The Divine Lamp

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans 2:1-11

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 11, 2013

This post opens with Fr MacEvilly’s brief analysis of Romans 2, followed by his notes on 2:1-11. Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.


The Apostle, after having convicted the Gentiles, in the preceding chapter, of the grossest violations of the natural law, undertakes, in this, to prove that the Jews, notwithstanding their boasted privileges, were no less chargeable with grievous violations of the Law of Moses. In order to avoid offence, he alleges in a general way, however, without any express mention of the Jews, charges equally applicable to both Jews and Gentiles, and probably equally intended for both (verses 1–16).

At verse 17, expressly applying himself to the case of the Jews in particular, he shows how much they abused the prerogatives and exalted favours of which they boasted, and how grievously they sinned against the law. The consequence of which was, that they dishonoured God and brought His holy religion into contempt among the idolatrous Gentiles (verses 17–25).

The Apostle points out, in the next place, what the circumcision is, and who the Jew is, that are of any value in the sight of God.

Rom 2:1  Wherefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest. For wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself. For thou dost the same things which thou judgest.

 (As, then, the philosophers were inexcusable, and deserving of death for their sins, having a knowledge of God and his justice), thou art no less inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest or condemnest the faults of others, whilst committing the same thyself; for, by the very fact of passing sentence on others, thou condemnest thyself, since thou dost perpetrate the very crimes condemned by thee in others.

“Wherefore.” Commentators are perplexed about the connexion of this particle. It may be regarded as a mere particle of transition; or, it may be connected with the foregoing in this way: since the philosophers were inexcusable (rOM 1:20), and deserving of death (verse 32), for having deprived God of his glory, and for having committed sin and approved of it in others; thou art, therefore, no less inexcusable, whosoever thou art, be thou Jew or Gentile, that condemnest thy neighbour, and committest the same crimes thyself. In this sense the particle is a connecting link deducing an inference from what is asserted in the foregoing chapter. “Thou art inexcusable,” &c.; this is confined by some to the Jews who condemned in the Gentiles the crimes of which they themselves were also guilty. It is, however, more probable, that it expends to the Gentiles also, and includes all, whether Jews or Gentiles, who condemn in others what they themselves are guilty of. In fact, the proposition is announced as a universal proposition, “whosoever thou art,” &c.

Rom 2:2  For we know that the judgment of God is, according to truth, against them that do such things.

For, it is a matter well known and indubitable, that the judgment of God will be exercised agreeably to justice, and the real merits of the case, against those who commit the crimes of which thou art not less guilty than they are whom thou condemnest.

Such persons will suffer from God the judgment of condemnation which their crimes deserve. “For we know,” as a matter of undoubted certainty, the Jews know it for certain, from the Law of Moses, the Gentiles, from the light of reason, “that the judgment of God is according to truth,” i.e., that God will judge with impartial justice, those “that do those things.” i.e., both those who condemn in others what they themselves commit, and those who approve of them (Rom 1:32).

Rom 2:3  And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them who do such things and dost the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?

Can it be that thou art persevering in the commission of these crimes which thou art condemning in others from the delusive hope of escaping the just judgment of God?

This form of interrogative, addressed to the sinner in the second person, adds great force to the style. “And thinkest thou,” &c., i.e., thou art greatly mistaken if thou imaginest that thou, who sinnest knowingly, wilt escape the judgment of God, or, if thou construest God’s present forbearance into approbation of thy conduct.

Rom 2:4  Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and patience and longsuffering? Knowest thou not that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance?

 Is not thy present impunity the effect of God’s boundless goodness, of his great patience in bearing with thee, and of his long-suffering in deferring thy punishment, all of which thou art slighting and despising by persevering in sin? Art thou not aware that this benignity on the part of God is shown thee for no other purpose than to induce thee to return to penance?

“The riches of his goodness,” i.e., his rich and immense goodness in bestowing so many favours on thee, “and patience” in bearing with and tolerating the wicked; “long-suffering” in deferring punishment. These, the sinner “despises,” when presuming on them, he sins with the hope of impunity. “Knowest thou not,” i.e., thou shouldst be aware, although thou appearest ignorant of it, “that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance.” The design of God in showering his blessings on thee, and in patiently enduring thy sins, is not to encourage thy continuance in sin, but to lead thee to do penance for them by a change of life.

Rom 2:5  But according to thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up to thyself wrath, against the day of wrath and revelation of the just judgment of God:

But, according to thy hardness and obduracy of heart, callous to the motions and impressions of grace, and thy impenitence, from which neither allurements nor threats can awaken thee, thou art stirring up for thyself a treasure of wrath against the terrible day of vengeance, when God shall display the righteousness of his judgment, and will pour forth all his vengeance on the wicked.

