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

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Though their privileges were often curtailed, they increased to such
an extent as to force their way to the recognition and toleration of
their peculiar customs '.

(2) Organization. The policy of the emperors towards the
Jewish nationality was on the whole liberal and judicious. They
saw that they had to deal with a people which it was at once diflRcult
to repress and useful to encourage ; and they freely conceded
the rights whiclj the Jews demanded. Not only were they allowed
the free exercise of their religion, but exceptional privileges were
granted them in connexion with it. Josephus {^Ant. XIV. x.)
quotes a number of edicts of the time of Julius Caesar and
after his death, some of them Roman and some local, securing to
the Jews exemption from service in the army (on religious grounds),
freedom of worship, of building synagogues, of forming clubs and
collecting contributions (especially the didrachma) for the Temple
at Jerusalem. Besides this in the East the Jews were largely
permitted to have their own courts of justice. And the wonder
is that in spite of all their fierce insurrections against Rome these
rights were never permanently withdrawn. As late as the end of
the second century (in the pontificate of Victor 189-199 a. d.)

* A suggestion was made in the Church Quarterly Review for Oct. 1894,
which deserves consideration ; viz. that the dislocation of the Jewish com-
munity caused by the edict of Claudius may explain ' why the Church of the
capital did not grow to the same extent as elsewhere out cf [-t.^ simagoguf
Even when St. Paul arrived there in bonds the chiefs of the reil«fecJ Jewisl
organization profebsed to have beard nothing, officially or OE<;fSaiaJSy, of the
Apostle, and to know about the Cliristian sect just what we may suppose the
rioters ten years earlier knew, that it was "everywhere spokeo against "'

(P- 17.1).

' V it. Joseph. 3; Ant. XX. viii. 11.

• Dio Cassius xxxvii. 17 tan koI irapa roii "Pai/Miiois t6 ytvos tovto, iccXavatii
ftiy iroWiiicti ai^rjfiif Si iwl vXtiaTov, Siart Kot tU vapprfalof T^f VfdvHat

§ 2.] THE JEWS IN ROME xxiii

Callistus, who afterwards himself became Bishop of Rome, was
banished to the Sardinian mines for forcibly breaking up a Jewish
meeting for worship (Hippol. Refut. Haer. ix. 12).

There was some natural difference between the East and the
West corresponding to the difference in number and concentration
of the Jewish population. In Palestine the central judicial and
administrative body was the Sanhedrin ; after the Jewish War the
place of the Sanhedrin was taken by the Ethnarch who exercised
great powers, the Jews of the Dispersion voluntarily submitting to
him. At Alexandria also there was an Ethnarch, as well as a
central board or senate, for the management of the affairs of the
community. At Rome, on the other hand, it would appear that
each synagogue had its own separate organization. This would
consist of a * senate ' (-yepovo-tu), the members of which were the
* elders ' {npfa^vrepot). The exact relation of these to the * rulers '
(apxovT(s) is not quite clear : the two terms may be practically
equivalent ; or the apxovres may be a sort of committee within the
larger body *. The senate had its * president ' {yepovmdpxns) ', and
among the rulers one or more would seem to have been charged
with the conduct of the services in the synagogue {apxtavvaymyos,
apxKTvvdyayyoi). Under him would be the virripiTr]! {Chazan) who
performed the minor duties of giving out and putting back the
sacred rolls (Luke iv. 20), inflicted scourging (Matt. x. 17), and
acted as schoolmaster. The priests as such had no special status
in the synagogue. We hear at Rome of wealthy and influential
people who were called ' father ' or • mother of the synagogue ' ;
this would be an honorary title. There is also mention of a npo-
ardTTjs ox pair onus, who would on occasion act for the synagogue
in its relation to the outer world.

(3) Social status and condition. There were ceitainly Jews of
rank and position at Rome. Herod the Great had sent a number
of his sons to be educated there (the ill-fated Alexander and
Aristobulus as well as Archelaus, Antipas, and Philip the tetrarch*).
At a later date other members of the family made it their home
(Herod the first husband of Herodias, the younger Aristobulus,
and at one time Herod Agrippa I). There were also Jews attached
in one way or another to the imperial household (we have had
mention of the synagogues of the Agrippesii zwdi Augustesii). These
would be found in the more aristocratic quarters. The Jews'

* This is the view of Schiirer {Gemeindevetf. p. 33). The point is not
discussed by Berliner. Dr. Edersheiin appears to regard the ' elders ' as
Identical with the 'rulers,' and the apxiffvvdyojyos as chief of the body. He
would make the functions of the yepovcnnpxTjs political rather than religious,
and he spenks of this office as if it were confined to the Dispersion of the West
{Lt/e and Times, &c. i. 438). These are points which must be regarded at
more or Itss open.

