W. (William) Sanday.

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

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such expressions as TieTrpafiivos imo TTjv dfiapriav ver. 14, KaTfpyii^oficu

VII. 7-25. J LAW AND SIN 185

[rA KOKouj w. 19, 20, ToXalnwpos e'^c!) avSpainos ver. 24. It is argued
that language like this is nowhere found of the regenerate stale.
(ii) When other expressions are adduced which seem to make for
the opposite conclusion, it is urged that parallels to them may be
quoted from Pagan literature, e.g. the video meliora of Ovid and
many other like sayings in Euri})ides, Xenophon, Seneca, Epictetus
(see Dr. T. K. Abbott on ver. 15 of this chapter), (iii) The use of
the present tense is explained as dramatic. The Apostle throws
himself back into the time which he is describing.

(y) Another group of writers, Methodius (ob. 310 a.d.), Augustine
an^ the Latin Fathers generally, the Reformers especially on the
Calvinistic side, refer the passage rather to the regenerate, (i) An
opposite set of expressions is quoted, /iio-co [ro KaK6v\ ver. 15, ^«'^a>
TTotfii/ TO KoKov ver. 21, awTj^ofxai tui vopa vcr. 22. It is Said that these
are inconsistent with the unTjWoTpiMfxevoL Ka\ ix^poi of Col. i. 2i and
with descriptions like that of Rom. viii. 7, 8. (ii) Stress is laid on
the present tenses : and in proof that these imply a present experi-
ence, reference is made to passages like i Cor. ix. 27 vT:<iiTnci((i) p-ov
TO <T<op.a Koi SovXaywyco. That even the regenerate may have this
mixed experience is thought to be proved, e.g. by Gal. vi. 17.

Clearly there is a double strain of language. The state of things
described is certainly a conflict in which opposite forces are struggling
for the mastery.

Whether such a state belongs to the regenerate or the unre-
generate man seems to push us back upon the further question,
What we mean by ' regenerate.' The word is used in a higher and
a lower sense. In the lower sense it is applied to all baptized
Christians. In that sense there can be little doubt that the
experience described may fairly come within it.

But on the other hand, the higher stages of the spiritual life seem
to be really excluded. The sigh of relief in ver. 25 marks a dividing
line between a period of conflict and a period where conflict is
practically ended. This shows that the present tenses are in any
case not to be taken too literally. Three steps appear to be
distinguished, (i) the life of unconscious morality (ver. 9), happy,
but only from ignorance and thoughtlessness ; (ii) then the sharp
collision between law and the sinful appetites waking to activity ;
(iii) the end which is at last put to the stress and strain of this
collision by the intervention of Christ and of the Spirit of Christ, of
which more will be said in the next chapter. The state there
described is that of the truly and fully regenerate ; the prolonged
struggle which precedes seems to be more rightly defined as in^er
regeiierandum (Gif. after Dean Jackson).

Or perhaps we should do better still to refuse to introduce so
technical a term as * regeneration ' into a context from which it is
wholly absent. St. Paul, it is true, regarded Christianity as operating


a change in man. But here, whether the moment described is
before or after the embracing of Christianity, in any case abstraction
is made of all that is Christian. Law and the soul are brought face
to face with each other, and there is nothing between them. Not
until we come to ver. 25 is there a single expression used which
belongs to Chrisiianiiy. And the use of it marks that the conflict
is ended.

