W. (William) Sanday.

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

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19. dyonrTiTot. Added because of the difficulty of the precept not
to avenge oneself.

86t6 TOTToi' TTj opyf], ' givc room or place to the wrath of God '
Let God's wrath punish. Euthym.-Zig. dWa wapaxoipelTf Trjs ^Si/cij-

aeas Tfi opyfi tov GfoC, rg Kpluei rov Kvpiov. The mcanmg of Sort
Tt'mov is shown by Eph. iv. 27 firjdi BlSoTt ronov tw Sia/3dAw, do not

give scope or place to the devil ; 17 opyfj means the wrath of God :
cf. Rom. v. 9. That this is the right interpretation of the word is
shown by the quotation which follows.

But other inierpretations have been often held : Bore ronov is
translated by some, 'allow space, interpose delay,' i.e. check and
restrain your wrath ; by others, ' yield to the anger of youi


opponent ' : neither of these interpretations suits the context or
the Greek,

yeypairTai ydp. The quotation which follows comes from Deut.
xxxii. 35, and resembles the Hebrew 'Vengeance is mine and
recompense/ rather than the LXX fV rifxepa eKBtKijo-fMs avTawoSwaco :
and the Targum of Onkelos more than either. The words are
quoted in the same form in Heb. x. 30.

20. dXXa 'Edi' Tr€im 6 e'xOpos croo k.t.X. Taken from the LXX ; cf.
Prov. XXV. 21, 22, agreeing exactly with the text of B, but varying
somewhat from that of A N. The term ai'GpaKes iropos clearly means
' terrible pangs or pains,' cf. Ps. cxxxix (cxl). 1 1 (LXX) ; 4 (5) Ezra
xvi. 54 A^on dicat peccalor se non peccasse, qiioniam carbones ignis
tcmburet super caput eiiis qui dicit : Non peccavi coram domirio et
gloria ipsius. But with what purpose are we to ' heap coals of fire
on his head' ? Is it (i) that we may be consoled for our kind act
by knowing that he will be punib-hed for his misdeeds ? This is
impossible, for it attributes a malicious motive, which is quite
inconsistent with the context both here and in the O. T. In the
latter the passage proceeds, ' And the Lord shall reward thee,' im-
plj'ing that the deed is a good one ; here we are immediately told
that we are not to be ' overcome of evil, but overcome evil with
good,' which clearly imphes that we are to do what is for our
enemies' benefit. (2) Coals of fire must, therefore, mean, as most
commentators since Augustine have said, ' the burning pangs of
shame/ which a man will feel when good is returned for evil, and
which may produce remorse and penitence and contrition.
Potest enim fieri ut animus ferus ac barbarus inimici, si seniiat
beneficium nostrum, si humanitatem, si affectum, si pietatem vidcat,
compunctionem cordis capiat, commissi poenitudinem gerat, et ex hoc
ignis in eo quidem succendalur, qui eum pro commissi conscientia
torqueat et adurat : et isti erunt carbofies ^nis, qui super caput eius
ex nostro misericordiae et pietatis opere congregantur, Oiigen.

21. fiT] ciKw OTTO ToO KaKou K.T.X., ' do not allow yourself to be
overcome by the evil done to you and be led on to revenge and
injury, but conquer your enemies' evil spirit by your own good
disposition/ A remark which applies to the passage just con-
cluded and shows St. Paul's object, but is also of more general


XIII. 1-7. The civil power has Divine sanction. Its
functio7is are to promote well-being, to punish not the good
but the wicked. Hence it must be obeyed. Obedience to it is
a Christian duty and deprives it of all its terrors.


St toe you pay tribute because the machinery of govern-
ment is God's ordinance. In this as in all things give to all
their due.

