THE JEWS MISUNDERSTOOD THE JUSTICE OF GOD
A Summary of Romans 10:1-4
The Apostle protests again (cf. Rom 9:1-3) to the Romans his sincere affection and sympathy for his fellow-Jews. Their failure, he says, is due, not to lack of zeal, but to the error of insisting on their own false notion in preference to the true notion of justice. The theme is the same as in Rom 9:30-33; but, while there he was speaking of Israel stumbling at the stumbling-block, he is here entering into a psychological analysis of the Jewish mind which, in observing the Law, came short of Christ, the end of the Law.
Rom 10:1. Brethren, the will of my heart, indeed, and my prayer to God, is for them unto salvation.
Here St. Paul gives renewed assurance of his abiding interest in the salvation of his fellow-Jews. And yet, their incredulity has put a chasm between him and them, as is evident from the fact that he speaks of them in the third person, while addressing the Romans in the second person as brethren.
The will of my heart (ευδοκια = eudokia), i.e., my strong desire (St. Chrysostom), or my inclination, purpose (Lagrange). The particle μεν (men), not followed by δε (de), is most probably to be used in its adverbial sense of confirmation, meaning here, certainly translated above as “indeed” (Lagrange).
Rom 10:2. For I bear them witness, that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
I bear them witness, etc. The Apostle, who had been a zealous Pharisee, and had himself been eaten up with zeal for God (Gal. 1:14; Acts 22:3), was well able to testify to the zeal of his fellow-Jews. They certainly were most assiduous in studying the law of God, but they failed to understand God’s designs. They were at great pains to promote the honor and glory of God, but they were little concerned to scrutinize their own conceptions to see what God’s honor and glory might consist in. Hence their ignorance was culpable. Thus St. Paul (1 Tim. 1:13) blamed his own ignorance, and St. Peter (Acts 3:17) said that the Jews crucified Christ through ignorance.
A zeal of God, i.e., a zeal for the cause of God.
Knowledge, i.e., a profound understanding (επιγνωσιν = epignosin) . Cf. Eph. 1:17; 4:13; Col. 1:9-10; etc.
Rom 10:3. For they, not knowing the justice of God, and seeking to establish their own, have not submitted themselves to the justice of God.
They not knowing, through their own culpable ignorance, the justice of God, i.e., the system of gratuitous justification by means of grace through faith in Christ to come, as the Scriptures had announced (Rom 3:21; 41-25). To receive this grace of justification it was needful that the Jews should recognize themselves as sinners, even like the Gentiles; but they were persuaded that it was necessary for the honor of God to establish their own, i.e., to defend as true justice their own idea of justification, based on the external observance of the Law, and the result of their own personal efforts. Considering this frame of mind we can readily understand how they would not submit themselves to “the justice of God,” i.e., the justification which God communicates to men, which is a gratuitous gift of God dependent upon faith in Christ. Cf. Philip, 3:9.
Rom 10:4. For the end of the law is Christ, unto justice to every one that believeth.
For (γαρ = gar) explains why the submission of the preceding verse was required.
The end, etc., i.e., the purpose of the Mosaic Law was to lead to Christ. All the precepts and ceremonies of the Law were types of Christian mysteries, intended to prefigure Christ and to prepare man for His coming. How far astray, then, were the Jews in trying to establish a system of justification independent of faith in Christ! But Fr. Lagrange and others understand τελος νομου (= telos nomou, “end of the law”) here to mean not that the Law was ordained and led to Christ, or that Christ was its perfection and fulfillment; but that, since the justice of God is now given in Christ, the Law has come to an end, as an instrument of justice, and has no further purpose (cf. also Gal. 3:25). Hence in the first explanation τελος (telos) would mean purpose; in the second, end, or term. We see no reason why both explanations cannot stand.
Law, although without the article in Greek, means the Mosaic Law, as is clear from the context (Lagrange, Cornely, etc.), and not law in general (Weiss, Zahn, etc.).
That believeth. To obtain justification and salvation faith in Christ has at all times been the indispensable means,—in Christ to come under the Old Law, and in Christ already come under the New Dispensation.
