The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Archive for March 6th, 2011

Fathers Nolan and Brown on the Passion According to St John (18:1-12)

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 6, 2011

Joh 18:1  When Jesus had said these things, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where there was a garden, into which he entered with his disciples.

Having finished His last discourses to the Apostles, and His prayer to the Father, Jesus accompanied by the Apostles now proceeds towards Mount Olivet (Matt 26:36; Mark 14:32), crossing the brook of Cedron on His way. As we stated already, we believe that the discourse (15:1-16:33) and the prayer after the Last Supper were not spoken while Christ and the Apostles passed along, but at some point of rest either outside the Supper-room or along the way. See above on 14:31. Nor are we to suppose from the words of this verse, He went forth, that it was only now Christ and the Apostles left the Supper-room.  As we remarked already, had Christ and the Apostles not left the Supper-room when He gave the word to do so (14:31), St. John would very probably have noted the fact, and added some word of explanation. In the verse before us, then, there is not question of going forth from the Supper-room but of going forth from the city. Comp. Matthew 26:30, 36; Mark 14:26, 32.

Over the brook Cedron. Many authorities read over the brook of the cedars. (The Greek spelling of the two words being nearly identical). Where there was a garden. SS, Matthew and Mark say that He came to an enclosed piece of ground (χωρίον), called Gethsemani. Gethsemani-גּת (gath = a wine- press), and שׁמן (shemen = oil)- was the spot where the prediction of Isaias was fulfilled: I have trodden the wine press alone "(Isaias 58:3). A
modern garden, enclosed by a wall, in which are some old olive-trees, said to date from the time of Christ, is now pointed out as the Garden of Gethsemani. It is on the left bank of the Kedron, about seven hundred and thirty feet
from the east wall of the city, and immediately south of the road, from St. Stephen’s Gate to the summit of Olivet . . . This garden is, there is little reason to doubt, the spot alluded to by Eusebius, when he says (O.S., 2 , pp. 248, 18. that  Gethsemane was at the foot of the Mount of Olives, and was then a place of prayer for the faithful (Smith’s B.D., sub voc).

The Cedron is a small winter flowing (χειμαρρου) stream, which passes through the ravine below the eastern wall of Jerusalem, and separates the Mount of Olives from the Temple mount. For mention of it in the Old Testament see 1 Kings 2:37; 15:13; 2 Kings 21:2, 4; Jer 31:40.

Joh 18:2  And Judas also, who betrayed him, knew the place: because Jesus had often resorted thither together with his disciples.

Who betrayed him. In the original the present participle marks the process of betrayal as going on. Jesus had often resorted thither with
his disciples. The original might be rendered more exactly Jesus and (with) his disciples often assembled there. We know from St. Luke 21:37, that our Lord on the occasion of this last visit to Jerusalem was in the habit of spending His nights on Mount Olivet, and the same Evangelist tells us that, on this occasion after the Last Supper, going out he went according to his custom to the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:39).

Joh 18:3  Judas therefore having received a band of soldiers and servants from the chief priests and the Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.

A band of soldiers. If the band here means a whole cohort, it was the tenth part of a Roman legion, and contained about six hundred infantry, with
thirty cavalry. The words of this verse, as well as the presence of the tribune
(verse 12), who was the commander of a cohort, justify the belief that a whole cohort was present on this occasion. Very likely the authorities were afraid that a strongly-supported attempt might be made to save or rescue Christ from them. This large bodyof soldiers, strength ened by servants or officers of the temple (υπηρετας) who were sent by the chief-priests and Pharisees, came furnished with arms and lights. As it was now full moon, this being the night of the 14th of the lunar month Nisan, it might seem that the lights were unnecessary, but probably the garden was considerably shaded by trees, and no doubt it was feared that Jesus might try to hide in some dark nook or lurk beneath the shrubs or trees.

Joh 18:4  Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth and said to them: Whom seek ye?

Christ’s foreknowledge is pointed out, both to prove His Divinity, and to show His readiness to suffer. For, though aware of the sufferings He was to endure, He did not seek to escape from them. He who had before withdrawn from His enemies (8:59; 12:36, &c.), now that His hour was come, went forth (from the enclosure of the garden) to meet them.

We learn from St. Luke (22:47) that Judas preceded the soldiers, and gave the
traitor s kiss to Jesus, thus marking Him out as the person to be arrested. We
learn too from St. Matthew (26:50), that Jesus addressed the traitor, even in this hour of infamy as His friend: Friend, whereto art thou come? and from St. Luke (22:48), that He addressed to him the pathetic words: Judas, dost thou betray the Son of Man with a kiss? After meekly receiving the kiss from the wretched Apostle, Jesus addressed the crowd.