XIII. The Apostle now passes from the duties of the individual
Chrisiian towards mankind in general to his duties in one definite
sphere, namely towards the civil rulers. While we adhere to what
has been said about the absence of a clearly-defined system or
purpose in these chapters, we may notice that one main thread of
thought which runs through them is the promotion of peace in all
the relations of Hfe. The idea of the civil power may have been
suggested by ver. 19 of the preceding chapter, as being one of the
ministers of the Divine wrath and retribution (ver. 4) : at any rate
the juxtaposition of the two passages would serve to remind St.
Paul's readers that the condemnation of individual vengeance and
retaliation does not apply to the action of the state in enforcing
law ; for the state is God's minister, and it is the just wrath of God
which is acting through it.

We have evidence of the nse of w. 8-10 by Marcion (Tert. adv. Marc.
T. 14) Alerito itaque iotatn creatoris disciplinam priiicipali praecepto eitts
C07iclusit, Diliges proximutn tanqnam te. Hoc legis supplementum si ex ipsa
lege est, qtcis sit deus legis iam ignoto. Oa the rest ot the chapter we have
no information.

1. irfio-a iJ/uxT : cf ii. 9. The Hebraism suggests prominently
the idea of individuality. These rules apply to all however privi-
leged, and the question is treated from the point of view of indi-
vidual duty.

eCouaiais : abstract for concrete, 'those in authority'; cf. Luke
xii. II ; Tit. iii. i. uTrepexouVais 'who are in an eminent position,'
defining more precisely the idea of i^ovalais: cf. i Pet. ii. 13;
Wisdom vi. 5.

CnroTaaaiaQui. Notice the repetition of words of similar sound,

vnoraaaeada . . . Terayfievai . . . dvTiTaa-aojifvoe , . . Siarayj, and cf

xii. 3.

oil yAp loTii' efouo-ia k.t.X. The Apostle gives the reason for
this obedience, stating it first generally and positively, then nega-
tively and distributi vely. No human authority can exist except as
the gift of God and springing from Him, and therefore all consti-
tuted powers are ordainecl by Him. The maxim is common in all
Hebrew literature, but is almost always introduced to show how
the Divine power is greater than that of all earthly sovereigns, or
to declare the obligation of rulers as responsible for all they do to
One above them. Wisdom vi. i, 3 dKowuTf <wv, fiaai\fli, kol a-Cvtrt,

fi>d(T( biKaiTTai irfpdTtvv y?js . . ; ort f^oSr) napa tov Kvputv t) Kparrjan
vp.iv Kai fj ivvaare^a nupa vylrlarov : Enoch xlvi. 5 ' And he wiU put

down the kings from their thrones and kingdoms, because they do


not extol and praise him, nor thankfully acknowledge whence the
kingdom was bestowed upon them' : Jos. Bell.Jud. II. viii. 7 to niarov

nape^eiv nacri, fiaXia-Ta 8e rols Kparovaip' ov yap 8ixci Qfov irtpiyivfcrdai

TtM TO apxeiv. St. Paul adopts the maxim for a purpose similar to
that in which it is used in the last instance, that it is the duty of
subjects to obey their rulers, because they are appointed and
ordained by God.

The preponderance of authority (N A B L P and many later MSS., Bas.

Chrys.) is decisive for tl fj.T] iitto Qeov. The Western reading dird Qeov was

^a correction for the less usual expression (DEFG and many later MsS.,

Orig. Jo.-Damasc). The reading of the end of the verse should be al Si

ovaai uTTo Qeov, Tfraynevai elaiy N A B D F G.

2. ware i di'TiTacro-op.ei'os ic.t.X. The logical result of this
theory as to the origin of human power is that resistance to it
is resistance to the ordering of God ; and hence those who resist will
receive /fpl/xa — a judgement or condemnation which is human, for it
comes through human instruments, but Divine as having its origin
and source in God. There is no reference here to eternal punish-

3. ol yap apxot'Teg. The plural shows that the Apostle is
speaking quite generally. He is arguing out the duty of obeying
rulers on general principles, deduced from the fact that ' the state '
exists for a beneficent end ; he is not arguing from the special
condition or circumstances of any one state. The social organism,
as a modern writer might say, is a power on the side of good.

