YHVH, over 300 times. As with many other Greek words the LXX infused new meaning into theos (DNTT 2:67-70).
All other deities claimed in the world and worshipped in other religions have no existence except in the imagination of deceived humanity. Throughout Scripture the prophets and the apostles assert the reality and power of the God of Israel. There is no other God. He is the creator of all that lives. Only Judaism and Christianity worship the true God.
2― which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures,
which He promised, Grk. proepangellō, aor. mid., promise previously or in advance (Rienecker). The subject of the verb refers back to God in the previous verse as the source of what was promised. The principal elements of the promises were contained in the various covenants God made with the patriarchs and the nation of Israel, as well as in later Messianic prophecies. See note on 9:4. As Paul writes in his letter to Corinth all the promises God made are "yes" in Yeshua (2Cor 1:20). through: Grk. dia, prep. The root meaning of dia is two, but in composition it normally means through or between (DM 101). his prophets: pl. of Grk. prophētēs, one who is gifted with the ability for interpretation or revelation transcending normal insight or awareness, i.e., a prophet. In ancient Greek culture the word-group always had a religious meaning and referred to one who predicts or tells beforehand (DNTT 3:76). In Scripture the term "prophet" refers to one who spoke on God's behalf, whether in foretelling or forth-telling.
The record of the Tanakh indicates considerable variance in the activity and ministry of Hebrew prophets. Some prophets left literary works that later became Scripture. Others left no writings. Some gave advice to kings. Some prophesied in worship settings. Some saw visions. Some proclaimed a message in startling symbolic actions. Some were gentle, some were fiery, some were confrontational, some worshipful, some full of joy, others full of sadness. But, they all spoke for God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2Pet 1:21). The apostolic writings assert the continuation and place of prophesying among Messianic believers (Acts 19:6; Rom 12:6; 1Cor 13:9; 14:1), but Rabbinic Judaism replaced prophetic speaking with the authority of the Sages (Baba Bathra 12a; cf. John 8:53). Paul most likely refers to Messianic prophecies throughout the Tanakh, Moses through Malachi (cf. Eph 2:20).
in the holy: Grk. hagios, adj., has two distinctive uses in Scripture: (1) as descriptive of things dedicated to God (e.g., the temple, Jerusalem), of persons consecrated to God (e.g., prophets), then of angels, of Messiah, and of God (Lev 19:2); (2) as a pure substantive in the neut. form hagion, used of the name of God (Luke 1:44), and then of what is set apart for God to be exclusively His, e.g., sacred places as the temple (Num 3:38; Matt 24:15), the holy land (2Macc 1:29; 2:18), Jerusalem (Matt 4:5), sacrifices (Lev 22:14; Rom 12:1), and angels (Zech 14:5; 1Th 3:13) and human persons (Isa 4:3; Acts 9:13). In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadosh (SH-6918), which means separate, sacred, holy.
Scriptures: pl. of Grk. graphē, writing, and in the Jewish context meaning the sacred Hebrew writings (24 books) referred to as the Tanakh, corresponding to the Protestant Old Testament (39 books) and its translation into Greek, the Septuagint (LXX). The LXX in the first century A.D. included works later called the Apocrypha. The term "Scripture," which occurs over 50 times in the Besekh, summarizes the body of literature containing God's inspired, infallible, inerrant words penned by over 25 writers, from Moses to Malachi. This is the only Bible Yeshua and the apostles knew and as Scripture they upheld its authority over the traditions of men.
3― concerning His Son, having come of the seed of David according to the flesh,
Paul introduces the foundational truths of the good news, which serve as Yeshua's credentials to be the Messiah. concerning: Grk. peri, prep. with an orientational aspect relating to being near, about, or having to do with something; about, concerning. His Son: Grk. huios, a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by more remote ancestry. In the LXX huios renders Heb. ben ("son,” "son of”), which is used in three distinctive ways: (1) to identify a male child by direct paternity (Gen 5). (2) to mean a male descendant of a distant ancestor (e.g., Gen 32:32), as Yeshua is referred to as the son of David and Abraham (Matt 1:1); (3) as a term of kindliness or endearment; or (4) in a broader sense of having the characteristics of (e.g., Ps 89:22; Dan 3:25; cf. 2Th 2:3), and this too applies here.
Unbelieving Jews typically object to the concept of God having a son as represented in Christianity by the title "Son of God." Adam was the first son of God (Luke 3:38). Then God declared that the nation of Israel was His son (Ex 4:22; Isa 63:16; 64:8; Jer 31:9; Hos 11:1; 18:13) and by extension applied to all righteous Israelites (Ps 82:6; Sir. 4:10; Wsd. 2:13; Pss. Sol. 13:9; Jub. 1:24-25; Rom 9:4; 2Cor 6:18). Yet, there are verses in the Tanakh that mention God having a unique Son in a very personal sense:
"I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me." (2Sam 7:12-14 NASB)
"But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain." 7 "I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, `You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. … 11 Worship the LORD with reverence And rejoice with trembling. 12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!" (Ps 2:6-7, 11-12 NASB)
"Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His son's name? Surely you know!" (Prov 30:4 NASB)
"For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." (Isa 9:6 NASB)
having come: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part., to transfer from one state or condition to another, which may be expressed in one of three ways: (1) come into being by birth or natural process; be born or produced; (2) exist through application of will or effort by a person; be made, be performed; or (3) undergo a state of existence, change or development; come to be, become, take place, happen, occur, arise, be, appear, come, arrive. The first meaning applies here. The aorist tense signifies the completed action in past time.
of the seed: Grk. sperma, lit. "seed". The word is used of plant seeds (Matt 13:32; Mark 4:31; 1Cor 15:38; 2Cor 9:10) and male seed, i.e., semen (John 7:42; Rom 1:3; 2Tim 2:8; Heb 11:11). The term also has a figurative use in a number of verses to denote descendants, children or posterity. In such contexts sperma usually refers to an individual descendant, but there are verses where the singular form has a collective meaning (e.g., Luke 1:55; Rom 4:13). In the LXX sperma renders Heb. zera, sowing, seed or offspring (BDB 282). Like sperma the singular form of zera may have a collective meaning.
of David: Grk. David, a transliteration of Heb. David ("dah-veed"), a personal name meaning "favorite" or "beloved" (HBD). David is one of the most important figures in Israelite history. His name first appears in 1 Samuel 16:13 when God sent Samuel to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem to anoint one of his sons as the next king. At that time David was only a shepherd. Yet, from that humble beginning he would eventually (after many difficulties) become the King of Israel at the age of 30 and reign 40 years (2Sam 5:4; 1Chr 3:4). David made a tremendous impact on the nation of Israel. In the military sphere he broke the power of all the pagan peoples in the land of Canaan and in the civil sphere he made Jerusalem his capital and solidified central authority.
Perhaps most important is his accomplishments in the religious sphere. He erected the Tabernacle on Mt. Zion, centralized religion in Jerusalem and established Levitical choirs. He wrote many psalms and 73 psalms are specifically ascribed to him. He was known as the “sweet psalmist of Israel” (2Sam 23:1). Especially important is that he compiled and organized psalms into what we now know as the Book of Psalms (2Chr 29:30). David was a true worshipper, a man imbued with the Holy Spirit (1Sam 13:14; 16:13; 2Sam 23:2). God chose David to be king because He "sought out for Himself a man after His own heart" (1Sam 13:14).
Then, God made a personal and everlasting covenant with him by which God promised that He would establish the throne of David forever, build a house for Himself and send forth a king from the loins of David to rule over his people Israel (2Sam 7:12-14; 23:5; 1Chr 7:11, 14; 2Chr 7:18; 13:5; Ps 89:3; Isa 55:3; Jer 23:5-6; 33:21). Jeremiah left a simple eulogy of David's life: "David did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite" (1Kgs 15:5). The last comment on David's life in the Tanakh is from Ezra who twice refers to David as a "man of God" (2Chr 8:14; Neh 12:24).
according to: Grk. kata, prep., the root meaning is "down," but with the accusative case of the noun following it may be translated as "along, at, or according to" denoting relation (DM 107). the flesh: Grk. sarx, flesh, has both literal and figurative uses in Scripture. Sarx refers basically to being alive in an earthly or physical way, including parts of the body; flesh, human being, person. Sarx is also used of a condition of human perspective, which may reflect a natural limitation, personal desire or sinfulness. In the LXX sarx stands for Heb. basar, which denotes flesh as (1) the food of men, Gen 41:2; (2) tissues or parts of the human body, Gen 2:21; (3) the human body in its entirety, specifying the part for the whole, Ps 63:2; and also figurative of close relations, Gen 29:14, and even all mankind, Job 34:15 (DNTT 1:672). Frequently basar emphasizes man's essential nature in contrast with God, e.g., man's transitoriness, frailty, dependence or incapacity (Ps 78:39; 119:120; Prov 5:11; Isa 31:3; 40:6, 8).
Paul uses "flesh" here as a description of Yeshua's biological connection to King David, which is repeatedly emphasized in the Besekh. Paul asserts the biological ancestry of Yeshua through his mother Miriam (Luke 3:23–38). Her husband Joseph was also descended from King David (Matt 1:1–16), but was not Yeshua's physical father, since Miriam had been impregnated by the Holy Spirit (Matt 1:18, 20; Luke 1:35).Yeshua is frequently identified as "son of David" (Matt 9:27; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9, 15; 22:42; Mark 10:47-48; 12:35; Luke 3:31; 18:38), as well as his lineage from David (Acts 13:34; 2Tim 2:8; Rev 5:5; 22:16). This statement invokes all the promises of a Davidic kingdom based in Jerusalem with the Land of Israel back under Jewish control.
4― having been ordained Son of God in power, according to a spirit of holiness, by resurrection of the dead, Messiah Yeshua, our Lord,
having been ordained: Grk. horizō, aor. pass. part., establish a boundary or framework through deliberate decision, for an event, activity or thing; determine, appoint, ordain. The verb depicts the determination before the foundation of the world of how history should flow so that everything would accomplish His eternal purpose in the revelation of His Son. Son: Grk. huios. See the previous verse. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. or more accurately God in flesh. The title "Son of God" occurs 43 times in the Besekh and all but one refer to Yeshua. "Son of the Father" appears in 2John 1:3 and eight times Yeshua is referred to as the only Son of the Father. Indeed, he is the "unique one of God" (verse 18 above). Yeshua constantly referred to God as his Father. There is no equivocation in Paul's writings that Yeshua is the image of the invisible God (2Cor 4:4; Php 2:5-7; Col 2:9; Heb 1:2-3). Therefore, Christianity has traditionally restricted the meaning of the title "Son of God" to deity, the second person of the triune Godhead.
However, for Jews during this time "Son of God" was used as a Messianic title for a human descendant of King David, who would establish the promised Kingdom, as indicated in various passages (Matt 26:63; Mark 1:1; Luke 4:41; John 1:49; 11:27; 20:31). "Son of God" was a title of the Davidic king inasmuch as the king functioned as God's regent on earth and was vested with God's authority. Robert Alter in his commentary The Book of Psalms (W.W. Norton & Co., 2007) says that it was commonplace in the ancient Near East to consider the king as God's son (6).
in: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position, lit. "in" or "within," and here marking close association. power: Grk. dunamis (from dunamai, be capable for doing or achieving), having ability to perform something. Dunamis may be used to mean (1) the ability to function effectively and rendered "power" or "might;" (2) an exhibition of singular capability; powerful, wondrous deed, or miracle; or (3) a personification of a powerful entity or structure, "power." The first two meanings can have application to Yeshua in his earthly ministry. In the LXX dunamis is used to translate Heb. tsaba (SH-6635), army, war, warfare (Gen 21:22), or chayil (SH-2428), strength, efficiency, wealth, army (Deut 8:13), both of which are generally used to mean military forces (DNTT 2:602). Dunamis also stands for some other Hebrew words that mean strength of will (Deut 6:4), the power of a ruler (Jdg 5:31), and the strength of God that accomplishes great deeds on behalf of His people (Deut 3:24; Ps 68:28).
according to: Grk. kata, prep. a spirit: Grk. pneuma without the definite article (for Heb. ruach), wind, breath or spirit as the animating force for bodily movement (Luke 8:55). Pneuma is used for transcendent beings (Matt 8:16; Heb 1:14), particularly the Holy Spirit as God's self-expression (Gen 1:2; Mark 1:10). Many versions (CEB, CEV, ESV, HCSB, MW, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NLT, RSV, TLV) capitalize the noun as "Spirit" or "the Spirit" (meaning the Holy Spirit), but the absence of the definite article and coupling with the following noun suggests that Paul intended the human spirit (so ASV, DRA, GW, ISV, KJV, NAB, NRSV, TEV) and refers to the character and nature of the person (Rienecker; cf. Acts 18:25; Rom 1:9; 12:11). The CJB has "spiritually set apart." Pneuma is used a number of times to denote some aspect of Yeshua's humanity (Mark 2:8; 8:12; Luke 23:46; John 11:33; 13:21; 19:30).
of holiness: Grk. hagiōsunē (derived from hagios), the state of being in accord with divine standards of virtue; holiness, sanctification. The noun is rare, occurring only three times in the Besekh (2Cor 7:1; 1Th 3:13), and five times in the LXX (Ps 30:4; 96:6; 97:12; 145:5; 2Macc 3:12), each time as the attribute of God. Robertson contends that the phrase "spirit of holiness" does not refer to the Holy Spirit, but is a description of Yeshua ethically as kata sarka describes him physically. by: Grk. ek, prep., lit. "out of," which points to the transfer from one point to another. The preposition can denote means and be rendered "by means of" or cause and be rendered "because of." The former applies here.
resurrection: Grk. anastasis may mean either (1) rise, which may be bringing to a higher position in a physical sense or a higher status in a relational sense; or (2) resurrection from the condition of being dead (BAG). Anastasis is the principal Greek word in the Besekh for resurrection, with references divided between the resurrection of Yeshua and the resurrection at the end of the age. The noun is derived from the verb anistēmi, which means to rise, stand up or get up and in its ordinary use refers to one who is sitting or lying down. The noun anastasis occurs only three times in the LXX: (1) in Psalm 66:1, the psalm title, "a psalm of rising up," without Heb. equivalent; (2) in Lamentations 3:63, for Heb. qimah, rising up (derived from qum), where it contrasts with sitting; and (3) in Zephaniah 3:8 for Heb. qum, to arise, stand up, stand, BDB 877), which could be a Messianic prophecy of Yeshua's resurrection.
of the dead: Grk. nekros, the state of not being alive. The united testimony of the apostles is that Yeshua truly died as a result of his execution and he was laid in a tomb. In the first century the subject of life after death was a topic for lively debate among the Jews. Pharisees and Sadducees were sharply divided over the issue of physical life after death with the Sadducees denying the possibility (Josephus, Wars II, 8:14). (See my commentary on Yeshua's rebuttal of the Sadducees, Mark 12:18-27.) Rabbinic authorities, rooted in Pharisaic theology, believed that the Scriptures pointed to resurrection (Sanhedrin 90a-b, 91b; cf. John 11:24). Rabbis found support for the resurrection in Job 19:23-27; Psalm 49:15; 73:24-26; Isaiah 26:19 and Daniel 12:2f. The Pharisees went so far as to declare that anyone who says the resurrection of the dead is not intimated in the Torah has no part in the world to come (Sanhedrin 11:1).
