An Exegetical Commentary
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 18 November 2010; Revised 27 April 2019
Scripture Text: The Scripture text of used in this chapter commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison based on 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.
Israelology: God’s Covenant Faithfulness, 9:1–11:36 (cont.)
The Pursuit of Righteousness, 10:1–13
The Pursuit of God, 10:14–21
The opening of chapter ten continues a line of argument from verse 30 of the previous chapter.
The Pursuit of Righteousness, 10:1-13
1 Brethren, indeed the desire of my heart and prayer to God for them is for salvation.
Brethren: pl. of Grk. adelphos, voc., lit. "of the same womb," and in secular Greek meant "brother." Adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites. In the LXX adelphos renders Heb. ach, a male sibling, whether of mother or father (first in Gen 4:2), a blood relative (Gen 13:8), member of the same tribe (Num 16:10), and members of the same people group that share the same ancestor (Gen 9:5; Ex 2:11). Usage in the Besekh has the same range of meaning as the Hebrew ach. So adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings, relatives or fellow descendants of Jacob (Matt 4:18; 5:22-24; Mark 3:22; Acts 1:14; 3:22; 7:13; 1Cor 1:1). In the apostolic letters adelphos, often in the plural, also has the added spiritual meaning of a fellow disciple of Yeshua (e.g. Rom 14:15; 1Cor 3:1; 8:11; Gal 1:2; Php 2:25; 1Th 2:3; 3:6, 22).
Generally Christian interpreters treat the plural adelphos in the epistles as meaning "fellow Christians" (which would include Gentiles) and fail to recognize that the use of the plural adelphos hints at the primarily Jewish constituency of congregations in the apostolic era. See my web article The Apostolic Community. indeed: Grk. mén, affirming particle used in introducing contrasting clauses; indeed, on the one hand, now. Almost all versions omit translation of this particle. the desire: Grk. eudokia, consideration of what is good and therefore worthy of choice; decision, intention or good will. Rienecker adds that the desire is usually directed toward something that causes satisfaction or favor.
of my: Grk. emos, an emphatic possessive pronoun for the first person (Thayer); my, mine. The pronoun occurs 76 times in the Besekh (46 in the apostolic narratives and 30 in the letters), 23 of which are in Paul's letters, all referring to something very personal; my name, my spirit, my judgment, my hand, my partner, my way of life, and my son. 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). In Hebraic thought the "heart" may stand for the whole person.
and: Grk. kai, conj., conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). The excessive use of conjunctions is evidence of Jewish Greek. See my web article The Jewish New Testament.
prayer: Grk. deēsis, to ask, pray, plead or to beg because of standing in need of something; prayer, petition, entreaty, supplication. In the Besekh the term is always used of a request to the God of Israel for meeting a need (e.g., Eph 6:18). In the LXX deēsis is used to translate several Heb. words but with the essential meaning of supplication or earnest prayer (even begging or crying out) for oneself or intercession for another (e.g., 1Kgs 8:28; 9:3; Ps 6:9; 17:1; 28:2; 31:22; 34:17; 39:12; 55:1; 61:1). to: Grk. pros, prep., lit. "near or facing" (DM 110). Since the noun following is in the accusative case, then pros would have the meaning of "to" or "toward."
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 name of the Creator God Elohim (2568 times), but sometimes YHVH (300 times) (DNTT 2:67-70). Given the plural nature of Elohim the full triunity of God must be represented in theos. As with many other Greek words the LXX infused all of the Jewish understanding of God's nature into theos. The only God in existence is the God who created the heavens and the earth out of nothing (Gen 1:1) and who chose Israel out of all the nations on the earth for a covenantal relationship (Ex 19:5; Isa 44:6; 45:5-6, 14, 18, 21; 46:9).
In the Besekh theos continues to represent the Creator and God of Israel who provided the blessings mentioned in the previous verse and this verse: the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the Torah, the worship, the promises of offspring and the Land, the patriarchs and the Messiah. Over and over in the Tanakh God promised that He would never forsake Israel and Paul affirms the fact in this letter (11:1-2). In fact, God declared that there is a better chance of the universe blowing up than that He would renege on His promises to Israel (Jer 33:25-26). Yet, for centuries Christianity worshipped a promise-breaking God, claiming that God had permanently rejected Israel in spite of biblical evidence to the contrary. The promise-keeping God of Israel is the God to whom Paul prays earnestly for Israel.
on behalf of: Grk. huper, prep., lit. "over, above," used to express a stance of concern or interest relating to someone or something, here emphasizing a supportive aspect; for, in behalf of, in the interest of. them: pl. of Grk. autos, pers. pron. is for: Grk. eis, prep. that focuses on entrance, and used here to emphasize relation. salvation: Grk. sōtēria is used in the sense of freeing from real or threatening harm or loss, hence rescue, deliverance or salvation. The context of this important theological term is the loss of freedom. The rescue can only be accomplished by the intervention of the God of Israel, and his agent to accomplish deliverance is the Messiah. While an important concern to Jews of that time was deliverance from the Romans and reestablishment of Israel as an independent nation (cf. Acts 1:6), Paul had learned from experience that spiritual deliverance was of far greater concern to God and absolutely essential to the future of Israel.
2 For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.
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." I testify: Grk. martureō, pres., to bear witness, be a witness or testify concerning something. In legal usage the term meant that which the witness declares or confirms to be factual. about them: pl. of Grk. autos, pers. pron. The pronoun refers back to 9:31, i.e., Israelites or more specifically the non-believing Judean Jews. that: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, in this instance introducing a clause as complementary of the preceding one; that. they have: Grk. echō, pres., to possess with the implication of the object being under one's control or at one's disposal. The present active verb indicates a contemporary and ongoing activity. a zeal: Grk. zēlos, a passionate interest or intense interest in something or someone, which can manifest itself positively or negatively. In the LXX zēlos renders the Heb. qinah, ardor, zeal or jealousy, from the color produced in the face by deep emotion (BDB 888). God described himself as qanna (from the same root, zēlotēs in the LXX) in the Second Commandment (Ex 20:5). Elijah described himself as being zealous (or jealous) for the God of Israel (1Kgs 19:10, 14).
Perhaps the most passionate of Jews for God were the Zealots, a theocratic party dating from 6 BC that resisted Roman rule, sometimes with violence. One of Yeshua's disciples, Simon, belonged to this party (Matt 10:4). Yeshua himself exhibited this trait in cleansing the Temple (John 2:17). Early Jewish disciples were known to be zealous for Torah (Acts 21:20). Disciples are exhorted, too, to be zealous (Titus 2:14; 1Pet 3:13; Rev 3:19).
for God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See the previous verse. Theos is in the genitive case, which provides definition or description and is adjectival in function. The genitive qualifies the meaning of a preceding noun and is typically translated with "of." The phrase could be a subjective genitive, and translated literally would mean that God performs or motivates the action. However, rendered as an objective genitive, God receives the action and is the most likely choice given the rest of the verse. Lest we think Paul is being negative by describing the zeal of Judean Jews for God we should consider Paul's own testimony about himself.
"I was more of a zealot for the traditions handed down by my forefathers than most Jews my age, I advanced in [traditional] Judaism more rapidly than they did" (Gal 1:14 CJB). He admits that in that phase of his life he did many things hostile to the name of Yeshua (Acts 26:9). However, Paul didn't stop being zealous for God after his Damascus road experience. In his defense sermon at the Temple after his arrest he asserted, "I am a Judean Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, instructed at the feet of Gamaliel, according to the exactness of the father's law, being a zealous one for God just as you all are today" (Acts 22:3 mine). (NOTE: "the father's law" = the traditions of the Judean Sages.)
but: Grk. alla, conj. used adverbially suggesting other matter or varying viewpoint for consideration. The nuance of contrast may be expressed with "but, on the other hand, yet, nevertheless, indeed or certainly." not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle that makes a strong denial or negation of an alleged fact or proposition (DM 264). according to: Grk. kata, prep., lit. "down," but with the accusative case of the noun following it expresses relation and means, "according to" (DM 107). knowledge: Grk. epiknōsis, knowledge, with the connotation of personal acquaintance, insight or perception. Paul may be offering a contrast with himself. The unbelieving Judean Jews did not possess a personal relational knowledge of the Messiah or the Father (John 8:19) and thus their zeal was deficient. Before his life-changing experience Paul thought of himself as an expert in understanding what God wanted. True knowledge is realizing how much you don't know.
3 For being ignorant of the righteousness of God and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to the righteousness of God.
For: Grk. gar, conj. The structure of the argument is of critical importance. Verses 3, 4 and 5 each start with the word "for" and creates a chain of nested explanations—verse 3 explains verse 2, verse 4 explains verse 3, and verses 5–10 explain verse 4 (Stern). being ignorant: Grk. agnoeō, pres. part., to be without knowledge of something, to be ignorant or uninformed. the righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē, a state that is in accord with standards for acceptable or anticipated behavior, uprightness, righteousness, justice. In the LXX dikaiosunē normally renders Heb. tsedaqah (SH-6666), first used in Genesis 15:6 of Abraham's faithfulness being considered as righteousness. The noun is often used to describe the character of God (Ps 5:8; 35:24; Isa 5:16; 42:21; Jer 9:24), as well as the Davidic king, the Messiah (Ps 72:1; Jer 23:5) (DNTT 3:354).
In the Tanakh the concept of tsedaqah refers to right or ethical character and behavior that is in keeping with the covenantal relationship with God. So, righteousness is more relational than legal. Tsedaqah also carries the sense of salvation (deliverance) and judgment (justice). However, among Pharisees righteousness had taken on a more restricted meaning. To many Pharisees almsgiving, long prayers, twice-weekly fasting and tithing were the most important components of righteous living (Matt 23:14, 23; Luke 18:12), performed by some of them in a manner designed to gain attention (Matt 6:16:1-2, 5-7, 16). Although Paul was a Pharisee and lived by that strict code he nonetheless returned to the Torah concept of righteousness as Yeshua set forth in the Sermon on the Mount, and insisted that true righteousness is grounded in the covenantal relationship.
of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. The subjective genitive of "God" means that Paul is referring to the character of God, not a particular standard He imposes. and 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. The second meaning applies here. to establish: Grk. histēmi, aor. inf., may mean (1) cause to be in a place or position; set, place, make stand; or (2) be in an upright position, typically of bodily posture. their: 3p-pl. pers. pron. own: Grk. idios, adj., belonging to oneself distinct from what belongs to another, one's own.
These zealous Jews, consisting of Pharisees and other likeminded parties, had a good motive for the most part. They wanted to be thought of as righteous people. However, they viewed righteousness simplistically as a standard to keep and produced a rigorous set of rules that Peter described at the Jerusalem Council as "a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear" (Acts 15:10). they did not: Grk. ou, adv. submit: Grk. hupotassō, aor pass., to be in compliance with requirements of order; to subordinate oneself to higher authority; to be in subjection to. Hupotassō, from tassō, originated as a military term where a rank structure is clearly defined (DNTT 1:476). All disciples are expected to live in submission to God and his Messiah (Eph 4:24; Heb 12:9; Jas 4:7). It is out of this basic submission to God that the apostles could command submission in various human relationships.
to the righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē, as defined herein. of God: Paul repeats the phrase from the first half of the verse and essentially repeats his point in 9:32. Since the zealous ones based their pursuit of righteousness on ignorance and self-effort instead of a relationship of heart-felt trust, then they programmed themselves to failure.
For: Grk. gar, conj. Messiah: Grk. Christos, the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Anointed One or Messiah. The English "Christ" transliterates the Greek title, but does not translate it. In Greek culture christos comes from chriein, to rub lightly, and in its secular use had no religious connotation at all. Christos as an adjective described someone smeared with whitewash, cosmetics or paint, and was anything but an expression of honor. As a personal reference it even tended toward the disrespectful (DNTT 2:334). Christos was chosen deliberately by the Jewish translators of the LXX to render Mashiach and in so doing infused new meaning into the Greek word.
The title Mashiach means 'anointed one' or 'poured on.' Mashiach was used in the Tanakh for (1) the patriarchs (1Chr 16:16-22; Ps 105:15); (2) the High Priest, Lev 4:5; (3) the King, 1Sam 12:3; 2Sam 22:51; Isa 45:1; and (4) the Messiah, Ps 2:2 and Dan 9:25-26. This last usage defined the term among Jews in the first century A.D. The title of "Anointed One" alludes to a ceremony of pouring olive oil on the head to invest one with the authority of an office (Ex 29:7; Lev 8:12; Ps 133:2). There was no comparable concept in Greek culture. For an expanded discussion on the Jewish title and Jewish expectations of the Messiah see my commentary on Mark 1:1. Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah, the one who fulfills the prophetic promises of David's kingdom (Luke 1:31-33).
is the goal: Grk. telos, "a point in time that marks culmination." BAG defines this point of time in the sense of either (1) termination or cessation of something; (2) the last part or conclusion of something; or (3) the goal toward which a movement is directed. In Classical Greek telos is derived from a root tel-, which means to turn around. Originally it referred to the turning point, hinge, the culminating point at which one stage ends and another begins; later the goal, the end. Marriage is an apt example of this meaning of telos. Marriage does not terminate a relationship, but transforms it into something far better. In Greek writings telos took on a dynamic range of meaning, including completion of intellectual development, the ratification of a law, and to make someone's word come true.