TO) dyaOw epyw : cf. ii. 7 "'"O'S' fifu kuB" vTropoviju epyov dyaOov. In

loth passages epyov is used collectively; there it means the sum
of a man's actions, here the collective work of the state. For the
Bubject cf. I Tim. ii. i, 2 : we are to pray 'for kings and all in
authority that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godli-
ness and honesty.'

The singular rZ ayaOiv epyo) dWcL tZ Kanw is read by K A B D F G P, Boh.
Vulg. (boni operis sed mali), Clem.'- Alex! Iren.-lat. Tert. Orig-lat. Jo.-
Damasc. Later MSS. with EL, Syrr. Arm., Chrys. Thdrt. read tSsv dyaOuiv
ipycuv . . . KaKwv. Hort suggests an emendation of Patrick Young. toD
djaeoepyqi, which has some support apparently from the Aeth. ei qui facit
bonum : but the antithesis with naKw makes this correction improbable.

OeXeis Se . . . egooaiai'; The construction is more pointed if these
words are made a question.

As the state exists for a good end, if 70U lead a peaceable life
you will have nothing to fear from the civil power.

4. 0eou ydp SiaKoi'os €(tti. Fem. tO agree with e'^ova-Ca, which

throughout is almost personified, aoi, ' for thee,' ethical, for thy
advantage, cts to dyaeoi/, ' for the good,' to promote good, existing
for a good end.

T^ fidxaipaf. The sword is the symbol of the executive and
crimuial jurisdiction of a magistrate, and is therefore used of tlw*


power of punishing inherent in the government. So Ulpian
Digest, i. 1 8. 6. § 8 ; Tac. Hist. iii. 68 ; Dio Cassius, xlii. 37.

IkSikos els f>py'\v, ' inflicting punishment or vengeance so as to
exhibit wrath,' namely the Divine wrath as administered by the
ruler who is God's agent (cf. ver. 2 and xii. 19). The repetition of
the phrase Qeov ^kikoiw with both sides of the sentence emphasizes
the double purpose of the state. It exists positively for the well-
being of the community, negatively to check evil by the infliction
of punishment, and both these functions are derived from God.

5. 816 : rulers, because as God's ministers they have a Divine
order and purpose, are to be obeyed, not only because they have
power over men, but also because it is right, 8ia ttjv avielSTjatv (cf.
ii. 15, ix. i). ^

6. 8101 TOUTO Y^P 1^0.'; SC. 8ia TrjV (rvvfihr](Tiv '. * and it is for this
reason also.' St. Paul is appealing to a principle which his readers
will recognize. It is apparently an admitted rule of the Christian
communities that taxes are to be paid, and he points out that the
princifile is thus recognized of the moral duty of obeying rulers.
That he could thus appeal to a recognized practice seems to imply
that the words of our Lord (Luke xx. 20-25) had moulded the
habits of the early Church, and this suggestion is corroborated by
ver. 7 (see ttie longer note below).

XciToupyoi, ' God's ministers.' Although the word is used in
a purely secular sense of a servant, whether of an individual or of
a community (i Kings x. 5; Ecclus. x. 2), yet the very definite
meaning which XeiTovpyos Qeov had acquired (Ecclus vii. 30; Heb.
viii. 2 ; see especially the note on Rom. xv. 16) adds emphasis to
St. Paul's expression.

irpocTKapTepouvTes must apparently be taken absolutely (as in
Xen. I/i'//. VII. V. 14), ' persevering faithfully in their office,' and
CIS auTo TOUTO gives the purpose of the office, the same as that
ascribed above to the state. These words cannot be taken im-
mediately with 7rpo(rKapTfpovvT€s, fof that verb, as in xii. 13, seems
always to govern the dative.