Messiah Yeshua: See verse 1 above. Several people in biblical history were brought back to life from the dead: the Shunammite’s son (2Kgs 4:34ff) the man thrown into Elisha’s grave (2Kgs 13:20-21), the widow’s son (Luke 7:14-15), Lazarus (John 11:43-44), the saints who came out of the tombs after the resurrection of Yeshua (Matt 27:52-53), and Dorcas (Acts 9:40). However, all of those people eventually died again. Paul offers the simple assertion of Yeshua's resurrection, which is the foundation of our faith. Paul does not concern himself with evidence here as he does in his letter to the congregation in Corinth (1Cor 15:3-8). Paul does not try to argue anyone into believing. He simply states the conclusion of fact based on incontrovertible eyewitness evidence that the disciples in Rome were no doubt aware of. The fact of Yeshua's resurrection proved his Sonship.
our Lord: Grk. kurios may mean either (1) 'one in control through possession,' and therefore owner or master; or (2) 'one esteemed for authority or high status,' thus lord or master. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times, first translating the divine title Adonai (SH-136, Lord; Gen 15:2), and Heb. words used of men to denote higher rank or authority, primarily adôn (SH-113, master, lord; Gen 18:12). Over 6,000 times kurios replaces YHVH ("LORD" in Christian versions). Kurios does not translate YHVH, but interprets all that is implied by use of the divine name. Kurios is the principal title by which disciples and members of the public addressed Yeshua during his earthly ministry, over twice as many times as any other title (e.g., Rabbi, Teacher, Master).
Many Jews called Yeshua kurios out of respect without implying deity. Paul uses kurios in the sense of Heb. adôn, because Yeshua is the owner-master of his disciples. Lordship implies all kinds of divine expectations that should be considered (Matt 7:21-23). Moreover, such a declaration in Rome, the center of Caesar worship, would be especially significant. Caesar believed he was kurios of the world and the Caesar cult, with faithful devotees scattered throughout the empire, provided a serious obstacle to discipleship. Eventually, this simple confession that Yeshua is Lord would create many Christian martyrs.
5― through whom we have received grace and apostleship into the obedience of faithfulness among all the nations on behalf of his name,
through: Grk. dia, prep. whom: The preposition and relative pronoun stress agency and Yeshua's role as mediator. we have received: Grk. lambanō, aor., marks the transit of something from a position to another person who is the agent with the latter being also the receptor; to take or receive. The active voice of the verb emphasizes the response of the will in response to divine initiative. grace: Grk. charis (derived from chairō, to be in a state marked by good feeling about an event or circumstance) is a disposition marked by inclination to generosity, frequently unmotivated by the worth of the recipient; thus, grace, gracefulness, graciousness, favor, thanks or gratitude. In the LXX charis occurs about 190 times of which only about 75 have a Hebrew equivalent, of which 61 are for Heb. hên (favor) (DNTT 2:116). Charis is also equivalent to Heb. hesed (loyal love or loving-kindness) and rachamim ("mercy") (Stern 156).
Rosten gives the range of meaning of hên as (1) grace, favor; 'found favor' or 'gave favor;' (2) elegance, grace of deportment; (3) worth, value and (4) prayer for grace, Zech 12:10 (90). When used of God hēn denotes granting special favor to an individual or causing nonbelievers to grant favor to God's people (Gen 39:21; Ex 3:21; 11:3) (TWOT 1:303). Hên especially denotes God's unilateral gift of favor toward selected individuals, such as in the cases of Noah (Gen 6:8), Abraham (Gen 18:3), Lot (Gen 19:19), Moses (Ex 33:12-13; 34:9), and Israel (Ex 33:16). From a theological point of view hên denotes the stronger coming to the help of the weaker who stands in need of help by reason of circumstances or natural weakness.
The stronger acts voluntarily, though he is moved by the dependence or the request of the weaker party. A typical expression used to describe such an event is to find favor in someone's eyes (e.g., Gen 32:5; 50:4; Ruth 2:2; 1Sam 1:18). Both Grk. charis and Heb. hên refer to God freely extending Himself (His favor, grace), reaching or inclining to people because He is disposed to bless (be near) them. The core idea of favor-grace is "extension-towards" (HELPS Word Studies, Biblos). However, in the Besekh the meaning of grace goes beyond extending "favor" to being an energizing power that produces spiritual change, equips the disciple with gifts to build up the Body of Messiah and serves as a resource to strengthen the disciple in the face of weakness and trial (John 1:16; Acts 4:33; 6:8; 11:23; 18:27; 20:32; Rom 3:24; 12:6; 1Cor 15:10; 2Cor 9:8; 12:9; 2Tim 2:1; Heb 4:16; Jas 4:6; 1Pet 4:10). Contrary to the sacramental theology of historic Christianity the apostles never speak of grace received via a religious ceremony.
and: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). The excessive use of conjunctions is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek. In contrast to most Bible versions I translate all the instances of kai (and all the other conjunctions) as a reminder of the Jewishness of the apostolic writings.
apostleship: Grk. apostolē, in secular Greek the act of sending away, such as on an expedition. In the apostolic writings the term is used of the role of special emissary in the service of the good news. See apostolos in verse 1. Paul refers back to his statement in the previous verse regarding his spiritual birth and commissioning on the Damascus road. into: Grk. eis, prep., focus on entrance, frequently in relation to a direction toward a goal or place and consequent arrival; into, to, toward. Some versions translate the preposition as "to bring about" (ESV, HCSB, NASB, NET, NRSV, RSV, TLV) in order to convey the thought of Paul's mission assignment that he states here. the obedience: Grk. hupakoē, the state of being in compliance; obedience, submission.
of faithfulness: Grk. pistis incorporates two facets of meaning, first that which causes trust and faith, i.e., faithfulness or reliability, and second, trust or confidence in an active sense (BAG). Pistis is used in the LXX to twice render Heb. emun (e.g., Deut 32:20; Prov 13:17; 'faithfulness,' BDB 53), but renders Heb. emunah ('firmness, steadfastness, fidelity,' BDB 53) over 20 times (mainly of men's faithfulness, 1Sam 26:23; 2Kgs 12:15; 22:7; 1Chr 9:22, 26, 31; 2Chr 31:12, 15, 18; 34:12; Prov 3:3; 12:17, 22; Jer 5:1, 3; 7:28; 9:3; Hos 2:20; but also of God's faithfulness (Ps 33:4; Lam 3:23; Hab 2:4). Pistis also translates Heb. aman (to confirm, to support, Jer 15:18), amanah ('fixed support,' Neh 9:38; 11:23; SS 4:8) and emet (firmness, faithfulness, truth, Prov 14:22; Jer 28:9; 33:6). The LXX usage emphasizes that the Hebrew meaning of faithfulness is the intended usage of pistis.
The apostles build on this meaning and represent pistis as composed of two elements. The first element of faithfulness is confidence or trust: "And without faith[fulness] it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Heb 11:6; cf. Heb 4:2). True faith leads one to seek God and then trust Him to respond with His good gifts. The second element of faithfulness involves commitment, constancy and obedience, which includes following God's direction for life and producing works of righteousness (cf. Eph 2:8-10). There is no essential difference between the faith or faithfulness of the Hebrew patriarchs and the faith spoken of by Yeshua and the apostles.
Some versions have "to the faith," (AMP, DRA, JUB, KJV, NKJV) treating pistis as a body of belief, i.e., doctrine, even though there is no definite article and the noun is in the genitive case, not the nominative case. The Greek of the apostolic writings is really Jewish Greek, that is, it communicates the Hebrew language of the apostles. Paul never uses pistis to mean 'creedal doctrine.'
among: Grk. en, prep. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., extensive in scope; all or every. The adjective views the whole in view of its individual parts. the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos, a number of people or animals forming a group, then later strictly of humans as a people group. Mounce gives the root meaning as multitude or company. In the LXX the plural of ethnos translating the plural goyim referred to all nations, including Israel (cf. Gen 10:5; 12:2; 17:4; 18:18; 25:23; 35:11; Ex 19:6; Deut 4:6; Ps 106:5; Isa 9:1; Jer 5:15; Ezek 4:13; 36:13-14; Mic 4:2-3). The term is used often in the Besekh for "Gentiles" in contradistinction to Jews and Israel (e.g., Matt 5:47; Acts 2:27; 21:21; 26:17; Rom 3:29; 9:24; 11:25; 1Cor 1:23; Gal 2:14-15), but is also used of the Samaritan Jews (Acts 8:9) and Israel (Matt 21:43; John 18:35; Acts 24:10, 17; 26:4; 1Cor 10:18).
A number of versions translate the plural noun here as "Gentiles" (CJB, MW, NAB, NASB, NIRV, NIV, NLT, NRSV). Often ethnos is used in a geographical sense with a diverse population that would include descendants of Jacob as residents or citizens (Matt 12:21; 24:14; Acts 17:26; Rom 1:5; 16:26; Gal 2:9; 1Tim 3:16). Just as the plural Ioudaioi can mean Jews, Judeans or more specifically the Judean authorities (i.e., Sanhedrin), so the context must be examined to determine the meaning of the ethnos. The word does not have a particular religious meaning. In this verse the plural ethnos is translated as "nations" (as also in the ESV, HCSB, HNV, KJV, NCV, NKJV, OJB, RSV, and TLV), emphasizing the breadth of the cultures to receive the Good News.
on behalf of: Grk. huper, prep. that expresses a stance of concern or interest relating to someone or something, emphasizing either (1) a supportive aspect; in behalf of, in the interest of; or (2) a replacement aspect; in place of, instead of, in the name of. In this context the preposition clearly expresses a supportive meaning. his: Grk. autos, pers. pron. used in reference to Yeshua. name: Grk. onoma is used in its central sense of identifying someone. In Hebrew literature it also carries the extended sense of qualities, powers, attributes or reputation. Paul exercised his ministry with the full authority of Yeshua.
6― among whom are also you, called of Messiah Yeshua;
among: Grk. en, prep. whom are: Grk. eimi, pres., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). also: Grk. kai, conj. you: humeis, 2p-pl. pers. pron. The opening phrase alludes to the mention of "among the nations" in the previous verse. called: pl. of Grk. klētos, lit. "called ones." See verse 1 above. Unlike Paul's call to be an apostle, he probably uses the term here to mean those who responded to the invitation to share in the Kingdom of the Messianic King. of Messiah Yeshua: See verse 1 above. The genitive form of the name and title emphasizes not simply that they were called by Yeshua but they have their identity in him.
7― to all the ones being in Rome, beloved of God, called holy ones: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Messiah Yeshua.
to all the ones being: Grk. eimi, pres. part. See the previous verse. in Rome: Grk. Rhōmē, the capital of the Roman empire. The city is first mentioned in Acts 2:10 as the origin of some of the Jews and proselytes gathered at the temple for Shavuot (Feast of Weeks, Pentecost) and who no doubt later formed the nucleus of the congregation in Rome. This simple geographical fact emphasizes that in the heart of the devil's domain the light of God was shining forth. Among Jews the city of Rome was euphemistically referred to as Babylon and this is the likely meaning of Babylon in 1 Peter 5:13 and in the book of Revelation. The Midrash Rabbah on Song of Songs 1:6.4 states directly, "One calls Rome 'Babylon.'" Stern quotes Yechiel Lichenstein, a Messianic Jewish commentator (1827-1912), who said in his comment on 1 Peter 5:13 that "Rome is called 'Babylon' since it is always described as the worst kingdom" (831).
beloved: Grk. agapētos, held in affection, esteemed, dear, especially to God. The noun is drawn from the verb agapaō, which means to have such an interest in another that one wishes to contribute to the other's well-being, even if it means making a personal sacrifice to do so. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. called: pl. of Grk. klētos, adj. See verse 1 above. holy ones: pl. of Grk. hagios. See verse 2 above. The "holy ones" are those separated from what is common, unclean or contrary to God’s holiness (TWOT 2:788). The noun is translated as "saints" in Christian versions. While many Christians would not be comfortable calling themselves "saints," this term was commonly used in the Tanakh and other Jewish writings for the people of God (Deut 7:6; 1Sam 2:9; Ps 16:3; 34:9; 97:10; 135:4; Isa 41:8-9; Dan 7:18, 21-22, 25, 27; 8:24). The appellation originated when God called Israel to be a people consecrated to worship and obey Him. The term succeeds in having a corporate meaning as well as an individual meaning.
"Holy ones" occurs frequently in the Besekh and refers to those who have accepted the truth of the Good News of the Messiah, repented of their sins, put their trust in the atoning sacrifice of Yeshua for their sins and separated themselves to be faithful to their Lord. Paul addressed virtually all his letters to the holy ones, but he did not use the term in any elitist sense. The holy ones are those who are wholly His and who seek to live by His standards. Unlike modern Christians who refer to themselves as "sinners saved by grace" the apostles never mixed their metaphors and called faithful believers "sinners" (cf. 1Cor 6:11).
Grace: Grk. charis. See verse 5 above. Wishing God's favor upon someone was a typical Hebraic greeting. to you: Grk. humeis, 2p-pl. pers. pron., used of members of the congregation. and peace: Grk. eirēnē (for Heb. shalom), peace, which may be in reference to (1) a state of harmony as a result from cessation of hostilities, whether in political or personal relationships; or (2) a state of well-being, used Hebraically as a greeting or as characteristic of the Messianic age and divine favor.
from: Grk. apo, prep. generally used to denote separation, used here in reference to a person indicating either a point of origin or source; from. God: Grk. theos. Grace and peace have their origin in the God of Israel. our Father: Grk. patēr, a male biological parent or ancestor. In Greek culture patēr was used of biological relation, of the patriarch of a family, as a title of honor for an old man or a philosopher, and of a deity to emphasize his authority and his power to beget. In the LXX patēr renders ab ("av"), father. In the Tanakh the concept of God as Father occurs only in relation to Israel (Ex 4:22; Deut 1:31; 8:5; 32:6; 2Sam 7:14; 1Chr 17:13; 22:10; 28:6; Ps 89:26; 103:13; Prov 3:12; Isa 63:16; 64:8; Jer 31:9; Hos 11:1; Mal 1:6; 2:10) (DNTT 1:616f).
Many people think of God as father in relation to all mankind as Paul in his Athenian sermon quotes the Greek philosopher Epimenides, "we also are His children" (Acts 17:28). While God gave physical life to mankind, he is only Father in a spiritual and covenantal sense in relation to Israel (Rom 9:4). The Greek text is lit. "God the Father of us," i.e., "us Jews" or "us Israelites." Even more particularly God is the father of the disciples of Yeshua, emphasized exclusively in Paul's writings as "our Father" (also 1Cor 1:3; 2Cor 1:2; Gal 1:3; Eph 1:2; Php 1:2; Col 1:2; 2Th 1:1; 2:16; Phm 1:3). Other apostles refer to God simply as "the Father" (Acts 2:33; Jas 1:17; 1Pet 1:2; 1Jn 1:2; Jude 1:1).