« ;©S. Ant. XV, X. I ; XVII. i. 3.


quarter proper was the reverse of aristocratic The fairiy plentiful
notices which have come down to us in the works of the Satirists
lead us to think of the Jews of Rome as largely a population of
beggars, rendors of small wares, sellers of lucifer matches, collectors
of broken glass, fortune-tellers of both sexes. They haunted the
Aventine with their baskets and wisps of hay*. Thence they would
sally forth and try to catch the ear especially of the wealthier
Roman women, on whose superstitious hopes and fears they might
play and earn a few small coins by their pains *.

Between these extremes we may infer the existence of a more
substantial trading class, both from the success which at this period
had begun to attend the Jews in trade and from the existence of
the numerous synagogues (nine are definitely attested) which it
must have required a considerable amount and some diffusion of
wealth to keep up. But of this class we have less direct evidence.

In Rome, as everywhere, the Jews impressed the observer by
their strict performance of the Law. The Jewish sabbath was
proverbial. The distinction of meats was also carefully maintained '.
But along with these external observances the Jews did succeed in
bringing home to their Pagan neighbours the contrast of their
purer faith to the current idolatries, that He whom they served
did not dwell in temples made with hands, and that He was not to
be likened to ' gold or silver or stone, graven by art and device
of man.'

It is difficult to say which is more conspicuous, the repulsion or
the attraction which the Jews exercised upon the heathen world.
The obstinate tenacity with which they held to their own customs,
and the rigid exclusiveness with which they kept aloof from all
others, offended a society which had come to embrace all the varied
national religions with the same easy tolerance and which passed
from one to the other as curiosity or caprice dictated. They
looked upon the Jew as a gloomy fanatic, whose habitual expres-
sion was a scowl. It was true that he condemned, as he had
reason to condemn, the heathen laxity around him. And his
neighbours, educated and populace alike, retaliated with bitter
hatred and scorn.

At the same time sdl — and there were many — who were in search

* The purpose of this is somewhat uncertain : it may have been nsed to pack

their wares.

' The passages on which this description is based are well known. Small
Trades'. Martial, Epig. I. xlii, 3-5 ; XII. Ivii. 13, 14. Mendicancy: Juvenal,
Sat. iii. 14; vi. 543 ff. Proselytism: Horace, Sat. I. iv. 143 f. ; Juvenal, Sat.
xiv. 96 ff.

^ Horace, Sat. I. ix. 69 f. ; Juvenal, Sat. xiv. 96 ff. (of proselytes) ; Persius,
Sat. V. 184 ; Sueton. Aug. 76. The texts of Greek and Latin authors relating
to Judaism have recently been collected in a complete and convenient form by
Theodore Reinach {Testes relatifs aujudaisme, Paris, 1895).



of a purer creed than their own, knew that the Jew had something
to give them which they could not get elsewhere. The heathen
Pantheon was losing its hold, and thoughtful minds were ' feeling
after if haply they might find ' the one God who made heaven and
earth. Nor was it only the higher minds who were conscious of
a strange attraction in Judaism. Weaker and more superstitious
natures were impressed by its lofty claims, and also as we may
believe by the gorgeous apocalyptic visions which the Jews of tliis
date were ready to pour out to them. The seeker wants to be told
soigething that he can do to gain the Divine favour; and of such
demands and precepts there was no lack. The inquiring Pagan
was met with a good deal of tact on the part of those whom he
consulted. He was drawn on little by little ; there was a place for
every one who showed a real sympathy for the faith of Israel. It
was not necessary that he should at once accept circumcision and
the whole burden of the Mosaic Law ; but as he made good one
step another was proposed to him, and the children became in
many cases more zealous than their fathers '. So round most of
the Jewish colonies there was gradually formed a fringe of Gentiles
more or less in active sympathy with their religion, the 'devout
men and women/ * those who worshipped God ' {eva-e^els, o-e/SoVei/oi,
(Tf^oixevoi Tov Qeov, (po^ovfifuoi rov Gfoi') of the Acts of the Apostles.
For the student of the origin of the Christian Church this class is
of great importance, because it more than any other was the seed
plot of Chiisiianity ; in it more than in any other the Gospel took
root and spread with ease and rapidity *.

