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 9:1-5

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 4, 2017

ANALYSIS OF ROMANS 9

The Apostle, having proved in the foregoing chapters, that faith in Christ, as contradistinguished from the works of the Mosaic Law, or the law of nature, was the only means of arriving at justice and salvation, employs this and the two succeeding chapters in showing that the Jews were rejected, because, confiding too much in the external advantages and privileges they enjoyed, they refused to embrace the faith of Christ; while the Gentiles were called to justice, because they embraced this all necessary faith. Before, however, announcing the disagreeable truth regarding the rejection of the Jews, he employs the strongest and most affecting language, and calls God in the most solemn manner, to witness the intensity of his affection for the Jews, whose rejection (and this he by no means expresses, but leaves to he understood) caused him the most intense grief and sorrow of heart (1–5). He then shows, that the rejection and reprobation of the Jews from the justice of the Gospel, was not opposed to the promises of God made to Abraham; since these promises regarded the spiritual sons of Abraham, and not all his carnal descendants. This he shows from the example of Isaac, and of Jacob, the younger son of Isaac (6–14). And although the promises, to which the Apostle refers, primarily regarded temporal benedictions, still, these temporal blessings, which God bestowed on certain sons of Abraham before the others, were types of spiritual benedictions, in the disposal of which God was as free, as he had been in regard to the temporal inheritance. The argument of the Apostle, then, is, that as God had conferred the temporal inheritance of Abraham on Isaac, before all the other sons of Abraham, and on Jacob, before Esau, so is he also free in calling to the spiritual inheritance of Abraham, that is to say, to the grace of the Gospel, the Gentiles, the children of promise, in preference to the Jews, his descendants according to the flesh.
He next solves an objection, to which the preceding doctrine might give rise (14–18). And as his reply to the objection might give rise to a further difficulty regarding the justice of God in punishing sinners, he solves this difficulty also (19–24). He proves, in the next place, that God called to his Church both Jews and Gentiles (24–29); and, finally, he accounts for the vocation of the Gentiles and the rejection of the Jews.

Rom 9:1  I speak the truth in Christ: I lie not, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost:

I call Christ to witness the truth of what I speak. I have also for this, the testimony of my own conscience directed and strengthened by the Holy Ghost.

Some Expositors interpret this verse in such a way as to make the Apostle swear by three witnesses: viz., Christ, his own conscience, and the Holy Ghost. I call Christ to witness, &c.; I swear by my conscience; and I call the Holy Ghost also to witness, that “I lie not.”

Rom 9:2  That I have great sadness and continual sorrow in my heart.

I make this most solemn protestation, that I feel great sadness and unceasing excruciating torture of mind (on account of the reprobation and rejection of my brethren).

“Continual sorrow in my heart.” The Greek word for “sorrow,” ὀδυνη, means, “the throes of childbirth.” He forbears from expressing the cause of his sorrow, until he first convinces the Jews of his affection for them. It is clearly inferred from the following chapter, that it regards the reprobation and rejection of the Jews from the grace of the Gospel.

Rom 9:3  For I wished myself to be an anathema from Christ, for my brethren: who are my kinsmen according to the flesh:

For (notwithstanding my ardent and unchangeable love for Christ—8:35, &c.) I would wish, were it conformable to the divine will, to be eternally separated from the glory of Christ, and thus be devoted as a victim, should it serve for the glory and vocation of my Jewish brethren, who are my kinsmen according to the flesh.

“For, I wished myself,” i.e., I myself, the very same, whom nothing could separate from the love of Jesus Christ (8:35, &c.), “wished to be anathema,” &c. There is a great variety of opinion among Commentators regarding the object and nature of the wish to which the Apostle here gives expression. Some say (as in Paraphrase) that he wished conditionally to be for ever separated from the glory of Christ, ηυχομεν, I would have wished, provided it were allowed; or provided it were the will of God, and served to secure the vocation and salvation of his brethren. I say, from the glory of Christ, because he could not, for an instant, entertain the wish in any sense, of being separated from the grace and love of Christ. Others understand him to mean, that he wished for this separation by an abstract wish, abstracting from the ordination and decrees of God. Although the wish on the part of St. Paul, so far as his sincerity and self-devotedness were concerned, may be regarded as absolute; still, if we look to the object of separation, it could not be absolute. Indeed, it must be said, that the act of wishing on the part of St. Paul could not be absolute; for, he knew well, that no such thing could take place; and he also knew, that his eternal separation from Christ would never promote the salvation of the Jews.

