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 Chapter 16

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 4, 2019

ANALYSIS OF ROMANS CHAPTR 16
Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

In this chapter, the Apostle commends to the Romans, Phœbe, the Deaconess of the Church of Cenchreæ, the bearer of this Epistle, and a benefactress to himself and several others (Rom 16:1-2).

He salutes many of the saints of Rome, and mentions their names with much praise. He exhorts them to note the authors of scandal and dissension, and to shun them; for, such persons are solely actuated by motives of selfishness, only serving themselves and not Jesus Christ. By shunning these, they will preserve their faith without any admixture of error. He prays for them and promises them the divine assistance against such impostors (Rom 16:20). He mentions the names of those who send their salutations to the Romans (Rom 16:21-23), and finally, after blessing them, he closes the Epistle with a doxology, in which he extols the attributes of God (Rom 16:24-27.

COMMENTARY ON ROMANS CHAPTER 16
Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

Rom 16:1. But I commend to you Phœbe, our sister in the Lord, who discharges the functions of deaconess in the Church of Cenchreæ (and who is the bearer of this Epistle).

Our sister,” in the Christian faith and religion, “who is in the ministry of the Church,” &c. The Greek, ουσαν και διακονον της εκκλησιας, is literally rendered, who is also a Deaconess of the Church, &c.; also, is found in the Codex Vaticanus, but wanting in the common Greek copies. These Deaconesses were an order of devout females, who, from the very days of the Apostles, were deputed to perform certain functions in the Church. They were generally selected from among the ecclesiastical widows, of whom mention is made (1 Tim 5). Hence, St. Epiphanius (Heresi, 79), and the Council of Laodicea (Can. 11), call them, elderly widows. Persons also who lived in perpetual virginity sometimes discharged the office of Deaconesses, as is stated by St. Ignatius (ad Smyrnenses), St. Epiph. (Expos. Fid. Num. 21), and others. It is clear from this passage, that they existed from the time of the Apostles; the junior Pliny (Epist. 96, Lib. x. to Trajan), speaks of having put two Deaconesses to the torture: “Qui magis, inquit, necessarium credidi ex duabus ancillis, quæ ministræ dicebantur, quid esset veri et per tormenta exquirere.” Their age, at the time of the Apostle, should be sixty (1 Tim 5). But, in course of time, this rule was departed from, and it was fixed in the Council of Chalcedon, held under Pope Leo, that they might be admitted at the age of forty; the same was sanctioned in the Council of Quinisextum.—(Canon 14). Their duties were—firstly, to assist at the baptism of females, which was then given by immersion, and thus consult for modesty; secondly, to instruct at their houses the female catechumens, in the Christian doctrine; to carry aid and assistance to the martyrs and confessors detained in prison, when the Deacons were not allowed access to them; and also to attend at the entrance to the church on the side in which the females entered.—(St. Clement, lib. 3, Constit. chap. 15 and 16; St. Epiph. Heresi, 79; St. Ignatius, Ep. 12, ad Antiochenos). The common opinion is, that they were admitted to the rank of Deaconesses by the imposition of hands, which, of course, did not confer on them any holy order or sacrament, but was merely an ecclesiastical cermony. The 19th Canon of the Council of Nice would appear to be opposed to this; but, if examined closely, it is not in reality opposed to it, since the Canon of Nice prevents the cermony of the imposition of hands, only in reference to such as were converted from the heresy of the Paulinianists. The office of Deaconess gradually fell into disuse and was abolished in the Church.—(Vide Devoti, lib. 1, Titulo ix. et Cabassutius, Notitia Ecclesiastica, sec. 2da, Dissertatio 2da.)

“That is in Cenchreæ.” Cenchreæ was one of the ports of Corinth, on the Asiatic side, where St. Paul had written this Epistle, of which Phebe is generally supposed to have been the bearer to the Romans.

Rom 16:2. I beseech you then to receive her in the name of the Lord, in such a way as a holy woman should he received and treated by saints, and to assist her in whatever matters she may require your assistance. She is eminently entitled to this attention from you, for having herself frequently assisted and extended relief to many of the saints, to myself among the rest.

“In the Lord,” i.e., in the name and on account of Christ, “as becometh saints,” in such a way as Christians should receive each other. “For she also hath assisted,” (in Greek, προστασις ἐγενηθν, has been a protectress to) “many” of the saints, or such Christians as required her aid, and to myself among the rest.

Rom 16:3. Salute Prisca, and her husband Aquila, my coadjutors in promulgating the gospel of Christ.

