An Exegetical Commentary
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 12 May 2010; Revised 23 April 2019
Scripture Text: The Scripture text of used in this chapter commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison with consideration given to the American Standard Version (which is in the public domain) and the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. Unless otherwise indicated other Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. 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.
Pathology: The Source of Man’s Problems, 1:18—3:20 (cont.)
The Danger of Human Judgment, 2:1-8
God's Impartial Judgment, 2:9-16
The Obligation of Bearing the Name, 2:17-24
The Commitment of Circumcision, 2:25-29
The Danger of Judgment, 2:1-16
Christian commentators typically consider that 1:18-32 presupposes the Gentile world, but Paul, being an equal opportunity critic, shifts his focus at 2:1 to address the faults of Judaism and Jews, who supposedly engaged in arrogant and hypocritical judgmentalism. Evidence cited for this view is Wisdom of Solomon 15:2, "For even if we sin we are thine, knowing thy power; but we will not sin, because we know that we are accounted thine." And, Wisdom of Solomon may well have been a source for the catalogue of depravity in 1:18-32.
Generally ignored in this quote from Wisdom of Solomon is the statement "we will not sin," so instead of being a self-indictment the writer makes a commitment to avoiding sin. (Hardly the attitude of the Jewish stereotype imposed on this chapter.) It cannot be accidental that Paul does not address a "Jew" by name until 2:17. There could well have been Jews and Stoics holding to the moral high ground who would have applauded Paul's indictment of Gentile degeneration. However, there is no evidence that Paul begins to attack Judaism. After all, we would have to ask "which Judaism?"
In the first century there was no normative religion to which every Jew agreed. The apostolic narratives identify several distinctive groups: Sadducees, Pharisees, Herodians, and Zealots. Some of Yeshua's words in the Sermon on the Mount imply a reaction to Essene teaching. Jews in Judea held different views from Jews in Galilee and Samaria (cf. John 1:46; 4:9), and Hellenized Jews differed from Hebraic Jews (Acts 6:1). There were also other groups mentioned by early sources. The church father Justin Martyr (110-165) in his Dialogue with Trypho (Chap. LXXX) identifies seven Jewish groups: Sadducees, Genistae, Meristae, Galilaeans, Hellenists, Pharisees, and Baptistae. In fact, Moseley says there were some twenty-six to thirty different denominations within first-century Judaism (1). As many as twenty-four of these sects were considered, at one time or another, outside the mainstream because of their questionable teachings.
Gager is one of a few recent scholars who consider 1:18 to 2:16 to be all of a piece, a unit dealing exclusively with the situation of the Gentile world (113). These scholars insist that the verbal links between chapter one and chapter two are too strong to allow the introduction of a new (Jewish) audience. Even Paul's mention of Jews in verses 9 and 10 is not a specific indictment of Jewish faults but a statement about the impartiality of God who uses the same standard to judge everyone. However, Gager's viewpoint fails to recognize the Jewish character of the congregation in Rome. Paul's arguments directly concern controversies among Jews.
1― Therefore you without excuse, O Man, the one judging everyone, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for the one judging practices the same things.
Therefore: Grk. dio, conj., wherefore, on which account, therefore. you 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). The verb is second person singular, so Paul is addressing a specific person. without excuse: Grk. anapologētos, a legal term meaning "without defense." Paul makes what seems like a strange transition going from condemning a lengthy catalog of sins to a confrontation of hypocritical judging.
O: Grk. Ō, the last letter of the Greek alphabet, but used here as an interjection. When the address is intended to carry special force the inflectional particle omega ("ō") is used (DM 71). The special usage of the omega letter with vocative case nouns is found in both classical Greek writings and Jewish literature (BAG). Man: Grk. anthrōpos, voc. case., human being, man, or mankind. The vocative case is used only for direct address. In the LXX anthrōpos renders three Hebrew words: (1) adam, SH-444, a human male or generically for man and woman (Gen 1:26); (2) ish, SH-376, adult male or husband (Gen 2:23-24) and (3) enosh, SH-582, man or mankind (Ps 8:4-5) (DNTT 2:564).
The interjection of "O Man" is a rhetorical device to address a fictive opponent with whom Paul is going to debate (also in verse 3 below and in 9:20). The emphatic ō anthrōpe does not occur in the LXX, but the simple vocative anthrōpe occurs eight times in the LXX, six times in addressing a prophet of Israel as "man of God" (1Kgs 17:18; 2Kgs 1:9, 11, 13; 4:16, 39), one time addressing Israel (Mic 6:8) and one time addressing an adversary that that portended the betrayal of Judas (Ps 55:13). Only a small number of versions have "O Man" (ASV, ESV, AMP, DRA, JUB, KJV, LEB, NKJV, RSV, TLV, WEB). Some versions translate the rhetorical address with "whoever you are" (CJB, MRINT, NET, NRSV, TEV) or insert "whoever you are" after "O Man" (AMP, NKJV, RSV, WEB). Paul is not introducing a sermon on judging in the manner of "to whom it may concern … if the shoe fits."
the one judging: Grk. krinō, pres. part., to subject to scrutiny and evaluation of behavior, often in a legal context. everyone: Grk. pas, comprehensive in scope; all, every. Paul's' fictive opponent as a superior attitude and a critical mindset. While the overall tone of the letter is positive there was an issue of judging that resulted from different religious points of view (cf. Rom 14:1; 1Cor 4:5; Gal 5:10; Col 2:16; Jas 2:4). Yeshua originally addressed this issue in his Sermon on the Mount (Matt 7:1-5). Whether Paul had a specific person in mind cannot be determined with any certainty, since he had never visited this congregation. Certainly he is not reticent about identifying by name workers or teachers with whom he had problems (2Tim 2:17-18; 4:10, 14). Yet, he may have been reluctant at this stage of his ministry to identify his opponent by name in the interest of discretion and persuasion.
The opponent had apparently raised questions concerning Paul's apostolic appointment and authority, the conundrum of incorporating uncircumcised Gentiles in the people of God, the place of Torah in the disciple's life, Paul's supposed advocacy of libertinism (which he vehemently denies, 3:8) and the status of Israel's election. The latter issue was especially important since an uniformed person might conclude from his Galatian letter that Paul was anti-Israel (Gal 3:10-11; 6:15). Indeed, this errant judging of Paul persists among Christians to this very day. At heart Paul was concerned about unity in the body (as evidenced in his letters to the Corinthians) and, therefore, offers an apologetic for his ministry and persuasive teaching rather than engaging in a harsh polemic against his critic.
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." in: Grk. en, prep., generally used to mark position, lit. "in" or "within," and here marking close association. that which: Grk. hos, relative pron. you judge: Grk. krinō, pres. another: Grk. heteros, a distributive pronoun that may (1) distinguish one item from another in a numerical sense, other, another; or (2) express dissimilarity of one item relative to another, whether generically or qualitatively; other, another or different. The second meaning applies here.
you condemn: Grk. katakrinō, pres., declare worthy of punishment, pronounce a judicial verdict or condemn. yourself: Grk. seautou, reflexive pronoun, yourself. for: Grk. gar, conj. the one judging: Grk. krinō, pres. part. practices: Grk. prassō, to engage in activity; do, engage in, practice or perform. the same things: pl. of Grk. autos, pers. pron. Paul places wrongful judging in the same category as any other breach of God's Torah. God's people are supposed to abide by principles of justice that include due process and verdicts based on evidence, not rumor and innuendo. In addition, the standard for judging is the Torah, not personal opinion or custom. This opening salvo prepares the reader for Paul's debate with his fictive opponent and his attempt to correct the record concerning his message.
2― But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth, falling upon those practicing such things.
But: Grk. de, conj., used for contrast. we know: Grk. oida, perf. to have seen or perceived, hence to know. The perfect tense refers to action completed in the past with continuing results in the present. The verb "know" is used for experiential knowledge, whether (1) to know about someone; (2) to be intimately acquainted with someone; (3) to understand how to do something; and (4) to remember (BAG). In the LXX oida occurs frequently to render Heb. yada (SH-3045; e.g., Num 11:16; Deut 1:39; Josh 2:4; 2Sam 19:6), which 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).
the judgment: Grk. krima may refer to a judicial decision, decree or verdict, or a sentence of condemnation and the subsequent punishment itself. of God: Grk. theos. 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). In the LXX theos primarily renders the general names of God: El, Eloah and Elohim, but also YHVH (DNTT 2:67-70). As with many other Greek words the LXX infused new meaning into theos. The only God in existence is the God who chose Israel out of all the nations on the earth (Isa 44:6; 45:5-6, 14, 18, 21; 46:9).
is: Grk. eimi, pres. See the previous verse. 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). 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). All those meanings have application here. In the LXX alētheia regularly translates the Heb. emet (SH-571, "firmness, faithfulness, truth," BDB 54), although Christian Bibles sometimes render it as "truth" and sometimes as "faithfulness" (DNTT 3:877).
Emet is often used for truthfulness in God and piety in man. The Rabbis explain rather pedantically that emet contains the first, middle and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and that truth ought to be trustworthy through and through (Santala 72). In the Prophets and the Psalter YHVH is depicted many times as possessing the twin virtues of hēn and emet. Paul emphasizes that God's judgment is based on an absolute standard of truth (Ps 119:142, 151, 160) and that standard is his Word.
falling upon: Grk. epi, prep. used primarily as a marker of position or location; 'on, upon, over.' those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. practicing: Grk. prassō, pres. part. See the previous verse. such things: pl. of Grk. toioutos (a heightened form of toios, "such"), pronominal adj. drawing attention to something that precedes or follows in the narrative and with focus on quality or condition; such a kind, such as this, such. Paul begins to set forth principles of divine judgment. The first principle is that judgment falls on those who engage in wrongful judging.
3― And do you suppose this, O Man, the one judging such things, practicing and doing them, that you will escape the judgment of God?
And: Grk. de, conj., used to continue the thought of the previous verse. do you suppose: Grk. logizomai, pres. mid., to reckon or consider, to take into account. this: Grk. houtos, dem. pron. O Man: Grk. ō anthrōpe. Paul again refers to his fictive opponent. See verse 1 above. the one judging: Grk. krinō, pres. part. See verse 1 above. such things: Grk. toioutos. See the previous verse. practicing: Grk. prassō, pres. part. See verse 1 above. 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.
doing: Grk. poieō, pres. part.,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 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. them: pl. of Grk. autos, pers. pron. Paul's second principle is that divine judgment falls on hypocrites. He likely doesn't mean the offender commits the exact same offense, but rather that violating a Torah commandment and then judging someone for breaking a different Torah commandment amounts to committing the same offense. Both have broken the Torah. As Jacob says, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all" (Jas 2:10).
that: Grk. hoti, conj. that links two sets of data, indicating causality with an inferential aspect from what was previously said; for, because, that, inasmuch as. you: Grk. su, pron. of the second pers. will escape: Grk. ekphuegō, fut. mid., to flee away, to escape something. the judgment of God: See the previous verse for this phrase. The way to avoid this condemnation from God is to refrain from wrongful or legalistic judging.
"Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you." (Matt 7:1-2 ESV)
4― Or do you despise the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, being uninformed that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
Or: Grk. ē, a particle involving options, here as a marker of an alternative. Paul introduces a rhetorical question designed to stimulate self-evaluation. do you despise: Grk. kataphroneō, pres., look down upon; translated with varying degree of force, such as "despise, disdain, scorn" (Matt 6:24), or "pay no attention to, disregard" (Luke 16:33), or "think less of (1Tim 6:2), or "take no account of" (Heb 12:2). Danker translates the verb here as "make light of." I don't think Paul uses the verb in a soft manner. He is being confrontational.
the riches: Grk. ploutos, wealth in a material sense, but here used figuratively of abundant supply. Paul then identifies three benefits that God has lavishly bestowed on mankind. of His: Grk. autos, pers. pron. kindness: Grk. chrēstostēs, the quality of having a high level of usefulness, understood as an important factor in maintaining a well-ordered society. Rienecker defines the term as kindness in general as expressed in giving favors. and: Grk. kai, conj. forbearance: Grk. anochē, the quality of putting up with someone's misbehavior; forbearance, leniency. and: Grk. kai, conj. patience: Grk. makrothumia, the capacity for restraint in face of what is provocative; patience, forbearance.
being uninformed: Grk. agnoeō, pres. part., to be without knowledge of something; be ignorant, be uninformed, not understand. that: Grk. hoti, conj. the kindness: Grk. chrēstos, a context-specific term for meeting approval for serviceability at a high level; helpful, to one's liking, kind, good, of fine quality, good. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 2 above. leads: Grk. agō, pres., to cause movement by taking the lead; lead, bring, carry, take. you: Grk. su, 2p-sing. pers. pron. to repentance: Grk. metanoia, a serious change of mind and heart about a previous point of view or course of behavior. In the LXX metanoia occurs only one time and without Hebrew equivalent in Proverbs 14:15, "The guileless believe every word, but the astute one comes to repentance" (ABP).
Thayer points out that the noun occurs in Josephus to represent especially the change of mind of those who have begun to abhor their errors and misdeeds, and have determined to enter upon a better course of life, so that it embraces both a recognition of sin and sorrow for it and hearty amendment, the tokens and effects of which are good deeds (Ant. XIII, 11:3). Metanoia also occurs in Sirach 44:16 where it says "Enoch pleased the Lord, and was taken up; he was an example of repentance to all generations." The Hebrew concept of repentance means to turn away from evil in the sense of renouncing and disowning sin, and to turn toward the good or becoming obedient to God's will expressed in the commandments (TWOT 2:909).
True repentance requires honest self-evaluation, and any serious consideration of the divine virtues that Paul just named should lead the honest disciple to identify any number of faults for which confession is necessary. Repentance should be part of the disciple's lifestyle as implied in the Lord's Prayer. No one becomes so holy or so perfect that he can stop repenting. Stern shares this exhortation from the Talmud:
"Rabbi Eliezer (c.40-c. 120 AD) said, 'Repent one day before you die.' His disciples asked him, '[How can we do that?] Who knows on what day he will die?' He answered them, 'All the more reason to repent today, because you might be dead tomorrow!'" (Shabbat 153a)
5― But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath to yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,
But: Grk. de, conj. because of: Grk. kata, prep. your: Grk. su, pron. of the second pers. stubbornness: Grk. sklērotēs, unyielding condition or characteristic; stubbornness. and: Grk. kai, conj. unrepentant: Grk. ametanoētos, adj., indisposed to change of mind; unrepentant. heart: Grk. kardia, the pumplike organ of blood circulation, used as metaphorically of selfhood or the combination of character, emotion, intelligence and the will. In the LXX kardia renders Heb. lebab (SH-3824), inner man, mind, heart, will (DNTT 2:181). you are storing up: Grk. thēsaurizō, pres., lit. "treasure up," a financial term has the sense of an investment that is earning interest. wrath: Grk. orgē means anger, indignation or wrath. Orgē is the preferred word in the Besekh for the judgment of God 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).
to yourself: Grk. seautou, poss. pron. in: Grk. en, prep. the day: Grk. hēmera may refer to (1) the daylight hours from sunrise to sunset, (2) the civil or legal day that included the night, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose or (4) a longer or imprecise period, such as a timeframe for accomplishing something or a time of life or activity (BAG). The third usage applies here. of wrath: Grk. orgē. The "day of wrath" is most likely intended literally rather than figuratively. and: Grk. kai, conj. revelation: Grk. apokalupsis, making fully known; uncovering, disclosure, revelation. of the righteous judgment: Grk. dikaiokrisia, just or equitable verdict. This term occurs only here in the Besekh. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel.
The wrath of God will fall on the "sons of disobedience" (Eph 5:6; Col 3:6), on the people with the mark of the beast in the form of seven bowels of wrath (Rev 15:1; 16:1), and on the beast's army gathered at Armageddon (Rev 19:15). The Jewish Sages understood "the day of wrath" (Zeph 1:15) to refer to the judgment of Gehenna (Baba Bathra 10a, 116a; Shabbat 118a; Avodah Zarah 18b). Likewise, "the day that shall burn as an oven" (Mal 3:9; Sanhedrin 110b). It is to this common belief that Yochanan the Immerser appeals "O generation of hypocrites, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Matt 3:7).
6― who will repay each one according to his works:
who: Grk. hos, rel. pron. will repay: Grk. apodidōmi, to engage in reciprocity, usually used of a transaction involving money or goods, but here fig. of paying back as an obligation; pay back, repay, give back. each one: Grk. hekastos, used in reference to an individual person or thing; each one, every one. according to: Grk. kata, prep. his: Grk. autos, pers. pron. works: pl. of Gr. ergon, generally means a tangible deed, action or accomplishment that may be observed, with these applications: (1) in contrast to rest; (2) as a practical proof of something; (3) of the deeds of God and Yeshua, specifically miracles; or (4) the deeds of men, exhibiting a consistent moral character, whether good or bad (BAG). The fourth usage applies here.
Paul stresses that divine judgment is based on deeds. "Profession does not take the place of production" (Harrison). This truth is found also in Psalm 62:12; Prov 24:12, on the lips of Yeshua (Matt 16:27, John 5:29; Rev 2:23), and in the instruction of Paul (1Cor 3:13; 2Cor 5:10; Eph 6:8; Col 3:25). The most important deed or work is to "believe in him whom He has sent" (John 6:29).
7― indeed to those that with endurance in a good work are seeking glory and honor and immortality, eternal life;
indeed: Grk. mén, a particle of affirmation; indeed, verily, truly. Many versions do not translate the particle. to those that: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article and dem. pron. with: Grk. kata, prep. endurance: Grk. hupomonē, capacity for resolute continuance in a course of action; endurance, perseverance, steadfastness. in a good: Grk. agathos, adj., achieving a high standard of excellence in meeting a need or interest, beneficial, useful, helpful or good. The adjective is used as a substantive to refer to a class of actions or works. "The good" are those works defined by Torah as expressions of loving one's neighbor and doing righteousness or justice (cf. Matt 5:16; Eph 2:10; 1Tim 6:18). As a personal characteristic agathos may refer to inner worth or that which is intrinsically morally good. When used of God agathos refers to his perfection. work: Grk. ergon. See the previous verse.
In Greek philosophy (of which Paul was very knowledgeable), the concept of the good plays an major role. For Plato the good is the dominant idea or form. The good is the power which preserves and supports in contrast to that which spoils and destroys. Aristotle applied the basic concept to human relations and defined the goal of all action as the attainment of some form of good. The Stoic philosophy emphasized that only virtues are truly good and happiness results from seeking what truly benefits life.
Paul was born and raised in Tarsus, a center of Stoic philosophy. The city had a university and was greatly influenced by Stoic philosophical schools. It was the birthplace of Chrysippus, a well-known leader of the Stoic movement in the third century BC. Stoicism was a school of Hellenistic philosophy that focused on seeking "the good," which in practical terms meant a life of moderation and frugality. The path to personal happiness and inner peace could be accomplished by extinguishing all desire to have or to affect things beyond ones control and through living for the present without hope for or fear of the future.
In the Tanakh the concept of "the good" is totally linked with faith in God. Any idea of "the good," as freed from the concept of the holy Creator God, is totally incompatible with Greek thought. The good is always a gift of God and as such is outside the control of man to produce in his own strength (Gen 3:5). Chapter Seven elaborates on this theme. God is the one, the only one, who is innately, inherently good. The Heb. word tov became the regular designation of the goodness of God's character or actions. The LXX translates tov in this connection almost exclusively with agathos. So, Paul is not speaking of "the good life" in the sense of Hellenistic asceticism or Jewish legalism, but doing what imitates the nature of God by the power of God.
are seeking: Grk. zēteō, pres. part., may mean (1) be on the search for in order to find someone or something one has difficulty in locating; seek, look for; (2) search for ways to satisfy an interest; deliberate, discuss; (3) have an interest in; desire, seek; or (4) press for; expect, demand. In this context the third meaning applies here. 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. kabōd ("glory" or "honor"), and when used of God refers to the luminous manifestation of God’s person, his glorious revelation of himself, especially in his presence in the tabernacle and later the temple (Ex 40:34-35; 1 Kin 8:10-11; Ps 26:8). Characteristically, kabōd 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 Besekh doxa is a continuation of the underlying Hebrew concept (DNTT 2:45). To seek for glory is to seek for a life with God and to enjoy his glorious presence. and: Grk. kai, conj. honor: Grk. timē, denotes recognition of another’s work by giving him the position and honors he merits.
Timē is always something given to God or one’s fellowman (though not necessarily one’s social superior) (DNTT 3:44). Paul seeks the honor of God's approval and hearing "well done, good and faithful servant (Matt 25:21). and: Grk. kai, conj. immortality: Grk. aphtharsia, incorruptibility, immortality (1Cor 15:53-54). For Paul immortality is occupying the new tent reserved in heaven (2Cor 5:1). The resurrection body will not be subject to suffering, disease, pain or weakness of any kind. Best of all is that there will be no more death. eternal: Grk. aiōnios, can mean without beginning or without end. life: Grk. zōē, alive in contrast with being dead. Eternal life is the ultimate prize and the quality of that life is manifested in glory, honor and immortality.
8― and to those of self-seeking and disobeying the truth, but being conformed to unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.