The first usage in the Tanakh of "our father" is on the lips of David: "Blessed are you, O Lord God of Israel our father" (1Chr 29:10). In Isaiah 63:16 "our father" is identical to "Our Redeemer from of old" and in Isaiah 64:18 "our father" is the potter who formed the clay of Israel. When Yeshua taught his disciples to pray, "our Father" (Heb. Avinu) was a commonly used form in Jewish prayers. God can be the father of Gentile disciples by virtue of being grafted into the Olive Tree of Israel and granted citizenship in the Commonwealth of Israel.
and the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 4 above. Messiah Yeshua: See verse 1 above. Yeshua's name combined with his two most significant titles manages to combine both the mission and message of God in just three words. A quick concordance search indicates that wherever in Romans that Paul mentions either "Messiah" or "Yeshua" and "God" together in the same verse they are always clearly distinguished (cf. 1:1, 8; 2:16; 3:22; 5:1, 8, 11, 15; 6:11, 23; 7:4, 25; 8:9, 17, 34, 39; 10:9; 14:18; 15:5-8, 16-17, 30; 16:20, 27). The same pattern follows in Paul's other letters. Some of these verses (as Rom 10:9) make a very sharp distinction. There is no equivocation in Pauline writings that Yeshua is the Son of God, the image of the invisible God and agent of creation (Rom 1:4; 2Cor 4:4; Col 1:15-17; Heb 1:2-3), but Paul does not say, "theos is Yeshua." Such a statement would confuse the Son with the Father.
Paul's Thanksgiving and Travel Plan, 1:8-13
8― Indeed, first, I thank my God through Messiah Yeshua concerning all of you, because your faithfulness is being proclaimed in the whole world.
Indeed: Grk. mèn, a particle of affirmation; indeed, verily, truly. Many versions do not translate the particle. first: Grk. prōton, having to do with beforeness, with resultant meanings of (1) having a primary position in sequence and (2) standing out in significance or importance. Both meanings can have application here. I thank: Grk. eucharisteō, pres., to give thanks, of which God is explicitly the recipient. The verb occurs not at all in the LXX of the Tanakh, but is found six times in the Jewish Apocrypha (DNTT 3:818). In the Besekh the verb often occurs in reference to Yeshua or an apostle offering a b'rakhah ("blessing") to God for food or some other benefit. Jews had b'rakhot for many circumstances, which are discussed in the Tractate Berakoth.
my God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. The phrase is lit. "the God of me." Paul personalizes his relationship to the triune Elohim. through: Grk. dia, prep. Messiah Yeshua: See verse 1 above. concerning: Grk. peri, prep. all of you: The adjective and pronoun are both plural, so Paul does not leave any out of the congregation. He is not so magnanimous in his letters to Corinth and Galatia. because: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, whether (1) defining a demonstrative pronoun; that; (2) introducing a subordinate clause as complementary of a preceding verb; (3) introducing a direct quotation and functioning as quotation marks; or (4) indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. The fourth usage applies here. your: plural pron. faithfulness: Grk. pistis. See verse 5 above. is being proclaimed: Grk. katangellō, pres. pass., to proclaim, with connotation of broad dissemination.
in: Grk. en, prep. the whole: Grk. holos, adj. signifying a complete unit, all, whole or entire. world: Grk. kosmos, has a variety of uses in the Besekh and other Jewish literature, including (1) the orderly universe; (2) the earth as the place of habitation; (3) the world as mankind, sometimes in reference to a segment of population; and (4) representative of people and values opposed to God. In the LXX kosmos occurs five times for Heb. tsaba, the "hosts of heaven and earth," i.e., the stars (Gen 2:1; Deut 4:19), but the meaning of kosmos as "the world of mankind" is only found in Apocryphal writings. A number of passages in the Besekh use "world" to refer to the nations outside the land of Israel (Matt 24:14; Luke 12:30; John 14:22), but the term is also used in some passages of the Jewish world (John 3:17; 6:14, 33; 12:47; 14:19; 16:28; 17:6).
Paul is highly complimentary of the congregation. The phrase "whole world" may be natural hyperbole (so Robertson, cf. Acts 17:6; Col 1:6), but it may not be complete exaggeration for Paul to say that their faithfulness was well known throughout the world, meaning among the Messianic congregations. The Roman disciples had maintained their loyalty to Yeshua in the face of persecution and exile.
9― For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the good news of His Son, how unceasingly I make mention of you,
For: Grk. gar, conj., is generally accepted as a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that." Gar often functions to connect statements in narratives with preceding statements and is normally translated "for." God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 6 above. my witness: Grk. martus, one who attests the fact or truth of something, often used in a legal context of who testifies before a legal proceeding regarding first hand knowledge (cf. Matt 18:16; Acts 7:5). The nature of the witness is of course what they have seen and heard and touched (1Jn 1:1). Naming God as a witness for oneself is the ultimate appeal and practiced by Bible characters to affirming the veracity of a claim (e.g., Gen 31:50; Judg 11:10; 1Sam 12:5; 1Th 2:5). The awareness that we live our lives under the ever watchful eye of God is a powerful incentive to pursue righteousness in all our dealings with other people.
whom I serve: Grk. latreuō, pres., may mean (1) to carry out religious activities at a sanctuary (Luke 2:37; Heb 8:5; 9:9) or (2) to be committed in homage and devoted service to a deity whether at a sanctuary or elsewhere; serve, minister or worship. In the LXX latreuō renders Heb. avad, which means work or service, and is found much more frequently in the LXX than in secular Greek where it originally meant to work for wages and then to serve without wages. It was originally used of physical work, but came to be used generally of religious service at a sanctuary. The verb latreuō occurs especially in the Torah, Joshua and Judges, mostly where avad has a religious reference (e.g., Ex 4:23).
However, characteristic of the Tanakh latreuō is not primarily the meticulously performed rites which is the true worship, but obedience to the voice of the Lord (cf. Deut 10:12f). In late Judaism, just as in the Tanakh, the relationship of man to God was expressed as service. To serve God with a heart of devotion meant a life of prayer (cf. Deut 11:13; Dan 6:11, 16) (DNTT 3:549f). Paul is the servant of God, not the congregations to whom he writes. As God's servant Paul was a man of prayer, of which he gives expression in the previous verse and the next, indeed in all his letters.
in my spirit: Grk. pneuma. See verse 4 above. While all versions render pneuma with the lower case "spirit," meaning the spiritual inner person, Paul could have meant "the Spirit of me," since pneuma has the definite article and the phrase has the same construction as "God of me" in the previous verse. In other words, Paul's spirit communed with the Holy Spirit to carry out his service to God. in: Grk. en, prep. the good news: Grk. euangelion originally meant a reward for good news and then simply good news. Euangelion occurs 76 times in the Besekh, 61 of which occur either in narratives of Paul's ministry or his letters. In the LXX euangelion, always in the plural form, renders Heb. besorah, which may mean either a reward for good news (2Sam 4:10) or glad tidings (2Sam 18:20, 22) (DNTT 2:108). The noun is translated in Christian versions as "gospel."
To Jewish ears the word "gospel" is a distinctively Christian word without Jewish connotation. Most Christians think of the gospel only as "Jesus died on the cross to save me from my sins and give me a home in heaven," a message totally divorced from its Jewish context. However, the apostles taught that the "full gospel" was the Good News for Israel that God had fulfilled His covenantal promises. The good news is the same message the angel Gabriel gave to Zechariah (Luke 1:13-17), to Joseph (Matt 1:20-23) and Miriam (Luke 1:30-37). This is the same message that Zechariah then declared to his fellow Jews (Luke 1:68-75), all of which reflected the Jewish hopes and expectations of a redeemer and deliverer and continuing rights to the Promised Land. Consistent with these prior announcements the Jewish apostles declared that Yeshua is the expected Messiah, who fulfilled the promises made to Israel through the prophets; that God has made Yeshua Lord; that forgiveness of sins is available to all through Yeshua's atoning sacrifice; and that the proof of God’s Word is that Yeshua was raised from the dead (Acts 2:14-40; 10:34-43; 13:16-31). This is the message Paul proclaimed in synagogues wherever he went.
of His Son: Grk. huios. See verse 3 above. Paul alludes to Yeshua's divine title "Son of God." how unceasingly: Grk. adialeiptōs, adv., unceasingly, constantly. The word occurs only four times in the Besekh, all by Paul in reference to prayer (1Th 1:3; 2:13; 5:17). The adverb has the sense of without any unnecessary time interval (HELPS). I make: Grk. poieō, pres. mid., a verb of action that may refer to (1) producing something material; make, construct, produce, create; or (2) bringing about a state of condition or result that may be good or bad; do, act, perform, work. The second meaning applies here in reference to engaging in prayer. In the LXX poieō renders chiefly Heb. asah (SH-6213), accomplish, do, make, work (first in Gen 1:7), and used of a wide range of human and divine activity.
mention: Grk. mneia, coming to mind or recalling past experience or association and in the Besekh always as recollection of a valued person; memory, mention. The word occurs seven times in the Besekh, all in the letters of Paul (Eph 1:16; Php 1:3; 1Th 1:2; 3:6; 2Tim 1:3; Phm 1:4). of you: plural pronoun. Paul could mean that he constantly prays for the congregation as a whole, but the pronoun likely includes individuals he knows, such as those greeted in chapter 16.
10― always in my prayers requesting, if perhaps now at last I may succeed by the will of God to come to you.
always: Grk. pantote, adv., always, at all times. in: Grk. epi, prep., used primarily as a marker of position or location; lit. "upon." my prayers: pl. of Grk. proseuchē, a general word for prayer in the Besekh. In the LXX proseuchē renders Heb. tephillah (occurring numerous times in the Psalms) a derivative of the verb palal (DNTT 2:863). Palal lit. means "to intervene or to interpose" and has a wide range of usage in the Tanakh, including to arbitrate, to judge, to intercede or to pray. In simple terms prayer is making personal requests known to God, whether spiritual or material (Php 4:6; Col 4:2). Even more important God expects that prayer be intercession for the salvation and needs of others (Eph 6:18; 1Tim 2:1-2). The context of palal in the Tanakh is pleading before a judge. The implication of this meaning is significant.
Approaching the holy God requires self-judgment because prayer automatically invokes God's judgment (Punton 79). Self-judgment means asking some hard questions. Do we meet the conditions for God to answer our prayers? (cf. 1Jn 3:22). Can we be trusted with the answer? Will we give glory to God or overestimate the worth of our own contribution? We must also judge the content of our prayers in light of God's Word. Some things should not be asked for and God is not a vending machine to satisfy our pleasures. Will we let God be the final arbiter in answering prayer? Paul, being Jewish, certainly understood proseuchē according to the Hebraic idea. (See my web presentation Principles of Effective Prayer.)
requesting: Grk. deomai, pres. mid. part., direct a request with focus on appeal for assistance, the nature of which is nuanced by the context; ask, beseech, petition, pray, plead, request. if: Grk. ei, conj., a contingency marker used here to introduce a circumstance assumed to be valid for the sake of argument. perhaps: Grk. pōs, adv., particle used to express an undetermined aspect; somehow, perhaps. now: Grk. ēdē, adv., with focus on temporal culmination, now, already. at last: Grk. pote, adv., temporal particle; when, at last. I may succeed: Grk. euodoō, fut. pass., have things turn out well; succeed, prosper. by: Grk. en, prep. the will: Grk. thelēma may mean (1) that which is to be carried out according to wish or purpose, will; or (2) the act of willing, will or desire. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. to come: Grk. erchomai, aor. inf., 'to come or arrive' with focus on a position from which action or movement takes place. to: Grk. pros, prep. with the root meaning of 'near or facing;' to, toward. you: plural pronoun for the letter recipients.
Paul expresses a deep desire to visit the congregation in Rome and minister among them and offered the petition to God in his regular prayers. As a faithful Pharisee Paul likely prayed three times a day facing Jerusalem to coincide with the temple prayer times. Readers should take note of the fact that Paul didn't just pray about his desire, but he also made plans to go to Rome. He did not say "I feel it is God's will for me to come to Rome." Human planning is an important value and activity for worthwhile goals, especially goals that build the Kingdom of God and advance the Gospel. However, human planning should always be in submission to the sovereign will of God as Paul stated in this verse (cf. Jas 4:13-15).
11― For I long to see you so that I may share some spiritual gift to you to strengthen you;
For: Grk. gar, conj. I long: Grk. epipotheō, pres., to have a strong desire for, long for, strongly desire. to see: Grk. horaō, aor. inf., to perceive with the physical eyes or to experience extraordinary mental or inward perception. you: pl. pron. so that: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed; in order that. I may share: Grk. metadidōmi, aor. subj., to provide out of one's resources; share, contribute, impart, distribute. some: Grk. tis, indef. pron. spiritual: Grk. pneumatikos, adj., transcending physical existence and influence, spiritual. Mounce adds "pertaining to or relating to the influences of the Holy Spirit." The word occurs 26 times in the Besekh, all but one in the letters of Paul.
The word pneumatikos is used mainly of impersonal things, such as the Torah (Rom 7:14), songs (Eph 5:19; Col 3;16), food and drink (1Cor 10:3-4), the Rock that followed Israel (1Cor 10:4), the resurrected body (1Cor 15:44), divine blessings (Eph 1:3), wisdom (Col 1:9), and sacrifices (1Pet 2:6). The word is also used of persons (1Cor 2:15; 3:1; 14:37; Gal 6:1). The term has a special usage as a category title to describe works of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 12:1; 14:1). gift: Grk. charisma, that which results from the activity of generosity and in the apostolic writings always in connection with divine generosity bestowed on believers. The word charisma occurs 17 times in the Besekh, all but one (1Pet 4:19) in the letters of Paul. A spiritual gift is an endowment of the Holy Spirit to perform a ministry that benefits the Body of Messiah. Instructions on employment of spiritual gifts in the congregation occur in various passages (Rom 12:3-8; 1Cor 14:1-40; Eph 1:17; 4:11-12; 1Tim 4:14; cf. 1Pet 4:9-11).
to you: pl. pron. to strengthen: Grk. stērizō, aor. inf., cause to be inwardly firm or committed; strengthen, confirm, ground well. you: pl. pron. Paul is not suggesting he will miraculously bestow a spiritual gift on them that they do not possess, but he will share his own spiritual gifts with them to firm up their commitment to Yeshua and to one another.
12― that is, also, to be encouraged together among you, through the faithfulness in one another, both yours and mine.
that: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes or follows it; this; is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 6 above. also: Grk. de, conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also" (BAG). Paul adds another thought to what he expressed in the previous verse. to be encouraged together: Grk. sumparakaleō, aor. pass. inf., encourage or comfort together. The verb implies an intimate sharing.
among: Grk. en, prep. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. through: Grk. dia, prep. the faithfulness: Grk. pistis. See verse 5 above. in: Grk. en, prep. one another: Grk. allēlōn, reciprocal pron., each other, one another. both: Grk. te, conj. used to denote addition or close connection that is tighter than with kai; also, and likewise, and both, at the same time. yours: Grk. humeis; used of the congregation. and: Grk. kai, conj. mine: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person; used of Paul. This verse clarifies the meaning of the previous verse in that Paul's sharing of his spiritual gift with the congregation would provide an opportunity for mutual encouragement and blessing. Paul expects to receive from them as well as offering something to them for their spiritual betterment.
13― Now, I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that often I purposed to come to you, and was prevented until now, in order that I might have some fruit also among you, just as even in the other nations.
Now: Grk. de, conj. I do not: Grk. ou, adv., a negative particle that makes an emphatic denial of fact. want: Grk. thelō, pres., to have a desire for something or have a purpose for something; will, wish, desire. The opening phrase is lit. "Now I want not." you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. to be unaware: Grk. agnoeō, aor. inf., to be without knowledge of something; be ignorant, be uniformed. Mounce adds "be unaware." brothers and sisters: pl. of Grk. adelphos, voc. case, lit. "of the same womb," and in secular Greek meant "brother." Usage in the Besekh is generally literal, but figurative uses also occur indicating affinity in common interests or culture. Adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites (Matt 4:18; 5:22-24; Mark 3:22; Acts 1:14; 3:22; 7:13), but in the apostolic letters adelphos, often in the plural, refers primarily to disciples of Yeshua and members of believing communities (1Cor 1:10; Gal 1:2; Php 2:25; 1Th 3:22). Yeshua clarified its meaning with the statement, "whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother" (Matt 12:50).
