The Divine Lamp

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 16

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 6, 2016

A Summary of Romans 16:1-16

That Phoebe, a deaconess of the community at Cenchrae, was the bearer of this letter to the Eternal City has been commonly believed by both ancient and modern interpreters, and is attested to by the subscriptions of many codices, Greek, Latin, Syriac and Coptic. Entrusting her with the care of this momentous Epistle, St. Paul considers Phoebe worthy of commendation to the Roman faithful for two reasons: first, because she is their, as well as his “sister,” that is, a Christian; and secondly, because of her kindly offices and helpfulness to many, including himself. After this follow special greetings to a number of converts and close friends of the Apostle.

Rom 16:1. And I commend to you Phebe, our sister, who is in the ministry of the church, that is in Cenchrae:

I commend, i.e., I introduce to you Phebe, the bearer of this letter.

Who is in the ministry, etc. This is the only place in the New Testament where it is said that a woman exercised the office of  διακονον (diakonon), deaconess; 1 Tim. 3:11 cannot be taken in the same sense (Lagrange). Another proof, however, of the existence of deaconesses in the primitive Church is found in Pliny the Younger (Ep. x. 96. 8): Necessarium credidi ex ducbus ancillis, quae ministrae dicebantur (“Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses.”), etc. The duties of deaconesses in the early Church were chiefly: (a) to assist at female Baptisms, which were by immersion; (b) to help in the care of the poor and the sick; (c) to instruct female catechumens in their homes. It is certain that these devout women took no part in preaching, or in the discharge of liturgical functions (1 Tim 2:12).

Cenchrae, a small town, a port of Corinth, on the Aegean Sea.

Rom 16:2. That you receive her in the Lord as becometh saints; and that you assist her in whatsoever business she shall have need of you. For she also hath assisted many, and myself also.

In the Lord, i.e., out of love for the Lord, as becometh the saints, i.e., in a manner worthy of Christians who are all members of the same body, whose head is Christ, and who are therefore bound by the same bonds of charity.

That you assist her, etc. This shows that Phoebe had much other business of her own to attend to in Rome. By applying the term προστατις (= prostatis) to Phoebe, St. Paul does not mean the word to be taken in its official and technical sense, as patron or representative; he wishes only to say that she was of great assistance to himself and to the faithful in looking after their needs. Some insist on seeing 1-2 as indicating that Phoebe held an ordained ministry. Context is important here. St Paul has just been speaking of his plans to travel to Jerusalem to fulfill his “serving” (diakonon) of the saints there (Rom 15:25). In Rom 15:31 he describes it as a “ministry” (diakonia) he hopes the Christians in Jerusalem will find “acceptable” (eusprodektos).  Diakonia in the sense St Paul has just been using it (serving by giving financial aid) is also used in 2 Cor 8:4, 9:1; 12-13. It was a voluntary service any Christian could engage in, not an ordained ministry in the sense in which diakonon is used today (“deacon”), or as the word is used in passages such as 1 Tim 3:8, 12. It appears that Phoebe served as a “prostasis” by rendering financial or other aid to “many,” including St Paul, and so he asks that the Romans “assist her” (parastete = render assistance).

Rom 16:3. Salute Prisca and Aquila, my helpers in Christ Jesus,
Rom 16:4. (Who have for my life laid down their own necks: to whom not I
only give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles,)
Rom 16:5. And the church which is in their house. Salute Epenetus, my beloved:
who is the firstfruits of Asia in Christ.

Prisca and Aquila. Prisca, the wife of Aquila, was most likely of Jewish origin ; she is the same person as Priscilla of Acts 18:2, 18. Aquila was by birth a Jew of Pontus; his Latin cognomen probably came from his own, or his ancestors’ association with a Roman family. Both Aquila and Prisca were perhaps converted to the faith in Rome by St. Peter. St. Paul first met them in Corinth on his first visit there. They had lately come from Rome, having been driven from the Eternal City with other Jews and Christians by the edict of Claudius. Accompanying the Apostle to Ephesus they remained in that city and established a church in their house, while St. Paul went on his way to Jerusalem. They were there still, or again, when the first letter to the Corinthians was written (1 Cor. 16:19); later, when this present letter was written, as we see, they were in Rome; and some years later still they were again at Ephesus (2 Tim. 4:19).

The authenticity of this present passage has been questioned on account of the frequent change of abode on the part of Aquila and Prisca. But the following considerations will clear away the difficulty: (a) It was common among the Jews of this time often to change their home; (b) it is clear from this passage, from 1 Cor. 16:19, and from Acts 28:26, that Aquila and Prisca were engaged in propagating the Gospel; (c) it was only natural that they should wish to return to Rome to prepare for the Apostle’s advent there (Acts 19:21), and after his release from prison they would wish again to visit the faithful of Asia. They probably died at Ephesus some time after the writing of the Second Epistle to Timothy.

Since Aquila and Prisca, when at Ephesus the first time, knew of the Apostle’s intended Roman visit (Acts 19:21), and in all probability returned there to arrange for his coming, it is most reasonable to suppose that they communicated with him from Rome, giving him such information about friends and conditions there as would explain the list of salutations that follows here, and which also perhaps influenced in some measure the whole character of the present Epistle.

Who have for my life, etc., i.e., to save my life, etc. What were the sufferings here alluded to we do not know. That Aquila and Prisca, however, exposed their own lives to danger in order to save the Apostle is clear from this verse. The reference is doubtless to some such events as are spoken of in Acts 18:12 ff.; 19:23 ff.; 1 Cor. 15:23; 2 Cor. 11:26.

But also all the churches of the Gentiles, etc., whose members had been so much assisted by Aquila and Prisca at Corinth, at Ephesus, and at Rome.

The church which is in their house. The Apostle sends his salutations to those Christians who were accustomed to assemble in the house of Aquila and Prisca in Rome. This phrase seems to indicate that St. Paul had heard from Aquila and Prisca after their return to Rome. The faithful, in the early days of the Church, not having special buildings for the celebration of the divine mysteries, were accustomed to assemble in private houses, and there assist at the Holy Sacrifice, receive Holy Communion, listen to sermons and instructions, etc. (Acts 12:12; 1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Philem. 2). Doubtless there were many such houses of worship in Rome and in other large cities.

There should be no parentheses enclosing verse 4.

Epenetus, who was a Gentile Christian, was probably converted at Ephesus by Aquila and Prisca and went with them to Rome.

The firstfruits of Asia, i.e., the first person, or among the first persons converted in the Roman Province of Asia, which had Ephesus for its capital, just as Stephanas, baptized by St. Paul himself, was among the firstfruits of Achaia (1 Cor. 16:15).

Rom 16:6. Salute Mary, who hath laboured much among you.

Mary was doubtless a Christian of Jewish origin, if the reading μαριαμ (Mariam = Miriam) is correct; but if we read with Soden μαριαν (Marian), the name may be either Jewish or Roman.

Among you. This phrase is read εις ημας εν υμας, and εις υμας in various MSS.; but the last reading, found in the best MSS., is to be preferred. What were the great services rendered to the Church of Rome by this pious lady we do not know. Basically, εις ημας εν υμας would indicate that Mary has labored for the sake of St Paul and his missionaries; εις υμας indicates that she has labored for the sake of the the epistle’s recipients.

The in vobis of the Vulgate should be in vos.

Rom 16:7. Salute Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and fellow prisoners: who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

Andronicus, a Greek name often used by Jews.

Junias. The Greek ιουνιαν is probably the accusative of ιουνια, and thus, being feminine, would signify the wife or sister of Andronicus. It is also possible, however, that we have here an abbreviation of the masculine ιουνιανος, Junianus in Latin, which would mean a man.

My kinsmen, i.e., descendants from St. Paul’s own tribe of Benjamin. It is unlikely that “kinsmen” here means merely Jews, because this appellation is not applied to Aquila and Prisca, who were also Jews. We do not know when Andronicus and Junias were fellow prisoners with St. Paul.

Of note among the apostles, i.e., distinguished, esteemed among the Apostles, or by the Apostles (Cornely, Zahn), as having been converted to the faith before St. Paul, and consecrated to the work of the Apostles. They were not, however, Apostles in the strict sense of the term.

The Vulgate nobiles in apostolis=nobiles inter praedicatores, or
rather, apostolos (St. Thomas, Lagr.).

Rom 16:8. Salute Ampliatus, most beloved to me in the Lord.

Ampliatus is a Latin name found in inscriptions of the imperial household. In a chamber in the cemetery of Domitilla, one of the first of the Christian catacombs in Rome, there are two inscriptions, one of which contains in bold letters Ampliati, the other Aurel. Ampliatus; the first goes back to the end of the first or the beginning of the second century, and the other belongs to the end of the second century. It seems very probable that this is the Ampliatus of whom St. Paul here speaks. That he should have been buried in a richly painted tomb in Domitilla seems to show that he was very prominent among the early Roman Christians and dear to St. Paul by reason of his many virtues and great services.

The Vulgate dilectissimum should be dilectum. The word most before beloved in English should be omitted.

Rom 16:9. Salute Urbanus, our helper in Christ Jesus, and Stachys, my beloved.

Urbanus. A Roman name, common among slaves and frequently found in Latin inscriptions. St. Paul speaks of him as our helper, showing that he was a helper of the Roman Christians, rather than a personal friend of his own.

Stachys, a Greek name, but found in inscriptions of the imperial household. According to tradition St. Andrew made Stachys first Bishop of Byzantium.

Jesus (Vulg., Jesu) is not in the Greek.

Rom 16:10. Salute Apelles, approved in Christ.

Apelles, a Greek name that passed into Latin under the form Apella, then Apelles. Cf. Horace, Sat. I. v. 100. It was also borne by Jews. Apelles was an approved Christian.

Rom 16:11. Salute them that are of Aristobulus’ household. Salute Herodian, my kinsman. Salute them that are of Narcissus’ household, who are in the Lord.

Them that are of Aristobulus’ household, i.e., the servants, or Christian slaves of Aristobulus. Perhaps Aristobulus was not himself a Christian, or was already dead. There is probably question here of Aristobulus, brother of Herod Agrippa I, who lived a long time in Rome and was a friend of the Emperor Claudius (Josephus, Bell. Jud. II. 11. 6; Antiq. xx. 1. 2).

Herodian, perhaps a slave pertaining to the household of Aristobulus,
and through the latter, connected in some way with the
Herod family.

Narcissus, a Greek name, probably the famous freedman of Claudius (Tacit., Ann xi. 29 ff.), put to death by order of Agrippina during the first year of Nero. His slaves became the property of the Emperor, but continued to be called Narcissiani, or of the household of Narcissus.

Who are in the Lord, i.e., who are Christians.

Rom 16:12. Salute Tryphsena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute Persis, the dearly beloved, who hath much laboured in the Lord.

Tryphaena and Tryphosa are Greek names, belonging perhaps to two sisters, or to a mother and daughter. They were probably deaconesses, who gave their lives to the service of the Church in Rome. These two names are found in Latin inscriptions.

Persis, a Greek slave name. St. Paul speaks of Persis as of a personal acquaintance; the use of the past tense, hath laboured, would indicate that his labors for the Church were over and that the faithful servant had gone to his reward.

Rom 16:13. Salute Rufus, elect in the Lord, and his mother and mine.

Rufus was probably the son of Simon the Cyrenian, and brother of Alexander (Mark 15:21). Rufus was therefore from the Orient, and his mother had long been known to St. Paul; perhaps she had been of some special helpfulness to the Apostle in his youth when studying in the school of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), and hence he speaks of her with affection and gratitude. St. Mark, who wrote his Gospel for the Romans, speaks of Alexander and Rufus as persons well known to the Christians there.

Rom 16:14. Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hennas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren that are with them.

The five persons here mentioned, together with their brethren not so well known, perhaps formed a distinct group among the Roman Christians. They all have slave names, some of which are found in inscriptions among the imperial household. 

Hermas is not to be confounded with the author of the book called Pastor, written in the second century.

Rom 16: 15. Salute Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympias; and all the saints that are with them.

We have here another group of five persons bearing slave names, with the members of their domestic church, who doubtless constituted one more distinct Christian centre among the Romans.

Philologus was probably the husband of Julia, and Nereus and his sister were their children.

Rom 16:16. Salute one another with an holy kiss. All the churches of Christ salute you.

Having enumerated the various persons to whom he wished his personal greetings to be conveyed, St. Paul bids all the Christians at Rome to salute one another in his name with a holy kiss. The Christians, after the manner of the Jews before them (Matt. 26:48; Luke 7:45; 22:48), were accustomed to greet one another with a kiss as a sign of charity; this custom became with the Christians a liturgical ceremony expressive of the unity and charity that prevailed among them, and was practiced especially at their religious reunions after the celebration of the divine mysteries (St. Justin, Apol. i. 65; Tertull., De Orat. 18; Const. Apost. ii. 57; etc.).

All the churches of Christ, etc. St. Paul is speaking in the name of all the Churches, perhaps because there were present with him as he wrote representatives of many, if not all, of the other Christian communities, and also because the Church of Rome was an object of special veneration to all the rest.

A Summary of Romans 16:17-20

This section causes a somewhat serious difficulty. It is indeed surprising to find placed between St. Paul’s personal greetings and those of his companions a section warning against the sowers of discord, the Judaizers. The interruption appears unnatural and strange. It will not do to say that the passage is out of place, since it is uniformly found here in all MSS. Certain critics, like Lipsius and Kuhl, have regarded this warning against agitators as contrary to the tone of the whole Epistle, which everywhere else supposes unusual unity and concord, and they have therefore regarded the passage as unauthentic. The following may be said in reply: (a) St. Paul is not warning against an actual existing situation among the Roman Christians, but is putting them on their guard against a possible future peril. Having just spoken of the greetings of “all the churches” he suddenly recalled to mind the trouble he had encountered almost everywhere with disturbing Judaizers, and he at once inserted this section of warning to the Romans (Cornely, Zahn, etc.); or (b) St. Paul had knowledge that the Judaizers were already beginning their evil work in Rome, although the Christian community as such was not yet seriously troubled by them, or even aware of the danger among them. While he feels that the Romans will not allow themselves to be deceived, he does not hesitate to lay bare the peril with all his usual vigor. The Apostle has outlined his teaching to the Romans, and now at the end of his Letter, otherwise calm and speculative, he wisely cautions against adversaries who are already seeking to gain the confidence of his readers (Lagrange). (c) This abrupt change of tone and subject here is not more strange than that of 1 Cor. 16:21 ff. (Julicher), and is quite in keeping with the Apostle’s vigorous and impulsive spirit.

Rom 16:17. Now I beseech you, brethren, to mark them who make dissensions and offences contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and avoid them.

Now, etc. It is only natural and in keeping with his practice elsewhere (Phil 3:17 ff.), that St. Paul, after directing who should be greeted in his name, should now point to those against whom the Christians of Rome ought ever to be on their guard, namely, the Judaizers (Gal. 1:6; 5:20; 2 Cor. 10:7 ff.; 11:12 ff., etc.).

To mark, etc., i.e., carefully to watch those Judaizers who had before caused so much trouble, and who were always and everywhere opposing the Gospel preached by St. Paul. From these facts and from the words, the doctrine which you have learned, it is plain that the Gospel of Paul was also that of the Romans.

Rom 16:18. For they that are such, serve not Christ our Lord, but their own belly; and by pleasing speeches and good words, seduce the hearts of the innocent.

Those Judaizers who try to undo the work of St. Paul are naturally not serving Christ, but themselves and their own selfish aims. They prefer the Law to Christ; and while pretending to shoulder all the burdens of the Law, they are guilty of gluttony and self-indulgence (2 Cor. 11:20; Tit. 1:10; Phil 3:2), and make use of pleasing words only to deceive the simple and the guileless.

Rom 16:19. For your obedience is published in every place. I rejoice therefore in you. But I would have you to be wise in good, and simple in evil.

Your obedience, i.e., the docility with which you embraced the faith is everywhere known. This shows that the community in Rome was as yet undisturbed. 

I rejoice therefore, etc., assures the Romans that St. Paul has no doubt of the integrity of their faith ; but he would have them be as wise as serpents and as simple as doves (Matt. 10:16) in dealing with the treacherous Judaizers. 

Wise in good, i.e., not deceived by false appearances and led to doctrines contrary to those already learned. 

Simple in evil, i.e., not knowing or taking part in evil (1 Cor. 14:20).

The Vulgate in bono, in malo should be in bonum, in malum, to agree with the Greek.

Rom 16:20. And the God of peace crush Satan under your feet speedily. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

St. Paul assures the Romans that God, the author of peace and happiness, will crush (συντριψει = syntripsei) under their feet Satan, the author of discord, whose emissaries the Judaizers are. The allusion here is to Gen. 3:15, where the crushing of the serpent’s head was announced.

The grace of our Lord, etc. This is the formula by which St. Paul, with some slight variations of detail, is accustomed to terminate his letters (1 Cor. 16:23; 2 Cor. 13:13; Gal. 6:8; Eph. 6:24; Phil 4:23; Col. 4:18; 1 Thess. 5:28; 2 Thess.3:18; Heb. 13:25, etc.). It seems, therefore, somewhat singular to find this formula placed here before the greetings of the Apostle’s companions. But since the best MSS. and versions leave no doubt as to its genuineness before verses 21-23, we must conclude that those texts which have omitted it here and placed it at verse 24, or after verse 27, have not the traditional and correct reading; while those texts, like the Vulgate and our English version, that have it both in the present verse and in verse 24 have combined the two readings (Cornely, Lagrange, etc.).

The conterat of the Vulgate here ought to be conteret, in conformity with the Greek.

A Summary of Romans 16:21-24

This section is a postscript to the letter. Most probably St. Paul had intended to add the doxology immediately after his prayer for grace of verse 20, and thus terminate the Epistle. But remembering that he had not included the greetings of his companions, as was often his custom (1 Cor 16:19 ff. ; Phil 4:21; Col. 4:10 ff.; 2 Tim. 4:21; Tit. 3:15; Philem. 23), he preferred to insert them between his prayer and the doxology rather than omit them altogether (Comely). Perhaps this addition of greetings caused the Apostle to repeat in verse 24 the prayer of verse 20, as some critics hold, so that the doxology might immediately follow the prayer, as he had first intended.

Rom 16:21. Timothy, my fellow labourer, saluteth you, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen.

Timothy was also associated with Paul in the writing of several other Epistles (2 Cor. 1:1; Phil 1:1; Col. 1:1; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1; Philem. 1). It is uncertain whether Timothy was with Paul all during the composition of this Epistle, or whether he joined the Apostle only at the end.

Lucius, although Roman in name, was probably Lucius of Cyrene spoken of in Acts 13:1 among the Christians of Jewish origin.

Jason is perhaps the same person that was St. Paul’s host at Thessalonica (Acts 17:5-7, 9), a Jewish Christian.

Sosipater is the same name as Sopater, and doubtless the same person as Sopater of Beraea (Acts 20:4). Lucius, Jason and Sosipater were relatives of St. Paul. The last two, with Timothy (2 Cor. 1:1), had come from Macedonia to Corinth, perhaps to bring their collections for the poor in Jerusalem and to accompany the Apostle on his way thither. Very likely the others here mentioned had come for the same purpose. Their arrival just as the Epistle to the Romans was being terminated would explain this postscript of greetings.