(2) As to the further question whether St. Paul is speaking oi
himself or of ' some other man ' we observe that the crisis which is
described here is not at least the same as that which is commonly
known as his ' Conversion.' Here the crisis is moral ; there it was
in the first instance intellectual, turning upon the acceptance of
the proposition that Jesus was truly the Messiah. The decisive
point in the conflict may be indeed the appropriation of Christ
through His Spirit, but it is at least not an intellectual conviction,
such as might exist along with a severe moral struggle. On the
other hand, the whole description is so vivid and so sincere, so
evidently wrung from the anguish of direct personal experience,
that it is difficult to think of it as purely imaginary. It is really
not so much imaginary as imaginative. It is not a literal photo-
graph of any one stage in the Apostle's career, but it is a con.
structive picture drawn by him in bold lines from elements sup-
plied to him by self-introspection. We may well believe that the
regretful reminiscence of bright unconscious innocence goes back
to the days of his own childhood before he had begun to feel the
conviction of Sin. The incubus of the Law he had felt most
keenly when he was a 'Pharisee of the Pharisees.' Without
putting an exact date to the struggle which follows we shall prob-
ably not be wrong in referring the main features of it especially to
the period before his Conversion. It was then that the powerless-
ness of the Law to do anything but aggravate sin was brought
home to him. And all his experience, at whatever date, of the
struggle of the natural man with temptation is here gathered
together and concentrated in a single portraiture. It would
obviously be a mistake to apply a generalized experience like
this too rigidly. The process described comes to different men
at different times and in different degrees ; to one early, to an-
other later ; in one man it would lead up to Christianity, in
another it might follow it; in one it would be quick and sudden,
in another the slow growth of years. We cannot lay down any
rule. In any case it is the mark of a genuine faith to be able to
say with the Apostle, 'Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ
our Lord.' It is just in his manner to sum up thus in a sen-
tence what he is about to expand into a chapter. The break
occurs at a very suitable place : ch. viii is the true conclusion to
ch. viL

VH. 7-25.] LAW AND SIN 1 8;

Sf. Paul's View of the Law,

It was in his view of the Mosaic Law that St. Paul must have

seemed most revolutionary to his countrymen. And yet it would
be a mistake to suppose that he ever lost that reverence for the
Law as a Divine institution in which every Jew was born and bred
and to which he himself was still more completely committed by
his early education as a Pharisee (Gal. i. 14; Phil. iii. 5 f.). This
old feeling of his comes out in emotional passages like Rom. ix. 4
(cf. iii. 2 ; ii. 25, &c.). And even where, as in the section before
us, he is bringing out most forcibly the ineffectiveness of the Law
to restrain human passion the Apostle still lays down expressly
that the Law itself is * holy and righteous and good ' ; and a little
lower down (ver. 14) he gives it the epithet ' spiritual,' which is
equivalent to ascribing to it a direct Divine origin.

It was only because of his intense sincerity and honesty in
facing facts that St. Paul ever brought himself to give up his
belief in the sufficiency of the Law ; and there is no greater proof
of his power and penetration of mind than the way in which,
when once his thoughts were turned into this channel, he followed
out the whole subject into its inmost recesses. We can hardly
doubt that his criticism of the Law as a principle of religion dates
back to a time before his definite conversion to Christianity. The
process described in this chapter clearly belongs to a period when
the Law of Moses was the one authority which the Apostle re-
cognized. It represents just the kind of difficulties and struggles
which would be endured long before they led to a complete shift-
ing of belief, and which would only lead to it then because a new
and a better solution had been found. The apparent suddenness
of St. Paul's conversion was due to the tenacity with which he
held on to his Jewish faith and his reluctance to yield to con-
clusions which were merely negative. It was not till a whole
group of positive convictions grew up within him and showed their
power of supplying the vacant place that the Apostle withdrew his
allegiance, and when he had done so came by degrees to see
the true place of the Law in the Divine economy.

From the time that he came to write the Epistle to the Romans
the process is mapped out before us pretty clearly.

