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

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iv KaifOTTjTi irk€u)xaTos . . . TraXaioTTjTi YPcip.|xaT0S. In each case
the gen. is what is called of ' apposition' : it denotes that in which
the newness, or oldness, consists. The essential feature of the new
state is that it is one of ' Spiiit'; of the old state, that it is regulated
by ' written Law.' The period of the Paraclete has succeeded to
the period which took its character from the Sinaitic legislation.
The Christian life turns on an inspiration from above, not on an
elaborate code of commands and prohibitions. A fuller explanation
of the KaivoTrjs nvevfiaros is given in ch. viii.

It is perhaps well to remind the reader who is not careftil to check th*
ftndy of the English versions by the Greek that the opposition between
ypnfjifxa and nvevfia is not exactly identical with that which we are in the
habit of drawing between 'the letter' and 'the spirit' as the ' literal ' and
' spiritual sense ' of a wi iting. In this antithesis ypd/ifia is with St Paul
always the Law of Moses, as a written code, while TrvtOfia is the operation
of the Holy Spirit characteristic of Christianity (cf. Rom. iL 39 ; a Cor. iii 6).

iiAw AND sm.

VII. 7-25. If release from Sin means release from Law,
must we then ideiitify Law with Sin ? No. Law reveals
the sinfulness of Sin, and by this very revelation stirs up the
dormant Sin to action. But this is not because the Law
itself is evil — on the contrary it is good — but that Sin may
be exposed and its guilt aggravated (vv. 7-13).

This is what takes place. I have a double self. But my
better self is impotent to prevent me from doing wrong
(vv. 14-17). // is equally impotent to make me do right
(vv. 18-21). There is thus a constant coJiflict going on,
from which, unaided, I can hope for no deliveraJice. But,
God be thajiked, through Christ deliverance comes I (w.

'' I spoke a moment ago of sinful passions working through Law,
and of the death to Sin as carrying with it a release from the Law.
Does it follow that the Law itself is actually a form of Sin ? An

VII. 7-25.] LAW AND SIN if^

intolerable thought 1 On the contrary it was the Law and nothing
else through which I learnt the true nature of Sin. For instance,
I knew the sinfulness of covetous or illicit desire only by the Law
saying ' Thou shalt not covet.' • But the lurking Sin wiihin me
started into activity, and by the help of that express command,
provoking to that which it prohibited, led me into all kinds of
conscious and sinful covetousness. For without Law to bring it
out Sin lies dead — inert and passive. * And while sin was dead,
I — my inner self — was alive, in happy unconsciousness, following
my bent with no pangs of conscience excited by Law. But then
came this Tenth Commandment ; and with its coming Sin awoke
to life, while I — sad and tragic contrast — died the living death of
sin, precursor of eternal death. " And the commandment which
was given to point men the way to life, this very commandment
was found in my case to lead to death. " For Sin took advantage
of it, and by the help of the commandment — at once confronting
me with the knowledge of right and provoking me to do that
which was wrong — it betrayed me, so that I fell ; and the com-
mandment was the weapon with which it slew me. ^*The result i-
that the Law, as a whole, is holy, inasmuch as it proceeds from God :
and each single commandment has the like character of holiness,
justice, and beneficence. "Am I then to say that a thing so
excellent in itself to me proved fatal ? Not for a moment. It was
rather the demon Sin which wrought the mischief. And the reason
why it was permitted to do so was that it might be shown in
its true colours, convicted of being the pernicious thing that it is,
by the fact that it made use of a good instrument. Law, to
work out upon me the doom of death. For this reason Sin was
permitted to have its way, in order that through its perverted
use of the Divine commandment it might be seen in all its utter