Rom 16:22. I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord.

I Tertius. St. Paul made use of a certain Tertius as secretary in writing the present Epistle. It was usual with the Apostle to dictate his letters (2 Thess. 3:17; Gal. 6:11; 1 Cor. 16:21; Col. 4:18; Philem. 19), but it was not customary for the secretary to include his personal greetings as here. Perhaps Tertius was known to the Romans, and so was told by St. Paul to add his own salutation.

Rom 16:23. Caius, my host, and the whole church, saluteth you. Erastus, the treasurer of the city, saluteth you, and Quartus, a brother.

Caius, also written Gaus. This is very likely the person spoken of in 1 Cor. 1:14, a wealthy Corinthian, baptized by St. Paul during the latter’s first visit to Corinth. St. Paul doubtless enjoyed the hospitality of Caius throughout his stay at Corinth.

And the whole church. Better, “And the host of the whole church,” i.e., all the faithful of Corinth that were accustomed to assemble in the house of Caius for divine service (Origen, Lipsius, Julicher, etc.); or all the faithful that were freely permitted to come to Caius’ house while St. Paul was there (Kuhl); or all those Christians who were wont to seek the hospitality of Caius when passing through Corinth (St. Chrysostom, Cornely, Lagrange, etc.).

Erastus does not seem to be the person by the same name of Acts 19:22, of whom St. Paul probably spoke in 2 Tim. 4:20.

The treasurer, i.e., the officer in charge of finances in the city of Corinth.

Quartus, as his name would indicate, was perhaps a Roman
Christian, and therefore known to the Romans. 

A brother, i.e., a Christian.

The Vulgate universa ecclesia ought to be in the genitive, unvversae ecclesiae, as in the Greek.

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

This verse is usually regarded as a mere repetition, due to copyists, of verse 20b. It is wanting in the most ancient MSS. and in many versions.

A Summary of Romans 16:25-27
From verse 22 we gather that the whole Epistle, up to the present section, was dictated by St. Paul to Tertius, his secretary. At this point the Apostle very probably took the pen in his own hand and wrote the doxology by way of solemn conclusion and signature.
The doxology sums up briefly, yet completely, the whole doctrine of the Epistle, reproducing its most significant language, and extolling the omnipotence of God which alone is able to confirm the neophytes in the faith they have received.
Rom 16:25. Now to him that is able to establish you, according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret from eternity,
To him that is able, etc., supposes, as its complement, “glory,” as in verse 27. A similar formula of praise the Apostle often made use of in other Epistles (Gal. 1:1; Eph. 3:21; Phil 4:20; 1 Tim. 1:17; Heb. 13:20).
To establish, etc. When he would be in Rome the Apostle hoped to confirm the Romans in the faith they had received (Rom 1:11), and meanwhile he prays that the grace of God, without which nothing can be accomplished, will stabilize and hold them fast in their faith.
According to my gospel, i.e., according to the Gospel which St. Paul preached everywhere (cf. Rom 2:16; 11:28; 2 Tim. 2:8), and which was the doctrine of Jesus Christ as also preached by the other Apostles. Although St. Paul in his preaching laid stress on the universality of salvation for all, Jews and Gentiles, and the gratuitousness of this salvation through faith alone, independently of antecedent personal merits or the works of the Law; and while the scope of his Gospel thus differed naturally to some extent from that of the other Apostles, since he was in particular the Apostle of the Gentiles, he was, nevertheless, like the others, always teaching the one Gospel of Christ, else how could he ask God to confirm the Romans, to whom he had never preached, in his Gospel, if it were something distinct from and contrary to the teaching of those others?
The preaching of Jesus Christ, i.e., the doctrine which Christ had announced to the world and had commanded the Apostle to preach; or, according to others, the doctrine which has for its object Jesus Christ, dead and raised again to life (Cornely, Kuhl, etc.).
According to the revelation. This phrase is to be coordinated with the previous one, “according to my gospel,” etc.; and the meaning is that this Gospel, this preaching, is the revelation of a mystery, namely, the universality of salvation for all men, Jews and Gentiles, through faith in Jesus Christ. This great mystery God had decreed from all eternity, but had kept secret, until it was made manifest in the appearance of Christ, in His life and Resurrection and the preaching of the Apostles (Lagrange).
Rom 16:26. (Which now is made manifest by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the precept of the eternal God. for the obedience of faith), known among all nations;
Which now, i.e., by the corporal presence of Christ in this world, is made manifest, better, “hath been made manifest,” God’s eternal secret in the Person and life of Christ, His Only-begotten Son.
By the scriptures, etc., i.e., by the ancient prophetic writings, through which Christ and the Gospel were foreshadowed and announced, and of which the Apostles made use in their preaching and writing in confirmation of their teaching (Rom 1:2 ; 3:21; 9:25-26; 10:13, 15, 18, 20; 15:9-12; Eph. 3:21; Acts 2:17-21, 25-28; 13:47; 15:16, etc.).
For the obedience, etc., i.e., that the Gospel might be accepted, that men might believe in Jesus Christ—this was the aim and object of the revelation of the great mystery spoken of in the preceding verse, which was for all nations, Gentiles as well as Jews.
Rom 16:27. To God the only wise, through Jesus Christ, to whom be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
By a prayer of praise to the wisdom of God the Apostle terminates his sublime Epistle to the Romans.
The only wise, i.e., whose infinite wisdom alone was able to guard His eternal secret and prepare His revelation for the redemption of man through Jesus Christ, His Only-begotten Son.
Honour (Vulg., honor) is not represented in the Greek. The construction of the verse is made irregular by the relative ω (ho = “to whom”) which, however, seems to be undoubtedly authentic, as being found in the best MSS., and, which, by referring back to God rather than to Jesus Christ, serves somewhat to complete the sentence begun in verse 25.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 15

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 6, 2016

Text in red are my additions.

A summary of Rom 15:1-13. Not only should the strong Christian avoid scandalizing the weak, but all should try to bear with one another, and by positive acts help to bear one another’s burdens. This must be done to the end that God may be glorified; for all are one in Christ, whose example we must imitate. 

Rom 15:1. Now we that are stronger, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

We that are strong in the faith ought to bear with the infirmities of those that are scrupulous and weak in faith, i.e., with their faulty judgments and erroneous ideas and scruples (Rom 14:1-2; 2 Cor. 12:10). St. Paul enlarges the range of his theme here, and includes himself in the general exhortation, but he does not insist on his own example, as when writing to his own converts (Parry).

Not to please ourselves by selfishly resting in our thoughts and judgments, glorying in our firm faith and despising our weak brethren.

Rom 15:2. Let every one of you please his neighbour unto good, to edification.

Every one of you. The best MSS. have “of us.” Here again the larger range is brought out; not only the strong, including the Apostle, but all the Christians should consult the welfare and wishes of their neighbour, i.e., of all men. We ought to try to please all men, not for the sake of vain popularity and glory (Gal. 1:10), but for the good and edification, i.e., for the spiritual advancement and interest of all (1 Cor. 10:33).

The vestrum of the Vulgate should be nostrum, according to the best Greek MSS.

Rom 15:3. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written: The reproaches of them that reproached thee, fell upon me.

We should imitate the example of Christ, who, for our salvation and the glory of His Father, submitted Himself to the reproaches that were heaped upon God. The citation is from Ps. 69:10, according to the LXX. Directly the Psalmist is speaking of the just who says that the reproaches of those that reproach God fall upon him. The Psalm is certainly Messianic, and the just man suffering is a type of Christ suffering in Himself the reproaches heaped upon God (Rom 11:9-10; Matt. 27:27-30; John 2:17; 19:29). 

Rom 15:4. For what things soever were written, were written for our learning: that through patience and the comfort of the scriptures, we might have hope.

The reason for the above citation of Scripture is now given. What things soever were written, i.e., in the Old Testament, were intended for our instruction as Christians ( 1 Cor 10:11; 2 Tim 3:16). And the purpose God had in giving us the Scriptures, with their sublime examples of patience and all other virtues, their manifestations of God’s goodness and promises of reward, was to inspire us with hope for our future rewards. 

We might have hope. Better, “We may have hope.” In the Vulgate per should precede consolationem, to agree with the Greek. 

Rom 15:5. Now the God of patience and of comfort grant you to be of one mind one towards another, according to Jesus Christ.

St. Paul now passes from Scripture to its Author, God, who enables us to endure, and who encourages us by the Scriptures; and he expresses the wish that God, by His grace, will enable the Christians all to avoid discord and cultivate unity of peace, having the same thoughts and sentiments according to Jesus Christ (or, “Christ Jesus,” as in the best Greek), i.e., according to the will of Christ (Cornely); or in the spirit and according to the example of Christ (Lagr., S. H., etc.). 

Rom 15:6. That with one mind, and with one mouth, you may glorify God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The purpose of the desired unity is that, by oneness in faith and charity, the Christians may praise and glorify God with one heart and one mind. 

God and the Father. Better, “the God and Father,” etc., as in the Greek. God is the God of Christ’s human nature, and the Father of His divine nature (2 Cor 1:3; xi. 31; Eph 1:3; Col 1:3). 

Rom 15:7. Wherefore receive one another, as Christ also hath received you unto the honour of God.

This verse is a restatement of verses 5 and 6. Each and all the Christians are asked to do for one another what above the strong were requested to do for the weak, and this in imitation of Christ who has brought all to Himself, in spite of their differences and sins, to the end that God may be glorified. 

Rom 15:8. For I say that Christ Jesus was minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers.

The great and fundamental argument in favor of the unity St. Paul is urging for the Roman Christians is to be found in the fact that all, both Jewss and Gentiles, have been received by Christ with the view to form one people for the glory of God. The Apostle begins here to speak of what God has done for the Jews.

Jesus is not in the Greek. 

Minister of the circumcision, i.e., minister of the Jews, whom our Lord served by His preaching (Cornely). The Saviour came to minister to all men (Matt 20:28); but He was in a special manner the servant of the Jews, to whom His personal mission directly pertained (Matt 15:24), to whom He gave His heavenly teaching, and whose Law He observed. This service Christ rendered the Jews for the truth of God, i.e., in the interest of God’s truthfulness, to confirm, by fulfilling, the faithfulness and veracity of God’s promises, which were primarily made to the Patriarchs and their descendants. 

Rom 15:9. But that the Gentiles are to glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: Therefore will I confess to thee, O Lord, among the Gentiles, and will sing to thy name. 

But that the Gentiles are to glorify God, etc. A better rendering would be: “But the Gentiles to honor God,” etc. The infinitive “to glorify” (δοξασαι) of this verse, like to confirm (βεβαιωσαι) , of the preceding verse, being dependent upon εις το, marks a further result of Christ’s ministry to the Jews. Note: “The Gentiles are to glorify God” is a statement of fact, but St Paul wishes to emphasize this fact’s connection with Christ, i.e., as a further result of his ministry to the Jews, which was “to confirm the promises made unto the fathers” (vs 8. see nest paragraph). 

Christ was minister of the circumcision, etc., for a twofold purpose: (a) in order to confirm, by fulfilling, the promises made to the Patriarchs; and (b) in order that the Gentiles should glorify God for His mercy in calling them to the faith, independently of any merits on their part. St. Paul is admonishing the Gentile converts not to despise their Jewish brethren on account of any obsolete and scrupulous practices of the latter, (see Rom 14:13-23), because, as he says, Christ preached only to the Jews in fulfillment of the promises made to their ancestors, but with the further intention that the Gentiles should later be objects of God’s mercy and, through faith, become heirs of the promises originally made to the Jews. Thus has Christ embraced all, both Jews and Gentiles, for the glory of God. What an incentive to unity and charity among the Christians themselves. (Here you may wish to read what St Paul has to say in 9:1-11:36). 

As it is written. The Apostle now (verses 9b-i2) cites several texts of the Old Testament to prove that the praise which the Gentiles render to God was foretold of old. 

Therefore will I confess, etc. The quotation is from Ps 17:50 (18:50 in most modern translations) and 2 Kings 22:50, almost literally according to the LXX. The Psalmist is singing the praises of God who has helped him to triumph over his enemies and establish his throne, so as to glorify the name of Yahweh among the heathen. David was a type of Christ, and hence St. Paul, understanding the words of the royal Psalmist in their typical sense, puts them on the lips of the Saviour and makes Him say: I will confess, etc., i.e., I will praise the mercy of God among the Gentiles who, through the Apostles, shall be converted to the faith and render thanks to God for the mercy He has shown them. 

Rom 15:10. And again he saith: Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people.

This second quotation is from Deut 32:43, from the Song of Moses, according to the Septuagint. Moses calls upon all the pagan peoples to unite with the people of Israel in praising God for His mercies to all. 

Rom 15:11. And again: Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and magnify him, all ye people.
Psalm 117:1 is now cited according to the LXX. The Psalmist invites the Gentiles directly to praise the Lord for His mercies and faithfulness, which one day they will experience in their call to the faith. 

Rom 15:12. And again Isaias saith: There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise up to rule the Gentiles, in him the Gentiles shall hope.

This fourth citation is from Isaiah 11:10, freely according to the LXX. The Hebrew of this passage reads: “In that day there shall be the root of Jesse, who shall be raised as an ensign for the people; him the Gentiles shall beseech.” The root of Jesse is the Messiah who would be an ensign or standard around which the Gentiles would rally, and whose authority they would obey. The Gentiles shall hope in Christ, because they shall know His designs of mercy to save them, although they are outside His chosen people. 

Rom 15:13. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing; that you may abound in hope, and in the power of the Holy Ghost.

The Apostle terminates the Moral Part of his Epistle with the ardent wish that the Christians may ever possess that joy and peace which are the consequences of the hope that God has given them. The idea of hope was suggested by the end of the preceding verse. 

The God of hope, i.e., the God who is the source of all our hope. 

Fill you with all joy, which comes from hope in God’s infinite mercy and goodness that have reconciled you with Him and given you that peace which springs from the true faith. 

May abound, etc., i.e., may ever increase in hope of eternal life. 

In the power, i.e., through the power or charity of the Holy Ghost, who is the cause of this desired increase in hope.

A Summary of Romans 15:14-33
The Dogmatic and Moral Parts of the Epistle being finished, the Apostle subjoins an epilogue (Rom 15:14-16:27) in which only personal matters are treated. At first (verses 14-21) he apologizes for the freedom with which he has written them and offers a justification. He is the Apostle of the Gentiles and wishes to make known in the Eternal City the contents of his preaching to other Gentiles. Next he says (verses 22-29) that, after visiting Jerusalem, he hopes to realize his long desire to see Rome on his way to evangelize Spain. Meanwhile he ardently implores (verses 30-32) their prayers for protection against his enemies in Jerusalem. Verse 33 is his final salutation.
Rom 15:14. And I myself also, my brethren, am assured of you, that you also are full of love, replenished with all knowledge, so that you are able to admonish one another.
With this verse the Apostle begins to explain why he has written at such length and so openly to the Romans. It was not that he doubted the purity of their faith or the sanctity of their lives; for he is assured (perhaps through letters sent him by Aquila and Priscilla) that they are full of love (αγαθωσυνης = agathosynes) , i.e., of moral goodness and kindliness; and that they are replenished with all knowledge, i.e., with a profound and accurate understanding of the truths of faith, so as to be able to admonish, i.e., to warn, to instruct one another (αλληλους νουθετειν = allelous nouthetein).
In the Vulgate bonitate(goodness) would be more literal than dilectione (love); etiam (also) should precede alterutrum (one another). The final clause should read: “so that you are able (etiam) also to admonish one another.”
Rom 15:15. But I have written to you, brethren, more boldly in some sort, as it were putting you in mind: because of the grace which is given me from God.
St. Paul wrote to the Roman Church more boldly in some sort, i.e., in terms somewhat bold (τολμηροτερως = tolmeroteron) , at times, not to teach them any new doctrines, but only to put them in mind, i.e., to remind them of things they already knew. This he felt to be his duty because of the grace, i.e., because of the commission, given him as the Apostle of the Gentiles (Rom 1:5; Rom 12:3).
Brethren (Vulg., fratres) supposes the less probable reading αδελφοι (adelphoi).
Rom 15:16. That I should be the minister of Christ Jesus among the Gentiles; sanctifying the gospel of God, that the oblation of the Gentiles may be made acceptable and sanctified in the Holy Ghost.
Here the Apostle describes the nature and purpose of the grace and commission he has received. His Apostolate to the Gentiles was a kind of priesthood which, as Gospel-priest, he exercises under Christ.
The minister (λειτουργον = leitourgon) means here the priest as discharging the sacred ministry. The object of this ministry is the Gentiles. The word is related to liturgy.
Sanctifying the gospel. The word  ιερουργουντα (hierourgounta) implies the act of fulfilling a sacred function, and especially the offering of sacrifice. Thus the preaching of the Gospel among the Gentiles is here represented by the Apostle as a sacrifice. The preacher is the priest (Greek: hiereus), the Gentiles are the victim to be offered (seeRom 12:1), and preaching is the act by which the victim is brought to the altar and prepared for immolation. By preaching the Gospel the Apostle is performing a sacrificial act, the purpose of which is to prepare and dispose the Gentiles to be an oblation acceptable to God. For other sacrificial terminology Paul uses in relation to his ministry see (Rom 11:3;Philippians 2:17).
Sanctified in the Holy Ghost. As in the ancient sacrifices the victim, before being immolated, had to be cleansed and purified so as to be pleasing to God, so the Gentiles, in order to become an oblation acceptable to God, should first be purified from their moral unfitness. This purification of the Gentiles by which they became acceptable to God was finally effected through Baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit.
In the Vulgate sanctificans evangelium (sanctifying the gospel) should rather be operans (in a ritual sense, i.e., ministering) evangelio = gospel (Lagrange).  The et (and) before sanctificata (being sanctified) should be omitted; consequently also the and in English.  The end of the verse should read: that the oblation of the Gentiles may be made acceptable, being sanctified in the Holy Ghost; not made acceptable and sanctified.
Rom 15:17. I have therefore glory in Christ Jesus towards God.
Therefore (ουν = oun) shows we have here a deduction from the contents of the preceding verse. Since he is engaged in a work for Christ and acting under Christ’s direction, the Apostle has spoken more boldly than he would have done had he been acting on his own account (Parry).
Glory. The glory and fruit that come from the Apostle’s ministry are due, not to him, but to Christ whose minister and instrument he is.
Towards God, τα προ τον θεον (ho pros ton theon), i.e., for that which regards the work of God, namely, the preaching of the Gospel.
Rom 15:18. For I dare not to speak of any of those things which Christ worketh not by me, for the obedience of the Gentiles, by word and deed.
The Apostle briefly and modestly alludes to the fruits of his Apostolate. The verse is made awkward and obscure by the double negative (the dual use of the word “not”), but the sense is: I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ worketh through me, as if they were my own, etc. If St. Paul speaks of what he has done, by word and action, in fulfillment of his commission to preach the Gospel and bring the Gentiles to the obedience of faith, it is only because this redounds to the glory of Christ.
By word and deed, i.e., by his spoken and written words—his preaching of the Gospel, and by his example and miracles.
Rom 15:19. By the virtue of signs and wonders, in the power of the Holy Ghost, so that from Jerusalem round about as far as unto Illyricum, I have replenished the gospel of Christ.
St. Paul now shows the means by which his preaching was confirmed, and indicates the vast area over which the course of his labors extended.
Signs and wonders both mean miracles.
Virtue and power (δυναμει = dynamei) also mean miracles; but here δυναμει means both the power to work miracles and to manifest the Holy Ghost (Lagr.). The words virtue and power in verse 19 translate δυναμει (dynamei). The word indicates a strong power, force, action, etc. Our word dynamite is derived from it.
So that (ωστε = hoste). Through the help of Christ and the power of the Holy Ghost the Gospel has been preached in the whole Orient (the east), beginning from Jerusalem (Acts 9:28 ff.) and its environs on the southeast, and extending to Illyricum on the northwest. Illyricum was the name given to the western districts of the province of Macedonia, bordering on the north-east shore of the Adriatic. We have no record of St. Paul preaching in this district, hence it marked the westernmost boundary of his missionary labors up to the present time. Throughout all this extended region, from Jerusalem and its environs on the east to Illyricum on the west, St. Paul had replenished, i.e., had fully preached the Gospel in all the principal centres. He does not say that he had converted all the pagans, or even the greater number of them; but he had sufficiently promulgated the good news so that all might learn thereof.
Rom 15:20. And I have so preached this gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation.
Rom 15:21. But as it is written: They to whom he was not spoken of, shall see, and they that have not heard shall understand.
The Apostle explains the principle which determined the choice of the regions in which he preached. It was not his practice to preach the Gospel where Christ was already known. This is not contrary to his desire to evangelize the Romans (Rom 1:15), because, first of all, he was well aware that the Roman Christians were thoroughly grounded in the knowledge of the faith (Rom 1:8; Rom 15:14), and secondly he had no intention of appearing at Rome as the Apostle of that Church, but only of paying a visit there (verses 22-24).
I have so preached. Literally, “I so make it a principle to preach,” etc. It was the Apostle’s rule not to preach where Christ was known already, because he did not want to build upon another man’s foundation (1 Cor. 3:10; 2 Cor. 10:15, 16). It was his office to lay the foundations of new Churches, and leave to others the continuation of his work (1 Cor. 3:10; 1 Cor 12:28).
As it is written, in Isa 52:15, cited according to the LXX. The Prophet says that the Gentiles who have not heard the Messiah spoken of shall hear of Him and shall understand. St. Paul identifies the Messiah with our Lord, and applies to himself the fulfillment of the Prophet’s words in making Christ known to the pagans who before had not heard of Him.

