W. (William) Sanday.

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

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much St. Paul does say, and how much he does not. He never
says, he carefully avoids saying, that God has created men for
reprobation. What his argument would bear is that, supposing
we isolate this point, the ' rights ' of man against God or of God
against man, then, even if God had created man for reprobation,
man could have no grounds for complaint.


We must in fact remember — and it is quite impossible to under-
stand St. Paul if we do not — that the three chapters ix-xi form
one very closely reasoned whole. Here more than anywhere else
in his writings, more clearly even than in i. i6 — iii. 26, does St. Paul
show signs of a definite method. He raises each point separately,
argues it and then sets it aside. He deliberately isolates for a time
the aspect under discussion. So Mr. Gore (<?/>. cit. p. 37): 'His
method may be called abstract or ideal : that is to say, he makes
abstraction of the particular aspect of a subject with which he is
immediately dealing, and — apparently indifferent to being misun-
derstood — treats it in isolation; giving, perhaps, another aspect of
the same subject in equal abstraction in a different place.' He
isolates one side of his argument in one place, one in another,
and just for that very reason we must never use isolated texts.
We must not make deductions from one passage in his writings
separated from its contexts and without modifying it by other
passages presenting other aspects of the same questions. The
doctrinal deductions must be made at the end of chap, xi and not
of chap. ix.

St. Paul is gradually working out a sustained argument. He
has laid down the principle that God may choose and reject whom
He wills, that He may make men for one purpose or another just
as He wills, and if He will in quite an arbitrary manner. But it is
already pointed out that this is not His method. He has shown
long-suffering and forbearance. Some there were whom He had
created, that had become fitted for destruction — as will be shown
eventually, by their own act. These He has borne with — both
for their own sakes, to give them room for repentance, and be-
cause they have been the means of exhibiting His mercy on those
whom He has prepared for His glory. The Apostle lays down
the lines of the argument he will follow in chap. xi.

The section concludes with a number of quotations from the
O. T., introduced somewhat irregularly so far as method and
arrangement go, to recall the fact that this Divine plan, which we
shall find eventually worked out more fully, had been foretold by
the O. T. Prophets.

(The argument of Rom. ix-xi is put for English readers in the
most accessible and clearest form by Mr. Gore in the paper often
quoted above in Studia Biblica, iii. 37, * The argument of Romans

The Relation of St. Paul's Argument in chap, ix
to the Book of Wisdom.

In a note at the end of the first chapter of the Romans the very marked
resemblance that exists between St. Paul's language there and certain


passages in the Book of Wisdom has been pointed out. Again in the ninth
chapter the same resemblance meets us, and demands some slight treatment
in this place. The passages referred to occur mostly in Wisdom xi, xii.

There is first of all similarity of subject. Wisdom x-xix form like
Rom. ix-xi a sort of Philosophy of History. The writer devotes himself to
exhibiting Wisdom as a power in the world, and throughout (influenced
perhaps by associations connected with the place of his residence i contrasts
the fortunes of the Israelites and Egyptians, just as St Paul makes Moses
*nd Pharaoh his two typical instances.

And this resemblnnce is continued in details.

The impossibility of resisting the Divine power is more than once dwelt
on, and in language which has a very close resemblance with passages in the

Rom. ix. jg, 20 (peis HOI ovv,'IieTt Wisd. xi. ai Kai icparu fipaxiovos

ftefxipfTai; ry 70/) fiovXrifxaTt avrov aov ris dvTtaTrjaeTat;
Tti dvOfaTTjKe; . . . //t) ipei ri xii. 12 ris jdpepft, Ti firolrjaas; JJ

irXafffja to) nKdaavTi, T» /*€ iiroi- tis dvriffTrjcrfTai rS> Kpinari aov;
tjaas ovrotfs ; tjj 5 J (fKaXicrei aoi Hard idvSiv dijoko)-

XuTUVy h ah inoiTjaas ; fj tU fis Kara-
araaiv act f\ivaiTai I/coikos xard dSt-
Kuv dvdpwrronf ;

Both writers again lay great stress on the forbearance of God.