" The blame cannot attach to the Law. For we all know that
the Law has its origin from the Spirit of God and derives it?
character from that Spirit, while I, poor mortal, am made of frail
human flesh and blood, sold like any slave in the market into the
servitude of Sin. " It is not the Law, and not my ov/n deliberate
self, which is the cause of the evil ; because my actions are exe-
cuted blindly with no proper concurrence of the will. I purpose one



way, I act another. I hate a thing, but do it. " And by this very
fact that I hate the thing that I do, my conscience bears testimony
to the Law, and recognizes its excellence. ^' So that the state of the
case is this. It is not I, my true self, who put into act what is
repugnant to me, but Sin which has possession of me. " For I am
aware that in me as I appear to the outer world — in this ' body
that does me grievous wrong,' there dwells (in any permanent and
predominating shape) nothing that is good. The will indeed to do
good is mine, and I can command it ; but the performance I cannot
command. " For the actual thing that I do is not the good that
I wish to do ; but my moral agency appears in the evil that I wish
to avoid. *" But if I thus do what I do not wish to do, then the
active force in me, the agent that carries out the act, is not my true
self (which is rather seen in the wish to do right), but the tyrant
Sin which holds possession of roe. '^ I find therefore this law —
if so it may be called — this stern necessity laid upon me from
without, that much as I wish to do what is good, the evil lies at my
door. ^^ For I am a divided being. In my innermost self, the
thinking and reasoning part of me, I respond joyfully to the Law
of God. ** But then I see a different Law dominating this bodily
organism of mine, and making me do its behests. This other Law
takes the field in arms against the Law of Reason and Conscience,
and drags me away captive in the fetters of Sin, the Power which
has such a fatal grip upon my body. " Unhappy man that I am —
torn with a conflict from which there seems to be no issue I This
body from which proceed so many sinful impulses ; this body which
makes itself the instrument of so many acts of sin ; this body
which is thus dragging me down to death. — How shall I ever get
free from it? What Deliverer will come and rescue me from its
oppression ?

*' A Deliverer has come. And I can only thank God, approach-
ing His Presence in humble gratitude, through Him to whom the
deliverance is due — Jesus Messiah, our Lord.

Without His intervention — so long as I am left to my own
unaided self — the state that I have been describing may be briefly
summarized. In this twofold capacity of mine I serve two masters :
with my conscience I serve the Law of God; with my bodily
organism the Law of Sin.

VII. 7, 8. J LAW AND SIN 1 79

7. So far Sin and Law have been seen in such close connexion
that it becomes necessary to define more exactly the relation
between them. In discussing this the Apostle is led to consider
the action of both upon the character and the struggle to which
they give rise in the soul.

It is evident that Marcion had this section, as Tertullian turns against him

St. Paul's refusal to listen to any attack upon the Law, which Marcion

ascribed to the Demiurge : Abominatur apostolus criminationem legis . . .

Quid deo imputas legis quod legi eius apostolus imputare non audet ? At quirt

^ et accumulat : Lex sancta, et piaeceptum eius iustum et bonum. Si taliter

'" veneratur legem creatoris, quotnodo ipsum destruat nescio.

6 v6y.o<i dfxapTia. It had just been shown (ver. 5) that Sin makes
use o/i\\Q Law to effect the destruction of the sinner. Does it
follow that Sin is to be identified with the Law ? Do the two so
overlap each other that the Law itself comes under the description
of Sin? St. Paul, like every pious Jew, repels this conclusion with

dXX«£ contradicts emphatically the notion that the Law is Sin.
On the contrary the Law first told me what Sin was.

ooK lyvwv. It is not quite certain whether this is to be taken
hypothetically (for oIk av eyvtav, Sv omitted to give a greater sense
of actuality, Kiihner, Gr. Granim. ii. 176 f.) or whether it is simply
temporal. Lips. Oltr. and others adopt the hypothetical sense
both here and wiih ovk rj8fiv below. Gif. Va. make both oIk
iyvup and ovK pSfji/ plain statement of fact. Mey.-W. Go. take
ov*c eyi-tov temporally, oIk jjBftv hypothetically. As the context is
a sort of historical retrospect the simple statement seems most in

Tfiv T€ ySip «iTi0vji£av. T« yip is best explained as * 'for also,' ' for indeed '
(Gif. Win. § liii. p. 561 E. T. ; otherwise Va.). The general proposition is
proved by a concrete example.

iyvuiv . . . •QSeiv retain their proper meanings : (fvcov, ' I learnt,' implies
more intimate experimental acqaaintance ; ^Suv is simple knowledge that
there was such a thing as lust.

iiriOufAi^aeis. The Greek word has a wider sense than our
' covet ' ; it includes every kind of illicit desire.