These were of Jewish extraction, well instructed in the faith, and tent makers by trade. They had returned to Rome after the death of the Emperor Claudius, by whose edict all Jews were banished from Rome. “My helpers,” &c. They assisted and co-operated with the Apostle in the work of the gospel.

Rom 16:4. They also were sharers in my dangers; for, they exposed and perilled their lives in defence of mine; to them, therefore, not only I, but all the churches of the Gentiles, whose Apostle they have saved, and in whose conversion they have co-operated, return thanks.

“Who had exposed their necks for my life.” This must have happened either in the tumult raised at Corinth (Acts 18:12), or in the one at Ephesus (Acts 19:24).

Rom 16:5. Salute also their entire Christian family. Salute also Epenetus, who was the first to embrace the faith when I preached in Asia, and is, therefore, my firstborn in Christ from that country.

“The church which is in their house,” i.e., their entire Christian family, which was as orderly and as well regulated as a church; it was also distinguished for piety. It may be that the word “church,” applied to their house, has reference to the constant celebration of the praises of God and divine offices there, before the faithful could have obtained public places of worship.—(See Philemon 3; Col. 4.; 1 Cor. 16.) “The first-fruits of Asia.” Some versions have, “the first-fruits of Achaia,” but erroneously, since Stephanas was the first-fruits of Achaia (1 Cor. 16:15). The most learned among critics prefer the reading in our Vulgate, “Asia,” to the one in which Achaia is found: της Ασιας is the reading of the chief MSS.

Rom 16:6. Salute Mary who has laboured much for you.

“Among you,” in the common Greek, εἰς ἡμᾶς, unto us, or for us. The Codex Vaticanus εἰς ὑμᾶς, onto you. Who she was, cannot be determined with certainty.

Rom 16:7. Salute Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen, sharers in my sufferings and incarceration for Christ, who are distinguished among the preachers of the gospel, and have this advantage over me, that they believed in Christ before I received that grace.

“My kinsmen,” probably of the same tribe of Benjamin; for there were a great many at Rome of Jewish extraction, who would be equally his kinsmen, if the words merely regarded their being of Jewish origin. “Junias,” is more probably supposed, from the following words, “of note among the Apostles,” i.e., preachers of the gospel, to have been a man, and not the wife of Andronicus, as some imagine. “Fellow-prisoners.” It is not well determined when or where they were in prison with him. They were called to the faith before the Apostle.

Rom 16:8. Salute Ampliatus, most dear to me for his piety.

“Most beloved in the Lord,” expressed his Christian affection for him.

Rom 16:9. Salute Urbanus, our co-operator in the work of the gospel, and Stachys, very much beloved by me.

Rom 16:10. Salute Apelles, who has been tried and proved in the profession of his faith; or, found by experience to be a sincere Christian.

“Approved in Christ.” The Greek word for “approved,” δοκιμον, means found, by trial and experience, to be a true and sincere Christian.

Rom 16:11. Salute the family of Aristobulus. Salute Herodian, my kinsman. Salute the Christian domestics of Narcissus.

“Those that are of Aristobulus’s household,” and of course, Aristobulus himself in the first place. “Herodian my kinsman,” i.e., of the same tribe of Benjamin with me. “Of Narcissus’s household who are in the Lord;” hence, it is probable that some of his household were unbelievers.

Rom 16:12. Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who co-operate, in their way, in the propagation of the gospel. Salute Persis, most dear to me, who has laboured much in the cause of the Lord.

These three females laboured, in their own way, towards the propagation of the gospel, by extending hospitality and kindness to its preachers.

Rom 16:13. Salute Rufus, distinguished for his piety, and his mother, whom I also love and venerate as a parent.

“Elect in the Lord,” i.e., distinguished among the Christians, and his mother, for whom I entertain the feelings and veneration of a son.

Rom 16:14. Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Patrobas, Hermes, and the other brethren, who are connected and associated with them.

“Hermas,” is supposed by Origen to have been the author of the book called Pastor, which was a work of great authority among the ancients. It was publicly read in some churches of the Greeks, as St Jerome, Eusebius, and Origen testify, but it is not to be reckoned as part of inspired Scripture, as Pope Gelasius has asserted in his decree concerning the Canonical Scriptures and Apocryphal books.

Rom 16:15. Salute Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympias; and all the Christians who live with them.

It is doubted whether Julia was a man or a woman. Origen says that Julia was the wife or Philologus. “Olympias,” in Greek, “Olympas,” Estius thinks, was a man.

Rom 16:16. Salute one another with a holy kiss, which is the sign of mutual and holy Christian love. I am so well assured of the charitable feelings of all Christian Churches towards you, that I send you their salutations.