“To be an anathema.” The word “anathema,” ἀνάθεμα, having the penultimate syllable short (with an ε), as it is written here, means a total separation and destruction of a thing as execrable and abominable, and also the thing itself destroyed and utterly abolished. “Anathema” is the word employed by the Septuagint translators for the Hebrew word, cherem, which always refers to something utterly destroyed, as execrable. In this sense, the word “anathematize” is applied in the Old Testament to the Chanaanite nations destroyed by the Jews (Numbers, 21.; Judges, 1:4; 1 Machabees, 5). When the penultimate syllable is long, αναθήμα, (with an ή), the word signifies votive offerings, such as shields, vases, &c., offered to the gods. In this sense, the word is employed only once in the New Testament (Luke, 21:5). If we cannot comprehend this heroical charity of the Apostle, it is, says St. Chrysostom, because we never experience any such feelings of the love of God or of our neighbour.

Rom 9:4  Who are Israelites: to whom belongeth the adoption as of children and the glory and the testament and the giving of the law and the service of God and the promises:

Who enjoy so many singular and distinguishing prerogatives; who are descended from the Patriarch on whom God himself, as a title of honour, bestowed the name of Israel; to whom belongs the privilege of being adopted, in preference to all other nations, as the sons of God; in whose behalf God exhibited many glorious manifestations of his special providence; with whom he established his covenant; to whom He himself gave his law through Moses; to whom He prescribed the true mode of divine worship; to whom were made the promises, of which the principal were those that regarded the Messiah.

To show his affection for his kindred, and remove from their minds every suspicion of his entertaining the aversion for them, with which he was charged, he dilates on the several prerogatives, wherein the Jews excelled all the other nations of the earth. “Who are Israelites?” Israel was a title of honour given by God himself to Jacob. “The adoption of children.” God had adopted them as his children preferably to all the other nations from whom he segregated them (Exodus, 6). He calls them, “My first-born son, Israel,” “And the glory,” the glorious manifestation of God’s special Providence by miracles (v.g.), the passage of the Red Sea, the pillar of fire, the ark, &c.; and by the prophecies which regarded them. “And the testament,” in the common Greek, διαθῆκαι, “testaments,” might have been used in the plural to designate the repetition of the Old Testament or covenant made repeatedly to the Jews; or, in allusion to the two tables on which the words of the covenant were inscribed. The Codex Vaticanus supports the Vulgate, and has διαθήκη. “The service of God” (ἡ λατρεία), refers to the true religion and pure worship of God established amongst them. “And the promises” made at different times, particularly those regarding the Messiah, to be born of them.

Rom 9:5  Whose are the fathers and of whom is Christ, according to the flesh, who is over all things, God blessed for ever. Amen. 

Whose progenitors were the renowned Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, &c., and (which is the chief prerogative of all) from whom is Christ descended according to the flesh, who is over all things, God, worthy of divine benediction and praise for ever and ever. Amen.

“Whose are the fathers,” i.e., whose ancestors are the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? “And of whom is Christ according to the flesh?” This is their greatest prerogative, viz., to have Christ take human nature, the second nature which he assumed in time, of their race.

“Who is over all things God blessed for ever.” These words contain an undoubted proof of the divinity of Christ. The groundless subterfuges to which the impugners of the divinity of our Blessed Lord have recourse, in order to evade the unanswerable argument furnished in this verse, only serve to show the weakness of their cause. They place a colon after the word “flesh,” so that the following words are a mere doxology, “May God who is over all be blessed,” &c. Such a construction is unsupported by the authority of any manuscripts, ancient or modern. It is, moreover, opposed to the common interpretation of the Fathers, and the doxology would render the passage quite unmeaning. “Besides, when εὐλογητὸς, ‘blessed,’ is used by way of predicate, with an optative mood, expressed or understood, it always precedes the noun, according to Hebrew usage. In the text, θεος, precedes.”—(Kenrick).

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