Joh 18:5  They answered him: Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith to them: I am he. And Judas also, who betrayed him, stood with them.
Joh 18:6  As soon therefore as he had said to them: I am he; they went backward and fell to the ground.
Joh 18:7  Again therefore he asked them: Whom seek ye? And they said: Jesus of Nazareth.

If our view is correct, that the traitor s kiss had preceded Christ’s question:
Whom seek ye? then it would seem that the soldiers were withheld by Divine power from at once rushing on Jesus; and in order to visibly prove His power and His ability to escape from them if He wished, they were stricken to the
ground. This prostration of Christ’s enemies cannot be explained on natural grounds.

Joh 18:8  Jesus answered: I have told you that I am he. If therefore you seek me, let these go their way,

Let these go their way. The meaning obviously is, do not arrest or molest
these My disciples.

Joh 18:9  That the word might be fulfilled which he said: Of them whom thou hast given me, I have not lost any one.

The Evangelist sees in Christ’s care for the safety of the disciples on this occasion a fulfilment of His words recorded in 17:12. It is true those words as spoken seem to refer only to the time then past, but as Christ then knew that He would continue to guard the Apostles from danger during the few hours
of His life that remained, He meant the words to express His care for the Apostles up to the moment of His death, and therefore on this occasion at Gethsemani. His present action was, accordingly, one fulfilment of what is recorded in 17:12. We believe that Christ’s care for the Apostles in the present instance regarded their bodies as well as their souls. That it regarded their bodies, may be fairly concluded from His words: Let these go their
way; and that it regarded their souls is clear from the consideration that if arrested now they would probably have fallen into sin by denying Him.

Joh 18:10  Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. And the name of thee servant was Malchus.

The Synoptic Evangelists merely say that one of those who were with Jesus struck the servant of the high-priest, but St. John tells us that this one was Peter. The Synoptists may have suppressed Peter’ name through fear of inconvenient consequences to him, but now that the Prince of the Apostles was dead, there was no further reason for such concealment. We cannot say
whether any other motive than a desire for historic completeness prompted St. John to give, as he does, the servant’ name as well as Peter’s.

Joh 18:11  Jesus therefore said to Peter: Put up thy sword into the scabbard. The chalice which my father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

Put up thy sword into the scabbard. The words are given more fully by St. Matt, (26:52, ff). The chalice . . . shall I not drink it? In Matt 26:39, we read that on this same night, and inGethsemani, before the arrival of Judas, Christ had prayed: Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me; but now, since it was not to pass, He accepts it willingly.

Joh 18:12  Then the band and the tribune and the servants of the Jews took Jesus and bound him.

The tribune was the commander of the cohort.  χιλιαρχος strictly taken, means the commander of one thousand men. See above on verse 3.

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Part 3: My Notes on the Passion According to John (18:10-12)

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 6, 2011

Joh 18:10  Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. And the name of thee servant was Malchus.
Joh 18:11  Jesus therefore said to Peter: Put up thy sword into the scabbard. The chalice which my father hath given me, shall I not drink it?
Joh 18:12  Then the band and the tribune and the servants of the Jews took Jesus and bound him.

Peter F. Ellis, in his book THE GENIUS OF JOHN, sees these verses as closing out the first of a large number of concentrically arranged sub-sections which go to make up the Passion Narrative. Concentrism is a form of reverse parallel which, according to Ellis, in the present instance has a five-fold structure, with the first and fifth parts paralleling one another, and, likewise,  the second and fourth parts. He outlines it as follows (the outline is his, but it’s in my own words):

(A1) Judas, having received (Greek, lambano) band of soldiers and servants from the priests, these come to arrest Jesus with weapons (18:1-3).

(B1) Jesus asks, “whom do you seek,” and declares, “I am He” (18:4-5).

(C) At the declaration “I am He” those seeking his arrest go back and drop to the ground (18:6).

(B2) A second time Jesus asks, “whom do you seek,” and declares, “I am He” (18:7-9).

(A2) The band of soldiers and the servants take (Greek, sullambanō) and bind Jesus after Peter attempts to stop them with a sword. (18:10-12).

The structure serves to show that 18:1-12 is a finely structured unity and no part can be seen in isolation from the whole. Further, in such presentations the center section (“C”, 18:6) is often intended to supply an interpretive key or highlight the major theme.