Paul repeats the bad news of 1:18. and: Grk. de, conj. to those: pl. of Grk. ho, dem. pron. of self-interest: Grk. eritheia, interest in gaining advantage over another; self ambition, selfishness. and: Grk. kai, conj. disobeying: Grk. apeitheō, pres. part., disobey, be rebellious, resist. the truth: Grk. alētheia, that which is really so. Alētheia is used here to mean divine truth revealed to man and practice that is in accord with that truth. In the LXX alētheia regularly translates the Heb. emet (SH-571, "firmness, faithfulness, truth," BDB 54), although Christian Bibles sometimes render it as "truth" and sometimes as "faithfulness" (DNTT 3:877). "Doing the truth" means being faithful to God and living according to His expectations.
but: Grk. de, conj. being conformed to: Grk. peithō, pres. part., bring about a convinced state; submit to, comply, conform to. unrighteousness: Grk. adikia, means wrongdoing, unrighteousness, wickedness or injustice. The word group (adikia, the adj. adikos, and the vb. adikeō) pictures the unjust man as opposite of the just man. Adikia 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 God and the community (cf. 1Jn 5:17).
wrath: Grk. orgē. See verse 5 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. indignation: Grk. thumos, a passionate state of mind; wrath, anger. The term may indicate intense desire or passion or in the extreme wrath or anger. The terms thumos and orgē are the only words in the Greek language for anger. Thumos was described as being like the flame which comes from dried straw. It quickly blazes up and just as quickly dies down. Orgē is long-lived anger, an anger that has been nursed, an anger of brooding over an offense and not allowed to die. However, in the LXX there is virtually no distinction between thumos and orgē and both terms are used synonymously and appear for the same numerous Hebrew equivalents.
9― tribulation and distress for every soul of man committing evil, of the traditional Jew first and of the Hellenistic Jew,
This verse continues the thought of the previous verse. tribulation: Grk. thlipsis means affliction, pressure or oppression, and is a word picture of being crushed under a weight. The term could refer to affliction, trials or even persecutions that occur in this life, but more likely refers to the great tribulation of which Yeshua prophesied (cf. Matt 24:21) or even retribution at his Second Coming (2Th 1:6). and distress: Grk. stenochōria, means anguish, torturing confinement (Rienecker). Taken together Paul points to the fate of eternal punishment for the wicked.
for every soul: Grk. psuchē, that which animates the physical life or the seat and center of the inner life of man in its many and varied aspects (BAG). Psuchē corresponds to the Heb. nephesh, "breath," and designates that which makes man or beast, into a living being. In Hebrew thought a person is a soul-body. Thus, "soul" does not refer to a non-physical part of a human being, but rather to the whole person. Human beings live as "souls;” they do not have souls (e.g., Acts 2:41; 7:14; 27:37;1 Pet 3:20). Caution needs to be exercise to not take the implication literalistically. In context "life" might be a better translation.
of man: Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 1 above. committing: Grk. katergazomai, pres. mid. part., to cause an outcome; do, commit, bring about, produce, accomplish. evil: Grk. kakos, adj., may mean (1) morally or socially reprehensible, something that violates community standards, thus wrong or evil; or (2) causing harm with focus on personal injury, bad, injurious or harmful. In the LXX kakos is used to render Heb. ra, which has the same dual meaning (DNTT 1:562). Kakos here refers to evil as a moral quality.
of the traditional Jew: Grk. Ioudaios, Judean, Jew, Jewish or Jewess with respect to birth heritage (BAG). Danker notes that the term may be used as an adjective (Judean, Jewish) or a noun (Jew, Judean). For a complete discussion on origin of the term and its particular uses in the Besekh see my article The Apostolic Community. In the Besekh Ioudaios designates a person by belief and practice (cf. John 4:9) and distinguishes "devout" Jews from secular Jews (Acts 2:5). Indeed the noun Ioudaismos, "Judaism," first appears in the Maccabean writings for a way of life devoted to observance of Torah laws (2Macc 2:21; 8:1; 14:38; 4Macc 4:26), and then used by Paul to describe his religion before his life-changing encounter with Yeshua (Gal 1:13-14) (DNTT 2:310).
Moreover, the tenets of their Judaism were determined by the scribes and Pharisees in Jerusalem, whose traditions they followed (cf. Matt 23:2-3; Mark 7:3; Acts 10:28). Traditional Jews spoke Hebrew as their primary language (cf. Acts 6:1), although they could be conversant in Aramaic and Greek. They revered Moses (John 9:28-29; Acts 6:11), and recognized the authority of the written Torah (John 7:23; Acts 21:20) and the traditions of the Sages (Matt 15:2; Gal 1:14; Col 2:8). They 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; 5:16; 19:31; Acts 2:5; 16:3; 21:21; 22:3; 24:14). The same devotion could not be said of other Israelite descendants who were scattered throughout the world. Thus, the term Ioudaios is never used to identify Hellenistic Jews, Samaritan Jews or Qumran Jews.
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. 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" (329). Stern goes on to explain that the concept of "Jew first" includes both a historical priority and a covenant priority. 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. 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 Gospel.
and: Grk. te, particle used to connect an idea closely to another in a manner that is tighter that with kai that follows. When used alone it may be rendered as 'and,' 'and likewise,' or 'at the same time.' In the Greek text te precedes "first." also: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. There are twenty-four conjunctions in biblical Greek, with kai by far the most common in the Besekh (DM 209). Kai has three basic uses: (1) transitional or continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; (3) intensive or emphatic – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The combination of the two conjunctions should be translated as "both…and" with the effect that both groups are treated as equal and together for the outcome, whether bad in this verse or good in the next verse. For more on this subject see the section "Conjunctions" in my web article The Jewish New Testament.
of the Hellenistic Jew: Grk. Hellēn may mean (1) a person of Greek language and culture, or (2) in the broader sense, all persons who came under the influence of Greek culture (BAG). 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 Hellēn (DNTT 2:124). The Jewish people was not exempt from this influence and thousands of Jews in the Diaspora were Hellenistic. In spite of the fact that Hellēn is not a term restricted to ethnic Greeks or Gentiles in general, all the lexicons inexplicably exclude Jews from this definition.
Hellēn appears 25 times in the apostolic writings and should at least be translated as "Hellenist" to avoid confusion. All but two of those occurrences are in Paul's letters (14 times) or in Luke's narratives of Paul's ministry (9 times). The majority of Bible versions translate Hellēn in this verse and the next as "Greek," but many have "Gentile," which in the modern vernacular means a non-Jew. In my view "Greek" is a bad translation. Paul was writing to a congregation in Rome (not Greece) consisting of people who are residents of Italy. Why contrast Jews and Greeks? The average person reading the text would assume Paul was referring to a population of expatriates from Greece living in Rome.
Although not recognized by Christian lexicons Bible readers should consider the likelihood that Paul uses Hellēn to include if not exclusively designate Hellenistic Jews. After all, Hellēn is a cultural term, not an ethnic term. Hellenistic Jews could be totally secular, religiously ascetic like the Essenes, or devoted worshippers of ADONAI. It is fair to say that the numbers of Hellenistic Jews in the Roman Empire was equal to or even greater than traditional Jews. Pertinent to this consideration is that the first uses of Hellēn in the Besekh (Mark 7:26; John 7:35 and John 12:20) refer to Jews and not Gentiles. The CJB is the only version that translates Hellēn in the Johannine passages as "Greek-speaking Jews." For a detailed discussion on the topic of Hellēn representing "Hellenistic Jews" see my article Hellenism and the Jews.
The terms Ioudaios and Hellēn are frequently paired as in this verse (Acts 11:19-20; 14:1-2; 18:4, 19:10, 17; 20:21; Rom 1:16; 2:10; 3:9; 10:12; 1Cor 1:22, 24; 10:32; Gal 3:28; Col 3:11). Why? When Paul wants to speak of Gentiles in an unambiguous manner he uses the term ethnos, as he does in verse 14 below and 23 other times in this letter. In contrast to the Ioudaios, a Hellēn lived by values unacceptable to the Ioudaios. The differences went deeper than the fact that traditional Jews spoke Hebrew and Hellenistic Jews spoke Greek.
As a Pharisee before meeting Yeshua Paul would have believed that salvation was only for Jews of his Judaism. The Mishnah declares the Pharisee point of view, "All Israel has a portion in the world to come" (Sanhedrin 11:1), but immediately qualifies this statement with a list of Israelites who have no place in the world to come. The list of excluded Israelites includes those who adhere to Greek philosophy. Other leading Pharisee Sages concurred saying, "when you behave as sons you are designated sons; if you do not behave as sons, you are not designated sons" (Kiddushin 36a). After his transformation Paul realized that God was no respecter of persons and that he judged all the sons of Israel by the same standard.
10― but glory and honor and peace to everyone doing good, to the traditional Jew first and also to the Hellenistic Jew.
but: Grk. de, conj. glory: Grk. doxa. See verse 7 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. honor: Grk. timē. See verse 7 above. and peace: Grk. eirēnē, 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. The Greek word corresponds to Heb. shalom, which means completeness, soundness, welfare, or peace (BDB 1022). In Jewish culture shalom is never peace in the negative sense, the absence of conflict, but the possession of everything that makes for man’s highest good. The biblical word "peace" is relational in scope and does not necessarily depict an emotional state.
to everyone: Grk. pas, adj. doing: Grk. ergazomai, pres. mid. part., to work, be at work, do, carry out, either with the focus on effort itself in the course of activity or the result of effort. good, Grk. agathos. See verse 7 above. Glory, honor and peace are the rewards of faithfulness, which are experienced in part now and in fullness in the millennial kingdom and into eternity. Paul affirms the message of David, "ADONAI will repay everyone his righteousness and his faithfulness" (1Sam 26:23 TLV). The standard for goodness is not a legalistic list, but the Torah. Paul is not describing so-called "works righteousness," but the reality of the final judgment. The books will be opened at the white throne judgment after the millennium and "the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds" (Rev 20:12).
The Messianic judgment that occurs before the millennium is also based on works as Yeshua indicated in the parables of the talents and the flock (Matthew 25). However, we should note that the award of eternal benefits is based on the quality of acts, not the quantity. Paul then repeats the closing phrase as in the previous verse to complete the contrast. to the traditional Jew: Grk. Ioudaios. See the previous verse. first: Grk. prōton. See the previous verse. Little considered by Gentile Christians is that the Jew is rewarded first. and also: Grk. te … kai. See the note on the previous verse. to the Hellenistic Jew: Grk. Hellēn. See the previous verse. The Hellenistic Jews are included with the traditional Jews as recipients first of the good things of God.
11― For there is not partiality with God.
For: Grk. gar, conj. there is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. not: Grk. ou, particle of strong negation; not. partiality: Grk. prosōpolēmpsia, respect of persons, favoritism, partiality. with: Grk. para, prep. that conveys association; beside, alongside of, with. God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. God will not play favorites on the day of judgment. Merely being Jewish will not save the Jew. Merely being Gentile will not condemn the Gentile. The issue is have we sought to live our lives by Torah? That is the standard by which God will judge people.
12― For as many as have sinned outside of Torah also will perish outside of Torah, and as many as have sinned within Torah will be judged by Torah;
For: Grk. gar, conj. as many as: pl. of Grk. hosos, relative pronoun, as many as. have sinned: Grk. hamartanō, aor., cause to be alongside instead of on target, to miss and in a moral sense to do wrong as defined in the Torah. BAG defines as to transgress or sin against divinity, custom or law. In the LXX hamartanō renders Heb. chata (SH-2398), to miss, go wrong, sin, and generally used of behavior prohibited by God (Gen 20:7; Ex 9:27), which inevitably produces guilt and the need for atonement or punishment. outside of Torah: Grk. anomōs, adv., pertaining to being under no legal jurisdiction. This word occurs only twice in the Besekh, both in this verse. The word is formed by adding the negative article "a" to nomos, law.