The doubts began, as we have seen, in psychological experience.
With the best will in the world St. Paul had found that really to
keep the Law was a matter of infinite difficulty. However much
it drew him one way there were counter influences which drew
him another. And these counter influences proved the stronger
of the two. The Law itself was cold, inert, passive. It pointed
severely to the path of right and duty, but there its function


ended ; it gave no help towards the performance of that which it
required. Naj'. by a certain strange perversity in human nature,
it seemed actually to provoke to disobedience. The very fact
that a thing was forbidden seemed to make its attractions all the
greater (Rom. vii. 8). And so the last stale was worse than the
first. The one sentence in which St. Paul sums up his experience
of Law is Sia vonov f'lriyvcoa-ii cifiapTiat (Rom. iii. 2o). Ils effect
therefore was only to increase the condemnation : it multiplied sin
(Rom. V. 2o); it worked wrath (Rom. iv. 15); it brought man-
kind under a curse (Gal. iii. 10).

And this was equally true of the individual and of the race ; the
better and fuller the law the more glaring was the contrast to the
practice of those who lived under it. The Jews were at the head
of all mankind in their privileges, but morally they were not much
better than the Gentiles. In the course of his travels St. Paul was
led to visit a number of the scattered colonies of Jews, and when
he compares them with the Gentiles he can only turn upon them
a biting irony (Rom, ii. 17-29).

The truth must be acknowledged ; as a system, Law of what-
ever kind had failed. The breakdown of the Jewish Law was
most complete just because that law was the best. It stood out
in history as a monument, revealing the right and condemning
the wrong, heaping up the pile of human guilt, and nothing
more. On a large scale for the race, as on a small scale for the
individual, the same veidict held, Sta vofiov (Triyvctxrn afiapTins.

Clearly the fault of all this was not with the Law. The fault
lay in the miserable weakness of human nature (Rom. viii. 3).
The Law, as a code of commandments, did all that it was intended
to do. But it needed to be supplemented. And it was just this
supplementing which Christianity brought, and by bringing it set
the Law in its true light and in its right place in the evolution of
the Divine plan. St. Paul sees spread before him the whole ex-
panse of history. The dividing line across it is the Coming of
the Messiah. All previous to that is a period of Law — first of
imperfect law, such law as was supplied by natural religion and
conscience ; and then of relatively perfect law, the law given by
God from Sinai. It was not to be supposed that this gift of law
increased the sum of human happiness. Rather the contrary.
In the infancy of the world, as in the infancy of the individual,
there was a blithe unconsciousness of right and wrong ; impulse
was followed wherever it led ; the primrose path of enjoyment
had no dark shadow cast over it. Law was this dark shadow.
In proportion as it became stricter, it deepened the gloom. If
law had been kept, or where law was kept, it brought with it
a new kind of hajipiness; but to a serious spirit like St. Paul's
it seemed as if tlie law was never kept— never satisfactorily


kept — at all. There was a Rabbinical commonplace, a stern
rule of self-judgement, which was fatal to peace of mind : ' Who-
soever shall keep the whole law and yet stumble in one point,
he is become guilty of all' (Jas. ii. 10; cf. Gal. iii. 16; Rom.
X. 5). Any true happiness therefore, any true relief, mu'^t be
sought elsewhere. And it was this happiness and refief winch
St. Paul sought and found in Christ. The last verse of ch. vii
marks the point at which the great burden which lay upon the
conscience rolls away; and the next chapter begins with an
uplifting of the heart in recovered peace and serenity ; ' There is
therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.'

Taken thus in connexion with that new order of things into
which it was to pass and empty itself, the old order of Law had at
last its difficulties cleared away. It remained as a stage of
salutary and necessary discipline. All God's ways are not bright
upon the surface. But the very clouds which He draws over the
heavens will break in blessings ; and break just at that moment
when their darkness is felt to be most oppressive. St. Paul him-
self saw the gloomy period of law through to its end {reXu^ yap

pofiov XpitTTos fls 8iKaio(TVvrjv nai>T\ tco innTfvnvTt Rom. X. 4) > S^'^d

his own pages reflect, better than any other, the new hopes and
energies by which it was succeeded.