As has been pointed out in previous posts, Jesus entered the garden he so often frequented knowing full well that Judas had betrayed him. He went there not for the purpose of hiding-those days are over since his hour had come-rather, he went there for the express purpose of confronting his enemies and undertaking his “hour.” He initiated this confrontation unarmed, in spite of the fact that his enemies were carrying weapons (A1 Jn 18:1-3)

Twice he identified himself using the divine name, “I Am.” The first time ( B1 Jn 18:4-5) was to manifest his divine power over his enemies, thereby showing that he was in charge of them, and not vice versa.  This first use of the divine name drives his enemies backward and to the ground (C Jn 18:6).

The power of the divine name which manifested Jesus’ power over his enemies (B1 and C) is used a second time (B2 Jn 18:7-9) to show that, because he has power over his enemies, he has power to save his disciples from them (C and B2).

The first four sections ( A1, B1, C, B2) help illuminate the final section, (A2 Jn 18:10-12) which is the focus of this post.

Joh 18:10  Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. And the name of thee servant was Malchus.

Jesus had declared himself the Good Shepherd who would lay down his life for others (Jn 10:15; see also Jn 3:16), but Peter, who had insisted that he would lay down his life for Jesus (Jn 13:37), clumsily seeks to end a man’s life by a blow to the head.

Not long before this  event (Jn 12:12 ff) Jesus had ridden into Jerusalem on a young ass, fulfilling the messianic prophecy of Zech 9:9-10. He had been hailed as a nationalistic messiah and it was this that caused him to ride the young ass, he was protesting the concept of national messianic reign. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: BEHOLD THY KING will come to thee, the just and saviour: he is poor, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass. And I will destroy the chariot out of Ephraim, and the horse (an instrument of war) out of Jerusalem, and the bow for war shall be broken: and he shall speak peace to the Gentiles, and his power shall be from sea to sea, and from the rivers even to the end of the earth (Zech 9:9-10).

The episode described by St John goes on to confirm the peaceful nature of the all-encompassing Messianic Kingdom. In 12:20-26 some Greeks wish to see Jesus, and he takes the request as an excuse to speak about his death in figurative fashion and, also, about the  demands of discipleship in relation to it: Amen, amen, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, Itself remaineth alone. But if it die it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it and he that hateth his life in this world keepeth it unto life eternal.  If any man minister to me, let him follow me: and where I am, there also shall my minister be. If any man minister to me, him will my Father honour.

It was the soldiers and the servants of the priests who came to the garden bearing weapons (Jn 18:3); what is Peter, chosen to be a minister (i.e., servant) of the peaceful Messiah/King doing bearing one, let alone wielding it? As Jesus will insist later to Pilate: My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would certainly strive that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now my kingdom is not from hence (Jn 18:36).

In drawing (Greek, ειλκυσεν = helkuosen) his sword St Peter is unknowingly thwarting the divine will that Jesus draw (Greek, ελκυσω = helkuso) all men to himself by being lifted up on the cross Jn 12:32~And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw(ελκυσω) all things to myself.

St Peter had completely misunderstood the nature of the Kingdom and Christ’s Messiahship (Jn 13:5-11, 36-38). The irony is, of course, that it is precisely so that he might better understand it latter on and live (and die) by it  (Jn 13:7, 36).

Joh 18:11  Jesus therefore said to Peter: Put up thy sword into the scabbard. The chalice which my father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

The chalice is a symbol of one’s destiny, God’s will, etc. Sometimes it has negative connotations (e.g., suffering) as in Psalm 11:6; other times it has positive connotations (e.g., security) as in Psalm 16:5. The Father’s will must be fulfilled, it is his food and drink (Jn 4:32-34). The Greek text of our Lord’s words “shall I not drink it?” makes use of a double negative for emphasis. The double negative is difficult to translate into English since it employs a negative to negate a negative. Perhaps a paraphrase might help convey the sense: You, Peter, act so that I may not drink the chalice the Father has given me; but I must not not drink it.

Peter, with his sword drawn, is acting against the Father’s will. The Good Shepherd must lay down his life for the sheep (Jn 10:11), but Peter is acting as a thief who comes to “steal, slaughter and destroy” (Jn 10:10). He is bidden to put up (Greek, βαλε= bale, literally, “throw”, “cast”) his sword back into its sheath.