The word anomōs is rare in Classical Greek literature, BAG listing only three, two of which used the word to mean "impiously" and the third who used the word in the sense of living in ignorance of law. The term anomōs is not found in the LXX, but it is found in 2Macc 8:17 where it is used to mean "unjustly" (Thayer). Philo, the first century Jewish philosopher, used anomōs in the sense of ignorance (Allegorical Interpretation, 1:35). Josephus uses anomōs in Against Apion with two different meanings, first to mean "illegal" (I:20), and then to mean ignorance of Torah expectations (II:15).
In the LXX nomos translates torah and thus Stern translates anomōs appropriately with "outside the framework of Torah." Hellenistic Jews and Gentiles might have been law-abiding citizens as defined by the laws of the country of which they were residents, but they lived outside the framework of Torah. However, Gentiles could receive salvation if they kept the Noachide Laws (Gen 9:1-8) (Stern 260). The Sages identified seven laws as applying to all mankind: practicing justice and abstaining from blasphemy, idolatry, adultery, bloodshed, robbery and eating flesh torn from a live animal (Sanhedrin 56a). However, the absolute essentials were abstaining from idolatry, harlotry and murder, of which a person must die rather than commit (Sanhedrin 74a).
These crimes were known to be wrong from the beginning (Gen 2:17; 4:11f; 6:5ff; 18:20; 20:3; 26:10). The rules for Gentile disciples established by Messianic leaders in Jerusalem appear to be based on the Noachide covenant (Acts 15:20). also: Grk. kai, conj. will perish: Grk. apollumi, fut. mid., may mean (1) cause severe damage; destroy, kill; or (2) experience disconnection or separation; lose, perish. The second meaning applies here in the sense of incurring loss of eternal life and being permanently cut off from the grace of God. outside of Torah: Grk. anomōs. The penalty of sin imposed on our first parents is not rescinded just because a person does not live according to the laws given to Israel. The wages of disobeying creation law is death.
and: Grk. kai, conj. all who: pl. of Grk. hosos. have sinned: Grk. hamartanō, aor. within: Grk. en, prep., generally functioning as a marker of position within, lit. "in" or "within." Some versions (ESV, HCSB, NASB, NET, NIV, NRSV, RSV) translate the preposition inaccurately as "under," even though the preposition for "under" (Grk. hupo) is not used here as it is in 6:14-15. Torah: Grk. nomos may mean either a principle or standard relating to behavior or codified legislation. The English word "law," which translates the Hebrew word Torah in the Bible, does not convey the breadth of meaning of this important word.
In the LXX nomos translates torah (SH-8451), but torah does not mean simply "law" or "laws" as the English word conveys. Torah means "direction," "teaching" or "instruction" and comes from the root yarah, which means to throw, to shoot (as in arrows), or to cast (as in lots) (BDB 435f). Torah came to mean law in the sense of commandments, statutes and ordinances decreed by God. In addition Torah meant instruction of a mother (Prov 1:8) or father (Prov 3:1), and the direction given by duly appointed judges (Deut 17:11) and priests (Deut 24:8; 33:10) to implement God's commandments. Torah sets forth the way a person is meant to live in an ethical and moral way in order to enjoy life to the full and to please God.
In normal Jewish usage in the time of Yeshua Torah had a variety of specific applications. Torah could mean (1) the commandments given through Moses to the nation of Israel at Sinai and Moab (e.g., Matt 12:5; Luke 2:22-27; John 1:17; 8:5; Jas 2:11); (2) that plus the entire Pentateuch, especially when used in combination with "the Prophets" (Matt 22:40; John 1:45); that plus any portion of the Prophets and Writings (Matt 5:18; John 10:34; 12:34; 15:25). In this sense "Law" can be synonym of "Scripture."
In Rabbinic Judaism Torah also came to include the traditions they considered sacred. In the Besekh Pharisees observed traditions they claimed originated with Moses and regarded as equivalent in authority as the written Torah (Matt 15:2-6; 19:7-8; 23:2; Luke 6:2-9; 13:10; John 5:10; Acts 15:1). While Yeshua kept traditions acceptable to Pharisees (such as prayer), he and his apostles constantly emphasized the written Word of God as the only authority for life, as the numerous instances of "it is written" or "it was written" in the Besekh attest.
In the apostolic narratives nomos almost always refers to the written words of Moses, but sometimes is used to mean laws enacted by Jewish authorities (e.g., John 8:17; 18:31; Acts 18:15). However, two other applications were made by Yeshua and Paul, indicating a common practice. The first is nomos (Torah) as a universal principle derived from Scripture. Yeshua spoke of the "weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness (Matt 23:23) and said that the two greatest commandments summed up the entire Torah (Matt 22:36-40). Paul will write later in this letter about the "law of faith," the "law of my mind," the "law of sin," the "law of the Spirit" and the "law of righteousness."
Another application of nomos is in reference to legalism, for which there was no word in either Greek or Hebrew. Legalism is the misuse of Torah (1Tim 1:8) and this usage of nomos is reflected in Romans 6:14-15. The variety in the usage of nomos-Torah must be considered when interpreting the teaching of Paul concerning the Law.
will be judged: Grk. krinō, fut. pass. See verse 1 above. The future tense probably points to the final judgment by God, although a more immediate sense could be intended. by: Grk. dia, prep. The root meaning of dia is two, but in composition it normally means through or between (DM 101). Here the preposition conveys agency, so it is rendered with "by." Torah: Grk. nomos. Paul's point is that the Torah is the plumbline by which all who are obligated to live by Torah (namely Jews and proselytes), as well those who claim to live by Torah, will be judged.
13― for it is not the hearers of the Torah who are righteous ones before God, but the doers of Torah will be made righteous.
for: Grk. gar, conj. it is not: Grk. ou, particle of strong negation. the hearers: pl. of Grk. akroatēs, member of an audience, hearer. of Torah: Grk. nomos. See the previous verse. Robertson suggests this is an allusion to the reading of the Torah in synagogue services. Merely listening to the Torah is no virtue. This is similar to Paul's comment about a veil remaining on hearts when the Torah is read (2Cor 3:14).
who are righteous ones: pl. of Grk. dikaios, adj., being in accord with Torah standards for acceptable behavior, upright or just. Long before Paul talked about justification to the Roman congregation, Scripture indicates that certain individuals were righteous in the sight of God: Joseph, step-father to Yeshua (Matt 1:19), Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1:6), Simeon (Luke 2:25), Yochanan the Immerser (Matt 21:32), Joseph of Arimathea (Luke 23:50) and Cornelius (Acts 10:22). before: Grk. para, prep. God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel.
but: Grk. alla, adversative conj. the doers: Grk. poiētēs, one who performs according to directives; doer. Mounce defines as a performer of the enactments of a law. of Torah: Grk. nomos. Paul contrasts who will receive the benefit of God's grace. Doers of the law are those who allow themselves to be judged by Torah and refrain from judging others. Doers also focus on God's intention and priorities in Torah whereas "works of law" is an expression for majoring on minors. For example, the doer heeds the divine directive given through the prophet Micah, "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Mic 6:8 ESV)
On the basis of this Yeshua criticized his adversaries with this evaluation:
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others." (Matt 23:23 NASB)
will be made righteous: Grk. dikaioō, fut. pass. BAG has these definitions: (1) show justice, do justice for someone; (2) justify, vindicate, treat as just; (3) used in connection with God's judgment, be acquitted, be pronounced and treated as righteous and thereby become righteous; (4) to make free or pure, in the passive voice (as in this verse) to be set free, made pure from. The verb occurs 39 times in the Besekh, 29 of which are in the works of Paul. In the LXX dikaioō renders Heb. tsadaq (SH-6663), to be just or righteous, to declare right, to vindicate, prove right, to acquit or be acquitted, or to be cleared of wrongdoing (e.g., Gen 38:26; 44:16; 2Sam 15:4; Ps 143:2; Isa 43:26) (DNTT 3:355).
As a forensic word dikaioō is a word picture of a trial with a heavenly Judge and a righteous standard against which people are measured and evaluated. One case before the court is an innocent person wrongly accused. The outcome of that trial vindicates the person's character and he is acquitted. Throughout the Tanakh the verb occurs only in this acquittal scenario. In other words the person is actually righteous and the verb describes the defense of that person's character. The same usage may also be found in the apostolic narratives (Matt 11:19; 12:37; Luke 7:29; 10:29; 18:14), and Paul also applies this sense in some passages (Rom 3:4; 4:2; 1Cor 4:4; 1Tim 3:16).
However, in most instances Paul uses dikaioō to depict a different trial in which the accused is guilty. The defendant before the bar of God is not only guilty of sinning, but dead in those trespasses (Eph 2:1). There is no acquittal but yet in response to humble confession and repentance God offers mercy and forgiveness, and then grants pardon and release from punishment, thereby creating a relationship of favor with God (Rom 3:2; 4:5; 5:1; 1Cor 6:11; Gal 2:16-17; 3:8, 11, 24; 5:4; Titus 3:7). In Christian theology justification is an act of God whereby He declares a person righteous on the basis of the person's belief in Yeshua. The English verb "justify" is the preferred translation of standard Christian versions in the letters of Paul due to its historical association with the Reformation doctrine of "justification by faith."
However, in modern English the "justify" word group has an unfamiliar ring to it, and can be easily confused with "vindicate." The standard definition presents a conundrum. How can God call a guilty sinner righteous who has yet to produce a single work of righteousness? We should note that Paul never actually says that justification declares a person righteous. "Declared righteous" is simply a dictionary definition of the verb dikaioō. However, justification represents God's desire to make people righteous (as BAG defines the verb), not merely declare them righteous. What good would it do for God to declare someone righteous and then allow that person to go on sinning as some Evangelicals believe of born-again persons? Being righteous and continued sinning are mutually exclusive. Paul rebuts antinomian teaching in the strongest terms (Rom 6:2).
In justification a person is "righteousified" by receiving the benefit of Messiah's righteousness provided as a perfect sin offering (Rom 3:24). Justification admits a person into the company of the righteous and is a call to righteousness (cf. Matt 5:20; Rom 4:25; 6:11-18; 2Cor 5:21; Gal 5:5), just as God desires a holy people (Eph 5:27; Col 1:22). Righteousness takes its definition from the Torah. Moreover, a new heart provides the motivation for becoming righteous, but the divine work to make someone fully righteous does not occur in a moment of time. Righteousness is something to be pursued (1Tim 6:11; 2Tim 2:22; cf. Matt 5:6). A number of verses speak of righteousness resulting from "faith," but in those instances "pistis" should be translated as "faithfulness" (Rom 3:26; 4:5, 9, 11, 13; 9:30; 10:6; Gal 5:5; Php 3:9). The justified person must become a student of Scripture to achieve righteousness (2Tim 3:16).
The future passive form of the verb may point to finally being set free from the curse of sin at the last judgment, so the verb could be translated as "freed" (cf. Acts 13:39). The CJB is the only versions that applies BAG's definition with "made righteous." The future tense could also have a contemporaneous meaning because of its axiomatic character. In other words, if one produces the behavior God expects based on Torah commandments, then that person would be considered righteous. A righteous person is not just a hearer, but a doer.