In the religious sphere telos reflected the belief of deity as the beginning and end of all things. Telos embraces the totality of a deity's works. Anything that reaches its telos is complete or perfect. In Greek philosophy telos has the primary meaning of goal. In Plato and Aristotle telos is an ethical goal (DNTT 2:59f). Telos occurs 150 times in the LXX, chiefly in adverbial combinations and often to translate the Heb. qēts, "end" (DNTT 2:60). The Hebrew word qēts is most often used of time, especially in phrases that speak of the end of a definite time period (e.g., Gen 8:6; 2Sam 15:7; 2Kgs 18:3) or indefinitely of the passing of a time (e.g., Gen 4:3; 1Kgs 17:7) (BDB 893).
of Torah: Grk. nomos may mean either (1) a principle or standard relating to behavior or (2) codified legislation, i.e. law. The usage of nomos in the Besekh has a much deeper meaning. In the LXX nomos translates torah, but torah does not mean simply "law" or "laws" as the English word conveys. Torah means "direction," "teaching" or "instruction" (BDB 435f) and in the Tanakh torah refers primarily to commandments, statutes and ordinances decreed by God and given to Moses. In normal Jewish usage in the time of Yeshua Torah had a variety of specific applications. Torah could mean:
commandments, ordinances and statutes given through Moses to the nation of
Israel (e.g., Matt 12:5; Luke 2:22-27; John 1:17; 8:5; Jas 2:11); OR
Paul may have used nomos as synonymous with "Scripture," since the Messiah is prophesied throughout the Tanakh. for: Grk. eis, prep. righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē. See the previous verse. The phrase "for righteousness" has the practical meaning of "for being like God." to all: Grk. pas, adj., extensive in scope, all, every. the trusting ones: Grk. pisteuō, pres. part. with the definite article, in general Greek usage means to have confidence or faith in the reliability or trustworthiness of some thing or someone. The Hebrew concept of believing is not an intellectual agreement with a philosophical proposition or a formal creed. A verb describes action of the person and stresses both attitude and behavior.
In the LXX pisteuō renders the Heb. 'aman (SH-539), which means to confirm or support, as well as to be true, reliable or faithful, and to stand firm or trust (BDB 52). In the Hebrew concept believing, trusting and being faithful are inseparable (cf. Matt 7:21; Heb 11:6). The benefit of Messiah being telos of the Torah is for those who trust in him. Paul alludes to his opening argument in 1:17 that the "righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith," that is, God revealed his righteousness by His faithfulness to His people Israel and to the faithful remnant.
This one verse has become very controversial. While all interpreters acknowledge the background meaning of the Greek word telos, interpretation is nevertheless divided among commentators that (1) Yeshua terminated the Law (so Harrison); (2) Yeshua is the goal of the Law (so Shulam, Stern and TLV); and (3) Yeshua was both goal and terminator (so BAG, Edwards and Robertson). Few Christian commentators view Yeshua as the goal of the Law. However, there is not unanimity on what these terms mean. What does "goal" mean in the context of the Yeshua's identity? If there was a termination, what exactly was ended? Commentators give incomplete answers to these questions. Below is a summary of the respective positions.
Messiah as Terminator
This interpretation reflects the historic position of rejection-replacement theology (or supersessionism) in Christianity. Commentators who advocate this point of view use "Law" to mean the commandments given to Moses, but they are not always clear in explaining what was terminated. The practical meaning is that Yeshua terminated the authority of the Torah for Christians and this is certainly the point of view advanced by some Bible versions in their translation of this verse (CEV, NEB, NCV, NJB, TEV).
Just how many of the commandments in Torah no longer have authority? Christian commentators do not adequately explain the inherent contradiction of their interpretation with what the Scripture actually says. Harrison suggests that the Law still has application to non-believing Jews, inferring that the Law of God has no application to Christians. Little considered by advocates of this view is that the only verb in this verse is "trusts." Paul simply does not say "Yeshua ended the law." This interpretation flies in the face of Yeshua's own claim that he did not come to annul the Torah (Matt 5:17-19), and thus is patently in error and obviously alien to Paul's message. Paul is describing something about Yeshua, not the Torah.
Messiah as Goal
For Stern the aim of the Torah is to provoke acknowledgement and trust in the Messiah, who offers on the ground of this trusting the very righteousness sought by the Jews. The righteousness which the Torah offers is offered only through him and he offers it to everyone who trusts—to the Jews and to Gentiles as well. Shulam explains "goal" similarly by noting Paul's statement that the Torah witnesses to the righteousness of God (3:21). This "witness" is the "goal" of the Torah, i.e., God's gift of righteousness in the Messiah not only to the people of Israel but also the Gentiles. Verse 4 then sums up Paul's argument from 9:19-24 that God manifested great patience with disobedient Israel in order to call forth his remnant in which he would incorporate the Gentiles. As admirable as this interpretation is, Paul is quite capable of using telos in all senses of the word at the same time. We need to consider how those other meanings would be applied.
Messiah as Goal and Terminator
BAG suggests that Romans 10:4 should be taken in the sense that "Christ is the goal and the termination of the law at the same time, somewhat in the sense of Gal 3:24f" (819). For many interpreters Yeshua as telos means he completed the Law and therefore dispensed with it as the way of salvation. In other words, Yeshua confirmed the Torah as the just expression of God's moral purpose for humanity, but superseded the Torah by offering forgiveness and salvation when that moral purpose is transgressed.
Against this view is that neither Paul nor Moses viewed the Torah in its totality as a means of salvation. Deliverance from the penalty of sin was accomplished by animal sacrifices (Heb 9:22), which were prescribed in the Torah. However, the practice of animal sacrifice to expiate sin preexisted the commandments given to Moses (Gen 3:21; 4:4; 8:20-21; 12:7-8; 13:4, 18; 26:25; 33:20; 35:1-7, 14; Job 1:5; 42:8). When the need for offering sacrifices changed from just serving a family to an entire nation the construction of a special place to conduct those sacrifices became necessary.
Furthermore, Paul began this line of argument in 9:30 by talking about righteousness, which he insists from the time of Abraham has always been by trust and faithfulness (Chapter Four). While salvation and righteousness are related they are not the same thing. Contrary to popular Christian thought the concept of "Jewish-works-salvation" is an invention of Martin Luther, likely to justify his antisemitism. The ancient Jews knew that salvation under the Torah was accomplished by sacrifices and the annual Yom Kippur offering provided atonement. Jews zealous for the Law did not "work" for salvation, but to attain righteousness.
There are other possible shades of meaning in Paul's declaration of Messiah being the telos of the Torah.
A. Yeshua is the fullness of the Torah.
What commentators seem to miss is the essential nature of telos in common with the word-group: (a) teleios, derived from telos, "free of deficiency," i.e., complete or perfect; (b) teleioō, from teleios, "bring to a point at which nothing is missing," i.e., to complete; (c) teleiōsis, from teleios, "a bringing to full realization," i.e., fulfillment, perfection; and (d) teleō, from telos, "bring to completion, functioning in a manner that leaves nothing undone," do completely, achieve fully, perfect. The point of saying that Yeshua is the telos of the Torah is that he is the perfection of Torah, not the terminator of it.
Being the "perfecter" or "fulfiller," Yeshua explains or demonstrates the Torah's true meaning. The woman at the well acknowledged a common expectation of the time that when Messiah came "he will declare all things to us" (John 4:25; cf. Luke 24:32; John 7:17). In other words, the Messiah would explain the real intention and meaning of God's commandments. He makes the Torah "full." To illustrate, there is a usage in the LXX that conveys this idea. In Leviticus 27:23 telos is used to render Heb. mikhsah, "computation, assessment, worth" (BDB 493). In this legislation the priest is to calculate the full value of a field and the valuation would be "holy to the Lord." The valuation of the field does not terminate the field. We need to hear again the words of Yeshua:
"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 5:17-19 NASB)
Even Yeshua's enemies admitted that he taught in accordance with Torah and not against it (Matt 22:16). The New Covenant, which Yeshua brought to fulfillment, could not end the Torah, since its very purpose was to enable God's people to obey his commandments (Jer 31:33). Yeshua's warning about annulling commandments should be taken to heart. To teach someone that commandments have been annulled when in fact they haven't been, can only foment rebellion against God with its ultimate judgment. Interpretation should consider Paul's own discussion of Torah up to this point in Romans: (1) doers of the Torah will be justified, 2:13; (2) Torah defines sin, 4:15; 5:13; 7:7 (so how can it be canceled?); (3) the Torah is holy, righteous and good, 7:12; (4) Paul joyfully concurred in the Torah, 7:22; (5) the Torah is to be fulfilled in our lives, 8:4; and (6) the anti-Law mindset reflects the "flesh" or selfish nature, 8:7.
B. Yeshua is the preserver of the Torah.
Telos is used in the LXX to render the Heb. m'natsach, from natsach, found in 55 titles of the Psalms and translated in various Bible versions as "director," "chief musician," or "choir leader." The basic meaning of natsach is to be pre-eminent or enduring. In the Piel form natsach means to act as overseer, superintendent, or director (BDB 663). BDB suggests that these psalms originally comprised a Director's Collection, which served as the synagogue prayer book during the Greek period. The original directors served under King David and assisted in the development and preservation of the Psalter for worship.
In the much later writings of Chronicles and Ezra natsach was used to refer to those who were overseers or superintendents over the building of the temple. While telos does not occur in those contexts natsach still refers to a supervisory role. Whether Paul had this particular meaning in mind cannot be determined with any certainty, but the usage of telos in the Psalms, accounting for over a third of the usage of telos in the LXX, is certainly suggestive. Rather than terminating the Torah, Yeshua makes it permanent and oversees its application in the manner God originally intended. Yeshua is also the chief musician, directing the music of our lives to produce the rich melodies of righteousness envisioned in the Torah.
Of course, just how permanent the Torah is remains to be seen. We might reasonably assume that Messiah’s eternal kingdom has no need of Torah as an administrative authority since we will be like the angels (Matt 22:30), presumptively serving God without any external teacher (Jer 31:34). However, the millennial kingdom does continue the authority of Torah in that the Torah calendar of sabbaths and feasts is still to be observed (Lev 23:4; Isa 66:22-23; Ezek 46:1-11; Zeph 3:18; Zech 14:16; Matt 8:11; 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 13:29; Col 2:16-17).
C. Yeshua is the end of the curse of the Law.
Paul says in 9:32 that Israel pursued righteousness by "works," that is, legalistic observance of Torah. However, this approach to producing righteousness brought a curse. As Paul says in Galatians,
"For everyone who depends on legalistic observance of Torah commands lives under a curse, since it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not keep on doing everything written in the Scroll of the Torah. Now it is evident that no one comes to be declared righteous by God through legalism, since "The person who is righteous will attain life by trusting and being faithful." Furthermore, legalism is not based on trusting and being faithful, but on [a misuse of] the text that says, "Anyone who does these things will attain life through them." The Messiah redeemed us from the curse pronounced in the Torah by becoming cursed on our behalf; for the Tanakh says, "Everyone who hangs from a stake comes under a curse." (Gal 3:10-13 CJB)
It is this argument that sets up Paul's point about the Torah being a tutor until Messiah would come. Taking this sense means that Yeshua is the end of the curse.
D. Yeshua is the end of animal sacrifices for atonement.
There is no doubt that by the teaching of Yeshua and his atoning sacrifice certain elements of the Torah were modified and thereby terminated. See my article Under the Law. The blood of animals no longer expiates sin (Heb 9:11f; 10:4), and Yeshua replaced the descendants of Aaron as high priest. The destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70 served notice in the most effective manner of this change and ended the means to carry out 143 commandments. However, the remainder of the Torah requirements that prescribe devotion to God, promote shalom in relationships and provide for a just community remain in force. Unfortunately, many Christians do not recognize the authority of these Torah commandments unless they are specifically repeated in the apostolic writings.
E. Yeshua is the end of legalism.
Since the issue is righteousness, then Messiah is also the end of the authority of the Pharisaic traditions as definitive for determining righteousness. Yeshua generally followed practices acceptable to the Pharisees, but he sharply criticized the hypocritical twisting of the Torah by the legalists (Matt 6:1-12; 15:1-14; 23:1-23), and urged his disciples to keep the commandments God had given (Matt 19:17; John 14:15). Similarly, Paul remained observant of Pharisaic traditions (Acts 16:3; 18:18; 20:16; 21:26; 23:6; 26:5), but he granted liberty to practice otherwise as he says in Colossians 2:16, "Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day." The point is that only the written Word of God, not man-made rules, has authority to dictate the normative lifestyle for a disciple of Yeshua.
5 For Moses writes that the man having practiced the righteousness from Torah will live by righteousness.
For: Grk. gar, conj. Moses: Grk. Mōusēs transliterates Heb. Mosheh, the great Hebrew leader, prophet and lawgiver of Israel born about 1525 BC. The name Moses is most likely derived from Egyptian mes meaning "child" or "son" (BDB 602), since the daughter of Pharaoh named him (Ex 2:10). She explained the chosen name by saying, "Because I drew [Heb. mashah, "to draw"] him out of the water." The story of Moses is found in the extensive narratives from Exodus 1:1 through Deuteronomy 34:1. His life can be easily divided into three 40-year periods, the first being his birth and early life in Egypt, the second his years in Midian, and the third the wilderness period after the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt.
Moses was born into the house of Levi, the son of Amram and his wife Jochebed (Num 26:59). The only siblings mentioned as born into the household were a brother, Aaron, and a sister, Miriam (Num 26:59). Moses had two wives, both non-Israelites, Zipporah, a Midianite (Ex 2:15-16, 21; 4:25; 18:2) and a Cushite woman, name unknown (Num 12:1). Zipporah bore him two sons, Gershom and Eliezer (Ex 18:3-4), but no children of the Cushite wife are named. Moses was the leader of the Israelites in their deliverance from Egyptian slavery and oppression and their journey through the wilderness. At Mount Sinai Moses served as God's mediator and spokesman to facilitate the covenant relationship with Israel.
Forty years later on the plains of Moab Moses renewed the covenant with Israel and made preparations for their entry into the promised land. He was a heroic leader of the people and a devout man of God. Yet, due to an tragic incident of disobedience to God's instructions Moses was not permitted to enter the land of Canaan with the nation (Num 20:8-12). Yet Scripture records important facts about Moses: (1) he was greatly esteemed in Egypt, both among the servants of Pharaoh and the people (Ex 11:3); (2) he spoke face to face with God as a man speaks with his friend (Ex 33:11); (3) he was very humble, more than any man on earth (Num 12:3); (4) he was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians and a man of power in word and deeds (Acts 7:22); and (5) he was faithful in all his house as a servant of God (Heb 3:5).