The Apostle (in verses 22-32) says that the completion of his work of founding Churches in the Orient has finally left him free to undertake his visit to Rome on the way to Spain. First, however, he must go to Jerusalem with the collections that have been made for the poor there. He beseeches the Christians at Rome to pray that he may escape the hands of his enemies in Jerusalem.

Rom 15:22. For which cause also I was hindered very much from coming to you, and have been kept away till now.

 For which cause, i.e., because I was continually engaged in the establishing of Churches in the east (Rom 1517-20).

And have been kept away till now. These words are not in the Greek or ancient versions, and are wanting in some copies of the Vulgate. They are considered as a gloss from Rom 1:13. The corresponding words of the Vulgate should be omitted.

Rom 15:23. But now having no more place in these countries, and having a great desire these many years past to come unto you,
Rom 15:24. When I shall begin to take my journey into Spain, I hope that as I pass, I shall see you, and be brought on my way thither by you, if first, in part, I shall have enjoyed you:

23, 24. No more place, etc., not that there is nothing further to be done, but that, having established Churches in all the principal cities and centres, his work of founding Churches in the East is finished.

When I shall begin to take my journey into Spain, etc. The Gospel had surely not been preached in Spain and the Apostle, on his way thither, would make his long-desired visit to the Romans.

And be brought on my way, etc., i.e., be accompanied by some of the faithful at Rome for a certain distance when departing, as was the custom after visiting a community (Acts 20:38; 21:5).

If first, etc. The Apostle modestly expresses the wish that he may first enjoy the company of the Romans for a little time, before going to Spain.

Rom 15:25. But now I shall go to Jerusalem, to minister unto the saints.

The subject of the preceding verse is suddenly changed, as the Apostle remembers the necessity of his going first to Jerusalem. He is very anxious to visit the Gentile Christians of Rome, but he is also solicitous for the Jewish faithful in Jerusalem: his great heart embraced them all, because all belonged to the one Church of Christ.

Rom 15:26. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a contribution for the poor of the saints that are in Jerusalem.

This explains why St. Paul must go to Jerusalem. He must take there the collection of alms which the faithful of Macedonia and Achaia have contributed for the poor in the Holy City (1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8:1-9:15; Acts 20:3; 21:17). The poverty of the Christians in Jerusalem was due partly to the fact that many had transferred all their possessions to a common fund (Acts 4:32), and particularly to the persecutions which they suffered, during which their common possessions were often plundered and confiscated (Acts 8:1; Heb. 10:34).

Rom 15:27. For it hath pleased them; and they are their debtors, For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, they ought also in carnal things to minister to them.

The alms contributed by the faithful of Macedonia and Achaia were given out of the abundance of their love and charity, as St. Paul says,  ευδοκησαν (= eudokesan, “it hath pleased them”); and yet they had only fulfilled their duty and paid a debt that they owed. They, like all the Gentiles, had been made partakers of the spiritual benefits of the Gospel, which primarily came from the Jews and through Jewish messengers; and if they had thus shared in the spiritual goods of Israel, it was only just and right that the latter should be assisted in their need by some of the temporal blessings and riches of the Gentiles. “By praising the Corinthians for their charity, the Apostle also delicately reminds the Romans of the debt of kindness they owe to their fellow Jews” (Origen).

The expression λειτουργησαι (= leitourgesai), to minister, here means to render a service from man to man; it has not the sense of a sacred service (Lagrange, Parry against Cornely).

Rom 15:28. When therefore I shall have accomplished this, and consigned to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain.

Consigned to them this fruit. Literally, set my seal for them on this fruit, i.e., when I have securely conveyed to them this fruit. The seal was primarily a mark of ownership and authenticity, and then secondarily of security and correctness. St. Paul set his seal on this collection for the poor in Jerusalem to prove that the alms were the fruit of the charity of the Gentiles (Cornely); or that they were the product of his own Apostolic labors (Julicher).

Rom 15:29. And I know, that when I come to you, I shall come in the abundance of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.

St. Paul feels assured of the conditions that shall attend upon his arrival in Rome. His mission to Jerusalem safely finished, he will bring to the Romans the blessing of Christ (Comely, S. H., Lagr., etc.).

Of the gospel (Vulg., evangelii), is not the best MSS.

Rom 15:30. I beseech you therefore, brethren, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the charity of the Holy Ghost, that you help me in your prayers for me to God,

I beseech shows the state of supreme tension and anxiety which prevailed in St. Paul’s mind. He knew that the Judaizers, together with the unbelieving Jews, must now be at the flood tide of their animosity and hatred for him, seeing the success that had crowned his labors in the Orient; and yet he must discharge his duty to the faithful in Jerusalem regardless of the results to his own person (Acts 20:22-25; 21:4, 13)- He appeals to the prayers of the Romans through our Lord Jesus Christ, their and his common Master and Head, to whom they are all united by the charity of the Holy Ghost.

The words Holy and your, and the corresponding sancti and vestris of the Vulgate, are not in the Greek of the best MSS.

Rom 15:31. That I may be delivered from the unbelievers that are in Judea, and that the oblation of my service may be acceptable in Jerusalem to the saints.

The Apostle is beset with two fears. First, there is the implacable hostility of the unbelieving Jews who, before he left Corinth, had planned to kill him on his way to Jerusalem (Acts 20:3); and secondly, there were the Jewish Christians themselves to whom he was bringing the collection, but on whose friendship he could not fully depend, because of their zeal for the Law (Acts 21:20) and their consequent possible dislike for one who had made so little of the Law. Speaking thus he shows that he feels the Romans are animated by a very different spirit in his regard (Lagrange).

And that the oblation, etc. Better, “And that my ministry at Jerusalem be acceptable,” etc.

Rom 15:32. That I may come to you with joy, by the will of God, and may be refreshed with you.

It is the Apostle’s hope to go to Rome with joy, if it be the will of God; and as he will bring to the faithful there the blessing of Christ, he trusts that he himself will find the visit a source of rest and spiritual repose. Little did he know that he would be captured by his enemies at Jerusalem and taken to Caesarea, there to be retained in prison for two whole years before being allowed to go to Rome, and that, when at length he would arrive in the Eternal City, it would be as a fettered and guarded prisoner.

Rom 15:23Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

A final salutation implores the God of peace to be with all the Roman Christians. The implication is that peace prevails in the community as a whole, and that discord is far removed from them. This is a characteristic salutation which St. Paul is accustomed to place at the end of his letters (cf. 1 Thess 4:28; 2 Thess. 3:18; 1 Cor. 16:24; 2 Cor. 13:13; Phil. 4:23).

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 14

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 6, 2016

A Summary of Romans 14:1-23
In the Roman Church there was a Jewish, as well as a larger Gentile element. The Jewish Christians there, as elsewhere, naturally retained, to a greater or less extent, their love for the Law and the Mosaic observances. It was likely, therefore, that some of these converts in Rome should carry their inherited practices and prejudices so far as to observe some of the Mosaic feasts, and so distinguish between different foods as entirely to abstain from certain meats and drinks. This some of the Gentile Christians would doubtless imitate; and thus there was danger of uncharitable divisions in the Church,—those who were given to these scrupulous and obsolete customs, and those of stronger and more enlightened consciences, who might look down upon and despise their weaker brethren, morally forcing them perhaps to act against their own conscience.
St. Paul, therefore, thought it well to treat this subject in writing to the Romans, and to urge all to abstain from unfavorable judgment of one another, leaving all judgment to God (Rom 14:1-13a). He then counsels the strong to bear with the weak, and not to do anything that could scandalize the latter (Rom 14:13b-23).
Rom 14:1. Now him that is weak in faith, take unto you: not in disputes about thoughts
The Apostle first adddresses the strong, and touches upon the principal object of possible disagreement. The strong should bear with the weak. All have not the same conscience, though all mean to do their best.
Weak in faith, i.e., he that, while firmly admitting the great principles of faith, does not fully realize their import in all matters. Such a one has imperfect knowledge, and does not understand that justification through faith in Christ has freed him from all the ceremonial observances of the Mosaic Law; hence he abstains from meat and wine, scrupulously fearing they may be unclean, having first been offered to idols. Fr. Lagrange thinks “faith” here does not mean simply conscience, otherwise there would be question of the whole moral law, and not of certain Jewish observances only. The term doubtless means the living principle of conduct.
Take unto you, i.e., admit into your company and friendship.
Not in disputes, etc., i.e., not disputing and judging about one another’s ideas of right and wrong, thus interfering with one another’s consciences, even though one is erroneous in some things.
Rom 14:2. For one believeth that he may eat all things: but he that is weak, let him eat herbs.
The principle laid down in the preceding verse is now illustrated. St. Paul is giving an example of two extreme parties.
One, i.e., the strong Christian believeth, i.e., is persuaded, convinced that he can eat any kind of food without injury to his faith or conscience; whereas he that is “weak in faith” refuses to eat meat out of fear of contamination, and satisfies himself with herbs only.
The English let him eat, etc., is a wrong rendering of the Greek indicative εσθιει (estheil), found in all the best MSS. The correct translation of the last clause of this verse is: “But he that is weak eateth (only) herbs.”
In the Vulgate se before manducare should be omitted, and manducet should be manducat.
Rom 14:3. Let not him that eateth, despise him that eateth not: and he that eateth not, let him not judge him that eateth. For God hath taken him to him
The practical application of the above principle is that the Christian with strong faith and a right conscience should not despise his brother of weaker faith and erroneous conscience; and also that the latter should not condemn the former as lax and guilty of violating the law of God, because such a judgment would be against God Himself, who hath taken him, i.e., the strong Christian, and made him His faithful servant and a member of His Church.
Rom 14:4. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? To his own lord he standeth or falleth. And he shall stand : for God is able to make him stand.
St. Paul cautions the “weak” not to condemn the “strong,” because both are the servants of the same Christ (Rom 14:7-9), and no one has a right to judge another man’s servant: only the master is the lawful judge of his servants. All Christians, therefore, being the servants of Christ, will be judged by Christ according to their individual service, and the judgment upon them of any one else besides Christ is wrong and out of place (see below, on verse 12).
To his own lord, etc., i.e., a servant is approved or condemned by the sole judgment of his master.
And he shall stand, i.e., this strong Christian shall not fall from his faith and piety because God will provide for him.
Deus of the Vulgate should be dominus.
Rom 14:5. For one judgeth between day and day: and another judgeth every day: let every man abound in his own sense.
A second example is given to show that the actions of one Christian do not pertain to another.
One, i.e., a Jewish Christian distinguishes between different days, judging some to be more sacred than others; another, i.e., a strong Christian makes no more distinction between days than between meats, knowing that the old Mosaic observances regarding the Sabbath, the New Moon and other feasts, no longer oblige under the New Dispensation. St. Paul later on (verse 14) gives his personal advice about meats, but he does not return to the distinction of days.
Let every man abound, etc. This and the equivalent Vulgate reading, unusquisque in suo sensu abundet,—which can only mean: suo sensui dimittatur (St. Thomas),—do not conform to the Greek, which is: Let every man be certain in his own mind (Cornely), i.e., a conscience practically and morally certain is the only kind with which it is proper to act.
The Vulgate diem inter diem would better be diem plus quam diem.
Rom 14:6. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord. And he that eateth, eateth to the Lord: for he giveth thanks to God. And he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth thanks to God.
The Apostle now urges mutual tolerance, because both the parties in question are prompted by the same spirit and intention of serving and pleasing God. The scrupulous Christian who regards one day as holier than another, and refrains from certain foods, does so because he feels he is thus pleasing and serving God. In like manner the strong Christian, who disregards these distinctions, is moved by his desire to do the will of God, as is evident from his giving thanks to God after the example of his Lord and Master (Matt. 15:36; 26:26).
Rom 14:7. For none of us liveth to himself; and no man dieth to himself.
Rom 14:8. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord. Therefore, whether we live, or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.
A proof that each Christian is following his conviction and conscience in all he does is this, that each one is living, not for himself, but for his Lord. The Christian who lives up to his calling consecrates his whole life and actions, together with his death, to God. Having been purchased at a great price (1 Cor. 6:19-20), by the very blood of his Master, the true Christian knows that both in life and in death he is the property of his Lord Jesus Christ.
Rom 14:9. For to this end Christ died and rose again; that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
Christ died and rose again to establish the relationship described in the preceding verses. By His death and Resurrection He acquired universal dominion over all men, He conquered death and opened the gates of life to all.
The Vulgate, mortuus est et resurrexit follows the Greek απεθανεν και ἀναζάω (died and rose);. A better reading has: απεθανεν και εζησεν (died and lives again), mortuus est et revixit.
Rom 14:10. But thou, why judgest thou thy brother? or thou, why dost thou despise thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ
Since we are all servants of Christ, none of us has a right to set himself up as judge of his fellow-servant. Christ is the judge of us all.
But thou, scrupulous Christian, why do you judge and condemn as a transgressor of the Law your brother for whom you ought to have real charity? or thou, Christian of strong faith, why do you despise your weaker brother as a superstitious fellow? Both of you have usurped a right which belongs to God alone, before whose tribunal we must all appear to render an account of our works (Rom 2:6).
The best Greek MSS. have “judgment seat of God,” instead of judgment seat of Christ. To St. Paul it is all the same whether he says judgment seat of God or of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10), because Christ is also God.
Rom 14:11. For it is written: As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

The Apostle now cites a conflation of Isaiah 45:23 and Isaiah 49:18, according to the LXX, to prove that all men must appear before the judgment seat of God. The citation was probably from memory, because it is not literal. The direct meaning of the Prophet’s words is that Yahweh, the only Saviour, shall receive the homage of the whole world; however, the question of the judgment is also implied.

As I live is in the LXX, “I swear by myself,” i.e., by the life which I live. 

Every knee shall bow to me, i.e., all men shall render homage to Me as their Sovereign and Supreme Judge. 

And every tongue, etc., is in the LXX, “And every tongue shall swear by God.” The sense in either case is the same, because every lawful oath is a recognition of God’s omnipotence and supreme justice.

The flectetur of the Vulgate ought to be flectet.

