W. (William) Sanday.

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

. (page 6 of 71)
Online LibraryW. (William) SandayA critical and exegetical commentary on the Epistle to the Romans → online text (page 6 of 71)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

importance to those of us wiio are willing to accept his testimony
in spiritual things which lie beyond the reach of our personal
experience. Matthew Arnold is limited by the method which he
applies — and which others would no doubt join with him in
a)iplying — to the subjective side of Christianity, the emotions and
efforts which it generates in Christians. But there is a further
question how and why they came to be generated. And in the
answer which St. Paul would give, and which the main body of
Christians very largely on his authority would also give to that
question, he and they alike are led up into regions where direct
human verification ceases to be possible.

It is quite true that 'faith in Christ' means attachment to Christ,
a strong emotion of love and gratitude. But that emotion is not
confined, as we say, to ' the historical Christ,' it has for its object
not only Him who walked the earth as ' Jesus of Nazareth ' ; it is
directed towards the same Jesus ' crucified, risen and ascended to
the right hand of God.' St. Paul believed, and we also believe,
that His transit across the stage of our earth was accompanied by
consecjuences in the celestial sphere which transcend our faculties.
We cannot pretend to be able to verify them as we can verify that
which passes in our own minds. And yet a certain kind of indirect
verification there is. The thousands and tens of thousands of
Christians who have lived and died in the firm conviction of the
truth of Uiese supersensual realities, and who upon the strength of
them have reduced their lives to a harmonious unity superseding
the war of passion, do really afford no slight presumption that the
beliefs which have enabled them to do this are such as the Ruler of
the universe approves, and such as aptly fit into the eternal order.
Whatever the force of this presumption to the outer world, it is one
which the Christian at least will cherish.

We therefore do not feel at liberty to treat as anything less than
primary that which was certainly primary to St. Paul. We endrely
accept the view that chapters vi and viii are primary, but we also
feel bound to place by their side the culminating verses of chapter
iii. The really fundamental passages in the Epistle we should say
were, eh. i. i6, 17, which states the problem, and iii. 21-26, vi. 1-14,
viii. 1-30 (rather than 1-28), which supply its solution. The
problem is, How is man to become righteous in the sight of God }



And the answer is (i) by certain great redemptive acts on the
part of God v/hich take effect in the sphere above, though their
consequences are felt throughout the sphere below; (2) through
a certain ardent apprehension of these acts and of their Author
Christ, on the part of the Christian ; and (3) through his con-
tinued self-surrender to Divine influences poured out freely and
unremittingly upon him.

It is superfluous to say that there is nothing whatever that is new
in this statement. It does but reproduce the belief, in part implicit
rather than explicit, of the Early Church ; then further defined and
emphasized more vigorously on some of its sides at the Reformation ;
and lastly brought to a more even balance (or what many would
fain make a more even balance) by the Church of our own day. Of
course it is liable to be impugned, as it is impugned by the
attractive writer whose words have been quoted above, in the
interest of what is thought to be a stricter science. But whatever
the value in itself of the theory which is substituted for it, we may
be sure that it does not adequately represent the mind of St. Paul.
In the present commentary our first object is to do justice to this.
How it is afterwards to be worked up into a complete scheme of
religious belief, it lies beyond our scope to consider.

For the sake of the student it may be well to draw out the
contents of the Epistle in a tabular analytical form. St. Paul, as
Matthew Arnold rightly reminds us, is no Schoolman, and his
method is the very reverse of all that is formal and artificial. But
it is undoubtedly helpful to set before ourselves the framework of
his thought, just as a knowledge of anatomy conduces to the better
understanding of the living human frame.

I. — Introduction (i. 1-15).

o. The Apostolic Salutation (i. 1-7).

^. St. Paul and the Roman Church (i. 8-15).

II. — Doctrinal.

The Great Thesis. Problem: How is Righteousness to be attained?
Answer : Not by man's work, but by God's gift, through Faith, or
loyal attachment to Christ (i. 16, 17).

A. Righteousness as a state or condition in the sight of God (Justification)
(i. 18-V. 21).
I. Righteousness not hitherto attained (i. i8-iii. 20).

[Rather, by contrast, a scene which bespeaks impending Wrath"].
«. Failure of the Gentile (i. 18-32).
(i.) Natural Religion (i. 18-20) ;
(ii.) deserted for idolatry (i. 21-25) J

(iii.) hence judicial abandonment to abominable sins (26, 27), to
every kind of moral depravity (28-31), even to perversion of
conscience (32)
8m [Transitional]. Future judgement without respect of persons guchM
Jew 01 Gentile (ii. 1-16).


