Romans 3
Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?
3:1-20.] Taking into all fair account the real advantages of the Jews, these cannot, by the testimony of scripture itself concerning them, exempt them from this sentence of guiltiness before God, in which all flesh are involved.

1-4.] The circumcised Jew did unquestionably possess great advantages, which were not annulled by the rebellion of some.

1.] οὖν, ‘quæ cum ita sint.’ If true Judaism and true circumcision be merely spiritual, what is the profit of external Judaism and ceremonial circumcision?

περισσόν] advantage, profit, pre-eminence,—see reff. It is best to take the question, not as coming from an objector, which supposition has obscured several parts of this Epistle, but as asked by the Apostle himself, anticipating the thoughts of his reader.

2.] πολύ answers the first question of ver. 1, but takes no account of the second, as it is virtually included in the first. Nor can it be properly regarded as answered in ch. 4:1 ff. (see there).

κατὰ πάντα τρ.] not merely omnino, but as E. V. (in) every way, i.e. in all departments of the spiritual life.

πρῶτον] The Apostle begins as if intending to instance several of these advantages, but having mentioned the greatest, leaves it to his reader to fill in the rest, and turns to establish what he has just asserted. For πρῶτον can only be first,—‘secondly,’ &c., being to follow:—not, ‘primarium illud’ (as Beza),—nor ‘præcipue’ (as Calv.),—nor ‘id quod præcipuum est’ (as Calov.), all of which are attempts to avoid the anacoluthon: compare a similar one at ch. 1:8.

ἐπιστ.] see reff.—they were entrusted with.

τὰ λόγια τ. θεοῦ] These words look very like a reminiscence of Stephen’s apology, see Acts 7:38. These oracles are not only the law of Moses, but all the revelations of God hitherto made of Himself directly, all of which had been entrusted to Jews only. By these they were received into a special covenant, which advantage is therefore included in their being entrusted with the divine oracles.

3.] And this advantage is not cancelled, nor the covenant annulled, by their disobedience.

τί γάρ;] For what? (‘quid enim?’ Hor. Sat. i. 1. 7.) The γάρ confirms the preceding—the τί indicates some difficulty, or anticipated objection to it.

εἰ ἠπίστ. τινες] If we place an interrogation at γάρ, we must render this, suppose some were unfaithful; if only a comma, as in E. V., ‘For what if …’ The former seems preferable, as more according to usage. See Philippians 1:18.

ἠπίστησαν, did not believe. If this seem out of place here, where he is not speaking of faith or want of faith as yet, but of ἀδικία (ver. 5) and moral guilt, we may meet the objection by remembering that unbelief is here taken more on its practical side, as involving disobedience, than on the other. They were ἄπιστοι, unfaithful to the covenant, the very condition of which was to walk in the ways of the Lord and observe his statutes. The word may have been chosen on account of ἐπιστεύθησαν above and τ. πίστιν τ. θεοῦ below.

μὴ ἡ ἀπ. κ.τ.λ.] shall their unfaithfulness (to the covenant: see above, and Wisdom 14:25: in the root of the matter, their unbelief, as in reff.: and the substantive ἀπιστία is bound to the verb ἠπίστησαν, but its rendering must be ruled by the contrast to ἡ πίστις τοῦ θεοῦ, which must be “the faithfulness of God”) cancel (nullify) the faithfulness of God? ‘Because they have broken faith on their part, shall God break faith also on His?’

4.] μὴ γέν., let it not be: see reff. The Apostle uses this expression of pious horror, when he has supposed or mentioned any thing by which the honour, truth, or justice of God would be compromised, as here by His covenant-word being broken. It is often found in Polybius, Arrian, and the later Greek writers.

γινέσθω κ.τ.λ.] ‘rather let us believe all men on earth to have broken their word and truth, than God His. Whatever becomes of men and their truth, His truth must stand fast.’

The citation which follows goes to the depth of the matter. It is the penitent confession of a sinner, that he is sensible how entirely against God his sin has been, and how clearly his own unworthiness sets God’s judgment against sin vindicated before him. And to this meaning the objection in the next verses is addressed,—see below. That thou mightest be justified (shewn to be just) in thy sayings (sentences, words of judgment), and mightest conquer when Thou art judged,—בְּשָׁפְטְךָ ‘in thy judging,’ which cannot well be our rendering of ἐν τῷ κρίνεσθαί σε,—i.e. ‘when thy dealings are called in question by men.’

