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A critical and exegetical commentary on the Epistle to the Romans online

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the grand unity. He had the mind of an organizer ; and to him
the Christians of his earliest travels were not men of Iconium and
of Antioch — they were a part of the Roman world, and were
addressed by him as such '.'

It was during the early years of Nero's reign that St. Paul first
came into contact with the Roman Church. And the period is
significant. It was what later times called the Quinquennium of
Nero, and remembered as the happiest period of the Empire since
the' death of Augustus*. Nor was the judgement unfounded. It is

* a Thess. ii. 7 i «aT€X<»'»', 6 rh xarixov. It is well known that the
commonest interpretation of these words among the Fathers was the Roman
Empire (see the Catena of passages in Alford, iii. p. 568".), and this accords
most suitably with the time when the Epistle was written [,c. 53 a.d.). The
only argument of any value for a later date and the unauthentic character of
the whole Epistle or of the eschatological sections (ii. 1-12) is the attempt to
explain this passage of the return of Nero, but such an interpretation is quite
unnecessary, and does not particularly suit the words. St. Paul's experience
had taught him that there were lying restrained and checked great lorces of
evil which might at any time burst out, and this he calls the ' mystery of
iniquity,' and describes in the language of the O. T. prophets. But everywhere
the power of the civil government, as embodied in the Roman Kmpire {rh
Karixov) and visibly personified in the Emperor (o KaT«x<'"''). restrained these
forces. Such an interpretation, either of the eschatological passages of the
Epistle or of the Apocalypse, does not destroy their deeper spiritual meaning ;
for the writers of the New Testament, as the prophets ot the Old, reveal to us
and generalize the spiritual forces of good and evil which underlie the surface
of society.

* Ramsay, Tht Church in the Roman Empire, pp. 147, 148; cf. also pp. 60,
70, 158 n. See also Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, pp. 202-205.

* Aur. Victor, Caes. 5, Epit. 12, Unde quidam prodidcre. Traianum sol it urn
iicere,procul distare cunctos principes a Neronit quinquennia. The expression

§ L] ROME IN A.D. 58 XV

probable that even the worst excesses of Nero, like the worst cruelty
of Tiberius, did little harm to the mass of the people even in Rome ;
and many even of the faults of the Emperors assisted in working
out the new ideas which the Empire was creating. But at present
we have not to do with faults. Members of court circles might
have unpleasant and exaggerated stories to tell about the death of
Britannicus ; tales might have been circulated of hardly pardon-
able excesses committed by the Emperor and a noisy band of
companions wandering at night in the streets ; the more respect-
able- of the Roman aristocracy would consider an illicit union
with a freedwoman and a taste for music, literature, and the drama,
signs of degradation, but neither in Rome nor in the provinces
would the populace be offended ; more far-seeing observers might
be able to detect worse signs, but if any ordinary citizen, or
if any one acquainted with the provinces had been questioned, he
would certainly have answered that the government of the Empire
was good. This was due mainly to the gradual development of
the ideas on which the Empire had been founded. The structure
which had been sketched by the genius of Caesar, and built up
by the art of Augustus, if allowed to develop freely, guaranteed
naturally certain conditions of progress and good fortune. It was
due also to the wise administration of Seneca and of Burrus. It
was due apparently also to flashes of genius and love of popularity
on the part of the Emperor himself.

The provinces were well governed. Judaea was at this time
preparing for insurrection under the rule of Felix, but he was
a legacy Irom the reign of Claudius. The difiSculties in Armenia
were met at once and vigorously by the appointment of Corbulo;
the rebellion in Britain was wisely dealt with; even at the end of
Nero's reign the appointment of Vespasian to Judaea, as soon as
the seiious character of the revolt was known, shows that the
Emperor still had the wisdom to select and the courage to appoint
able men. During the early years a long list is given of trials
for repeiwidae ; and the number of convictions, while it shows that
provincial government was not free from corruption, proves that
it was becoming more and more possible to obtain justice. It
was the corruption of the last reign that was condemned by
the justice of the present. In the year 56, Vipsanius Laenas,
governor of Sardinia, was condemned for extortion; in 57,
Capito, the 'Cilician pirate,' was struck down by the senate
'with a righteous thunderbolt.' Amongst the accusations against

quinquennium may have been suggested by the certamtn quinquennaU which
Nero founded in Rome, as Dio tells us, h-nlp t^s <r<uTi]pias tjjs re Siafiovrjs rod
KpaTovs avTov. Dio, £pif. Ixi. 21 ; Tac. Ann. xiv. ao; Suet. A'ero la; cf. the
*:oins described, Eckhel, vL 364; Cohen, i. p. a8a, 47-65. ckr. QUINQ.