“With a holy kiss,” the symbol of charity and concord. It was customary with the Christians to salute one another with the words, pax tecum, after the taking of the Holy Eucharist. The men saluted men only; and females those of their own sex, on these occasions. This usage has been long since discontinued in the Church; a vestige of it, however, remains in the kiss of peace given at solemn mass. “All the Churches of Christ salute you.” (“All” is not in the Greek, which simply is, αι εκκλησίαι, the Churches). He knows the charitable feelings of all Churches towards them, and therefore sends their salutation.

From the omission on the part of St. Paul to send his salutations to St. Peter, Protestestants attempt to derive an argument in proof of their unfounded assertion—viz., that St. Peter never was at Rome. But the fact of his having been at Rome, and his having been put to death with St. Paul, under Nero, is so well attested by undoubted historical evidence, that it is needless to dwell on the subject. Why, then, did not St. Paul salute him? Simply because St. Paul knew that he was not at Rome at the time. He was engaged in preaching the gospel in Britain or Spain, or Africa, as we are assured by Innocent, &c., quoted by Baronius and Bellarmine; for he had not returned thither since the time of his expulsion, together with the other Jews, by the edict of Claudius. And if St. Peter were at Rome at this time, would he not have settled the disputes which elicited this Epistle from St. Paul?

Rom 16:17. But I entreat of you, brethren, to mark well those men who beget dissensions and cause scandals amongst you, teaching false opinions, opposed to the true doctrine, which you have been taught; mark these and shun them.

He alludes to some false teachers, who preached up the necessity of the Jewish ceremonial observances. The language here employed is very like that used in reference to the same.—(Philippians 3:9).

Rom 16:18. For, such persons care not about serving Christ our Lord, or about promoting the cause of the gospel; they are only concerned about their own temporal profits, and the indulgence in luxurious living; and, by their bland plausible words—by their hollow, adulatory professions of friendship and regard—seduce the hearts of the artless and unsuspecting.

The first reason for avoiding them is derived from the perverse morals and deceitful, lying conduct of such persons.

Rom 16:19. Moreover, your perfect obedience to Christ in promptly embracing and complying with the gospel, has become known in every place; I, therefore, rejoice on your account; but, at the same time, in order to secure the purity of your faith against being tarnished, I wish you to be prudent and circumspect in embracing what is good, so as not to be deceived by the designing; and to be simple and innocent in regard to evil, so as not to injure or deceive any one.

The second reason is derived from the celebrity of the faith of the Romans which is announced throughout the whole earth (chapter 1), and which they should preserve inviolate, by shunning all intercourse with the false teachers. “In every place.” The Greek is, εἰς παντας, unto all men. “I rejoice, therefore, in you,” in Greek, ἐφʼ ὑμιν ουν χαιρω, I rejoice, therefore, on your behalf.

Rom 16:20. But, may God, the author and lover of peace, quickly crush under your feet Satan, by whom these men are instigated. For this end, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and assist you.

He begs of God who is the lover, of peace, and who hates dissensions, to give them grace perfectly to overcome Satan, by whom these men are instigated, and whose instruments, in perpetuating such dissensions, they are.

Rom 16:21. Timothy, my fellow-labourer in the gospel, and Lucius and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you.

Rom 16:22. I, Tertius, who, at the dictation of Paul, have penned this Epistle, salute you in the Lord.

“Tertius” was the amanuensis whom Saint Paul employed in writing this Epistle: and, hence, while writing, he speaks of himself in the first person: “I, Tertius, salute,” &c.

Rom 16:23. Caius, my host, and the host of all Christians, from what quarter soever they come, salutes you. Erastus, the treasurer of the city of Corinth, salutes you; and so does Quartus, a brother.

“Caius, my host, and the whole Church, saluteth you.” According to the Greek, it is “Caius, my host, και ὅλης τῆς ἐκκλησίας, and (the host) of the entire Church.” i.e., of all Christians from whatever quarter they come, which is a great commendation of his hospitality. “Erastus, the treasurer of the city.” (The Greek for “Treasurer” is οικονομος,). He had charge of the public treasury of Corinth, where this Epistle is generally supposed to have been written.

Rom 16:24. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

Rom 16:25. Eternal glory be given to Almighty God, who is able to strengthen you and confirm you in the doctrine of the gospel, which I, everywhere preach; and which Jesus Christ himself also preached; so as to reveal that great mystery (of the Incarnation and Redemption of mankind through Jesus Christ) which was hidden from the world during all past ages.