THE JUSTICE OF LAW AND THE JUSTICE OF FAITH
A Summary of Romans 10:5-13
The Apostle speaks in these verses, first of the justice of the Law, as contrasted with the justice of faith ; he then shows that this latter is also necessary for the salvation of the Jews; there is no distinction, both Jew and Gentile must be saved by faith.
Rom 10:5. For Moses wrote, that the justice which is of the law, the man that shall do it, shall live by it
The Apostle quotes Moses (Lev. 18:5, according to the LXX) to show the difference between the justice of the Law and that of faith. If a man is able to obtain the justice of the Law, he will have as his reward, temporal, and even eternal life; but this justice is very difficult, being beyond man’s natural strength.
The justice … of the law, i.e., the justice which resulted from an observance of all the precepts of the Mosaic Law.
The man that shall do it, etc., i.e., the man that is able to do such a difficult thing.
Shall live by it. To the observers of the Law there was promised a life of temporal blessings (Deut. 28:2-13; 30:9-10), and also life eternal (Matt. 19:17; Luke 10:25-28). But to obtain this latter it was necessary to observe, not only externally, but also internally, all the precepts of the Law; and, in particular, to love God and have faith in Christ to come (Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:36; Rom. 2:13; 4:11)—a task utterly beyond the powers of fallen human nature unaided by grace (Rom 7:22-25). This grace, however, which the Law could not provide, would be given by God in virtue of faith in Christ to come. The Jews erroneously thought they could keep the Law by their own mere natural strength, and thereby obtain the rewards promised.
Wrote should be “writeth,” and scripsit of the Vulgate should be scribit, to conform to the Greek.
Rom 10:6. But the justice which is of faith, speaketh thus: Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? that is, to bring Christ down;
Rom 10:7. Or who shall descend into the deep? that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.
To show that the justice of faith, unlike that of the Law, is not difficult to obtain St. Paul here personifies it, and makes it address man in the words of Deut. 30:11-14. These words, in their primary and literal meaning, refer to the Law of Moses, the precepts of which were not difficult to understand; but in their accommodated sense, here made use of by the Apostle (Calmet, Beelen, Cornely, etc.), they relate to the justice of faith,— to Christian faith, which is comparatively easy to obtain, involving no such insurmountable difficulty as ascending into heaven, to bring down Christ, the object of faith ; or descending into the deep, i.e., into the grave, to bring up Christ again from the dead, i.e., to believe that Christ, the object of our faith, descended there. As Moses told the Hebrews that it was not necessary “to ascend into heaven,” or “go over the sea” in search of the Law which was indeed very near to them; so here the Apostle, accommodating the words of the Prophet, says that, since Christ descended from heaven and became incarnate once, and likewise once died, was buried and rose again for our salvation, it is not necessary that we should try either to ascend into heaven or descend to the abode of the dead to work out the redemption which Christ already has wrought for us. Since, therefore, the two fundamental mysteries of our redemption, the Incarnation and the Resurrection, have already been accomplished for us, our justification is easy, provided we have proper faith in God through His incarnate and risen Son.
The words of Deut. 30:13 (“which of us can cross the sea”) are here somewhat modified by St. Paul (“who shall ascend into the deep”), in order to render more vivid the contrast between heaven and the abyss, and better to accommodate the words of Moses to Christ’s burial and Resurrection from the dead.
Rom 10:8. But what saith the scripture? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart. This is the word of faith, which we preach.
The word scripture is wanting in Greek, and is considered a gloss. This verse is the positive complement of the thought of the preceding verses. Justice personified is still speaking. It is not necessary to seek salvation afar off, it is very near. It consists in a word which must be received by faith. As Moses said the word, i.e., the Law, was nigh and easy to understand; so, says St. Paul, it is with the word of faith, which we preach, i.e., the Gospel truths that are necessary for salvation. These words, through the preaching of the Apostles, are carried to all in such a way that all may have them in their mouth and in their heart, without the necessity of long journeys or grave fatigue.
In the Vulgate scriptura should be omitted; justitia, understood from verse 6, is the subject of dicit.