The plural vocative case (direct address) is translated here as "brothers and sisters" (TLV) given that he is addressing the entire congregation. Danker comments that it is inconceivable that the vocative case would not include the women (so Danker), given the purpose statement here and amount of hortatory material that typically follows the occurrence of the greeting in the letter. Several versions also have "brothers and sisters" (AMP, CEB, ERV, EXB, GW, NOG, NCV, NET, NIRV, NIV, NLT, NRSV, TLV). Paul uses the plural form of address ten times in this letter (1:13; 7:4; 8:12; 10:1; 11:25; 12:1; 15:14, 30; 16:17). This is a tactful approach in exercising his apostolic authority as well as expressing his affection for them on the ground of their shared bond in Yeshua. The double emphasis of the plural "you" with brothers" is meant to focus on the entire group, not just the Jewish or the Gentile factions.
that: Grk. hoti, conj. often: Grk. pollakis, adv. (from polus, many, much), often, many times. Mounce adds "frequently." I purposed: Grk. protithēmi, aor. mid., have in mind to do something; set forth, determine. Mounce adds "design beforehand, purposed, intended." to come: Grk. erchomai, aor. inf. See verse 10 above. to you: Grk. humeis, i.e., the congregation in Rome. and was prevented: Grk. kōluō, aor. pass., to stop someone from doing something; prevent. Mounce adds "hinder, restrain." Paul does not identify the source of the hindrance. until: Grk. achri, prep., a function word signifying an interval between two points with focus on continuity, here of an extension in time; until. now: Grk. deuro, adv. that describes position in the presence of the speaker with focus on immediacy, here of time, now. in order that: Grk. hina, conj.
I might have: Grk. echō, aor. subj., to have, hold or possess with a wide range of application, here with the sense of experiencing a condition or situation and having the possibility of a positive outcome of ministry. some: Grk. tis, indef. pron., some one or some thing. fruit: Grk. karpos, generally means the edible product of a plant grown for agricultural purposes, fruit, crop. The noun is also used in imagery of moral or spiritual productivity. Figurative uses include the fruit of repentance (Matt 3:8), works that reveal character (Matt 7:20), obedience of God's commandments (John 15:4-10), the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), and the virtues of goodness, righteousness and truth (Rom 6:22; Eph 5:9; Php 1:11; 4:17; Heb 12:11). Other figurative uses include financial support for those in ministry (1Cor 9:7; 2Tim 2:6) and charity for the needy (Rom 15:28).
also: Grk. kai, conj. among: Grk. en, prep. you: Grk. humeis. just as: Grk. kathōs, conj., emphasizing similarity, conformity, proportion or manner; as, just as. even: Grk. kai, conj. in: Grk. en, prep. the other: Grk. loipos is used to mean (1) what's left of a group; remaining; (2) being part of a class in addition to the entity or entities just mentioned; other, rest of; or (3) as an additive in an adverbial clause; from now on, henceforth. The second usage applies here. nations: pl. or Grk. ethnos. See verse 5 above. Most versions translate the plural noun as "Gentiles," meaning non-Jews, but some versions have "nations" (BBE, DARBY, GW, LITV, NOG, TLV, WE, YLT). Since Paul is contrasting Rome, a multi-ethnic city with a multi-ethnic congregation, with other places he has been, he is not implying the congregation is strictly Gentile, as he makes clear in verses 14-16 below. (See the article Paul's Community that explains the constituency of congregations in the apostolic era.)
Readers should take note of the fact that Paul didn't just pray about his desire, but he also made plans to go to Rome. He did not say "I feel it is God's will for me to come to Rome." Human planning is an important value and activity for worthwhile goals, especially goals that build the Kingdom of God and advance the good news. However, our planning must always be in submission to the sovereign will of God as Paul stated in verse 10 (cf. James 4:13-15).
Summary of the Good News, 1:14-17
14― Likewise to Hellenistic Jews and to barbarians, likewise to the wise and to the unwise, I am a debtor.
likewise: Grk. te, conj. used to denote addition or close connection that is tighter than with kai; also, and likewise, and both, at the same time. The conjunction connects the two named groups that follows to the groups mentioned in the previous verse. to Hellenistic Jews: Grk. Hellēsin, pl. of Hellēn, may mean (1) a person who speaks the Greek language; or (2) in the broader sense, all persons who came under the influence of Greek culture (BAG). Almost all Bible versions translate the plural noun as "Greeks." My translation of "Hellenistic Jews" is based on history. After Alexander the Great (356−323 BC) conquered the world he and his successors sought to educate and assimilate people in the Greek way of life. All who spoke and understood the Greek language and adopted or accommodated Greek culture in varying degrees were counted as Hellenist (DNTT 2:124).
Hellēn was an antonym of "barbarian." All the lexicons recognize that Hellēn is a cultural term as well as an ethnic term. Jewish culture was not exempt from the Hellenistic influence resulting from Alexander's conquest and the imposition of Hellenism on the world. One only needs to read First and Second Maccabees to understand the seriousness of the culture war among Jews. By the first century thousands of Jews in the Diaspora were Hellenistic. In spite of the fact that Hellēn is not a term restricted to Greece, ethnic Greeks or Gentiles in general, all the lexicons inexplicably exclude Jews from this definition. This omission reflects a major blind spot in Christian scholarship. Hellēn literally means "Hellenist," and a Hellenist might be a Gentile or he might be a Jew.
Smith's Dictionary of the Bible (1884) states that the term Hellenist refers to "a Jew by birth or religion who spoke Greek and used chiefly of foreign Jews and proselytes in contrast with the Hebrews speaking the vernacular Hebrew or Aramaic." The church father Justin Martyr (110-165) in his Dialogue with Trypho (Chap. LXXX) lists seven Jewish groups, among whom he identifies Hellenists. Hellenistic Jews could be completely secular and assimilated into Gentile culture, or they could be ascetic like the Essenes, or they could be devout worshippers as the Greek-speaking Jews that John describes in John 12:20 and Luke describes in Acts 6:1. For the use of Hellēn in the Besekh and the rationale to interpret Hellēn as "Hellenistic Jew" see my article Hellenism and the Jews.
and: Grk. kai, conj. to barbarians: pl. of Grk. barbaros, an onomatopoetic word that means foreign from a Hellenic perspective. It may be used as (1) an adjective, using vocal sounds that are unintelligible to an outsider; of foreign tongue, foreign-speaking; or (2) a noun, as here, to mean a foreigner, one who speaks neither Attic Greek nor Latin. The term was also used of anyone who had not assimilated into pagan culture. Paul does not use barbaros to cast aspersions, but to refer to those whom the upper class Romans considered barbarians. likewise: Grk. te, conj. to the wise: Grk. sophos, having a high level of discernment, understanding and insight; wise. The term might also mean learned in contrast to uneducated (Mounce).
and: Grk. kai. to the unwise: Grk. anoētos (from noeō, "not thought on, not understood"), being without sense; mindless, dense, unintelligent. Mounce adds "unwise." Again, Paul means no insult. He refers to those considered uneducated. In Roman society only those who could pay tutors received a formal education. The good news was especially intended for the poor (Matt 11:5; Luke 4:18; 7:22). I am: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 6 above. a debtor: Grk. opheiletēs, one who is under obligation to another, whether in a financial sense or an interpersonal responsibility, such as to God or other humans, debtor. Paul was indebted to God for His great grace, and consequently God gave him the charge to proclaim the good news to everyone among the sons of Israel and the nations (Acts 9:15).
15― So, as to me, there is an eagerness also to proclaim good news to you, the ones in Rome.
So: Grk. houtōs, adv. as to me: Grk. to kat eme, which is idiomatic for "as far as I'm concerned" or "if it were up to me." The opening clause represents Paul's submission to the sovereign will of God. there is an eagerness: Grk. prothumos, filled with zeal for rendering service; eager, ready, willing. also: Grk. kai, conj. to proclaim good news: Grk. euangelizō, aor. mid. inf., to announce the good message, specifically God's salvation, to "not-yet-believers." In the LXX euangelizō stands for Heb. basar, to publish or bring news or a report, whether good or bad (DNTT 2:108-109). The focus of proclaiming the good news was the arrival of the Kingdom of God in the person of Yeshua who would sit on the throne of David and rule over the house of Jacob forever. The proclamation contained certain standard elements.
For Jewish audiences the proclamation of the good news included (1) the promise and preparation for the coming of the Messiah with a review of biblical history; (2) the fulfillment of Messianic promises made to the patriarchs and Israel; (3) the narrative of the servant ministry, crucifixion, burial, resurrection and exaltation of Yeshua; and (4) an application to the audience and an appeal to repent in order to receive the forgiveness of God (cf. Acts 2:14-39; 13:16-41). For God-fearing Gentiles the message omitted the first two elements and focused on the last two (cf. Acts 10:34-43). For pagan Gentiles the message begins by declaring that the God of Israel is the only true God and the creator of the heavens and the earth and includes an appeal to turn from idols to the God of Israel (cf. Acts 14:15-17). For the specific content of the good news for these different audiences see my article The Original Gospel.
to you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. the ones: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. in: Grk. en, prep. Rome: Grk. Rhōmē. See verse 7 above. Paul implies that he wants to proclaim the good news among the unsaved in Rome.
16― For I am ashamed not of the good news, for it is the power of God into salvation to all the ones trusting, both to the Judean Jew first and to the Hellenistic Jew.
For: Grk. gar, conj. I am ashamed: Grk. epaischunomai, pres. mid., be ashamed of. HELPS says the verb refers to being disgraced or publicly humiliated, bringing on a "fitting" shame that matches the error of wrongly identifying or aligning with something. not: Grk. ou, adv. With the negative particle Paul denies that he is on the wrong side. of the good news: Grk. euangelion. See verse 1 above for a summary of this Jewish good news. As a prime recipient of God's grace, Paul boldly declared the glorious message. for: Grk. gar, conj. it is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 6 above. the power: Grk. dunamis. See verse 4 above. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. into: Grk. eis, prep. The preposition emphasizes that God's power is not providing an object to possess but a relationship to enter, and in that relationship there is mercy.
salvation: Grk. sōtēria, a freeing from real or threatening harm or loss; rescue, deliverance or salvation. In the LXX sōtēria occurs over 100 times and translates six different Hebrew words (DNTT 3:206), four of which are formations derived from the root verb yasha (SH-3467, save, deliver), especially yeshu'ah (SH-3444, salvation), the meaning of our Lord's name, and teshu'ah (SH-8668, salvation, victory, help). In the Tanakh deliverance is normally accomplished by God (e.g., Ex 15:2), and the deliverance is from physical harm or from oppression within a human context. Often the deliverance has a spiritual component.
In the Besekh sōtēria is used of deliverance from physical harm (Acts 7:25) or from oppression (Luke 1:71), but the primary use of the term is in relation to divine deliverance from sin and wrath through the mediatorial work of the Messiah. Divine deliverance is described in two important ways: (1) safety of the soul in the present resulting from the receipt of God's mercy (Luke 1:77; Acts 4:12; Rom 10:10) and (2) final redemption over all earthly ills and victory over the Adversary accomplished in the Second Coming, as well as deliverance from God's judgment on the wicked (Rom 13:11; 1Th 5:9; Heb 9:28; Rev 12:10). Ultimately, we are saved, not by anything we do, including trusting in God, but by God's choice to be faithful to His promises. As Paul said, "But because of Him you are in Messiah Yeshua, who became to us wisdom from God and righteousness and holiness and redemption" (1Cor 1:30 TLV).
to all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 5 above. the ones trusting: Grk. pisteuō, pres. part. with the definite article, in general Greek usage means to have confidence or faith in the reliability or trustworthiness of some thing or someone. The Hebrew concept of believing is not an intellectual agreement with a philosophical proposition or a formal creed. A verb describes action of the person and "trust" stresses both attitude and behavior. In the LXX pisteuō renders the Heb. 'aman (SH-539), which means to confirm or support, as well as to be true, reliable or faithful, and to stand firm or trust (BDB 52). In the Hebrew concept believing, trusting and being faithful are inseparable (cf. Matt 7:21; Heb 11:6). Far too many Christians truncate "believe" into believing a creed or believing in the God of the Bible or even assuring themselves of salvation on the ground of Yeshua's atoning work. Unfortunately, such believing does not always result in trusting as a relationship or faithfulness to God's expectations. The present tense participle indicates not only something that continues, but also reflects the character of the one exhibiting the trusting faithfulness.
both: Grk. te, conj. to the Judean Jew: Grk. Ioudaios, Judean, Jew, Jewish or Jewess with respect to birth heritage (BAG). In the LXX Ioudaios translates the Heb. term Yehudi (pl Yehudim). Yehudi was derived from Yehudah, the name given to Jacob’s son (Gen 29:35) and thereafter his tribal descendants (Ex 31:2). In later usage the plural Yehudim appears for citizens of the Kingdom of Judah (2Kgs 16:6; 25:25; Jer 34:9). The southern kingdom also included the tribes of Benjamin and Simeon, so Mordecai of the tribe of Benjamin is identified as a Yehudi (Esth 2:5; 6:10). The meaning of Yehudim expanded during the exile to refer to all those taken in captivity from the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah living throughout the Persian empire (Esth 8:9, 11, and 17).
Stern contends that in apostolic usage Ioudaioi ("Jews") has one of three meanings: (1) members of the tribe of Judah; (2) followers of the Jewish religion; or (3) people living in or originating from Judea, however politically defined (160). I would add "members of the tribes belonging to the Kingdom of Judah" to the definition. Paul would be a Ioudaios on this basis since he was a member of the tribe of Benjamin as Mordecai (Acts 13:21; Rom 11:1; Php 3:5). In addition, I would clarify the second meaning to be "followers of the Judean religion." In other words, the Ioudaioi were observant traditional Jews.
The Ioudaioi revered Moses, faithfully observed the Sabbath, kept God's prescribed festivals, circumcised their children and regarded the Temple in Jerusalem as the only place to worship the God of Israel with sacrifices (John 2:13; 4:20; 5:1, 16; 6:4; 7:2; 11:55; 19:31; Acts 2:5; 16:3; 21:21; 22:3; 24:14; Rom 2:17). Generally speaking the Ioudaioi followed the traditions of the Pharisees (Mark 7:3; Acts 10:28). The same devotion could not be said of other Israelite descendants who were scattered throughout the world. Thus, the term Ioudaios is never used of Hellenistic Jews or Samaritan Jews.
first: Grk. prōtos, having to do with beforeness, with resultant meanings of (1) having a primary position in sequence and (2) standing out in significance or importance. Stern asserts that "a major theme of the book of Romans—some would say the main theme—is that, so far as salvation is concerned, Jews and Gentiles are equal before God." Nevertheless, in the CJB Stern translates prōtos as "especially." He explains his interpretation by detailing three options for understanding this verse:
"(1) Historical priority refers to the historical fact that Yeshua brought the good news to Jews before Gentiles knew about it, or to Paul's practice of always proclaiming it to Jews prior to focusing on Gentiles.