At the end of his life God allowed Moses to view the land from the top of Mt. Pisgah before his death and there he died at the age of 120. God buried him in the land of Moab (Deut 34:1-7). However, Moses' death was not the end of his importance or influence, because Scripture asserts that Moses compiled, wrote and/or edited the five books attributed to his name (Matt 22:24; Mark 12:19; Luke 16:29; 24:27, 44), as well as Psalm 90. Moses left Israel and the Body of Messiah with the rich legacy of God's Word. Moses was a giant of a man. See my article Moses and Yeshua.
writes: Grk. graphō, pres., to write or inscribe, generally in reference to a document. In the LXX graphō appears about 300 times and translates Heb. kathab (SH-3789), to write. The first use of graphō in the LXX is Exodus 24:4, "And Moses wrote all the words of ADONAI." The first use of kathab in the Tanakh is Exodus 17:14, "ADONAI said to Moses, 'Write [LXX katagraphō, "write down"] this for a memorial in the book and rehearse it in the hearing of Joshua" (TLV). The present tense is used to heighten the drama of the quotation. Paul quotes or alludes to the Torah from Moses in verses 5-7. If Yeshua terminated or canceled the Torah, then what is the point of explaining what Moses taught about the Torah?
that: Grk. hoti, conj. the man: Grk. anthrōpos, human being, man, or mankind. In the LXX anthrōpos renders three Hebrew words: (1) adam, a human male or generically for man and woman (Gen 1:26); (2) ish, adult male or husband (Gen 2:23-24) and (3) enosh, man or mankind (Ps 8:4-5) (DNTT 2:564). having practiced: Grk. poieō, aor. part., a verb of physical action that may refer to (1) producing something material; make, construct, produce, create; or (2) to be active in bringing about a state of condition; do, act, perform, work. 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.
the righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē. See verse 3 above. from: Grk. ek, prep. denoting origin; from, from out of. Torah: Grk. nomos. See the previous verse. Many of the instructions in the Torah either define standards of righteous behavior or provide remedies for the administration of justice when those standards are violated. will live: Grk. zaō, fut. mid., be in the state of being alive in a physical sense. In the LXX zaō renders the Heb. adjective chay (SH-2416), alive, living, used for animal and human life (Gen 1:20; 3:20); the verb chayay (SH-2425), live, revive, save life (Gen 3:22; Ex 33:20); and the verb chayah (SH-2421), live, which appears often in texts describing how long someone lived (Gen 5:21) and in other passages as a reward of God for righteousness (Prov 4:4). In this passage the present tense of zaō may have a dual sense indicating the immediate as well as the future. by: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position, "in" or "within," but with the dative case of the noun following the preposition denotes means; by, by means of (DM 105).
righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē. Paul alludes to Leviticus 18:5, "You are to observe my laws and rulings; if a person does them, he will have life through them; I am ADONAI" (CJB). Paul does not quote Moses to dispute the Torah but to affirm it and buttress his own argument. Rashi, the great Medieval Jewish commentator (1040-1105), said that the promise to live refers to the world to come; "for if you say it refers to this world, doesn’t everyone die sooner or later?" However, Yeshua exhorted the rich young ruler, "if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matt 19:17). Yeshua taught that the abundant life, the best kind of life possible, begins in the present age. It doesn't wait until the age to come (Matt 10:39; John 6:35, 63; 10:10). Can anyone honestly say that living by God's commandments will give them a lousy life? Has anyone come up with a better standard?
The apostolic writings offer several living examples of this Torah truth. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth are described as "both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord" (Luke 1:6). Joseph, Yeshua's foster-father, is called a "righteous man" (Matt 1:19). Yochanan the Immerser is described as a "righteous and holy man" (Mark 6:20). Simeon was "righteous and devout" (Luke 2:25). Joseph of Arimathea, a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, likewise is called a "good and righteous man" (Luke 23:50). Later, Cornelius, the Roman centurion, is called a "righteous and God-fearing man" before Peter brought the good news to him (Acts 10:22). If God's Law had been ended in Messiah Yeshua, then what standard was being applied to judge these godly people as righteous?
Stern likens the life of Torah to the life in the Spirit:
"The word for "live" or "attain life" is the same as that used at 8:12–13 to describe what will happen to the believer who "by the Spirit" keeps "putting to death the practices of the body." Conclusion: Sha’ul affirms that the Torah and the Ruach HaKodesh offer one and the same eternal life. This is consistent with and suggested by the fact that the Holy Spirit came to the first believers on Shavuot (Pentecost), the same day the Torah was given to Moses."
If we consider that the Torah may be summarized by the two great commandments, to love God (Deut 6:4-5) and to love neighbor (Lev 19:18; Matt 22:36-40), then there is no conflict between Moses and Paul. These commandments presume not only believing in the existence of God (Heb 11:6), but trusting in his covenant faithfulness. Trust is the foundation of Torah and keeping the two great commandments.
6 Moreover, the righteousness from faithfulness speaks thus: "You should not say in your heart, 'who will ascend into heaven?' (that is, to bring down Messiah);
Moreover: Grk. de, conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also," sometimes with emphasis, "indeed," "moreover" (Thayer). In this verse the conjunction continues the thought of the previous verse, but introduces a new element. Almost all English versions (except the CJB and YLT) translate the conjunction as "but" to make this verse contrast with the previous. the righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē. See verse 3 above.
from: Grk. ek, prep., lit. "out of." The term emphasizes a point of origin and denotes direction. A few versions translate the word as "based on" (AMP, ESV, GW, NASB, RSV, TLV), which describes a logical relationship, and the CJB conveys the same meaning with "grounded in." A few versions stress means with "by" or "through" (ERV, EXB, JUB, NET, NIV, TEV). Many versions affirm origin and direction with "of," "from" or "comes from" (CEB, HCSB, ISV, KJV, MW, NAB, NIV, NKJV, NRSV, OJB).
faithfulness: Grk. pistis incorporates two facets of meaning, first that which causes trust and faith, i.e., faithfulness or reliability, and second, trust or confidence in an active sense (BAG). Pistis is used in the LXX to twice render Heb. emun (e.g., Deut 32:20; Prov 13:17; 'faithfulness,' BDB 53), but renders Heb. emunah ('firmness, steadfastness, fidelity,' BDB 53) over 20 times (mainly of men's faithfulness, 1Sam 26:23; 2Kgs 12:15; 22:7; 1Chr 9:22, 26, 31; 2Chr 31:12, 15, 18; 34:12; Prov 3:3; 12:17, 22; Jer 5:1, 3; 7:28; 9:3; Hos 2:20; but also of God's faithfulness (Ps 33:4; Lam 3:23; Hab 2:4). Pistis also translates Heb. aman (to confirm, to support, Jer 15:18), amanah ('fixed support,' Neh 9:38; 11:23; SS 4:8) and emet (firmness, faithfulness, truth, Prov 14:22; Jer 28:9; 33:6). The LXX usage emphasizes that the Hebrew meaning of faithfulness is the intended usage of pistis.
Paul builds on this meaning and represents pistis as composed of two elements. The first element of faithfulness is confidence or trust: "And without faith[fulness] it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Heb 11:6; cf. Heb 4:2). True faith leads one to seek God and then trust Him to respond with His good gifts. The second element of faithfulness involves commitment, constancy and obedience, which includes following God's direction for life and producing works of righteousness (cf. Eph 2:8-10). There is no essential difference between the faith or faithfulness of Hebrews and Israelites in the former age and the faith spoken of by Yeshua as Paul demonstrates in Hebrews 11. The point is that righteousness, a word of character and conduct, cannot result from belief in God alone. It is built on the foundation of faithfulness to God's expectations.
Stern notes that the translation of "but the righteousness" found in Christian versions makes verses 6–8 contrast with verse 5 instead of continuing or modifying its thought, thusly: "The righteousness based on the Torah says one thing (verse 5), but, in contrast, the righteousness based on faith says something else (verses 6–8)." Stern labels this interpretation, like the one that makes verse 4 speak of terminating the Law, as antisemitic, "even if today it is unintentionally so." The origin of this faulty interpretation can be traced to the theology of the church fathers (2nd through 6th centuries) and decisions of the church councils (4th through 8th centuries) who not only minimized the importance of the Torah given to Moses, but did their best to expunge any Jewishness from Christianity.
So, verses 6–8 affirms that the righteousness found in the Messiah Yeshua is not qualitatively different from the righteousness defined by the Torah given to Moses, but, in fact, is the same righteousness based on the same trust and leading to the same quality of life in the present age and the age to come of which Moses spoke. Even as Stern's correction of standard Christian interpretation is certainly valid, I would ask the reader to consider just whose faithfulness Paul is talking about. From the beginning of this letter Paul has made the case that righteousness begins with the faithfulness of God. It was God's choice to make promises to the patriarchs and Israel and Scripture affirms God's faithfulness to fulfill those promises. To make this point Paul then quotes from Deuteronomy 30:12.
You should not: Grk. mē, a particle of qualified negation, subjective in nature, involving will and thought; not. say: Grk. legō, aor. subj., to make a statement or utterance, whether mentally, orally or in writing, often used to introduce quoted material. The focus of the verb may be declarative, interrogative or imperative; answer, ask, declare, enjoin, order, say, speak, tell, told, refer to, talk about. in: Grk. en, prep. your: Grk. su, pron. of the second pers. The singular pronoun may allude to the fictive opponent whom Paul has been addressing in the letter. heart: Grk. kardia. See verse 1 above. Speaking in the heart is only a step from speaking out loud, and God is aware of both. Moses asserted to Israel in his closing monologue, "For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach" (Deut 30:11 NASB).
Scripture provides no justification for the common belief among Christians that no one can keep God's law. Try telling a local judge that you just cannot keep the speed law. The reason people don't keep God's laws has nothing to do with ability, but willingness. Moses warned his generation not to even contemplate rationalizations to justify unfaithfulness in obeying God's commandments. He goes on to mention two rationalizations an Israelite might offer in the form of questions.
Who: Grk. tís, interrogative pron.; who, which, what. will ascend: Grk. anabainō, fut. mid., to go up to a point or place that is higher than the point of origin, sometimes in the context of going up steps. Idiomatically the verb means to enter or approach. In the LXX anabainō renders Heb. alah, to go up, to ascend, to climb, particularly of going up the mountain of God, the sanctuary and Jerusalem (DNTT 2:185). into: Grk. eis, prep. heaven: Grk. ouranos, the area above the earth that encompasses the sky, interstellar space and associated phenomena or the transcendent dwelling-place of God. In the LXX ouranos translates the Heb. hashamayim (lit. "the heavens") (DNTT 2:191). The Hebrew and Greek words for "heaven" are used in Scripture to refer to at least three different places (Ps 148:1-4). In terms of direction from the ground level of the earth the first heaven is the atmosphere (Gen 1:20; Rev 19:17). The second heaven is interstellar space (Gen 1:1, 8; Matt 24:29). Finally, the third heaven is the location of the throne of God and the home of angels (1Kgs 8:30; Matt 6:9; 2Cor 12:2).
The obvious meaning in the Deuteronomy passage is that the ascent would be made to the throne of God. Moses' manner of phrasing the question indicates that the meaning of God's instruction is not inaccessible because of its height or loftiness, so that some especially qualified person would be needed to make it all clear (Craigie 365). The point of the question is similar to the expectation of the Samaritan woman that when Messiah came he would explain all things concerning the Torah. that: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pron. is: 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). Paul uses the pronoun-verb to introduce the idea that the hypothetical question had a deeper meaning than Moses understood.
to bring down: Grk. katagō, aor. inf., to lead or bring down someone from a point that is higher (BAG). Messiah: Grk. Christos. See verse 4 above. Paul offers a midrash and interprets the focus of the first question in reference to the Messiah coming to earth. The Pentateuch contains promises of the Messiah (Gen 3:15; 12:3; 28:14; 49:10; Num 24:17, 19; Deut 18:15, 18), but Paul asserts that Messiah has already come. By his own words Yeshua came to fulfill or give the fullest meaning to the Torah (Matt 5:17) and in the Sermon on the Mount he conveys the "original intent" of God's commandments.
7 or 'who will descend into the abyss?' that is, to bring up Messiah from the dead."
or: Grk. ē, a particle involving options, here to introduce an different question. who: Grk. tís, interrogative pron. will descend: Grk. katabainō, fut. mid., to proceed in a direction that is down, come or go down. into: Grk. eis, prep. the abyss: Grk. abussos, means bottomless, abyss, or unfathomably deep (Rienecker). Danker associates the term with a transcendent region deep below the earth's surface, abyss, underworld. In Classical Greek abussos had two distinct meanings: (1) bottomless, boundless or unfathomed, used in reference to the sea; and (2) the great deep, an idiom referring to the underworld (LSJ). The Hebrew text (and the LXX) actually reads "who will cross the sea [Heb. yam; Grk. thalassa] for us," but Paul substitutes "abyss."
In the LXX abussos renders Heb. tehom, deep, used for the original creation "the deep" (Gen 1:2), then the primeval reservoirs of water (Gen 7:11; 8:2), and later natural springs of the earth (Deut 8:7; 33:13; Prov 8:24; Isa 44:27), springs of the sea (Job 38:16), and the ocean depths (Job 38:30; Ps 33:7; 78:15; 107:26; 135:6; Isa 51:10; Ezek 26:19; Jon 2:5; ). The term is also used in some passages for trying circumstances or distresses (Ps 106:9; Isa 63:13), as well as the realm of the dead (Ps 71:20).
In Rabbinic Judaism the word tehom also stood for the interior of the earth, where bodies are found which cause uncleanness. In some apocryphal literature abussos stands for the prison of fallen spirits (Eth.Enoch 10;4-6; 18:11-13; Jub 5:6-8) (DNTT 2:205). Abussos occurs nine time in the Besekh. The first mention is in the story of the Gadarene demoniac in which the demons ask Yeshua not to send them to the abyss (Luke 8:31). The other seven mentions of abussos are in Revelation where it is the prison of demonic spirits and fallen angels (9:1, 2, 11; 11:7; 17:8; 20:1, 3).