(i.) Jewish critic and Gentile sinner in the same position (ii. 1-4).
(ii.) Standard of judgement : deeds, not privileges (ii. 5-n).
(iii.) Rule of judgement : Law of Moses for the Jew ; Law of Con-
science for the Gentile (ii. 12-16).
•f. Failure of the Jew (ii. 17-39). Profession and reality, as regards
(i.) Law (ii. 17-24) ;
(ii.) Circumcision (ii. 25-29).
1, [Parenthetic]. Answer to casuistical objections from Jewish stand*
point (iii. 1-8).
(i.) The Jew's advantage as recipient of Divine Promises

(iii. I, 2);
(ii.) which promises are not invalidated by Man's nnfaithfulness

(iii- 3, 4)-
(iii.) Yet God's greater glory no excuse for human sin (iii. 5-8).
«. Universal failure to attain to righteousness and earn acceptance

illustrated from Scripture (iii. 9-20).
», Consequent Exposition of New System (iii. 21-31) :
«. (i.) in its relation to Law, independent of it, yet attested by it

(ii.) in its universality, as the free gift of God (22-24) >

(iii.) in the method of its realization through the propitiatory Death
of Christ, which occupies under the New Disjjensation the
same place which Sacrifice, especially thr ceremonies of the
Day of Atonement, occupied under the Old (25) ;

(iv.) in its final cause — the twofold manifestation of God's righteous-
ness, at once asserting itself against sin and conveying pardon
to the sinner (26).
0. Preliminary note of two main consequences from this :
(i.) Boasting excluded (27, 28);

(ii.) Jew and Gentile alike accepted (29-31).

%. Relation of this New System to O. T. considered in reference to the
crucial case of Abraham (iv. 1-35).
(i.) Abraham's acceptance (like that described by David) turned

on Faith, not Works [iv. 1-8) ;
(ii.) nor Circumcision (iv. 9-12)

[so that there might be nothing to prevent him from
being the spiritual father of uncircumcised as well as
circumcised (11, 12)],
(iii.) nor Law, the antithesis of Promise (iv. 13-17)

[so that he might be the spiritual father of «// believer^
not of those under the Law only].
(iv.) Abraham's Faitii, a type of the Christian's (iv. 17-25) :
[he too believed in a birth from the dead].

(4. Blissful effects of Righteousness by Faith (v. 1-2 1).

«. (i.) It leads by sure degrees to a triumphant hope of final sal-
vation (v. 1-4).
(ii.) That hope guaranteed a fortiori by the Love displayed is
Christ's Death for sinners (v. 5-11).
$. Contrast of these effects with those of Adam's Fall (v. ia-3l) :
(i.) like, in the transition from one to all (12-14);
(ii.) unlike, in that where one brought sin, condemnation, death, the
other brought grace, a declaration of unmerited righteous-
ness, life (1 5-1 7).
(liL) Summary. Relations of Fall, Law, Grace (i8-ai)

[The Fall brought sin; Law increased it; but Grace mora
than cancels the ill effects of Law].



B. Progressive Righteousness in the Christian (Sanctification) (vi-viii).
I. Reply to further casuistical objection: 'If more sin means more
grace, why not go on sinning 1 '

The immersion of Baptism carried with it a death to sin.
and union with the risen Christ. The Christian there-
fore cannot, must not, sin (vi. 1-14).
t. The Christian's Release : what it is, and what it is not : shown by
two metaphors.

0. Servitude and emancipation (vi, 15-33).
fi. The marriage-bond (vii. i-6j.

[The Chiistian's old self dead to the Law with Christ; so that
he is henceforth free to live with Him],
f. Jndaistic objection from seeming disparagement of Law : met by an
analysis of the moral conflict in the soul. Law is impotent,
and gives an impulse or handle to sin, but is not itself sinful
(vii. 7-34). The conflict ended by the interposition oi
Christ (25).
4. Perspective of the Christian's New Career (viii).
The Indwelling Spirit.
a. Failure of the previous system made good by Christ's Incamttion

and the Spirit's presence (viii. 1-4).
/3. The new Kgime contrasted with the old— the regime of the Spirit

with the weakness of unassisted humanity (viii. 5-9^1.
y. The Spirit's presence a guarantee of bodily as well as moral

resurrection (viii. 10-13);
H also a guarantee that the Christian enjoys with God a son's relation,

and will enter upon a son's inheritance (viii. 14-17).
«. That glorious inheritance the object of creation's yearning (viii.
and of the Christian's hope (viii. 33-25).
If, Human infirmity assisted by the Spirit's intercession (viii. a6, if) ;
i. and sustained by the knowledge of the connected chain by which
God works out His purpose of salvation (viii. 28-30).