The word play here and in the previous verse are instructive. The risen Christ, victorious over the ruler of this world whom he casts out (ἐκβάλλω = ekballo, see Jn 12:31̄) by his death so that he might draw all men to himself (ελκυσω = helkuso, Jn 12:31-32), will bid Peter and the others with him to cast (βαλετε = balete) a net into the sea and catch some fish, an image in the Gospels of the Church’s mission (Jn 21:6; see also Matt 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11).  The catch will be so bountiful that the seven men on that boat were not able to draw it (ελκυσαι = helkusai), for the multitude of fishes (Jn 21:6). As Jesus prepared to rehabilitate St Peter and confer on him the task of feeding and tending the sheep, he commanded the seven (“them”) to Bring hither of the fishes which you have now caught (Jn 21:10); however, the always impetuous Peter enters the boat alone and draws (ειλκυσεν= helkusen) the entire net of fish/disciples ashore. The bungling Peter has found his calling and his discipleship. He has come to realize that it rests not upon his own will, but upon the divine will and command.

Joh 18:12  Then the band and the tribune and the servants of the Jews took (sullambano) Jesus and bound him.

Judas had received (lambano) these people (verse 3) for the purpose of taking (sullambano) Jesus.His treachery has reached its goal.

The one who commanded that Lazarus be set free from the bonds (δεδεμενος = dedemenos, from δέω ) of his burial clothes is here bound (εδησαν =edesan, also from δέω) and led away. Later in the narrative he will be bound in burial clothes (Jn 19:40) which will not hold him for long (Jn 20:1-10).

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March 7: Meditation for the Monday Before Lent by St Thomas Aquinas

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 6, 2011

HOLINESS
The gospel says (Luke 1:75) That we may serve him in holiness and justice. But to serve God is an act of religion. Therefore religion is the same thing as holiness.

The word  holiness seems to imply two things:

1. Cleanness, and in this it accords with the Greek word agios which means free of earth. (See note 1)

2.  Firmness, whence, of old, those things were called holy which were protected by the law and thereby rendered inviolable. Whence also things are said to be sanctioned, because they are defended by law. Things which belong to the worship of God may be said to be holy in both of the senses just described. Not only men, therefore, but the temple and the vessels and so forth are said to be made holy from the fact that they are used in the service of God.

1.  Cleanness is essential if the human mind is to be applied to God, because what stains the human mind is its being joined to lower things: as all kinds of things are cheapened by mixture with things less valuable, for example, silver when it is mixed with lead. Now if the mind is to be united to the highest thing of all, i.e., to God, it must be altogether taken away from the things that are lower. And that is why a mind that is lacking in purity cannot be applied to God. Follow peace with all men and holiness: without which no man shall see God (Heb 12:14). (see note 2)

Firmness, too, is required in whoever would set his mind to God. The mind must be set to God as to one’s last end and first beginning. But ends and beginnings are the kinds of things which above all others need to be immovable. Whence St. Paul says, I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor wight, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creatures, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, Our Lord (Rom 13:38, 39). (See note 3)

Holiness is then the quality whereby men apply themselves and their actions to God. Hence it does not differ from religion as though it had a
different essence, but only according to the way these two things exist. For religion gives God the service due to him in what particularly concerns divine worship in sacrifices, for example, in offerings and in other things of that kind. Holiness, however, gives to God not only these things but the acts of the other virtues too, or again, it ensures that by good works a man makes
himself fit for the service of God in worship. (See note 4).

Notes:

Aquinas writes: “Cleanness, and in this it accords with the Greek word agios which means free of earth. See Col 3:1-2~Therefore if you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God.  Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth.

2.  In the ancient Near East the concept of cleanness (an its opposite, uncleanness) were primarily cultic, ritual categories rather than moral categories, this is why, for example, childbirth or the touching of a corpse was something that made one “unclean.” It should however be understood in what sense the words “rather than moral categories” are to be understood.

The fact that one could be rendered “unclean” by touching a corpse (even inadvertently! see Lev 19:14) shows that the ritual or cultic categories in themselves are not moral ones.  The fact that one is rendered “unclean” by touching a corpse was no excuse for avoiding one’s moral obligation to bury the dead (Lev 21:1-3; Tobit 1:18; 2:9; 12:12).