“But according to,” i.e., by reason of “thy hardness” inresisting the impressions of divine grace, which hardness the infinite goodness of God cannot soften; “and impenitent heart,” deaf to the allurements of mercy and the threats and menaces of divine justice, “thou treasurest up.” This word, strictly speaking, is understood of what is good; but sometimes also, as here, James chap. 5 verse 3, and elsewhere, of what is evil. “Wrath,” i.e., vengeance “against the day of wrath and revelation,” &c., i.e., against the day of judgment, which is called “the day of wrath,” because on that day there will be no place for mercy, “and of revelation,” because on it everything will be exposed, “and of just judgment,” because, then, each one will be treated according to his deserts.

Rom 2:6  Who will render to every man according to his works.

Then he shall render to every man according as his works deserved it, whether reward or punishment.

“Who will render,” &c., to the wicked, eternal torments, and to the just, eternal life, as the reward of their good works, among which, sufferings for God’s sake are to be reckoned as being the most heroic deeds of merit.

Rom 2:7  To them indeed who, according to patience in good work, seek glory and honour and incorruption, eternal life:

To those who, by patient perseverance in good works, seek honour, glory and immortality, he will give eternal life:

“According to patience in good works,” by patiently persevering in good works, “who seek glory and honour, life everlasting,” in Greek, τοις ζητοῦσι δοξαν, &c., seeking glory, &c. The construction may also run thus, to those who seek life everlasting, he will give honour and glory and incorruption. These terms express “eternal life” differently; “honour and glory” express the dignity to which the just will be raised, together with the praiseworthy celebrity conferred on them, “and incorruption” expresses the never-ending duration of this bliss. This passage furnishes a proof of the Catholic doctrine of merit.

Rom 2:8  But to them that are contentious and who obey not the truth but give credit to iniquity, wrath and indignation.

But on the contentious, and those who obey not the truth, but follow their iniquity, will be inflicted heavy and condign punishment.

“But to them who are contentious, and obey not the truth,” i.e., who resist the divine truth of the Gospel announced to them, disbelieving its doctrines, and disobeying its precepts, “but give credit to iniquity,” i.e., adhere to the false teaching which favour their impure and iniquitous lives; “wrath and indignation,” i.e., heavy and severe punishment, such as is wont to be inflicted by an enraged and angry man. In the common Greek, the order of these two words is inverted, “indignation and wrath,” but the chief MSS. support the Vulgate. The words are in the nominative case, and hence, “will be inflicted,” or some such verb, is understood.

Rom 2:9  Tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that worketh evil: of the Jew first, and also of the Greek.

Tribulation and anguish shall be the just portion of every man that doeth evil, of the Jew first (who resisted greater lights and graces), and also of the Gentile;

“Tribulation,” mental torture. “Anguish” expresses the straits to which the wicked will be reduced on the day of judgment, calling on “the mountains to fall upon them, and the hills to cover them.” “Of the Jew first,” because, having greater knowledge, he will be more guilty in sinning, “and also of the Greek,” i.e., the Gentile (Rom 1:16).

Rom 2:10  But glory and honour and peace to every one that worketh good: to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

On the other hand, glory, honour, and peace shall be given in reward to every one that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.

“Glory, honour,” &c., are a circumlocution for eternal life; “peace” expresses the quiet, uninterrupted, and secure possession of these blessings which they shall enjoy, “to the Jew first,” because, as the Jews were the principal objects of God’s predilection, they will be the first in the order of eternal rewards, if they correspond with divine grace. The Apostle places the Jews first in the order of remuneration, because he appeared to have lowered them before in placing them first for punishment (verse 9); “and also the Greek,” i.e., the Gentile; he refers to the faithful Gentile, both before Christ, such as Job, Melchisedech, &c., and to the faithful Gentile converts after he came, whose actions were performed under the influence of grace and faith; for, such actions alone are entitled to an eternal reward.

Rom 2:11  For there is no respect of persons with God.

For with God, whether in rewarding or punishing, there is no respect paid to persons; he solely regards men’s deserts, and the merits of the case.

The charge of “respect of persons” has reference to the claims of justice, and is incurred when, in the distribution of justice, the dispenser of it regards circumstances extrinsic and quite foreign to the merits of the case, as if a judge were to look to the lace, appearence, dignity, &c., of the parties. Hence, as God owes nothing to his creatures—since all his gilts are quite gratuitous—the charge of having “respect of persons” can never be incurred by him; but even when, by his own free will, he gives his creatures a claim upon him, he never admits “respect of persons;” for, although the Jew is placed first in the order of merit, it is but perfectly just, since he receives greater graces and was first called, which graces and call were perfectly gratutious in the first instance, and established a claim on the ground of merit afterwards; and vice versa, he should be the first punished for having abused greater graces.



2 Responses to “Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans 2:1-11”

  1. […] Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans 2:1-11 ( […]

  2. […] Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans 2:1-11 ( […]

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