1. Inviolable security of the Christian in dependence npon God's

favour and the love of Christ (viii. 31-39).
C Problem of Israel's Unbelief. The Gospel in history (ix, x, xi). The
rejection of the Chosen People a sad contrast to its high destiny and
privileges (ix. 1-5).
I. Justice of the Rejection (ix. 6-29).
a. The Rejection of Israel not inconsistent with the Divine promises

(ix. 6-13') ;
fi. nor with the Divine Justice (ix. 14-39).

(L) The absoluteness of God's choice shown from the O. T. (ix.

(li.) A necessary deduction from His position as Creator (ix.

(iii.) The alternate choice of Jews and Gentiles expressly reserved
and foretold in Scripture (ix. 24-29).
f. Cause of the Rejection,
a. Israel sought righteousness by Works instead of Faith, in their own
way and not in God's way (ix. 30-x. 4).
And this although God's method was —
(i.) Not difficult and remote but near and easy (x 5-10);
(ii.) Within the reach of all, Jew and Gentile alike (x. 11-13).
fi. Nor can Israel pi ad in defence want of oppoitunity or warning —
(i.) The Gospel has Leen fully and universally preached \^x. 14-18^


(li.) Israel had been warned beforehand by the Prophet that they
would reject God's Message (x. 19-21).
3. Mitigating considerations. The [nirpose of God (xi).
«. The Unbelief of Israel is now as in the past only partial (xi. l-io).
fi. It is only temporary —

(i.) Their fall has a special purpose — the introduction of the

Gentiles (xi. 11- 15).
(ii.) That Israel will be restored is vouched for by the holy stock
from which it comes (xi. 16-24).
y. In all this may be seen the purpose of God working upwards
through seeming severity, to a beneficent result — the final
restoiation of all (xi. 25-31).
Doxology (xi. 33-36).
III. — Practical and Hortatory.

(i) The Christian sacrifice (xii. i, a).

(2) The Christian as a member of the Church (xii. 3-8).

(3) The Christian in his relation to others (xii. 9-21).
The Christian's vengeance (xii. 19-21).

(4) Church and State (xiii. 1-7).

(5) The Christian's one debt ; the law of love (xiii. 8-10).
The day approaching (xiii 11-14).

(6) Toleration ; the strong and the weak (xiv. l-xv. 6),
The Jew and the Gentile (xv. 713).

IV, — Epilogue.

a. Personal explanations. Motive of the Epistle. Proposed visit to

Rome (xv. 14-33).
fi. Greetings to various persons (xvi. 1-16).
A warning (xvi. 17-20).
Postscript by the Apostle's companions and amanuensis (xtL

Benediction and Doxology (xvi. 34-27).

It is often easiest to bring out the force and strength of an
argument by starting from its conclusion, and we possess in the
doxology at the end of the Epistle a short summary made by
St. Paul himself of its contents. The question of its genuineness
has been discussed elsewhere, and it has been shown in the
commentary how clearly it refers to all the leading thoughts of the
Epistle ; it remains only to make use of it to help us to understand
the argument which St. Paul is working out and the conclusion to
which he is leading us.

The first idea which comes prominently before us is that of * the
Gospel'; it meets us in the Apostolic salutation at the beginning,
in the statement of the thesis of the Epistle, in the doxology at the
end where it is expanded in the somewhat unusual form ' according
to my Gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ.' So again in
xi. 28 it is incidentally shown that what St. Paul is describing is the
method or plan of the Gospel. This idea of the Gospel then is
a fundamental thought of the Epistle ; and it seems to mean this.
There are two competing systems or plans of life or salvation
before St. Paul's m nd. The one is the old Jewish system, a know-
ledge of which is presupposed ; the other is the Christian «ystem«



a knowledge of which again is presupposed. St. Paul is not
expounding the Christian religion, he is writing to Christians :
what he* aims at expounding is the moaning of the new system.
This may perhaps explain the manner in which he varies between
the expressions ' the Gospel/ or ' the Gospel of God/ or ' the Gospel
of Jesus Christ/ and ' my Gospel.' The former represents the
Christian religion as recognized and preached by all, the latter
represents his own personal exposition of its plan and meaning.
The main purpose of the argument then is an explanation of the
meaning of the new Gospel of Jesus Christ, as succeeding to and
taking the place of the old method, but also in a sense as embracing
and continuing it.