Stern translates the phrase as "descend into Sheol," but Grk. Hades is used to translate Heb. Sheol in the LXX, not abussos. Like Sheol, Hades is the place of the human dead and in the apostolic writings more specifically the unredeemed dead (Matt 11:23; 16:18; Luke 16:23). Of course, this may be a distinction without a substantive difference.
In the Deuteronomy passage the question ("who will cross the sea") pertains to a quest to the farthest reaches of the earth to find a wise man who could explain the meaning of God's words. Moses' own answer to these questions is "it is in your mouth and in your mind, so that you may do it." In other words, the Torah is not rocket science. God spoke so as to be understood. The problem is not in understanding God's expectations, but in the hard-heartedness that rejects God's authority.
that: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pron. is: 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). Paul uses the pronoun-verb to introduce the idea that the hypothetical question had a deeper meaning than Moses understood. to bring up: Grk. anagō, aor. inf., to conduct from a lower place to a higher, to lead or bring up. The verb typically alludes to going from a lower elevation to a higher elevation.
Messiah: Grk. Christos. See verse 4 above. from: Grk. ek, prep. the dead: Grk. nekros, adj., without life in the physical sense; dead. Paul uses the word "dead" as a parallelism of "abyss," so he may intend "dead" to refer to either the place of the dead or those who are dead. Paul conveys a similar idea in his Ephesian letter where he says that Yeshua descended into the "lower parts of the earth" (Eph 4:9).
Paul interprets the focus of the second question in Deuteronomy 30:12 in reference to the Messiah's death and resurrection. While Paul's translation and application of the Deuteronomy passage to the Messiah seems cavalier, free interpretation of Hebrew Scripture was common in the Aramaic Targums. For example, the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, [an Aramaic translation of the Tanakh] renders Deut 30:11-13 as follows,
"the law is not in heaven that it should be said, oh that we had one of us, as Moses the prophet, who could go up to heaven and bring it to us! nor is it beyond the great sea, that it should be said, oh that we had one of us, as Jonah the prophet, "who could descend into the depths of the great sea", and bring it to us.''
The experience of Jonah of going to the depths of the sea serves as a word picture of death (cf. Ps 68:22; 106:11; Lam 3:54; Ezek 28:8; Rev 20:13). Paul essentially treats "sea" as an idiom of the place of the dead and so he uses abussos to convey that meaning. Paul's reading of the Messiah into the words of Moses does not alter the material meaning of the Torah passage. Stern explains:
"Just as no human effort is needed to bring the Torah from heaven, where, according to Jewish tradition, it existed from eternity past, before God gave it to Moses on Mount Sinai; so likewise no one needs to ascend to heaven, where the Messiah once was…in order to bring the Messiah down. Nor need one descend into … the place of the dead, where Yeshua also was, to bring the Messiah up from the dead, because God has already done it. If there is no need to bring the Messiah from where he has once been, all the more is there no need to bring him from where he has not been ("beyond the sea"); this is an implied kal v'chomer argument. In any case, the purpose of both the Deuteronomy passage and this one is to show that self-effort is neither necessary nor possible: both Torah and Messiah were given by God’s grace, without human assistance, so that Israel might "hear … and do."
8 But which says? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart"--that is, the message of faithfulness which we are proclaiming
But: Grk. alla, an adversative conjunction used adverbially suggesting other matter or varying viewpoint for consideration. The nuance of contrast may be expressed with "but, on the other hand, yet, nevertheless, indeed or certainly." The conjunction may suggest a confrontational tone to a fictive opponent. which: Grk. tís, interrogative pron. says: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 6 above. Most versions present the question as "but what does it say." Paul draws the reader's attention back to the Deuteronomy passage. Moses provides the answers to the hypothetical questions. Maybe we should listen to Moses.
The word: Grk. rhēma, a communication consisting of words. In secular Greek works rhēma referred to a statement, discourse or explanation. In the LXX rhēma occurs predominately in the Pentateuch and prophetic writings for the Heb. dabar, which means "word" or "thing." Thus, rhēma, standing for dabar, can mean both (a) a word or utterance as well as (b) a matter, event, or case in the sense of the result of things said or done. In the Tanakh rhēma is often synonymous with Grk. logos, which means a vocalized expressed of the mind, ranging broadly in extent of content and variety of form (DNTT 3:1119f). Interestingly both rhēma and logos occur together in the LXX of Exodus 34:27, "Write down these words [rhēma], for in accordance with these words [logos] I have made a covenant with you and with Israel."
is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 6 above. near: Grk. engus, prep., near or close to, whether in a spatial or temporal sense. you: Grk. su, 2p-sing. pron. The sentence is from Deuteronomy 30:14. The Word, or Torah, came from God. in: Grk. en, prep. your: Grk. su, 2p-sing. mouth: Grk. stoma, the bodily organ used for speaking, tasting, eating and drinking; mouth. and: Grk. kai, conj. in: Grk. en, prep. your: Grk. su, 2p-sing. heart: Grk. kardia. See verse 1 above. This is an idiomatic expression indicating the receipt of God's command. The Hebrew text finishes the instruction with "that you may observe it," which the LXX translates as "and in your hands to do it." The rhēma of which Moses' speaks is the command he issues following the section Paul quotes:
"See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments." (Deut 30:15-16 NASB)
the message: Grk. rhēma. of faithfulness: Grk. pistis, trusting faithfulness. See verse 6 above. Loving God, if it has any meaning in the real world, means being faithful to God in what he has decreed. which: Grk. hos, relative pron. used for identification purposes; who, which, what, that. we are proclaiming: Grk. kērussō, pres., to make a public announcement in the manner of a herald, to proclaim. In the LXX kērussō occurs only 29 times and usually renders Heb. qara, to call, proclaim or read (first in Gen 41:43), but also Heb. qol, voice (Ex 36:6; 1Esdra 2:2; 1Macc 5:49); Heb. rua, raise a shout, give a blast (Hos 5:8); Heb. za'aq, cry, cry out, call (Jon 3:7), and Aram. keraz, to make a proclamation (Dan 5:29) (DNTT 3:51).
Since qara occurs 650 times in the Tanakh and is usually translated in the LXX by kaleō ("call") or ekkaleō ("call forth"), then the use of kērussō must refer to a special kind of "calling." The verb is used only for three classic functions of the herald: (1) for the proclamation of a Torah festival (Ex 32:5; 2Kgs 10:20) or a fast (Joel 1:14; Jon 3:5); (2) for the orders of a military commander in the field or a decree of the prince which have to be proclaimed (Ex 36:6; 2Chr 24:9,); and (3) for the proclamation of judgment (Hos 5:8; Joel 2:1; 3:9). The three occurrences of kērussō in Proverbs (1:12; 8:1; 9:3) belong in a special category since "Wisdom," a personification of God, is crying out for obedience of Torah ethics.
In rabbinic literature the verb kērussō appears where an announcement or a judicial verdict is publicly proclaimed and also for the public announcement of rabbinic decisions on doctrine when these are relevant to the keeping of the law. The verb appears 61 times in the Besekh, 24 in relation to Paul's ministry or letters, and applies mostly about the reign of God and associated themes. Paul sees himself as the herald of the Messiah. Christian versions translate the verb as "preach," but Jews consider the English translation of "preach" as a distinctly Christian word. Paul again emphasizes that the message of Moses is the same message that he is trying to get across.
9 that if you should profess with your mouth the Lord Yeshua, and trust in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved;
that: Grk. hoti, conj. 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 should profess: Grk. omologeō, aor. subj., to express oneself openly and firmly about a matter. The verb has a range of meaning: (1) to promise or assure; (2) to agree with or admit something; (3) to confess in a judicial sense; (4) to declare or acknowledge publicly; or (5) to praise (BAG). In this context, the fourth meaning has primary application. The subjunctive mood emphasizes potential and presents a hypothetical scenario. Many versions translate the verb as "confess," but Paul does not describe confession of sin or an affirmation of a creed, as Christianity uses the term confess. Some versions have "declare" (EXB, GW, ISV, NCV, NIRV, NIV, NJB, NLT, NOG); and the CJB has "acknowledge publicly" and MW has "affirm."
with: Grk. en, prep. your: Grk. su, pron. of the second pers. mouth: Grk. stoma. See the previous verse. The profession is depicted as vocalized words in the hearing of witnesses. the Lord: Grk. kurios may mean either (1) 'one in control through possession,' and therefore owner or master; or (2) 'one esteemed for authority or high status,' thus lord or master. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times, first translating the divine title Adonai (SH-136, Lord; Gen 15:2), and Heb. words used of men to denote higher rank or authority, primarily adôn (SH-113, master, lord; Gen 18:12). Over 6,000 times kurios replaces YHVH ("LORD" in Christian versions). Kurios does not translate YHVH, but interprets all that is implied by use of the divine name.
Kurios is the principal title used for Yeshua throughout the apostolic writings, over twice as many times as any other title (e.g., Rabbi, Teacher, Master). Edwards attempts to make the case that kurios is here used to emphasize that Yeshua is God as it is used predominately in the LXX. Similarly, Robertson says that "No Jew would do this who had not really trusted Christ, for kurios in the LXX is used of God. No Gentile would do it who had not ceased worshipping the emperor as kurios. The word kurios was and is the touchstone of faith."
However, Paul probably uses kurios as equivalent to the Heb. adôn ("Lord" in the sense of "ruler"), rather than the tetragrammaton. Many Jews called Yeshua kurios out of respect without implying deity. Lordship implies all kinds of divine expectations that should be considered (Matt 7:21-23). Moreover, such a declaration in Rome, the center of Caesar worship, would be especially significant. Caesar believed he was kurios of the world and the Caesar cult, with faithful devotees scattered throughout the empire, provided a serious obstacle to discipleship. Eventually, this simple confession that Yeshua is Lord would create many Christian martyrs.
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). The meaning of his name is explained to Joseph by an angel of the Lord, "You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). The English rendering of "Jesus" originated with the Mace New Testament in 1729. By virtue of His incarnation and Jewish mother, Yeshua must still be a Jew. 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? The principal issue here is that a person is expected to profess, not a creedal formula, but that Yeshua is his Lord, his master, and not just his Redeemer.
and trust: Grk. pisteuō, aor. subj. See verse 4 above. Most versions translate the verb as "believe," but to believe is to trust completely and stand firm in that trust. Paul is not talking about an intellectual assent to a creed. in: Grk. en, prep. your: Grk. su. heart: Grk. kardia. See verse 1 above. As a Hebrew idiom "heart" stands for the whole person. This is a commitment that engages the passions. While it may seem strange that Paul speaks of trusting as following professing he is simply preserving the word order of "mouth" and "heart" as occurs in the Deuteronomy passage he just quoted. The two activities might occur somewhat coincidentally in response to an apostolic sermon.
that: Grk. hoti, conj. God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. raised: Grk. egeirō, aor., to rise from a recumbent or lower position. The verb appears frequently in the Besekh in reference to resurrection. him: Grk. autos, pers. pron.; i.e., Yeshua. from: Grk. ek, prep. the dead: Grk. nekros, one without life, dead, normally used of physical death, but also figuratively of spiritual death. The phrase points to the result of the Father raising Messiah Yeshua from the dead. This straightforward affirmation means that Yeshua did not raise himself from the dead. Yeshua understood that he would be raised (Matt 26:32) and the apostles echoed the accomplishment (Acts 2:24). Being convinced of Yeshua's resurrection provides confidence that God will raise his people from the dead in order to enjoy eternal life.
you will be saved: Grk. sōzō, fut. pass. See verse 4 above. The apostolic writings reveal that God’s judgment means eternal death and eternal fire. Being saved means full and complete deliverance from the wages of sin. With the future tense Paul could mean that in the instant one confesses and trusts that salvation is secured in the present (cf. Titus 3:5; 1Pet 3:21). However, it is just as likely that being saved has an eschatological meaning, i.e., being rescued from God's wrath on the Day of Judgment. Both Edwards and Harrison consider verses 9 and 10 to be the content of an early "Christian" confession, used in worship or at one's immersion. However, there is no evidence from the apostolic writings of a creedal recitation by a "convert" as occurred in Christianity beginning in the 2nd century.
The salvation stories of people in Acts indicate great variety in terms of both apostolic instruction and individual responses. Paul does not mention repentance or immersion here and yet those were important elements as well in making a disciple (Acts 2:38). Confessing of sin was normal to Jewish experience because the Torah required a declaration of accountability whenever a sin or guilt offering was presented (Lev 5:5). Indeed, sin was expiated not only by the animal sacrifice, but by verbal repentance and confession that accompanied it. Confessing did not mean that the sinner admitted to specific sins, but simply that he had sinned and stood in need of God's mercy. Confession acknowledged God's sovereignty and righteousness in the face of man's sin (Shulam).
There is no doubt that professing the Lordship of Yeshua and the resurrection of Yeshua, the foundation of Messianic faith, would have significant meaning for Jews. This profession is not just concerned with admitting to and turning away from sins, but identifying with Yeshua as the Messiah. The line had already been drawn in the sand. Yeshua warned that discipleship would cause a division in families and insisted that his disciples love him above all other relationships (Matt 10:37). Although Joseph of Arimathea had been a secret disciple (John 19:38), the time for concealing one's loyalty to Yeshua was long past. Difficulties can arise in any family when a person accepts Yeshua, but failure to openly identify with him can only have a negative effect on spiritual growth.
Paul makes it clear that salvation, whether present or eschatological, depends on a public profession or at least a profession that other people hear. If we profess Yeshua's Lordship and our trust in his atoning sacrifice and resurrection before men then he will acknowledge us before the Father (Matt 10:32). Conversely, "If we deny him, he also will deny us" (2Tim 2:12). Paul's message was uncompromising. If you want to be saved, you have to take a stand.