It is not difficult to see how this could degenerate into a mere ritualistic formalism; and that it did so can be seen from the fact that the Prophets of God often inveighed against it, demanding interior purity of mind and heart: For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice: and the knowledge of God more than holocausts (Hos 6:6).  “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are in the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to their husbands, `Bring, that we may drink!’ The Lord GOD has sworn by his holiness that, behold, the days are coming upon you, when they shall take you away with hooks, even the last of you with fishhooks. And you shall go out through the breaches, every one straight before her; and you shall be cast forth into Harmon,” says the LORD. “Come to Bethel, and transgress; to Gilgal, and multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days; offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving of that which is leavened, and proclaim freewill offerings, publish them; for so you love to do, O people of Israel!” says the Lord GOD (Amos 4:1-5 RSV). See also Amos 5:21-25; Isa 1:10-17; 6:5; Jer 13:27; Ps 15; Ps 40:7-9, etc.).

3.  Aquinas writes: “The mind must be set to God as to one’s last end and first beginning.”  For a good, simple explanation of Aquinas’ understanding of God as man’s ultimate or last end and first beginning see the following in the order listed: 1. GOD AS THE UNCAUSED CAUSE: THE ALPHA; 2. GOD AS THE ULTIMATE END: THE OMEGA; 3. GOD AS ALPHA AND OMEGA.

4. This meditation comes from-or is rather based upon-Aquinas Summa Theologiæ, Secunda Secundæ, 81, 8. It was translated by Fr. Philip Hughes and is in the public domain. A different translation of the full Summa article can be read here.

 

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 5:12-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 6, 2011

Text in red, if any, are my additions.

SIN AND DEATH CAME BY ADAM, GRACE AND LIFE BY CHRIST
A Summary of Romans 5:12-21

After speaking in verses 1-11 of the first fruits of justification and reconciliation with God, which are universally extended to all men on condition of proper faith in Christ, the Apostle now turns to reflect on original sin, the root and beginning of all human ills, which also, but in a contrary manner, has universally affected all mankind. Having spoken of the universality of the remedy and its effects, the Apostle is reminded, or is in a better position, to speak of, and insist again upon the universality of the disease. Through one man came the curse upon all, through one man reconciliation is provided for all. Comparing Adam and Christ he shows that, whereas through the former we were divested of grace and lost our supernatural gifts and our rights to heaven, through the latter we have been reinstated in God’s favor and enriched with benefits even more abundant in many ways than those which we lost in Adam.

12. Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.

Wherefore (δια τουτο) is only a simple connective used to bridge over the transition from what has preceded. What follows in the chapter is not, therefore, a conclusion of what has preceded in verses 1-11.

As introduces the thought, which, however, is not completed in this verse. This defective sentence structure, or anacoluthon (i.e., an incomplete sentence), is a mark of the Apostle’s deeper feelings. He begins his phrase, but is then so carried away by other thoughts that he forgets its proper termination. Yet, from verses 18 ff. we know that his thought was as follows: “As by one man (Adam) sin entered into this world, etc., so by one man (Jesus Christ) has the grace of justification entered into the world,” etc. As Adam, by his disobedience, brought sin and death upon all his descendants, so Christ by His obedience has merited justification and life for all who through faith become His adopted children.

By one man, i.e., by Adam (verse 14). Cf. 1 Cor 15:22.

Sin (ἁμαρτία = hamartia), i.e., original sin personified, not sin in general. With the article the term ἁμαρτία always signifies original sin, together with its consequent evils; whereas without the article it means actual sin, or sin in general (Prat). The first actual sin was committed by Eve; but there is question here of the sin of Adam only. Adam was constituted by God not only the physical, but also the moral head of the human race; and consequently the sin committed by him has been transmitted along with human nature to all mankind, as an inheritance passes from a father to his children. All human beings, therefore, as descendants of Adam, have shared in his transgression and are stained with sin from the beginning of their existence; and thus they are born into the world as enemies of God and children of wrath (Conc. Trid., Sess. V. can. 3).

Into this world. Literally, “Into the world,” i.e., into the souls of men, infecting the whole human race. Doubtless, also, the pernicious effects of Adam’s sin have been felt in all physical nature.

And by sin, i.e., by original sin, as is evident from the use of the article in Greek, as before.

Death means physical and moral death, death in general, which came upon all mankind by Adam’s sin. Death is at once the result and the chastisement of sin. Cf. Gen 2:17; 3:19; Wis 1:13; 1 Cor 15:21.