Rom 10:9. For if thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thy heart that God hath raised him up from the dead, thou shalt be saved
The Apostle explains yet more clearly what is required in order to have part in the salvation of Christ. Not only is it necessary to believe, but thou must also confess with thy mouth, i.e., make public confession that Jesus is Lord (the literal order) of the universe, and therefore truly God. This means a public confession of Christ’s Divinity, such as was required before Baptism (Acts 8:37; 16:31). Further, besides believing and confessing the Incarnation of the Son of God, it is necessary to believe in His Resurrection from the dead. Paul mentions these two mysteries because they are the principal ones of Christianity, those on which all others depend. If he speaks first of external, and then of internal faith, it is only because he is following the order of Moses’ words, which speak of the mouth first, and secondly of the heart.
Rom 10:10. For, with the heart, we believe unto justice; but, with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation.
St. Paul here returns to the natural order and speaks first of internal belief, and then of external profession of faith.
With the heart, etc., i.e., the internal act of faith is the beginning and foundation of justification.
We believe. More literally, Faith is formed (πιστευεται = pisteuetai), i.e., a state of faith is formed on our part, as the present tense indicates. The phrase εις δικαιοσυνην (eis dikaiosynen), and not εις δικαιοσιη (eis dikaiosin), shows that one attains real justice, and not a mere declaration of it, just as salvation will be really possessed (Lagrange).
Confession . . . unto salvation, i.e., salvation will follow upon our faith and justification, provided we persevere to the end of life in the justification we have received, and do not fail to make at times external profession of our faith. Again the present tense, ομολογειται (homologeitai = “confession”), marks a state of justice, and not a mere act, on man’s part. Of course, justification, if ever lost through mortal sin, can always be regained by a proper use of the Sacrament of Penance.
Rom 10:11. For the scripture saith: Whosoever believeth in him, shall not be confounded.
The New Dispensation is one of faith which gives to all the same rights to salvation. This doctrine of faith, however, is not new, having been already announced by the scripture, i.e., by Isaiah 28:16. St. Paul had previously (Rom 9:33) quoted these same words of the Prophet; but here he adds the word πας (= pas), whosoever, to the text of Isaias, in order to express more clearly the universality of salvation through faith.
In him, in the context of Isaias, refers to the “corner-stone,” which was a figure of Christ.
Shall not be confounded, because through faith in Christ we are reconciled with God and have a firm hope of attaining salvation.
Rom 10:12. For there is no distinction of the Jew and the Greek: for the same is Lord over all, rich unto all that call upon him.
There is no distinction, etc. The Apostle had used the same argument, only more openly, to prove the universality of salvation in Rom 3:29. There he said God was the God of the Gentiles as well as the Jews; here he insists that both have the same Saviour.
Lord means Jesus Christ (Comely, Lagr., etc.), and not God the Creator, as some of the older commentators thought, because there is question here of faith in Christ. Jesus is the κυριος παντων (= kyrios panton, “Lord over all”), as in Acts 10:36; Philip, 2:11.
Rich unto all, because by His death Christ has provided an infinite treasury of merits (Eph. 3:8) which He holds at the disposition of all, on condition that they call upon him, i.e., that they believe in Him with their hearts and confess Him with their mouth (verse 10).
Rom 10:13. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved.
St. Paul appeals to the Prophet Joel 2:32 to prove that whosoever will call upon the name of Jesus shall be saved. The same text from Joel was quoted by St. Peter in his sermon to the faithful on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:21). The Apostle applies to Christ what Joel had said of Yahweh, which is a clear proof of the Divinity of Jesus.
THE JEWS REFUSED TO BELIEVE IN THE GOSPELA Summary of Romans 10:14-21
In these verses St. Paul shows all that God has done to lead the Jews to the faith. He has shown already (verse 3) that they misunderstood the justice of God, although it was easily within their reach to grasp and understand, if only they would have had faith (verses 6-13). Now he goes on to prove that they could have made this act of faith, and that if they have not done so, it is manifestly their own fault. Faith should be supported by authorized preaching, and such preaching faith has had, as Isaias proves. But all have not believed. Yet they have heard and understood, and it is their own fault if they have not believed. Cf. St. Chrys., Lagr., h. 1.