5.] In the citation, the penitent regarded his sin as having been the instrument of bringing out God’s justice into clearer light. On the abuse which might be made of such a view, the Apostle founds another question:—It would almost seem as if God would be unjust in inflicting His wrath (the consequences of His wrath) on men whose very impiety has been the means whereby His own righteousness has been shewn forth, and established.’

ἡμῶν] ‘of the Jews’ (Grot., De Wette, &c.), not ‘of all men’ (Fritzsche), for only to the Jews can ver. 7 apply.

δικαιοσύνην] viz. that established by the δικαιοῦσθαι of ver. 4; not His goodness (as Chrys., Theodoret, Grot., al.),—nor His truth (Beza, al.).

κατὰ ἄνθρωπον λέγω] said, as elsewhere by Paul, to excuse a supposition bearing with it an aspect of inconsistency or impiety:—not implying that he speaks in the person of another, but that he puts himself into the place of the generality of men, and uses arguments such as they would use.

6.] He does not enter into the objection and answer it in detail, but rejects at once the idea of God being unjust, alluding probably to Genesis 18:25, by recalling to mind, that the Judge of all the earth must do right.

ἐπεί, for (i.e. ‘if it were so,’ ‘alioquin’).

τὸν κόσμον is not the Gentiles (Bengel, Reiche, Olsh., al.), nor is the respondent in ver. 7a Gentile (Olsh., at., not Bengel), but one of the ἡμῶν in ver. 5, only individualized to bring out one such case of pretended injustice more strikingly.

7.] This follows (connected by γάρ) upon ver. 6, and shews that the supposition if carried out, would overthrow all God’s judgment, and (ver. 8) the whole moral life of man. How shall God judge the world? For, if the truth (faithfulness) of God abounded (was manifested, more clearly established) by means of my falsehood (unfaithfulness), to His glory (so that the result has been the setting forth of His glory), why any longer (ἔτι, this being so,—assuming the premises) am I also (i.e. as well as others,—am I to be involved in a judgment from which I ought to be exempt) judged (to be judged,—the pres. expressing the rule or habit of God’s proceeding) as a sinner? And (why should we) not (in this case rather say) as we (I Paul, or we Christians) are slanderously reported, and as some give out that we (do) say (ὅτι recitantis), “Let us do evil that good may come?” whose condemnation (not that of our slanderers (Grot., Tholuck), but that of those who so say and act) is according to justice (not only by the preceding argument, but by the common detestation of all men, for such a maxim as doing evil that good may come).

The way adopted generally (Calv., Beza, Grot., Bengel, Wolf, Rückert, Köllner, Tholuck) is to connect ver. 7 by γάρ with ver. 5, and to regard κατὰ ἄνθρ.… κόσμον as a series of parentheses; but I very much prefer that given above, which, in the main, is De Wette’s. Fritzsche and Schrader strangely enough regard κἀγώ as bona fide the individual Paul, and κρίνομαι as the judgment passed by his adversaries (“nam si Dei veracitas meo peccatoris mendacio abunde in Dei laudem cessit, cur adhuc ego quoque, Paulus, tanquam facinorosus ab hominibus reus agor,” &c.): Reiche, Olsh., &c. put ver. 7 into the mouth of a Gentile: Bengel, into that of a Jew. Doubtless the main reference of this part of the argument is to Jews: but the reasoning from the introduction of the words τὸν κόσμον (see above) is general, applying both to Jew and Gentile, and shewing the untenableness of any such view as that of the Jewish objection of ver. 5.

9-20.] The Jew has no preference, but is guilty as well as the Gentile, as shewn by Scripture; so that no man can by the law be righteous before God.

9.] τί οὖν cannot be joined with προεχόμεθα (Œ, &c.), because οὐδέν would then have been the answer.