"(2) Covenant priority refers the idea that salvation through faith has primary relevance to Israel because they had been chosen by God and given the oracles of God, including the promise of the good news.
"(3) Present priority means that there is a "present priority" to proclaim the good news to Jews. The apostles were commanded to take the good news to all the nations, beginning with the Jews in Jerusalem (Luke 24:47), and continue through Judea, Samaria and regions beyond (Acts 1:8), and that urgency is everywhere in the apostolic writings. The Great Commission has not been canceled. The present priority for the apostles is still an imperative and all who identify themselves as Christians should acknowledge their collective responsibility to share the Messiah with his own people."
Yeshua taught his disciples to pray, "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." This is a kingdom that has its roots in promises made to the nation of Israel and will reach its consummation when Yeshua establishes his reign in Jerusalem. Far too many Christians have avoided the truth that the good news of salvation was and is for the Jews first. The Messiah was Jewish (Matt 1:1). The first disciples were Jewish (Luke 6:13). Those gathered at Pentecost and repented were Jewish (Acts 2:10). The first evangelists took the good news to the Jews as Yeshua directed, first in Jerusalem, then in Judea, then in Samaria and then into other territories. The good news proclaimed to the Jews was unequivocal as Peter declared to the Sanhedrin,
"let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Yeshua ha-Mashiach ha-Natzrati—whom you had crucified, whom God raised from the dead—this one stands before you whole. 11 This Yeshua is ‘the stone—rejected by you, the builders—that has become the chief cornerstone.' 12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we [Jews] must be saved!" (Acts 4:10-12 TLV)
As a result there were eventually tens of thousands of Ioudaioi loyal to Yeshua and to Torah observance (Acts 21:20).
and: Grk. kai, conj. to the Hellenistic Jew: Grk. Hellēn. See verse 14 above. Many versions translate the noun as "Greek," but some have "Gentile" (CEV, CJB, MW, NIRV, NIV, NLT, TEV). The failure to recognize Hellēn as referring to Hellenistic Jews owes in large part to the artificial distinction made by Christian commentators and theologians of Peter being the apostle to the Jews and Paul being the apostle to the Gentiles, generally citing Galatians 2:7 for support. The terms Paul uses in that verse are "uncircumcision," which would include Hellenistic Jews, and "circumcision," a technical term for the Pharisaic party that insisted on circumcision for Gentile converts (Acts 15:1). Perhaps of relevance is that Egyptians, Ethiopians, Phoenicians and Syrians also practiced circumcision. Peter, of course, was the first apostle to take the good news to Gentiles (Acts 10) and his later ministry certainly did not exclude them. Yeshua's commission for Paul stated "he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel" (Acts 9:15).
During his missionary journeys Paul always proclaimed the good news to Jews first. Normally the only Gentiles to whom Paul ministered were proselytes or God-fearers, Gentiles who already had an association with Jews and worshipped in the synagogue. The only time Paul proclaimed the good news to Gentiles devoid of the knowledge of the God of Israel was to philosophers in Athens (Acts 17:22-31) and later in his defense sermon to the Roman governor Felix (Acts 24:10-21). So, Paul insists that the grace of salvation is not just for the Judean Jews, like himself, and the Gentiles, but also the Hellenistic Jews.
Stern advocates that there is a "present priority" for the Church to proclaim the Gospel to Jews, and that the Church should acknowledge it. He does not mean that every single Christian should seek out the Jews in the community and witness to them before telling any Gentiles about Yeshua. Such priority has been expressed in the statement of the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism, Occasional Papers #7 (1980):
"There is, therefore, a great responsibility laid upon the church to share Christ with the Jewish people. This is not to imply that Jewish evangelism is more important in the sight of God, or that those involved in Jewish evangelism have a higher calling. We observe that the practical application of the scriptural priority is difficult to understand and apply. We do not suggest that there should be a radical application of 'to the Jew first' in calling on all the evangelists, missionaries, and Christians to seek out the Jews within their sphere of witness before speaking to non-Jews! Yet we do call the church to restore ministry among this covenanted people of God to its biblical place in the strategy of world evangelization." (Stern 330)
The fact remains that Christians generally give little thought to evangelism of Jews. Moreover, evangelistic efforts among Jews has historically failed due to the Christian insistence that Jews surrender distinctive Jewish customs and embrace the ethos of Christianity. Why should Jews embrace Christianity when it has embraced pagan philosophies, rejected God's calendar and Torah standards, adopted unbiblical doctrines and denied God's intention to fulfill His promises to Israel? The only productive evangelism among Jews is that which has encouraged Jews to retain their covenantal identity. Messianic Jews are really the best evangelists to unbelieving Jews. If churches wanted to take the priority mission seriously they could provide support to Messianic Jewish organizations and congregations that are on the front lines of evangelism.
For: Grk. gar, conj. the righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē, a state that is in accord with standards for acceptable or anticipated behavior, uprightness, righteousness, justice. In the LXX dikaiosunē normally renders Heb. tsedaqah (SH-6666), first used in Genesis 15:6 of Abraham's faithfulness being considered as righteousness. The noun is often used to describe the character of God (Ps 5:8; 35:24; Isa 5:16; 42:21; Jer 9:24), as well as the Davidic king, the Messiah (Ps 72:1; Jer 23:5) (DNTT 3:354). In the Tanakh the concept of tsedaqah refers to right or ethical character and behavior that is in keeping with the covenantal relationship with God. So, righteousness is more relational than legal.
Tsedaqah also carries the sense of salvation (deliverance) and judgment (justice). However, among Pharisees righteousness had taken on a more restricted meaning. To many Pharisees almsgiving, long prayers, twice-weekly fasting and tithing were the most important components of righteous living (Matt 23:14, 23; Luke 18:12), performed by some of them in a manner designed to gain attention (Matt 6:16:1-2, 5-7, 16). Although Paul was a Pharisee and lived by that strict code he nonetheless returned to the Torah concept of righteousness as Yeshua set forth in the Sermon on the Mount, and insisted that true righteousness is grounded in the covenantal relationship.
of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. is revealed: Grk. apokaluptō, pres. pass., to cause to be fully known, to reveal, disclose or make known. In the LXX apokaluptō occurs about 80 times and translates Heb. galah (SH-1540), to uncover or remove (DNTT 3:310). The Hebrew verb generally describes a physical action, such as uncovering the head or the body, disclosing one's presence, or removal of Israel from the Land. Sometimes the verb is used of divine revelation (Gen 35:7; Num 22:31; 24:4, 16; 1Sam 3:7, 21; 9:15; Ps 98:2; Isa 53:1; Jer 33:6; Dan 10:1; Amos 3:7). In the Besekh the verb often occurs to denote truth or facts divinely hidden for a time and then revealed to those whom God chose to receive the truth, such as the apostles (Gal 1:6; Eph 3:5). Some things remain hidden and await to be revealed at the appointed time (Rom 8:18; 1Cor 2:10; 3:13; 2Th 2:3, 6, 8; 1Pet 5:1).
in: Grk. en, prep. it: Grk. autos, pers. pron. The neuter pronoun refers back to the good news of salvation in the previous verse. Paul's point is that the good news reveals not only the love and grace of God, but His righteousness. from: Grk. ek, prep., lit. "out of, from within," descriptive of origin. The preposition stresses direction here. faithfulness: Grk. pistis. See verse 5 above. to faithfulness: Grk. pistis. Christian versions generally translate the phrase as "from faith to faith." The TLV has "from trust to trust." The common interpretation is that Paul is describing the development of faith in the individual. However, the mention of the righteousness of God followed by the preposition "from" denotes movement from God to the individual, that is, from God's faithfulness to man's faithfulness.
Righteousness is first revealed in God's faithfulness to the patriarchs, Israel, and David by honoring His promises and sending His Messiah and then in man's response in trust for salvation and in a life of faithfulness to God thereafter. Paul's essentially summarizes the teaching in Deuteronomy 7:9,
"Know therefore that ADONAI your God, He is God—the faithful God who keeps covenant kindness for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His mitzvot [commandments]." (TLV)
as it is written: Grk. graphō, perf. pass., to write or inscribe, generally in reference to a document. The perfect tense depicts action completed in past time with continuing results to the present. The phrase "it is written" is the standard formula in the apostolic writings for attesting an assertion of truth and divine inspiration of Scripture, followed by a quote from the Tanakh. In the LXX graphō appears about 300 times and translates the Heb. verb kathab (SH-3789), "write." The first use of kathab in the Tanakh is Exodus 17:14, "ADONAI said to Moses, 'Write [LXX katagraphō, "write down"] this for a memorial in the book and rehearse it in the hearing of Joshua" (TLV). The first use of graphō in the LXX is Exodus 24:4, "And Moses wrote all the words of ADONAI."
Christian theologies have different theories of biblical inspiration but for Paul the Jew it was a simple matter that God spoke and man wrote (e.g., Ex 17:14; 24:4; 34:27; Num 33:2; 36:5; Deut 30:10; 2Pet 1:20-21). Paul refers to the physical writing of Scripture 19 times in his letter thereby basing his arguments on the inscribed, inspired and infallible Word of God. The appeal to Scripture is significant since the opponents of Yeshua often appealed to tradition whenever they disagreed with something he or his disciples did (e.g. Matt 12:2, 10; 15:2; 19:3). God's intention from the establishment of his covenant with Israel is that his people would ground their lives in the Scripture received by Moses from God and written down (Ex 24:4-8, 12; Lev 10:11; 26:46; Num 36:13; Deut 17:18-20; 27:2-3, 8, 26), not man's interpretations and rules that often contradict Scripture or substitute for Scripture.
But: Grk. de, conj. used for contrast. the righteous: Grk. dikaios, adj., being in accord with God's covenantal standards expressed in Torah for acceptable behavior, upright or just. In the LXX dikaios renders Heb. tsaddiq ('just or righteous' BDB 843). In Scripture a just person is one who is blameless or innocent of wrongdoing, one who follows the ethical and moral demands of Torah. The KJV translates the adjective as "the just." will live: Grk. zaō, fut. mid., to live, to be possessed of vitality, to exercise the functions of life (Mounce). from: Grk. ek, prep. faithfulness: Grk. pistis. Paul quotes from Habakkuk 2:4 to support his argument in which the LXX says, "ὁ δὲ δίκαιος [but the righteous] ἐκ [out of] πίστεώς [faithfulness] μου [my] ζήσεται [shall live]."
Paul quotes the LXX exactly, but omits the personal pronoun "my." The LXX shows that God’s faithfulness is the focus in Habakkuk 2:4, which is Paul's point here as indeed throughout the letter. All Bible versions apparently rely on the MT for this passage, which has the third person masculine singular of emunah, "his faithfulness" (Owens 4:870), and which these versions take to mean the righteous man's faith[fulness]. There are two alternatives for explaining this discrepancy.
The first alternative is that the MT is defective. Generally not considered by commentators is that the MT originated with Rabbi Akiva in the early second century and in his hatred of apostolic teaching he superintended the editing of the Hebrew Tanakh to remove support for Messianic prophecies or so at least the Hebrew text would not agree with what was being quoted in apostolic writings which relied on the LXX. (See Barry Setterfield, The Alexandrian Septuagint History, and Daniel Gruber, Rabbi Akiba's Messiah: The Origins of Rabbinic Authority, 1999). The MT of Habakkuk 2:4 could then reflect Akiva's theology of a man creating righteousness by his own faithfulness to a system of works.
The second alternative is that the MT actually supports the LXX. Kohlenberger's interlinear gives this literal translation: "y'cheyeh [he-will-live] b'emunah'to [by-faith-of-him] v'tzadiq [but-righteous]," or "the righteous man will live by the faithfulness of him." The reason that Bible versions miss the point is because of how Habakkuk 2:3 is commonly translated.
"For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end - it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay." (ESV)
The Hebrew text of Habakkuk 2:3 actually has masculine singular verbs, "he will come" and "he will not delay" (Owens 4:870). Translating these verbs as neuter (as Owens and Bible versions do) obscures the focus on God as the originator of the action. God is going to do something; the something won't happen by itself. (There is no such thing as spontaneous generation.) In context then, the righteous person will live because of the faithfulness of the One who would come and not delay. This promise is the foundation of Paul's argument.
Pathology: The Source of Man’s Problems, 1:18—3:20
The rest of the chapter bears a remarkable resemblance to the classification and condemnation of Gentile wickedness in chapters twelve to fifteen of the Wisdom of Solomon, a Jewish apocryphal work that predates the first century AD (Edwards). Christian commentators typically consider the present section presupposes the Gentile world, and then the focus shifts to the faults of Judaism at 2:1. Gager is one of a few recent scholars who consider 1:18 to 2:16 to be all of a piece (113). Indeed, there is no word for "Gentile" in the remainder of this chapter. The scope of history that Paul summarizes easily includes the antediluvian age down to the first century. (The descriptions also tragically fit the modern age.)
18― For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven upon all ungodliness and unrighteousness of mankind, the ones suppressing the truth in unrighteousness,
For the wrath: Grk. orgē means anger, indignation or wrath. of God: Grk. theos. See verse 1 above. The "wrath of God" refers to God's anger at sin and the resulting eternal punishment that He imposes as a just recompense. God's wrath began in the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve received the predicted penalty of disobedience (Gen 2:17; 1Cor 15:22). Because of being born into Adam's race all people are by nature "children of wrath" (Eph 2:3). The first occurrence of a word for God's wrath in Scripture is in Numbers 16:46, referring to a plague God sent upon His people for grumbling. Thereafter, most of the references to God's wrath in the Tanakh pertain to punishment of Israel for sinning, and in the Besekh of judgment at the end of the age (cf. Matt 3:7; Luke 21:23; 1Th 1:10; 5:9; Rev 11:18; 16:19; 19:15). Stern observes,
"It is not popular these days to point out that God is a God of wrath. People would rather quote 1 John 4:8 ("God is love") and look no further. But it is in the context of God's holiness, meaning his hatred for sin, and his justice, meaning his dispensing the punishment that sin brings on itself, that his love, mercy and grace become so precious. The paradox of how God can be both just and merciful has been a theme in Jewish writing. 'If you want the world to endure there can be no absolute justice, while if you want absolute justice the world cannot endure' (Genesis Rabbah 39:6)."
is revealed: Grk apokaluptō, pres. pass. See the previous verse. The verb need not have just an eschatological meaning as something that will occur at the last judgment. The present tense points to the reality of God's continual displeasure at sin that began with the curse in the Garden of Eden. from heaven: Grk. ouranos, the area above the earth that encompasses the sky, interstellar space and associated phenomena or the transcendent dwelling-place of God. In the LXX ouranos translates the Heb. hashamayim (lit. “the heavens”) (DNTT 2:191). The Hebrew and Greek words for “heaven” are used in Scripture to refer to three different places (Ps 148:1-4). In terms of direction from the ground level of the earth the first heaven is the atmosphere in which birds fly (Gen 1:20; Rev 19:17). The second heaven is interstellar space (Gen 1:1, 8; Matt 24:29) and the third heaven is the location of the throne of God and the home of angels (1Kgs 8:30; Matt 6:9; 2Cor 12:2).