This and the two following verses are, in some Greek copies, read at the close of chapter 14, and they are explained in the same place by St. Chrysostom and others. However, the most ancient of manuscripts (the Alexandrian and Vatican), and all Latin interpreters, place them as they are here, and make them the final conclusion of the Epistle; and this arrangement is clearly preferable, since as chap 15 is a continuation of the matter treated of in chap. 14, it is not likely that the Apostle would interrupt, and break the connexion of his subject by the intermediate insertion of these verses in that place. In these words, then, the Apostle bursts forth into the praises of God, for the great benefit of man’s salvation and justification, the nature and mysterious economy of which he had been explaining throughout the entire Epistle, which is thus brought to a suitable close.

“Now to him that is able to establish you,” i.e., to God, “be honour and glory,” (verse 27); for, the sense of the entire passage is suspended until we come to verse 27. “According to my gospel” which I everywhere preach. “And the preaching of Jesus Christ.” Some interpret these words as a mere explanation of the preceding, thus: “according to my gospel and the preaching concerning Jesus Christ.” The interpretation of Piconio has been adopted in the Paraphrase. “According to the revelation of the mystery,” i.e., by the preaching of which gospel is brought about the revelation of the great mystery or secret truth. He refers to the redemption of man through Christ, and the adorable system of supernatural Providence, the great foundation of which was Christ’s incarnation. “Kept secret from eternity.” The Greek words for “eternity” are, χρονοις αιωνιοις, “during the worldly times,” or all preceding ages. The words are used to express eternity.

Rom 16:26. But which mystery now, under the law of grace, has been manifested by the Scriptures of the Prophets, who wrote beforehand concerning Christ and his gospel, and has been made known among all the nations, by the express command of God, commissioning and delegating his Apostles to preach to them, so as to bring all unto the obedience of faith.

“Which,” i.e., mystery (as appears from the Greek, φανερωθεντος, “manifested,” referring to μυστηριου, which preceded, with which also “kept secret,” σεσιγημενου, verse 25, and “known,” γνωρισθεντος, verse 26, agree), “has been made manifest by the scriptures of the prophets,” who wrote and predicted concerning the mysteries of our Saviour’s life and gospel: “According to the command of the eternal God.” These words are to be connected with the last words of the verse, “known among all nations.” This mystery, and all the gospel economy founded on it, were by God’s command proclaimed by the Apostles, and made known among all the nations of the earth, “for the obedience of the faith,” so as to induce them to embrace the faith.

Rom 16:27. To the Omnipotent and only Wise God, (I say), be rendered honour and glory, through Jesus Christ for ever and ever. Amen.

“To God the only Wise,” i.e., alone Wise by his nature and essence. Here the sentence, commenced at verse 25, is completed. The words “to whom” are redundant; they are used by the Apostle, according to a Hebrew idiom. In these last verses, the Apostle closes the Epistle as he had begun it, by asserting that the gospel which he preached contained nothing false or novel; that it was perfectly in accordance with the oracles and predictions of the ancient prophets. The words “made manifest by the scriptures of the prophets,” verse 26; and “which he hath promised by his prophets in the holy scriptures,” (Rom 1:2), are almost identical.

I cannot forbear quoting the beautiful paraphrase of these three verses, as given by A’Lapide: “O King of ages! O Revealer of the mystery concealed during the ages of eternity! O eternal God, immortal and invisible! O thou, who dwellest in the lofty mountains of eternity; who, from thy elevated eminence, dost behold the narrow span of our life, and of all times, gliding beneath thee; to thee be honour, to thee be glory, for ever and ever! Thou, by thy triumph over death, hast thrown open to us the portals of a happy eternity. Grant us to live always mindful of it—justly, soberly, and piously—so as to be one day partakers of it. Grant us to pass this fleeting moment of life in such a way, by the exercise of heroism and sanctity, as to merit admission to thy enjoyment for ever; to praise thee, to celebrate thee, in the company of all thy angels and saints. O true charity! O beloved eternity! My God and my all.” Amen.

O sweet and amiable Mary, Mother of Jesus, powerful Virgin! pray for us.

The ordinary Greek copies have the following subscription:—“Written to the Romans from Corinth by Phœbe, Deaconess of the Church at Cenchreæ.” This, although correct, is not to be regarded as belonging to the Sacred Text. It was most likely, added by some Greek author to point out the bearer of the Epistle, and the place where it was written. It was wanting, either altogether, or in part, in the ancient MSS. In the Codex Vaticanus we simply have: “Written to the Romans from Corinth.”

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