Someone will no doubt point out that in 3:20 Paul says that "by works of law" no flesh will be justified. That statement appears to contradict what he says here. The difference between the two axiomatic statements is the difference between "doers of Torah" and "doers of legalism," which is the meaning of 3:20. The definition of "righteous" is keeping Torah standards, especially the principal commandments to love God and neighbor, which according to Yeshua summed up the Torah (Matt 22:37-40; cf. Rom 13:9). We would also point out that Paul does not make "made righteous" as coincidental with being born again. Rather he deals with a fundamental question: how does a person become righteous?
14― For when Gentiles, not having the Torah should do by nature the things of Torah, these, not having the Torah, are a law to themselves,
For: Grk. gar, conj. when: Grk. hotan, conj. used of the time when a condition is met; when, whenever. Gentiles: pl. of Grk. ethnos, humans belonging to a people group. Ethnos in the singular may refer to a specific ethnic or cultural people, such as the Jewish Samaritans (Acts 8:9) or Israel (Matt 21:43; Acts 24:17). The use of "nation" might give the wrong impression, since ethnos does not refer to a political state. In the Besekh the plural form ethnos normally corresponds to the Heb. goyim, which in the Tanakh referred to all nations, including Israel (cf. Gen 10:5; Ex 19:6; Deut 4:6; Ps 106:5; Isa 9:1). From the Second temple onwards Jews generally used the plural of ethnos to refer to non-Jews. 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).
not: Grk. mē, a particle of qualified negation, subjective in nature, involving will and thought; not. having: Grk. echō, pres. part., to have, hold or possess with a wide range of application. the Torah: Grk. nomos. See verse 12 above. should do: Grk. poieō, pres. subj. See verse 3 above. The subjunctive mood supports the hypothetical nature of Paul's proposition. by nature: Grk. phusis, a fundamental state of being; nature. Some versions have "instinctively" (AMP, CEB, EXB, HCSB, MSG, NASB, NLT, NRSV, TEV), but this word is normally associated with the nature of animals, whereas humans live by choices. Paul is talking about someone with a changed nature, so he is not talking about idolatrous pagans. He refers to God-fearing Gentiles. These Gentiles loved the Jewish people, believed in and prayed to the God of Israel, attended synagogue worship, kept at least the moral code and other Jewish traditions in varying degrees, and gave alms and other financial support to the Jews.
these: pl. of Grk. houtos, dem. pron. not: Grk. mē. having: Grk. echō, pres. part. the Torah: Grk. nomos. are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. a law: Grk. nomos. to themselves: pl. of Grk. heautou, reflexive pron. Paul does not mean that non-Jews being a "law to themselves" have the right to cancel God's standards of righteousness and substitute their own situational ethics. He just said these non-Jews do by nature what the Torah requires. Paul isn't talking about keeping distinctive Jewish customs and traditions. Rather, when Gentiles without a Torah-upbringing accept the God of Israel and his Messiah, and submit to following him, they invariably begin living as God intended.
15― who show the work of the Torah written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts between accusing or also defending,
who: Grk. hostis, relative pron. show: Grk. endeiknumi, pres. mid., demonstrate or show. the work: Grk. ergon. See verse 6 above. of the Torah: Grk. nomos. See verse 12 above. written: Grk. graptos, adj., inscribed, written. This word appears only here in the Besekh. in: Grk. en, prep. their: pl. Grk. autos, pers. pron. hearts: pl. of Grk. kardia. See verse 5 above. The phrase "written in their hearts" alludes to Jeremiah 31:33, which is the promise of the New Covenant (cf. Heb 8:8–12). their: pl. Grk. autos, pers. pron. conscience: Grk. suneidēsis, sensitivity to moral or ethical expectations; moral awareness, consciousness. bearing witness: Grk. summartureō, pres. part., offer supporting attestation; to testify or bear witness together with another; confirm.
and: Grk. kai, conj. their: pl. Grk. autos. thoughts: pl. of Grk. logismos, a product of mental process; thought, reasoning. between: Grk. metaxu, between, as a marker noting a point at which one entity is separate from another. accusing: Grk. katēgoreō, pres. part., charge with an offense, usually in a legal sense; accuse. or: Grk. ē, particle involving options; or, either…or. also: Grk. kai, conj. used to introduce the alternative. defending: Grk. apologeomai, speak in one's own defense, frequently with a contextual component of spurious charges in juristic proceedings; defend oneself. Paul illustrates how the changed nature works. The new sensitized conscience directs the Gentile's behavior so that it conforms to Torah without the Gentile knowing all of Torah's requirements.
16― on that day when, according to my good news, God will judge the secrets of men through Messiah Yeshua.
on: Grk. en, prep. that: Grk. hos, relative pron. day: Grk. hēmera. See verse 5 above. What sounds an ominous note about the future judgment is actually intended in a positive sense, considering the previous verse. when: Grk. hote, adv., when, at which time. according to: Grk. kata, prep. my: Grk. egō, pron. of the first pers. 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 renders besorah, which may mean either a reward for good news (2Sam 4:10) or glad tidings (2Sam 18:20, 22).
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 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). Gentiles were therefore called to turn to the God of Israel and serve him. The Gentiles all have different gods (small "g"). Only the God of Israel saves (Jer 16:19-20; Acts 17:23-31).
When Paul says "my gospel" (also at Rom 16:25 and 2 Tim 2:8) he is not talking about a message that contradicted the good news announced by the angels in the nativity story (Luke 1-2), Yeshua himself or the other apostles. Contrary to many Christian theologians Paul did not change religions or invent a new religion; he did not repudiate the Torah and circumcision; and he most certainly did not teach God’s rejection of the Jews.
When Paul says "my euangelion" (Rom 2:16; 16:25; 1Th 1:5; 2Th 2:14; and 2Tim 2:8) he is not being egotistical or talking about a new message that replaced the Good News announced by the angels in the nativity story (Luke 1-2), Yeshua himself or the other apostles. Harrison admits that Paul would hardly ask God to confirm readers in his Good News if it were different from that proclaimed by others. "My good news" may declare five things. First, Paul felt the need to rebut the distortions of his teaching (cf. Rom 3:8, 31; 7:7; 11:1; 16:17; 1Cor 4:13; 10:30; Gal 1:11; 3:21; 2Th 2:2; 1Tim 2:7). So, Paul's good news contrasts with those who taught a different message (2Cor 11:4; Gal 1:6). Second, the good news is "his" in the sense that it was good news for him. The content of Paul's teaching included telling his own story of grace experienced on the Damascus Road. "God can save the worst sinners, because he saved me."
Third, "his" good news came by means of divine revelation as he says, "Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the Good News proclaimed by me is not man-made" (Gal 1:11). Fourth, the good news is "his" in the sense of his ordination and commission to convey this good news received directly from Yeshua, just as Ananias was informed, "He is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel" (Acts 9:15 NASB). His good news was particularly intended for the Gentiles among whom he labored in four journeys throughout the Diaspora to seek their obedience to God (Rom 15:18). Fifth, "his" good news emphasized the Jewish roots of the Messiah and Redeemer (Acts 13:22-23, 34; Rom 1:3; 9:5; 15:8; 2Tim 2:8), a fact sadly lacking in Christian creeds.
God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. will judge: Grk. krinō, pres. See verse 1 above. the secrets: pl. of Grk. kruptos, adj., hidden things. God will reveal his approval of the things Gentiles have done by nature in living by Torah principles. of men: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 1 above. through: Grk. dia, prep. used here to emphasize agency. Messiah: Grk. Christos (for Heb. HaMashiach), the title of the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Anointed One or Messiah. Among Christians "Christ" is generally used first and foremost to mean the second person of the triune Godhead as presented in Christian creedal statements. Sometimes Christians use "Christ" as a last name, which is strange since no one would say "David King." For an expanded discussion on the Jewish title and Jewish expectations of the Messiah see my commentary on Mark 1:1.
Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua ("Joshua"), which means "YHVH [the LORD] is salvation" (BDB 221). For more information on the meaning our Lord's name, his identity, and the history of translation of the name see my web article Who is Yeshua? Paul affirms that when Yeshua returns he will come as a judge, for we must all appear before the judgment seat of the Messiah (2Cor 5:10; cf. Rom 14:10).
The Covenant of Circumcision, 2:17-29
17― Now if you call yourself a traditional Jew and rely upon Torah and boast in God,
Paul begins with the first of five "if" statements. Now: Grk. de, conj. if: Grk. ei, a contingency marker used here to introduce a circumstance assumed to be valid for the sake of argument. you: Grk. su, 2p-sing. pers. pron. Paul refers to his fictive opponent (verses 1 and 3 above). call yourself: Grk eponomazō, pres. mid., to add a surname, to call, to name. The NASB has "bear the name," but the middle voice of the verb indicates that the "calling" is self-initiated. Jew: Grk. Ioudaios. See verse 9 above. We should note that Paul does not say, "If you being a Jew." A similar label occurs in Revelation 2:9 and 3:9 where Yeshua identifies a group "who say they are Jews and are not." After all, ethnic Jews do not have to "say" they are Jews.
Yeshua makes a similar distinction in his letter to Ephesus regarding those who claim to be apostles but are not (Rev 2:2). So this fictive opponent must be a Gentile calling himself a Jew, most likely a proselyte and a Judaizer, a term from Galatians 2:14. We should note that ethnic Jews never called Gentiles who embraced Judaism "Jews," probably because of the distinctive promise of the land of Israel to the Jews in perpetuity and the special relationship of the Jews to the Torah (Stern 339). For the fictive opponent to call himself by that name is meant to emphasize his identification with Pharisaic legalism and his sense of superiority over Hellenized Jews, Hellenistic Jews, Samaritan Jews and Ascetic Jews. Paul continues his "if-then" argument.
and: Grk. kai, conj. rely on: Grk. epavapauomai, pres. mid., to come to stop at a point; rest, rely on, depend on. Torah: Grk. nomos. See verse 12 above. The idiomatic expression probably refers to the argument the Judaizer presented. (See verse 25 below.) and: Grk. kai, conj. boast: Grk. kauchaomai, pres. mid., to boast, to glory or to pride oneself in. The verb perhaps implies a taunting attitude of superiority because of his enlightened status. The middle voice indicates that the fictive opponent is the one engaging in the boasting. No one is boasting on his behalf. From this well-intentioned zeal for Torah the Judaizers adopted a legalistic perversion of Torah and took pride in their circumcision (Gal 6:13; Php 3:2). The boasting of the Judaizers so annoyed Paul that he suggested that they castrate themselves (Gal 5:12). in: Grk. en, prep. God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel.
18― and know His will and approve the things being superior, being instructed out of the Torah,
Paul proceeds to itemize his opponent's résumé with rhetorical exaggeration. and: Grk. kai, conj. know: Grk. ginōskō, pres., to know, but 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. In the LXX ginōskō renders Heb. yada, 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).