7. St. Paul concludes this subject and leads on to the next by
a general maxim wliich covers all the different points touched
upon : ' Pay each one his due.'

7w Tov' (fopof, sc. dnaiTovpTi. (f,npo<: is the tribute paid by a subject
nation (Luke xx. 22 ; i Mace. x. 33), while reAos represents the
customs and dues which would in any case be paid for the support
of the civil government (Matt. xvii. 25; i Mace. x. 31).

(fiopos is tlie respectful awe which is felt for one who has power
in his hands ; Tt/iiiji/ honour and reverence paid to a ruler : cf. i Pet.

li. I 7 Toi/ Gf'd/ (jyiififitrQc rbv ^aryikta Tifiart.

A Strange interpretation of this verse may be seen in the
Gnostic book entitled HitTTis 2o0ia, p. 294, ed. Schwartze.


The Church and the Civil Power,

The motive which impelled St. Paul to write this section of the

Epistle has (like so manv other quesiions) been discussed at great
length with the object of throwing light on the composition of the
Roman Church. If the opinion which has been propounded already
in reference to these chapters be correct, it will be obvious that
here as elsewhere St, Paul is writing, primarily at any rate, with
a view to the state of the Church as a whole, not to the particular
circumstances of the Roman community : it being recognized at
the same time that questions which agitated the whole Christian
world would be lil;ely to be reflected in what was already an
important centre of Christianity. Whether this opinion be correct
or not must depend partly, of course, on our estimate of the
Epistle as a whole ; but if it be assumed to be so, the character of
this passage will amply support it. There is a complete absence of
any reference to particular circumstances: the language is through-
cut general : ih^re is d itndi£d avoidance of any special terms ;
direct commands such as might arise from particular circumstances
are not given : but general principles applicable to any period or
place are laid down. As elsewhere in this Epistle, St. Paul,
influenced by his past experiences, or by the questions which were
being agitated around him, or by the fear of difficulties which he
foresaw as likely to arise, lays down broad general principles,
applying to the affairs of life the spirit of Christianity as he has
elucidated it.

But what were the questions that were in the air when he wrote ?
There can be no doubt that primarily they would be those
current in the Jewish nation concerning the lawfulness of paying
taxes and otherwise recognizing the authority of a foreign ruler.
When our Lord was asked, ' Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar
or no?* (Matt. xxii. 18 f.; Luke xx. 22 f.), a burning question
was at once raised. Starting from the express command ' thou
mayest not put a foreigner over thee, which is not thy brother '
(Deut. xvii. 15), and from the idea of a Divine theocracy, a large
section of the Jews had refused to recognize or pay taxes to the
Roman government. Judas the Gaulonite, who said that 'the
census was nothing else but downright slavery ' (Jos. Ani. XVIII.
i. 1), or Theudas (ibid. XX. v. i), or Eleazar, who is represented
as saying that * we have long since made up our minds not to
serve the Romans or any other man but God alone ' (^r//. y"/^c/.
VII. viii. 6), may all serve as instances of a tendency which was
very wide spread. Nor was this spirit confined to the Jews of
Palestine ; elsewhere, both in Rome and in Alexandria, riots had
occurred. Nor again was it unlikely that Christianity would be


affected by it. A good deal of the phraseology of the early
Christians was derived from the Messianic prophecies of the
O. T., and these were always liable to be taken in that
purely material sense which our Lord had condemned. The fact
that St. Luke records the question of the disciples, ' Lord, dost
thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel ? ' (Acts i. 6) seems
to imply that such ideas were current, and the incident at Thessalo-
nica, where St. Paul himself, because he preached the * kingdom,'
was accused of preaching ' another king, one Jesus,' shows how
liable even he was to misinterpretation. These instances are quite
sufficient to explain how the question was a real one when St.
Paul wrote, and why it had occupied his thoughts. It is not
necessary to refer it either to Ebionite dualistic views (so Baur),
which would involve an anachronism, or to exaggerated Gentile
ideas of Christian liberty ; we have no record that these were ever
perverted in this direction.