Rom. ix. 33, 33 €£ SJ $f\uv 6 Wisd. xii. 10 Kpivuv Si nard (ipa\ii

©eoy (vSei^aaOai ttjv opyfjv Koi iSt'Souj t6ttqv /xeravoiai.
yfojplaai rd Svyarov avrov ■qveyicfv xii. 30 (I yap ix^P^^^ iralSuv aov koj

iv TToWfi fioKpoOvfiia antvr] opyrjs i<pet\ofievovs 6avdrq> fierd roaav-
Karrjpna jxiva «ij dTrw\eiav, njj fTt/xuprjaas npoaoxyjs Kai Scfjaews,
K(ii i'fa jvwp'iar} rbv rrXovrov rrjs 6of jjj ioiis XP'^^'^^^ *''' towov Si S)v diraX-
avrov ivl aiavrj kXiovs K.r.K. \aywat tjjs Kattiat, pifrd v6ar]i ditpi-

$elas (Kpivas rovs vlovs aov ;

So again we have the image of the potter used by both, although neither
the context nor the purpose is quite similar.

Rom. ix. 31 ^ oiiK €X« i^ovalav Wisd. xv. 7 Koi ydp «<pa/xei>i dira-

i KfpafJievs rod irriXov, (K tow X^v y^v 0\'tfiwv fninoxdov nXdaaei irpiji
avrov (pvpa^aros voirjaai b Htv clt btnjptaiav ^/xaiv (Kaarov aX\' ix rov
Ti/x^f axfvos, t Si fit dri/uW; avrov irrjKov dvfrrXdaaTO t& n rwv

maOapwv tpyeuv dovka aiecvr], r& t«
ivavria, wavO' dfioiws' rovrcov 5J kripov
Tis indaTov iarlv 4 XPW^h tp^f^i ^

The particular resemblance of ipecial passages and of the general drift of
the argument combined with similar evidence from other parts of the Epistle
seems to suggest some definite literary obligation. But here the indebted-
ness ceases. The contrast is equally instructive. The writer of the Book of
Wisdom uses broad principles without understanding their meaning, is often
self contradictory, and combines with ideas drawn from his Hellenic culture
crude and inconsistent views. The problem is the distinction between the
positions of Jews and Gentiles in the Divine economy. Occasionally we
find wide universalist sentiments, but he always comes back to a strong
nationalism. At one time he says (xi. 33-26) : ' But Thou hast mercy upon
all . . . Thou lovest all the things that are, and abhorrest nothing which
Thou hast made . . . Thou sparest all : for they are Thine, O Lord, Thou
Lover of souls.' But shortly after we read (xii. 10) : ' Thou gavest them
place for repentance, not being ignorant that their cogitation would never
be changed.' We soon find in fact that the philosophy of the Book of
Wisdom is strictly limited by the nationalist sympathies of the writer. The


Gentiles are to be punished by God for being enemies of His people and for
their idolatry. Any forbearance has lieen only for a time and that largely
for the moral instruction thus indirectly to be given to the Jews. The Jews
have been ])unii.hed, — but only slightly, and with the purpose of teaching
them : the Gentiles for their idolatry deserve ' extreme damnation.'

If St. Paul learnt from the Book of Wisdom some expressions illustrating
the Divine power, and ageneral aspect of the question: he obtained nothing
further. His broad views and deep insight are his own. And it is interest-
ing to contrast a Jew who has learnt many maxims which conflict with his
nationalism but yet retains all his narrow sympathies, with the Christian
Apostle full of broad sympathy and deep insight, who sees in human af-
fairs a purpose of God for the benefit of the whole world being worked out.

A History of the Interpretation of Rom. ix. 6-29.