§ 3. The Roman Church.

(i) Origin. The most probable view of the origin of the
Christian Church in Rome is substantially that of the commen-
tator known as Ambrosiasler (see below, § 10). This fourth-
century writer, himself probably a member of the Roman Church,
does not claim for it an apostolic origin. He thinks that it arose
among the Jews of Rome and that the Gendles to whom they
conveyed a knowledge of Christ had not seen any miracles or any
of the Apostles'. Some such conclusion as this fits in well with

' Juvenal, Sat. xiv. 96 ff.

' See the very ample collection of material on this subject in Schiirer,
Neutest. Zeitgesch. ii. 558 ff.

■ Constat itaque ietnporibus apostolorum ludaeos, propterea quod sub regno
Romano agerent, Koiiiae habitasse : ex quibus hi qui C7xdiderayit, tradidcnint
Koinanis ut Christian profilentes. Legem servareiit . . . Rotnanis autem irasci
non debuit, sed et laudare Jidem illorum ; quia nulla insignia virtuiurn


the phenomena of the Epistle. St. Paul would hardly have written
as he does if the Church had really been founded by an Apostle.
He clearly regards it as coming within his own province as Apostle
of tlie Gentiles (Rom. i. 6, 14 f.); and in this very Epistle he lays
it down as a principle governing all his missionary labours that he
will not ' build upon another man's foundation ' (Rom. xv. 20).
If an Apostle had been before him to Rome the only supposition
which would save his present letter from clashing with this would
be that there were two distinct churches in Rome, one Jewish-
Christian the other Gentile-Christian, and that St. Paul wrote only
to the latter. But not only is there no hint of such a state of
things, but the letter itself (as we shall see) implies a mixed
community, a community not all of one colour, but embracing
in substantial proportions both Jews and Gentiles.

At a date so early as this it is not in itself likely that the Apostles
of a faith which grew up under the shadow of Jewish particu-
larism would have had the enterprise to cast their glance so far
west as Rome. It was but natural that the first Apostle to do
this should be the one who both in theory and in practice had
struck out the boldest line as a missionary ; the one who had
formed the largest conception of the possibilities of Christianity,
the one who risked the most in the effort to realize them, and who
as a matter of principle ignored distinctions of language and of
race. We see St. Paul deliberately conceiving and long cherishing
the purpose of himself making a journey to Rome (Acts xix. 21 ;
Rom. i. 13; XV. 22-24). It was not however \o found a Church,
at least in the sense of first foundation, for a Church already
existed with sufficient unity to have a letter written to it.

If we may make use of the data in ch. xvi — and reasons will
be given for using them with some confidence — the origin of the
Roman Church will be fairly clear, and it will agree exactly with
the probabilities of the case. Never in the course of previous
history had there been anything like the freedom of circulation
and movement which now existed in the Roman Empire \ And
this movement followed certain definite lines and set in certain
definite directions. It was at its greatest all along the Eastern
shores of the Mediterranean, and its general trend was to and from
Rome, The constant coming and going of Roman officials, as
one provincial governor succeeded another ; the moving of troops

videnles, nee aliquem apostolorum, sitsceferant fidem Christi ritu licet ludaico
(S. Ambrosii 0pp. iii. 373 f., ed. Ballerini). We shall see that Ambrosiaster
exagtjeiates the strictly Jewish influence on the Church, but in his general
conclusion he is more right than we might have expected.

* 'The conditions of travelling, for ease, safety, and rapidity, over the
greater part of the Roman empire, were such as in part have only been reached
again in Europe since the beginning of the present century' (FriedlandcT,
aUltngeschichte Rmms, ii. 3).