Suillius in 58 was the misgovernment of Asia. And not only were

the favourites of Claudius condemned, better men were appointed
in their place. It is recorded that freedmen were never made
procurators of imperial provinces. And the Emperor was able in
many cases, in that of Lyons, of Cyrene, and probably of Ephesus,
to assist and pacify the provincials by acts of generosity and
benevolence \

We may easily, perhaps, lay too much stress on some of the
measures attributed to Nero ; but many of them show, if not the
policy of his reign, at any rate the tendency of the Empire. The
police regulations of the city were strict and well executed \ An
attack was made on the exactions of publicans, and on the excessive
power of freedmen. Law was growing in exactness owing to the
influence of Jurists, and was justly administered except where the
Emperor's personal wishes intervened '. Once the Emperor — was it
a mere freak or was it an act of far-seeing political insight? —
proposed a measure of free trade for the whole Empire. Governors
of provinces were forbidden to obtain condonation for exactions by
the exhibition of games. The proclamation of freedom to Greece
may have been an act of dramatic folly, but the extension of Latin
rights meant that the provincials were being gradually put more
and more on a level with Roman citizens. And the provinces
flourished for the most part under this rule. It seemed almost as if
the future career of a Roman noble might depend upon the goodwill
of his provincial subjects *. And wherever trade could flourish there
wealth accumulated. Laodicea was so rich that the inhabitants
could rebuild the city without aid from Rome, and Lyons could
contribute 4jOOo,ooo sesterces at the time of the great fire'.

When, then, St. Paul speaks of the 'powers that be' as being
'ordained by God'; when he says that the ruler is a minister of
God for good ; when he is giving directions to pay ' tribute ' and
' custom ' ; he is thinking of a great and beneficent power which
has made travel for him possible, which had often interfered to
protect him against an angry mob of his own countrymen, under
which he had seen the towns through which he passed enjoying
peace, prosperity and civilization.

* For the provincial administration of Nero see Fumeanx, op. cit. pp. 56, 57 j
W. T. Arnold. 7'he Kommn System 0/ Provincial Administration, pp. 135, 137 ;
Tac. Ann. xiii. 30, 31, 33, 50, 51, 53-57.

' Suetonius, Nero 16. Schiller, p. 420.

' Schiller, pp. 381, 382: 'In clem Mechanismus des gerichtlichen Ver-
fahrens, im Privatrecht, in der Ausbildung nnd Kbrderung der Rechtswissen-
schaft, selbst auf dem Gebiete der Appellation konnen gegriindete Vorwiirfc
kaum erhoben werden. Die kaiserliclie Kef;ierun<; Hess die Verlialtnisse hiei
ruhig den Gang gehen, welcheo ihnen Iriihere Regierungeu aagewiesen batten.'

* Tac Ann. xv. so, ai.

* Araold, p. 137.


ROME IN A.D. 58 xvii

But it was not only Nero, it was Seneca ' also who was ruling in
Rome when St. Paul wrote to the Church tliere. The attempt to
find any connexions literary or otherwise between St. Paul and
Seneca may be dismissed ; but for the growth of Christian principles,
still more perhaps for that of the principles which prepared the way
for the spread of Christianity, the fact is of extreme significance. It
was the first public appearance of Stoicism in Rome, as largely in-
fluencing poHtics,and shaping the future of the Empire. It is a strange
irony that makes Stoicism the creed which inspired the noblest
representatives of the old regime, for it was Stoicism which provided
the philosophic basis for the new imperial system, and this was not
the last time that an aristocracy perished in obedience to their own
morality. ' What is important for our purpose is to notice that the
humanitarian and universalist ideas of Stoicism were already begin-
ning to permeate society. Seneca taught, for example, the equality
in some sense of all men, even slaves ; but it was the populace who
a few years later (a. d. 61) protested when the slaves of the murdered
Pedanius Secundus were led out to execution ^ Seneca and many
of the Jurists were permeated with the Stoic ideas of humanity and
benevolence ; and however little these principles might influence
their individual conduct they gradually moulded and changed the
law and the system of the Empire.