When Paul speaks of God's wrath revealed from heaven, he may be alluding to the destruction of the earth by water in the time of Noah when the "fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened" (Gen 7:11 NKJV). Revelation from Heaven, a circumlocution for God among Jews, also includes the warning God gave before the judgment (Gen 6:3, 13). Indeed, God has always given advance notice of judgment before exercising His wrath. God gave the antediluvian population 120 years to repent and Noah faithfully proclaimed God's righteousness (2Pet 2:5). Tragically only Noah and his family, along with many animals aboard the ark, survived the drowning of the earth.
upon: Grk. epi, prep. all: Grk. pas, adj. ungodliness: Grk. asebeia, lack of respect or reverence for deity displayed in sacrilegious words or deeds; impiety, godlessness, ungodliness. The word asebeia occurs only six times in the Besekh (Rom 11:26; 2Tim 2:16; Titus 2:12; Jude 1:15, 18). The root seb- meant originally to step back from someone or something, to maintain a distance. From this spatial meaning developed the metaphorical idea of trepidation ranging from shame, through wonder, to something approaching fear (DNTT 2:91). Thus, eusebeia, fear of God, is the opposite of asebeia. In the LXX the asebeia word-group translates several different Hebrew words (e.g., Deut 9:4-5; 17:13; 18:20, 22; Job 9:20; Ps 5:10; Prov 1:19, 31; 11:5-6), and describes both action and attitude in departing from God (DNTT 2:93).
and unrighteousness: Grk. adikia may mean (1) the quality or characteristic of violating a standard of uprightness; wrongdoing, unrighteousness, injustice, partiality; or (2) the act of violating a standard of uprightness, wrongdoing. The noun pictures the unjust man as opposite of the just man. It covers all that offends against morals, custom or decency, all things that are unseemly, unspeakable or fraudulent and is what harms the order of the world. Adikia is rooted in legal thinking. (DNTT 3:573f). The Hebrew vocabulary is far more complex and varied than the Greek. In the LXX adikia, occurring about 250 times and rendering 36 different Hebrew words indicates that sin in ancient Israel was above all an offence against the sacred order of divine justice (1Sam 3:13f). Thus, it affects the community, whose existence is most intimately connected with the preservation of divine justice. Adikia is ultimately sin against community.
of mankind: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos, human being, used generically of mankind (male and female) and of individuals. In the LXX anthrōpos renders three Hebrew words: (1) adam, used for a human male or generically for man and woman and as a contrast to animals (e.g., Gen 1:26, 27; 2:5; 1Sam 15:29); (2) ish, adult male or husband (Gen 2:23, 24; Job 1:1) and (3) enosh, man or mankind, often signifying the aspect of weakness and mortality (Job 5:17; Ps 8:4-5) (DNTT 2:564). the ones suppressing: Grk. katechō, pres. part. with the definite article, to prevent action; hold back, restrain, suppress. the truth: Grk. alētheia may mean (1) truthfulness, dependability, uprightness in thought and deed, (2) truth as opposed to what is false, or (3) reality as opposed to mere appearance (BAG). Danker has "that which is really so."
in unrighteousness: Grk. adikia. The repetition of adikia may be intended in a broader sense of including asebeia. Those who can hold the truth hostage, as it were, are those holding the reins of power in the government and education systems. Satan's lie of evolution with its anti-God, anti-Bible agenda pervades our culture. Thus, men suppress the truth about creation and God's judgment both because of a lack of fear of God and no conscience concerning the havoc their deceptive lies cause.
19― because that which can be known of God is apparent among them; for God has disclosed to them.
because: Grk. dioti, conj. used to introduce a rationale or motive for the affirmation the precedes it; in view of the fact that, because, on the very account that, inasmuch as. the known: Grk. gnōstos, adj. (from ginōskō, to know), perceived, understood, known, which may be used to mean (1) known, such as being known to someone; or (2) that which can be known or what can be known about something. The second usage applies here. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 6 above. apparent: Grk. phaneros, in a state or condition that makes observation possible; publicly known, visible, in the open, known, recognizable, apparent. among: Grk. en, prep. them: pl. pron. for: Grk. gar, conj. God: Grk. theos. has disclosed: Grk. phaneroō, aor., cause to be in a state or condition that makes observation possible; make known, show, disclose, manifest, reveal. to them: pl. pron.
Paul speaks of the general revelation of God which he will explain in more detail in the next verse. He does not specify who received the disclosure. "Them" could be (1) Gentiles in general, since in Chapter Two he talks about Jews; (2) the antediluvian age that began with the sin of Cain due to the reference in the next verse about creation; or (3) the post-Flood generation beginning with the Babel apostasy which found its full expression in the pantheistic polytheism established by Nimrod and Semiramus. It was in Sumer (ancient Babylon) that pagan religion developed (1:21-25). However far back Paul points he still is assessing the pagan world of his time (note the present tense verbs in 1:32).
20― For His invisible attributes are being clearly seen from the creation of the world, being understood by the things made, both His eternal power and divine nature─ for them to be without defense.
This verse, except for the final clause, functions as a parenthetical statement, clarifying what God has disclosed. For: Grk. gar, conj. His invisible attributes: Grk. aoratos, not subject to being seen by one's eyes, unseen or invisible. are clearly seen: Grk. kathoraō, pres. pass., to look down upon; discern, mark, perceive (Mounce). LSJ adds to have within view, see distinctly, behold, observe. Common to Classical Greek, the verb occurs only here in the Besekh, but it does appear several times in Jewish literature: LXX Numbers 24:2; Job 10:4; 39:26; 3Macc 3:11; Philo; Josephus (Ant., VIII, 6:5); and Sib. Or. 4:12. from: Grk. apo, prep. generally used to denote separation, and here indicates a point in time. the creation: Grk. ktisis, creation, either of the act of creation or that which is created. The noun is used primarily of God's creation of the universe, whether of individual things or beings, or the sum total of everything created. The noun is also used of human institutions (cf. 1Pet 2:13).
of the world: Grk. kosmos. See verse 8 above. Paul uses the term here of the orderly universe. being understood: Grk. noeō, pres. pass. part., may mean (1) to grasp with the mind; understand; or (2) to give thought to; think about, ponder. The first meaning applies here. by the things made: Grk. poiēma, something that is made or produced, here with the focus on a tangible product of creation. Paul affirms in a simple but unambiguous manner the Genesis story of creation and rebuts any naturalistic theory of things just spontaneously appearing. Evolutionists reject the common sense reality that things result from the work of a person and instead cling to a belief in magic. both: Grk. te, conj. His eternal: Grk. aidios, adj., never having an end in time; everlasting, eternal. power: Grk. dunamis. See verse 4 above. The eternal powers of God include his omnipotence, omnipresence, infallibility, infinity, and omniscience.
and divine nature: Grk. theiotēs, divineness, divinity. Mounce adds "deity, godhead, divine majesty" and BAG has "divine nature." The term properly means "deity manifested," or the revelation of God for people to know (HELPS). The word occurs only here in the Besekh. The divine nature alludes to various personal attributes of God, His holiness, righteousness, justice, love and faithfulness. Paul is saying that God's power and character are revealed in the world and universe He created, just as David also wrote, "The heavens declare the glory of God and the expanse shows the work of His hands; day to day pours forth speech and night to night shows knowledge" (Ps 19:1-2 mine). Stern observes that this is as close as the Bible comes to "proving the existence of God," for there is no reason why it should prove it. Rather, it takes effort for sinners to ignore God; defense mechanisms require active energy for their maintenance.
The final clause of the verse actually concludes the thought at the end of verse 19, "God has disclosed to them." for: Grk. eis, prep. See verse 5 above. The preposition normally depicts entering into a place or state. The preposition occurs only with the accusative case of nouns and pronouns as follows and when used with infinitive verbs, as also follows, has the meaning of "for the purpose of." them: pl. of Grk. autos, pers. pron. Most versions translate the pronoun as "they" making it the subject, when it is in the accusative case, which normally denotes a direct object or receiver of action. In this instance the accusative case has an adverbial function. Paul does not define who "them" are, so we should not assume that he means Gentiles in contrast to Jews. Paul has an historical perspective that goes back to the time before there was a Jewish people.
to be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. See verse 6 above. The infinitive is a verbal noun and it may express purpose, result, time, cause or command. The accusative case of the pronoun when used with the infinitive is not properly the "subject" of the infinitive, but is an accusative of reference used to describe the person connected with the action (DM 93). without defense: Grk. anapologētos, adj., a legal term meaning without possibility of finding justification for behavior; without defense, inexcusable. Most versions translate the closing clause of this verse as "so that they are without excuse" (as the KJV) or words to that effect. The clause expresses both purpose and result.
As a purpose clause Paul does not imply that God only revealed His nature in order to make people reject Him, but that a purpose of God's self-disclosure was to provide knowledge similar to "informed consent." God wanted people to know Him in order to believe in and serve Him. The disclosure of God's power and attributes revealed in the design of nature and the universe are so obvious (Ps 19:1-6) that men are without excuse if they don't give glory to the Creator. Only a fool denies the reality of the Creator (Ps 14:1; 43:1). Stern suggests that David's characterization of the fool is not of pure atheism, but a kind of agnosticism, "No God exists who actively concerns himself with people's thoughts and deeds and judges them." Unfortunately, the eyes of the unbelieving are opened after death (Heb 9:27).
21― For having known God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Paul summarizes the move away from God as the descendants physically moved from the mountains of Ararat to the fertile plains of Mesopotamia (Gen 11:2). Under the leadership of Nimrod, great-grandson of Noah, the people who had known the God of Noah failed to give him place in their worship. They had rebuilt society, culture and prosperity from scratch after the devastation of the global deluge. They no longer wanted a God of wrath, but preferred gods who give them freedom to do as they pleased. They ignored the constant signs of God's mercy and grace - the seasons, the stars in the night sky and the rainbow. As secular history affirms Nimrod and his wife Semiramus created an idolatrous system that would eventually spread throughout the ancient empires.
For: Grk. gar, conj. having known: Grk. ginōskō, aor. part., to know, but the verb has a variety of meanings, including (1) to be in receipt of information; know, learn, find out; (2) form a judgment or draw a conclusion; think, understand, comprehend, perceive, notice, realize, conclude; or (3) have a personal relationship involving recognition of another's identity or value; make acquaintance, recognize. Any of these meanings could have application. In the LXX ginōskō renders Heb. yada (SH-3045), which has a similar wide range of meaning, but in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, whether of knowing persons or knowing by experience, as well as knowing by learning (DNTT 2:395). To the Hebrew mind "knowing" is not philosophical or theoretical, but based in reality.
God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. Genesis records that mankind possessed the knowledge of God from the beginning. From the time of Adam's grandson men began to call upon God and give Him worship (Gen 4:26). However, by the time of Noah mankind no longer paid attention to God. Noah certainly had the knowledge of God and he passed it on to his descendants, since it was preserved in the line of Shem. However, the descendants of Noah's other two sons, Ham and Japheth, failed to preserve the fear of the Lord and became disobedient to the societal mandate given in Genesis 9:1-7.
they did not honor: Grk. doxazō, aor. (from doxa, "glory"), enhance esteem or reputation through word (of praise) or action to honor. In the LXX doxazō renders Heb. navah (SH–5115), to beautify, adorn with praises (Ex 15:2), but principally kabad (SH–3513), to be weighty, to be honored or praised (Lev 10:3; Ps 15:4). Him as: Grk. hōs, adv. with the primary function of connecting narrative components; used here to focus on activity. God: Grk. theos. In other words, rebellious mankind did not treat God with the recognition and respect He deserved. or: Grk. hē, conj. used to distinguish one thing from another. give thanks: Grk. eucharisteō, aor., to thank or to give thanks. The verb occurs not at all in the LXX of the Tanakh, but is found six times in the Jewish Apocrypha (DNTT 3:818). The verb is used in relation to something that has been received for which God is always the recipient of the thanksgiving.
One of the great failures of mankind was to forget God as the source of everything that makes life worthwhile, including life itself. Ingratitude is one of the worst sins. but: Grk. alla, conj., adversative particle used adverbially to convey a different viewpoint for consideration; but, on the other hand. they became futile: Grk. mataioō, aor. pass., cause to be without purpose; lack purpose. BAG defines the verb as "render futile, worthless; and in the passive voice be given over the worthlessness, think about idle, worthless things, be foolish." Mounce defines the verb as "to make vain; from the Hebrew, pass. to fall into religious error, to be perverted. This verb occurs only here in the Besekh and may have been coined by Paul since it does not occur in earlier Greek writers.
in: Grk. en, prep. their thinking: Grk. dialogismos, the process of turning things over in one's mind in response to a problem or challenging event. and their foolish: Grk. asunetos, without good sense, lacking comprehension, undiscerning. heart: Grk. kardia, the pumplike organ of blood circulation, used as metaphorically of selfhood or the combination of character, emotion, intelligence and the will. was darkened: Grk. skotizō, aor. pass. (from skotos, 'absence of light'), to undergo darkness as a natural phenomenon, and fig. of undergoing inward darkness, whether of moral or spiritual ignorance. Paul employs the fig. meaning here. Under the leadership of Nimrod, grandson of Ham, the people who had known the God of Noah failed to give him place in their worship. From their point of view Nimrod and his contemporaries promoted a "free-thinking" society that embraced humanistic philosophy. The temptation of the Serpent in the Garden was successful once again.
22― professing to be wise, they became foolish,
professing: Grk. phaskō, pres. part., to state with assurance or confidence; affirm, assert, claim or profess. The verb occurs only three times in the Besekh (also in Acts 24:9; 25:19). to be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. See verse 6 above. wise: pl. of Grk. sophos. See verse 14 above. they became foolish: Grk. mōrainō, aor. pass., cause or show to be foolish, to play the fool. Scripture is adamant that those who deny the God of creation are fools (Ps 14:1; 53:1) and "without a defense" (see verse 20 above). Shulam observes that since the fear of the Lord is the "beginning of wisdom" (Prov 1:7), being "wise in one's own eyes" corresponds to serving one's own inclination.
23― and exchanged the glory of the imperishable God into a likeness of an image of perishable man and of birds and of four-footed animals and of creeping things.
and exchanged: Grk. allassō, aor., may mean (1) to change something to be different, change; or (2) to substitute one thing for another, exchange. The second meaning applies here. the glory: Grk. doxa has four categories of meaning: (1) splendor or radiance in the sense of brightness, (2) magnificence in the sense of what catches the eye, (3) fame, renown, honor or approval, and (4) glorious as in the angelic beings and majesties. In the LXX doxa translates Heb. kabod, which refers to the luminous manifestation of God’s person, his glorious revelation of Himself. Characteristically, kabod is linked with verbs of seeing and appearing and stresses the impact that the manifestation of a person or God makes on others. In the apostolic writings doxa is a continuation of the underlying Hebrew concept (DNTT 2:45). In this context "glory" refers to both the transcendent nature of God and the esteem and honor owed to God. Since the beginning man has been surrendering the best for the worst, an exchange that defies logic.
of the imperishable: Grk. aphthartos, immortal, imperishable, the antonym of phthartos, perishable. Mounce adds incorruptible, undying, and enduring. God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. into a likeness: Grk. homoiōma, condition of being like, likeness. of an image: Grk. eikōn, something that bears likeness to something else, an image or likeness. of perishable: Grk. phthartos, subject to a condition headed for ruin, perishable. Mounce adds corruptible. man: Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 18 above. and of birds: pl. of Grk. peteinon, bird. and of four-footed animals: pl. of Grk. tetrapous, animals or creatures having four feet, which would include mammals and some reptiles. The term occurs only three times in the Besekh (in Peter's vision, Acts 10:12; 11:6).
and of creeping things: pl. of Grk. herpeton (from herpō, move slowly), a creeping creature, generally defined as reptile. These categories of creatures do not conform to modern taxonomy. Animals are generally classified in Scripture according to whether they breathe air (Gen 7:15), their means of locomotion (wings, feet, belly), specific physical characteristics ("chews the cud;" "fins and scales") or their habitat (air, land or water). The three categories of animals are mentioned since they figure in pagan religious mythology. The one category missing is "swarming things" (Gen 7:21), but these animals were not used as inspiration for objects of worship.