The words in whom (εφ ω, Vulgate, in quo) have caused much dispute among interpreters. The phrase is understood by Ambrosiaster, and by all the Latins after him, to refer to Adam, in whom all have sinned. But this understanding of the phrase causes such grammatical difficulty that it seems better, with the Greek Fathers and most modern scholars, to render it by because, or inasmuch as. These latter authorities rightly observe that  ω, as a masculine pronoun, should naturally refer to the noun nearest to it, namely, to death or world, rather than to the more distant men; and also that εφ  never has the meaning of “in”, in. Cf. Prat, La Theol. de S. Paul, I, p. 296 ff.; Cornely, Lagrange, etc., h. 1. However the expression may be rendered, St. Paul’s meaning is clear, namely, that all men have sinned in Adam, and so have inherited the evil consequences of his sin. The only exception to this rule is found in the Blessed Virgin Mary who, although born of Adam, was preserved by special privilege from every stain of original sin.

The following doctrines are taught in this verse, as the Council of Trent has declared: (a) By the sin of one man, Adam, sin entered into this world, i.e., came upon the human race; (b) all men have incurred the guilt of this sin; (c) in consequence of this guilt all men die (Rickaby). The opinion of some non-Catholics (cf. Parry, h. 1.), that death passed upon all men, not because all shared in the sin of Adam, but because each and every man in turn sinned by actual personal sins cannot account for the death of infants, idiots and similar non- accountables: these surely did not die on account of their own personal sins, since they were incapable of sinning.

It is more conformable to the Greek to omit hunc before mundum of the Vulgate.

13. For until the law sin was in the world ; but sin was not imputed, when the law was not.
14. But death reigned from Adam unto Moses, even over them also who have not sinned after the similitude of the transgression of Adam, who is a figure of him who was to come.

That the Apostle was speaking of original sin, i.e., of the sin of Adam, and not of actual sins, when he said in the preceding verse, “all have sinned,” is evident from the present verses. For here he says that between Adam and Moses death, the effect of Adam’s sin, reigned, i.e., was inflicted on all, even on those who had committed no actual sins, such as infants, imbeciles and the like. Since, therefore, death was in the world, afflicting all, from Adam to Moses, i.e., before there was any other cause for universal death, except the sin of Adam, it follows that all had sinned in Adam.

Until the law (vs 13), i.e., from the time of Adam to the Law of Moses.

Sin (vs 13), i.e., actual sin, as is evident from the omission of the article in Greek before ἁμαρτία = hamartia.

Was in the world (vs 13), i.e., among men,—actual sins were committed by mankind; but these sins were not imputed, i.e., were not so imputed as to be considered in every instance as deserving of death, and consequently could not have been the cause of death, because the positive law was not existing which inflicted such a punishment on sinners for their personal offences. The sins committed were against the natural law, which did not then oblige under pain of temporal death. These sins, however, would be punished by God on the day of judgment (Rom 2:14-16). Hence, such offences were “not imputed” ad poenam, but they were ad culpam.

The Apostle wishes to say that at least not all the sins committed between Adam and Moses were in themselves so serious as to deserve death—the death which fell upon all. That there were during this period some sins in themselves deserving of death, such as those that occasioned the Deluge, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the like,—which sins hastened and made more terrible the punishment of death, the Apostle does not here deny. But it must be remembered that, as death to all was due to the sin of Adam, so the extreme gravity of personal sins after Adam found its explanation in Adam’s fall.

Who have not sinned (vs 14), etc. Better, “who had not sinned,” etc., i.e., who, like infants, imbeciles and the like, had not committed actual, deliberate, grievous sins, as Adam did. Since, therefore, after the sin of Adam death was inflicted even upon those who had committed no actual sins, it is clear that death is the resultant chastisement of the first sin. That actual sins were committed between Adam and Moses is evident from the Bible and is here taken for granted by St. Paul, but those sins were not in themselves punishable by death, because they were not opposed to any positive law then existing which imposed such a punishment.

Who is a figure, etc., i.e., Adam, by contraries, as well as by certain resemblances, was a figure or type of Christ. As Adam, the first physical man, by his disobedience, brought death upon all mankind, so Christ, the first spiritual man, i.e., the second first man, by His obedience and merits, brought life and justification to all (verse 19). This idea of Adam being a figure of Christ somewhat completes the comparison begun in verse 12. Cf. 1 Cor 15:22, 45-49.

The imputabatur and esset of the Vulgate (verse 13) would be expressed, more conformably to the Greek, by the present tense, imputatur and est. Corresponding changes should be made in the English translation.  The Douay Rheims read: “But sin was not imputed when the law was not“. The New Latin Vulgate has this emendation: Usque ad legem enim peccatum erat in mundo; peccatum autem non imputatur, cum lex non est~”But sin is not imputed where there is no law.”

