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 1:1-7

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 27, 2013

This post includes the Bishop’s brief analysis of chapter 1. Text in purple indicate the Bishop’s paraphrase of the text he is commenting on. Text in red, if any, are mine.

ANALYSIS OF ROMANS 1

After premising with the usual Apostolical salutation (verses 1–7), the Apostle enters on the exordium of this Epistle, in which he displays consummate prudence, admirably calculated to render the Romans well affected towards him, and attentive to the instructions which he intends proposing to them (7–17). He next lays down the proposition or great subject of the Epistle, viz., that Justification is derived neither from the Law of Moses nor from the strength of nature, as the Jewish and Gentile converts at Rome respectively imagined, but from a source quite different, viz., from faith (17). With a view of showing how far their multiplied sins rendered the Gentiles deserving objects of the heavy anger of God, with which sinners are menaced in the Gospel (18), the Apostle, in the next place, draws a frightful picture of the abominable crimes into which those who were reputed the wisest among the Pagans, viz., their learned Philosophers, had fallen; he describes their abandonment of God, their idolatry, their unnatural lusts, and their other violations of the Natural Law; and leaves it to be inferred, that whereas these Philosophers were reputed the wisest and the most virtuous among the Gentiles, and the virtues which they practised made a subject of boasting among the people, the great mass of the Gentile world must, therefore, be sunk still deeper in vice and immorality; and, consequently, instead of having a claim to the Gospel on the ground of their exalted natural virtues, as the Gentile converts pretended, they were rather deserving of death and punishment.

Rom 1:1  Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.

1. Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, by divine vocation, an apostle, by a special and singular choice of the Holy Ghost set apart to announce the glad tidings of Redemption contained in the Gospel of God,

“Paul.” The original name of the Apostle was “Saul.” He assumed the name of “Paul,” according to St. Jerome, Baronius, and others, in compliment to his illustrious convert, Sergius Paulus, Proconsul of Cyprus (Acts, 13:12). Paul, being a Roman name, is employed by him, when addressing the Gentiles; Saul, when addressing the Jews. Others, with St. Thomas, say he had both names from his infancy. They say that, in consequence of Tharsis, his native place, being a free city of the Roman Empire, he received the Roman name “Paul” with the Jewish name Saul. Hence; in the Acts of the Apostles (13:9), he is called “Saul, otherwise Paul.” St. Augustine says, he assumed the name of Paul from a feeling of humility, and to express his diminutive stature. He prefixes his name in conformity with the usage of the time. In modern letter writing, it is needless to remark, the usage in this respect is the reverse of that which formerly prevailed.

“A servant of Jesus Christ.” He might be called the “servant of Jesus Christ,” on several titles, on account of his Creation, Redemption, call to the Faith, &c.; the word “servant” in this passage most likely regards his special engagement in the duty of preaching the Gospel, in quality of Apostle, as is more fully explained in the following words.

“Called.” The Greek word, κλητος, is a noun, and means “by vocation.” This the Apostle adds to show that he was not self-sent or self-commissioned, but that his authority was derived from a proper source. “He was called by God as was Aaron.”—(Hebrews, 4:4)

“An Apostle.” This word, according to strict etymology, means one sent; but, in Ecclesiastical usage, and as designating the first office in the Church, as described (Ephesians, 4:11), it means one sent to preach the Gospel, with power to found and establish churches. There were only twelve of this class, with whom were associated Paul and Barnabas.—(For a full exposition of this word, see Epistle to Galatians, chap. 1 verse 1—Commentary).

“Separated” expresses the singular and exalted choice made of him by the Holy Ghost, when he said, “Separate unto me Paul and Barnabas for the work whereunto I have taken them.”—(Acts, 13:2).

Rom 1:2  Which he had promised before, by his prophets, in the holy scriptures,

2. A Gospel proposing nothing either false of novel; but long since promised by God through the oracles of the prophets contained in the inspired Scriptures.

 “Which he had promised,” &c. This the Apostle adds in order to show the Christians of Rome, both converted Jews and Gentiles, that the Gospel which he preached contained nothing false or novel, nothing opposed to Moses or the prophets (whom he was calumniously charged with undervaluing), since it was no more than a fulfilment of the prophecies of the Old Testament, all of which regarded Christ—the principal subject of the Gospel—as their term. The word “promised,” also conveys in limine, that this Gospel, and the justification through Christ, was given gratuitously as a matter of free promise, on the part of God, and independently of the merits of man, whether actual or foreseen. For the meaning of the word “prophet,” see 1 Cor. 11:5. Here, it refers to the sacred writers of the Old Testament.

Rom 1:3  Concerning his Son, who was made to him of the seed of David, according to the flesh,

3. This Gospel had reference to the Son of God, endowed with divine and human natures, who, according to his human nature, was born to Him in time of the Virgin Mary, being herself of the seed of David.

The chief subject of this Gospel, as well as of the prophecies which ushered it in, was the Son of God, “who was made,” &c., who, even in his human nature, was of kingly descent, being born of the royal house of David. These words refer to the human nature of Christ.

Rom 1:4  Who was predestinated the Son of God in power, according to the spirit of sanctification, by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead:

4. Who, regarded according to this same human nature, or, as terminating human nature, was predestinated from eternity to become, in time, the Son of God (by being united personally with the Second Person of the Adorable Trinity); and this he was shown to be, by the divine power, which he had, of working miracles, by the sending of the Holy Ghost upon the faithful; and particularly, by raising himself from the dead.

The Greek of verses 3 and 4 runs thus:—περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ, τοῦ γενομένου εκ σπέρματος Δαβὶδ κατὰ σάρκα· verse 4, τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει, κατὰ πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης, ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ Κυριου ἡμῶν.