Two considerations may have specially influenced St. Paul to
discuss the subject in his Epistle to the Romans. The first was
the known fact of the turbulence of the Roman Jews ; a fact which
would be brought before him by his intercourse with Priscilla and
Aquila. This may illustrate just the degree of local reference in
the Epistle to the Romans. We have emphasized more than once
the fact that we cannot argue anything from such passages as this
as to the state of the Roman community; but St. Paul would not
write in the air, and the knowledge of the character of the Jewish
population in Rome gained from political refugees would be just
sufficient to suggest this topic. A second cause which would lead
him to introduce it would be the fascination which he felt for the
power and position of Rome, a fascination which has been already
illustrated (Introduction, § i).

It must be remembered that when this Epistle was written the
Roman Empire had never appeared in the character of a persecutor.
Persecution had up to this tune always come from the Jews or from
popular riots. To St. Paul the magistrates who represented
the Roman power had always been associated with order and
restraint. The persecution of Stephen had probably taken place
in the absence of the Roman governor : it was at the hands of the
Jewish king Herod that James the brother of John had perished :
at Paphos, at Thessalonica, at Corinth, at Ephesus, St. Paul had
found the Roman officials a restraining power and all his experience
would support the statements that he makes : ' The rulers are not
a terror to the good work, but to the evil : ' ' He is a minister of
God to thee for good : ' ' He is a minister of God, an avenger for
wrath to him that doeth evil.' Nor can any rhetorical point be
made as has been attempted from the fact that Nero was at thit
time »'ie ruler of the Empire. It may be doubted how far the vices


of a ruler like Nero seriously affected the well-being of th«
provincials, but at any rate when these words were written the
world was enjoying the good government and bright hopes of
Nero's Quinquennium.

The true relations of Christianity to the civil power had been
laid down by our Lord when He had said : * My kingdom is not of
this world,' and again : * Render unto Caesar the things that be
Caesar's and to God the things that be God's.' It is difficult to
believe that St. Paul had not these words in his mind when he
wrote ver. 7, especially as the coincidences with the moral teaching
of our Lord are numerous in these chapters. At any rate, starting
from this idea he works out the principles which must lie at the
basis of Christian politics, that the State is divinely appointed, or
permitted by God ; that its end is beneficent ; and that the spheres
of Church and Slate are not identical.

It has been remarked that, when St. Paul wrote, his experience
might have induced him to estimate too highly the merits of the
Roman government. But although later the relation of the Church
to the State changed, the principles of the Church did not. In
I Tim. ii. I, 2 the Apostle gives a very clear command to pray for
those in authority : ' I exhort therefore, first of all, that supplications,
prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, be made for all men : for
kings and all that are in high place ; that we may lead a tranquil
and quiet life in all godliness and gravity ' ; so also in Titus iii. i
' Put them in mind to be in subjection to rulers, to authorities.'
When these words were written, the writer had to some extent at
any rate experienced the Roman power in a very different aspect.
Still more important is the evidence of i Peter. It was certainly
written at a time when persecution, and that of an official character,
had begun, yet the commands of St. Paul are repeated and with
2ven greater emphasis (i Pet. ii. 13-17).