§ 3.] THE ROMAN CHURCH xxvii

from place to place with the sending of fresh batches of recruits
and tlie retirement of veterans ; the incessant demands of an ever-
increasing trade both in necessaries and luxuries; the attraction
which the huge metropolis naturally exercised on the imagination
of the clever young Orientals who knew that the best openings for
a career were to be sought there ; a thousand motives of ambition,
business, pleasure drew a constant stream from the Eastern pro-
vinces to Rome. Among the crowds there would inevitably be some
Christians, and those of very varied nationality and antecedents.
St. Paul himself had for the last three years been stationed at one of
the greatest of the 'Leva.nUne emporia. Wemaysaythat the three great
cities at which he had spent the longest time — Antioch, Corinth,
Ephesus — were just the three from which (with Alexandria) inter-
course was most active. We may be sure that not a few of his
own disciples would ultimately find their way to Rome. And so
we may assume that all the owners of the names mentioned in
ch. xvi had some kind of acquaintance with him. In several cases
he adds some endearing little expression which implies personal
contact and interest : Epaenetus, Ampliatus, Stachys are all his
'beloved'; Urban has been his ' helper'; the mother of Rufus had
been also as a mother to him; Andronicus and Junia (or Junias)
and Herodion are described as his ' kinsmen ' — i. e. perhaps his
fellow-tribesmen, possibly like him natives of Tarsus. Andronicus
and Junias, if we are to take the expression literally, had shared
one of his imprisonments. But not by any means all were
St. Paul's own converts. The same pair, Andronicus and Junias,
were Christians of older standing than himself. Epaenetus is
described as the first convert ever made from Asia : that may of
course be by the preaching of St. Paul, but it is also possible that
he may have been converted while on pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
If the Aristobulus whose household is mentioned is the Herodian
prince, we can easily understand that he might have Christians
about him. That Prisca and Aquila should be at Rome is just
what we might expect from one with so keen an eye for the
strategy of a situation as St. Paul. When he was himself esta-
blished and in full work at Ephesus with the intention of visiting
Rome, it would at once occur to him what valuable work they might
be doing there and what an excellent preparation they might make
for his own visit, while in his immediate surroundings they were
almost superfluous. So that instead of presenting any difficulty,
that he should send them back to Rome where they were already
known, is most natural.

In this way, the previous histories of the friends to whom S . Paul
sends greeting in ch. xvi may be taken as typical of the circum-
stances which would bring together a number of similar groups of
Christians at Rome. Some from Palestine, some from Corinth,


some from Ephesus and other parts of proconsular Asia, possibly
some from Tarsus and more from the Syrian Antioch, there was in
the first instance, as we may believe, nothing concerted in their
going ; but when once they arrived in the metropolis, the free-
masonry common amongst Chrisiians would soon make them
known to each oiher, and they would form, not exactly an organized
Church, but such a fortuitous assemblage of Christians as was only
waiting for the advent of an Apostle to constitute one.

For other influences than those of St. Paul we are left to general
probabilities. But from the fact that there w^as a synagogue specially
assigned to the Roman ' Liberiini ' at Jerusalem and that this
synagogue was at an early dale the scene of public debates between
Jews and Christians (Acts vi. 9), with the further fact that regular
communication would be kept up by Roman Jews frequenting the
feasts, it is equally clear that Palestinian Christianity could hardly
fail to have its representatives. We may well believe that the
vigorous preaching of St. Stephen would set a wave in motion
wiiich would be felt even at Rome. If coming from such a source
we should expect the Jewish Christianity of Rome to be rather of
the freer Hellenistic t}pe than marked by the narrowness of
Pharisaism. But it is best to abstain from anticipating, and to form
our idea of the Roman Church on better grounds than conjecture.

If the view thus given of the origin of the Roman Church is correct, it

involves the rejection of two other views, one of which at least has imposing
authority ; viz. (,i) that the Church was founded by Jewish pilgrims from the
First Pentecost, and (ii) that its true founder was St. Peter.

(i) We are told expressly that among those who listened to St. Peter's
address on the Day of Pentecost were some who came from Rome, both
bom Jews of the Dispersion and proselytes. When these returned they
would naturally take with them news of the strange things which were
happening in Palestine. But unless they remained for some time in Jerusalem,
and unless tiiey attended very diligently to the teaching of the Apostles,
which would as yet be informal and not accompanied by any regular system
of Catechesis, they would not know enough to make them in the full sense
'Christians'; still less would they be in a position to evangelize others.
Among this first group there would doubtless he some who would go back
predisposed and prepared to receive fuller instruction in Christianity ; they
might be at a similar stage to that of the disciples of St. John the Baptist at
Ephesus (Acts xix. 2 ff.) ; and under the successive impact of later visits
(their own or their neighbours') to Jerusalem, we could imagine that their
faith would be gradually consolidated. But it would take more than they
brouglit away from the Day of Pentecost to lay the foundations of a