Rom 10:14. How then shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed? Or how shall they believe him, of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear, without a preacher?
Rom 10:15. And how shall they preach unless they be sent, as it is written: How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, of them that bring glad tidings of good things!
In the preceding verse it was said that invocation of the name of Christ was necessary for salvation. But to invoke a person, it is first necessary to believe in him; and to believe, one must first have learned. One learns through preaching, provided the preaching be duly authorized and reliable. These conditions being presupposed, there is no reason for not believing.
Preaching, therefore, is the ordinary means of learning the truths of faith; but it must be done by those who have the proper authority and the right to preach : there are many pseudo-apostles and pseudo-prophets (2 Cor. 11:13; Titus 1:11). God, of course, is free to make known the truths of salvation otherwise than through preaching, if He wishes, but that would be something out of His ordinary way of acting.
How shall they believe him, etc. The Vulgate querm non audierunt, corresponding to the Greek ου ουκ ηκουσαν (hou ouk ekousan = “whom they have not heard”), would seem to suggest that those who had not heard Christ could not believe in Him. But ηκουσαν (ekousan = “heard”) with the genitive sometimes means in classic Greek to hear of or about a person (Cornely). Our English translation, “of whom they have not heard,” is therefore correct, and the Vulgate should read, de quo non audierunt. At any rate, the fact that very few who were then living had seen Christ or heard Him was an argument for the necessity of duly authorized preachers, Apostles, envoys of Christ.
Unless they be sent, i.e., by God, either directly, as was St. Paul himself, or indirectly, through the authority constituted by God, as are all those who receive their commission from the Apostolic body and Church instituted and empowered by Christ. This Apostolate which, through its preaching, is to convert souls to Christ, had already been foretold by Isaias 52:7. The citation is more according to the Hebrew than the LXX. The Prophet’s words refer literally to the messengers who announced the fall of Babylon and the return of the Jews from captivity; but in their mystical sense, as here used by St. Paul, they have reference to the preachers of the Gospel.
Of them that preach the gospel of peace is an addition to Isaias which is not found in the best Greek MSS.
Glad tidings, etc., literally refers to the announcement made by the messengers of whom Isaias spoke, but figuratively, to the preachers of the Gospel of Christ.
Rom 10:16. But all do not obey the gospel. For Isaias saith: Lord, who hath believed our report?
Although the Gospel was preached, St. Paul here affirms that generally, especially by the Jews, it was not obeyed. He says all do not, etc.; better, “all have not,” etc., simply to soften, as much as possible, the sad truth of Jewish indifference and obduracy. This deplorable fact of disobedience to the Gospel and to the preaching of the Apostles was foretold by Isaias 53:1, whom St. Paul cites almost literally according to the LXX. The word Lord is added to the citation. Isaias was about to describe the passion and humiliation of the future Messiah, and he cried out full of anguish and fear, who will believe what I am going to announce? How few they were who afterwards did believe in the Messiah we are told by St. John 12:
Our report literally means “our hearing,” i.e., our preaching, what they heard from us.
To conform to the Greek the obediunt of the Vulgate ought to be obedierunt.
Rom 10:17. Faith then cometh by hearing; and hearing by the word of Christ.
As said above (verse 14), faith cometh by hearing, i.e., by preaching, according to God’s ordinary Providence, and hearing, i.e., preaching, comes by the word of Christ, i.e., by the commission and mandate of Christ given to the Apostles and their successors (Cornely), or by the word revealed through Christ (Lagr.).
Rom 10:18. But I say: Have they not heard? Yes, verily, their sound hath gone forth into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the whole world.
St. Paul anticipates an objection or excuse on the part of the Jews. Will they, i.e., the Jews, say they have not heard the preaching of the Gospel? That they certainly have heard it, he proceeds to prove by a quotation from Psalm 19:4, cited according to the LXX. The Psalmist is speaking of the glory of God being declared by the heavens; and St. Paul, accommodating the text to his purpose (Cornely, Zahn, etc.), says that as the heavens declare everywhere the glory of the Creator, so has the preaching of the Gospel been heard everywhere in the world. Hence there is no excuse for the incredulity of the Jews.