8. d<j>op|j.T)v XaPoGcro : * getting a start,' finding a point dappui, or,
as we should say, ' something to take hold of.' In a military
sense a<popfj.r] = 'a base of operations' (Thuc. i. 90. 2, &c.). In
a literary sense dcpopufjv Xa^elv = * to take a hint,' ' adopt a sug-
gestion ' ; cf. Eus. £p. ad Carpianum (< tov novrifiaTos rod irpodprj-
ftfvov dv8p6s fl\r](f)coi d(()oppds. And SO here in a moral sense : Sin
exists, but apart from Law it has nothing to work upon, no means
of producing guilt. Law gives it just the opportunity it wants.

i\ djAapTia: see p. 145, sup.

81& TTjs ecToXTis. The prep. Bm and the position of the word


show that it is better taken with KartipyaaaTo than with a<^opn,
Xa/3. fW'-Xij is the single commandment ; v6ixos the code as a

Xwpis Y^P • • • y*^p&- A standing thought which we have had
before, iv. 15; v. 13: cf. iii. 20.

9. l^hiv (((rjv B ; fCovv 1 7). St. Paul uses a vivid figurative
expression, not of course with the full richness of meaning which
he sometimes gives to it (i. 17; viii. 13, &c.). He is describing
the state prior to Law primarily in himself as a child before the
consciousness of law has taken hold upon him ; but he uses this
experience as typical of that both of individuals and nations before
they are restrained by express command. The 'natural man'
flourishes; he does freely and without hesitation all that he has
a mind to do; he puts forth all his vitality, unembarrassed by
the checks and thwartings of conscience. It is the kind of life
which is seen at its best in some of the productions of Greek art.
Greek life had no doubt its deeper and more serious side ; but
this comes out more in its poetry and philosophy : the frieze of
the Parthenon is the consummate expression of a life that does
not look beyond the morrow and has no inward perplexities to
trouble its enjo3ment of to-day. See the general discussion below.

&.vit,t\a^v : ' sprang into life ' (T. K. Abbott). Sin at first is
there, but dormant ; not until it has the help of the Law does it
become an active power of mischief.

11. iiy\-K6kTf\(ji fie. The language is suggested by the descrip-
tion of the Fall (Gen. iii. 13 LXX ; cf. 2 Cor. xi. 3; i Tim. ii.
14). Sin here takes the place of the Tempter there. In both
cases the 'commandment' — acknowledged only to be broken —
is the instrument which is made use of to bring about the disas-
trous and fatal end.

12. 6 fiec I'Ofjios. The fxiv expects a following be. St. Paul had
probably intended to write f) 8e ifinprla KaTrjpydaaTo iv tpoi t6v
dnvarov, Or Something of the kind ; but he digresses to explain how
a good Law can have evil consequences, and so he fails to com-
plete the sentence on the same plan on which he had begun it. On
St. Paul's view of the nature and functions of the Law see below.

It is hardly safe to argno with Zahn {GescA. d. K. ii. 517) from the lan-
guage of TertuUian fgiven above oa ver. 7) that that writer had before him
a corrupt Marcionitic text — not, Zahn thinks, actually due to Marcion, but
corrupted since his time — ij \vto\^ avrov Stxala for f) ivr. dyia Kal SiKala.
It is more probable that Tert. is reproducing his text rather freely : in De
Pudic. 6 he leaves out koX $iKcua, l$x quidem sancta est et praeceptum
sanctum et optimum (the use of superlative for positive is fairly common in
Latin versions and writers).