The difficulties of the ninth chapter of the Romans are so great that few
will ever be satisfied that they have really understood it : at any rate an
acquaintance with the history of exegesis upon it will make us hesitate to be
too dogmatic about our own conclusions A survey <>f some of the niore
typical lines of comment (nothing more can be attempted) will l)e a fitting
supplement to the general discussion given above on its meaning.

The earliest theologians who attempted to construct a system out of Gnostics
St. Paul's writings were the Gnostics. They found the Epistle to the Ro-
mans, or to speak more correctly certain texts and ideas selected from the
Epistle (such as Rom. v. 14 and viii. 19 ; cf. Hip. Ref. vii. 25) and generally
misinterpreted, very congenial. And, as might naturally be expected, the
doctrine of election rigidly interpreted harmonized with their own exclusive
religious pretensions, and with the key-word of their system ipvais. We are
not surprised therefore to learn that Rom. ix., especially ver. 14 sq., was one
of their strongholds, nor do we require to be told how they interpreted it
(see Origen De Princ. HI. li. 8, vol. xxi. p. 267, ed. \^oxam.=Philoc. xxi.
vol. xxv. p. 170; Coinm. in Rom. Praef. p. i; and T&x\.. Adv.
Marcion. ii. 14).

The interest of the Gnostic system of interpretation is that it determined Origen
the direction and purpose of Origen, who discusses the passage not only in
his Commentary, written after 244 (vii. 15-18, vol. vii. pp. 160-180), but
also in the third book of the De Principiis, written before 231 {De Prin.
III. ii. 7-22, vol. xxi. pp. 265-303 = /'/«7('r. xxi. vol. xxv. pp. 164-190), be-
sides some few other passages. His exege.sis is throughout a strenuous
defence of freewill. Exegetically the most marked feature is that he puts
vv. 14-19 into the mouth of an opponent of St. Paul, an interpretation
which influenced subsequent patristic commentators. Throughout he
states that God calls men because they are worthy, not that they are
wortliy because they are called ; and that they are worthy because they
have made themselves so. Cf. ad Rom. vii. 17 (Lomm. vii. 175) Ut
enim lacob esset vas ad honorem sanctificatum, ei utile Domino, ad
omtie opus honum parattim. anima f.ius emenoaverat semet ipsam :
et videns Dens puritatem eius, et potestatein hahens ex eadem massa
facere aliud vas ad honorem, alit/d ad contnmeliani, lacob qttideni, qui
ut diximus einiuidaverat semet ipsuin, fecit vas ad honorem, Esau


ex eadem massa fecit vas ad contumcliam. To the question that may be
asked, how or when did they make themselves such, the answer is, ' In
a state of pre-existence.' De Princ. II. ix. 7, Lomm. xxi. 225 it^itur sicut
de Esau et lacoh diiigetttius perscrutatis scripttiris invcnitur, quia non est
iniustitiaapud Detiiii ... si EX PRAECF.nENTis videlicet vitak meritis
digne eum elcctum esse sentiamus a Deo, iia ut fratri praeponi mereretur



See also III. i. ai. Lomm. xxi. 300. The hardening of Pharaoh's heart he
explains by the simile of rain. The rain is the same for all, but under its
inrtuence well-cultivated fields send forth good crops, ill-cultivated fields
thistles, &c. (cf. Heb. vi. 7, 8\ So it is a man's own soul which hardens
itself by refusing to yield to the Divine grace. The simile of the potter he
explains by comparing 2 Tim. ii. 20, 21. 'A soul which has not cleansed
itself nor purged itself of its sins by penitence, becomes thereby a vessel for
dishonour. And God knowing the character of the souls He has to deal
with, although He does not foreknow their future, makes use of them — as
for example Pharaoh — to fulfil that part in history which is necessary for
His purpose.
Influence Origen's interpretation of this passage, with the exception of his doctrine