If we turn from the Empire to Rome, we shall find that just
those vices which the moralist deplores in the aristocracy and the
Emperor helped to prepare the Roman capital for the advent of
Christianity. If there had not been large foreign colonies, there
could never have been any ground in the world where Christianity
could have taken root strongly enough to influence the surrounding
population, and it was the passion for luxury, and the taste for
philosophy and literature, even the vices of the court, which
demanded Greek and Oriental assistance. The Emperor must have
teachers in philosophy, and in acting, in recitation and in flute-
playing, and few of these would be Romans. The statement of
Chrysostom that St. Paul persuaded a concubine of Nero to accept
Christianity and forsake the Emperor has probably little foundation ^
the conjecture that this concubine was Acte is worthless; but it may
illustrate how it was through the non-Roman element of Roman
society that Christianity spread. It is not possible to estimate the
exact proportion of foreign elements in a Roman household, but
a study of the names in any of the Columbaria of the imperial period

* See Lightfoot, St. Paul and Setteca, Philippians, p. 368. To this period
of his life belong tlie a.voKo\oKvvTwai^, the De dementia, the De Vita Beata,
the De Benejiciis, and the De Conslantia Sapientis. See Teufiel, History of
Roman Literature, translated by Warr, ii. 42.

* Tac. Ann. xiv. 42-45.

* Chrysostom Hom. in Act. App. 46, 3.




will illustrate how large that element was. Men and women of every
race lived together in the great Roman slave world, or when they
had received the gift of freedom remained attached as clients and
friends to the great houses, often united by ties of the closest
intimacy with their masters and proving the means by which
every form of strange superstition could penetrate into the highest
circles of society '.

And foreign superstition was beginning to spread. The earliest
monuments of the worship of Mithras date from the time of Tiberius.
Lucan in his Pharsalia celebrates the worship of Isis in Rome ;
Nero himself reverenced the Syrian Goddess, who was called by many
names, but is known to us best as Astarte ; Judaism came near to the
throne wiih Poppaea Sabina, whose influence over Nero is first traced
in this year58; while the story of PomponiaGraecinawho,in tlie
year 57, was entrusted to her husband for trial on the charge of
'foreign superstition' and whose long old age was clouded with
continuous sadness, has been taken as an instance of Christianity.
There are not inconsiderable grounds for this view; but in any
case the accusation against her is an illustration that there was
a path by which a new and foreign religion like Christianity could
make its way into the heart of the Roman aristocracy '.

§ 2. The Jews in Rome*.

There are indications enough that when he looked towards
Rome St. Paul thought of it as the seat and centre of the Empire.
But he had at the same time a smaller and a narrower object.
His chief interest lay in those little scattered groups of Christians
of whom he had heard through Aquila and Prisca, and probably

' We have collected the following names from the contents of one colum-
barium (C. /. L. vi. 2, p. 941 1. It dates from a period rather earlier than this.
It must be remembered that the proportion of foreigners would really be larger
than appears, for many of them would take a Roman name. Amaranthus 5 1 80,
Chrysantus 5183, Serapio (pis') 5187, Pylaemenianus 5188, Creticus 5197,
Asclcpiades 5201, Melicns 5217, Antigonus 5227, Cypare 5229, Lezbius 5221,
Amaryllis 5258, Perseus 5279, Apamea 5287 a, Ephesia 5299, Alexandrianus
5.^16, Phvllidianus 5331, Mithres 5344, Diadumenus 5355, Philumenus 5401,
Philogenes 5410, Graniae Nicopolinis 5419. Corinthus 5439, Antiochis 5437,
Athenais 5478, Eucharistus 5477, Melitene 5490, Samothrace, Mystius 5527,
Lesbus 5529. The following, contained among the above, seems to have
a s ecial interest : 'H5t;«os Ei)o5oC -npia^fVTTjs iavayopeircuv raiy Kara. Bujauopov,
and 'AaiTovpyos Btofidaov vlus epfirjvevs ' Pcuanopav6s 5207.

* 'lac. /inn xiii. 32 ; Lightfoot, Clement, i. 30.

• .Since this section was written the author has had access to Berliner,
Geschichte d.Juden in Rom (Frankfurt a. M. 1893^, which has enabled him to
correct some cuireiit misconceptions. The facts are also excellently put together
by Schiirer, A'euUst. Zcitgesch. ii. 505 flf.

§ 2.] THE JEWS IN ROME xix

through others whom he met on his travels. And the thought of the
Christian Church would at once connect itself with that larger
community of which it must have been in some sense or other an
offshoot, the Jewish settlement in the imperial city.

(i) History. The first relations of the Jews with Rome go back
to the time of the Maccabaean princes, when the struggling patriots
of Judaea had some interests in common with the great Republic
and could treat with it on independent terms. Embassies were
sent under Judas ' (who died in i6o b.c.) and Jonathan' (who died
in 143), and at last a formal alliance was concluded by Simon
Maccabaeus in 140, 139*. It was characteristic that on this last
occasion the members of the embassy attempted a religious
propaganda and were in consequence sent home by the praetor
Hispalus *.