10 for the heart trusts into righteousness; moreover the mouth professes into salvation.
for: Grk. gar, conj. the heart: Grk. kardia. See verse 1 above. trusts: Grk. pisteuō, pres. mid. See verse 4 above. into: Grk. eis, prep. righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē. See verse 3 above. It's not immediately clear whether the present tense of "trusts" refers to condition that predated the public profession or to a continuing activity since the profession. The latter meaning seems the most likely since the activity bears fruit into the future. These two verses together emphasize both the crisis and process of spiritual transformation. moreover: Grk. de, conj. the mouth: Grk. stoma. See verse 8 above. professes: Grk. omologeō, pres. mid. See the previous verse. into: Grk. eis, prep. salvation: Grk. sōtēria, preservation in danger, deliverance from impending death or eternal salvation. "Salvation" may be equivalent to righteousness, the clause functioning as a Hebraic parallelism, but more likely extends the result of believing and professing to the eschatological promise of deliverance from wrath.
11 For the Scripture says, "Everyone trusting upon him will not be put to shame."
For: Grk. gar, conj. the Scripture: Grk. graphē, writing, and in the Jewish context meaning the sacred Hebrew Bible (24 books) referred to as the Tanakh, corresponding to the Protestant Old Testament (39 books) and its translation into Greek, the Septuagint. The term "Scripture," which occurs over 50 times in the Besekh, summarizes the body of literature containing God's inspired, infallible, inerrant words penned by over 25 writers, from Moses to Malachi. says: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 1 above. This is the third time in Romans that Paul refers to the authoritative source for his message. Paul then quotes from the last clause of Isaiah 28:16, which says in the LXX, "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed" (ABP).
Everyone: Grk. pas, adj. trusting: Grk. pisteuō, pres. part. See verse 4 above. Paul repeats the LXX accurately, but the rest of the quotation is not found in the Hebrew text of Isaiah 28:16. upon: Grk. epi, prep. expressing the idea of "hovering" and may function as a marker for position or location, whether an area, a person or thing; on, upon, over. him: Grk. autos, pers. pron.; i.e., Yeshua. will not: Grk. ou, adv. be put to shame: Grk. kataischunō, fut. pass., put to shame, or expose to disgrace. Paul changes the verb tense found in the LXX (aorist passive subjunctive, "in no way should be disgraced") to future passive indicative, "will not be humiliated" (CJB). Paul changes the tense to give the certainty found in the Hebrew text of Isaiah 28:16. The verb kataischunō reflects the fact that Israelites lived in an honor-shame culture.
The circumstances of a person's social, marital, economic and educational status created a level of honor for that person. For that reason social pressure via law and custom was exerted to preempt any action or reaction that would bring shame to a person. Yeshua warned his Jewish disciples that identifying with him could result in family disaffection (Luke 12:53) and persecution in the synagogues (Matt 10:17). Nevertheless disciples could be confident that God's opinion is the only one that really matters. When they stand before Him they will hear, "well done, good and faithful servant" (Matt 25:21).
12 for there is no difference both of Judean Jew and of Hellenistic Jew; for the same Lord of all is rich toward all the ones calling on him;
for: Grk. gar, conj. there is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 6 above. no: Grk. ou, adv., particle of strong negation. difference: Grk. diastolē (from diastellō, drawing apart, distinction), difference or distinction, used of contrasting ethnic groups as here (cf. Rom 3:22) and distinguishing musical notes (1Cor 14:7). Paul insists that the two groups named here have a commonality to God. Both groups spring from the same father. Even though there are differences God views His people as a unity.
both: Grk. te, conj. used to connect an idea closely to another in a manner that is tighter than with kai. The conjunction te is often rendered with "and," but when used in combination with kai, as here, then te may be rendered as "likewise" or "both." of Judean Jew: Grk. Ioudaios, Judean, Jew, Jewish or Jewess with respect to birth heritage (BAG). In the LXX Ioudaios translates the Heb. Yehudi (pl Yehudim). Yehudi was derived from Yehudah (Judah), the name given to Jacob’s son (Gen 29:35) and thereafter his tribal descendants (Ex 31:2). The plural Yehudim is used of citizens of the Kingdom of Judah (2Kgs 16:6; 25:25; Jer 34:9). The southern kingdom also included the tribes of Benjamin and Simeon, so Mordecai of the tribe of Benjamin is identified as a Yehudi (Esth 2:5; 6:10). The meaning of Yehudim expanded during the exile to refer to all those taken in captivity from the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah living throughout the Persian empire (Esth 8:9, 11, and 17).
Stern contends that in apostolic usage Ioudaioi ("Jews") has one of three meanings: (1) members of the tribe of Judah; (2) followers of the Jewish religion; or (3) people living in or originating from Judea, however politically defined (160). I would add "members of the tribes belonging to the Kingdom of Judah" to the definition. Paul would be a Ioudaios on this basis since he was a member of the tribe of Benjamin as Mordecai (Acts 13:21; Rom 11:1; Php 3:5). In addition, I would clarify the second meaning to be "followers of the Judean religion." In other words, the Ioudaioi were observant traditional Jews.
The Ioudaioi revered Moses, faithfully observed the Sabbath, kept God's prescribed festivals, circumcised their children and regarded the Temple in Jerusalem as the only place to worship the God of Israel with sacrifices (John 2:13; 4:20; 5:1, 16; 6:4; 7:2; 11:55; 19:31; Acts 2:5; 16:3; 21:21; 22:3; 24:14; Rom 2:17). Generally speaking the Ioudaioi followed the traditions of the Pharisees (Mark 7:3; Acts 10:28). The same devotion could not be said of other Israelite descendants who were scattered throughout the world. Thus, the term Ioudaios is never used of Hellenistic Jews or Samaritan Jews.
and: Grk. kai, conj. of Hellenistic Jew: Grk. Hellēn, a person of Hellenistic culture. In classical Greek Hellēn meant a Greek, as opposed to a barbarian, and generally a term for ethnic Greeks. After Alexander the Great conquered the world he and his successors sought to educate and assimilate people in the Greek way of life. All who adopted the Greek language and culture were counted as Hellēn, even though they were of a different ethnic group (DNTT 2:124).
Hellēn appears 25 times in the Besekh. All but two of those occurrences are in Paul's letters (14 times) or in Luke's narratives of Paul's ministry (9 times). Almost all Bible versions translate Hellēn in this verse as "Greek," although a few have "Gentile" (AMP, CEV, CJB, NIV, NLT, TEV), but "Greek" and "Gentile" are not synonyms. In my view Hellēn should be translated as "Hellenistic Jew" or the very least "Hellenist." First, in the Besekh Hellēn is simply not an ethnic term restricted to ethnic Greeks (or Hellenistic Gentiles in general). What would be the point for Jews to speak of Greeks anyway? The term Hellēn certainly includes Hellenistic Jews, that is, Jews who in varying degrees adopted cultural and lifestyle practices of Hellenism.
Second, the hermeneutic Law of First Mention has relevance to this discussion. According to this principle the first mention of a subject indicates its inherent meaning for the occurrences that follow. The first mention of Hellēn in the Besekh occurs in John 7:35 where the term is associated with the Diaspora. The term Diaspora occurs in passages of the LXX that speak of the removal of Israelite peoples from the Land and scattering them into other lands (Deut 28:25; 30:4; Neh 1:9; Ps 147:2; Isa 49:6; Jer 15:7; 34:17; 2Macc 1:27). The term Diaspora occurs only three times in the Besekh (also Jas 1:1; 1Pet 1:1), all as a technical term for lands outside Israel where Jews resided. In other words, the "Diaspora" is a term that only has relevance to Jews. The term does not refer to dispersion of Gentiles.
Third, when Yeshua and the apostles wished to refer unambiguously to bona fide non-Jew Gentiles they used the term ethnos (e.g., Matt 10:5; Rom 3:29). Paul uses ethnos in this manner many times in his letters. There is no reason to exclude Jews from the definition of Hellēn. After all, Hellēn only defines a person by cultural practices. We should note that a Hellenistic Jew is never called Ioudaios in Scripture and if the word Hellēn does not include them then there is no reference to such Jews in the Bible. It is fair to say that the number of Hellenistic Jews in the Roman Empire was equal to or even greater than Judean Jews. The Ioudaios and Hellēn are frequently contrasted (Acts 14:1-2; 16:1, 3; 17:4-5, 17; 18:4, 19:10, 17; 20:21; Rom 1:16; 2:9-10; 3:9; 1Cor 1:22, 24; 10:32; Gal 3:28).
To traditional Jews, such as those in Judea, Greek ideas were abominations and syncretism was tantamount to treason with the enemy. The differences went deeper than the fact that Judean Jews spoke Hebrew and Hellenistic Jews spoke Greek. Acts 6:1 depicts the strife between these two groups. In the Diaspora many Hellenistic synagogues conducted services in Greek. Hellenistic Jews had a tendency toward universalism and they tolerated religions around them. Many Hellenistic Jews adopted Greek customs as a part of their lifestyle. Some tolerated mixed marriage, dropped circumcision, and even in some places adopted Greek cults (Tarn & Griffith 223-227).
for: Grk. gar, conj. the same: Grk. autos, pers. pron. Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 9 above. of all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. is rich: Grk. plouteō, pres. part., possess in abundance, to be rich or wealthy or have many resources. toward: Grk. eis, prep. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. the ones calling on: Grk. epikaleō, pres. mid. part. with the definite article, may mean (1) give a name or nickname to, call, name; or (2) call upon for help, aid or intercession, invoke, appeal, call on. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX epikaleō translates the Heb. qara, to call, to proclaim or to read, first in Genesis 4:26 (DNTT 1:272). The Hebrew word occurs frequently in contexts of someone crying out for help, especially in appeals to God and often with a loud voice.
him: Grk. autos. Paul's declaration is not specifically of deity, although it could be taken that way. Paul probably intends Yeshua's role as Messianic Judge (cf. Matt 25:31-32), as Yeshua told his adversaries, "For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son (John 5:22). Peter conveyed this message to Cornelius. Because Messiah Yeshua is "Lord of all" (Acts 10:36), he "has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead" (Acts 10:42).
13 for "whoever would call on the name of ADONAI will be saved."
for: Grk. gar, conj. Paul now quotes from Joel 2:32, which Peter also quoted in his Shavuot (Pentecost) sermon (Acts 2:21). whoever: Grk. hos, relative pron., who which, what, that. would: Grk. an, disjunctive particle that nuances a verb with contingency or generalization; would, ever, might. call on: Grk. epikaleō, aor. mid. subj. See the previous verse. the name: Grk. onoma is used in its central sense of identifying someone. In Hebrew literature it also carries the extended sense of qualities, powers, attributes or reputation. of ADONAI: Grk. kurios (for Heb. YHVH). See verse 9 above. The use of kurios for YHVH is curious J, since kurios is a title and YHVH is the personal name of the God of Israel (Ex 3:15; 2Chr 14:11; Isa 42:8). Many scholars believe that YHVH means "the one bringing into being, life-giver" (BDB 218).
The Genesis narrative identifies Chavvah (Eve) as the first to speak the Sacred Name (Gen 4:1). Thereafter YHVH occurs well over 6,000 times in the Tanakh. YHVH is translated in Christian Bibles with "LORD" (small caps) and in the Complete Jewish Bible with "ADONAI" (small caps). Many Christians assume the spelling of YHVH is "Yahweh." The actual pronunciation cannot be known with certainty because in the manuscripts of the Tanakh YHVH has the vowel pointing of Adonai. The Jewish rabbis who produced the LXX made a deliberate choice to substitute Kurios for YHVH. Their rationale must have been to prevent Gentiles from speaking the Name of the God of Israel revealed to them and prevent inadvertent blasphemy. Members of the Qumran sect were more scrupulous and in Heb. biblical manuscripts wrote Adonai instead of YHVH (DNTT 2:512). For more information on the history and usage of YHVH see my article The Blessed Name.
The statement of Joel relies on the concept that there is power in God's name. "Calling on the name of ADONAI" is an idiomatic expression that first occurs in Genesis 4:26, "Then men began to call upon the name of ADONAI." In that context and others the expression refers not simply to offering a prayer to God, but summarizes the nature and scope of worship at the altars built by the patriarchs (Gen 12:8; 13:4; 21:33; 26:25). The worship theme continues in a few other passages (Ex 34:5; Ps 116:17; Zeph 3:9). The usage in Joel, which Paul quotes, is to call on God for deliverance from danger or judgment (cf. Ps 116:4, 13).
Two special cases are worthy of note: (1) Elijah issued a challenge to the priests of Baal, "Then you will call on the name of your god, and then, I will call on the Name of ADONAI. The God who answers with fire, He is God" (1Kgs 18:24 TLV). (2) The second case is the healing story of Naaman whose expectation of medical attention including calling on "the name of ADONAI" (2Kgs 5:11). To "call on the name of ADONAI" is to admit one's weakness and powerlessness and one's utter need for God to intervene with mercy and deliverance.
While Christian interpreters often use Romans 10:13 as a proof-text for the doctrine of free moral agency, Paul is not arguing this issue. "Calling on the name of ADONAI" is probably an allusion to the high priest's confession on the Day of Atonement. The Talmud records that in the course of the temple services the high priest pronounced the Sacred Name ten times and apparently spoke so loud that he was heard "even unto Jericho" (Yoma 39b). Yoma gives this further description:
"He [the High Priest] then came to the scapegoat and laid his two hands upon it and he made confession. And thus would he say: I beseech thee, O LORD, thy people the house of Israel have failed, committed iniquity and transgressed before thee. I beseech thee, O LORD, atone the failures, the iniquities and the transgressions which thy people, the house of Israel, have failed, committed and transgressed before thee, as it is written in the Torah of Moses, thy servant, to say: For on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you, from all your sins shall ye be clean before the LORD. And when the priests and the people standing in the temple court heard the fully-pronounced Name come forth from the mouth of the high priest, they bent their knees, bowed down, fell on their faces and called out: Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever." (Yoma 66a)
It is very possible that Paul intends a play on words and the "Name" of the Lord refers to Yeshua, since that is the name to be professed in verse 9 and Yeshua identified himself with YHVH in John 8:58. The true significance of calling on the name of the Lord is that it is in his name that we may receive spiritual life, God in us. will be saved: Grk. sōzō, fut. pass. See verse 4 above. Paul could intend the verb as pertaining to (1) the present, in that the consequence immediately follows the "calling on the Lord"; (2) the eschatological judgment when Yeshua returns; or (3) the final judgment of the living and dead. Given Paul's capacity for lateral thinking he could intend all three senses.