oi Origen of pre-existence, had a very wide influence both in the East and West. In
the West his interpretation is followed in the main by Jerome (^Epist. 120
ad Hedibiam de quaestionibus 12, cap. 10, Migne xxii. 997\ by Pelagins
(Migne xxx. 687-691), and .Sedulius Scotus (Migne ciii. 83-93). In the East,
alter its influence had prevailed for a century and a half, it became the
starting-point of the Antiochene exegesis. Of this school Diodore is un-
fortunately represented to us only in isolated fragments; Theodore is strongly
influenced by Origen; Chrysostom therefore may be taken as its best and most
distinguished representative. His comment is contained in the XVIth homily
on the Romans, written probably before his departure from Antioch, that is
before the year 398.
^hrysos- Chrysostom is like Origen a strong defender of Freewill, As might be

lom. expected in a member of the Antiochene school, he interprets the passage in

accordance with the purpose of St. Paul, i.e. to explain how it was the Jews
had been rejected. He refers ver. 9 to those who have become true sons of
God by Baptism. ' You see then that it is not the children of the flesh that
are the children of God, but that even in nature itself the generation by
means of Baptism from above was sketched out beforehand. And if you
tell me of the womb, I have in return to tell you of the water.* On ver. 16
he explains that Jacob was called because he was worthy, and was known to
be such by the Divine foreknowledge : i) Kar kukoyrjv rrpuOeaiS tov @(ov is
explained as 17 eK\oy^ fj Kara irpuOtatv Kal npoyvcuaiv ytvonivT]. On vv. 14-20
Chrysostom does not follow Origen, nor yet does he interpret the verses as ex-
pressing St. Paul's own mind ; but he represents him in answer to the objection
that in this case God would be unjust, as putting a number of hard cases and
texts which his antagonist cannot answer and thus proving that man has no right
to object to God's action, or accuse Him of injustice, since he cannot understand
or follow Him. ' What the blessed Paul aimed at was to show by all that
he said that only God knoweth who are worthy.' Verses 20, 21 are not
introduced to take away Freewill, but to show up to what point we ought
to obey God. For if he were here speaking of the will, God would be
Himself the creator of good or evil, and men would be free from all
responsibility in these matters, and St. Paul would be inconsistent with
himself What he does teach is that ' man should not contravene God, but
yield to His incomprehensible wisdom.* On vv. 22-24 he says that Pharaoh
has been fitted for destruction by his own act ; that God has left undone
nothing which should save him, while he himself had left undone nothing
\\ hich would lead to his own destruction. Yet God had borne with him with
preat long-suffering, wishing to lead him to repentance. ' Whence comes
it then that some are vessels of wrath, and some of mercy ? Of their own
free choice. God however being very good shows the same kindness to both.*
The commentaries of Chrysostom became supreme in the East, and very
largely influenced all later Greek commentators, Theodoret (sec. v), Photius
(sec. ix), Oecumenius (sec. x), Theophylact (sec. xi), Euthymius Zigabenus
(sec. xii), &c


The tradition of the Greek commentators is preserved in the Russian Church. Russian
Modern Sclavonic theology presents an interesting subject for study, as it is comment'
derived directly from Chrysoslom and John of Damascus, and has hardly aries.
been Uluminated or obscured by the strong, although often one-sided, influ-
ence of Augustine and Western Scolasticism. In the Commentary of Bishop
Theophanes* on the Romans (he died in 1894) published at Moscow in
1890, we find these characteristics very clearly. Just as in Chrysostom we
find the passage interpreted in accordance not with d priori theories as to
Grace and Predestination, but with what was clearly St. Paul's purpose, the
problem of the ' Unbelief of the Jews in the presence of Christianity.* And
also as in Chrysostom we find w. 11, 12 explained on the grounds of Fore-
knowledge, and Pharaoh's destruction ascribed to his own act. On ver. 18 :
' The word " he hardeneth "must not be understood to mean that God by His
power effected a hardening in the heart of the disobedient like Pharaoh, but
that the disobedient in character, under the working of God's mercies, them-
selves, according to their evil character do not soften themselves, but more and
more harden themselves in their obstinacy and disobedience.' So again
on w. 32, 23 : ' God prepared the one to be vessels of mercy, the others
fashioned themselves into vessels of wrath.' And the commentary on these
verses concludes thus : ' Do not be troubled and do not admit of the thought
that there is any injustice, or that the promise has failed ; but on the contrary
believe, that God in all his works is good and right, and rest yourselves in
devotion to His wise and for us unsearchable destinations and divisions.*
There is, in fact, a clear conception of the drift and purpose of St. Paul's
argument, but a fear of one-sided predestination teaching makes a complete
grasp of the whole of the Apostle's meaning impossible.