15. But not as the offence, so also the gift. For if by the offence of one, many died; much more the grace of God, and the gift, by the grace ot one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

The Apostle now begins to show the points of difference between Adam, the type, and Christ, the antitype; and he says that the detriment and evil caused by the sin of the former has not been so destructive in its effects, as the grace and gift of the latter has been abundant and reparatory in its consequences.

But (ἀλλά = alla) introduces the contrasts between Adam and Christ.

The offence (παράπτωμα = paraptōma) means the fall, or personal sin of Adam.

The gift means the gratuitous merits which Christ bequeathed to the world by His death on the cross.

If by the offence, etc. Although hypothetical in form, this proposition, like that in verse 17 below, is absolute in meaning, because the condition was entirely verified.

Of one, i.e., of Adam.

Many (οι πολλοι = hoi polloi, lliterally, “the many,” as in the NAB) signifies all men who are descendants of Adam, as is evident from verses 12 and 18, where it is expressly said that all have incurred the penalty of death.

Died (απεθανον = apothanon) refers to natural or physical death, considered as the punishment of the sin of Adam or spiritual death.

The grace, etc., i.e., the goodness and benevolence of God, from whom all good things come, and especially the gift (δωρεά = dōrea), i.e., justification. If the sin of Adam has exercised so great an evil influence upon all humanity, much more, says the Apostle, has the grace of Christ exercised a contrary influence for the good of all. The range of sin was equalled by the range of grace, but it was surpassed in effect by the latter.

Unto many (εις τους πολλους), i.e., unto all men. There is absolutely no difference between the extension of the grace of Christ and that of the sin of Adam. All men are concerned in both cases, even though all do not profit by the former, and hence the plures of the Vulgate here should be omnes.

16. And not as it was by one sin, so also is the. gift. For judgment indeed was by one unto condemnation; but grace is of many offences, unto justification.

A second difference between the sin of Adam and the gift of God is found in their respective effects. On acount of the one sin of Adam the judgment of God’s condemnation (κατάκριμα = katakrima) is pronounced upon all men; but by the grace of Christ all men are justified, both from that one sin and from all other personal sins. “One sin availed to bring in death and condemnation; but the grace of God took away not that sin only, but all the sins that came in after it” (St. Chrys).

Judgment (κριμα = krima. Note the connection with katakrima above) means condemnation, God’s decision to punish.

Condemnation (κατάκριμα = katakrima) means an extension of the decision to punish εις παντας ανθρωπους= unto all men (verse 18).

Justification (δικαίωμα = dikaiōma) means a sentence of acquittal, on condition of faith.

The reading of the Vulgate per unum peccatum, although supported by a number of Greek MSS., is not considered so good as that of several other MSS. and versions, per unum peccantem, through one who has sinned (δι ενος αμαρτησαντο).

17. For if by one man’s offence death reigned through one; much more they who receive abundance of grace, and of the gift, and of justice, shall reign in life through one, Jesus Christ.

Another contrast is deduced from the respective effects of the sin and the gift. If through one man’s offence, i.e., through the fall of Adam, death was visited on all the people in the world, how much more through the abundant grace of one, namely Jesus Christ, shall life reign in the world. But in this new life only those shall have part who shall have received the abundance of grace, and of the gift of justice, i.e., the remission of sins and true justification, which can be had only through the merits of Christ. Our Lord has merited for us not only a life of grace in this world, and a life of glory hereafter, but also all the means necessary to attain these abundant blessings here and hereafter.

The majority of MSS. have “of the grace of the gift of justice.”

18. Therefore, as by the offence of one, unto all men to condemnation; so also by the justice of one, unto all men to justification of life.

This verse is a development of the thoughts expressed in verses 14 and 16, and is at the same time a continuation and completion of the comparison begun in verse 12; αρα ουν (“Therefore”) picks up the thought begun there. As by the sin of one man, Adam, all men have been condemned to spiritual and temporal death, so by the justice, i.e., the merits of one, Jesus Christ, the justification of life, i.e., of sanctifying grace, has been extended to all men. “The justification of Christ extends to all men in point of sufficiency, but in point of efficacy it reaches only the faithful” (St. Thomas). And this justification, or sanctifying grace, which is offered to all through faith in Christ, raises man from a state of spiritual death to the life of the children of God, and gives him a right to heaven and immortality.