The sub- Apostolic literature will illustrate this. Clement is writing to the
Corinthians just after successive periods of persecution, yet he includes
a prayer of the character which he would himself deliver, in the as yet
unsystematized services of the day, on behalf of secular rulers. ' Give
concord and peace to us and to all that dwell on the earth . . . while we
render obedience to Thine Almighty and most excellent Name, and to our
rulers and governors upon the earth. Thou, Lord and Master, hast given
them the power of sovereignty through Thine excellent and unspeakable
might, that we, knowing the glory and honour which Thou hast given them,
may submit ouiselves unto them, in nothing resisting Thy will. Grant unto
them therefore, O Lord, health, peace, concord, stability, that they may
administer the government which Thou hast given them without failure.
For Thou, O heavenly Master, King of the ages, givest to the sons of men
glory and honour and power over all things that are upon the earth. Do
Thou, Lord, direct their counsel according to that which is good and well-
pleasing in Thy sight.' Still more significant is the letter of Polycarp, which
was written very shortly after he had met Ignatius on his road to martyrdom ;
n it be emphasizes the Christian custom by combining the command to praj


for rulerg with that to love onr enemies. 'Pray also for kings and powers
and princes and for them that persecute and hate you and for the enemies cf
the cross, that your fruit may be manifest among all men that ye may be
perfect in Ilim.' (Clem. Rom. Ix, Ixi; Poiyc. ad Phil, xii.)

It is not necessary to give further instances of a custom which prevailed
extensively or universally in the early Church. It became a commonplace
of apolof^ists Just. Mart. Apol. i. 1 7 ; Athenagoras, Leg. xxxvii ; Theophilus,
i. 1 1 ; Teitullian, Apol. ?,o, 39, ad Scap. 2 ; Dion. Alex, ap Eus. H. E. VII. xi ;
Arnob. iv. 36) and is found in all liiurgies (cf Const. Ap. viii. 13).

One particular phase in the interpretation of this chapter demands a passing
notice. In the hands of the Jacobean and Caroline divines it was held to
support the doctrine of Passive Obedience. This doctrine has taken a variety
of lorms. Some held that a Monarchy as opposed to a Republic is the only
scriptural form of government, others that a legitimate line alone has this
divine right. A more modified type of this teaching may be represented by
a sermon of Bishop Pierkeley {Passive Obedience or the Christian Doctrine
of not resisting the mipreme power, proved and vindicated upon the principles
of the law of nature in a discourse delivered at the College Chapel, 171 2.
Wo)k5, iii. p. loi). He takes as his text Rom. xiii. 2 'Whosoever resisteth
the Power, resisteth the ordinance of God.' He begins ' It is not my design
to inquire into the particular nature of the government and constitution of
these kingdoms.' He then proceeds by assuming that ' there is in every civil
community, somewhere or other, placed a supreme power of making laws,
and enforcing the observation of them.' His main purpose is to prove that
' Loyalty is a moral virtue, and thou shalt not resist the supreme power,
a rule or law of nature, the least breach whereof hath the inherent stain of
moral turpitude.' And he [daces it on the same level as the commandments
which St. I'aul quotes in this same chapter.

Bishop Berkeley represents the doctrine of Passive Obedience as expounded
in its most philosophical form. But he does not notice the main difhcultj.
St. Paul gives no directions as to what ought to be done when there is
a coi'.flict of authority. In his day there could be no doubt that the rule of
Caesar was supreme and had become legitimate: all that he had to con-
demn was an incorrect view of the 'kingdom of heaven' as a theocracy
established on earth, whether it were held by Jewish zealots or by Christians.
He does not discuss the question, ' if there were two claimants for the
Empire which should be supported?' for it was not a practical difficulty
when he wrote. So Bishop Berkeley, by his use of the expression 'some-
where or other,' equally evades the difficulty. Almost always when there is
a rebellion or a civil war the question at issue is, Who is tlie rightful
governor? which is the power oidained by God ?

But there is a side of the doctrine of Passive Obedience which requires
emphasis, and which was illustrated by the Christianity of the first three
centuries. The early Christians were subject to a power which required
them to do that which was forbidden by their religion. To that extent
and within those limits they could not and did not obey it ; but they never
encouraged in any way resistance or rebellion. In all things indifferent the
Christian conformed to existing law ; he obeyed the law ' not only because of

Online LibraryW. (William) SandayA critical and exegetical commentary on the Epistle to the Romans → online text (page 59 of 71)