Rom 14:12. Therefore every one of us shall render account to God for himself.
The general conclusion is drawn: each one shall have to give an account to God for his own life and actions. God, therefore, is the supreme Judge of all we do, and we should not rashly judge one another. This counsel is meant in particular for the weak Christian who is over solicitious for the doings of the strong.
Rom 14:13. Let us not therefore judge (κρινωμεν) one another any more. But judge this (κρινατε) rather, that you put not a stumbling block or a scandal in your brother’s way.
The preceding verses have been chiefly addressed to the “weak”; but now St. Paul, first counselling both weak and strong not to judge each other, turns his attention to the “strong” and bids them beware of scandalizing their weaker brethren.
Judge this, etc., i.e., take care that, etc. (κρινατε, used in a different sense from κρινωμεν just preceding). Various modern translations bring out the subtle difference better than the one used here. For example, the RSVCE reads: Then let us no more pass judgment (κρινωμεν) on one another, but rather decide (κρινατε) never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.
Stumbling block . . . scandal, both mean an obstacle put in another’s way which can cause one to fall. The former is placed by chance, or carelessness; the latter, with deliberate intent to trap. The “strong” Christian should keep in mind the delicate conscience of the weak and avoid, as far as possible, eating meat or doing anything in the latter’s presence which would cause him to act against his own conscience, or with a doubtful conscience, and thus fall into sin.
Rom 14:14. I know, and am confident in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean of itself; but to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
St. Paul here, as in 1 Cor. 8:1-6, clearly declares his own position regarding things clean and unclean. He fully approves of the doctrine of the strong Christian, and holds in theory that it is lawful to eat any kind of food; but in practice it may sometimes be necessary to abstain from certain foods out of charity to one’s neighbor (verse 15).
I know, and am confident, etc., i.e., on the authority of the teaching of Christ (Mark 7:1 ff.), or as a minister and Apostle of Christ (Rom 9:1 ; 2 Cor. 2:17; 12:19), I am certain that nothing is unclean of itself, i.e., of its own nature (δι εαυτου); or, according to another reading, “through him” (δι αυτου), namely, through Christ, who abolished the distinction between foods (St. Thomas). This was against the teaching of the Pharisees, commonly followed by the Jews, that certain meats were unclean and contaminating by their very nature. Of course if one really thinks a food is unclean, then it becomes so subjectively for him: an erroneous conscience is binding.
According to the reading of the best MSS. the Vulgate per ipsum should be per seipsum, or per se.
Rom 14:15. For if, because of thy meat, thy brother be grieved, thou walkest not now according to charity. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
For if (ει γαρ, according to the best MSS.) probably refers back to verse 13, verse 14 being a parenthesis. If the meat which you, as one strong in the faith, are able to take, grievously offends your weaker brother, who thinks your conduct seriously wrong and is thereby unnecessarily angered, you ought to avoid it; otherwise your appetite, and not charity, rules you.
Destroy not, i.e., do not, by your example, encourage your weak brother to act against his conscience and do what he thinks to be wrong; for thereby you lead into serious sin and ruin a soul for whom Christ died (1 Cor. 8:8, 13; Matt, 18:6-7).
Rom 14:16. Let not then our good be evil spoken of.
According to the ancient opinion (St. Chrysostom and others) our good here refers to the Christian faith, or the kingdom of God in the Gospel. This meaning fits in well with the following verse and could be sustained, if the best reading were ημῶν το αγαθον (“our good”), instead of υμων το αγαθον (“your good”). Following, therefore, the better reading St. Thomas, Cornely and others understand by “our good,” or “your good,” the liberty received from Christ to eat all meats of whatever kind. Hence the Apostle’s meaning is: Let us not so use our Christian freedom that it will be misunderstood, vilified and calumniated by our weaker brethren. This liberty we have from Christ is a great blessing, but we should use it with prudence, so that it may not become an occasion of sin to those who do not understand it fully.
The nostrum of the Vulgate ought to be vestrum, and the “our” of the English ought to be “your,” according to the best Greek reading.
Rom 14:17. For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but justice, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost
The kingdom of God, i.e., according to one opinion, the essence of Christianity and the Gospel (Cajetan, Maier, etc.); or, that by which God reigns in our souls: God reigns in us by justice, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost (St. Thomas, Cornely). To use or abstain from certain foods is a minor affair considered in itself, and when compared with those fundamental and essential virtues by which we are spiritually united to God. If, however, the use of any foods should imperil the spiritual life of our neighbor, the justice within us, which requires us to render to everyone his due, will demand that we abstain from such foods.
Peace is an effect of justice or sanctity.
Joy is the natural outcome of justice and peace, and the product of charity which the Holy Ghost diffuses in our hearts, moving us to seek the glory of God and the good of our neighbor.
Rom 14:18. For he that in this serveth Christ, pleaseth God, and is approved of men.
In this, i.e., in justice, in peace, etc.
Pleaseth God, because he procures the glory of God.
Is approved of men, i.e., men do not have wherefore to find fault with him, as they do in the case of verse 16.
Rom 14:19. Therefore let us follow after the things that are of peace; and keep the things that are of edification one towards another.
This is a conclusion to the passage which began in verse 16. The best MSS. have, we follow after, etc., instead of let us follow after.
Keep is not in the best MSS., and so custodiamus of the Vulgate should be omitted.
Rom 14:20. Destroy not the work of God for meat. All things indeed are clean: but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.
The Apostle returns to the thought of Rom 14:14; but the repetition is not useless, because here he brings out the high character of the weak Christian who is imperiled by the other’s conduct: this weak Christian is the work of God who has converted and sanctified him. Although all things are clean in themselves, it is evil for the strong Christian to disregard the tender conscience of his weak brother, and, by doing in his presence what the latter thinks is wrong, to lead him, by force of example, to violate his own conscience and eat the food which he feels to be unclean.
Rom 14:21. It is good not to eat flesh, and not to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother is offended, or scandalized, or made weak.
It is good and noble on the part of the strong Christian to abstain from all those indifferent things whereby the weak may be offended, i.e., made weak in his faith or unsettled in his conscience.
Not to drink wine. Some of the Christians perhaps thought wine was unclean because “the heathen used to pour libations to their idols from the firstfruits of their wine, and offered many sacrifices at the wine-presses themselves” (St. Aug.). Cf. 1 Cor. 8:13.
Rom 14:22. Hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God. Blessed is he that condemneth not himself in that which he alloweth.
The Apostle counsels the strong man to follow in private his convictions and eat anything he pleases, but to be careful when there is danger of doing harm to another. Blessed, he says, is the man of strong faith who is not tormented by doubt and scrupulosity in his actions.
Faith, i.e., a firm conviction, a clear conscience regarding the lawfulness of eating all kinds of foods.
Have it to thyself, etc., i.e., let it guide thy conduct in private.
Blessed is he that is not troubled in conscience by his own conduct or actions, i.e., blessed is he whose conscience approves his actions.
Rom 14:23. But he that discerneth, if he eat, is condemned, because not of faith. For all that is not of faith is sin.
He that discerneth, i.e., he that hesitates and acts with a doubtful conscience is condemned, i.e., is culpable and actually guilty of sin. A conscience practically and morally certain is the only rule of conduct.
All that is not of faith, etc., i.e., all that is not approved by a certain conscience is sinful; “faith” here means a good conscience.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 13

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 25, 2016

 A Summary of Romans 13:1-7

We find here no special introduction to the subject which the Apostle begins to discuss. The connection, however, with what precedes is this, that after having given certain counsels regarding the private life of Christians, he now turns to consider their duties to the civil authority. Aside from a desire for completeness in indicating the duties of Christians, there seems to have been no special reason why St. Paul took up this question of civil obedience. The treatment is general, and does not appear to have been occasioned by any pressing need in Rome. Of course in those early days the Christians were generally regarded as a Jewish sect, or at least as having sprung from the Jews, and there was perhaps reason to fear lest, for some causes, the punishments which were frequently inflicted by the Roman authority on the latter might at times be visited on the former. At any rate, the Christian communities throughout the Empire were becoming more and more numerous, and there was an ever-increasing need, for the sake of private duty as well as public peace and safety, of clear and explicit views regarding the Christian’s attitude and obligations toward lawful civil authority. Therefore, the Apostle enjoins that the faithful be obedient to their civil rulers; for to resist their lawful superiors is to resist God, from whom all authority is derived. Civil superiors are divinely empowered for the promotion of good and the repression of evil. Hence it is needful to be obedient for the sake of one’s conscience. The Apostle confirms his doctrine by the fact that the faithful pay their taxes to civil magistrates as if to the ministers of God. Let each one, therefore, render to all men their dues.

Rom 13:1. Let every soul be subject to higher powers: for there is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God.

Every soul, i.e., every human being. There is no question here of animals or things inanimate.

Be subject, i.e., be respectful and obedient, saving, of course, the rights of God and of conscience. St. Paul is supposing the authority to be just and lawful, and to be rightly exercised.

To higher powers, i.e., to the State, to those that have lawful authority in any degree. Those who have authority are said to be higher powers (υπερεχουσαις = hyperechousais) , or to possess higher powers by reason of the superiority which is theirs with respect to those under them. Hence the meaning is that all lawful superiors are to be obeyed, whether those superiors are personally good or bad, or are in places of higher or lower dignity. And the reason for this is that all power is from God. God is the Creator and supreme Regulator of all things, and consequently all power to administer affairs, or to rule under God, comes radically from Him alone.

Those that are, i.e., the superiors that now possess authority are ordained, i.e., have been constituted by God, and should therefore be obeyed in all things that come within the limits of their authority.

Rom 13:2. Therefore he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. And they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation.

Since all authority is from God, it follows that he who resisteth power or authority, i.e., he who will not be subject to authority, opposes the divine ordinance which God has established. To rebel, therefore, against authority is to sin against God and against man; and they who act thus purchase, better, “shall purchase,” to themselves damnation, i.e., they shall become liable to temporal punishment here and to eternal punishment hereafter. As said before, St. Paul is supposing the civil power to be exercised within its proper limits, and consequently not to encroach upon the rights of God. Habet autem hoc divina ordinatio, ut potestati inferiori non obediatur contra superiorem = “But the divine order requires that a lower power not be obeyed in opposition to a higher one” (St. Thomas).  The quote is taken from Aquinas’ Lectures on Romans 13, #1028: “But contrary to this is the fact that the Apostles and Martyrs appear to have resisted potentates and authorities and did no receive damnation from God as a result, but rather, a reward. The response is that the Apostle is now speaking of one who resists a lower power as established by God. But the divine order requires that a lower power not be obeyed in oppostion to a higher one, as a duke is not obeyed against God, as in Acts 5:29: ‘We must obey God rather than men.'”

In the Vulgate acquirunt should be future, to agree with the Greek. As indicated above, purchase should read in the future tense, shall purchase.

Rom 13:3. For princes are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good: and thou shalt have praise from the same.

The civil authority has been ordained by God and holds its power from God, in order to promote good and to curb evil.

Princes, i.e., rulers (αρχοντες = archontes) are not objects of fear to those who do good, but to those who do evil. Those who do good, far from fearing, have a right to expect praise from those in authority. Cf. 1 Pet. 2:13-14.

The boni operis, sed mali of the Vulgate should be bono operi, sed malo, according to many MSS.

Rom 13:4. For he is God’s minister to thee, for good. But if thou do that which is evil, fear: for he beareth not the sword in vain. For he is God’s minister: an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil.

He, i.e., civil authority, or the one possessing it, has been constituted by God and ordained for good, i.e., for the benefit of all the members of society. The first object of authority, then, is to promote the welfare of its subjects; the second is to repress and punish evil as a menace to the good to which the members of society are entitled. The sword is the symbol or emblem of the right to inflict capital punishment for crimes committed against the social and civil power.

Rom 13:5. Wherefore be subject of necessity, not only for wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.

As a result of the fact that authority is from God, and the possessor of authority is God’s minister, it follows that we should be subject to our lawful superiors by the very nature of the case. Not that our liberty is taken away, but only that there is need to be subject (αναγκη υποτασσεσθαι = ananke hypotassesthai) , and this for two reasons: for wrath, i.e., out of fear of the punishment which disobedience merits, and for conscience’ sake, i.e., for the peace of our conscience, which dictates submission to those who represent God. From this it is clear that legitimate human law and authority oblige in conscience, so that those who transgress them are liable to temporal punishment and are guilty of sin and deserve punishment from God.

Rom 13:6. For therefore also you pay tribute. For they are the ministers of God, serving unto this purpose.

For therefore (δια τουτο γαρ = dia touto gar) . St. Paul appeals to the ordinary practice of the Christians to prove their duty of obedience to the civil authority. They pay tribute, because they recognize that they are held in conscience to obey the law, and further because they look upon the revenue officers as ministers of God (λειτουργοι θεου = leitourgoi theou), i.e., as taking care of the public interest and providing for the public welfare—functions committed to them by God. Civil rulers who fulfil their charge faithfully are truly ministering to God, they are “God’s ministers” in temporal and profane affairs; as, in a higher and more sacred sense, they who serve God in spiritual and eternal matters are His ministers.

The servientes of the Vulgate should be assidue incumbentes (Cornely), or perseverantes (St. Aug.).

Rom 13:7. Render therefore to all men their dues. Tribute, to whom tribute is due: custom, to whom custom : fear, to whom fear: honour, to whom honour.

Making some practical applications of his doctrine the Apostle, in conformity with the teaching of our Lord (Matt. 22:21), says to render to every superior, high or low, the obedience which is due him according to his office. Tribute is tax on land or on persons, land-tax or poll-tax. Custom is tax on exports and imports. Fear means the respect and reverence that are due to lawful superiors.

The ergo of the Vulgate is not represented in the Greek; hence therefore should be omitted.

A Summary of
Romans 13:8-14

 That which is fundamental to all our duties to all men, whether superiors or equals, is charity, the distinctive mark of the Christian. In it are summed up all the precepts of the Decalogue. There is special need for us to practice this virtue, since our lives are drawing to a close. 

Rom 13:8. Owe no man anything, but to love one another. For he that loveth his neighbour, hath fulfilled the law. 

Owe no man anything, etc., i.e., have no debt to any man, except the debt of love or charity. All other debts besides this latter can be paid finally and completely, so as no longer to exist; but the debt of charity, however constantly paid, is ever due, because it rests on God’s abiding precept and upon the relations of nature and of grace that we have in common with our neighbor. Semper autem debeo caritatem quae sola etiam reddita definet redditorem (St. Aug.). St. Thomas gives the reasons why we can never pay our debt of charity to our neighbor: “First, because we owe our neighbor love for the sake of God, whom we can never sufficiently recompense (1 John 4:21); secondly, because the motive of love always remains, being likeness in nature and grace (Ecclus 13:19) ; thirdly, because charity does not diminish, but increases by love (Phil 1:9).” 

He that loveth his neighbour, hath fulfilled the law, because the love of one’s neighbor is founded on the love of God (John 15:17), and the love of God implies the fulfillment of all the precepts of “the law” of Moses. Cf. Matt 22:35 ff.; Gal 5:14; 1 John 4:20, 21. 

Rom 13:9. For Thou shalt not commit adultery: Thou shalt not kill: Thou shalt not steal: Thou shalt not bear false witness: Thou shalt not covet: and if there be any other commandment, it is comprised in this word, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

This verse proves that “law” of the preceding verse meant the Law of Moses, of which only certain precepts are here cited. St. Paul does not recite the whole Decalogue, but only those precepts of it regarding the neighbor which one might fail to see were involved in the general precept of charity. That he did not wish the other Commandments regarding God and the neighbor to be omitted is evident from the words, “and if there be any other commandment,” etc. The order here differs from the Hebrew text in Exod 20:13 ff.; Deut 5:17 ff.; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20. 

Thou shalt not bear false witness. These words are omitted in the best Greek copies, but they are included in the statement, and if there be any other commandment, etc.

Thou shalt love thy neighbour, etc. These words are taken from Lev 19:18, and signify that we should love all men with the same kind of love with which we love ourselves.

The instauratur of the Vulgate would better be recapitulatur (St. Jer., St. Aug.). 

Rom 13:10. The love of our neighbour worketh no evil. Love therefore is the fulfilling of the law.

Summing up what he has said about charity the Apostle observes that love of our neighbour worketh no evil to the neighbour, as it is in the Greek. That over and above this negative good it works positive good to the neighbor is clear from what follows in the verse, which is a repetition of the end of verse 8. To love perfectly is to fulfil the law, because, as said above, the love of the neighbor is based on the love of God, and this, when perfect, means the fulfilling of all the precepts of the law.

In the Vulgate dilectio proximi should be dilectio proximo, according to the Greek.

Rom 13:11. And that knowing the season; that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed.

Another reason for practicing charity is drawn from the special circumstances of time in which the Romans found themselves. The Apostle admonishes them that it is now needful that they should rise from sleep, i.e., from the state of tepidity and negligence into which some may have fallen since their conversion. The reason is because time is growing shorter for them. 

Our salvation, i.e., our final deliverance from earth is nearer than when we believed, i.e., than when we were converted to the faith, consequently we should lose no time, but should stimulate all our energies and increase our fervor. Every day that passes brings us nearer to death and to our eternal reward. This was certainly true of individuals, and of the whole generation whom St. Paul was addressing, but we must not thence gather that the Apostle meant to teach anything about the nearness of the Second Coming of Christ for all; he had not forgotten his teaching (11:25) regarding the conversions of the nations and of Israel, which were surely far off”. The “salvation” of the Christians began with their conversion, and its final glorious consummation is drawing nearer every day. This fact the Apostle makes use of here to rouse the faithful from tepidity and negligence, and to stimulate them to vigorous and spiritual effort. Beyond this his argument at present does not go. 

Rom 13:12. The night is passed, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light. 

The night is passed, i.e., our course in this world of darkness and sin is far advanced (προεκοψεν). The night began with the sin of Adam, but the day of salvation dawned with the death of Christ. This day, already shedding its light over the world, and cheering the Christians in particular, will reach its meridian later on in the final glorification of our souls and bodies (5:9; 2 Tim 4:18). Since, therefore, we are living in the daylight of redemption, we should conduct ourselves as children of light and put aside all sins, because these are works of darkness (5:13; John 3:20; Eph 6:12) and lead to eternal night; we should put on the armour of light, i.e., the armor of Christian virtues, and war against evil (1 Thess 5:8; Eph 6:11 ff.; 2 Cor 10:4 ff.). 

Rom 13:13. Let us walk honestly, as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy:

In this verse the Apostle is showing how different should be the conduct of Christians from the practices of pagans. The vices he enumerates were those commonly practiced by the pagan Romans during the night at their feasts and banquets. The Christians, then, who are living in the bright day of redemption, should be adorned with all virtues and should live and act as becomes children of light, and not according to the immoral standards of paganism.

The first two vices here mentioned pertain to gluttony and debauchery (Gal 5:21); the second two refer to sins of luxury (Gal 5:19); and the remaining were sins against charity and one’s neighbor (1 Cor 3:3; 2 Cor 12:20; Gal 5:20). 

Chambering means all kinds of acts of impurity. 

Rom 13:14. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscences.

Not only should the Christian put away and shun the works of darkness, but he must go further and put on the Lord Jesus Christ, i.e., he must clothe himself with the virtues, the spirit, and the grace of Christ. Already in Baptism Christians are clothed with Christ (Gal 3:27), but it is their duty thereafter to cooperate with grace and thus increase their likeness to our Lord by constantly imitating the virtues which shone in Him. 

Make not provision, etc., i.e., cease to provide for the flesh in the way of exciting and satisfying its unclean and perverse desires and tendencies; all necessary provision and care for the body is not here in question, except in so far as the needs of the body must not be the dominant motives in the Christian’s life.

It is well known that St. Augustine was converted by the reading of the last two verses of this chapter {Confess., viii. 12, 22).

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans Chapter 12

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 30, 2016

Text in red, if any, are my additions.

With this chapter commences the Moral Part of the Epistle. The principles already laid down in the foregoing portion are now viewed in their consequences and influences upon the Christian life. Having shown that faith is the only way to salvation the Apostle goes on in the remainder of his letter to point out what faith demands in practical ways from Christians.

This last part of the Epistle has two main sections. The first of these (Rom 12:1-13:14) contains general instructions for all Christians; the second (Rom 14:1-15:13) has particular counsels for the Christians in Rome.


A Summary of Romans 12:1-2~The practical consequences to be drawn from what has been said regarding the mercy of God toward man is the duty of entire consecration to God’s service, and of a radical interior transformation, as a means to the perfect execution of God’s will. 

Rom 12:1  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, your reasonable service.  

I beseech (παρακαλω) , i.e., I exhort, I counsel. 

Brethren, i.e., all you Christians of Rome. The term αδελφοι refers not to the Jewish Christians only, as Zahn pretends; but, as in Rom 11:25, to all the Christians in Rome. 

By the mercy, or, according to the Greek, “by the mercies” (2 Cor 1:3), i.e., on account of the mercy of God about which we have just spoken in the preceding chapter, and of which you Romans have been the object. 

That you present. The word παραστησαι means to present as a sacrifice, as the Jews were accustomed to bring their victims and present them to the altar for immolation (Lev 16:6; Luke 2:22). 

Your bodies. The Christian should consecrate his whole being to the service of God. The Apostle begins with the body, because man’s spiritual ruin began with the bodily organs, the senses. 

A living sacrifice, for a sacrifice under the Old Law, the victim had to be living, because the sacrificial act consisted principally in the immolation of the victim; it had to be holy, that is, without defect (Lev 19:2), suitable to be offered to God and pleasing in God’s sight. Likewise the Christian’s body, dead to sin through Baptism, should be living the life of grace which makes it holy and pleasing to God and renders it a fit instrument to be used by the mind and soul in God’s service. 