His 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. Paul refers to God's lifestyle will, His moral and ethical standards that are expressed in the Torah. See my web article The Will of God. and: Grk. kai, conj. approve: Grk. dokimazō, pres., to evaluate significance or worth, or in an extended sense focus on the outcome of effort at evaluation. The verb originally relating to the testing of coins (Robertson). The activity described would be evaluating a tradition to determine whether it’s a reasonable safeguard for obeying Torah.
the things being superior: Grk. diapherō, pres. part., has two kinds of meaning (1) to carry through as in carrying a bowl, spreading a teaching, or driving about of a ship; (2) to differ, be different, from someone or something; differ to one's advantage from someone or something., i.e., be worth more than, be superior to. Rienecker points out that the present participle of the verb could mean either "the things which excel" or "the things which differ" and most likely refers to the most delicate shades of the moral life alluding to the kind of legal casuistry or argumentation in which rabbinic schools excelled.
being instructed: Grk. katēcheō, pres. pass. part., to impart structured information, to instruct. The verb alludes to formal education. Jewish learning typically occurred in stages: "five years for [the study of] Scripture, ten for mishnah, thirteen for [becoming subject to] commandments, fifteen for talmud" (Avot 5:21). The Hebrew word talmud ("teaching, learning, lesson, study," Jastrow) is used here in the special sense of study and discussion of the traditions. Any Jew who aspired to be a teacher was expected to appoint for himself a teacher (Avot 1:6).
out of: Grk. ek, prep., used for introducing various aspects of separation or origin, lit. "out of, from within." the Torah: Grk. nomos with the definite article. The focus of Jewish education was the Torah, but Paul's use of nomos in this verse may imply the Pharisaic traditions based on Torah. So Paul's opponent may have had advanced training under a well-known rabbi as Paul learned from Gamaliel.
19― moreover, having persuaded yourself to be a guide of the blind, a light to those in darkness,
Paul continues his review of his opponent's résumé with rhetorical exaggeration and a touch of sarcasm. moreover: Grk. te, conj. having persuaded: Grk. peithō, perf., that you yourself: lit. "having persuaded yourself" (Marshall). "Confident" is Grk. peithō, to bring about a convinced state about something; persuade, be confident. yourself: Grk. seautou, reflexive pron., used to denote bringing the action back on oneself. to be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. See verse 1 above. a guide: Grk. hodēgos, one who aids another in reaching a destination; guide. The term is used here fig. of moral or spiritual direction. of the blind: Grk. tuphlos, adj., inability to see; blind. The noun is used fig. of being ignorant or unlearned in Torah or Pharisee traditions.
a light: Grk. phōs, that which serves as a revealing or disclosing medium; light. to those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a dem. pron. in: Grk. en, prep. darkness: Grk. skotos, absence of light; darkness. The term is used here fig. of ignorance or benightedness in moral or spiritual matters. Paul resorts to a Hebraic parallelism to emphasize how his opponent views his own vocation. God intended Jews to be a light to the nations, so the Judaizer believed he was on a mission from God to ensure that new disciples conformed to his "Jew-daistic" model. The Judaizers regarded themselves as spiritual guides to the blind, esp. to Gentiles whom they sought to convince of their point of view.
Yeshua alluded to their self-appointment as spiritual guides and their faulty legal argumentation in his diatribe of certain Pharisees:
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.' You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? … You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! (Matt 23:15-19, 24 NASB)
20― a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of infants, having the form of knowledge and of the truth in the Torah,
Paul continues his review of his opponent's résumé, touting what the opponent believes is his superior qualifications deserving recognition. a corrector: Grk. paideutēs, one who exercises instructive discipline; instructor, discipliner. The word has the idea of discipline and correction, as well as teaching (Rienecker). The word occurs in the LXX at Hosea 5:2 for Heb. musar (SH-4148; "discipline, chastening, correction"), in the sense of one who rebukes moral failure. of the foolish: pl. of Grk. aphrōn, adj., not making use of common sense or ordinary intelligence, characteristic of one who fails to take account of various aspects before drawing a conclusion or adopting a course of action; senseless, foolish. The fictive opponent believes he has the authority to correct those less enlightened and seek their submission to his curriculum.
a teacher: Grk. didaskalos, teacher or instructor. In the LXX didaskalos occurs only twice: in Esther 6:1, where the meaning is "reader," and in 2 Maccabees 1:10 to denote Aristobulus, the head of the Egyptian Jewish community, who having dedicated an exposition of the Pentateuch to King Ptolemy Philometor, is called a teacher clearly for this reason (DNTT 3:766). The Heb. equivalent is moreh, which is rendered by the participle didaskōn in Proverbs 5:13. A moreh comes from the same root as Torah and means one who throws out, or points out, directs, or instructs (BDB 435). The placement of didaskalos suggests a Hebraic parallelism with paideutēs.
of infants: pl. of Grk. nēpios, infant or minor, someone who has not yet reached Bar/Bat Mitzvah age. Seven was the typical age that a Jewish boy began attending school (Barclay 35). It must be remembered that Jewish education was entirely religious education. There was no textbook except the Scriptures; all primary education was preparation for reading the Torah, and all higher education was the reading and the study of it (Avot 2:5). The term is likely intended in a fig. sense of those considered unlearned or ignorant.
having: Grk. echō, pres. part. See verse 14 above. the form: Grk. morphōsis, the outward aspect of something, a form or shape. Paul's intention may be similar to his use of the same word in his letter to Timothy in which he speaks of a "form of godliness" (2Tim 3:5). of knowledge: Grk. gnōsis, knowledge or understanding with special reference to insight relating to matters involving God and spiritual perception. and: Grk. kai, conj. of the truth: Grk. alētheia. See verse 2 above. in: Grk. en, prep. the Torah: Grk. nomos with the definite article. See verse 12 above. Paul affirms that knowledge and truth may be found in the Torah.
Paul's opponent has had training, perhaps even a form of rabbinical education. He can quote Torah backwards and forwards, as well as the words of the Sages, and gives others the impression that he is really smart. His chief weakness is his pride. He is a bit too enamored with his own professional credentials.
21― you, therefore, teaching another, do you not teach yourself? You, proclaiming not to steal, do you steal?
With biting sarcasm Paul fires four questions as a prosecutor might do to an accused person on a witness stand. you: Grk. ho, definite article used as a pers. pron., voc. case. therefore: Grk. oun, an inferential conj., which may (1) indicate a conclusion connected with data immediately preceding, 'so, therefore, consequently, then;' (2) indicate that one takes account of something in the narrative immediately preceding, 'then;' or (3) simply indicate a stage in the narrative, 'so, then.' The first application fits here. teaching: Grk. didaskō, pres. part., voc. case, to teach or instruct. Thayer defines the verb as "to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them, deliver didactic discourses." Mounce adds "to speak in a public assembly; to direct or admonish."
In the LXX didaskō occurs about 100 times and is used to translate nine different verbs (DNTT 3:760). In contrast with Greek education Jewish teaching since the time of Moses has been more concerned with communicating God's ethical demands than imparting information (DNTT 3:766). another: Grk. heteros, distributive pron. See verse 1 above. do you not: Grk. ou, particle of strong negation. teach: Grk. didaskō, pres. yourself: Grk. seautou, pers. pron. The first question probably means "don't you listen to your own teaching?" or "Aren't you willing to learn?" Paul may be alluding to the saying in Sirach 37:19, "A man may be shrewd and the teacher [Grk. paideutēs] of many, and yet be unprofitable to himself."
You: Grk. ho. proclaiming: Grk. kērussō, pres. part., to make a public announcement in the manner of a herald. Christian versions translate the verb as "preach," but Jews consider the English translation of "preach" as a distinctly Christian word. not: Grk. ou. to steal: Grk. kleptō, pres. inf., to unlawfully take property belonging to another in violation of the eighth commandment (Ex 20:15). The use of kleptō emphasizes the secrecy, craftiness, and cheating involved in the act of stealing or embezzlement. Unlike the concept of robbery, kleptō normally does not imply violence. In the LXX kleptō regularly translates the Heb. ganab, which also includes the element of stealth. Stealing is an attack on the principle of property rights which God established in the Torah. The Torah prescribed proportional restitution for stealing depending on what the thief did with the stolen property (Ex 22:1-4).
do you steal: Grk. kleptō, pres. The verb is second person singular so it is directed to the fictive opponent with interrogative effect. The second rhetorical question does not actually accuse the opponent of stealing, but functions as an technique designed to elicit a confession. He may imply that the opponent is hypocritical by suggesting that the accused does what he tells others not to do. Given the other offenses Paul lists below, he may be referring to a much more serious form of stealing than petty theft. Jeremiah includes stealing in a list of capital crimes of murder, adultery, and idolatry (Jer 7:9). Yeshua accused certain Pharisees of stealing from their parents' support, which he likens to a crime worthy of death (Matt 15:4-6). Paul describes a man who does not provide for his family as having denied the faith and worse than an unbeliever (1Tim 5:8). Both Yeshua and Paul recognized the reality of hypocrisy among very religious people.
22― You, saying not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You abhorring idols, do you rob temples?
You: Grk. ho, definite article used as a pers. pron., voc. case. saying: Grk. legō, pres. part., to make a statement or utterance, whether in oral or written form. not: Grk. mē, negative particle. to commit adultery: Grk. moicheuō, pres. inf., to engage in unlawful sexual relations between a married woman and a man not her husband in violation of the seventh commandment (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22-24; Prov 6:32; Jer 29:23; Hos 2:2; Rom 7:3). Everyone knew the seriousness of adultery since the Torah prescribed death (Lev 20:10) for the offenders and under Jewish law any children born of an adulterous union were considered mamzer or illegitimate (cf. Deut 23:2; Isa 57:3).
do you commit adultery: Grk. moicheuō, pres. The verb is second person singular so it is directed to the fictive opponent with interrogative effect. Paul's question may intend different levels of meaning. Coveting a married woman (a violation of the tenth commandment) is equal to committing the physical act (Matt 5:28). He might also have mean spiritual adultery against God as Yeshua charged his Pharisee adversaries, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign" (Matt 12:39).
You abhorring: Grk. bdelussomai, pres. mid. part., to strongly detest something on the basis that it is abominable; abhor, detest. idols: pl. of Grk. eidōlon, a representation or symbol of a worshipped entity; cultic image, idol. Abhorrence of idols is a proper sentiment based on the instruction of the second commandment (Ex 20:4). do you rob temples: Grk. hierosuleō, pres., a dramatic term for commission of sacrilege in various forms, including stealing idols and other treasures from temples. Like moicheuō this verb is second person singular so it is directed to the fictive opponent with interrogative effect. The verb alludes to the practice of an invading army that pillaged enemy temples (cf. 2Macc 9:2). Paul is not suggesting that this orthodox Jewish opponent is guilty of syncretism with pagan religion. Rather the strong word picture accuses his opponent of an offense that is of the same type. That is, he commits sacrilege by twisting God's Word to require what God does not require.