VIII. 1-4. The result of Christ's interposition is to
dethrone Sin from its tyranny in the human heart, and to
itistal in its stead the Spirit of Christ. This what the
Law of Moses tried to do but failed ^ the Incarnation has

' This being so, no verdict of * Guilty ' goes forth any longer
against the Christian. He lives in closest union with Christ.
* The Spirit of Christ, the medium of that union, with all its life-
giving energies, enters and issues its laws from his heart, dis-
possessing the old usurper Sin, putting an end to its authority and
to the fatal results which it brought with it. ' For where the old
system failed, the new system has succeeded. The Law of Moses
could not get rid of Sin. The weak place in its action was that
our poor human nature was constantly tempted and fell. But now
God Himself has interposed by sending the Son of His love to


take upon Him that same human nature with all its attributes
except sin : in that nature He died to free us from sin : and this
Death of His carried with it a verdict of condemnation against Sin
and of acquittal for its victims; * so that from henceforth what the
Law lays down as right might be fulfilled by us who regulate our
lives not according to the appetites and passions of sense, but at
the dictates of the Spirit.

1 flf. This chapter is, as we have seen, an expansion of x^pw 'p
6e&) 8ia 'lr]aoii Xpiarov rov Kvplov fjfxwv in the last verse of ch. vii. It
describes the innermost circle of the Christian Life from its begin-
ning to its end — that life of which the Apostle speaks elsewhere
(Col. iii. 3) as ' hid with Chi ist in God.' It works gradually up
through the calm exposition and pastoral entreaty of vv. 1-17 to
the more impassioned outlook and deeper introspection of vv. 18-30,
and thence to the magnificent climax of vv. 31-39.

There is evidence that Marcion retained w. i-ii of this chapter, probably
with no very noticealile variation from the text which has come down to us
(we do not know which of the two competing readi gs he had in ver. 10).
TertuUian leaps from viii. 11 to x. 2, implying that much was cut out, but
we cannot determine bow much.

1. KOTdKpifjia. One of the formulae of Justification : KaTaKpivK
and KmaKpiyia are correlative to fiifni&xru, biKalwpa ; both sets of
phrases being properly forensic. Here, however, the phrase rolt
(V X. 'I. which follows shows that the initial stage in the Christian
career, which is in the strictest sense the stage of Justification, has
been left behind and the further stage of union with Christ has
succeeded to it. In this stage too there is the same freedom from
condemnation, secured by a process which is explained more fully
in ver. 3 (cf. vi. 7-10). The KaraKpia-is which used to fall upon the
sinner now falls upon his oppressor Sin.

\i-f\ Kard o-dpKa ■nepiirarovcriv, dXXd KaTcl -xrvtvyia. An interpolation
introduced (from ver. 4) at two steps: the first clause ^fj xard naprca irtpiira-
Tovaiv in AD*" 137, fm Vulg. Pesh. Goth. Arm., Bas. Chrys. ; the second
clause aXXai /card Trvfviua in the mass of later authorities N' D"^ E K L P &c. ;
the older uncials with the Es^'yptian and Ethiopic Versions, the Latin Version
of Origen and perhaps Origen himself with a fourth-century dialogue attri-
buted to him, Athanasins and others omit both.

2. 6 v6\ios Tou rii'cufiaTos = the authority exercised by the Spirit.
We have had the same somewhat free use of vofios in the last
chapter, esp. in ver. 236 v6pos tov vo6?, 6 vofios t^s Apaprias : it is no
longer a ' code ' but an authority producing regulated action such
as would be produced by a code.