The ancient rebels had rebuilt society, culture and prosperity from scratch after the devastation of the global flood. They no longer wanted a God of wrath, but preferred gods who give them freedom to do as they pleased. They ignored the constant signs of God's mercy and grace - the seasons, the stars in the night sky and the rainbow. As secular history affirms Nimrod and his wife Semiramus created an idolatrous system that would eventually spread throughout the ancient empires.
Shulam suggests that in verses 23-32 Paul creates a midrash on the theme of idolatry based on Psalm 106:20, "Thus they exchanged their glory for the image of an ox that eats grass" and Jeremiah 2:11, "Has a nation changed gods when they were not gods? But My people have changed their glory for that which does not profit." God's glory is frequently associated in Scripture with his signs, his deeds, his holiness and with the knowledge of the Lord.
Paul rebuked the Athenians for their expression of this idolatry saying,
"Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. 30 "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed" (Acts 17:29-31 NASB).
24― Therefore God handed them over in the desires of their hearts into uncleanness, to dishonor their bodies in them.
Therefore: Grk. dio, conj., wherefore, on which account, therefore. God: Grk. theos, the Creator and God of Israel. handed them over: Grk. paradidōmi, aor., to convey from one position to another, often of subjecting a person to a custodial procedure and delivery to a judicial authority; hand over, deliver. In this case people were delivered over to themselves, to live their lives apart from God. in: Grk. en, prep. the desires: pl. of Grk. epithumia may mean either (1) a strong feeling or interest, 'desire' or (2) an inordinate or improper desire, 'craving.' In the LXX epithumia occurs about 50 times and normally translates the Heb. avvah to express (a) a morally neutral desire (e.g. Deut 12:15, 20); (b) a praiseworthy desire (e.g. Gen 31:30; Prov 10:24; 13:12); or (c) an evil desire opposed to God's will (e.g. Num 11:4, 34, Deut 5:21; 9:22). Many versions translate epithumia with "lusts."
However, the desires described in the following verses indicate more than a longing for illicit sex. of their hearts: pl. of Grk. kardia, used here in a fig. sense. See verse 21 above. into: Grk. eis, prep. uncleanness: Grk. akatharsia, impurity or dirt, a figurative term for immorality or viciousness (cf. 2Cor 12:21; Gal 5:19). Murray interprets the term as referring to sexual aberration, but Rienecker very appropriately renders it as "uncleanness." In the LXX the negative term akatharsia translates Heb. tum'ah (DNTT 3:103), which means uncleanness, whether ethical or religious impurity (Lev 5:3; 16:16) (BDB 380). The various types of religious tum'ah are detailed in Leviticus 11─15, 22. Various types of moral uncleanness, represented by the related word tamē are given in Leviticus 18─20. The chief danger in uncleanness is that it defiled people (Lev 18:20, 24; Num 5), the sanctuary (Lev 15:31), the camp (Num 5:3) and the land (Lev 18:25).
The penalty for moral uncleanness was death (Lev 15:31). Religious uncleanness caused a person to be restricted in both access to worship (Lev 7:19-21) and relationships (Lev 15:19-28) until cleanness was restored. Worshipping while unclean, whether religious or moral, warranted being cut off from the community (Lev 7:21; Num 19:20). to dishonor: Grk. atimazō, pres. mid. inf., to deprive of honor or respect; dishonor, disgrace or shame. their bodies: pl. of Grk. sōma, structured physical unit in contrast to its parts, body of human or animal, whether living or dead, but normally of a living human body. While Greek dualism distinguished between the soul and the body, in Hebraic thought the body represents the whole man. in: Grk. en, prep. them: pl. pers. pron.
Paul's use of "handed them over" three times in this chapter, signifies the nature of God's judgment - He allowed sin to multiply, which was manifested in degraded passions (1:26), a depraved mind (1:28) and deteriorated ethics (1:29-32). These people had already willfully deserted God who merely left them to their own self-determination and self-destruction, part of the price of man’s moral freedom. The withdrawal of God’s restraint sent men deeper down (Robertson).
25― who changed the truth of God into the lie, and worshiped and served the created thing in preference to the One having created, who is blessed into the ages. Amen.
who: Grk. hostis, relative pron., a generalizing reference to the subject of a verb; anyone, who, whoever. changed: Grk. metallassō, aor., may mean (1) to alter to the extent of inversion; change; or (2) to exchange something for something as identified in the context. Danker suggests that is the meaning here. Mounce adds to change for or into, transmute. However, Paul does not actually describe an exchange but a transformation. the truth: Grk. alētheia. See verse 18 above. of God: the God of Israel. into: Grk. en, prep. See verse 4 above. The preposition is used here to denote direction. the lie: Grk. pseudos, a distortion of the way something really is; a lie, falsehood. The singular noun with the definite article implies a particular lie, perhaps the first lie, "Has God said?" (Gen 3:1). There was a time when man knew the truth of God's nature and special creation as recorded in Genesis. Since the truth cannot abide sin, man surrendered the truth in order to live as they pleased, which sums up the error of pagan religion.
and worshiped: Grk. sebazomai, aor. pass., worship. Mounce adds to feel dread of a thing; to venerate or adore. and served: Grk. latreuō, aor. See verse 9 above. the created thing: Grk. ktisis. See verse 20 above. rather than: Grk. para, prep. that conveys association, normally with the sense of alongside or with. Here the prep. is used with the focus on comparison. Danker suggests "in preference to." Thayer suggests "passing by." the One having created: Grk. ktizō, aor. part., to create. Many versions translate the participle as "the Creator." Ktizo is only used in biblical literature of God’s creative activity, both of the material universe and the spiritual creation of the inner man. Pantheism, polytheism and evolutionism are all built on a lie and are irreconcilable with biblical truth. If they had really studied the creature (the essence of science), instead of serving the creature, they should have been led to exalt God who has revealed himself in the creature.
who is blessed: Grk. eulogētos, adj., blessed or praised, from eulogeō, used to express appreciation for both the nature of God and acts of divine goodness and kindness. Thus, God is the one who receives blessing and praise and as such is a part of his identity. into: Grk. eis, prep. the ages: pl. of Grk. aiōn functions as an indefinite measurement of time and means a very long time, eternity or age. In the LXX aiōn translates ōlam, which means long duration, antiquity or futurity (BDB 761). In the Tanakh, ōlam is generally concerned with a concrete idea of time in relation to the whole duration of a man's life (DNTT 3:827). Since neither the Greek or Hebrew word in its singular form contains the concept of endlessness, the use of the plural intensive form olamim yields a declaration of ages that will continue without end (cf. Ps 90:2; Isa 45:17; Dan 9:24). Paul probably alludes to the practice among Israelites from ancient times to bless God at all times.
Amen: Grk. amēn transliterates the Heb. ’amen, an adverb meaning "verily" or "truly" (BDB 53), which Stern clarifies as "it is true, so be it, or may it become true" (26). The Heb. root verb aman means to confirm or support. The normal use in Scripture for amēn is as a response to a statement a speaker has just made. The first occurrence of amēn in the Tanakh is Deuteronomy 27:15-26 where it occurs 12 times as a response of the people to the announcement of curses. Only three times in the Tanakh is amēn self-initiated as part of a benediction (Ps 41:14; 72:19; 89:53). Paul may have followed this rare practice of adding amēn to his b'rakhah (blessing of God) or he may have inserted "amen" as a cue for the congregation to respond appropriately.
26― Therefore God handed them over to passions of dishonor; for both the females of them they changed the natural use into that contrary to nature,
Therefore: Grk. dio, conj. God: the Creator and God of Israel. handed them: 3p-pl. masc. pers. pron. The plural pronoun refers to the generation led by rebellious men mentioned in the preceding verses. over: Grk. paradidōmi, aor. See verse 24 above. God's judgment committed the sinners to the bondage of their own sin rather than simply removing them from existence as in Noah's flood. to passions: pl. of Grk. pathos (from paschō, suffer, endure) may mean (1) that which is endured or experienced, particularly suffering in a tragic sense or (2) passion, especially of a sexual nature. In the LXX pathos occurs in Job 30:31 for Heb. ebel (SH-80), mourning; in Proverbs 25:20 without specific Hebrew equivalent to convey the feeling of suffering caused by insensitive actions; and in 4th Maccabees for sexual passion (2:3; 7:10, 18). Josephus uses pathos for suffering expressed in lamentation (Ant. XV, 3:4); for misfortune suffered (Ant. XVI, 10:3); for an antisemitic attitude of the Greek historian Hieronymus against the Jewish people (Against Apion, 1:23); and for the sexual passion of Potiphar's wife (Ant. II, 4:5).
The word pathos occurs only three times in the Besekh (also Col 3:5; 1Th 4:5). Paul could have intended both meanings, the former for the women in this verse and the latter for the men in the next verse. of dishonor: Grk. atimia, experience lack of esteem; dishonor, low esteem. Considering the women the phrase could be lit. translated "into sufferings of shame." for: Grk. gar, conj. both: Grk. te, conj. anticipates the next verse. the females: pl. of Grk. thēlus, female as contrasted with male, and not necessarily adult. The term occurs five times in the Besekh, first in the Synoptic Narratives of Yeshua reminding the Pharisees of God's original creation of male and female (Matt 19:4; Mark 10:6). Then Paul uses the term in this verse and the next, as well as Galatians 3:28. Paul may have chosen the term to emphasize unmarried women, since the usual word for a married woman is gunē.
of them: 3p-pl. masc. pers. pron., the rebellious generation or the men of the rebellious generation in view. they changed: Grk. metallassō, aor. See the previous verse. The subject of the verb is not "females," but the "them" who were handed over to dishonorable passions. the natural: Grk. phusikos, in accord with what is standard or to be expected for one entering the world as a living entity; natural. The word occurs only three times in the Besekh (in the next verse and 2Pet 2:12). use: Grk. chrēsis, (from chraomai, engage in making serviceable) mean (1) use or usage; (2) usefulness; or (3) relations, function, especially of sexual intercourse (BAG). The third meaning applies here. Danker defines as "a state of intimate involvement." Paul alludes to God's creative design of the human body, particularly the genitalia. into: Grk. eis, prep. that contrary to: Grk. para, prep., here with an adversative meaning. See the previous verse.
nature: Grk. phusis may mean (1) nature as the regular natural order, (2) natural endowment or condition, (3) natural characteristics or disposition or (4) natural being, product of nature, creature (BAG). The implication of the phrase is contrary to God's intention in creation. The creation mandate is that women would be wives and mothers (Gen 2:18-25). It is the joining of man and woman that "one flesh" may be achieved and produce another "one flesh" of that union (Gen 1:28; 9:1). Stated another way, God’s original intention was that every man be married and every woman to belong to one specific man for a lifetime. (See my article Marriage By Design.)
Paul does not explicitly state what women changed that was contrary to nature, but commentators rightly suggest an abandonment of modesty and engaging in unchaste behavior. Torah prohibitions of sexual acts are generally directed to men, but obviously if a prohibition applies to a man then it equally applies to the woman with whom he seeks a liaison. Women are to avoid adultery, harlotry, incest and bestiality (Lev 18:6, 16, 20, 23; 19:29). Shulam interprets this verse and the next as together describing strictly behavior of men, including transvestism. In support of this view he quotes a lengthy section from Philo's treatise (On Abraham, 133-36) that describes the kinds of wicked sexual behavior of men.
While there may be some merit to Shulam's approach, Paul's use of "for both" indicates distinguishing two categories and the word "female" does not refer to a man who dresses as a woman. Paul no doubt had the history of female harlotry in mind, brought about by the evil desires of men. Of the three categories of sexual sin in the Torah (adultery, harlotry, and incest), harlotry receives the most references in the apostolic writings. Harlotry not only struck at the very heart of God’s design for marriage as the only context for intimate relations, but created untold suffering for the tens of thousands of unmarried women involved. Worse yet is that many men sold their daughters into prostitution (cf. Lev 19:29). Thus, Paul warns believers to flee harlotry (1Cor 6:16-20) and urges that every woman be married (1Cor 7:2; 1Tim 5:14). Nevertheless, we may say that Paul's description would apply to the modern phenomenon of women rejecting God's design for heterosexual marriage and intimacy.
27― and likewise in like manner the males having abandoned the natural use of the female and burned in their desire into one another, males with males working out the shame and receiving in themselves the penalty which was fitting of the error.
and: Grk. kai, conj. likewise: Grk. te, conj. See verse 12 above. in like manner: Grk. homoiōs, adv., in like manner, in the same way, similarly. The adverb introduces a comparison that continues the description of man's wickedness and introduces a second category. the males: pl. of Grk. arsēn, male as distinguished from female. Again Paul uses a generic term instead of anēr, which can mean husband. The broad category would included both married and unmarried males. having abandoned: Grk. aphiēmi, aor. part., has a range of meaning, (1) release from one's presence; send away, divorce, give up; (2) release from an obligation; cancel, forgive; (3) let remain behind; leave, leave behind, give up, abandon; (4) leave standing or lying; and (5) permissive sense of let, let go, allow or tolerate. The third meaning applies here.
the natural: Grk. phusikos. See the previous verse. use: Grk. chrēsis. See the previous verse. of the female: Grk. thēlus. See the previous verse. Interesting is the fact that Paul does not add "of the man" in the previous verse when speaking of the "natural use" as he does here when speaking of men who abandoned the natural function "of women." and burned: Grk. ekkaiō, aor. pass., to kindle or to be inflamed, used fig. of sensual desire. in their desire: Grk. orexis, strong desire for; longing or desire, particularly of sexual desire. into: Grk. eis, prep. The preposition depicts the insertion of a male bodily part. one another: Grk. allēlōn, reciprocal pronoun. See verse 12 above. males: pl. of Grk. arsēn. with: Grk. en, the preposition rendered here as "with," literally means "in" as in "inside." males: pl. of Grk. arsēn, "males;" lit. "males inside males."
Paul is being very explicit in referring to degenerate sexual conduct. His historical analysis alludes to the Torah legislation in Leviticus 18:22, "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination." Relevant to this discussion is arsenokoitēs, (1Cor 6:9; 1Tim 1:10), a male who engages as the dominant person in same-sex activity, which can include a pederast, i.e., a man who has sex with a boy (Danker). Keener points out that male-on-male sexual activity was common in the ancient Mediterranean world, but "most of those who courted or molested boys planned to eventually marry women and have children of their own" (35).
working out: Grk. katergazomai, pres. mid. part., to effect by labor, achieve, work out, bring about. the shame: Grk. aschēmosunē, shameless deed or shame. In the LXX (Ex 20:26; Deut 23:14) the word occurs as a euphemism for the private parts. However, the noun is not plural as rendered in some versions, but singular, and refers to the character of the behavior, not the manner or number of the act. What made the act bad was not simply that it violated God's commandments. Rather Paul is condemning the practice on the basis of it being against nature. God designed men to find their sexual satisfaction with wives, not with other men's wives, prostitutes or other men. In the same way, God intended that women find their sexual satisfaction with a husband. and receiving: Grk. apolambanō, pres. part., to receive from, receive as one's due.
in: Grk. en, prep. themselves: pl. of Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun; himself, herself. the penalty: Grk. antimisthia, that which is given in return in recognition of what one deserves. The term occurs only two times in the Besekh (also 2Cor 6:13) and is used here in a negative sense. which was fitting: Grk. dei, impf., impersonal verb from deō ('lack, stand in need of') and thus conveys the idea of something that's necessary, something that must or needs to happen. of the error: Grk. planē, a wandering from the standard route, veering away from what is true or right; deviation, error. Paul could be alluding to a claim of Philo that men who engaged in this unnatural conduct developed sterility and were saddled with "the disease of females" (On Abraham, 133-36). Stern suggests Paul means that vice becomes self-perpetuating, self-avenging, and productive of its own punishment.