St. Paul begins then with a theological description of the new
method. He shows the need for it, he explains what it is — emphasiz-
ing its distinctive features in contrast to those of the old system, and
at the same time proving that it is the necessary and expected out-
come of that old system. He then proceeds to describe the work-
ing of this system in the Christian life ; and lastly he vindicates
for it its true place in history. The universal character of the new
Gospel has been already emphasized, he must now trace the plan
by which it is to attain this universality. The rejection of the Jews,
the calling of the Gentiles, are both steps in this process and
necessary steps. But the method and plan pursued in these cases
and partially revealed, enable us to learn, if we have faith to do
so, that ' mystery which has been hidden from the foundation
of the world,' but which has always guided the course of human
history — the purpose of God to ' sum up all things in Christ.'

If this point has been made clear, it will enable us to bring out
the essential unity and completeness of the argument of the
Epistle. We do not agree as we have explained above with the
opinion of Baur, revived by Dr. Hort, that chap. i.K-xi represent
the essential part of the Epistle, to which all the earlier part is but
an introduction. That is certainly a one-sided view. But Dr.
Hort's examination of the Epistle is valuable as reminding us that
neither are these chapters an appendix accidentally added which
might be omitted without injuring St. Paul's argument and plan.

We can trace incidentally the various difficulties, partly raised by
opponents, partly suggested by his own thought, which have helped
to shape different portions of the Epistle. We are able to analyze
and separate the difierent stages in the argument more accurately
and distinctly than in any other of St. Paul's writings. But this
must not blind us to the lact that the whole is one great argument;
the purpose of which is to explain the Gospel of God in Jesus the
Messiah, and to show its efiects on human life, and in the history
of the race, and thus to vmdicate for it the right to be considered
the ultimate and final revelation oi God's purpose lor mankmd.



§ 6. Language and Style.

(i) Language^. It will seem at first sight to the uninitiated
reader a rather strange paradox that a letter addressed to the
capita] of the Western or Latin world should be written in Greek.
Yet there is no paradox, either to the classical scholar who is
acquainted with the history of the Early Empire, or to the ecclesias-
tical historian who follows the fortunes of the Early Church. Both
are aware that for fully two centuries and a half Greek was the
predominant language if not of the city of Rome as a whole yet of
large sections of its inhabitants, and in particular of those sections
anion o- which was to be sought the main body of the readers of
the Epistle.

The early history of the Church of Rome might be said to fall
into three periods, of which the landmarks would be (i) the appear-
ance of the first Latin writers, said by Jerome • to be ApoUonius
who suffered under Commodus in the year 185, and whose
Apology and Acts have been recently recovered in an Armenian
Version and edited by Mr. Conybeare ^ and Victor, an African by
birth, who became Bishop of Rome about 189 a. d. (2) Next
would come in the middle of the third century a more considerable
body of Latin literature, the writings of Novatian and the corre-
spondence between the Church of Rome and Cyprian at Carthage.
(3) Then, lastly, there would be the definite Latinizing of the capital
of the West which followed upon the transference of the seat of
empire to Constantinople dating from 330 a.d.

(i) The evidence of Juvenal and Martial refers to the latter half of the

first century. Juvenal speaks with indignation of the extent to which Rome
was being converted into ' a Greek city *.' Martial regards ignorance of Greek
as a mark of rusticity'. Indeed, there was a doulde tendency which em-
braced at once classes at both ends of the social scale. On the one hand
among slaves and in the trading classes there were swarms of Greeks and
Greelc-fpeaking Orientals. On the otlicr hand in the higher ranks it wa»
the fashion to speak Greek ; children were taught it by Greek nurses; and in
after life the use of it was carried to the pitch of affectation*.

For the Jewish colony we have the evidence of the inscriptions. Out of
thirty-eight collected by Schiirer^ no less than thirty are Greek and eight only

* The question of the use of Greek at Rome has been often discussed
and the evidence for it set forth, but the classical treatment of the subject is by
the late Dr. C. P. Caspari, Professor at Chrislirinia, in an Excursus of 200
pages to vol. iii. of his work Quellen zur Geschichte des Taiif symbols (Chris-
tiania, 1875).

^ De Vir. III. liii. Tertullianm presbyter nunc demutn ptimus post Vutorem
«t Apollonium Latinorutn ponitur.

" Monuments of Early Christianity (London, 1894), p. 29 ff.

* Juv. Sat. iii. 60 f. ; cf. vi. 187 ff. • Epig. xiv. 58.

* Caspari, Quellen zum Taufsymbol. iii. 286 f

' (Jemeindeverfassung, p. -^.^ it. Ihe inscriptions referred to are all from
Roman sites. There is aKo one in Greek fiom Portus.