This was only preliminary *ontacU The first considerable
settlement of the Jews in Rome dates from the taking of Jerusalem
by Pompey in b.c. 63 \ A number of the prisoners were sold as
slaves; but their obstinate adherence to their national customs
proved troublesome to their masters and most of them were soon
manumitted. These released slaves were numerous and impor-
tant enough to found a synagogue of their own ', to which they
might resort when they went on pilgrimage, at Jerusalem. The
policy of the early emperors favoured the Jews. They passionately
bewailed the death of Julius, going by night as well as by day to
his funeral pyre'; and under Augustus they were allowed to form
a regular colony on the further side of the Tiber', roughly speak-
ing opposite the site of the modern 'Ghetto.' The Jews'
quarter was removed to the left bank of the river in 1556, and
has been finally done away with since the Italian occupation.

* I Mace. viii. 17-32. • 1 Mace. xii. 1-4, 16.

* I Mace. xiv. 24; XV. 15-24.

* This statement is made on the authority of Valerius Maximus I. iii. 2
(Excerpt. Parid.) : Judaeos qui Sahazi Jotis cuitu Romanos injicere mores
conati sunt, repetere donios suas cocgit. Doubt is thrown upon it by Beiliner
(p. 4), but without sufficient reason. Val. Max. wrote under Tiberius, and made
use of good sources. At the same time, what he says about Jupiter Sabazius
is very probably based on a misunderstanc]ing; nor need we suppose that the
action of some members of the embassy affected the relations of the two peoples.

* This too is questioned by Berliner (p 5 flf. \ who points out that Philo, Leg
ad Camm 23, from which the statement is taken, makes no mention of Pompey.
But it is difficult to see \^hat other occasion could answer to the description, as
this does very well. Berliner however is more probably right in supposing
that there must have been other and older settlers in Rome to account for the
language of Cicero so early as B. C. 59 (see below). These settlers may have
come for purposes of trade.

* It was called after them the 'synagogue of the Libertini' (Acts vi. 10).

* Sueton. Caesar 84.

* This was the quarter usually assigned to piisonen of war {Btschreibung d>
Stadt Horn, III. iii. 578).



Here the Jews soon took root and rapidly increased in numbers,
It was still under the Republic (b.c. 59) that Cicero in his defence
of Flaccus pretended to drop his voice for fear of thern^ And
when a deputation came from Judaea to complain of the mis-
rule of Archelaus, no less than 8000 Roman Jews attached them-
selves to it ^, Though the main settlement was beyond the Tiber
it must soon have overflowed into other parts of Rome. The
Jews had a synagogue in connexion with the crowded Subura'
and another probably in the Campus Martins. There were syna-
gogues of Avyovarfiaioi and ' Aypmnrjo-ioi (i. e. either of the house-
hold or under the patronage of Augustus * and his minister Agrippa),
the position of which is uncertain but which in any case bespeak
the importance of the community. Traces of Jewish cemeteries
have been found in several out-lying regions, one near the Porta
Portuensis, two near the Via Appia and the catacomb of S. Callisto,
and one at Porius, the harbour at the mouth of the Tiber *.

Till some way on in the reign of Tiberius the Jewish colony
flourished without interruption. But in a. d. 19 two scandalous
cases occurring about the same time, one connected with the priests
of Isis, and the other with a Roman lady who having become
a proselyte to Judaism was swindled of money under pretence
of sending it to Jerusalem, led to the adoption of repressive
measures at once against the Jews and the Egyptians. Four
thousand were banished to Sardinia, nominally to be employed in
putting down banditti, but the historian scornfully hints that if they
fell victims to the climate no one would have cared •.

The end of the reign of Caligula was another anxious and
critical time for the Jews. Philo has given us a graphic picture of
the reception of a deputation which came with himself at its head
to beg for protection from the riotous mob of Alexandria. The
half-crazy emperor dragged the deputation after him from one point
to another of his gardens only to jeer at them and refuse any further

' The Jews were interested in this trial as Flaccus had laid hands on the
money collected for the Temple at Jerusalem. Cicero's speech makes it clear
that the Jews of Home were a formidable body to offend.

=• Joseph. Jn/. XVII. xi. i ; B./. II. vi. i.

^ There is mention of an apxcov ^tPovpT/aituy, C. I. G. 6447 (Schiirer,
GemeinJeverfa^sung d. Juden in Rotn, pp. 16, .^5 ; Berliner, p. 94). As
synagogues were not allowed within the pomoerium {ibid. p. 16') we may
suppose that the synagogue itself was without the walls, but that its frequenters
came from tiie Subura.