14 How then might they call on in whom they have not trusted? And, how might they trust whom they have not heard? And how might they hear without one proclaiming?
Paul returns to the rabbinic literary device of introducing in rapid-fire succession four rhetorical questions posed by a fictive objector. Three questions are given in this verse and the fourth in the next verse. The challenge of interpreting verses 14-21 is identifying the objector. Is the objector an Israelite or a Gentile? The textual difficulty arises from the fact in verses 14-15 Paul uses third person verbs in a vague manner and in verses 18-19 uses first person verbs. So, in this verse, who is "they?" Who is the objector?
Stern interprets "they" as the Jews and the objector as a non-Messianic Jew who essentially complains about Paul's use of the Joel quote and claims that if God had sent someone announcing good news about good things the Jews would have welcomed him. So it's God's fault that so many Jews rejected the message of Yeshua. Similarly, Shulam contends that in verse 14 Paul returns to the objection that "they," i.e., Israel, cannot be saved (although they may call on the Lord's name) because in the main they have stumbled over the Messiah.
It is just as likely that the fictive objector is a Gentile and these rhetorical questions assume that Israel's rejection means the nation can't or won't be saved. This distortion of Paul's teaching would form the basis for the rejection-replacement theology advocated by Christianity in later centuries. The false assumption fails to recognize that it was not the people of Israel who rejected Yeshua, but the Judean leadership who put Yeshua on trial and condemned him (cf. 1Th 2:14-16). In point of fact tens of thousands of Jews had embraced Yeshua as their Savior and Messiah (Acts 21:20).
How: Grk. pōs, adv. introducing a query concerning manner, way, or reason in respect to a matter; how? in what manner/way? then: Grk. oun, conj. used to denote that what it introduces is the result of or an inference from what precedes, "so, therefore, consequently, accordingly, then." might they call on: Grk. epikaleō, aor. mid. subj. See verse 12 above. The subjunctive mood, which emphasizes potentiality, is used for the hypothetical proposition. in: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." whom: Grk. hos, relative pron. they have not: Grk. ou, adv. trusted: Grk. pisteuō, aor. See verse 4 above. Most versions translate the verb as "believed," which is more representative of Christian theology that the biblical use of the term. A few versions have "trusted" (CJB, MSG, NLV, TLV). And: Grk. de, conj. how: Grk. pōs. might they trust: Grk. pisteuō, aor. subj. whom: Grk. hos.
they have not: Grk. ou. heard: Grk. akouō, aor., may mean (1) to hear, with the focus on willingness to listen or to heed the substance of what is said; (2) hear with comprehension, understand; (3) receive information aurally, hear, hear about; or (4) a legal term of hearing a case. The third meaning applies here, with nuances of the first two meanings. In the LXX akouō consistently stands for Heb. shama, which not only means to apprehend, but also to accept and to act upon what has been apprehended (DNTT 2:173). In Hebraic thought to hear is to obey. And: Grk. de. how: Grk. pōs. might they hear: Grk. akouō, aor. subj. without: Grk. chōris, prep., in a condition or circumstance not including; without, apart from. one proclaiming: Grk. kērussō, pres. part. See verse 8 above. In this case the verb refers to someone who is a herald for God, telling the good news of the Messianic kingdom. The verb alludes to Yeshua's appointed apostles and evangelists.
15 And how will they proclaim unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "How timely the feet of the ones announcing good news of good things!"
Paul asks his fourth question. And: Grk. de, conj. how: Grk. pōs, adv. will they proclaim: Grk. kērussō, aor. subj., 3p-pl. See verse 8 above. unless: Grk. ei mē, lit. "if not." they are sent: Grk. apostellō, aor. pass. subj., to cause to move from one position to another, but often to send as an authoritative personal representative. Originally in Greek culture apostellō was used of sending an envoy to represent a king or a personal representative with legal powers. In the LXX apostellō translated Heb. shalach ("to stretch out or to send"), often in contexts of commissioning and empowering a messenger (DNTT 1:128). Just as: Grk. kathōs, conj. emphasizing similarity, conformity, proportion or manner; as, just as. it is written: Grk. graphō, perf. pass. See verse 5 above. The perfect tense denote action completed in past time with continuing results to the present.
The phrase "it is written" is the standard formula in the apostolic writings for attesting an assertion of truth and divine inspiration of Scripture, followed by a quote from the Tanakh. This is the eighth time the formula is used in this letter. Paul then quotes from Isaiah 52:7. How: Grk. hōs, adv. with the primary function of connecting narrative components, here with focus on an aspect of an activity or event. timely: Grk. hōraios (from hōra, hour, time of fulfillment or season of time), was used in classical Greek literature for 'the bloom and vigor of life,' or beauty (Thayer). The broad range of the idea of timeliness, especially association with prime periods, such as fruit at its peak and humans in youthful blossoming, readily invites the idea of a valued object as beautiful (Danker). HELPS notes that the term is used figuratively to mean beautiful in timing, hence fruitful because of being fully developed and thus prepared. The term occurs four times in the Besekh (also Matt 23:27; Acts 3:2, 10).
In the LXX of hōraios renders a dozen different Hebrew words, almost all of which refer to a physical description, such as fair, beautiful, comely or seemly. However, the LXX of Isaiah 52:7 does not have hōraios, but uses hōra to render Heb. na'ah, to be comely or befitting. Almost all versions translate the noun as "beautiful," but "timely" seems more appropriate to the context (also found in LEB, MRINT, NET). A few have "welcome" (AMPC, NEB, TLB) or "wonderful" (ERV, TEV). the feet: pl. of Grk. pous, the body part that is used for walking or running; the foot. The mention of "feet" is a reminder that in the apostolic era the messengers of Yeshua traveled primarily by foot, and walked many miles to reach their destinations where the good news would be proclaimed. Important to the context is that neither Isaiah nor Paul are saying that messengers of God/Yeshua have pretty feet.
of the ones: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used with the following verb as a demonstrative pron. announcing good news: Grk. euangelizō, pres. part., to bring or announce good news. The verb is used to mean (1) pass on information that spells good tidings to the recipient, and (2) spread good tidings of God's beneficial concern. In the LXX euangelizō stands for Heb. basar, to publish or bear tidings, whether good or bad (DNTT 2:108-109). Initially basar referred to news of armed conflict delivered by a messenger (1Sam 31:9; 2Sam 1:20; 4:10; 18:19-20). The concept of the messenger fresh from the field of battle is at the heart of the more theological usages in Isaiah and the Psalms. Here it is ADONAI who is victorious over his enemies and He comes to deliver the captives (Ps 68:11; Isa 61:1). The watchman waits eagerly for the messenger (Isa 52:7) who will bring this good news.
of good things: pl. of Grk. agathos, adj., achieving a high standard of excellence in meeting a need or interest, beneficial, useful, helpful or good. This question is reinforced when the full quotation of Isaiah 52:7 is considered:
"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces shalom, who brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'" (TLV)
Shulam notes that Paul's change of the singular "the feet of him" found in both the LXX and MT to the plural cannot be accidental. The focus of "the ones announcing" clearly changes from recipients of the message in verse 14 to the heralds of the message, which began with the eleven and then added many more after Pentecost. Shulam also observes, "The subject of 'how shall they hear…' can thus, for example, be the Gentiles, while the sentence, 'And how shall they proclaim…' may refer back to Israel, making a chiastic pattern, A B B A, characteristic of biblical poetry."
While it is true that Israel had the mission and responsibility to take the message of salvation to the nations (Isa 49:6), such a proposed switching seems a clumsy way to make the point. On the other hand, if the question that begins this verse is posed by a Gentile, then he could be implying that the Jews cannot fulfill their biblical mandate because of their rejection of Yeshua. By quoting Isaiah Paul insists that the sending and announcing has occurred and in a timely fashion.
16 But, not all obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, "LORD who has trusted our report?"
But: Grk. alla, conj. See verse 8 above. not: Grk. ou, adv. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. The statement includes an important distinction, because "not all" means that "some" responded in a positive manner. obeyed: Grk. hupakouō, aor., 3p-pl., to be in compliance with, to obey. The third person plural points to Israel as the focus of the declaration. the good news: Grk. euangelion originally meant a reward for good news and then simply good news. The term is formed from Grk. eu, "good," and angelia, "message, announcement." Christian Bibles translate the term as "gospel," but given the origin of "gospel" in Old English ("god-spell"), many Jews regard the word as a distinctively Christian word.
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). Most Christians think of the "gospel" only as 'Yeshua died on the cross to save me from my sins,' a message that does not fully reflect the original Jewish context. The good news proclaimed by the Jewish apostles was that God had fulfilled His promises given to Israel through the prophets and sent His Messiah in Jewish flesh to provide deliverance and atonement and to establish his kingdom on the earth (Matt 1:1, 20-23; Mark 1:1; Luke 1:30-37, 68-75; 24:44; John 1:29; 20:31; Rom 1:1-4, 16). The good news concerns directly the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy.
for: Grk. gar, conj. Isaiah: Grk. Ēsaias, a Graecized form of Heb. Yesha'yahu ("YHVH is Salvation" or "YHVH has saved"). Isaiah was the son of Amoz of the tribe of Judah and perhaps related to the royal house. The prophet lived during the reigns of the Judean kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and probably the first years of Manasseh. He was contemporary with the last five kings of Israel: Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, and Hosea. Isaiah received his call to ministry in a dramatic fashion c. 740 BC (Isa 6:1), and prophesied for forty years during which he was an adviser (court prophet) to Ahaz and Hezekiah. He was contemporary with the prophets Micah and Hosea. He married a prophetess and had two sons (Isa 7:3; 8:3). Jewish tradition says that Isaiah was put to death by King Manasseh by being sawn in half (Yebamoth 49b; Ascension of Isaiah 1:9; 5:2; cf. Heb 11:37).
He left a monumental literary work of 66 chapters, the longest of the prophetic books, containing almost half of the Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh. Isaiah wrote mostly warnings in the first half of his book and mostly comfort and promise in the second half. Various scholars have proposed that some unknown author wrote the second half of the book of Isaiah (40─66) and a few scholars have actually suggested a Third Isaiah (56─66). Against this viewpoint are these arguments: (1) for 25 centuries no one doubted that Isaiah was the author of all 66 chapters; (2) there is no evidence whatever that the two (or three) parts of the book ever existed separately; and (3) all the quotations in the Besekh from parts of Isaiah labeled as "Second” and "Third” Isaiah" attribute those passages to Isaiah the prophet (e.g., Isa 40:3 in Matt 3:3; Isa 61:1 in Luke 4:17-18).
We’re supposed to believe that some of the greatest literature in the Bible, not to mention the world, with its many and detailed prophecies of the Messiah, was written by someone completely anonymous and unremembered in Judaism. Modern scholars go to incredible lengths to avoid believing in the truth of biblical material, just because they can’t accept that the Lord revealed the name of Cyrus (Isa 44:28; 45:1) almost two hundred years before he was born or that Isaiah was given words of exhortation and comfort for a people he knew would go into exile (Isa 39:6). If they can't believe the prophecy about Cyrus, how can they believe the prophecies that named the Messiah (Isa 7:14; 9:6; 46:13; 51:5; 59:16)?
says: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 6 above. The quote following comes from Isaiah 53:1. LORD: Grk. kurios, voc. case. See verse 9 above. The Hebrew text does not contain the Sacred Name, but it is found in the LXX to reinforce the person to whom the question is directed. who: Grk. tís, interrogative pron. has trusted: Grk. pisteuō, aor. See verse 4 above. The Hebrew text has aman, confirm, support, be faithful, trust, so there is sense of a merely intellectual assent of truth as the translation of "believe" can mean. our: Grk. hēmeis, 1p-pl. pers. pron. report: Grk. akoē may refer to (1) the faculty of hearing and the organ of the ear; or (2) that which is heard; fame, report, message or proclamation. The second meaning applies here. The prophet essentially complains that Israel has refused to heed the divine message. God then proceeds to describe the Servant of ADONAI who will bear the iniquity of Israel. Isaiah 53, of course, is the most significant Messianic prophecy in the Tanakh.
Paul's opening statement in this verse could well be made by the fictive Gentile objector to reinforce the inference of the fourth question in verse 15. In other words, Israel blew their chance when they had it and doesn't deserve to be heralds of the good news now. The quotation from Isaiah would suggest, then, the Gentile to be a proselyte in order to offer such a quote, or at least a Gentile who had heard the passage quoted in a synagogue presentation of the good news. On the other hand Paul could be answering the rhetorical questions. If so, then by quoting from the first verse of Isaiah 53 Paul would intend the full context of the chapter to be considered as was customary in rabbinic discussion. "Not all" does not impugn the whole nation, because many thousands of Jews did accept Yeshua as Messiah. Paul admonishes the objector to pay attention to the context of Isaiah's prophecy. The failure of non-Messianic Jews was not the lack of having heard the message as far back as Isaiah, but of trusting in the integrity of their God to fulfill His word.
17 So trust comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Messiah.
So: Grk. ara, conj., a marker of inference based on preceding matter; then, so. trust: Grk. pistis. See verse 6 above. comes from: Grk. ek, prep. hearing: Grk. akoē. See the previous verse. The term is used of both actual listening and what is heard. and: Grk. de, conj. hearing: Grk. akoē. through: Grk. dia, prep. the word: Grk. rhēma. See verse 8 above. of Messiah: Grk. Christos. See verse 4 above. Paul summarizes his argument from verses 5-15 based on the quotations taken from the Torah, Isaiah and Joel (Shulam). Before the heart can believe and trust (verses 9-10), the ears must hear. The Hebrew idiom has a double meaning. On the one hand hearing does have the literal meaning of listening to a message, but hearing also implies obeying that message.