Your reasonable service. These words are in apposition to the whole preceding clause. The Apostle wishes to say that the sacrifice we make to God in offering Him our bodies, living, holy, etc., is a reasonable service, i.e., a real spiritual (Cornely) worship which proceeds from the interior man, and not a mere external sensible worship like the sacrifices of animals in the Old Testament; or that when man gives his body, i.e., his external moral actions to the service of God, he is rendering to God a worship truly reasonable and rational, i.e., suited to the nature of God and of man, unlike the sensible homage which was paid to God by the ancient sacrifices of brute animals (Lagr.). Whether we take “reasonable” (λογικην) here to mean spiritual or rational, it is clear that the offering to God of all our bodily activities and moral actions is a service based on a reasonable consideration of our nature and of God’s nature. 

Rom 12:2  And be not conformed to this world: but be reformed in the newness of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and the acceptable and the perfect will of God. 

This verse develops the thought of the preceding one, passing from the dispositions of the body to those of the mind. The Christian’s service of God involves a change in his mental attitude. He must no longer adapt himself to the standards and manners, the thoughts and sentiments of this world of sin and corruption; but must, through the assistance of grace, be reformed, i.e., transformed (μεταμορφουσθε) by the renovation of his mind so as to live according to his true, rational, spiritual nature. This change and renovation in man’s higher nature is to the end that man may know what is the good, the acceptable and the perfect will of God (Vulgate); or, as the Greek text has it, that he may know what is the object of God’s will, namely, that it is something morally good (το αγαθον), something well-pleasing (ευαρεστον) to God, something perfect (τελειον). These three adjectives, αγαθον, ευαρεστον, and τελειον are taken substantively (Cornely, Lagr., Zahn, etc.), to explain that which God’s will respects. Hence the “will of God” means not the faculty which wills, but the object of that will, the thing willed.


A Summary of Romans 12:3-8~The sacrifice that we should make of our body and the corresponding renovation of our mind ought to be guarded by humility, which excludes all self-importance and enforces self-restraint in our dealings with one another. Let each Christian, by a faithful discharge of his duties, contribute his part to the common good of the Church. 

Rom 12:3. For I say, by the grace that is given me, to all that are among you, not to be more wise than it behoveth to be wise, but to be wise unto sobriety, and according as God hath divided to every one the measure of faith.

By the grace, etc., i.e., by my authority as an Apostle (Rom 1:5; 15:15; 1 Cor 3:10; Gal 2:9, etc.). 

To all that are among you, i.e., to each individual among you Roman Christians. 

Not to be more wise, etc. φρονειν here describes the quality of one’s thought or mind. There is a play in this place, on the words in Greek, which does not appear in Latin or English. The sense is that no one should esteem himself beyond that which is his due, but that each one should esteem himself according to sober-mindedness. 

The measure of faith. “Faith” here does not mean the theological virtue, but rather the gratuitous and miraculous gifts that were often conferred on the early Christians at Baptism,—the charismata, of which there is question in the following verses, and in 1 Cor 7:7 (Cornely, Lagr., Zahn, etc.). These gifts
were various in kind, and were conferred as the will of God disposed. Each one, therefore, should use the gifts God has bestowed upon him with fidelity and humility, not interfering with the gifts and duties of others. 

Rom 12:4. For as in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office: 
Rom 12:5. So we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

With ancient writers the comparison of a social organism to the body was very common. St. Paul now compares the Christian society to a natural physical body. As in the latter there are many members performing different functions for the benefit of the whole, so in the former, the Church, each member has his proper office and gifts with which he ought to be content, and which he ought to utilize for the good of the entire Church. This thought is much further developed in 1 Cor 12:12-31, where the Apostle considers the Church as a living mystical body, and compares it in detail to a natural physical organism. The unity of the one, as of the other, comes from the soul, and Christ is the soul of His mystical body the Church. In Eph 4:15 St. Paul speaks of Christ as the head, but this is only a different way of showing the mysterious and gracious relations of Christians with Christ and His Spirit.

The faithful are many, but form only one body in Christ, by whose spirit they are united and vivified. All, therefore, are dependent on the life that comes from Christ, their head and soul; and all the members are interdependent one on another, as sharing in the common work to which life in Christ is ordained.

Rom 12:6. And having different gifts, according to the grace that is given us, either prophecy, to be used according to the rule of faith; 

In the next two paragraphs Fr. Callan talks in general concerning verses 6-8, he then moves on to look at the verses in more detail.

In verses 6-8 St. Paul illustrates the different gifts of the Christians, and the different uses of these gifts. The sentences are elliptical and need to be completed by the understanding of different verbs or phrases; e.g., after prophecy we should understand, let us prophesy; after ministry, let us serve; after teacheth, let him excel; after exhorteth, let him be assiduous; after giveth, let him give; after ruleth, let him rule; after mercy, let him show mercy.

There is question in these verses of what theologians call gratiae gratis datae, i.e., extraordinary and supernatural gifts, which God sometimes confers on certain persons, not on account of personal merits, nor for the spiritual advantage of the recipient, but rather for the general benefit of the Church. In the early days of the Church, when there was greater need of such extraordinary happenings, these gifts were often bestowed on the faithful. St. Paul makes particular mention of them in his First Epistle to the Corinthians. There he enumerates nine gifts, while here he speaks of only seven; but in neither place does he intend to do more than call the attention of the faithful to a few for the sake of illustration.

(6) According to the grace. This shows that the bestowal of the charismata does not depend on the personal merits of the recipient, but only on the free will of God. God distributes them as He will and to whom He will. Each one, therefore, should content himself with the gift he has received, and not desire that of another. 

Prophecy, i.e., a supernatural gift by which one knows hidden and future things, and which one uses to edify the Church (1 Cor 14:3 ff., 1 Cor 14:24) in explaining the sacred mysteries and stimulating the faithful to virtue. 

To be used is not in the Greek. 

According to the rule of faith. “Rule of faith” should be rather measure of faith, according to the Greek. By these words St. Paul cautions the prophet not to exceed the limits of his supernatural gift, that is, not to mix up his own personal thoughts with the suggestions that come from the Holy Ghost (Lagrange). The prophet is to use his gift for the benefit of the faith, and consequently in conformity with the teaching of faith; that is, he must use it secundum rationem fidei, id est non in vanum, sed ut per hoc fides confirmetur; non autem contra fidem (St. Thomas). This interpretation, following the Latin Fathers, regards the rule of faith as an objective measure, rather than as a subjective disposition. Cornely and the Greek Fathers, however, prefer this latter view; but it is difficult to see how one subjectively, could know whether or not he was exceeding the revelation given him (Lagrange).

In the Vulgate rationem fidei should be mensuram fidei. 

Rom 12:7. Or ministry, in ministering; or he that teacheth, in doctrine; 

Ministry, διακονιαν, is a general term embracing all ecclesiastical functions, but used here to designate certain services in the community, which are going to be enumerated. The offices about which there is question in this verse were of an extraordinary and supernatural kind, which required corresponding supernatural gifts in those who exercised them (Cornely). 

He that teacheth, etc. The change of construction may be merely for literary reasons, or because the different ways of ministering are now to be spoken of. The teacher (διδασκων) occupies the third place, after the Apostles and prophets (1 Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11). His office is to expound, elucidate and systematically explain the truths of Christianity. It does not appear that the teacher or doctor was inspired like the prophet, whose function was to discover and to declare. 

In doctrine, i.e., let the teacher faithfully exercise his office. 

Rom 12:8. He that cxhorteth, in exhorting; he that giveth, with simplicity; he that ruleth, with carefulness; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. 

He that exhorteth (παρακαλων) . Nowhere else is this gift spoken of. It seems to have consisted in the special grace of imparting counsel and stimulus, or encouragement to others, thus moving them to the practice of virtue. 

He that giveth (ο μεταδιδους) is he that is moved by the Holy Ghost to give alms to the poor (1 Cor 13:3). 

With simplicity, i.e., not seeking one’s own interest, but only the welfare of his neighbor for God’s sake. 

He that ruleth (ο προισταμενος) does not refer to ecclesiastical superiors, properly speaking, but to those who were charged with various duties, such as looking after the widows, the orphans, the poor and the like (Cornely, Lagrange, etc.). 

With carefulness, i.e., let the office be exercised with zeal and fidelity. 

He that sheweth mercy (οG3588 T-NSM  ελεων) means one who gives personal care and attention to the miserable, the poor and the sick. 

With cheerfulness, i.e., with pleasantness and sweetness of manner, in order to show fulness of affection for those in distress, and to inspire hope (2 Cor 9:7).


A Summary of Romans 12:9-21~As in 1 Cor 12:31; 1 Cor 13:1 ff., so also here, after treating of the charismata or special gifts of Christians, St. Paul passes on to an enumeration of the general qualities of the faithful, beginning with charity (αγαπη), the most excellent gift of God to the soul. While the counsels that follow are not arranged in any very determinate and logical order, yet it can be said that the Apostle treats first of the mutual exercise of charity among the Christians (Rom 12:9-16), and then of duties toward
all men, especially one’s enemies (Rom 12:17-21). 

Rom 12:9. Let love be without dissimulation. Hating that which is evil, cleaving to that which is good. 

Love (η αγαπη), i.e., charity toward God and the neighbor. 

Without dissimulation, i.e., without hypocrisy (ανυποκριτος), sincere, and not from the lips only (2 Cor 6:6; 1 John 3:18). 

Hating that which is evil, etc. Our love for our neighbor should be regulated according to a stern and uncompromising moral standard, and so should detest evil and seek good wherever they are found. 

Rom 12:10. Loving one another with the charity of brotherhood, with honour preventing one another.

In verses 10-21 there is a remarkable series of coordinated participles, adjectives, infinitives (verse 15) and imperatives,—all of which have an imperative sense. The participles are expressive of habits which manifest themselves in daily life. 

With the charity of brotherhood. The Christians, being all of one faith and of one family, whose head is Christ, should have a fraternal love for one another. And this brotherly love among the Christians should prompt them to be eager to exhibit mutual signs of respect, one trying to get a start on the other, in external manifestations of honor and esteem (Cornely). Fr. Lagrange and others think St. Paul is speaking here of interior sentiments, rather than of external demonstrations. Naturally, however, the internal habit would show itself in external actions.

The fraternitatis of the Vulgate would better be fraterna. 

Rom 12:11. In carefulness not slothful. In spirit fervent. Serving the Lord. 

In carefulness, etc., i.e., in regard to solicitude we should be active and diligent in helping others and in executing our private duties. 

In spirit fervent, i.e., acting with great fervor of mind under the influence of the Holy Spirit. 

Serving the Lord. We should be animated with a spirit of great fervor, because we are serving our Lord Jesus Christ, to whose service we are entirely dedicated. The reading of the Vulgate, Domino servientes, is according to the best Greek reading, τω κυριω δουλευοντες; rather than serving the time, i.e., making good use of one’s time and opportunities. 

Rom 12:12. Rejoicing in hope. Patient in tribulation. Instant in prayer. 

Rejoicing in hope, i.e., be joyous in the hope of heavenly rewards which wait upon the fervent Christian; be patient in tribulation, i.e., be constant and persevering (υπομενοντες) in trials, which lead to hope (v. 4) and increase your merits for future blessedness; be instant in prayer, i.e., be habitually devoted to prayer by which you obtain from God the grace necessary to observe all the other precepts of the law. 

Rom 13:13. Communicating to the necessities of the saints. Pursuing hospitality. 

Communicating, etc., i.e., imparting aid, when necessary, to your fellow-Christians, the saints, regarding their need as your own. 

Pursuing hospitality. The practice of hospitality is often inculcated in the New Testament (Heb 13:3; Titus 1:8; 1 Tim 3:2; 1 Pet 4:9), and was most necessary, because many of the Christians had been forced to leave all things to follow Christ. 

Rom 12:14. Bless them that persecute you: bless, and curse not. 

Bless, etc. Although the Christians were subject to more or less constant persecution for their faith, still it was their duty to return good for evil, to love those that hated them, etc., as our Lord had commanded (Matt 5:44; Luke 6:27, etc.). The Apostle admonishes the Christians to wish their enemies well, and not to curse them. This was a vastly different spirit from that of the Jews who introduced into their official prayers maledictions against the Christians (cf. Lagrange, Le Messianisme, etc., p. 294). 

Rom 12:15. Rejoice with them that rejoice; weep with them that weep. 

Rejoice . . . weep. The infinitives here in Greek have an imperative meaning. Since the Christians are all members of one body, each one should share in the joy or sorrow of each other one. The Apostle says first, rejoice with them that rejoice, because, as St. Chrys. observes, “it requires a very generous soul, when your neighbor prospers, not only not to envy him, but even to rejoice with him; whereas only a stony heart is unmoved by the distress of another.” 

Rom 12:16. Being of one mind one towards another. Not minding high things, but consenting to the humble. Be not wise in your own conceits. 

Being of one mind, etc. The Apostle again counsels the Christians to cultivate modesty and humility—virtues which will promote mutual agreement among them, causing each one to feel and act towards his neighbor as towards himself. No one should on account of birth, riches or the like, consider himself better than his neighbor, because all are one with Christ (Gal 3:28), and there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, rich nor poor. 

Not minding high things, etc., i.e., in the social order, not in the intellectual and moral orders. 

Consenting to the humble, i.e., condescending to humble offices, being contented with humble gifts, not refusing to do anything, however lowly, provided it be good. Another interpretation understands the Apostle to mean that the Christians should condescend to live on a level and associate with those of lower condition of life and of lower culture. This interpretation makes τοις ταπεινοις (“but consenting to the humble”)  masculine here, as it is everywhere else in the Old and New Testaments, with the possible exception of Psalm 136:6; whereas the other understands it to be neuter, to refer to things and not to persons. Those who make the phrase neuter are influenced by the antithesis to τα υψηλα (“not minding higher things”).

Be not wise, etc., i.e., do not entertain so high an opinion of your own judgment as to despise and refuse the counsel of others; avoid self-conceit.

Rom 12:17. To no man rendering evil for evil. Providing good things, not only in the sight of God, but also in the sight of all men.

There is a turning now to the Christian’s attitude toward his enemies outside the community of the faithful.

To no man rendering evil for evil. This had been already forbidden by the Psalmist (Ps. 7:5) and by the sane moral code of the ancients (Lagr.). Cf. also Matt. 5:38; 1 Thess. 5:15; 1 Pet. 3:9, where all private revenge is prohibited.

Providing good things in the sight of all men, i.e., giving edification to all men, whether of the fold or not (Matt. 5:15).

The words, not only in the sight of God, but also, are most probably a gloss from 2 Cor. 8:21. Consequently the corresponding words of the Vulgate here ought to be omitted.

Rom 12:18. If it be possible, as much as in you, having peace with all men.

If it be possible, etc. St. Paul implies that it may be impossible always to live in peace with all men, because to do so would at times mean the forfeiture of the rights of conscience and of faith. In such a case, however, the disturber is the sinner who wishes wrong to triumph over right.

Rom 12:19. Revenge not yourselves, my dearly beloved; but give place unto wrath, for it is written: Revenge is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.

Revenge not, etc. One sure way of guarding peace is to forego all private revenge.

Give place unto wrath, i.e., avoid anger, leaving vindictive justice to God, who will finally avenge the injuries done to His saints.

It is written, in Deut. 32:35. The citation follows neither the Hebrew nor the LXX literally.

The defendentes of the Vulgate has the meaning of vindicantes, or of ulciscentes (Lagr.).

Rom 12:20. But if thy enemy be hungry, give him to eat; if he thirst, give him to drink. For, doing this, thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head.

Not only should the Christian refrain from revenge, but he should positively succor his needy enemy. St. Paul backs up this precept with a quotation from Prov. 25:21 ff., cited according to the LXX. The meaning is that we are to be willing and ready to help our enemy, if we can, in any and every necessity.

Heap coals of fire, etc., means that, by the aforesaid generosity towards our enemy, we shall unintentionally inflict upon him healing pains of remorse and repentance for his past conduct, and thus effect his conversion (St. Aug., St. Jerome). Nothing is farther from the doctrine of Paul and the context of Prov. than to think we should be beneficent to our enemy for the sake of causing him pain. Such an attitude and intention on our part, if at all perceived by the enemy, would defeat its own purpose.

Rom 12:21. Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good.

This verse confirms the interpretation given of the preceding verse. Evil feeds and thrives upon evil, but is wasted and conquered by good.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans Chapter 11

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 30, 2016

Text in red, if any, are my additions

A Summary of Romans 11:1-10

Having shown in the preceding chapter that the rejection of the Jews was due to their own persistent disobedience and obstinacy to the will of God and the divine overtures, St. Paul now is at pains to observe that God, notwithstanding, has by no means ceased to be merciful to His chosen people. For their rejection is not complete; a good number have been converted, although the others have been hardened.

Rom 11:1. I say then: Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

After all the Apostle has said about the culpability and responsibility of the Jews (Rom 9:30-10:21), one would be inclined to think that Israel had been entirely rejected and had ceased to be the people of God. But even before this, when speaking of the absolute right of God to choose or to reject whom He will (Rom 9:6-26), the Apostle had insinuated, in a passing way, that there was still, as in former times of apostasy, a faithful remnant in whom the mercy of God was manifest. Here, borrowing the words of Psalm 94:14, he asks the question plainly whether God hath cast away his people. The answer must be negative, first because the Apostle’s teaching cannot be contrary to the promise of the inspired Psalmist. In the second place, he refers to himself, who was an Israelite of the seed of Abraham, i.e., a carnal descendant of the father of the Jewish race, and a member of the tribe of Benjamin which, with the tribes of Juda and Levi, had, in the past, remained faithful to the Lord (2 Cor. 11:22; Philip, 3:5). Finally, if God had entirely rejected the Jews, He would not have selected from among them “the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of his mysteries” (1 Cor. 4:1), and sent them out to preach the faith to the Gentiles (Rom 1:5). So much for an indirect reply to the question proposed

Rom 11:2. God hath not cast away his people, which he foreknew. Know you not what the scripture saith of Elias; how he calleth on God against Israel?

St. Paul now responds directly to the above question. It is impossible that God should reject entirely and definitely all the Jews, because God does not thus change His eternal decrees (see Rom 11:28-29).

Which he foreknew, i.e., which he formerly recognized and willingly approved as His own people. There is no question here of those who God foreknew would be faithful to Him, or of the predestined (Cornely), but of the Jewish people as a whole, who would not be finally cast off by God.

Know you not, etc. The Apostle draws an example from the history of Elijah (1 Kings 19:10) to illustrate the designs of God in the present instance. It seemed to Elijah that the whole people had fallen into idolatry and had been rejected by God; but God revealed to the Prophet that a remnant had been preserved. So it is now. While it seems that all Israel has been rejected, there is no doubt that some will be saved.

The scripture, i.e., that section of the Old Testament which deals with Elijah (cf. Mark 12:26; Luke 20:37

Against Israel, i.e., accusing Israel.

Rom 11:3. Lord, they have slain thy prophets, they have dug down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.

The words of Elijah and the reply of God (1 Kings 19:10, 14, 18) are here abbreviated and cited according to the LXX. They have slain, i.e., the Israelites, at the command of the impious Jezabel, killed the Prophets (2 Kings 18:4).

They have dug down, etc., likely refers to private altars erected by pious Israelites on high places for good purposes, although contrary to the Law (Deut. 12:4 ff.). Living under an idolatrous king these Israelites were not able to adore God in Jerusalem (1 Kings 18:30), and so felt justified in building private altars. At any rate, to destroy these altars, as was done, out of hatred toward God, was very impious.