* Berliner conjectures that the complimentary title may have been given as
a sort of equivalent for emperor-worship {op. cit. p. ai).

* Data relating to the synagogues have been obtained fiom inscriptions,
which have been carefully collected and commented upon by Schiirer in the
work quoted above (Leipzig, i879\ ^^^ more recently by Berliner {op. cit.
p. 46 ff.)

* Tacitus, Annal. ii. 85 si eb gravtiatem ceuli interisstnt, vtle damnum.



answer to their petition \ Caligula insisted on the setting up of
his own bust in the Temple at Jerusalem, and his opportune death
alone saved the Jews from worse things than had as yet befallen
them (a.d. 41).

In the early part of the reign of Claudius the Jews had friends
at court in the two Herod Agrippas, father and son. But a
mysterious notice of which we would fain know more shows them
once again subject to measures of repression. At a dale which is
calculated at about a.d. 52 we find Aquila and Prisca at Corinth
'because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from
Rome' (Acts xviii. 2). And Suetonius in describing what is
probably the same event sets it down to persistent tumults in the
Jewish quarter ' at the instigation of Chrestus *.' There is at
least a considerable possibility, not to say probability, that in this
enigmatic guise we have an allusion to the effect of the early
preaching of Christianity, in which in one way or another Aquila
and Prisca would seem to have been involved and on that account
specially singled out for exile. Suetonius and the Acts speak of
a general edict of expulsion, but Dio Cassius, who is more precise,
would lead us to infer that the edict stopped short of this. The
clubs and meetings (in the synagogue) which Caligula had allowed,
were forbidden, but there was at least no wholesale expulsion '.

Any one of three interpretations may be put upon impulsore Chresio
assidue tumultuantes. (i) The words may be taken literally as they stand.
' Chrestus ' was a common name among slaves, and there may have been an
individual of that name who was the author of the disturbances. This is the
view of Meyer and Wieseler. (ii) Or it is very possible that there may be
a confusion between 'Chrestus' and ' Christus.' Tertullian accuses the
Pagans of pronouncing the name ' Christians ' wrongly as if it were Chres-
tiani, and so bearing unconscious witness to the gentle and kindly character
of those who owned it. Sed et aim perperam Chrestianus prommciatur
a vobis {nam nee nominis certa est notida penes vos) de suavitate vel beni^^ni-
tate compositum est {Apol. 3 ; cf Justin, ^pol. i. § 4). If we suppose some
such very natural confusion, then the disturbances may have had their origin
in the excitement caused by the Messianic expectation which was ready to
break out at slight provocation wherever Jews congregated. This is the
view of Lange and others including in part Lightfoot {^Philippians, p. 169).
(iii) There remains the third possibility, for which some preference has been
expressed above, that the disturbing cause was not the Messianic expectation
in general but the particular form of it identified with Christianity. It is
certain that Christianity must have been preached at Rome as early as this;
and the preaching of it was quite as lil<ely to lead to actual violence and
riot as at Thessalonica or Antioch or Pisidia or Lystra (Acts xvii. 5 ; xiv- 19;

* Leg. ad Caium 44, 45.

' Sueton. Clattd. 2^, Judaeot impulsore Chresto mssidue tumultuantes Kama

^ Dio Cassius, Ix. 6 touj t< 'lot/Saiovi, vKfovaaavrat avOa Sjart x'^^^'"^^ ^^
SviV TapayrjS iiTrb tov ox^ov atpiiiv Tijy ■n6\f(as tipxOrjvai, ovK f^Tj\aai fj-iv, t^ Bi
8^ Trarpiq) v6p.a) (3ia> x/""A'<'''oi'S fK(\eoaf fxij avva6poi^ea6at, rat rt (TatpiiaM
ivavaxOdaat vvd rod Fatov diiXvuf.


xiii. 50). That it did so, and that this is the fact alluded to bj Soetonins is
the opinion of the majority of German scholars from Baur onwards. It is
impossible to verify any one of the three hypotheses ; but the last would fit
in well with all that we know and would add an interesting toach if it were

The edict of Claudius was followed in about three years by his
death (a. d. 54). Under Nero the Jews certainly did not lose bui
probably rather gained ground. We have seen that just as St. Paul
wrote his Epistle Poppaea was beginning to exert her influence. Like
many of her class she dallied with Judaism and befriended Jews. The
mime Aliturus was a Jew by birth and stood in high favour^ Heron
Agrippa II was also, like his father, a persona grata at the Roman
court. Dio Cassius sums up the history of the Jews under the
Empire in a sentence which describes well their fortunes at Rome.

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