The Catalog of Rebellion, 1:28-32
This is the most lengthy catalog of sins in the apostolic writings (cf. 1Cor 6:9-10; 2Cor 12:20-21; Gal 5:17-21; 2Tim 3:1-5; Rev 21:8; 22:15). There is no simple way to classify the offenses. It's as if Paul wrote them down as they occurred to him. The common element is that they are all committed intentionally and the antithesis of righteousness. Paul does not imply that every pagan committed every offense. Rather, this list characterizes the society or culture devoid of God. His use of the past tense in verse 28 followed by the present tense in verse 32 points to the span of history from the most ancient times of the postdiluvian generation to his own time. Rejecting the knowledge of God had disastrous results. In addition, Paul does not imply that every person in ancient society manifested every sin he identifies, but rather these moral and ethical failures characterized the fallen and rebellious population.
28― And just as they did not see fit to hold on to knowledge of God, God handed them over to an unfit mind, to do things not being proper,
And: Grk. kai, conj. just as: Grk. kathōs, adv. they did not see fit: Grk. dokimazō, aor., evaluate significance or worth; evaluate, discern, appraise, inspect, examine, determine. The verb was used to the testing of coins (Robertson). to hold: Grk. echō, pres. inf. See verse 13 above. on: Grk. en, prep. to knowledge: Grk. epignōsis, knowledge with the connotation of personal acquaintance, insight or perception. of God: Grk. theos, the Creator God and God of Israel. Mankind turned away from Elohim, the God of creation and the God of Noah, to serve gods of their own invention, gods more tolerant of human preferences. They made no effort to put God to the sort of test he welcomes (Mal 3:10) and allow him to demonstrate his adequacy. God handed them: 3p-pl. masc. pers. pron. over: Grk. paradidōmi, aor. See verse 24 above. For the third time in this chapter Paul uses this expression to indicate God's benign judgment.
to an unfit: Grk. adokimos, not meeting a standard; unqualified, worthless, unfit, or base. mind: Grk. nous, may mean (1) capacity to comprehend or discern; understanding; (2) medium for processing information or instruction; mind; or (3) the result of mental processing; mind, thought. The second meaning applies here. Some versions have "depraved mind," but this translation reflects the Christian theology of inherited depravity, which is not in view here. Paul is not talking about the doctrine of original sin. to do: Grk. poieō, pres. inf. See verse 9 above. things: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pron. not: Grk. ou, adv. being proper: Grk. kathēkō, pres. part., be proper, fitting. The verb occurs only two times in the Besekh (also in Acts 22:22). The phrase "things not being proper" or more simply "improper things" alludes to a total failure of moral duty.
29― having been filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, malice; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness; gossips,
having been filled with: Grk. plēroō, perf. pass. part., may mean (1) cause to abound in content to a maximum, fill; or (2) to bring to fruition or completion, complete, fulfill, fill up, carry out. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX plēroō is used chiefly to translate the Heb. malê (SH-4390, 'mah-lay'), "to fill or to be full," with both literal and figurative uses. all: Grk. pas, adj., i.e., "all manner of." unrighteousness: Grk. adikia. See verse 18 above. wickedness: Grk. ponēria, a mindset of hurtful scheming; cunning, baseness or maliciousness. Mounce adds "evil disposition of mind, wickedness, mischief, malignity." In the LXX ponēria appears 41 times and renders Heb. ra (SH-7451), bad, evil, wicked (Ex 10:10) (DNTT 1:564). The term appears in the Wisdom literature for sinners who oppress the righteous and then in the Prophets the term reflects the spiritual condition of God's people that resulted in their exile.
greed: Grk. pleonexia, a motivation for gaining something beyond an acceptable standard, the lust of having, thus greed or avarice. Mounce adds "an inordinate desire for riches," covetousness, extortion. In the LXX pleonexia appears occasionally and renders Heb. betsa (SH-1215), gain made by violence, unjust gain, profit (Jdg 5:19; Ps 119:36; Isa 28:8; Jer 22:17; Ezek 22:27; Hab 2:9; 2Macc 4:50) (DNTT 1:137). malice: Grk. kakia, moral offensiveness, whether as a general disposition or having malicious attitude toward others. In the LXX kakia, like ponēria, is used to render Heb. ra (Gen 6:5). full: Grk. mestos, adj., full of, used in a literal sense of objects containing a physical substance and fig. of personal characteristic, attitude or thought, whether neg. or positive, here the former. of envy: Grk. phthonos, the state of being displeased because another has something that one desires for oneself. The term does not occur in the LXX, although the idea is certainly present in the Tanakh.
murder: Grk. phonos, the act of taking a human life. In the Besekh the term is used for legalized killing or execution contrary to Torah standards (Acts 9:1; Heb 11:37) and illegal killing, i.e., murder (Matt 15:19). In Scripture the definition of murder does not include killing in self-defense or killing in war. In the LXX phonos renders Heb. chereb (SH-2719), a sword (Ex 5:3); nakah (SH-5221), to smite (Ex 22:2); and dam (SH-1818), bloodshed (from negligence, Deut 22:8). strife: Grk. eris, strife, contention, quarrels, often over non-essential matters. The term does not appear in Greek Tanakh, but it is used in Apocryphal and other early Jewish literature. Barclay says that "strife" is born of envy, ambition, the desire for prestige, and place and prominence. deceit: Grk. dolos, treacherous behavior; cunning that relies on deception for effectiveness.
maliciousness: Grk. kakoētheia, malicious disposition. The noun is derived from kakos, "an evil, vicious disposition" and ēthos, "custom," and depicts a character that fosters evil habits and inevitably shows itself in acts of deceit. It is characteristic of an evil-mindedness that puts the worst construction on everything (HELPS). The term appears only here in the Besekh, but it is found in the Apocrypha (3Macc 3:22; 4Macc 1:4; Additions to Esther 8:22, 32). gossips: pl. of Grk. psithuristēs, one who conveys information in a hushed tone, a whisperer, with connotation of being denigrating, thus gossipmonger or talebearer. The term appears only here in the Besekh. The noun does not appear in the LXX but the verb form (psithurismō) is found in Eccl 10:11 of the whispering of an enchanter to charm a snake. Barclay says that this term describes the man who whispers his malicious stories in the listener's ear, who takes a man apart into a corner and whispers a character-destroying story.
30― slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Paul continues his analysis of ancient peoples. slanderers: pl. of Grk. katalalos, adj., one who engages in a verbal attack; slanderer, defamer. The term occurs only here in the Besekh. Barclay says that the term katalalos, in contrast to the "gossip" of the previous verse, describes a man who trumpets his slanders abroad; he quite openly makes his accusations and tells his tales. Modern civil law distinguishes two types of defamation: slander, which is verbal, and libel, which is written. haters of God: pl. of Grk. theostugēs, adj., god-hating, perhaps even god-forsaken; the opposite of devout or godly. The term occurs only here in the Besekh. insolent: pl. of Grk. hubristēs, insolent abuser, one who has wanton disregard for another's well-being. Hubris is the sadism which finds delight in hurting others. The term occurs only twice in the Besekh (also 1Tim 1:13).
arrogant: pl. of Grk. huperephanos, adj., one who looks down on others, haughty, arrogant. boastful: pl. of Grk. alazōn, boaster, braggart. The term occurs only twice in the Besekh (also 2Tim 3:2). inventors: pl. of Grk. epheuretēs, deviser or inventor. The term occurs only here in the Besekh. of evil things: pl. of Grk. kakos, adj., may mean (1) morally or socially reprehensible, something that violates community standards, thus bad, wrong or evil; or (2) causing harm with focus on personal or physical injury, bad, injurious or harmful. In the LXX kakos, like ponēria and kakia, is used to render Heb. ra, which has the same dual meaning (DNTT 1:562). Kakos here refers to evil as a moral quality. An "inventor of evil" is someone who looks for new ways to engage in shocking behavior.
disobedient: pl. of Grk. apeithēs, adj., not subject to persuasion or direction, thus disobedient, rebellious, or resistant. to parents: Grk. goneus, begetter, father or ancestor. The phrase "disobedient to parents," which also occurs in 2Tim 3:2, reflects a transgression of the fifth commandment, "Honor your father and mother." Honoring parents was not only for children but for adults as well. This offender rejects the spiritual training and wisdom of parents. In addition, it can refer to neglect of elder parents as Yeshua accused certain Pharisees (Matt 15:1-9). While the term likely means one's biological parents, the term could also refer to the godly ancestors whose teaching had been rejected by the rebellious generations.
31― foolish, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful;
Paul continues his analysis of ancient peoples. foolish: pl. of Grk. asunētos, adj., without good sense, lacking comprehension, without understanding. Barclay describes this offender as one who cannot learn the lesson of experience, who will not use the mind and brain that God has given to him. untrustworthy: pl. of Grk. asunthetos, adj., not faithful to agreements, a covenant-breaker (cf. Jer 3:7-11). Barclay says this term was applied to employees who pilfered or embezzled their master's property. unloving: pl. of Grk. astorgos, adj., without any feeling or affection, whether of parents for children or children of parents. In pagan cultures thousands of children were abandoned, particularly girls, if they were not the first-born or those who were born weakly or deformed.
Many of the abandoned who did not die were taken into brothels for evil purposes. In modern times the "unloving" are the thousands of mothers who wantonly abort their babies. unmerciful: pl. of Grk. aneleēmōn, adj., hardhearted, without mercy, cruel. This offensive characteristic often was coupled with being "unloving." The "unmerciful" would include those who abuse spouses and children, as well as those who refuse to offer compassion and help to those in need.
32― who having known the decree of God, that the ones practicing such things are worthy of death, not only are doing them, but also are approving the ones practicing them.
who: Grk. hostis, relative pron. having known: Grk. epiginōskō, aor. part., having familiarity with something through observation, experience or receipt of information. Many versions translate the verb as present tense, probably influenced by the present tense verbs in the remainder of the verse. the decree: Grk. dikaiōma, a declaration with binding force; precept, requirement or decree. For Paul the term is a reference to Torah commandments. In the LXX dikaiōma occurs some 70 times to translate Heb. choq (SH-2706) or its feminine derivative chuqqah (SH-2708). It also occurs 40 times to translate mishpat (SH-4941), judgment or justice (DNTT 3:354). Choq means something prescribed; an enactment, a statute or due, and often refers to statutes that prescribed what was due the priests in terms of offerings. Choq also referred to civil enactments that prescribed justice due to victims and included regulations for holy living, such as prohibition of sexual offenses, as well as laws for festival rituals (BDB 349f; TWOT 1:316f).
Taken together the term especially pertains to the rules that relate to being a covenant people and must be obeyed to retain that identity. The second word, mishpat, is found in passages pertaining to the administration of justice (BDB 1048; TWOT 2:948f). of God: the God of Noah, the patriarchs and God of Israel. that the ones practicing: Grk. prassō, pres. part. with the definite article, to engage in activity with focus on productivity; do, perform, engage in, carry out. Sometimes the verb prassō is associated with works that might be either good or bad (Rom 9:11; 2Cor 5:10), but most often this verb is associated in other passages, as here, with evil conduct, particularly actions worthy of death (Luke 23:41; John 3:20; Acts 3:17; 15:29; 16:28; 19:19, 36; 25:11, 25; 26:9, 31; Rom 2:1-3; 7:15, 19; 13:4; 2Cor 12:21; Gal 5:21) The present tense emphasizes the nature and on-going lifestyle of the person.
such things: pl. of ho toioutos, dem. pron., of such a kind, such as this. are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 6 above. worthy: Grk. axios, having worth or value, in the sense of being weighed on a scale. of death: Grk. thanatos, death in the natural physical sense, but also fig. of existence outside a relationship with God (1Jn 3:14), including that existence into eternity (Rev 2:11). Since Paul apparently describes mankind before the creation of Israel as a nation, one might wonder what legal basis would there be for the penalty of death where there is no law, as he will later assert in this letter (4:15; 5:13). Shulam suggests that the expression "worthy of death" reflects the Jewish concept of extra-legal punishment, in contradistinction to the penalties prescribed by the Torah. These are transgressions which are punishable only by the heavenly court or by God himself, not by courts instituted by Torah. Indeed, before the covenant with Noah there was apparently no legal system to handle such crimes against God and society.
That being said God did issue a decree mandating the death penalty for murder in the covenant with Noah (Gen 9:6). A decree of death was also implied in the 120 years of grace given to mankind before the global deluge so that they might repent of their bloodshed and wickedness (Gen 6:3). Paul's point is that all the offenses he has enumerated in this chapter were deserving of the death decree, but mankind forgot the lesson of the deluge. not: Grk. ou, neg. particle. only: Grk. monon, adv. marking a narrow limitation; merely, just, only. are doing: Grk. poieō, pres. inf. See verse 9 above. The wrong-doing proceeded from the wrong-thinking. them: pl. of Grk. autos, pers. pron. but: Grk. alla, conj. also: Grk. kai, conj. are approving: Grk. suneudokeō, pres., 3p-pl., to join in approving, here used of endorsing someone's activity. the ones practicing them: Grk. prassō, pres. part. with the definite article. Man's exchange of the knowledge of God and his will for "futile speculations" and being governed by an evil inclination invariably leads to justifying bad behavior as necessary to justifying one's own bad behavior.
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
Barclay: William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans. Westminster Press, 1975.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. London: Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
Danker: F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DNTT: Colin Brown, ed., Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Zondervan Pub. House, 1975.
Edwards: James R. Edwards, Romans, New International Biblical Commentary, Vol. 6. Hendrickson Publishers, 1992.
HELPS: Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill, eds., The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at BibleHub.com)
Keener: Craig S. Keener, Romans. New Covenant Commentary Series. Cascade Books, 2009.
Kohlenberger: John R. Kohlenberger III, The Interlinear NIV Hebrew-English Old Testament. Zondervan Publishing House, 1987.
Marshall: Alfred Marshall, NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English. Zondervan Pub. House, 1986.
Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.
Murray: John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1968. (NICNT)
Owens: John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the Old Testament, 4 vols. Baker Book House, 1989.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, "Romans," A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Vol. 2, Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.
Robertson: Archibald Thomas Robertson, "Romans," Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 4, Broadman Press, 1933. (Parsons CD-ROM Version 2.0, 1997).
Rosten: Leo Rosten, Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Bible. Schocken Books, 1975.
Shulam: Joseph Shulam, A Commentary on the Jewish Roots of Romans, Lederer Books, 1997.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
TWOT: R. Laird Harris, ed., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Moody Press, 1980.
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