There is considerable difficulty in προεχόμεθα. The meaning of προέχομαι every where else is passive, ‘to be surpassed,’ and προέχω, act., is to surpass, or have the pre-eminence. So Plut. p. 1038 d (Wetst.), κατʼ οὐδὲν προεχομένοις ὑπὸ τοῦ Διός, ‘cum Jove minores non sint:’ and Herod, i. 32, ὁ μὲν δὴ μέγα πλούσιος ἀνόλβιος δέ, δυοῖσι προέχει τοῦ εὐτυχοῦς μόνον, &c. (see Wetst.) Those therefore who have wished to preserve the usage of the word, have variously interpreted it in that attempt: (α) Wetst. would render it passively, and understand it (as spoken by a Jew) ‘Are we surpassed by the Gentiles?’ But (1) for this inference there is no ground in what went before, but the contrary (vv. 1ff.),—and (2) the question if it mean this, is not dealt with in what follows. (β) Œcum. (2nd altern.) regards it as said by a Gentile, ‘Are we surpassed by the Jews?’ but for this question there is no ground in the preceding, for all has tended to lower the Jews in comparison and reduce all to one level. (γ) Reiche and Olsh. take it passively, and render, ‘Are we preferred (by God)?’ but no example of this meaning occurs, the above use in Plutarch not justifying it. (δ) Koppe and Wahl render, taking it as the middle voice, ‘What can we then allege (as an excuse)?’ but this will not suit οὐ πάντως. (ε) Meyer, ‘What then, have we an excuse?’ but προεχόμ. has not this meaning. (ζ) Fritzsche, ‘What then? do we excuse ourselves (i.e. shall we make any excuse)?’ But (1) προεχ. is put absolutely; and (2) the answer would rather be μηδαμῶς than οὐ πάντως, which replies to a question on matter of fact. Besides (3) the argument would then go to shew, not that all are sinners, as it does, vv. 10-20, but that all are liable to God’s wrath, without excuse, (η) The only way left seems (with Theophyl., Œc. (1st altern.), Schol. in Matthaï, Pelag., Vulg., Erasm., Luther, Calv., Beza, Grot., Bengel, Tholuck, Köllner, Schrader, De Wette, al.) to take προεχόμεθα as middle, and understand it as προέχομεν—Have we (Jews) the (any) preference? We have an use of παρέχομαι as active, Acts 19:24, Titus 2:7. See also Winer, edn. 6, § 38. 5.

οὐ πάντως] No, by no means. This would more naturally be πάντως οὐ, see reff. But we have οὐδὲν πάντως for ‘not at all,’ Herod. v. 34. The meaning ‘not in every way,’ ‘not altogether,’—as 1Corinthians 5:10 and Theophr. de Caus. Plant. vi.24(Wetst.), ποιεῖ γὰρ οὐ πάντως, ἀλλʼ ἐὰν οὐλή τις ᾖ ὑπόκαυστος,—will not apply, for it does not agree with what follows, where the Apostle proves absolute equality in respect of his argument.

προῃτ.… εἶναι] we have before proved (chs. 1. 2.) both Jews and Gentiles all to be under sin; the construction is not acc. and inf.,—that Jews and Gentiles are under sin,—but Ἰουδ.… πάντας is acc. after the verb, and ὑφʼ ἁμ. εἶναι the matter of the charge,—q. d. ‘we have before brought in guilty Jews and Gentiles all as sinners.’

10-18.] Proof of this universal sinfulness from the Scripture, said directly (ver. 19) of the Jews, but a portion including, and taken for granted of, the Gentiles. Compare throughout the LXX (reff.).

11.] In the Psalm,—Jehovah looked down from heaven on the children of men, to see εἰ ἔστι συνιὼν ἢ ἐκζητῶν τ. θ. He found none. This result is put barely by the Apostle as the testimony of Scripture, giving the sense, but departing from the letter.

13.] ἐδολιοῦσαν, an Alexandrine form for ἐδολίουν; see Lobeck, Phrynichus, p. 349. The open sepulchre is an emblem of perdition, to which their throat, as the instrument of their speech, is compared.

15.] The LXX (Isa l. c.) have οἱ δὲ πόδες αὐτῶν ἐπὶ πονηρίαν τρέχουσι, ταχινοὶ ἐκχέαι αἷμα· καὶ οἱ διαλογισμοὶ αὐτῶν διαλογισμοὶ ἀπὸ φόνων (διαλ. ἀφρόνων Α)· σύντριμμα καὶ ταλαιπωρία ἐν ταῖς ὁδοῖς αὐτῶν, καὶ ὁδὸν εἰρήνης οὐκ οἴδασιν (ἔγνωσαν, Α).