13. Why was this strange perversion of so excellent a thing as
the Law permitted ? This very perversion served to aggravate the

VII. 13-15.] LAW AND SIN l8i

horror of Sin: not content with the evil which it is in itself it
must needs turn to evil that which was at once Divine in its origin
and beneficent in its purpose. To say this was to pronounce its
condemnation : it was like giving it full scope, so that the whole
world might see {(pavfi) of what extremities {Kad' vntpl3oXTjv) Sin
was capable.

14. The section which follows explains more fully by a psycho-
logical analysis kozv it is that the Law is broken and that Sin
works such havoc. There is a germ of good in human nature,
a genuine desire to do what is right, but this is overborne by the
force of temptation acting through ttie bodily appetites and

TTceuixaTiKos. The Law is ' spiritual,' as the Manna and the
Water from the Rock were ' spiritual ' (i Cor. x. 3, 4) in the sense
of being * Spirit-caused ' or ' Spirit-given,' but with the further
connotation that the character of the Law is such as corresponds
to its origin.

o'dpKii'os {a-apKiKos fe^<^ L P al.) denotes simply the material of
which human nature is composed, ' made of flesh and blood '
(i Cor. iii. i ; 2 Cor. iii. 3), and as such exposed to all the tempta-
tions which act through the body.

There has been considerable controversy as to the bearing of the antithesis
in St. Paul between the ff<i/>f and TrveC/^a. It has been maintained that this
antithesis amounts to dualism, that St. Paul regards the oap^ as inherently
evil and the cause of evil, and that this dnalistic conception is Greek or
Hellenistic and not Jewish in its origin. So, but with differences among
themselves, Holsten (1855, 1868), Rich. Schmidt (1870), Liidemaan (1872),
and to some extent Pfleiderer (1873). [In the second edition of his Paulin-
istnus (18901, Pfleiderer refers so much of St. Paul's teaching on this head
as seems to go beyond the O. T. not to Hellenism, but to the later Jewish
doctrine of the Fall, much as it has been expounded above, p. 136 ff. In this
*c need not greatly differ from him.] The most elaborate reply was that of
H. H. Wendt, Die Begriffe Fleisch und Geist (Gotha. 1878), which was
made the basis of an excellent treatise in English by Dr. W. P. Dickson,
St. Paul's Use of the Terms Flesh and Spirit, Glasgow, 1883. Reference
may also be made to the well-considered statement of Dr. Gifford {Komans,
pp. 48-53). The controversy may now be regarded as practically closed.
its result is summed up by Lipsius in these decisive words : ' The Pauline
anthropology rests entirely on an Old Testament base ; the elements in it
which are supposed to be derived from Hellenistic dualism must simply be
denied {sind einfach xu bestreiteti).' The points peculiar to St. Paul,
according to Lipsms, are the sharper contrast between the Divine m/tdfia and
the human ^'^xn, and the reading of a more ethical sense into oap^, which
was originally physical, so that in Gal. v. 19 ff., Rom. viii. 4 ff. the anp^
becomes a priuci[ile diiectly at war with the -nvivp-a. In the present passage
(Rom. vii. 14-25) the opposing principle is dfiaprla, and the aap^ is only the
material medium (Substrat) of sensual impulses and desires. We may add
that this is St. Paul's essential view, of which all else is but the variant

15. KaxepYaJojiai = perJicio,pe> petto, ' to carry into effect,' ' pot into execu-
tion ' : wpioaai •- a£9, to act as a moral and responsible being; : wow "facie,


to prodnce • certain result without reference to its moral character, and
simply as it might be produced by inariimate mechanism (see also the notei
on ch. i. 32 ; ii. 9). Of course the specific sense may not be always marked
by the context, but here it is well borne out throughout. For a fuller
account of the distinction see Schmidt, Lat. u. Gr. Synonymik, p. 294 ff.

ou yivjoaKco appears to describe the harmonious and conscious working ol
will and motive, the former deliberately accepting and carrying out the
promptings of the latter. The man acts, so to speak, blindly: he is not
a fully conscious agent : a force which he cannot resist takes the decision out
of his hands.

o Ot'XcD. The exact distinction between d'tXm and PovKoftm has been much
disputed, and is difficult to mark. On the whole it seems that, especially in
N. T. usage, ^ovXopiai lays the greater stress on the idea of purpose, delibera-
tion, OiKai on the more emotional aspect of will : in this context it is
evidently something short of the final act of volition, and practically = 'wish,'
' desire.' See especially the full and excellent note in Grm.-Thay.