The force of the comparison between Adam and Christ is this, that as all who are carnally descended from the former have, by his sin, incurred the condemnation of death; so all who are spiritually descended from Christ obtain justification through His merits. Or, the second part of the comparison may be explained with St. Thomas, as quoted above, by saying that the merits of Jesus are sufficient, and more than sufficient, to save all men, although many through their own fault do not profit by them. It remains true, however, that as no one dies except on account of the sin of Adam, so no one is justified unto life except through the justice and merits of Christ.

19. For as by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners; so also by the obedience of one, many shall be made just.

As by the disobedience of one man, namely, Adam, who ate the forbidden fruit in the garden of paradise, many, i.e., all men (verse 18) became sinners, i.e., lost original justice; so contrariwise, by the obedience of one man, namely Christ, through His sufferings and death on the cross, many, i.e., all are provided with the means of justification, as explained above (verse 18). The future tense, shall be made just, shows that the justice to be realized personally is dependent on faith in Jesus. The justification of Christ is intended, and is sufficient for all, even though many do not profit by it.

In the previous verse justification through Christ is proved a posteriori, i.e., through the reign of grace, its effect ; here it is proved a priori, i.e., through its efficient cause (St. Thomas). As the disobedience of Adam was the cause of all becoming unjust, so the obedience of Christ is the cause of the justification of all.

20. Now the law entered in, that sin might abound. And where sin abounded, grace did more abound.

This and the following verse form a kind of appendix to what precedes. To prove the existence of original sin St. Paul had considered the situation between Adam and Moses, and so it might reasonably be expected that he would also discuss the situation after the giving of the Law, between Moses and Christ. What effect upon sin had the Law? Paul responds briefly by saying that instead of destroying or lessening the reign of sin in the world, as might have been expected, the introduction of the Law only increased sin. Not that the Law was bad; it was good (Rom 7:10) and led to Christ (Gal 3:24); but after its promulgation, owing to the corruption of human nature, the sins of men became more numerous and more serious, partly because the Law not only made known but also multiplied man’s duties and obligations, without, however, giving any help to fulfil them, and partly also because the very prohibitions and restrictions it imposed served to excite concupiscence the more. Nevertheless, the primary end God had in view in giving the Law was not to multiply sins, but to humiliate sinners by showing them their weakness and degradation, and thus to move them to desire the Messiah and to seek pardon from God; and to this higher end God permitted the increase of sins on account of the Law (St. Augustine, St. Thomas, Lagrange, Cornely, etc.). In this interpretation that (ινα) would signify the final cause or purpose of giving the Law. The law entered in, in order that what was sin might be realized as sin (Rom 3:20). St. Chrysostom and others understand “that” in a consecutive or consequential sense.

Sin (παραπτωμα) means all the actual sins committed by men under the Law of Moses.

Where (ου) may mean either “where” or “when,” more probably the latter here, since the Apostle is treating of a period of time rather than of a particular place.

Sin (η αμαρτια) abounded, i.e., original sin, which, like a poison spread its evil among men and caused the multiplication of actual sins. At this time when sin was working its ravages among mankind grace did more abound, because it not only liberated from original and actual sins and eternal death, but it did much more by making men, through faith in Christ and His justification, children of God and heirs of eternal happiness in heaven; it had not only a negative but a positive effect (verse 21).

It is more conformable to the Greek and to the traditional MSS. of the Vulgate to replace the second delictum of our present Vulgate by peccatum.

21, That as sin hath reigned to death; so also grace might reign by justice unto life everlasting, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

As sin hath reigned, etc., i.e., as sin reigned over all mankind from Adam to Christ, bringing death, spiritual and temporal, to all; so, after the coming of Christ, grace through justification has reigned, preparing souls for life everlasting. This justification is a supernatural gift of God, communicated to the soul, by which one passes from a state of enmity to a state of friendship with God; its end is life eternal, its author and source is Jesus Christ our Lord.

In verse 17 it was death, the effect of sin, that reigned; here it is sin which has reigned through death, temporal and spiritual.

Throughout the latter part of this chapter we find two actors, Adam and Christ, illustrated by their mutually opposing acts and effects. There are the sin of Adam, and the gift of grace (verse 15); the judgment of condemnation leading to chastisement, and the gift of grace leading to justification (verse 16); the sin of Adam inaugurates the reign of death, the gift of justice begins the reign of those who have received it (verse 17); the actual sin of only one brings punishment upon all, the meritorious act of only one provides justification for all (verse 18); disobedience makes all sinners, obedience renders all just (verse 19); original sin, increased by actual sins, reigns and kills, grace through justification reigns and prepares for life eternal (verses 20, 21) (Lagrange, h. 1.).

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