19.] He proves the applicability of these texts to the Jews by their being found in the Jewish Scriptures: not in any Gentile representation, which might exclude Jews, but spoken universally, in those very books which were the cherished possession of the Jews themselves.

ὁ νόμος] Here, the whole O. T., the law, prophets, and Psalms: see John 10:34, where our Lord cites a Psalm as in ‘the law.’

τοῖς ἐν τῷ ν. λαλεῖ] it speaks (not says,—λαλέω is not ‘to say,’ see John 8:25, note) to (or for, dat. commodi: i.e. its language belongs to, is true of, when not otherwise specified) those who are in (under) the law. So that the Jews cannot plead exemption from this description or its consequences.

ἵνα in order that—not ‘so that:’ the bringing in all the world guilty before God is an especial and direct aim of the revelation of God’s justice in the law,—that His grace by faith in Christ may come on all who abandon self-righteousness and believe the gospel.

πᾶν στόμα φραγῇ] If the Jew’s mouth is shut, and his vaunting in the law taken away, then much more the Gentile’s, and the whole world (see above ver. 6) becomes (subjective, as γίνεσθω ver. 4) guilty before God.

20.] The solemn and important conclusion of all the foregoing argument. But not only the conclusion from it: it is also the great truth, which when arrived at, is seen to have necessitated the subordinate conclusion of ver. 19, the stopping of every mouth, &c. And therefore it is introduced, not with an illative conjunction, ‘wherefore’ (which διότι will not bear), but with ‘because.’ Because by the works of the law (God’s law: whether in the partial revelation of it written in the consciences of the Gentiles, or in the more complete one given by Moses to the Jews,—not, by works of law: no such general idea of law seems to have ever been before the mind of the Apostle, but always the law, emanating from God) shall no flesh be justified before Him (the future as implying possibility,—perhaps also as referring to the great day when πᾶσα σάρξ shall stand before God,—perhaps also as a citation from ref. Ps. LXX, οὐ δικαιωθήσεται ἐνώπιόν σου πᾶς ζῶν. οὐ.… πᾶσα, which we render by nulla, must be kept in the mind to its logical precision: All flesh—subject—shall be—copula—not justified—predicate).

The Apostle does not here say either (1) that justification by legal works would be impossible if the law could be wholly kept, or (2) that those were not justified who observed the prescribed sacrifices and offerings of the ceremonial law (of which he has never once spoken, but wholly of the moral): but he infers from his argument on matters of fact, a result in matter of fact: ‘Mankind, Jew and Gentile, have all broken God’s law, and are guilty before Him: Man keeps not God’s law. By that law then he cannot arrive at God’s righteousness.’

διὰ γὰρ.…] For by [means of] the law (as before, whether partially known to the Gentile or more fully to the Jew) is the knowledge of sin (whatever knowledge each has,—whether the accusing and excusing of the Gentile’s conscience, or the clearer view of offence against Jehovah granted to the Jew).

The reasoning is:—the law has no such office, in the present state of human nature manifested both in history and Scripture, as to render righteous: its office is altogether different, viz. to detect and bring to light the sinfulness of man. Compare Galatians 2:16.

21-5:11.] The entrance into God’s righteousness (ch. 1:17) is shewn to be by faith.

21-26.] The Apostle resumes the declaration of ch. 1:17 (having proved that man has no righteousness of his own resulting from the observance of God’s law): viz. that God’s righteousness is revealed by Christ, whose atoning Death is, consistently with God’s justice, sufficient for the pardon of sin to those who believe in Him.

21. νυνί] Is this of time, ‘now,’ in contradistinction to ages past, = ἐν τῷ νῦν καιρῷ, ver. 26,—or is it merely = ‘as things are,’ ‘now we find?’ The former is held by Grot., Bengel, Tholuck, Reiche, Olsh., Rückert, al.,—the latter by Fritzsche, Meyer, and De Wette. The former is true in sense, and applicable to the circumstances of the gospel: but the meaning is too strong, where no contrast of time is expressly in view. I therefore prefer the latter, especially as Paul’s usage elsewhere justifies it; see ch. 7:17; 1Corinthians 15:20.

χωρὶς νόμου] without the (help of the) law, ‘independently of the law:’ not ‘without the works of the law;’ for here it is not the way to the δικ. θεοῦ which is spoken of (which is faith), but that δικ. itself.