17. I'oi'l hi: 'as it is/ ' as the case really lies ' ; the contrast is

logical, not temporal.

1^ oUouoa iv €|iol djiapria. [Read ivoiKovaa with t^B, Method.
{ap. Phot, cod., non autem ap. Epiph.)] This indwelling Sin cor-
responds to the indwelling Spirit of the next chapter : a further
proof that the Power which exerts so baneful an influence is
not merely an attribute of the man himself but has an objective

18. Iv cfjLoi, TOUT* eoTti', K.T.X. The part of the man in which
Sin thus establishes itself is not his higher self, his conscience, but
his lower self, the * flesh,' which, if not itself evil, is too easily made
the instrument of evil.

irapaKcirai |xoi : ' lies to my hand,' * within my reach.'

o* N A B C 47 67** al, Edd. : ovx (vpivKw D E F G K L P &c.
20. t ov eixoj BCDEFG a/., WH. RV.: t ov QiKw ifu NAKLP
&c., Tisch. WH. tnarg.

21. eupiCTKO) apa tok v6\i.ov : ' I find then this rule,' ' this con-
straining principle,' hardly ' this constantly recurring experience,'
which would be too modern. The vo'/ior here mentioned is akin
to the irtpov vofiov of ver. 23. It is not merely the observed fact
that the will to do good is forestalled by evil, but the coercion of
the will that is thus exercised. Lips, seems to be nearest to the
mark, das Gesetz d. h. die ohjectiv mir auferlegte Nothwendigkeit.

Many commentators, from Chrysosloni onwards, have tried to
make rhv v6\i.ov = the Mosaic Law : but either (i) they read into the
passage more than the context will allow; or (ii) they give to the
sentence a construction which is linguistically intolerable. The
best attempt in this direction is prob. that of Va. who translates,
' I find then with regard to the Law, that to me who would fain
do that which is good, to me (I say) that which is evil is present.'
He supposes a double break in the construction : (i) rov v6\t.o*
put as if the sentence had been intended to run ' I find then the

VII. 21-24.] LAW AND SIN 183

Law — when I wish to do good — powerless to help me * ; and (2)
fnoi repeated for the sake of clearness. It is apparently in
a similar sense that Dr. T. K. Abbott proposes as an alternative
rendering (the first being as above), ' With respect to the law,
I find,' &c. But the anacoluthon after tuv vS^ov seems too great
even for dictation to an amanuensis. Other expedients like those
of Mey. (not Mey.-W.) Fri. Ew. are still more impossible. See
esp. Gif. Additional Note, p, 145.

22. cru>'T)8o{iai tw I'ofjiu tou 0eou : what it approves, I gladly and
cordially approve.

KaTol Toc eo-u) avdptsiitov. St. Paul, as we have seen (on vi. 6),
makes great use of this phrase chBpanos, which goes back as far as
Plato. Now he contrasts the 'old' with the 'new man' (or, as
we should say, the ' old ' with the ' new sel/') ; now he contrasts
the 'outer man,' or the body (6 e^w avdiywnos 2 Cor. iv. 16), with the
'inner man,' the conscience or reason (2 Cor. iv. 16; Eph. iii. 16).

23. Irepoi' i/ojjioi': 'a different law' (for the distinction between
erepos, ' different,' and SXXoSf ' another,* ' a second,' see the commen-
tators on Gal. i. 6, 7).

