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

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans 11:33-36

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 22, 2013

This post contains Fr MacEvilly’s brief analysis of Romans 11, followed by his notes on 11:33-36. Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the text he is commenting on.

ANALYSIS OF ROMANS 11

The Apostle, having pointed out, in the two preceding chapters, the rejection of the Jews, and the vocation of the Gentiles to the faith, employs this chapter in offering consolation to the Jews, and in repressing the arrogance and boasting of the Gentile converts. He consoles the Jews by showing, that all the Jewish people are not rejected from the faith (verses 1–5). But although some are saved, he does not conceal from them the painful fact, that these are only the remnant, while the great bulk of them are reprobated, according to the predictions of the prophets (6–10). At verse, 11, the Apostle proposes a second question similar to that proposed (1), where the question regarded the NUMBER of the Jews rejected. Here the question regards the DURATION or PERIOD of the rejection of the greater portion; and, he answers, by saying, that this rejection shall not always continue. He adduces several reasons to show, that, at a future day, the great bulk of the Jews will be again called to the faith, and admitted to the divine favour. The first reason is grounded on the designs of God in calling the Gentiles, in order to provoke the Jews to emulation. The next reason is grounded on the advantages this conversion of the Jews would bring to the entire world (12). Again, he derives a reason from the designs of the Apostle himself in their regard (13, 14, 15). Again, he argues from the extrinsic moral consecration of the Jews in the patriarchs, from whom they sprang, and in the Apostles and first faithful who are of the same race with them (16); and after adducing several reasons why the Gentiles should not boast against the Jews, both on the grounds of benefits received from them (18), and of holy fear (19–22), he finally announces as a certain fact, that all the Jews will be converted, at some future day (25–29), and that the same economy of Providence will be observed towards them, that had been observed in regard to the Gentiles (30, 31). Unable to fathom this mysterious Providence, he bursts forth into the exclamation, “O the depth!” &c.—(33, &c.).

Rom 11:33  O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways!

33. As we cannot fathom or penetrate this mysterious economy of Providence, we can only exclaim in amazement: O the profound abyss of the mercy, and of the wisdom, and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments and decrees, and how unsearchable are his ways in carrying his decrees into execution.

The Apostle, unable to fathom this mysterious Providence of God in the rejection and vocation of both Jews and Gentiles, and wishing to teach us to submit our judgment to the decrees of Providence, be they ever so incomprehensible, recoils with sacred horror from further examination of the matter, and oppressed with the majesty of glory, bursts into the exclamation: “O the depths, of the riches!” i.e., of his mercy displayed in the vocation of Jew and Gentile, though both had sinned, and had no claim on him. “The wisdom” in drawing good out of evil, making the obstinate incredulity of the Jew the occasion of calling the Gentile, and the envy of the Jew at the call of the Gentile, the occasion of his conversion. “And of the science” displayed in the knowledge of all things future. In the Paraphrase, the Greek construction has been adopted: “O the depth of the riches and of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God!” is the reading of ail Greek copies; but in our Vulgate, the word “riches” is not separated from “wisdom” and “science;” and the words appear to mean, “the riches of the wisdom,” and “the riches of the science,” i.e., the exceedingly rich wisdom and science. However, the three distinct questions in verses 34, 35, would appear to-correspond with the three qualities expressed in the Greek.

Rom 11:34  For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor?

34. For who ever has known the mind of the Lord?—or who is it that has shared in his counsels?

 “Who hath known,” &c., refers to his “knowledge,” or, “who hath been his counsellor,” to his “wisdom.”

Rom 11:35  Or who hath first given to him, and recompense shall be made him?

35. Or who gave God anything first, so that God would be bound to make a return?

“Or who hath first given to him,” &c., refers to the “riches” of his mercy, which in all the affairs of creatures He can exercise, subject to no claim, since God owes his sinful creatures no exercise of mercy.

Rom 11:36  For of him, and by him, and in him, are all things: to him be glory for ever. Amen.

36. Since from God, as Creator and first source, all things have emanated; by him as Preserver, or, by his Providence, all things subsist and are preserved in existence; and to him, as their Final End, all things tend; or, in him, all things exist and are contained. To him alone, therefore, are due honour, praise, and glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

“For of him,” as Creator and first source, and “by him,” as preserving by his Providence, “and in him,” as the end for which he created all things, universa propter semetipsum operatus est Dominus (Prov. 16); or, as in the Greek, εις αυτον, “unto him,” as their last end, all things tend. Some Expositors apply each of them, by appropriation, to the three distinct Persons of the adorable Trinity: “of him,” to the Father; “by him,” to the Son; and “in him” to the Holy Ghost. “To him be glory.” Many Commentators assert that the sacred doxology, “Glory be to the Father,” &c., took its rise in the Church from the example of St. Paul here, and the common institution of the Apostles; and that in the Council of Nice, A.D. 325, was added: “As it was in the beginning is now, and ever more shall be, world without end, Amen,” in order to refute the impiety of the Arians, who asserted, erat, quando non erat, i.e., there was a time, when the Son existed not.

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