δικαιος. θεοῦ] God’s righteousness: in what sense, see ch. 1:17, and note.

πεφανέρωται] viz. in the facts of the gospel. The perfect sets forth the manifestation of this righteousness in history as an accomplished and still enduring fact—the ἀποκαλύπτεται of ch. 1:17 denotes the continual unfolding of this righteousness in the hearts and lives of faithful believers.

μαρτυρουμένη κ.τ.λ.] being borne witness to (pres. because the law and prophets remain on record as a revelation of God’s will) by the law and the prophets (not merely the types and prophecies, but the whole body of the O. T., see Matthew 22:40).

22. δικαιος. δὲ θ.] but that (so δέ in Herod. vii. 8, Ἀρισταγόρῃ τῷ Μιλησίῳ, δούλῳ δὲ ἡμετέρῳ,—and i. 114, ὑπὸ τοῦ σοῦ δούλου, βουκόλου δὲ παιδός: the contrast being between the general mention which has preceded, and the specific distinction now brought in. See Hartung, Partikellehre i. 168 ff.) the righteousness of God (i.e. ‘I mean, the righteousness of God διὰ πίστεως Ἰ. χρ.’) which is (ἡ is not necessary, the art. being often omitted in cases where the ear is reminded of a usage of the cognate verb with a preposition, such as δικαιοῦσθαι διὰ πίστεως. Compare Colossians 1:4, ἀκούσαντες τὴν πίστιν ὑμ. ἐν χριστῷ Ἰης., and Ephesians 3:4, δύνασθε νοῆσαι τὴν σύνεσίν μου ἐν τῷ μυστηρίῳ (συνιέντες ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ occurs Daniel 1:4 Theod.). See Winer, edn. 6, § 20. 2. b) by the faith in Jesus Christ (gen.: see reff.).

εἰς πάντ. [κ. ἐπὶ πάντ.] depends on πεφανέρωται,—(is revealed) unto (‘towards,’ ‘so as to penetrate to’) all [, and upon (‘over,’ so as to be shed down on,’ but in the theological meaning, no real difference of sense from εἰς; this repetition of prepositions to give force is peculiar to Paul, see ver. 30, and Galatians 1:1) all] who believe. Probably the repetition of πάντας was suggested by the two kinds of believers, Jew and Gentile, so as to prepare the way for οὐ γάρ ἐστι διαστολή (but still no essential difference in the interpretations of εἰς and ἐπί must be sought).

23. [ὑστεροῦνται should be rendered fall short, not, as E. V., “come short,” since this latter may be taken for the past tense, after the auxiliary “have.”]

τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ] Of the praise which comes from God, see reff. (so Grot., Thol., Reiche, Fritz., Meyer, Rückert, De Wette): not, ‘of praise in God’s sight’ (Luther, Calv., Estius, Köllner): nor, ‘of glory with God,’ as ch. 5:2 (Œc., Beza, al.),—for the Apostle is not speaking here of future reward, but of present worthiness: nor, of the glorious image of God which we have lost through sin (Calov., al., Rückert, Olsh.), which is against both the usage of the word, and the context of the passage.

24.] δικαιούμενοι agrees with πάντες, without any ellipsis; nor need it be resolved into καὶ δικαιοῦνται: the participial sentence is subordinated to the great general statement of the insufficiency of all to attain to the glory of God. It is not necessary, in the interpretation, that the subjects of πάντες and δικαιούμενοι should be in matter of fact strictly commensurate:—‘all have sinned—all are (must be, if justified) justified freely, &c.’

δωρεάν] see reff.: here ‘without merit or desert as arising from earnings of our own;’ ‘gratis.’

τῇ αὐτοῦ χάριτι] by His grace, i.e. ‘His free undeserved Love,’ as the working cause (De W.).

διὰ τῆς ἀπολ. κ.τ.λ.] By means of the propitiatory redemption which is in (has been brought about by, and is now in the Person of) Christ Jesus.

ἀπολύτρωσις, redemption by a λύτρον, propitiation,—and, as expressed by the preposition ἀπο, redemption from some state of danger or misery: here,—redemption from the guilt of sin by the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ’s death, see reff. and Matthew 20:28. In Ephesians 1:7 this ἀπολύτρωσις is is defined to = ἡ ἄφεσις τῶν παραπτωμάτων.