All the earth and the ends of the whole world are obviously hyperboles, used to express a great truth. The Apostle merely wishes to say that the Gospel was then widely known in the Roman world, and so could not be unknown to the Jews (cf. Acts 1:8).
Rom 10:19. But I say: Hath not Israel known? First, Moses saith: I will provoke you to jealousy by that which is not a nation; by a foolish nation I will anger you.
Another objection is forestalled and refuted by the Apostle. It having been proved that the Jews had heard the Gospel preaching, could it be that they would say that they did not understand it? That is impossible; for the Apostle adduces certain texts from the Old Testament (Deut. 32:21) in which it had been foretold that the Gentiles, far less prepared than the Jews, would understand and embrace the faith ; from which it follows that the Jews could not plead an obscurity in the preaching of the Gospel that would excuse their failure to understand.
Hath not Israel known? i.e., have not the Jews understood (ουκ εγνω = ouk egno)? There is question here of the Jews understanding that which they had heard, namely, the Gospel.
First, Moses, i.e., God through Moses first, in order of time among the inspired writers, threatened the Jews on account of their obstinacy in not understanding, that is, in rendering homage to “that which was no god” (Deut. 32:21), i.e., to an idol; and He told them that He would incite them “to jealousy and anger” by bestowing first temporal, and later spiritual blessings upon that which is not a nation, upon a foolish nation, i.e., the Gentiles. The pagans were called “not a nation,” i.e., an inferior nation, as compared with the religious and moral standard of the Jews. They were looked upon as “a foolish nation,” i.e., as almost incapable of understanding the things of God; and yet they understood the preaching of the Gospel which the Jews, with all their superior privileges and divine assistances, did not grasp and obey. The words of Moses found their entire fulfillment when the Jews were rejected and the spiritual blessings of the Messiah were conferred upon the Gentiles.
Rom 10:20. But Isaias is bold, and saith: I was found by them that did not seek me: I appeared openly to them that asked not after me.
St. Paul now cites Isaiah 65:1, whose words clarify the obscurity that might lurk in Moses’ words of the preceding verse. God is speaking through the Prophet.
Isaias is bold, i.e., outspoken, without regard for the sensibilities and prejudices of his fellow-Jews.
I was found, etc., i.e., I permitted myself to be discovered, through the preaching of the Gospel, by the Gentiles that did not seek me, i.e., that were wrapped in the darkness of idolatry, and that consequently neither knew Me nor adored Me.
I appeared openly, through the same preaching of the Gospel, to them, i.e., to the Gentiles, that cared not for Me, nor desired My revelation. How much more, therefore, should the Jews have known and understood the Gospel message! In their failure to do this how great was their culpability!
Rom 10:21. But to Israel he saith: All the day long have I spread my hands to a people that believeth not, and contradicteth me.
Isaiah 65:2 is here cited directly against the Jews. It was said in verses 19, 20 that if a people that did not know God have recognized Him in His manifestations, much more should Israel have known and understood His messages. And why has Israel not recognized and understood the revelation of God in the Gospel? Simply because it was incredulous and resisted God’s proffered gifts, because of its continual disobedience and opposition to God. On the part of God there were invitations the most tender; on the part of Israel, obstinate refusal. St. Paul is not retracting what he said in Romans 9 about the designs of God ; he is picturing here the problem under the aspect of the responsibility incurred by human wills deaf to the call of God (Lagrange).
To Israel. The preposition “to,” προς (= pros), according to modern interpreters should rather be concerning, with regard to. “To,” however, sufficiently renders the meaning of the Vulgate ad and of the Greek προς (pros), in the present instance.
All the day, etc., i.e., God at all times, like a loving father, stretched out His arms and desired to embrace Israel, but in vain.
To a people, etc., i.e., to Israel, incredulous and rebellious. Throughout its history Israel was unfaithful and rebellious to the law and will of God, but its obstinacy and disobedience became most manifest when it rejected the Messiah and His Gospel. To itself alone, therefore, is due Israel’s exclusion from the Messianic kingdom. Cf. Matt 23:37; Luke 11:15; John 8:48; 9:10, etc.