The commentary generally quoted under the name of Ambrosiaster has an Augcstin*
interest as containing probably the earliest correct exposition of w. 14-19.
But it is more convenient to pass at once to St. Augustine. His exposition
of this passage was to all appearance quite independent of that of any of his

The most complete exposition of the ninth chapter of Romans is found in
the treatise Ad Simplicianum, i. qu. 2, written about the year 397, and all the
leading points in this exposition are repeated in his last work, the Opus
itfiperfectum contra lulianum, i. 141. The main characteristics of the
commentary are that ( i ) he ascribes vv. 14-19 to St. Paul himself and considers
that they represent his own opinions, thus correcting the false exegesis of Origen
and Chrysostom, and (2) that he takes a view of the passage exactly opposite
to that of the latter. The purpose of St. Paul is to prove that works do
not precede grace but follow it, and that Election is not based on foreknowledge,
for if it were based on foreknowledge then it would imply merit. Ad Simplie.
\. qu. 2, § 2 Ut scilicet non se quisque arbitretur ideo pcrcepisse gratiam, quia
bene operatus est ; sed bene operari non posse, nisi per fidem perceperit
gratiam ... § 3 Prima est igitur gratia, secunda opera bona. The instance
of Jacob and Esau proves that the gift of the Divine grace is quite gratuitous
and independent of luiman merit — that grace in fact precedes faith. § 7 Nemo
enim credit qui non vacatur . . . Ergo ante omne merit um est gratia. Even
the will to be saved must come from God. Nisi eius vocatione non volumus.
And again : § i o Noluit ergo Esau et non cucurrit : sed et si voluisset et cucur^
risset, Dei adiutoiio pcrveiiisset, qui ei etiam velle et currere vocando prae-
staret, nisi vocaiiunis conteiiipiu reprobus fieret. It is then shown that God
can call whom He will, if He only wills to make His grace congruous. Why
then does He not do so ? The answer lies in the incomprehensibility of the
Divine justice. The question whom He will pity and whom He will not

• For a translation of portions of this Commentary, we are indebted to the
kindness of Mr W, J. Birkbeck, of Magdalen College, Oxford.


depends upon the hidden justice of God which no human standard can measure.
J 16 Sit igitur hoc fixutn atque immobile in menie sobria pielati atque stahili
in fide, quod nulla est iniquitas apud Detim : atque ita tenacissime firmissi-
meque a-edatur, id ipsum quod Deus cuius vult miseretur et quern vult obdurat,
hoc est, cuius vult miseretur, et cuius nan vult non miseretur, esse alicuius
occiiltae atque ab humano modulo investigahilis aequilatis: and so again, aequi-
/ate occultissima et ab humanis sensihus remotissima iudicat. God is always
just. His mercy cannot be understood. Those whom He calls, Recalls out of
pity ; those whom He does not. He refuses to call out of justice. It is not merit
or necessity or fortune, but the depths of the wisdom and knowledge of God
which distinguishes vessels of wrath from vessels of mercy. And so it is for
the sake of the vessels of mercy that He postpones the punishment of the
vessels of anger. They are the instruments of the safety of others whom
God pities.

Enough has been said to show the lines of St. Augustine's interpretation.
Although from time to time there might be controversies about his views on
Grace, and there might be a tendency to modify some of the harder sides of
his system, yet his exegesis of this passage, as compared with that of Origen
or Chrysostom, became supreme in the West. It influenced first the exegesis
and doctrine of the Schoolmen, and then that ofthe Reformation and of Calvin.