23― who boasts in Torah, through the transgression of the Torah, do you dishonor God?
who: Grk. hos, relative pron. boasts: Grk. kauchaomai, pres. mid. See verse 17 above. The present tense emphasizes an ongoing activity. in: Grk. en, prep. Torah: Grk. nomos. See verse 12 above. In verse 17 the Judaizing teacher boasts in God. The idiom of boasting in Torah likely means his assessment of his knowledge of Torah. "I'm the authority because I know more than you." through: Grk. dia, prep. the transgression: Grk. parabasis, diversion from a path; transgression, violation. The noun refers to a willful act and not a mistake of ignorance. of the Torah: Grk. nomos. Torah is meant to be a path for the whole of life (Ps 119:35, 105; Isa 2:3; Mic 4:2). "Transgressing the Torah" could refer to the hypothetical violations of Torah in verses 21-22 or to the act of inordinate boasting.
do you dishonor: Grk. atimazō, pres., to deprive of honor or respect. God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. Paul asks the question in order to provoke a humble and repentant response. Transgressing the Torah, especially in the manner interpreted by Yeshua in the Sermon on the Mount, or overweening pride and boasting in one's knowledge of Scripture brings shame to oneself and is repulsive to God. This kind of cocky attitude can do great harm to the discipleship of immature believers.
24― For "the name of God is being blasphemed in the nations because of you," just as it has been written.
For: Grk. gar, conj. the name: Grk.
is used in its central sense of identifying someone with a proper name. In Hebrew literature "name" also carries the extended sense of qualities, powers, attributes or reputation. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. By "name of God" Paul is not talking about the spelling or pronunciation of a particular Hebrew name of God, but the reputation of God. is being blasphemed: Grk. blasphēmeō, pres. mid., means to injure the reputation of, revile, defame in relation to men or to blaspheme in relation to God. in: Grk. en, prep. the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos. See the note on verse 14 above. In the Isaiah passage the term means "nations" in which Jews also resided. So, Paul presents a very broad application for the charge of blasphemy. because of: Grk. dia, prep. you: Grk. humeis, 2p-pl. pers. pron.
just as: Grk. kathōs, adv., emphasizing similarity, conformity, proportion or manner; as, just as. it has been written: Grk. graphō, perf. pass., to write or inscribe a document, with focus on the physical act of writing, as well as the expression of thought. The phrase "it has been written" is the standard formula in the Besekh for attesting an assertion of truth and divine inspiration of Scripture, normally followed by a quote from the Tanakh. In this case the formula follows the statement, which is taken from Isaiah 52:5. The Greek does not match the wording of the LXX, so Paul is not trying to offer an exact quotation, but the substance of what Isaiah wrote.
Paul’s implication was that his opponent, indicative of the legalism of the Circumcision Party, were hypocritically transgressing the Torah while professing to be models of piety (cf. Matt 15:1-9; 23:1-3, 23; John 7:19; 8:7; Acts 14:2; Rom 2:17-23). In this way the teaching of the legalists had done much harm to the reputation of the God of Israel.
The second "if" statement introduces an either/or situation with graphic language that may seem shocking to Christian sensibilities. For: Grk. gar, conj. indeed: Grk. mén. See verse 7 above. circumcision: Grk. peritomē, the surgical removal of male foreskin as a religious rite. Circumcision, performed at eight days of age was the sign of belonging to the seed of Abraham and the chosen people (Gen 17:11-14; Lev 12:3). Along with it came all the promises given to Abraham. Failure to perform circumcision would result in being "cut off" from one's people (Gen 17:14). Rabbinic authority later determined that this restriction only applied to those serving as priests and did not disqualify one from being considered Jewish (Sanhedrin 22b).
Although the requirement for circumcision was given to Abraham (Acts 7:28), circumcision in the Besekh refers to a religious service designed by Moses (Acts 15:1) called Brit Milah ("Covenant of Circumcision"). The apparent purpose of turning a simple surgery into a religious rite with spiritual meaning was probably to emphasize God's desire for circumcision of the heart (Deut 10:16; 30:6). While the surgery was normally performed by the father in a private setting, the celebratory service included certain b'rakhot (blessings) and the naming of the child.
Because of the practice of circumcising Gentile proselytes in Judaism, circumcision became a major controversy within the Body of Messiah in apostolic times. Advocacy of adult circumcision among disciples of Yeshua was promoted by a minority group that Paul identifies simply as "The Circumcision" (Acts 10:45; 11:2; 15:1, 5; Rom 4:12; 15:8; Gal 2:12; Col 4:11; Titus 1:10). From these passages we may deduce the following facts about them: (1) They embraced Yeshua as the Messiah. (2) They were from Judea. (3) They were a sect of the Pharisees. (4) They expected that Gentile believers be circumcised according to the custom of Moses and embrace their brand of Judaism. Circumcision was just the beginning.
Building on this basic belief the sect held that (1) there is no salvation outside Israel (Gen 35:11; Isa 42:6); (2) Brit Milah (ritual circumcision) is the sign of the covenant people (Gen 17:11); (3) there is one law for Jew and Gentile (Ex 12:48; Num 15:16). Therefore, a Gentile believer must become a full proselyte to receive the benefit of salvation. To become a proselyte required immersion and Brit Milah (Yeb. 22a; 46a). The Circumcision Party could even argue their viewpoint from the standpoint of example. Abraham, the father of our faith, had been circumcised. Yochanan the Immerser, the forerunner of the Messiah, had been circumcised (Luke 1:59). Yeshua, the Messiah and Savior, had been circumcised (Luke 2:21). Paul himself had been circumcised (Php 3:5). Should we not follow in their steps (cf. 1Pet 2:21)? The Circumcision Party made a compelling argument and their influence was felt throughout the Body of Messiah.
The Circumcision sect presented their belief system at a meeting of the apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-5), but the apostles unanimously rejected it. Peter strongly rebuked the legalists by saying, "Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?" (Acts 15:10). Jacob, the Lord's brother and leader of the Jerusalem congregation concurred saying, "Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles" (Acts 15:19). At Jacob's suggestion the apostles drafted a short list of ethical expectations of Gentile disciples (Acts 15:23-29).
is of value: Grk. ōpheleō, pres., engage in activity that brings about something good above and beyond that which existed earlier; help, assist, cause to benefit, be of value. if: Grk. ean, conj. that serves as a conditional particle and produces an aspect of tentativeness by introducing a possible circumstance that determines the realization of some other circumstance. you practice: Grk prassō, pres. subj. See verse 1 above. Torah: Grk. nomos. See verse 12 above. if: Grk. ean. you are: Grk. eimi, pres., 2p-sing. See verse 1 above. a transgressor: Grk. parabatēs, a transgressor or violator. In secular Greek writings parabatēs referred mostly to a warrior beside the charioteer, or a certain kind of foot soldier, so used in a religious sense the term suggests someone who fights against God. Gager defines the term as "apostate" (116). The term occurs only five times in the Besekh (also at 2:27 below; Gal 2:18; Jas 2:9, 11) and describes someone who deserves being cut off from Israel (Heb. karet).
According to the Mishnah there are thirty-six transgressions for which the Torah specifies the punishment of being cut off (K'ritot 1:1; cf. Ex 30:33; 31:14; Lev 7:25-27). These transgressions included murder (Lev 17:4), the prohibited sexual unions of Leviticus 18, blasphemy (Num 15:30), idolatry, necromancy (Lev 20:6), refusing circumcision (Gen 17:14), profaning Shabbat (Ex 31:14), certain violations of ritual purity laws (Lev 7:20-21, 25; Num 19:13), eating chametz (leavened product) during Pesach (Ex 12:15), not "humbling" oneself on Yom Kippur (Lev 23:29), anointing a layman with priestly oil (Ex 30:30), duplicating priestly perfume (Ex 30:38), and eating blood (Lev 17:14) (Stern 270).
The Torah provided no means of atonement or restoring fellowship for deliberate offenses. Punishment as determined by a court varied between flagellation, not to exceed forty strokes (Deut 25:2-3), and the death sentence as specifically prescribed for some of the offenses. However, the transgression must be committed defiantly (Num 15:30) or presumptuously (Deut 17:12-13) to be subject to karet. If committed unintentionally (by mistake or in ignorance), a sin offering may be brought (Lev 4:2-35; 5:15-18; 22:14; Num 15:27-29; Isa 6:5-7).
of Torah: Grk. nomos. Paul means the commandments given by God to Israel through Moses. your: Grk. su, pron. of the second pers. circumcision: : Grk. peritomē. has become: Grk. ginomai, perf., to transfer from one state to another, and here means come to be or become. a foreskin: Grk. akrobustia, to have a prepuce or foreskin and therefore never circumcised. It was "a reproach" for an Israelite to be uncircumcised (Gen 17:14; Josh 5:9). Thus, the Heb. name arêlim (uncircumcised) became a term of contemptuous reproach, denoting the Philistines and other non-Israelites (Judg 14:3; 1Sam 14:6;17:26; 31:4; 2Sam 1:20), and used synonymously with Heb. tamê ("unclean") for heathen (Isa 52:1). The Heb. word arêl ("uncircumcised") is also employed for "unclean" (Lev 26:41). These verses show how abhorrent it was for a Jew not to be circumcised and their desire to maintain distance from the uncircumcised.
The third "if" statement in the second part of the equation would have the effect of nullifying the purpose of Brit Milah, namely as a sign of being a member of the covenant people. The "if-then" proposition would only make sense to a Jew in the sense of someone deserving to be cut off from Israel because of committing a capital crime. Any offense that could be atoned for would not amount to a renunciation of circumcision.
26― So if the one with foreskin keeps the requirements of the Torah, will not his foreskin be reckoned into circumcision?
So: Grk. oun, conj. if: Grk. ean, contingency particle. the one with foreskin: Grk. ho akrobustia. See the previous verse. keeps: Grk. phulassō, pres. subj., to ensure that something remains intact; keep safe, preserve, watch. the requirements: pl. of Grk. dikaiōma, a declaration with binding force, a precept or requirement. In the LXX dikaiōma primarily translates Heb. choq or chuqqah, the feminine counterpart to choq (DNTT 3:354). The Hebrew terms mean something prescribed; an enactment or statute. These Torah provisions included statutes that prescribed what was due the priests in terms of offerings, as well as civil enactments that prescribed justice due to victims. The Hebrew terms also included regulations for holy living, such as prohibition of sexual offenses, as well as laws for festival rituals (BDB 349; TWOT 1:317). Taken together dikaiōma/choq especially pertains to the rules that relate to being a covenant people and must be obeyed to retain that identity.
of the Torah: Grk. nomos. See verse 12 above. will not: Grk. ou, particle of strong negation. his: Grk. autos, masc. pers. pron. foreskin: Grk. akrobustia. be reckoned: Grk. logizomai, fut. pass., to count or calculate in a numerical sense, but fig. of cerebral activity, reckon, think about. into: Grk. eis, prep. that focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to a direction toward a goal or place and consequent arrival; into, to, toward. circumcision: Grk. peritomē. See the previous verse. The fourth "if" statement adds a logical further thought that, assuming the statement in verse 25 is true, an uncircumcised Gentile who keeps Torah would be regarded as circumcised by God and part of the covenant people.