According to the Vulgate rendering of the word ὁρισθέντος “qui praedestinatus est,” “who was predestinated,” the words mean, that this seed of David, according to the flesh, i.e., according to human nature, or, which amounts to the same in sense, that this Divine Person, considered not as terminating the divine nature, but as terminating human nature, was predestinated to become in time the Son of God, by a personal union with the Second Person of the Adorable Trinity. In this interpretation, generally adopted by the Latins, the word “who” refers not directly to the Divine Person of the Son of God, but to his human nature viewed in the abstract, and prescinding from its personal union with the Son of God.—(A’Lapide). It is to be borne in mind, that the God-man, Christ, had but one Person, the Person of the Eternal Word, and it could not be well said, that the person of the Son of God was from eternity predestinated to be the Son of God. It was, then, the human nature of Christ, that was from eternity predestinated to be the Son of God, by its personal union with the Word for, as man, Christ is the natural Son of God. Most likely, the Vulgate interpreter read προορισθεντος; but, this reading is not found at present in any Greek copy.

The Greek Commentators, taking the word ὁρισθεις, in its literal meaning of defined, declared, interpret the words thus:—This Jesus Christ, whom the Apostles proclaim as the Eternal Son of God, was most clearly shown to be such, by the prodigies of “power” or miracles performed at the invocation of his name, through the operation of the Holy Ghost, after his Resurrection from the dead. Ita Theodoret, who admits only one source of argument demonstrative of the eternal Sonship of Christ in the passage. Others, with St. Chrysostom, Theophylact, &c., contend that there are three sources of argument (as in the Paraphrase), miracles,—“in power;”—the gifts of the Holy Ghost plenteously showered down by him on his Apostles and the first believers,—“according to the spirit of sanctification;”—and the power displayed in his own resurrection,—“by the resurrection from the dead.” In this latter interpretation, the resurrection of Christ is placed last, although, in point of time, occurring prior to the sending down of the Holy Ghost; because, though hardly immediately intended here, it was the most splendid argument of Christ’s Divinity; and, moreover, the word “resurrection” might be regarded, as embracing the general resurrection of all men, of which that of Christ was the cause and the exemplar. The interpretation of the Greek is preferred by many eminent Commentators, Estius among the rest. It is also embraced by Beelen, who prefers that of Theodoret, who admits only one source of argument. The interpretation, according to the Vulgate, and that according to the literal meaning of the simple Greek word, ὁρισθεις, are united in the Paraphrase.

“The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead,” are interpreted by A’Lapide to mean, by a Hebrew idiom, “by the resurrection, or resuscitation, of himself from the dead.” Others include from, “who was made unto him” (verse 3), as far as, “by the resurrection from the dead” (verse 4), inclusively, within a parenthesis; and they connect the words, “of our Lord Jesus Christ,” with the words, “his Son” (verse 3), putting them in apposition, as if the Apostle meant to say, by the Son of God to whom I refer as preached by the Apostles and predestinated from eternity. I mean, “our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Greek in which the words, “from the dead” are joined to “by the resurrection,” thus “by the resurrection from the dead,” will clearly admit of this construction; which is regarded by many as the more natural meaning of the passage (vide Beelen, in hunc locum).

Rom 1:5  By whom we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith, in all nations, for his name:

5. Through him, both as God and man, we have received the grace and office of Apostleship to be exercised in his name and behalf, throughout all nations, in order that they may be brought to submit their reason to faith and embrace the Gospel.

“By whom,” both as Son of God and son of David, “we,” i.e., I myself and the other Apostles, “have received grace and Apostleship.” This by the figure, Hendiadys, is put for the grace of Apostleship, “in his name,” to be exercised by us, as his legates and vicegerents, “for the obedience of faith, &c.,” so as to bring all nations to embrace the Gospel, to submit their intellects to the obscure truths of faith, which requires the “obedience,” the pious motion of the will, aided by grace. “With the heart we believe unto justice.”—(Rom. 10:10; see also 2 Cor. 10:5). Note: concerning the term hendiady, see here.

Rom 1:6  Among whom are you also the called of Jesus Christ:

6. Among which nations given in charge to me, you, Romans, who by divine vocation are Christians, are to be reckoned; hence, it is in quality of Apostle, I address to you this Epistle.

 “Among whom.” &c. Hence it is that St. Paul, as Apostle of nations, addresses this Epistle to them. “Called,” κλητος, is a noun, signifying “by vocation” Christians. This he adds to show them that the grace of Christianity bestowed on them was the result of a purely gratuitous call on the part of God. The passage, from the words, “who was made to him,” verse 3, to the end of this verse inclusively, is to be read within a parenthesis.

Rom 1:7  To all that are at Rome, the beloved of God, called to be saints. Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

7. (Salutes) all who are at Rome, the beloved of God called to a state and profession of sanctity. May you enjoy the abundance of all spiritual gifts, and the quiet, undisturbed possession of the same from their efficient cause, God the Father, and their meritorious cause, Jesus Christ, who is, in a special manner, our Lord, in right of Redemption.

After the long parenthesis, he now enters on the salutation. The word salutes, (writes to), or some such, is understood. “To all that are at Rome, the beloved,” &c., i.e., to all the Christians of Rome. “Called to be saints.” Every Christian is, by his very profession, bound to be a saint. How few are there who correspond with this sublime end of their vocation! “Grace to you and peace,” the usual form of Apostolical salutation. “God our Father” may refer to the entire Trinity; it more probably refers to the First Person; “and from the Lord Jesus Christ,” we are his purchased slaves; hence, he is our “Lord,” in a special manner, by Redemption.

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