For the middle ages it may be sufficient to take Abelard (1079-1142) and
Thomas Aquinas (1227-1274). Both were largely influenced by Augustine;
but whereas in the case of Abelard the influence was onl^ indirect, in
Aquinas we have the clearest and most perfect example of the Augustinian

Ab'lard (Migne clxxviiL 911) makes a somewhat strange division of the
Epistle, attaching the exposition of ix. 1-5 to the end of chap. viii. Ha
begins his fourth book with ix. 6. In vv. 6-13 he sees a vindication of the
freedom of the Divine will in conferring grace, but only in relation to Jacob.
' That the election of Jacob,' he says, ' that is the predestination, may remain
unmoved.' The choice t'epends solely on the Divine grace. Verses 14-19 he
explains as the objection of an opponent, to which St. Paul gives an answer,
ver. 20, ' Who art thou?' The answer is a rebuke to the man who would
accuse God of iniquity. God may do what He will with those whom He has
created : imo t?iulto potius Deo licere quocunque modo vohierit creaturam suam
tractare atque disponere, qui obnoxitis nullo tenetur debito, antequam quid-
quam ilia promereatur. Men have no more right to complain than the
animals of their position. There is no injustice with God. He does more
for mankind by the impiety of Judas than by the piety of Peter. Quis enim
fidelium nesciat. quam optime tcsus sit summa ilia impietate ludae, cuius
exsecrabili perditione totius humaiii generis redemptionem est operatus.
Then he argues at some length the question why man should not complain,
if he is not called as others are called to glory ; and somewhat inconsistently
he finds the solution in perseverance. God calls all, He gives grace to all,
but some have the energy to follow the calling, while others are slothful
and neL;ligent, Sic et Deo nobis qiiotidie regnum coelorum offerente, alius
rei^ni ipsiiis desiderio accensus in bonis ferseverat operibus, alius in sua
torpescit ignavia. On vv. 22, 23 he says God bore with the wickedness of
Pharaoh both to give him an opportunity to repent, and that He might use
his crimes for the common good of mankind.

In contrast with the somewhat hesitating and inconsistent character of
Abelard's exposition, Aquinas stands out as one of the best and clearest com-
mentaries writtc n from the Augustmian standpomt. The modern reader must
learn to accustom himself to the thoroughness with which each point is
discus-ed, and the minuteness of the sub divisions, but from few exponents will
he gain so much insight into the philosophical questions discussed, or Mm
logical difliculties the solution of which is attempted.


The pnrpose of tlie section is, he says, to discuss the origin of Grace, to do
which the Apostle makes use of the opportunity afforded by the difficulties
implied in the rejection of the Jews. Apostolus supra necessitatem et vir-
tutemgratiae demonstravit : hie incipitagere de origine gratiae, utrum ex sola
Dei electione dettir. aut detur ex meritis ptaecedenthtm operum, occasiofie
accepta ex eo, quod ludaei qui videbajitur divinis ohsequiis maiicipati, exci-
derant a gratia. In w. 6-13 the errors of the Jews, of the Manichaeans
(who believed that human actions were controlled by the stars which appeared
at the time of their birth), of the Pelagians, of Origen (the pre- existence of
souls) are condemned, and it is shown that God chose men, not because they
were holy, but that they might be holy : unum alteri praeeligtt, nan quia
tanctus erat, sed ut sanctus esset. In w. 14-18 St. Paul shows from Scripture
that there is no injustice either in Predestination or in Reprobation. God
has predestined the just to life for merits which He has Himself conferred on
them, the wicked to destruction for sins whicli come from themselves. Deus
proposuit se puniturum vialos propter peccata, quae a se ipsis hahent non
a Deo. lustos autem proposuit se praeniiaturum propter nierita quae a se
ipsis non habent. All lies in the will of God ; we notice indeed that among

Online LibraryW. (William) SandayA critical and exegetical commentary on the Epistle to the Romans → online text (page 47 of 71)