There are two Imperatives (j/o'/^ot) within the man : one, that of
conscience ; the other, that proceeding from the action of Sin
upon the body. One of these Imperatives is the moral law, 'Thou
shalt' and 'Thou shalt not'; the other is the violent impulse of

Tu f(5)xw TOU vo6s p.ou. For vovs see on i. 28 : it is the rational
part of conscience, the faculty which decides between right and
wrong : strictly speaking it belongs to the region of morals rather
than to that of intercourse with God, or religion ; but it may be
associated with and brought under the influence of the nvfv^a

(Eph. iv. 23 di'aveova-dai rm irvevfiari tov vooy : cf. Rom. xii. 2), jUSt aS

on the other hand it may be corrupted by the flesh (Rom. i. 28).

24. TaXaiTTwpos iyoi afGpwTTos. A heart-rending cry, from the
depths of despair. It is difficult to think of this as exactly St. Paul's
own experience : as a Christian he seems above it, as a Pharisee
below it — self-satisfaction was too ingrained in the Pharisaic temper,
the performance of Pharisaic righteousness was too well within the
compass of an average will. But St. Paul was not an ordinary
Pharisee. He dealt too honestly with himself, so that sooner or
later the self-satisfaction natural to the Pharisee must give way :
and his experience as a Christian would throw back a lurid light on
those old days 'of which ho was now ashamed.' So that, what with
his knowledge of himself, and what with his sympathetic penetration
into the hearts of others, he had doubtless materials enough for the
picture which he has drawn here with such extraordinary power.
He has sat for his own likeness; but there are ideal traits in th<;
picture as weU.


^K ToO ccSfiaTos Tou Oavdrou tootou. In construction tovtov might
go with (TcojUHToy (' from this body of death ') : but it is far better to
take it in the more natural connexion with 6avaTov ; ' the body of
this death ' which already has me in its clutches. Sin and death
are inseparable : as the body involves me in sin it also involves me
in mortality; physical death to be followed by eternal, the death of
the body by the death of the soul.

25. apo ovv K.T.X. A terse compressed summary of the previous
paragraph, vv. 7-24, describing in two strokes the state of things
prior to the intervention of Christ. The expression is that which
comes from deep feeling. The particular phrases hardly seem to
need further explanation.

•wxap^TTw T^ 0€^. The true reading is probably x<^/*" ''9' ®*#' The
evidence stands thus.

X^pti TV ^^V B) Sah., Orig. semel Hieron. semd.

Xa/wr Se T(j; 0«<^ N " C* [de C* non liquet) minute, aliq.. Boh. Arm., Cyr.-

Alex. Jo.-Damasc.
^ X'^/"^ "^^^ ®^ov D E s8, de Vulg., Orig.-lat. bis Hieron. semel Ambrstr,
tl X*^/"^ "^^^ ^vpiov F G, f g, cf. Iren.-lat.

tvxaptaTU) to) &ia> N* A K L P &c., Syrr. Goth., Orig. bis Chrys.
Theodrt. al. [ivxapicrru ©fo) Method, a/. Epiph. cod., sed x"pi-i t^
6*9) vel x^P^^ S« ■""<? ®(V Epiph. edd. pr.\ vid. Bonwetsch, Methodius
von Olympus, i. 204.]
It is easy to see how the reading of B wonld explain all the rest. The
reading of the mass of MSS. would be derived from it (not at once but by
successive steps) by the doubling of two pairs of letters,
The descent of the other readings may be best represented by a table.

XApiC TCp 0€<i>

I \ I

1 i CYXApiCTO) T<p 0e^

XApic Ae T^ 0€(5> H x*P'C TOY ©toy (0?)

N x*P'c TOY Kyp'ioy (Ky)

The other possibility wonld be that (vxapiffru tS> BeS had got reduced to
X<ipis Ty &fw by successive dropping of letters. But this must have taken
place very early. It is also conceivable that x*^/"' ^^ preceded x^P** only.

TAg Inward Conflict.

Two subjects for discussion are raised, or are commonly treated
as if they were raised, by this section, (i) Is the experience
described that of the regenerate or unregenerate man? (2) Is it,
or is it not, the experience of St. Paul hhnself ?

I (a). Origen and the mass of Greek Fathers held that the
passage refers to the unregenerate man. (i) Appeal is made to

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