Alone, of the faithful who adored the true God; or of those faithful who were able to act for God, that is, of the Prophets (Lagrange, Beelen).

Rom 11:4. But what saith the divine answer to him? I have left me seven thousand men, that have not bowed their knees to Baal.

Answer. The word χρηματισμός (= chrēmatismos) here has the sense of an oracle; but it may also have the meaning of answer or reply, because generally the oracles responded to questions proposed. In reality there was an interrogation at the bottom of Elijah’s words to God: he was imploring God to intervene. To this God replied: I have left me, etc. In 1 Kings 19:18 we have the future: “I will leave me,” etc. The fact remains that seven thousand were preserved from idolatry. The divine reply makes manifest the power of God’s grace. In spite of the extraordinary persecution instituted by Ahab and Jezebel, under which it seemed that all Israel had suffered defection, the grace of God was able to preserve from idolatry and hold fast in the worship of the true God seven thousand men, i.e., an indeterminate but very great number (cf. Gen. 4:15; Lev. 26:18, 24, etc.).

Baal was the chief God of all the Canaanite tribes. Baal or Bel means the Lord, and especially the husband. We have here the feminine article with the masculine name, τη βααλ (= ho Baal), most probably because the Hellenist Jews wished to avoid the utterance of the idol’s name, and substituted in the reading, the shame, just as the name YHWH was written with the pointing of Adonai. Likely the LXX MS. which Paul was using had the reading τη βααλ (= ho Baal).

Rom 11:5. Even so then at this present time also, there is a remnant saved according to the election of grace.

Applying to his purpose the lesson of the preceding verses St. Paul says that, as in the time of Elias a number were preserved faithful, so now there is a remnant of the Jews saved, i.e., brought to Christianity.

According to the election of grace, i.e., in virtue of an election altogether gratuitous, and independent of merit on the part of the saved. The grace of justification can never be merited (Cone. Trid., Sess. VI, cap. 8).

St. Paul leaves all indeterminate the number of Jews that were actually converted to the faith. He is satisfied to note, (a) that the designs of God were not frustrated, because a remnant has been saved, which is a pledge of future restoration; and (b) that grace is the sole principle of one’s call.

In the Vulgate salvae should be omitted, and factae sunt should be fuerunt (Lagrange).

Rom 11:6. And if by grace, it is not now by works: otherwise grace is no more grace.

Having spoken of grace the Apostle takes occasion again to insist that grace and works are two opposing principles. What is of grace is entirely gratuitous; that which is from works is due as a recompense. The Council of Trent (1. c.) says: Nihil eorum, quae justificationem praecedunt, neque fidem neque opera, ipsam justifications gratiam promereri.

While St. Paul is speaking here of the call of God to Christianity, the principle he lays down is absolute. Both the call to justification and to eternal glory are equally gratuitous; but when one is already justified and living the life of grace there is no opposition between the works he performs, proceeding from grace, and grace itself. Therefore, works performed under the influence of grace are meritorious of life eternal. Of these latter works, however, there is no question in the present verse. Some of the Greek MSS. and a Syriac version add here: “But if of works, it is no longer grace: otherwise the work is no longer a work.” The addition contributes nothing to the sense already expressed.

Rom 11:7. What then? That which Israel sought, he hath not obtained: but the election hath obtained it; and the rest have been blinded.

This verse concludes what precedes in the present chapter.

What then, i.e., what should we say of Israel? As a nation the great majority of the Jews have not attained that which they sought; namely justification, because they sought it through works without the aid of faith and grace.

But the election, i.e., those who were chosen by God have obtained justification through faith and the grace of their divine election.

The rest have been blinded, hardened (επωρωθησαν = eporothesan), so that they have not recognized the Messiah and the true way of salvation.

That which Israel sought should be “that which Israel is seeking”; and hence also the quaerebat of the Vulgate ought to be present, quaerit, to correspond with the Greek.

Rom 11:8. As it is written: God hath given them the spirit of insensibility; eyes that they should not see; and ears that they should not hear, until this present day

The blindness of the Jews had already been foretold. St. Paul is citing freely, according to the LXX, and combining two texts,—the first from Isa. 29:10, the second from Deut. 29:3.

God hath given them, etc., i.e., on account of their own perversity and infidelity God withdrew His grace from the Jews, thus permitting them to have a spirit of insensibility, or moral torpor which made them incapable of seeing, hearing or understanding the truth, although it was in their very midst. The term κατανυξεως (= katanyexeos) (Vulg., compunctio) properly means a violent puncture (from κατάνυξις = katanuxis), and therefore great, numbing pain; but in its figurative sense, as used here by St. Paul and in the LXX (Isa 29:10; Ps. 60:5), it signifies torpor, profound sleep, deafness, etc. By reason of their blindness and deafness the Jews failed utterly to recognize Christ and His preaching, or the Apostles and their preaching, in spite of all the miracles that were worked in their presence in confirmation of that preaching.

Until this present day. These words show the persistence of the divine plan, and that the Jews of the time of Moses and Isaias were a type of the Jews in the time of our Lord (Matt 23:32).

Rom 11:9. And David saith: Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling block, and a recompense unto them.
Rom 11:10. Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see: and bow down their back always.

The better to point out the blindness of the Jews, St. Paul now cites the testimony of the Psalmist (Ps. 69:23-24), whose imprecated curses on the Jews of his own time were typical of the punishment that had justly fallen on those of the Apostle’s time. The Jews, says the Apostle, have come to regard as advantageous for themselves that which is their ruin.

Let their table be made a snare, etc., i.e., let their table be like a bait which draws the bird to the trap (Cornely); or let their table be set with poisoned dishes destined for certain guests who, nevertheless, will oblige the hosts themselves to consume those dishes (Lagrange). The term “table” principally means the Sacred Scriptures, which were spread out before the Jews as spiritual nourishment, but which were converted by them into sources of error and mischief, and were turned by the Christians against them (MacEvilly).

Let their eyes be darkened, etc. What the Psalmist imprecates for his enemies, who were also his own people, St. Paul applies to the Jews. The Law, which was intended to be a help and a guide for the Jews, and to lead them to Christ, on account of their willful perversity became a grievous yoke and burden that bowed them down to earthly things.

According to St. Paul the hardening of the Jews was the chastisement of a first fault (Rom 1:26). It was, therefore, voluntary (Rom 10), but was not directly relative to life eternal. It prevented the Jews from recognizing the Messiah; but, being only temporary, it can always be changed for the nation as a whole, to say nothing of individuals, for whose conversion the Apostle was ever solicitous (Lagrange).


A Summary of Romans 11:11-24~The rejection of the majority of the Jews is a source of great mystery and profound sorrow. And yet there is reason for consolation, because, in the first place, a few have been saved already, and then, the rejection of the nation as a whole is only a temporary evil which, in the designs of God, is made to serve for the conversion of the Gentiles.

Rom 11:11. I say then, have they so stumbled, that they should fall? God forbid. But by their offence, salvation is come to the Gentiles, that they may be emulous of them.

Have they so stumbled, that, etc. Comely and others give to “that” (ινα) the sense of finality, as if St. Paul wished to ask if God, by justly withdrawing His graces from the Jews, blinded their greater number and permitted them to stumble for the purpose of making them fall without any hope of reparation. In this opinion, there is question here, not of the gravity, but of the purpose or end of the Jews’ fall. But St. Chrysostom,  Lagrange, etc., hold that ινα has not a final meaning here, and that the sense is rather, whether the fall of the Jews is so great as to admit of no cure or remedy. At any rate, the stumbling of the Jews was not just that they might fall, nor that their fall should be irremediable, as the Apostle’s reply, vigorously negative, plainly shows, and as is clear from what follows in the verse. St. Paul then goes on to explain the designs of God in permitting the Jews to go astray.

By their offence, etc., i.e., through the blindness of the Jews in not recognizing the Messiah and their unwillingness to accept the Apostle’s preaching (Acts 13:45-48) the Gospel was carried to the Gentiles, and the error of the Jews became the occasion of the salvation of the pagans. This is the first and immediate result of the fall of the Jews. The second result is the salvation of the Jews themselves; for the salvation given to the Gentiles will finally rouse Israel to competition and emulation (παραζηλωσαι αυτους). The Jews will at length understand that their God has become the God of the Gentiles, that the Scriptures given to them have passed to others, and that God has withdrawn His blessings from His chosen people and bestowed them upon their pagan neighbors. When this takes place, the anger and jealousy of the Jews will have reached their climax and will be the occasion of a reaction against past errors, and a consequent return to the God of their forefathers. Thus, the hardening of Israel permitted by God was ordained to the salvation of the Gentiles, and the salvation of the Gentiles is ordained in turn to that of the Jews themselves (cf.

Lagrange, h. 1.).

Rom 11:12. Now if the offence of them be the riches of the world, and the diminution of them, the riches of the Gentiles; how much more the fulness of them?

If the failure of Israel has brought such great benefits to the world, how enormous will be the benefit of the final conversion of all the Jews! 

If the offence (παραπτωμα) of them (αυτων), i.e., of those hardened, be the riches of the world, i.e., be the occasion of the conversion of the Gentiles to the faith, and the diminution (ηττημα) of them (αυτων), i.e., the defeat, the loss of those hardened, be the means of inestimable blessings to the pagans, how much more the fulness (πληρωμα) of them (αυτων), i.e., how much greater blessings will come to the world from the total conversion to the faith of all the Jews!

In this interpretation, following Lagrange, we have given to the first and second αυτων (“them”) the meaning of those hardened, and to the third, the meaning of all the Jews. We have understood ηττημα (“diminution”) here to mean, not the remnant, a small number; but defeat, loss.  πληρωμα (“fulness”) means the completing of Israel, i.e., the adding of the hardened (who will cease to be such) to the faithful Jews.

Rom 11:13. For I say to you, Gentiles : as long indeed as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I will honour my ministry,
Rom 11:14. If, by any means, I may provoke to emulation them who are my flesh, and may save some of them. 

I say to you, Gentiles. Continuing the theme of verses 11, 12 St. Paul openly speaks to the Gentiles, showing that the community to which he was writing was chiefly composed of them. He tells them that as long as, i.e., inasmuch as (εφ οσον not followed by χρóνον) he is the apostle of the Gentiles he honors his ministry, by consecrating himself entirely to it, with the ulterior purpose of exciting the jealousy of his fellow-Jews and moving them to emulate the faithful Gentiles, thus saving some of them now, and all in the end (verse 25). In St. Paul’s mind there is question of the design of God which cannot be fully accomplished, even to the profit of the Gentiles, if the ultimate salvation of the Jews is not first assured. His zeal for the one would work also the profit of the other, and the profit of the latter would in turn add to and complete that of the former (Lagrange).

I will honour should be “I do honour” (δοξαζω) my ministry, by devoting myself entirely to the services of the Gentiles, but not for their profit alone, as explained above.

In the Vulgate quamdiu would better be quatenus, and honorificabo should be honorifico, to agree with the Greek. 

Rom 11:15. For if the loss of them be the reconciliation of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?

The thought of verse 12 is taken up here and developed more vividly. If the loss, etc., i.e., if the rejection of the Jews from the Messianic kingdom be the reconciliation, etc., i.e., be the occasion of bringing the Gentiles into the Church of Christ, what great joy and spiritual benefits will result to Christ’s kingdom from the receiving of them in mass into the Church. 

But life from the dead, ει μη ζωη εκ νεκρων. These words have been variously interpreted. Some say they refer to the final consummation before the Second Coming of Christ, and consequently to the general resurrection of the dead, of which the conversion in mass of the Jews will be the signal (Origen, St. Chrysostom, St. Thomas, Lagrange, etc.). But as the terms here used are not very precise, one cannot well conjecture what relation of time there will be between the final conversion of the Jews and the general resurrection of the dead (Lagrange). Others think there is reference in the above words to an increase of spiritual life, among the Christians already converted, that will come from the final conversion of the Jews (MacEvilly). Cornely rejects this last explanation. He disapproves of the first one also, because he says that St. Paul, when speaking of the general resurrection uses a different phrase, η αναστασις or εκ νεκρων. He therefore believes the Apostle is speaking indeterminately here, as in verse 12, of some wonderful benefit and happiness that are to result from the final and total conversion of the Jews; or that this final restoration of the Jews will be a good so great, as to be comparable to the resurrection of the dead.

Rom 11: 16. For if the firstfruit be holy, so is the lump also: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.

Although the Law has been abrogated and the mass of the Jews have been rejected, still, St. Paul reminds his Roman readers, the designs of God regarding His people have not failed, nor has the Jewish race ceased to belong, in a certain sense, to God, and to be consecrated to Him. This the Apostle proves by two comparisons.

The firstfruit and the root mean the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc., who were holy men and faithful servants of God.

The lump and the branches are the Jewish people, the descendants of the Patriarchs. When the Jews made bread they were accustomed to put aside a piece of the dough which they baked into a small cake to be offered to God and burnt, or given to the priest (Num. 15:19-21). The whole mass was considered to have a part in the consecration of this portion that was offered to God. Thus the Jews, by reason of their natural connection with their ancestors, the Patriarchs, who were holy men consecrated to God, have also a kind of holiness and consecration to God, even though it be only an external relation like that of the lump and the branches.

Rom 11:17. And if some of the branches be broken, and thou, being a wild olive, art ingrafted in them, and art made partaker of the root and of the fatness of the olive tree,
Rom 11:18. Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee

Lest any of the Romans should feel puffed up and boastful over their call to the faith, and should therefore be inclined to despise the rejected Jews, St. Paul reminds them that they owe their inclusion in the stock of Israel only to that mercy of God which first looked with favor on the chosen people, and that if they guard not with fidelity the gratuitous gift they have received, they too will come short of their destined prizes (see Rom 11:20). No Gentile, therefore, should boast of his own condition or rejoice at that of the fallen Jew, but should rather fear for himself, while hoping for mercy toward the Jews.

The broken branches are the rejected Jews.

The wild olive represents the Gentile whom St. Paul has in mind, and who, like all the converted Gentiles, has, by the mercy of God and without any merit of his own, been ingrafted in them, i.e., has been ingrafted among (Cornely) the converted Jews and become partaker of the root, etc., i.e., of the blessings which were the Jews’ by right of inheritance.

Boast not, etc., because you remember that once you were a stranger to the covenant with God, without hope or promise in this world (Eph. 2:11-12), and that you were liberated from your misery only by being grafted on the true stock. The Gentile has nothing, then, whereof to boast, because salvation is from the Jews to the Gentiles (John 4:22), and not from the Gentiles to the Jews.

The branches (verse 18) refers to all the Jews (St. Thomas). The verbs “be broken” and “art ingrafted” should be in the past tense, according to the Greek.

St. Paul here speaks of the wild olive being grafted upon the cultivated variety. This causes some difficulty, inasmuch as the ordinary process of grafting was to graft a domestic shoot on a stock of the same kind, after cutting away all the original branches. But Prof. Fischer (Ramsay, Pauline Studies, p. 223 ff.) relates an exceptional process which was employed to invigorate an old olive tree that was failing; the branches of the old tree having been cut away, a shoot of the wild olive was grafted on the domestic stock to invigorate and render fertile the old tree. This process of grafting is witnessed to by two Roman writers, Columella, De re rustica, V. 9, and Palladius, De incisione, XIV. 53, and, according to Prof. Fischer, is in practice in Palestine at the present day.

Rom 11:19. Thou wilt say then : The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.

The Gentile is here represented as justifying his triumph by the fact that his inclusion was the purpose of the Jews’ rejection. As the gardener cuts away the branches in order to insert the new shoot, so the Jews were rejected in order that the Gentiles might be brought in. The role of the Jews, therefore, like that of the Law, was only preparatory; in the designs of God they have been replaced by the Gentiles (Lagr.).

Rom 11:20. Well: because of unbelief they were broken off. But thou standest by faith: be not highminded, but fear.

There was something of truth in the above argument of the supposed boastful Gentile, and St. Paul replies, not without irony, καλως, well. But he at once observes that the Jews were cut off and rejected for the precise reason that they did not believe, they had not sufficient humility to accept on faith the Gospel teaching; whereas the Gentiles, by believing, have come into the inheritance which was primarily intended for the Jews. It was, then, the faith, the humility, the obedience and submission of the Gentiles that made possible for them the bestowal of God’s gratuitous gift of faith. But this gift can be retained only by profound humility and fidelity, and hence the necessity of eschewing all pride and high-mindedness, and of cultivating the fear of God.

Because of unbelief should rather be “by unbelief” τη απιστια, corresponding to “by faith.” τη πιστει,—datives of cause or occasion (Cornely).

In the Vulgate propter incredulitatem should be incredulitate.

Rom 11:21. For if God hath not spared the natural branches, fear lest perhaps he also spare not thee.

St. Paul admonishes the Gentile whom he has before his mind to give up all high thoughts of self and to school himself in humility and fear, lest what happened to the Jews happen to him also. The Apostle is not saying here that the Gentile is going to be cut off, nor that he could be rejected more easily than the Jews were rejected (Lagr.).

Rom 11:22. See then the goodness and the severity of God: towards them indeed that are fallen, the severity; but towards thee, the goodness of God, if thou abide in goodness, otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

In order still more to inculcate salutary sentiments of humility and fear, St. Paul draws the Gentile’s attention to God’s actions toward the Jews and Gentiles respectively. Toward the Jews, in punishment of their unbelief, God has shown severity; but to the Gentiles, for contrary reasons, He has exhibited goodness and mercy by calling them gratuitously to the faith. 

If thou abide, etc., i.e., if the Gentile perseveres in the faith received, and continues to live under the divine influence of the Goodness that blessed him with faith, God will also continue to manifest His mercy toward him. 

Otherwise thou also shalt be cut off, because the just man can fall from the state of grace and justice, and no one, apart from special revelation, can be infallibly certain of his own perseverance
(Conc. Trid., Sess. VI. cap. 16, 23).

Canon 16 of Trent reads; If anyone says that a man who is born again and justified is bound ex fide to believe that he is certainly in the number of the predestined, let him be anathema.

Canon 23: If anyone says that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace,[124] and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified; or on the contrary, that he can during his whole life avoid all sins, even those that are venial, except by a special privilege from God, as the Church holds in regard to the Blessed Virgin, let him be anathema. (source). On may also consult chapters 13 & 14 of the decree here.

Rom 11:23. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.

If the Jews will give up their unbelief, they also will be grafted on the faithful stock; the obstacle comes from them, because they refuse to believe in Jesus Christ. But God is able to triumph over their unbelief, since His power is infinite. St. Paul’s hope for Israel, hinted in Rom 11:12, is here explicitly declared.

Rom 11:24. For if thou wert cut out of the wild olive tree, which is natural to thee; and, contrary to nature, were grafted into the good olive tree; how much more shall they that are the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?

It is more natural, and therefore easier to graft on a tree a homogeneous than a heterogeneous shoot. In fact, for successful grafting there must be some affinity of nature between the subject and the shoot; one can only use for grafting, therefore, varieties of the same species, or at least of the same genus. If the Gentiles, who were like the wild olive, have been grafted on the domestic tree of Israel, how much more natural, and how much easier, to our way of thinking, will it be to graft the Israelites, who are the natural branches, into their own olive tree.