Paul does not specify what requirements of Torah he means. He might only have meant the Noachide laws that formed the basis of the Jerusalem Council's letter (Gen 9:1-7; Acts 15:22-29). Certainly they would not include those provisions unique to Israel's covenantal relationship with God. For example, the food laws were imposed on Israelites, but not Gentiles. Any law that required a Temple sacrifice would be excluded, because the person presenting the offering had to be circumcised. So the requirements of the Torah that an uncircumcised man was able to keep would include moral and ethical obligations, such as found in the Ten Commandments, as well as the "love" commandments. Some of these commandments, such as Sabbath observance and prohibitions of murder, adultery and idolatry were given long before the time of Moses.
27― Indeed the one with foreskin by nature yet fulfilling the Torah will judge you with your learning and circumcision as a transgressor of Torah.
Indeed: Grk. kai, conj. the one with foreskin: Grk. ho akrobustia. See verse 25 above. by nature: Grk. phusis, referring here to physical nature of birth. See verse 14 above. yet fulfilling: Grk. teleō, pres. part., to bring to completion in a manner that leaves nothing undone, to achieve fully, to fulfill. the Torah: Grk. nomos. See verse 12 above. will judge: Grk. krinō, fut. See verse 1 above. you: Grk. su, pron. of the second pers. with: Grk. dia, prep. your learning: Grk. gramma is used for (1) that which is written as a basic unit used in writing a letter (of the alphabet), which is the basis for education; and (2) a set of characters or letters forming a document whether of correspondence, a relative long document or book or as a commercial term of a contract. Here the term is used as a euphemism for learning.
and: Grk. kai, conj. circumcision: Grk. peritomē. See verse 25 above. as a transgressor: Grk. parabatēs. See verse 25 above. of Torah: Grk. nomos. The fifth "if" statement extends the thought further by saying that a Gentile’s Torah obedience qualifies him to judge the disobedient Jew (cf. 1Cor 6:2, "Do you not know that the holy ones will judge the world?”). To sum up, the significance of these "if" statements is to challenge the conventional thinking among traditional Jews, especially the Circumcision Party, about what they considered to be the benefit of circumcision.
28― For one is not a traditional Jew in the outward appearance, nor is circumcision apparent in the flesh.
For: Grk. gar, conj. one: Grk. ho, definite article used as a demonstrative pron. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. not: Grk. ou, particle of strong negation. a traditional Jew: Grk. Ioudaios. See verse 9 above. Paul clearly refers to an orthodox Jew. in: Grk. en, prep. the outward appearance: Grk. phaneros (from phainō, to bring to light, to cause to appear), a state or condition that makes observation possible. The various lexicons (BAG, Danker, LSJ, Thayer) indicate the word may be used as an adjective and mean visible, clear, open, plain, evident, known, recognizable, or apparent, or as an adverb and mean openly, manifestly, outwardly or clearly. The differences in Bible versions owes to choosing between the two forms of usage.
Paul's point for the fictive opponent who claims to be a traditional Jew (verse 17 above), is that by biblical definition Jewish orthodoxy cannot be established strictly on the basis of a physical characteristic. It isn't enough to look like a duck. Stern says the word Yehudi, which Ioudaios translates, is related to the word "hodayah" ("praise"), so by etymology a true traditional Jew is a "God-praiser." Pertinent to this issue is that proselytes, while sharing in the privileges of citizenship, were never considered Jewish. Thus, insistence of circumcision by a sectarian Pharisee party for Gentile disciples of Yeshua (Acts 15:1) could never make those men Jewish. Stern considers four possible interpretations of Paul's words and offers this analysis of each option:
(1) "Being born to a Jewish family does not make one a Jew." Paul does not contradict the halakhic definition of a Jew as the child of a Jewish mother. While Paul did not necessarily bind himself to the rulings of the Pharisees, it does not appear that he questioned this particular point but that he agreed with it (cf. Acts 16:1–3).
(2) "Being born to a Jewish family does not guarantee that one will be a good Jew, a real Jew, one who praises God." Paul would certainly endorse this, but in context such a statement seems weak. The Greek phrase literally translated "in-the-open" can indeed mean "passively in the open, concerning externals," hence, "being born to a Jewish family," which is the passive external distinctive of Jews. But it can also mean "actively in the open, making a public display," which leads to:
(3) "The born Jew who puts on a show of his Jewishness is not behaving the way a Jew should; he is not a good Jew, a real Jew, one who praises God." Paul would agree with this too, but the context suggests he goes further and says:
(4) "The born Jew who puts on a show of his Jewishness is not a Jew at all!" He is not a God-praiser in any sense and therefore forfeits his right to be considered a Jew in God's sight. Instead he boasts about God's gifts as if they were his own achievements (verses 17–20 above) and hypocritically teaches God's Torah to others while violating it himself (verses 21–23, 25, 27 above). God will exclude such a one from the promises He has made to the Jewish people (as reviewed in chapters 9–11). However, if he repents, gives up his pride and false piety, and acknowledges Yeshua as his Savior, Lord and Messiah, he will be "grafted back into his own olive tree" (11:24). But in his present state he is a branch cut off from the tree, hence not a Jew. See 11:23–24.) This radical sense is concordant with verse 25 above ("your circumcision has become uncircumcision") and with Paul's opposition to a Jew's reliance on his Jewishness for assurance of salvation.
Stern presents a good analysis, but his fourth point seems to contradict his second point. Paul does not actually say that a Jew putting on a show of his Jewishness is not a Jew. Conversely, he doesn't suddenly become a Gentile. Paul is trying to persuade his fictive opponent to change his attitude. Paul's statement in verse 25 is hypothetical in presenting two options; he does not accuse his fictive opponent of anything. Rather, if the one calling himself a traditional Jew really wants to live up to his name, then he needs to make a change in his perspective.
nor: Grk. oude, conj., negative particle that links a negative statement as complementary to a preceding negative; neither, nor, not even. is: Grk. eimi, pres. circumcision: Grk. peritomē. See verse 25 above. apparent: Grk. phaneros. in: Grk. en, prep. the flesh: Grk. sarx, "flesh," has both literal and figurative uses in Scripture: (1) the tissue that covers the skeleton of a human or animal; (2) the whole body viewed as a substance; (3) human or mortal nature, with its limitations; (4) theologically human desire that stands in opposition to the Spirit; and (6) the genitals with or without a suggestion of sinfulness connected with it (BAG). In the LXX sarx renders Heb. basar, which has the same range of meaning (DNTT 1:672). Paul uses the term here for the male phallus.
A reader might wonder how circumcision or uncircumcision could be known. People did wear clothes after all. The matter would be apparent when pilgrims went to Jerusalem to participate in the annual festivals at the Temple. Anyone was allowed to enter the outer area, which was therefore called the Court of the Gentiles. The actual Temple grounds were enclosed by a barrier, and at the entrances to it were warning notices forbidding entry by any uncircumcised person on pain of death. Inside the barrier were many immersion pools (mikvaot) that surrounded the Temple area for ritual purification. Excavations of the southern wall of the Temple area have uncovered dozens of mikva'ot. (See pictures at BibleWalks.com.) Clothing had to be removed for immersion (men and women in separate pools, of course) and priests could easily verify circumcision. Yet, Paul points out that true circumcision, the kind God greatly desires, is not what is done physically.
29― But Jewishness is in the inward nature; and circumcision is of the heart in spirit not in learning; of whom approval is not from men, but from God.
But: Grk. alla, adversative conj. used for contrast. Jewishness: Grk. Ioudaios. See verse 9 above. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. in: Grk. en, prep. the inward nature: Grk. kruptos, adj., hidden, secret; as substantive, the hidden (secret) things (parts), the inward nature (character). For ethnic Jews Paul insists that true Jewishness begins on the inside. and: Grk. kai, conj. circumcision: Grk. peritomē. See verse 25 above. is of the heart: Grk. kardia. See verse 5 above. in: Grk. en, prep. spirit: Grk. pneuma (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 Spirit as God's self-expression (Gen 1:2; Mark 1:10). Some versions (AMP, ESV, HCSB, NASB, NCV, NET, NIRV, NIV, OJB, TLV) capitalize the noun as "Spirit" or "the Spirit" (meaning the Holy Spirit), but the absence of the definite article and the idiomatic language of "inward nature" and "heart" strongly suggests the human spirit. Paul alludes to the Torah expectation of heart circumcision (Lev 26:41; Deut 10:16) and reiterated by the prophets (Jer 4:4; 9:25-26; Ezek 44:7-9). As a word picture "heart circumcision" is the opposite of being hard hearted and is necessary in order to properly love God as He intended (Deut 30:6).
not: Grk. ou, particle of strong negation. in: Grk. en, prep. learning: Grk. gramma. See verse 27 above. Many versions translate the term as "letter," intending the word as a shortened form of "letter of the law," which among Christians means nitpicky rule-keeping void of love and compassion. Stern sees gramma as an allusion to legalistic interpretation and observance of Torah commands. Obedience to Torah can reflect heart-circumcision, but legalism can never produce this necessary condition. The term would also refer to the learning so prized by Pharisees that served as the basis for their legalistic traditions and which became a point of pride.
of whom: Grk. hos, relative pron. approval: Grk. epainos, expression of high approval, praise, commendation. is not: Grk. ou, negative particle. from: Grk. ek, prep. See verse 18 above. men: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 1 above. but: Grk. alla, conj. from: Grk. ek. God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. The one who is circumcised of heart does not seek the admiration of others but only the pleasure and approval of God.
Although Paul has been speaking of what it means to be Jewish, his principles do have application for Gentiles. God desires heart-circumcision for all disciples, which would include a willingness to identify with God's chosen people and live by Torah moral values. Consider the story of Ruth, "your God shall be my God." A born-again Gentile could be considered a spiritual Jew, but Paul never engages in this kind of labeling. In the apostolic writings a Jew is always a blood descendant of Jacob.
ABP: The Apostolic Bible Polyglot, trans. Charles Van Der Pool. The Apostolic Press, 2006. An interlinear of the Septuagint with English translation. Online.
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. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981. Online.
Danker: Frederick William Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 vols. ed. Colin Brown. Zondervan Pub. House, 1975.
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
Gager: John G. Gager, Reinventing Paul. Oxford University Press, 2000.
Harrison: Everett F. Harrison, Romans. Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 10, Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp, 1989-1999.
LSJ: Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon. Rev. Sir Henry Stuart Jones. Clarendon Press, 1940. Online.
Marshall: Alfred Marshall, NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English. Zondervan Pub. House, 1986.
Moseley: Ron Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. Lederer Books, 1996.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, "Romans," A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Vol. 2. Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.
Robertson: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6 Vols. Broadman Press, 1933. (Parsons CD-ROM Version 2.0, 1997) Online.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
Tarn & Griffith: Sir William Tarn and G.T. Griffith, Hellenistic Civilization. 3rd Edition. Edward Arnold Publishers, Ltd., 1952.
Thayer: Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Harper Brothers, 1889. online.
TWOT: Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, R. Laird Harris, ed. 2 Vols. Moody Press, 1980.
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