Trusting God for salvation sparked by hearing. The message about the Messiah's life, death and resurrection (via the Spirit) is like a match set to kindling. The message about the Messiah's faithfulness to the Father's plan motivates an obedient response to the good news. The direct connection between the word coming from heaven through the human medium to stimulate trust makes proclaiming the good news of the Messiah imperative.
18 But I say, have they not heard? Indeed! "Their voice has gone out into all the land, and their words into the ends of the inhabited world."
Paul offers another rhetorical question from his fictive objector. But: Grk. alla, conj. I say: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 6 above. The use of the first person "I say," could be a direct quote. have: Grk. mē, adv. See verse 6 above. The negative particle is used for interrogative purposes. they not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 2 above. heard: Grk. akouō, aor. See verse 14 above. "The message may have been sent, but they [the Jews] have never heard this good news you're talking about." Ignorance might be inferred from Peter's Pentecost sermon when he proclaimed, "Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him—this Yeshua whom you had crucified—both Lord and Messiah!" (Acts 2:36 TLV). Indeed: Grk. menounge, particle used in response with emphatic feeling; indeed, really, truly, rather. Paul treats this objection with a blunt rebuttal and then quotes King David's words from Psalm 19:4 (LXX Ps 18:5).
Their: pl. of Grk. autos, pers. pron. voice: Grk. phthongos, expression constituting a sound, here as an expression of the human vocal system; voice. The Hebrew word in the MT is qav, which means "line," or "measuring-line. The word occurs in passages concerning the marking off a possession in the Land. There are also various figurative uses, but in the Psalm the plural possessive form qolam means "their sound." (BDB 876). Cook's translation of the Aramaic Targum of the Psalm has, "The line of their conversation." has gone out: Grk. exerchomai, aor., to move away from a place or position, to go or come out. into: Grk. eis, prep. all: Grk. pas, adj. the land: Grk. gē can mean soil (as in receiving seed), the ground, land as contrasted with the sea, and the earth in contrast to heaven. The LXX uses gē more than 2,000 times and translates the Heb. word erets (DNTT 1:517).
In the Tanakh erets designates either (a) the earth in a cosmological sense, or (b) "the land" in the sense of a specific territorial area, primarily the Land of Israel (BDB 75). The translation of "land" seems more appropriate here in reference to all the land of Israel. and: Grk. kai, conj. their: pl. of Grk. autos. words: pl. of Grk. rhēma. See verse 8 above. into: Grk. eis, prep. the ends: pl. of Grk. peras, extreme point, here in a spatial sense; end. of the inhabited world: Grk. oikoumenē (from oikeō, to inhabit or dwell), the world as an inhabited area, often with focus on its inhabitants. In the earliest classical Greek literature the term was used of the world inhabited by Greeks in contrast to those lands inhabited by barbarians, but later literature included the lands of barbarians. In the Roman period the term meant the lands under Roman rule, because whatever lay outside was of no account. In the LXX oikoumenē occurs 40 times, mostly in Psalms and Isaiah, and translates primarily Heb. tebel, 'world,' as an inhabited place (DNTT 1:518).
In accordance with Jewish practice the citation of a verse implies the entire context. In Psalm 19 David employed the literary device of personification, that is, attributing human characteristics to material things. The beginning of the psalm must be examined to understand the meaning of "their voice."
"The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their utterances to the end of the world." (Ps 19:1-4 NASB)
A parallel thought occurs in Psalm 148:
"Praise Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all stars of light! Praise Him, highest heavens, and the waters that are above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the LORD, for He commanded and they were created. He has also established them forever and ever; He has made a decree which will not pass away." (Ps 148:3-6 NASB)
David was not saying that he heard voices coming from outer space. However, all created things produce sound as designed by the Creator who by the sound of His voice spoke all things into existence (Gen 1:3; Ps 33:9; 148:5). Modern technology has recorded a cacophony of sounds coming from interstellar space. (See ESA Space Science for audio clips of sound waves from Saturn and the Sun.) All the "inarticulate" sounds in interstellar space as well as the sounds on earth shout the glory of God. As John the apostle recorded his experience in heaven:
"And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, 'To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.'" (Rev 15:3 NASB)
Paul insists there is no excuse for unbelief. Yeshua asserted that if his disciples kept quiet "the stones will cry out" (Luke 19:40). As a result of the faithfulness of Yeshua's apostles the good news had been spread to the ends of the known world. The prophetic message anticipating the Messiah had gone out to all Jews and then the apostles went to every synagogue where Jews could be found and proclaimed the message of the Messiah having come in the person of Yeshua.
Paul could also be alluding to a belief that the planets and constellations portended the coming of a Jewish king. In order to understand the import of the quote from Psalm 19 we must consider the first usage of "stars" in Scripture:
"Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth;’ and it was so." (Gen 1:14-18)
The heavenly lights were created to function as "signs," and not just as aids to navigation, but portents with religious significance. The sun and moon determined the climatic "seasons," but this term Heb. mo‘adim, is used in the Torah to refer to sacred seasons or festivals, especially in Leviticus 23 (BDB 417). The belief in the twelve constellations, or groupings of stars having special religious significance, is very old as alluded to in Job 9:9, "Who makes the Bear, Orion and the Pleiades, and the chambers of the south?" (Cf. Job 38:32; 2Kgs 23:5; Isa 13:10.)
According to the Talmud the twelve constellations were created for the benefit of Zion (Berachot 32b). The standards of the tribes identified in Numbers 2 corresponded to the Hebrew (zodiacal) symbols of the constellations, so that in the east was the standards of Judah, Issachar and Zebulun corresponding to Aries, Taurus, and Gemini; in the south the standards of Reuben, Simeon and Gad corresponding to Cancer, Leo, and Virgo; in the west the standards of Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin corresponding to Libra, Scorpio, and Sagittarius; and in the north the standards of Dan, Asher and Naphtali corresponding to Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces ("Zodiac," Jewish Virtual Library).
If the stars were meant as signs and a benefit to Zion, i.e., Israel, what was that benefit? Paul gives the answer. The panorama of interstellar planets and constellations visible in the night sky announced the full scope of God's plan of redemption and specifically the advents of the Messiah (cf. Matt 2:2; 24:29; Luke 21:25f; 2Pet 1:19). When the Magi came to Jerusalem seeking the King, they said, "we saw his star in the east" (Matt 2:2). Herod and his advisors were not shocked by this report, which points to its validity. They surely knew the prophecy of Balaam: "A star shall come out of Jacob" (Num 24:17 ESV), and probably also that of Isaiah, "And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising" (Isa 60:3 ESV).
In modern times Evangelical Christians have theorized what the details of the heavenly proclamation might be, the so-called "Gospel in the Stars." God’s story of the Virgin, the promised Seed, the substitutionary sacrifice, and the destruction of the Serpent are all displayed in the stars. Here is a summary of the message of each constellation:
• Virgo, the Virgin: promised Seed of the woman.
• Libra, the Balance: scales of divine justice.
• Scorpio, the Scorpion: sting to be inflicted on the divine seed.
• Sagittarius, the Archer: corruption of the human race.
• Capricorn, the Goat-Fish: utter wickedness of mankind.
• Aquarius, the Water Pourer: destruction of the primeval world by water.
• Pisces, the Fishes: emergency of the true people of God.
• Aires, the Ram: sacrifice of an innocent substitute for sins.
• Taurus, the Bull: resurrection of the slain Ram as the mighty Bull.
• Gemini, the Twins: the dual nature of the reigning king.
• Cancer, the Crab: ingathering of the redeemed from all ages.
• Leo, the
Lion: destruction of the serpent by the great King.
Dr. Henry Morris provides a more complete explanation of the "Gospel in the Stars" in his book Many Infallible Proofs (1974), Appendix B. The most widely quoted author on the "Gospel in the Stars" is Joseph Seiss who published his work in 1884. Click here for an online Summary.
Stern infers a kal v'chomer argument from Paul's reasoning. That is, if everyone in the world, including, of course, Gentiles, has had the kernel of the good news proclaimed by the heavens, so that anyone can respond by trusting in God; how much more should the descendants of Jacob, who have had the written Torah (Rom 3:2, 9:4), which Psalm 19 calls "perfect, restoring the soul" (verse 8), have paid attention and trusted! Paul made the same point in chapter one of this letter (1:19–20).
19 But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says, "I will provoke jealousy in you upon those not a people, upon a nation without understanding I will provoke anger in you."
But: Grk. alla, conj. See verse 8 above. I say: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 6 above. did: Grk. mē, adv. See verse 6 above. Israel: Grk. Israēl, a transliteration of the Heb. Yisrael, which means "God prevails" (BDB 975). The noun occurs 68 times in the Besekh, sometimes referring to the covenant name of the chosen people and sometimes as a corporate reference to the biological descendants of Jacob through the twelve tribes (Gen 32:28). The name first appears in Genesis 32:28 where the heavenly being with whom Jacob struggled said, "From now on, you will no longer be called Ya'akov, but Isra'el; because you have shown your strength to both God and men and have prevailed" (CJB).
The announcement, occurring before Jacob's reconciliation with his brother Esau, was prophetic, because not until chapter 35 do we read that the name change was made permanent. Then God spoke to Jacob,
"Your name is Ya'akov, but you will be called Ya'akov no longer; your name will be Isra'el." Thus he named him Isra'el." God further said to him, "I am El Shaddai. Be fruitful and multiply. A nation, indeed a group of nations, will come from you; kings will be descended from you. Moreover, the land which I gave to Avraham and Yitz'chak I will give to you, and I will give the land to your descendants after you." (Gen 35:9-12 CJB)
Paul's use of "Israel" is in relation to the biological descendants of Jacob. Throughout the rest of the Tanakh, Jacob’s descendants are called the "sons of Israel" (Ex 12:37) or "house of Israel" (Ex 16:31). Thus, the twelve tribes with whom God established an everlasting covenant at Mt. Sinai are the people of God. Paul is obviously not using "Israel" as symbolic of Christianity or the Christian Church, which officially separated itself from its Jewish roots at the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) and at the Second Council of Nicaea (787) banned all Jewish life in Yeshua.
not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 2 above. know: Grk. ginōskō, aor., to know, but has a variety of meanings, but here in the sense of being in receipt of information; know, learn, find out. 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 from a teacher (DNTT 2:395). Stern paraphrases the fictive opponent's retort, "Granted that they may have heard," replies the opponent, "it still is not their fault that they have not come to faith in Yeshua. Isn’t it rather that Israel didn’t understand the message they heard?"
First: Grk. prōtos, adj. The basic idea has to do with 'beforeness.' The term is used in two ways: (1) having primary position in a temporal sequence; first, earlier, earliest; and (2) standing out in significance or importance; first, most prominent, most important, first of all. The first meaning fits best here. Moses: Grk. Mōusēs. See verse 5 above. Shulam notes that "the meaning of the phrase [first Moses] seems merely to be an indication of textual priority: first Moses, then Isaiah [in the next verse], both communicating the same message. says: Grk. legō, pres. Paul proceeds to quote a poetic parallelism from the last half of Deuteronomy 32:21, which reads in full.
CJB (MT): "They aroused my jealousy with a non-god and provoked me with their vanities; I will arouse their jealousy with a non-people and provoke them with a vile nation."
ABP (LXX): "They provoked me to jealousy over that which is not god; they provoked me to anger with their idols; and I will provoke them to jealousy over that which is not a nation; over a senseless nation I will provoke them to anger."
There are important differences between the MT and Paul's Greek translation in that the MT uses two separate words for "nation" and Paul's translation is in the second person whereas both the MT and LXX passage is in the third person. The second person makes it clear that Israel is being addressed. I: Grk. egō, pron. of the first pers.; that is, God. will provoke jealousy: Grk. parazēloō, fut., incite to jealousy. Mounce defines the verb to mean provoke to jealousy, to excite to emulation, or to provoke to indignation. The verb is formed from para, to come alongside, and zēloō, to have a passionate interest in something. Jealousy may be expressed in two different ways: (1) to be envious of someone, or resentful against a rival, a person enjoying success or advantage; (2) being zealous for something, a vigilance in maintaining or guarding something; a fervor for a person, cause, or object.