Contrary to nature, i.e., beside the natural course of nature, praeter naturam.

The natural branches. The Jews were the natural descendants of Abraham and the Patriarchs, and as such, the natural heirs of the Messianic promises and blessings.


A Summary of Romans 11:25-32~God’s final purpose is to save both Gentiles and Jews. They both have sinned and have been made to feel the wrath of God (1:18-2:29), but infinite mercy outstretches man’s wickedness and in the end will triumph over all; God’s designs do not change, nor does His will go unfulfilled. The salvation of all Israel is closely connected with the conversion of the Gentiles, as was foretold by the Prophets. It is according to the divine plan that Israel and the pagans should mutually help each other, and that both in the end should be objects of the divine mercy. 

Rom 11:25. For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, of this mystery (lest you should be wise in your own conceits), that blindness in part has happened in Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles should come in. 

I would not have you ignorant, brethren. This is a favorite phrase of St. Paul’s when he wishes to speak confidentially and announce some matter of great importance (Rom 1:13; 1 Cor 10:1; 12:1; 2 Cor 1:8; 1 Thess 4:13). He is speaking to the Gentile Christians, and he wishes to remind them of doctrines already familiar to the Church in general, namely, that the Jews were to be hardened (Matt 12:38-48; 13:11-16; 23:29-36), that the failure of Israel would bring in the Gentiles (Matt 20:1-16; 24:14), and that the Jews themselves would at last turn to Christ (Matt 23:39; Luke 13:35). 

This mystery, i.e., the final conversion of Israel to Christianity, which will take place after the conversion of the Gentiles, but before the end of the world. St. Paul calls this great truth a mystery, because it could not be known short of revelation, and was in fact revealed to him by God along with the other truths of the Gospel of Christ (Gal 1:12, 16; Eph 2:11-22; 3:1-13). 

Lest you be wise, etc. The quotation is from Prov 3:7. The Apostle is admonishing the Gentiles to guard against self-conceit, as if they had merited their call to the faith, and also against despising the rejected Jews. 

Blindness in part, etc. While the Jews as a people had failed to accept the Gospel, a number of them had been converted. And the blindness or obduracy of the majority is not to last forever; but until the fulness of the Gentiles shall come in, i.e., until the other nations of the world have accepted the Gospel and entered the Church of Christ. It is to be noted that this fulness of the Gentiles relates to peoples, not to individuals: all the nations or peoples of the earth will be converted to Christ before the end of the world, but not all the individuals of each nation (St. Thomas, Cornely, Lagrange, etc.).

God, therefore, in His all-wise designs has called a few of the Jews to the faith already. He has made the incredulity of the majority the occasion of the conversion of the Gentiles, and this latter He will make in turn the occasion for the final call to the faith of all the Jews. We have no sign, however, that this general conversion of the world will be soon. Here it may be useful to recall what Origen said on this subject: “God only knows, and His Only-begotten Son, and any friends that may be privy to His secrets, what is all Israel that is to be saved, and what is the fulness of the Gentiles that is to come in.” 

Rom 11:26. And so all Israel should be saved, as it is written: There shall come out of Sion, he that shall deliver, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. 

All Israel does not mean the predestined (St. Augustine), nor all the Jews taken individually (St. Thomas), but the mass of the people, as opposed to individuals who are converted during the time that intervenes before the last days come. Israel then as a nation, like the other nations of the world, will finally embrace the faith; but it will not be until after all those others have been gathered in that she shall enter the fold of Christ. What fate has overtaken or awaits those Jews who have been hardened meanwhile, St. Paul does not anywhere tell us. 

As it is written. The Apostle has been speaking of a mystery which he has learned through revelation, and he confirms the truth of it by showing that it was already more or less clearly foretold in the Old Test. (Isa 59:20). The citation is fairly literal from the LXX, which faithfully follows the Hebrew with the exception that where the latter has “out of Sion,” the LXX has “for Sion’s sake.” In the best MSS. the quotation is read as follows: “There shall come out of Sion the deliverer: he shall turn away impieties from Jacob.” St. Paul seems to make the citation refer in a general way to the Second Coming of Christ, although the conversion of the Jews will just precede that Second Coming, and will be a consequence of the first advent of the Saviour. 

Rom 11:27. And this is to them my covenant: when I shall take away their sins. 

The first part of this verse is from Isa 59:21, and the second from Isa 27:9. God promises to make a new alliance with the people of Israel, when He will take away their sins and confer upon them forever His spirit and His doctrine.

In verses 25-27 we have the following unfulfilled prophecies: (a) Before the end of the world all Gentile nations shall be converted to Christianity, that is, the greater part of all nations, not all the individuals of each nation (St. Thomas); (b) after the conversion of the Gentiles, but before the end of the world, the Jews as a people will embrace Christianity. The fulfillment of these prophecies, and therefore the end of all things seem yet far off. 

Rom 11:28. As concerning the gospel, indeed, they are enemies for your sake: but as touching the election, they are most dear for the sake of the fathers.

The present incredulity of the Jews will not hinder the final realization of God’s promises to them. God still loves them in their faithful ancestors. 

As concerning the gospel, i.e., inasmuch as they have wilfully rejected the Gospel, the only means of salvation, they are enemies (εχθροι, odiosi), i.e., hateful to God (St. Thomas, Lagrange, etc.), and so have been excluded by God from their Messianic inheritance. This has happened to them, in the designs of God, for your sake, i.e., for the benefit of you Gentiles, because their unfaithfulness has been the occasion of your call to the Gospel (Rom 11:11, 12, 15). 

But as touching the election, i.e., as regards their election from among all other peoples, by which they were made God’s chosen people and the depositories and custodians of God’s special revelation and divine promises, they are most dear to God for the sake of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob— God’s special friends and faithful servants. 

Rom 11:29. For the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance. 

God will not forsake His people forever, because His special gifts and calling are without repentance, and are consequently not subject to change (cf. 2 Cor 7:10). The Apostle is not speaking here of an invariable rule of Providence as regards creatures, but only of the great designs of God, such as respected the gifts and privileges of Israel and the latter’s call to be the adopted people of the Most High. As regards these privileges God will never change, or repent of having conceded them, because He pledged them to the Patriarchs with an oath (Deut 7:6-11). Despite, therefore, the unfaithfulness of the Jews, God will be true to His promises and will one day convert them as a whole to the faith. The call still holds if Israel will hear.

We read in 1 Kings 15:11 that God repented that He had chosen Saul; but the rejection of this king was only an episode, comparable to the temporary hardening of the Jews (Lagrange). 

Rom 11:30. For as you also in times past did not believe God, but now have obtained mercy, through their unbelief;
Rom 11:31. So these also now have not believed, for your mercy, that they also may obtain mercy.

As mercy has found the Gentiles and led them to the faith, so at last it will seek out the Jews and bring them to Christianity. 

As you Gentiles in times past were rebellious to the call of God and thus became an object of mercy, thanks to the obstinacy of the Jews, which has facilitated your conversion; so the Jews, now hardened, will become obedient to the Gospel on account of the mercy which you have experienced (Cornely, Lipsius, Julicher, etc.). In this interpretation the mercy shown to the Gentiles will be the occasion of showing mercy to the Jews, because it will excite the latter to jealous emulation. But since St. Paul has insisted on this thought several times before, and since it does not so well fit in with verse 32, it would seem that the Apostle is here rather drawing out a general idea, namely, that it is the purpose of God to permit all to fall into disobedience, so as to give play to the exercise of mercy. The ancient disobedience of the Gentiles has been followed by mercy, and likewise the disobedience of the Jews will finally issue in a display of mercy (Lagr., Kuhl, S. H., etc.).

Modern interpreters generally suppose ηπειθησαν to signify to be disobedient, and απειθειαν to mean disobedience. 

Rom 11:32. For God hath concluded all in unbelief, that he may have mercy on all. 

Hath concluded (συνεκλεισεν) , has enslaved. 

All (τους παντας) refers not to the hardened Jews only, nor to individuals among the Gentiles and Jews, but to all classes, as explained above. 

In unbelief (απειθειαν), i.e., in disobedience. All, therefore,—Jews and Gentiles, have sinned and need justification, which only the mercy of God can procure; the sinful Gentiles have already been touched by God’s mercy, and the wayward Jews shall later yield to the same merciful Providence.

The omnia of the Vulgate should be omnes here, to agree with the Greek. In incredulitate should be in inobedientiam. 


A Summary of Romans 11:33-36~These verses conclude the Dogmatic Part of the Epistle, but they are suited in a special manner to terminate chapters 9-11. In these chapters something has been said of the purposes and ways of God in dealing with humanity. Enough has been shown to confirm our faith and hope in God, the veil has been drawn aside sufficiently to give us dim glimpses of the great realities that lie behind; but with and around it all, as the Apostle now says, deep clouds of mystery hang: the infinite knowledge and wisdom of God, His inscrutable judgments and far-off deep counsels are not only but faintly reached, but are of their very nature so far beyond our utmost human capacities of comprehension that we can only bow our heads in faith and humble obedience, ever trusting, in the dire problems and experiences of life, to God’s infinite goodness, wisdom and mercy for the solution of all our difficulties. 

Rom 11:33. O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How  incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways

O the depth. All the Greek MSS. and the Fathers read: “O depth of riches and of wisdom and of knowledge of God.” “Depth” may signify height, as well as profundity; here it means the immensity of God’s riches, wisdom, etc. 

Riches represents the treasures of God’s goodness and mercy (Rom 10:12; Eph 3:8, etc.). 

Wisdom indicates the divine prudence with which God governs all creatures and leads them to their ends which have been ordained from all eternity. 

Knowledge means the science with which God penetrates all things, knowing and choosing the means most fitted to their ends. The end here in question is the salvation of souls, to which God has ordered faith in Christ as a means. 

How incomprehensible, etc. The reasons which underlie God’s judgments in showing mercy to some rather than to others are altogether inscrutable to the mind of man. 

How unsearchable, etc. The ways which God takes and the means He employs in executing the decrees of His infinite knowledge are beyond the power of any creature to trace.

In the Vulgate et should precede sapientiae. 

Rom 11:34. For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor?
Rom 11:35. Or who hath first given to him, and recompense shall be made him? 

St. Paul confirms the profundity of God’s divine attributes by three citations from the Old Testament, the first two of which are almost literally from the LXX of Isaiah 40:13, 14, and the third from the Hebrew text of Job 41:3. God reveals to some extent, but His mind is open to no one, because none can penetrate the divine thoughts; He draws His counsels from no one, for He has no need of counselors; to none is He indebted, since He is the source and ruler and end of all. 

Rom 11:36. For of him, and by him, and in him, are all things: to him be glory for ever. Amen.

We can neither penetrate the knowledge of God, nor aid Him with our counsels, nor help Him with our resources, because all things are of him, i.e., they depend upon Him as upon their cause and creator; all things are by him, i.e., they are sustained by Him; all things are in him, or unto him (εις αυτον), i.e., they tend to Him as to their last end (Comely, Lagr., Zahn). Origen, St. Aug. and others have seen an allusion to the Trinity in the three expressions of him, by him, and in him; but there is no good reason for this opinion (Cornely, Lagr.). 

To him be glory, etc. Thus, by calling on all creatures to give glory to God, does the Apostle terminate the Dogmatic Portion of this great Epistle.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 5:1-11

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 26, 2016

Text in red are my additions.

Following Cornely and others we have made the second section of the Dogmatic Part of this Epistle begin with the present chapter (see Introd., vii). Up to this chapter the Apostle has been engaged in showing the need of redemption and the necessity of obtaining justification through faith. For him justification is essentially the same as sanctification, although he seems to restrict the term to the first justification from a state of sin and unbelief to a life of faith and sanctification through grace. Accordingly, after having discussed in the first section of the Dogmatic Part of the Epistle the origin and source of the new life of justification, he passes on in the second section to dilate upon the fruits of this new Christian life of sanctification.


A Summary of Romans 5:1-11~In these verses we have an enumeration of the first fruits and blessings of justification. Man justified through faith in Christ enjoys first of all a state of peace. And while the present life is a time of trial, we have the hope that the same love which freed us from sin will also maintain us in our new and perfect state.

But these observations led the Apostle to reflect again on the necessity of justification, and consequently also on original sin, and the relation between it and the Law, on the one hand, and grace and justification, on the other. As a consequence, the remaining verses (Rom 5:12-21) of the chapter treat of the part played by sin, the Law, grace and justice in the history of humanity down to the time of Christ (Lagr.).

On account of the subjects discussed in the second part of this chapter Fr. Lagrange thinks it better to regard the whole chapter as pertaining to the first main part of the Epistle rather than to the second, or as suspended, so to say, between the two. Here, however, we have followed the division given by Cornely.

Rom 5:1 Being justified therefore by faith, let us have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ:

Let us have peace. The subjunctive reading of this clause (εχωμεν = “let us have”) has the support of the best MSS.; and yet the indicative (εχομεν = “we have”) is preferred by Cornely, Lipsius, etc., because as these authors observe, peace with God is the natural result of justification, not of special personal effort after justification. Still, the phrase can readily mean: “Let us maintain the peace we have by sinning no more, by not incurring again the anger of God, or by reflecting on the anguish of soul we had while in sin.” My own opinion follows that of Cornely, Lipsius and most modern commentators who prefer the indicative. St Paul is making a dogmatic statement, not an exhortation.

Through our Lord, etc., i.e., through the merits of whose Passion and death we have obtained the grace of reconciliation with God (2 Cor 5:18).

Rom 5:2. By whom also we have access through faith into this grace, wherein we stand, and glory in the hope of the glory of the sons of God.

By whom, etc. By the merits of Christ we have obtained through faith, as through its beginning and root, the grace of justification which we now enjoy. Likewise through the same merits we glory and rejoice in the hope—lost through sin, but regained in justification—of having one day a part in the glory and happiness of the children of God in heaven.

The term προσαγωγην (= prosagogon = “access”) means that Christ has actually reinstated us in the favor of God.

Of the sons (Vulg., filiorum before Dei) is wanting in the Greek. Fide is more literal than per fidem (Lagr.).

Rom 5:3. And not only so; but we glory also in tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
Rom 5:4. And patience trial; and trial hope;

Being justified we not only rejoice in present peace and in the hope of future rewards; but we even find pleasure in trials and troubles, because through faith we know that these give occasion for the exercise of the virtue of patience: they try our constancy and fortitude in the service of God, and thus increase our hope of future glory. We are purified and humbled by afflictions. “As gold and silver are tried by fire, so are acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation” (Eccles 1:5).

St. James 1:3 says, “the trying of faith worketh patience,” i.e., the tribulation which tests faith produces patience. But St. Paul here (verse 4) by trial means the result of patient endurance, the state of those whom God has tested and proved, like gold in the furnace (cf. Phil 2:22; 2 Cor 2:9; 2 Cor 9:13; 2 Cor 13:3). Hence the former is speaking of the cause of patience; the latter, of its effect or result.

Rom 5:5. And hope confoundeth not: because the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us.

Hope confoundeth not, i.e., our hope of future glory is not vain and deceptive like human hope, which rests on the uncertain power and fidelity of man; our hope is unshakable because grounded on the power and fidelity of God. The proof of this is that the charity of God, i.e., the love God has for us (Cornely, Lagrange, and others) “is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us” at Baptism; and this love of God for us now is an earnest of our future bliss with Him. Love or charity is attributed to the Holy Ghost by appropriation, because the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity proceeds from the mutual love of the Father and the Son.

Who is given to us. Literally, “Who hath been given to us.”

The charity of God is understood by other authorities (St. Aug., Martini, etc.) to mean the love we have for God. Since the love we have for God is the effect of God’s love for us, it seems reasonable to understand the “charity of God” both in his sense and in the sense given above. Both God’s love for us and our love for Him are a pledge of salvation and future glory, because charity or sanctifying grace is a habit of the soul and already a participation of the Divine Nature.

Rom 5:6. For why did Christ, when as yet we were weak, according to the time, die for the ungodly?

Another proof of God’s love for us, and of the consequent certainty of our hope, is found in the fact that Christ died for our salvation. When as yet we were weak, etc., i.e., when we were in a state of sin and unable to save ourselves, Christ at the precise and opportune time foretold by the Prophets and foreordained by the Eternal Father, gave up His life on the cross for the ungodly, i.e., for sinners, to save those who were His own enemies.

In Greek the verse is not in an interrogative, but in a declarative form, ετι γαρ, according to most MSS. The Vulgate reading, however, is very old, and is preferred by Cornely and many others. Interrogative (DRB): For why did Christ, when as yet we were weak…  Declarative (KJV): For when we were yet without strength…

Rom 5:7. For scarce for a just man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man some one would dare to die.

To show still more the charity of God for us, which was manifested in the death of Christ, St. Paul notes that it is very difficult to find anyone who would be willing to sacrifice his life, even for a just and good man; while to die for one’s own enemies, as Christ has done, is indeed a singular and unheard of thing. The words just (δικαιου) and good (αγαθου) here are usually taken as synonymous; but some authorities see in the former an honest man, and in the latter a benefactor. Hence there would be a stronger reason for dying for the “good man” than for him who is only “just,” i.e., honest.

Rom 5:8. But God commendeth his charity towards us; because when as yet we were sinners, according to the time,
Rom 5:9. Christ died for us; much more therefore, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from wrath through him.

In these verses St. Paul shows the forceful reasons we have in hoping for salvation and future glory. God, he says, commendeth, i.e., proves (συνιστησιν) His charity towards us especially in this (as said above, in verse 6) that He has offered up Christ in death for us while we were yet His enemies. If He did so much for us while we were still in sin and enmity towards Him, how much more will He save us eternally, now that we have been justified by the blood of Christ! If the death of Christ for sinners is a proof of God’s love for us, it is also a proof of the union between God and Christ, and shows that God in Christ was redeeming the world (2 Cor 5:19) (Lagr.). These verses illustrate how comparatively easy salvation has become under the Christian dispensation, if only men care to make use of the means provided for salvation.

The words, according to the time (Vulg., secundum tempus) of verse 8, are not in the Greek, and are regarded as a gloss introduced here from verse 6. The in nobis of the Vulgate should be in nos or erga nos, to agree with the Greek.

Rom 5:10. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son ; much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

In a positive form, founded on the contrast between Christ’s ignominious death and glorified life, the Apostle here repeats the same thought as in the preceding verse. If through the death of Christ we were changed from enemies to friends of God, how much more now, being His friends, shall we be saved unto life everlasting through the same Christ, risen, glorified, and immortal! Christ who paid such a price to redeem us, will surely complete His work by saving us eternally, if we will only cooperate with His grace.

According to the best Greek reading, by his life should be “in his life”; it is by having part in the Resurrection life of Jesus that we shall be saved.

Rom 5:11. And not only so; but also we glory in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received reconciliation.

And not only so, i.e., not only shall we be saved from the wrath of God (verse 9) and obtain life eternal (verse 10), but even now, in this present life, we glory and rejoice in God our Father, to whom we are united by charity, and whose adopted sons we are through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, who by His death has reconciled us to the Father. God has loved us, has justified us through Christ, has given us His Holy Spirit—He will surely complete His work in us.

The indicative gloriamur of the Vulgate is in participial form in Greek, καυχωμενοι.