25.] προέθετο, not here ‘decreed,’ as in reff. N. T.,—but put forth, set forth, manifested historically in His incarnation, sufferings, and exaltation. Wetst. quotes Thucyd. ii. 34, τὰ ὀστᾶ προτίθενται τῶν ἀπογενομένων, ‘they expose the bones of the deceased to public view.’

ἱλαστήριον] as a propitiatory offering. So we have σωτήρια, Exodus 20:24,—χαριστήριον (εὐχαριστήριον Α), 2 Macc. 12:45,—and καθάρσιον, Herod. i. 35, in the sense of thank-offerings and offerings of purification (no subst., as θῦμα, need be supplied,—the words being themselves substantives): and we have this very word in Dio Chrysos. Orat. ii. p. 184 (cited by Stuart), where he says that the Greeks offered an ἱλαστήριον τῇ Ἀθήνᾳ, a propitiatory sacrifice. The ordinary interpretation (Theodoret, Theophyl., Luth., Calv., Grot., Calov., Wolf, Olsh.) is founded on the sense in which the LXX use the word, as signifying the golden cover of the ark of the covenant, between the Cherubim, where Jehovah appeared and whence He gave His oracles. τὸ ἱλαστήριον πέταλον ἦν χρυσοῦν, ἐπέκειτο δὲ τῷ κιβωτῷ. ἑκατέρωθεν δὲ εἶχε τὰ τῶν χερουβὶμ ἐκτυπώματα. ἐκεῖθεν τῷ ἀρχιερεῖ λειτουργοῦντι ἐγίνετο δήλη τοῦ θεοῦ ἡ εὐμένεια.… τὸ ἀληθινὸν ἱλαστήριον ὁ δεσπότης ἐστὶ χριστός· ἐκεῖνο δὲ τὸ παλαιὸν τούτου τὸν τύπον ἐπλήρου. ἁρμόττει δὲ αὐτῷ ὡς ἀνθρώπῳ τὸ ὄνομα, οὐχ ὡς θεῷ· ὡς γὰρ θεός, αὐτὸς διὰ τοῦ ἱλαστηρίου χρηματίζει. Theodoret: on which Theophylact further,—ἐδήλου δὲ πάντως τὴν ἀνθρωπίνην φύσιν, ἥτις πῶμα ἦν τῆς θεότητος, ἐπικαλύπτουσα ταύτην. The expression occurs in full, ἱλαστήριον ἐπίθεμα, Exodus 25:17: elsewhere ἱλαστήριον only, as ref. Heb. See also Philo, Vita Mos. iii. 8, vol. ii. p. 150. But De Wette well shews the inapplicability of this interpretation, as not agreeing with εἰς ἔνδειξιν κ.τ.λ. (which requires a victim, see below), and as confusing the unity of the idea here, Christ being (according to it) one while a victim (ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι), and another, something else. The other interpretation (Vulg. propitiationem: so E. V.: Beza, Rückert, al.: adj.—Rosenmüller, Wahl), which makes ἱλαστήριον an adj. agreeing with ὅν, ‘a propitiator,’ hardly agrees with προέθετο, implying an external demonstration of Christ as the ἱλαστήριον, not merely an appointment in the divine œconomy.

διὰ πίστεως] by faith, as the subjective means of appropriation of this propitiation:—not to be joined with ἐν αὐτοῦ αἵματι (but the omission of τῆς is no objection to this, see above on ver. 22), as Luth., Calv. al., Olsh., Rückert,—for such an expression as πίστις or πιστεύω ἐν τῷ αἵμ. Ἰ. χρ. would be unexampled,—and (which is decisive) the clause ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι requires a primary, not a subordinate place in the sentence, because the next clause, εἰς ἔνδ. τ. δικ. αὐτ., directly refers to it. As διὰ πίστ. is the subjective means of appropriation, so ἐν τῷ αἵμ. αὐτοῦ is the objective means of manifestation, of Christ as a propitiatory sacrifice. αἷμα does not = θάνατος, but refers to propitiation by blood,—the well-known typical use of it in sacrifice.

εἰς ἔνδειξιν κ.τ.λ.] in order to the manifestation of His righteousness: this is the aim of the putting forth of Christ as an expiatory victim.