(ii) The traditional founder of the Roman Church is St. Peter. But it is
only in a very qualified sense that this tradition can be made good. We
may say at once that we are not prepared to go the length of those who
would deny the connexion of St. Peter with the Roman Church altogether.
It is true that thfre is hardly an item in the evidence which is not subject to
some deduction The cviilence which is definite is somewhat late, and the
evidence which is early is either too uncertain or too slight and vague to



cany a clear conclusion '. Most decisive of all, if it held good, would be
the allusion in St. Peter's own First Epistle if the ' Babylon ' from which he
writes (i Pet. v. 13) is really a covert name for Rome. This was the view oi
the Early Church, and although perhaps not absolutely certain it is in acco:d-
ance with all probability. The Apocalypse confessedly puts ' Babylon ' lor
Rome (Rev. xiv. 8; xvi. 19, &c.), and when we remember the common
practice among the Jewish Rabbis of disguising their allusions to the op-
pressor*, we may believe that Christians also, when they had once become
suspected and persecuted, might have fallen into the habit of using a secret
language among themselves, even where there was less occasion for secresy.
When once we adopt this view, a number of details in the Epistle (such
as the mention of Silvanus and Mark, and the points of contact between
1 Peter and Romans) find an easy and natural explanation'.

The genuine Epistle of Clement of Rome (c. 97 A.D.) couples together
St. Peter and St. Paul in a context dealing with persecution in such a way
as to lend some support to the tradition that both Apostles had perished
there*; and the Epistle of Ignatius addressed to Rome {c. 115 a.d.) appeals
to both Apostles as authorities which the Roman Church would be likely to
recognize^; but at the utmost this proves nothing as to the origin of the
Church. When we descend a step later, Dionysius of Corinth {c. 171 a.d.)
does indeed couple the two Apostles as having joined in ' planting ' the
Church of Rome as they had done previously that of Corinth *. But this
Epistle alone is proof that if St. Paul could be said to have 'planted' the
Church, it could not be in the sense of first foundation; and a like considera-
tion must be taken to qualify the statements of Irenaeus'. By the beginning
of the third century we get in Tertullian ' and Caius of Rome' explicit
references to Rome as the scene of the double martyrdom. The latter writer
points to the ' trophies ' {to. rpmaia '") of the two Apostles as existing in his
day on the Vatican and by the Ostian Way. This is conclusive evidence as
to the belief of the Roman Church about the year 200. And it is followed
by another piece of evidence which is good and precise as far as it goes.

* The summary which follows contains only the main points and none of the
indirect evidence. For a fuller presentation the reader may be referred to
Lightfoot, St. Clement ii. 490 ff., and Lipsius, Apokr. Apostelgesch. ii. 1 1 ff.

''■ On this practice, see Bitsenlhal, Trostschrcibcn an die Ilebrder, p. 3 ff. ;
and for a defence of the view that St. Peter wrote his First Epistle from Rome,
Lightfoot, St. Clement ii. 491 f. ; Von Soden in Haudcomnientar III. ii. 105 f.
&c. Dr. Hort, who had paid special attention to this Epistle, seems to have
held the same opinion {Jtidaistic Christianity, p. 155).

^ There is a natural reluctance in the lay mind to take \v Ba^vXwvi in any
other sense than literally. Still it is certainly to be so taken in Orae. Sibyll. v.
159 (Jewish) ; and it should be remembered that the advocates of this view
include men of the most diverse opinions, not only the English scholars men-
tioned above and Dollinger, but Renan and the Tubingen school generally.

* Ad Cor. V. 4 ff. ' Ad Rom. iv. 3.

• Eus. H. E. II. xxv. 8. ' Adv. Haer. III. iii. 2, 3.

• Scorp. 1=,; De Praescript. 36. • Eus. //. E. II. xxv. 6, 7.

'" There has been much discussion as to the exact meaning of this word.
The leading Protestant archaeologists (Lipsius, Erbes, V. Schultze) hold that
it refers to some conspicuous mark ot the place of martyrdom (a famous
' terebinth ' near the naumachium on the Vatican {Mart. Pet. et Paul. 63) and
a ' pine-tree ' near the road to Ostia. The Roman Catholic authorities would
refer it to the 'tombs' or 'memorial chapels' {ntemoriae). It seems to us
probable that buildings of some kind were already in existence. For statements
of the opposing views see Lipsius, Apokr. Apostelgesch. ii. ai ; De Waal, Di4
Apostelpuft ad Catacumhas. p. 14 ff.


Two fonrth-century documents, both in texts which have undergone some
corruption, the Martyrologium Hieronymianum (ed. Duchesne, p. 84) and
a Depositio Martyrttm in the woik of Philocalus, the so-called ' chronogra|iher

Online LibraryW. (William) SandayA critical and exegetical commentary on the Epistle to the Romans → online text (page 3 of 71)