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Romans 8:8-17

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 11, 2016

This post is excerpted from Homilies 13 and 14 on Romans.

Now this is again a much greater honor than the first. And this is why he does not say merely, As many as live4 by the Spirit of God, but, “as many as are led by the Spirit of God,” to show that he would have Him use such power over our life as a pilot doth over a ship, or a charioteer over a pair of horses. And it is not the body only, but the soul itself too, that he is for setting under reins of this sort. For he would not have even that independent, but place its authority5 also under the power of the Spirit. For lest through a confidence in the Gift of the Font they should turn negligent of their conversation after it, he would say, that even supposing you receive baptism, yet if you are not minded to be “led by the Spirit” afterwards, you lose the dignity bestowed upon you, and the pre-eminence of your adoption. This is why he does not say, As many as have received the Spirit, but, “as many as are led by the Spirit,” that is, as many as live up to this all their life long, “they are the sons of God.” Then since this dignity was given to the Jews also, for it says, “I said ye are Gods, and all of you children of the Most High” (Ps. 82:6); and again, “I have nourished and brought up children” (Is. 1:2); and so, “Israel is My first-born” (Ex. 4:22); and Paul too says, “Whose is the adoption” (Rom. 9:4)—he next asserts the great difference between the latter and the former honor. For though the names are the same, he means, still, the things are not the same. And of these points he gives a clear demonstration, by introducing a comparison drawn both from the persons so advanced (κατορθούντων) and from what was given them, and from what was to come. And first he shows what they of old had given them. What then was this? “A spirit of bondage:” and so he thus proceeds,

Ver. 15. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear.”

Then not staying to mention that which stands in contradistinction to bondage, that is, the spirit of freedom, he has named what is far greater, that of adoption, through which he at the same time brings in the other, saying, “But ye have received the Spirit of adoption.”

But this is plain. But what the spirit of bondage may be, is not so plain, and there is need of making it clearer. Now what he says is so far from being clear, that it is in fact very perplexing. For the people of the Jews did not receive the Spirit. What then is his meaning here? It is the letter he giveth this name to, for spiritual it was, and so he called the Law spiritual also, and the water from the Rock, and the Manna. “For they did eat,” he says, “of the same spiritual meat, and all drank of the same spiritual drink.” (1 Cor. 10:3, 4.) And to the Rock he gives this name, when he says, “For they drank of that spiritual Rock which followed them.” Now it is because all the rites then wrought were above nature that he calls them spiritual, and not because those who then partook of them received the Spirit. And in what sense were those letters; letters of bondage? Set before yourself the whole dispensation, and then you will have a clear view of this also. For recompenses were with them close at hand, and the reward followed forthwith, being at once proportionate, and like a kind of daily ration given to domestic servants, and terrors in abundance came to their height before their eyes, and their purifications concerned their bodies, and their continency extended but to their actions. But with us it is not so, since the imagination even and the conscience getteth purged out. For He does not say, “Thou shalt do no murder,” only, but even thou shalt not be angry: so too, it is not, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” but thou shalt not look unchastely. So that it is not to be from fear of present punishment, but out of desire towards Himself, that both our being habitually virtuous, and all our single good deeds are to come. Neither doth he promise a land flowing with milk and honey, but maketh us joint-heir with the Only-Begotten, so making us by every means stand aloof from things present, and promising to give such things especially as are worth the acceptance of men made sons of God, nothing, that is, of a sensible kind or corporeal, but spiritual all of them. And so they, even if they had the name of sons, were but as slaves; but we as having been made free, have received the adoption, and are waiting for Heaven. And with them He discoursed through the intervention of others, with us by Himself. And all that they did was through the impulse of fear, but the spiritual act through a coveting and a vehement desire. And this they show by the fact of their1 overstepping the commandments. They, as hirelings and obstinate persons, so never left murmuring: but these do all for the pleasing of the Father. So too they blasphemed when they had benefits done them: but we are thankful at being jeoparded. And if there be need of punishing both of us upon our sinning, even in this case the difference is great. For it is not on being stoned and branded and maimed by the priests, as they were, that we are brought round. But it is enough for us to be cast out from our Father’s table, and to be out of sight for certain days. And with the Jews the honor of adoption was one of name only, but here the reality followed also, the cleansing of Baptism, the giving of the Spirit, the furnishing of the other blessings. And there are several other points besides, which go to show our high birth and their low condition. After intimating all these then by speaking of the Spirit, and fear, and the adoption, he gives a fresh proof again of having the Spirit of adoption. Now what is this? That “we cry, Abba, Father.” And how great this is, the initiated know (St. Cyr. Jer. Cat. 23, § 11, p. 276, O. T.), being with good reason bidden to use this word first in the Prayer of the initiated. What then, it may be said, did not they also call God Father? Dost thou not hear Moses, when he says, “Thou desertedst the God that begot thee?” (Deut. 32:15. LXX.) Dost thou not hear Malachi reproaching them, and saying, that “one God formed you,” and there is “one Father of you all?” (Mal. 2:10. LXX.) Still, if these words and others besides are used, we do not find them anywhere calling God by the name, or praying in this language. But we all, priests and laymen, rulers and ruled, are ordered to pray herein. And this is the first language we give utterance to, after those marvellous throes, and that strange and unusual mode of labor. If in any other instances they so called Him, that was only of their own mind. But those in the state of grace do it through being moved by the in-working of the Spirit. For as there is a Spirit of Wisdom, after which they that were unwise became wise, and this discloses itself in their teaching: and a Spirit of Power there is, whereby the feeble raised up the dead, and drove out devils; a Spirit also of the gift of healing, and a Spirit of prophecy, and a Spirit of tongues, so also a Spirit of adoption. And as we know the Spirit of prophecy, in that he who hath it foretelleth things to come, not speaking of his own mind, but moved by the Grace; so too is the Spirit of adoption, whereby he that is gifted with it calleth God, Father, as moved by the Spirit. Wishing to express this as a most true descent, he used also the Hebrew1 tongue, for he does not say only, “Father,” but “Abba, Father,” which name is a special sign of true-born children to their fathers. After mentioning then the diversity resulting from their conversation, that resulting from the grace which had been given, and that from their freedom, he brings forward another demonstration of the superiority which goes with this adoption. Now of what kind is this?

Ver. 16. “The Spirit Itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”

For it is not from the language merely, he says, that I make my assertion, but from the cause out of which the language has its birth; since it is from the Spirit suggesting it that we so speak. And this in another passage he has put into plainer words, thus: “God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba Father.” (Gal. 4:6.) And what is that, “Spirit beareth witness with spirit?” The Comforter, he means, with that Gift, which is given unto us. For it is not of the Gift alone that it is the voice, but of the Comforter also who gave the Gift, He Himself having taught us through the Gift so to speak. But when the “Spirit beareth witness,” what farther place for doubtfulness? For if it were a man, or angel, or archangel, or any other such power that promised this, then there might be reason in some doubting. But when it is the Highest Essence that bestoweth this Gift, and “beareth witness” by the very words He bade us use in prayer, who would doubt any more of our dignity? For not even when the Emperor elects any one, and proclaims in all men’s hearing the honor done him, does anybody venture to gainsay.

Ver. 17. “And if children, then heirs.”

Observe how he enhances the Gift by little and little. For since it is a possible case to be children, and yet not become heirs (for it is not by any means all children that are heirs), he adds this besides—that we are heirs. But the Jews, besides their not having the same adoption as we, were also cast out from the inheritance. For “He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out the vineyard to other husbandmen” (Matt. 21:41): and before this, He said that “many shall come from the East and from the West, and shall sit down with Abraham, but the children of the Kingdom shall be cast out.” (ib. 8:11, 12.) But even here he does not pause, but sets down something even greater than this. What may this be then? That we are heirs of God; and so he adds, “heirs of God.” And what is more still, that we are not simply heirs, but also “joints heirs with Christ.” Observe how ambitious he is of bringing us near to the Master. For since it is not all children that are heirs, he shows that we are both children and heirs; next, as it is not all heirs that are heirs to any great amount, he shows that we have this point with us too, as we are heirs of God. Again, since it were possible to be God’s heir, but in no sense “joint heir with” the Only-Begotten, he shows that we have this also. And consider his wisdom. For after throwing the distasteful part into a short compass, when he was saying what was to become of such as “live after the flesh,” for instance, that they “shall die,” when he comes to the more soothing part, he leadeth forth his discourse into a large room, and so expands it on the recompense of rewards, and in pointing out that the gifts too are manifold and great. For if even the being a child were a grace unspeakable, just think how great a thing it is to be heir! But if this be great, much more is it to be “joint heir.” Then to show that the Gift is not of grace only, and to give at the same time a credibility to what he says, he proceeds, “If so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.” If, he would say, we be sharers with Him in what is painful, much more shall it be so in what is good. For He who bestowed such blessings upon those who had wrought no good, how, when He seeth them laboring and suffering so much, shall he do else than give them greater requital? Having then shown that the thing was a matter of return, to make men give credit to what was said, and prevent any from doubting, he shows further that it has the virtue of a gift. The one he showed, that what was said might gain credit even with those that doubted, and that the receivers of it might not feel ashamed as being evermore receiving salvation for nought; and the other, that you might see that God outdoeth the toils by His recompenses. And the one he has shown in the words, “If so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.” But the other in proceeding to add;

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 10:9-18

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 17, 2015

To help provide context this post includes Fr. Callan’s brief summaries of Romans 10:5-13 and 10:14-21.


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.

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; Acts 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.

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), i.e., a state of faith is formed on our part, as the present tense indicates. The phrase  εις δικαιοσυνην, and not εις δικαιωσιν, 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, 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.

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, whosoever, to the text of Isaiah, 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.

12. For there is no distinction of the Jew and the Greek: for the same is Lord oyer 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 (Cornely, Lagrange, 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, 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).

13. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved.

St. Paul appeals to the Prophet Joel 2:32 (3:2 in NAB and other translations) 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.


A 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.

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?
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.

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:
37, 38.

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

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.).

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).

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans 10:9-18

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 17, 2015

This post opens with a brief summary analysis of chapter 10, followed by Fr. MacEvilly’s notes on Verses 9-18. Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.


In this chapter, the Apostle continues the subject of the rejection of the Jews, and dilates on the cause of this rejection, as assigned, verse 30, of the preceding; but in order to remove the harshness involved in the announcement of the rejection of the Jews, he expresses his affectionate feelings towards them, and his anxious desire for their salvation (verse 1). He bears testimony to their zeal—a zeal, however, which missed its true object, Christ (1–4). Having referred (verse 3), to the system of justice at variance with the true justice of God, which the Jews vainly endeavoured to establish, he proves from Moses the superiority of the justice by faith (5–8), and he reduces the duties of a Christian life to two heads, faith in the heart and its external profession, both of which, of course, accompanied with the other conditions which faith prescribes, confer justice on all men, without distinction of Jew or Gentile (8–13).

He takes occasion to justify his mission of preaching among the Gentiles, since otherwise they would not become partakers of the blessings which God had designed for them as well as for the Jews (14–16). He shows, from Moses and Isaias, that God had determined to call the Gentiles, and to reject the Jews, on account of their obstinacy and resistance to his gracious calls and invitations (17–21).

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. ‎

If, then, you believe in your heart, and confess with your mouth, that Jesus Christ our Lord is Son of God, and became incarnate and suffered for us, and that God raised him from the dead, you shall obtain the salvation of true justice here, and of eternal glory hereafter.

All you require is, to believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, who descended from heaven, became man, and died for us, and believe in his resurrection, or “that God hath raised him,” &c., and profess the same externally, and you “shall be saved,” i.e., you shall obtain not temporal life—the reward of the law—but life eternal. The raising of Christ from the dead being an act of power, is, by appropriation, ascribed to God the Father. These are the leading articles of our faith. Of course, under them are included the other articles of faith necessary to be believed, together with faith, hope, charity, without which, man, although he have true faith, cannot be saved. The words, “thou shalt be saved,” like the attribute of every affirmative proposition, are understood restrictively. Instead, then, of going up to heaven to bring down Christ, or descending to the abyss, all you require is, to believe in your heart and profess with your mouth, that Christ did come, &c., and “you shall be saved,” the other conditions, the principal of which is the performance of good works, being observed.

Romans 10:10 For, with the heart, we believe unto justice: but, with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation. ‎

For, the interior assent and faith of the heart is required to obtain justice, but the external profession of the same faith is necessary to preserve this justice and obtain final salvation.

The external profession of our faith is, sometimes, an imperative duty, under pain of mortal sin, and, therefore, necessary to preserve justice and sanctifying grace.

Rom 10:11 For the scripture saith: Whosoever believeth in him shall not be confounded. ‎

This is clearly proved from Scripture (Isaias 38:16), Whosoever believeth in him shall not be confounded, or frustrated in his expectations.

He proves the truth of his assertion (verse 9), viz., that by believing in Christ, whosoever thou art, “thou shalt be saved.” This he shows from the prophet Isaias (28.) Whosoever believeth in him shall not be confounded, i.e., frustrated in his expectation. Hence, he is here treating of faith to which hope is annexed—(See 9:33). The prophecy of Isaias, just quoted, regards the Messiah, since by “him” is meant the Messiah.

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. ‎

By saying, “whosoever,” the Scripture removes all distinction, whether of Jew or Gentile, without exception; for God is equally the Supreme Lord of all, and the riches of his bounty are held out to all who sincerely invoke Jesus as the Messiah.

The Apostle assigns a reason, why no distinction should be made between Jew and Gentile; because God is equally the Supreme Lord of all, and “rich,” i.e., bountiful towards all who invoke him, and profess him to be the Son of God.

Rom 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. ‎

We have in proof of this, the testimony of the prophet Joel (2:32), Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord (Jesus) shall be saved.

He proves from the prophet (Joel 2) that God is bountiful to all, without exception, who call on his name, “Whosoever shall call,” etc. We have the authority of St. Peter (Acts, 2:17–37), that these words of Joel are to be referred to our Lord Jesus Christ.

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? ‎

But since we must believe in God before invoking his name, how can men invoke God in whom they have not believed? or, how shall they be able to believe in him, unless they first hear of him? or, how shall they be able to hear of him, unless there be some person to make him known to them by preaching?

The Apostle takes occasion, from the general promises of God regarding Jew and Gentile alike, to justify his own mission and preaching among the Gentiles. He shows the necessity of preaching, in order that they might be partakers in the rich blessings which God has in store for them; he proceeds, step by step, from invocation to faith; from faith to hearing; from hearing to preaching; from preaching to mission; so that, in a certain sense, mission becomes, in this summary recapitulation, the basis of our salvation; since, without this mission on the part of God, imparted to his preachers, the people shall not have true faith, nor the true worship of God. From this the Apostle leaves it to be inferred, that, as God is rich in bounty towards the Gentiles, and since, for the communication of his blessings, preaching the gospel with a legitimate mission is necessary, he himself has preached to the Gentiles by the orders and commission of God himself.

There are many Divines who, from this passage, undertake to prove the necessity of having a doctrine propounded by the true Church, before it can become a point even of divine faith; in other words, they assert that the proposition of a doctrine by the true Church enters the formal object of faith. At all events, we can clearly infer from this passage, that the preaching through a legitimate ministry is the ordinary means of imparting the true faith, and that God will not permanently impart his sanction to a system of faith promulgated by an uncommissioned teacher. In fact, it is clearly inferable that in the ordinary Providence of God, a divine mission and appointment are necessary for the due effect of preaching the Gospel; for, it is on this supposition that the Apostle’s argument in favour of his own mission among the Gentiles is based. God might, undoubtedly, by interior inspirations, teach an infidel the necessary truths of faith. He might also, if he pleased, aid, by the interior enlightenment of grace, the preaching of an heretical minister propounding, in a particular instance, revealed truth, so as to beget faith in the hearers; but, this is not in accordance with his ordinary Providence; nor can we admit for an instant, that he would give permanent stability to any system of faith emanating from such a teacher.

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? ‎

But how shall heralds of salvation preach him with permanent success, unless they are his own appointed messengers receiving a commission from him? It is of those preachers only, sent by divine commission, that we are to understand the words of the prophet (Isaias, 52:7): How joyous the approach of those preachers of the gospel, who announce to us peace, reconciliation with God, and all good things conducive to salvation!

As it is written (Isaias 52:7), “How beautiful.” i.e., such a mission from God is necessary, in order that the teachers would be the true heralds of salvation, in whom shall be verified the words of the prophet, “How beautiful,” &c. These words, in their literal and primary signification, refer to the messengers who first brought the news of the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, and in their mystical signification, to the preachers of the Gospel. The Apostle here follows, with the omission of the unimportant words, (upon the mountains), the Hebrew version, which runs thus: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, and that preacheth peace; of him that sheweth forth good,” &c. The quotation differs widely from the Septuagint, which most probably had been corrupted in this passage of Isaias.

Rom 10:16 But all do not obey the gospel. For Isaias saith: Lord, who hath believed our report? ‎

But, although the advent of the heralds of salvation is thus pleasing; still, all men do not obey the gospel. This, however, is not to be wondered at; since, it was predicted by Isaias, who, in the person of the Apostle, says, “how few have believed and obeyed the words they heard from us.”

“Our report,” in Greek, τῇ ἀκουῇ ἡμῶν, our hearing, or the doctrine heard from our preaching. He answers the objection by showing that this obduracy was predicted by Isaias.

Rom 10:17 Faith then cometh by hearing; and hearing by the word of Christ. ‎

From the foregoing (14–19), I conclude that faith comes from hearing, and the hearing, from which faith springs, comes from preaching the word of God.

This is the point which he wished to establish (verse 14), “How shall they believe him, of whom they have not heard? “And hearing by the word of Christ.” In the ordinary Greek, ῤήματος θεου, the word of God. The chief MSS. have, Χριστου, “of Christ.”

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.

But I ask, is it from want of hearing of the word of God that men have not embraced it? Certainly not. For, as the heavens, by their silent eloquence, proclaim the attributes and perfections of God throughout the entire extent of creation; so has the voice of the Apostles and of the heralds of divine truth been heard all over the globe.

Their sound hath gone forth,” &c. These words are quoted by the Apostle from Psalm 18:5, according to the Septuagint version of the Psalms. In their primary and literal signification, they refer to the heavenly bodies, and the order and harmony of the visible creation, which so eloquently proclaim the glory and attributes of God: but in their mystical signification, they refer to the preaching of the Apostles. In this sense they are to be regarded as a prophecy in the text of David, which prophecy, St. Paul announces, was about to be accomplished, and shall be gradually fulfilled before the end of the world; and hence, the Apostle, as well as the Psalmist, employs words of the past tense, “hath gone forth,” on account of the certainty of its accomplishment; or it might be said, that the prediction was really accomplished in the days of the Apostle; because the Apostles and the first heralds of salvation had announced the Gospel in the principal places of the world, from which the fame of their preaching had been heard throughout the rest of the globe. It is to be observed, that in this, and the following verse, 19, the Apostle meets a twofold objection, which the Jews might allege in excuse for their incredulity, viz., that they did not hear the Gospel, or were ignorant of its communication to the Gentiles, and so might be excused from embracing it. The first is answered in this verse., and the second, next verse, where Moses, their own favourite legislator, predicts the call of the Gentiles.—(Beelen).

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