Latin ; and if one of the Greek inscriptions is in Latin characters, conversely
three of the Latin are in Greek characters. There do not seem to be any in

Of Christian inscriptions the proportion of Greek to Latin would seem to be
about 1 : 2. But the great mass of these would belong to a period later than
that of which we are speaking. De Rossi - estimates the number for the period
between M. Aurelius and Septimius Severusat about 160, of which something
like half would be Greek. Beyond this we can hardly go.

But as to the Christian Church there is a quantity of other evidence. The
bishops of Rome from Linus to Eleutheius (c. 174-169 a.d.) are twelve in
number : of these not more than three (Clemont, Sixtus I = Xystus, Piusj bear
Latin names. But although the names of Clement and Fius are Latin the
extant Epistle of Clement is written in Greek ; we know also that Hermas,
the author of ' The Shepherd,' was the brother of Pius ^ and he wrote in Greek.
Indeed all the literature that we can in anyway connect with Christian Rome
down to the end of the reign of M. Aurelius is Greek, Besides the works of
Clement and liermas we have still surviving the letter addressed to the Church
at Rome by Ignatius ; and later in the period, the letter written by Soter
(c. 166-174 A.D.) to the Corinthian Church was evidently in Greek*. Justin
and Tatian who were settled in Rome wrote in Greek ; so too did Rhodon,
a pupil of Tatian's at Rome who carried on their tradition \ Greek was the
language of Polycarp and Hegesippus who paid visits to Rome of shorter
duration. A number of Gnostic writers established themselves there and used
Greek for the vehicle of their teaching : so Cerdon, Marcion, and Valentinus,
who were all in Rome about 140 A.D. Valentinus left behind a considerable
school, and the leading representatives of the ' Italic ' branch, Ptolemaeus
and Heracleon, botli wrote in Greek. We may assume the same thing of the
other Gnostics combated by Justin and Irenaeus. Irenaeus himself spent some
time at Rome in the Episcopate of Eleutherus, and wrote his great work
in Greek.

To this period may also be traced back the oldest form of the Creed of
the Roman Church now known as the Apostles' Creed*. This was in Greek.
And there are stray Greek fragments of Western Liturgies which ultimately
go back to the same place and time. Such would be the Hymnus angelicus
(Luke ii. 14) repeated in Greek at Christmas, the Trishagion, Kyrie eleison
and Ckrtste eleison. On certain set days (at Christmas, Easter, Ember days,
and some others) lections were read in Greek as well as Latin ; hymns were
occasionally sung in Greek ; and at the formal committal of the Creed to the
candidates for baptism (the so-called Traditio and Redditio Symboli) both
the Apostles' Creed (in its longer and shorter forms) and the Nicene were

* Comp, also Berliner, I. 54. • Ap. Caspari, p. 303.

* Pius is described in the Liher Pontificalis as natione Italus . . . de civitate
Aquileia; but there is reason to think that Hermas was a native of Arcatiia.
Tlie assignments of nationality to the earliest bishops are of very doubtful

* It was to be kept in the archives and read on Sundays like the letter of
Clement (Eus. H. E. IV. xxiii. 11).

* Eus. H. E. V. xiii. i.

* It was in pursuit of the origin of this Creed that Caspari was drawn into
his elaborate researches. It is generally agreed that it was in use at Rome by
the middle of the second century. The main question at the present moment
is whether it was also composed there, and if not whence it came. Caspari
would derive it from Asia Minor and the circle of St. John. This is a problem
which we may look to have solved by Dr. Kattenbusch of Giessen, who if
continuing Caspari'i labours {Deu Apostolische Symbol, Bd. I, Leipzig,


recited and the questions put first in Greek and then in I atin*. These are
all survivals of Roman usage at the time when the Church was bilingual.

(2) The dates of Apollonius and of Bp. Victor are fixed, but rather more
uncertainty hangs over that of the first really classical Christian work in
Latin, the Octaviiis of Minucins Felix. This has been much debated, but
opinion seems to be veering round to the earlier date', which would bring him
into near proximity to Apollonius, perhaps at the end of the reign of
M. Aurelius. The period whicli then begins and extends from c. iSo-250 A.D.
shows a more even balance of Greek and Latin. The two prominent writers,
Hippolytus and Caius, still make use of Greek. The grounds perhaps pre-
ponderate for regarding the Muratorian Fragment as a translation. But at the
beginning of the period we have Minucius Felix and at the end Novatian,
and Latin begins to have the upper hand in the names of bishops. The
glimpse which we get of the literary activity of the Church of Rome through
the letters and other writings preserved among the works of Cyprian shows us

Online LibraryW. (William) SandayA critical and exegetical commentary on the Epistle to the Romans → online text (page 6 of 71)