In the LXX parazēloō renders Heb. qana, which spans a range of emotional reaction from envy, to jealousy, to zealousness and to jealous anger (BDB 888). This term is attributed to Yeshua when he cleansed the temple (John 2:17). The translation of "jealous" may lead the reader to assume that God intended to foster an attitude of discontent or covetousness with regard to another's advantages, but that does not seem to be the point of the Deuteronomy passage. in you: Grk. humeis, 2p-pl. pers. pron.; i.e., Israel or more specifically the leadership of Israel. upon: Grk. epi, prep. See verse 11 above. With the dative case of the noun following epi could be translated as 'upon,' 'on,' 'at,' 'over' or 'before,' emphasizing position (DM 306). Contrary to common translation with "by" in many versions the preposition does not denote agency of receiving action, but of imposing action that is against another. The preposition could even be translated as "against."
that not: Grk. ou, adv. a people: Grk. ethnos originally referred to a number of people or animals forming a group, then later strictly of humans as a people group. Mounce gives the root meaning as multitude or company. In the LXX ethnos normally translates Heb. goy, nation, people (first in Gen 10:5), but here renders Heb. am, folk, people, nation. The expression "not a people" would imply the ethnos is not defined by any political autonomy. Rashi defines the "non-people" as a nation that has no name, as Scripture states, "This land of the Chaldeans-this people was not" (Isa 23:13). However, it's worth considering that the am ha-aretz ("people of the land") in the time of Yeshua were despised by the ruling classes and religious elite as ignorant masses accursed for not knowing and keeping Torah (cf. John 7:49; Sotah 22a; Pesachim 49b).
upon: Grk. epi. a nation: Grk. ethnos for Heb. goy. In the Tanakh the term "nation(s)" (Heb. goy/goyim) is used for people groups defined by language and culture, including descendants of Isaac and Jacob and the nation of Israel (cf. Gen 10:5; 12:2; 17:4; 18:18; Ex 19:6; Deut 4:6; Ps 106:5; Isa 9:1; 42:1, 6; Jer 5:15; Ezek 4:13; 36:13-14; Mic 4:2-3). The term is used often in the Besekh for "Gentiles" in contradistinction to Jews and Israel (e.g., Matt 5:47; Acts 2:27; 21:21; 26:17; Rom 3:29; 9:24; 11:25; 1Cor 1:23; Gal 2:14-15), but is also used of the Samaritan Jews (Acts 8:9) and Israel (Matt 21:43; John 18:35; Acts 24:10, 17; 26:4; 1Cor 10:18). 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).
without understanding: Grk. asunetos, without good sense, lacking comprehension; foolish, dense, or thick. In classical Greek writings the term had two meanings: (1) void of understanding, witless; (2) not to be understood, unintelligible (LSJ). In the LXX asunetos renders Heb. nabal, foolish or senseless (Deut 32:21), as well as Heb. shagah, err, go astray (Ezek 45:20). This is a person who has no perception of ethical or religious claims. Sirach uses the term to denote those who do not obtain wisdom (Sir 15:7). In the Testament of Levi the term is used to describe Shechem (7:2), a prejudicial slur against Samaritans. The term occurs only five times in the Besekh, first in Matt 15:16 where Yeshua uses it of his disciples (para. Mark 7:18). Paul previously used asunetos in this letter (1:21, 31) to describe those living in former ages without the knowledge of God or in rebellion to the knowledge of God. See my commentary there.
The "nation without understanding" being envisioned could thus be a group of people ignorant of Torah or a people lacking the knowledge of God. A foolish people is opposite to the a wise and understanding people Israel could have become by keeping God's commandments (Deut 4:6). I will provoke anger: Grk. parorgizō (from para, alongside, and orgizō, to be angry), fut., means to incite to anger. Mounce defines the verb as "provoke to anger, irritate, or exasperate." The verb refers to a strong condition of displeasure with the behavior of another. The displeasure may be focused inward with an attitude of indignation or outward in potential or realized offensive behavior. in you: Grk. humeis; or, "I will incite you to anger against a nation without understanding."
Who is the target of this anger? Considering the context of Deuteronomy 32 this is a strange passage for Paul to quote in his argument that Israel had heard the message of Messianic salvation for the Gentiles. Immediately following the passage quoted Moses details a series of horrors that will fall upon Israel for their rebellion against God (Deut 32:22-35). Israel's anger could be directed against God for implementing the curses prescribed in the Torah and certainly against those who wielded the sword against them, such as the Assyrians and Babylonians.
Keil, in his commentary on Deuteronomy, believes the expression "not a nation" refers to a nation whose political and judicial constitution is the work of man and which had not the true God as its king, or in the words of Paul, a people "separate from Messiah, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise" (Eph 2:12) (995). Edwards, like other commentators, believes that Paul's use of the prophecy here anticipates his argument in chapter eleven that inclusion of the Gentiles in salvation will provoke the Jews to jealousy so that they will accept the good news.
Shulam echoes this interpretation with his assertion that the Deuteronomy passage "specifically states that God will make Israel jealous by the worship of the Gentile nations." On the contrary, Deuteronomy 32:43 simply says "Rejoice O nations with my people." Moses offers no direct prophecy that the Gentiles will bow down and worship the God of Israel, thereby making Israelites jealous. And why would they be jealous, when "strangers" had been welcome in Israel from the time of the Exodus.
The common interpretation of Jews becoming envious of Christians and thereby embrace Yeshua as Messiah fails to account for the context of Deuteronomy 32 and rests on the false assumption that the recipients of apostolic ministry were mostly Gentiles. However, the linguistic evidence of Acts supports the thesis that the primary audience for the apostolic message was Jewish. Most of the Gentiles accepting Yeshua the Messiah in Judea, Galilee, Samaria, Asia Minor and even Greece were proselytes or God-fearers who had a working knowledge of Torah and lived by the moral principles of Torah (cf. Rom 2:17, 26; see my notes there). The conversion of truly pagan Gentiles in appreciable numbers came very late in the apostolic era.
In Luke's narrative of apostolic ministry and the apostolic letters where is the Jewish envy of Gentile worship of their God? Where is the anger of unbelieving Jews over apostles taking the good news to Gentiles? We have the experience of Peter, but he had to explain himself to Messianic Jewish leadership, not unbelieving Jews (Acts 11:1-3). The only testimony of an angry unbelieving Jew becoming transformed is Paul himself and that required a direct and personal revelation of Yeshua. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of many more unbelieving Jews who felt betrayed by the "heresy" of Messianic fulfillment that threatened political equilibrium in Judea. Therefore, I think the words of Paul need to be reexamined in the light of the historical setting.
There is simply no historical evidence of Jews accepting the Messiah out of envy of believing Gentiles. The tens of thousands of Jews in the first century who responded favorably to the Messianic message (Acts 21:20) did so out of expectation and longing for the fulfillment of promises made to the patriarchs. So the usual interpretation is inadequate to understand Paul's point. On the other hand, if the verb were to be translated as "I will incite zeal," a very different interpretation results. Initially Jewish leaders were willing to maintain the status quo (cf. Acts 5:34-39), but the outspoken ministry of Paul beginning in Damascus made unbelieving Jewish leaders more zealous for defending their traditions.
The book of Acts records numerous incidents of open and aggressive hostility by unbelieving Jews, particularly Judean and synagogue leaders, against the Jewish apostles of the Messiah and especially Paul: in Damascus (Acts 9:23), in Jerusalem (Acts 9:29; 12:2-3; 21:27; 22:22; 23:1-22), in Paphos (Acts 13:6-8), in Antioch (Acts 13:45), in Iconium (Acts 14:2,5), in Lystra (Acts 14:19), in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5), in Berea (Acts 17:13), in Corinth (Acts 18:5-6), in Macedonia (Acts 20:3, 19), and in Caesarea (Acts 24:9; 25:2, 7). In 2 Corinthians 11:24 Paul says he received 39 lashes five times from unbelieving Jews. The zealous anger of non-Messianic Jews created a great divide as Yeshua had prophesied about the division that would take place. That division continued into the next century.
After the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 the Pharisees "doubled down" in their definition of orthodox religion and utterly rejected the Messianic message. Rabbi Akiva (A.D. 40-137) was the reputed father of Rabbinic Judaism. Before him there were many "Judaisms," but Akiva systematized the oral traditions to create a single Judaism. He also began the work to finalize both the canon of the Tanakh and the Hebrew text. Akiva manifested a pronounced hostility against Messianic Jewish believers, the "Christians," and their devotion to Yeshua. Worst of all he declared Simeon ben Kosiba to be the Messiah and changed his name to the Aramaic "Simon bar Kokhba," i.e. "son of a star," an allusion to Numbers 24:17. The rebellion led by Kokhba did not, of course, result in the Messianic Age but utter disaster for the Jewish people. (For a definitive survey of Akiva's life and influence see Daniel Gruber, Rabbi Akiba's Messiah: The Origins of Rabbinic Authority, Elijah Publishing, 1999.)
20 Moreover Isaiah is very bold and says, "I was found by those not seeking me, I became manifest to those not asking after me."
Moreover: Grk. de, conj. Isaiah: See verse 16 above. is very bold: Grk. apotolmaō, pres., which refers to a venturesome courage; be very bold, come out boldly in use of strong words. The syntax does not mean that Paul is connecting Isaiah's name with the first person "I" in the quote, who is God. Isaiah was a faithful prophet who preached a confrontational message that eventually led to his death. and says: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 6 above. Paul is concluding his argument that began at 9:30-31. Paul then quotes from Isaiah 65:1, which echoes Rom 9:30, but it is a free translation with the verbs "found" and "became manifest" in reverse order as found in the LXX.
I was found: Grk. heuriskō, aor. pass., to come upon by seeking; find, locate or by something happening; find, come across, discover. by those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used as a demonstrative pron. not: Grk. mē, adv. seeking: Grk. zēteō, pres. part. See verse 3 above. me: Grk. egō, pron. of the first pers. I became: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid., to transfer from one state to another, and here means come to be, become, take place, happen, occur. manifest: Grk. emphanēs, readily perceptible; visible, well known, manifest. The term occurs only two times in the Besekh (also Acts 10:40). to those: pl. of Grk. ho. not: Grk. mē. asking after: Grk. eperōtaō, pres. part., may mean (1) put a question to, ask; or (2) make a request, ask for. The first meaning applies here. me: Grk. egō.
As Paul has argued previously in this letter the initiative for salvation lay with God. This truth applies to both the Jews and the Gentiles who believed in Yeshua. Commentators typically interpret "those not seeking" with pagan Gentiles who were occupied with their own pursuits, as well as various cults and superstitions (Harrison). In context the prophecy of Isaiah is directed to Israel, not to a pagan Gentile nation, and its fulfillment started with Israel. We might say that pagan Gentiles were not seeking the God of Israel, but in all fairness the sermons of Yeshua indicate that unrighteousness characterized too many of his Jewish contemporaries (cf. Matt 3:3; 7:13-14; 12:39; Luke 16:14). Yeshua wouldn't have needed to command people to repent and seek the Kingdom of God, if they had already been doing it (Matt 4:17; 6:33).
21 Furthermore to Israel He says, "All the day I have held out my hands to a disobeying and contradicting people."
Furthermore: Grk. de. See note on verse 6 above. The conjunction indicates that Paul is continuing his thought from the previous verse, not creating a contrast between a supposed pagan nation and Israel. to: Grk. pros, prep., lit. "near or facing;" toward. Israel: Grk. Israēl. See verse 19 above. He says: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 6 above. Paul emphasizes that Isaiah was speaking to Israel with a message for them. He then quotes from Isaiah 65:2, which echoes 9:31. All: Grk. olos, signifier of a person or thing understood as a complete unit; "all," "whole," or "entire."
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 fourth meaning applies here. It may seem as if God is using hyperbole to make his point, but God emphasizes His exceeding longsuffering with Israel from the time he brought the nation out of Egypt. I have held out: Grk. ekpetannumi, aor., to hold out, to spread out. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. my: Grk. egō, 1p-pers. pron. hands: pl. of Grk. cheir, hand as an anatomical term, but used here idiomatically of power, control or agency.
God uses an anthropomorphic expression that speaks of a man opening his arms to draw another towards him in an embrace. From the beginning God regarded Israel as a son (Ex 4:22). Unfortunately, Israel had too much in common with the prodigal son in Yeshua's parable (Luke 15:11). to: Grk. pros. a disobeying: Grk. apeitheō, pres. part., to disobey, be rebellious or resist; from apeithēs, not subject to persuasion or direction. The present tense indicates an ongoing activity. and contradicting: Grk. antilegō, pres. part., to speak or say in opposition. The verb may mean either to speak in an adversarial manner (contradict or argue against) or to take a position in opposition to. people: Grk. laos, a group of humans; often used of people groups understood geographically or ethnically, and in Scripture often viewed in contrast with the ruling class. The term corresponds to the Heb. am-ha'aretz, "people of the land," i.e., the people of Israel. Here the term refers to Israel.
The spiritual condition of Israel did not come from a lack of opportunity to hear the good news or a lack of understanding of its content, but must be traced to a stubborn and rebellious spirit such as cropped up in the days of Moses and the days of the prophets (Harrison). It is all the more grievous to Paul because God has spoken His final word in His Son (Heb 1:1-2) and far too many of his countrymen had refused the redemption God so graciously offered. Christians, in reading of Paul's tough love language, should be cautious of being judgmental of Israel. There is far too much of spiritual deafness, complacency and outright disobedience to God's expectations in Christian churches. We, too, need to carefully consider Paul's admonition for our lives.
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.
BBMS: Henry Morris, Biblical Basis for Modern Science. Baker Book House, 1984.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. London: Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
Bivin: David Bivin, Cataloguing New Testament Hebraisms: Part I, Jerusalem Perspective, 7 Sept 2010; <http://blog.jerusalemperspective.com/archives/000135.html>, accessed 8 Sept 2010.
Bruce: F.F. Bruce, The Hard Sayings of Jesus. InterVarsity Press, 1983.
Cook: Edward M. Cook, The Psalms Targum: An English Translation, 2001.
Craigie: P.C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1976. (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament)
Danker: F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
DNTT: Colin Brown, ed., Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Zondervan Pub. House, 1975.
Edwards: James R. Edwards, Romans, New International Biblical Commentary, Vol. 6. Hendrickson Publishers, 1992.
GNT: The Greek New Testament, eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, & Allen Wiegren. American Bible Society, 1966.
Gruber: Daniel Gruber, The Separation of Church and Faith, Volume 1: Copernicus and the Jews. Elijah Publishing, 2005.
Harrison: Everett F. Harrison, Romans, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 10, Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp, 1989-1999.
HELPS: Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill, eds., The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. Moody Press, 1987, 2011.
Keil: C.F. Keil, The Pentateuch, T&T Clark, 1866. Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament (1866-1891), Vol. 1. Hendrickson Publishers, 2006.
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.
Metzger: Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. German Bible Society, 1994.
Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.
Neil: James Neil, Palestine Explored. James Nisbet & Co, 1882.
Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaqi (1040-1105), Commentary on the Tanakh. Online.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, "Romans," A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Vol. 2, Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.
Robertson: Archibald Thomas Robertson, "Romans," Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 4, Broadman Press, 1933. (Parsons CD-ROM Version 2.0, 1997)
Schurer: Emil Schurer, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ. 4 vols. trans. Peter Christie. T&T Clark, 1885.
Shulam: Joseph Shulam, A Commentary on the Jewish Roots of Romans, Lederer Books, 1997.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
TWOT: R. Laird Harris, ed., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Moody Press, 1980.
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