δικαιοσύνη, not truth (, al.),—not goodness (Theodoret, Grot., Hammond, Koppe, Rosenm., Reiche),—not both these combined with justice (Beza),—not justifying or sin-forgiving righteousness (Chrys., , Estius, Krehl, B.-Crus.),—not the righteousness which He gives (Luther, Elsner, Wolf, al.), which last would repeat the idea already contained in ver. 21 and rob εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτ. δίκαιον of all meaning,—not holiness, which does not correspond to δίκαιος and δικαιοῦν,—but judicial righteousness, justice (as , Calov., Tholuck, Meyer, Schrader, Rückert Exo_2, al.). This interpretation alone suits the requirements of the sense, and corresponds to the idea of δικαιοῦν, which is itself judicial. A sin-offering betokens on the one side the expiation of guilt, and on the other ensures pardon and reconciliation: and thus the Death of Christ is not only a proof of God’s grace and love, but also of His judicial righteousness which requires punishment and expiation. (Mainly from De Wette.)

διὰ τ. πάρεσιν κ.τ.λ.] = διὰ τὸ παριέναι τὸν θεὸν τὰ προγ. ἁμαρτήματα ἐν τῇ ἀνοχῇ αὐτοῦ, and contains the reason why God would manifest His judicial righteousness; on account of the overlooking of the sins which had passed, in the forbearance of God: i.e. to vindicate that character for justice, which might seem, owing to the suspension of God’s righteous sentence on sin in former ages in His forbearance, to be placed in question:—to shew, that though He did not then fully punish for sin, and though He did then set forth inadequate means of (subjective) justification,—yet He did both, not because His justice was slumbering, nor because the nature of His righteousness was altered,—but because He had provided a way whereby sin might be forgiven, and He might be just. Observe, πάρεσις is not forgiveness [nor “remission,” as E. V. erroneously renders it], but [passing over, or] overlooking, which is the work of forbearance (see Acts 17:30), whereas forgiveness is the work of grace,—see ch. 2:4:—nor is τῶν προγεγ. ἁμ., ‘the sins of each man which precede his conversion ‘(Calov.), but those of the whole world before the death of Christ. See the very similar words Hebrews 9:15.

The rendering διὰ, ‘by means of’ (Origen, Luth., Calv., Calov., Le Clerc, Elsn., Koppe, Reiche, Schrader), is both ungrammatical and unmeaning.

26. πρὸς τὴν ἔνδ. κ.τ.λ.] The art. distinguishes this ἔνδειξις from the former, as the fuller and ultimate object, of which that ἔνδειξις was a subordinate part:—with a view to the (or His) manifestation of his righteousness in this present time. The shewing forth that He was righteous throughout His dealings with the whole world, by means of setting forth an adequate and complete propitiation in the death of Christ, was towards, formed a subsidiary manifestation to, His great manifestation of His righteousness (same sense as before, judicial righteousness, justice) under the Gospel. The joining πρὸς τὴν ἔνδειξ. κ.τ.λ. with ἐν τῇ ἀνοχῇ τ. θεοῦ (Beza, Rückert Exo_2, Thol., al.) would draw off the attention from the leading thought of the sentence to a digression respecting the ἀνοχὴ τ. θ., which is not probable.

εἰς τὸ εἶναι κ.τ.λ.] in order that He may be (shewn to be:—the whole present concern is with ἔνδειξις, the exhibition to men of the righteousness of God) just and (yet, on the other side) justifying him who is of (the) faith in Jesus (τὸν ἐκ πίστ. Ἰης., him who belongs to, stands in, works from as his standing-point, faith in Jesus: see ch. 2:8, note, and reff.).

27-4:25.] Jewish boasting altogether removed by this truth, not however by making void the law, nor by degrading Abraham from his pre-eminence, but by establishing the law, and shewing that Abraham was really justified by faith, and is the father of the faithful.

27.] ἡ καύχησις, the boasting, viz. of the Jews, of which he had spoken before, ch. 2, not ‘boasting’ in general, which will not suit ver. 29. (So Theodoret, τὸ ὑψηλὸν τῶν Ἰουδαίων φρόνημα,—Chrys., Theophyl., Œc.:—Vulg.: gloriatio tua: Bengel, Rückert, Meyer, De Wette, al.)