Totj n»'€u}iaTos T»is SwTJs. Thc gcu. cxprcsscs the ' eflTect wrought '
(Gif.), but it also expresses more : the Spirit brings life because it
essentially is life.


iy XpioT5'lr](j-ou goes with ^Xeu^epwo-e : the authority of the Spirit
operating through the union with Christ, freed me. &c. For the
phrase itself see on ch. vi. ii

■f[\ivQ(pw<r( (At. A small group of important authorities v^^ B F G,
m Pesh , Tert. 1/2 vel potius 2/2 Chrys. codd.) has tj fvOipwaiv ae. Tlie
combination of N B with Latin and Syriac authorities shows that this readintj
must be extremely early, going back to the time before the Western text
diverged from the main body. Still it can hardly be right, as the second
person is nowhere suggested in the context, and it is more probable that at
is only a mechanical repetition of the last syllable of i)\ev9ipajaf (ce).
Br. Hort suggests the omission of both prcnouns (^yuaj aUo being found),
and although the evidence for this is confined to some MSS. of Arm. ito
which Dr. Hort would add 'perhaps' the commentary of Origen as repre-
sented by Rufinus, but this is not certain), it was a very general tendency
among scribes to supply an object to verbs originally without ore. We do
not expect a return to first pers. sing, after rot^ iv X. 'I., and the scanty
evidence for omission may be to some extent paralleled, e.g. by that for the
omission of tvprjKivai in iv. i, for d je in v. 6, or for x^P'^ '''V ®*'? ^'^ '^'•- 25.
But we should hardly be justified in doing more than placing /le in brackets.

A-irb TOO ^ofiou ttjs dfiaprias Kai tou Qavdrou = the authority
exercised by Sin and ending in Death: see on vii. 23, and on
6 v6[x. T. nvfvft, above.

3. ri ydp dSuVaroi' tou fojiou. Two questions arise as to these
words, (i) What is their construction? The common view,
adopted also by Gif. (who compares Eur. Troad. 489), is that they
form a sort of nom. absolute in apposition to the sentence. Gif.
translates, ' the impotence (see below) of the Law being this that,'
&c. It seems, however, somewhat better to regard the words in
apposition not as nom. but as accus.

A most accomplished scholar, the late Mr. James Riddell, in his ' Digest
of Platonic Idioms' {_The Apology of Plato, Oxford, 1877, p. 122), lays down
two propositions about constructions like this: ' (i) These Noun-Phrases and
Neuter-Pronouns are Accusatives. The prevalence of the Neuter Gender
makes this difficult to prove ; but such instances as are decisive afford an
analogy for the rest: Theaet. 153 C km tovtois ruv KuXoipiuva, dvayKa^cu
rrpoa0ipa^aiv k.t.X. Of. Soph. 0. T. 603 koX tuiiK e^eyxov . . . irfu^ou, and
the Adverbs dpxfiv, aKixriv, ttjv irpujTrjv, &c. (ii) They represent, by Appo-
sition or Substitution, iAe sentence itself. To say, that they are Cognate
Accusatives, or in Apposition with the (unexpressed) Cognate Accus., would
be inadequate to the facts. For (i) in most of the instances the sense points
out that the Noun-Phrase or Pronoun stands over against the sentence, or
portion of a sentence, as a whole; (2) in many of them, not the internal
force but merely the rhetorical or logical form of the sentence is in view. It
might be said that they are Predicates, while the sentence itself is the
Subject.' [Examples follow, but that from Theaet. given above is as clear
as any.] This seems to criticize by anticipation the view of Va., who regards
^h dhiv. as accus. but practically explains it as in apposition to a cognate
accus. which is not expressed : ' The impossible thing of the Law . . . God
[effected ; that is He] condemned sin in the flesh.' It is true that an apt
parallel is quoted from a Cor. vi. 13 t^v 8e avrfiv dvrtfitadiav ir\aTw9r)Tf
Ka\ vnih ; but this would seem to come under the same rule. The argument
that if r^ dbvv. had been accus. it would probably have stood at the end of


the KDtence, like t^i' XoyiK^v Xarpftav vftSiv in Rom. xii. T, appears to be
refuted by tov KoXocpSiva in Theaet. above. Win. Gr. § xxxii. 7, p. 390 E. T.
while recof^nizing the accus. use (§ lix. 9, p, 6O9 E. T.), seem* to prefer to
take rb alvv. as nom. So too Mey. Lips. &c.

(2) Is ro atvv. active or passive ? Gif., after Fri. (cf. also Win.
ut sup.) contends for the formei, on the ground that if ahvv. were
passive it should be followed by tw v6\xm not toC v6\iov. Tertullian
\De Res. Carn. 46) gives the phrase an active sense and retains the
gen., quod invalidum erat legis. But on the other hand if not Origen
himself, at least Rufinus the translator of Origen has a passive
rendering, and treats tov v6^j.ov as practically equivalent to ra v6\j.<^ :
quod impossibile erat legi*. Yet Rufinus himself clearly uses
ivipossibilis in an active sense in his comment ; and the Greek of
Origen, as given in Cramer's Catena, p. 125, appears to make to

ahvv. active : acrnep yap f] dp(Tt) iSia <f)vaei Itrxvpd, ovto) koi fj Kaxla Kai
ra ajT airrji aadevrj Kui ddvuara , . , tou toiovtov vopov i} (pvais ddvvaros

«Wt. Similarly Cyr.-Alex. (who finds fault with the structure of the
sentence) : t6 dSiivarov^ Tovrfcm t6 daSevovv. Vulg. and Cod. Clarom.
are slightly more literal: quod impossibile erat legis. The gen. might
mean that there was a spot witian the range or domain of Law
marked 'impossible,' a portion of the field which it could not
control. On the whole the passive sense appears to us to be more
in accordance with the Biblical use of dhdv. and also to give a some-
what easier construction : if to dbvv. is active it is not quite a simple
case of apposition to the sentence, but must be explained as a sort
of nom. absolute (' The impotence of the Law being this that,' &c.,
Gif.), which seems rather strained. But it must be confessed that
the balance of ancient authority is strongly in favour of this way of
taking the words, and that on a point — the natural interpretation of
language— where ancient authority is especially valuable.

An induction from the use of LXX and N. T. would seem to show that
6.i\ivaroi masc. and fern, was always active (so twice in N. T., twenty-two
times [3 w. II.J in LXX, Wisd. xvii. 14 rrjV abwarov ovtws vvKra koI i^
ildwnTov (itSov fivx<^v iTfXOoiiaav, being alone somewhat .imbiguous and
peculiar), while aHv. neut. was always passive (so five times in LXX, seven
in N. T.). It is true that the exact phrase t^ ahviarov does not occur, but
in Luke xviii. 37 we have rd. dSifara irapa di'dpuiron dvvaTa ivrt irapci ry ©€y.

Iv w : not * because ' (Fri. Win. Mey. Alf ), but ' in which ' or
* wherein,' defining the point in which the impossibility (inability)
of the Law consisted. For fjo-dfvd did t^s aapKos comp. vii. 22, 33.
The Law points the way to what is right, but frail humanity is
tempted and falls, and so the Law's good counsels come to nothing.

Tot- ^auTou uloi'. The emphatic eavTov brings out the community
of nature between the Father and the Son : cf. tov idiov viov ver. 3a;

r»v vlov r^s dyunrjs avrov Col. i. 1 3.

* The text it not free from suspicioik


iy 6ftoi(>)fi.aTi aapK&s dfiaprias : the flesh of Christ is ' like ' oura
inasmuch as it is flesh ; ' like,' and only ' lilce,' because it is not
sinful: ostendit nos qut'dem habere carnem peccati, Filiiim vero Dei
timilitudinem habuisse c amis pec c ah, non carnem pecca/i {Ong.'\a.L).

Pfleiderer and Holsten contend that even the flesh of Christ was
•sinful flesh,' i.e. capable of sinning ; but they are decisively refuted
by Gif. p. 165. Neither the Greek nor the argument requires tiiat
the flesh of Christ shall be regarded as sinful fleshy though it is

Online LibraryW. (William) SandayA critical and exegetical commentary on the Epistle to the Romans → online text (page 37 of 71)