ἐξεκλ.] οὐκ ἔτι χώραν ἔχει, Theodoret.

διὰ π. ν. κ.τ.λ.] By what law (is it excluded)? (is it by that) of works? No, but by the law (norma, the rule) of faith. The contrast is not here between the law and the Gospel as two dispensations, but between the law of works and the law of faith, whether found under the law, or the Gospel, or (if the case admitted) any where else. This is evident by the Apostle proving below that Abraham was justified, not by works, so as to have whereof to boast, but by faith.

28.] λογιζόμεθα, not ‘we conclude,’ but we hold, we reckon, see reff.: the former is against N. T. usage; and has probably caused the change of γάρ into οὖν, by some who imagined that this verse was a conclusion from the preceding argument. For we hold (as explanatory of the verse preceding,—on the other supposition the two verses are disjointed, and the conclusion comes in most strangely), that a man is justified by faith [apart from] (without [but more than without—so distinctly without as to be utterly and entirely separate from and independent of]) the works of the law (not works of law); and therefore boasting is excluded.

29.] In shewing how completely Jewish boasting is excluded, Paul purposes to take the ground of their own law, and demonstrate it from that. He will shew that God is not (the God) of Jews alone, but of Gentiles, and that this very point was involved in the promise made to Abraham, by believing which he was Justified (ch. 4), and therefore that it lies in the very root and kernel of the law itself. But, as often elsewhere, he passes off from this idea again and again, recurring to it however continually,—and eventually when he brings forward his proof-text (πατέρα πολλῶν ἐθνῶν τέθεικά σε, 4:17), Abraham’s faith, and not this fact, has become the leading subject.

30. εἴπερ] if at least (if we are to hold to what is manifest as a result of our former argument) God is One, who shall justify the circumcision (= the Jews, after the analogy of ch. 2:26) by (ἐκ, as the preliminary condition,—the state out of which the justification arises) faith, and the uncircumcision (the Gentiles) through (by means of) their faith. Too much stress must not be laid on the difference of the two prepositions (see ver. 22 and note). The omission of the art. in ἐκ πίστ. and its expression in διὰ τῆς πίστ. are natural enough: the former expresses the ground of justification, generally taken, ἐκ πίστεως, by faith: the latter the means whereby the man lays hold on justification, διὰ τῆς πίστεως, by his faith: the former is the objective ground, the latter the subjective medium. Jowett’s rendering of περιτομὴν ἐκ πίστεως, ‘the circumcision that is of faith,’ though ingenious, is hardly philologically allowable, nor would it correspond to the other member of the sentence, which he rightly renders ‘and the uncircumcision through their faith.’ To understand τῆς πίστεως (as Mr. Green, Gr. p.300) as referring to πίστεως just mentioned ‘by the instrumentality of the identical faith which operates in the case of the circumcised,’ is to contradict the fact: the faith was not, strictly speaking, identical in this sense, or the two cases never need have been distinguished. See vv. 1, 2.

31.] But again the Jew may object, if this is the case, if Faith be the ground, and Faith the medium, of justification for all, circumcised or uncircumcised, surely the law is set aside and made void. That this is not so, the Apostle both here asserts, and is prepared to shew by working out the proposition of ver. 29, that the law itself belonged to a covenant whose original recipient was justified by faith, and whose main promise was, the reception and blessing of the Gentiles.

νόμον, not ‘law,’ but the law, as every where in the Epistle. We may safely say that the Apostle never argues of law, abstract, in the sense of a system of precepts,—its attributes or its effects,—but always of the law, concrete,—the law of God given by Moses, when speaking of the Jews, as here: the law of God, in as far as written in their consciences, when speaking of the Gentiles: and when including both, the law of God generally, His written as well as His unwritten will.

Many Commentators have taken this verse (being misled in some cases by its place at the end of the chapter) as standing by itself, and have gone into the abstract grounds why faith does not make void the law (or moral obedience); which, however true, have no place here: the design being to shew that the law itself contained this very doctrine, and was founded in the promise to Abraham on a covenant embracing Jews and Gentiles,—and therefore was not degraded from its dignity by the doctrine, but rather established as a part of God’s dealings,—consistent with, explaining, and explained by, the Gospel.

Henry Alford - Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

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