Romans 9
ICC New Testament Commentary
I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,

9:1-5. The thought of this magnificent prospect fills me with sorrow for those who seem to be excluded from it—my own countrymen for whom I would willingly sacrifice my dearest hopes—excluded too in spite of all their special privileges and their high destiny.

1How glorious the prospect of the life in Christ! How mournful the thought of those who are cut off from it! There is no shadow of falsehood in the statement I am about to make. As one who has his life in Christ I affirm a solemn truth; and my conscience, speaking under the direct influence of God’s Holy Spirit, bears witness to my sincerity. 2 There is one grief that I cannot shake off, one distressing weight that lies for ever at my heart. 3 Like Moses when he came down from the mount, the prayer has been in my mind: Could I by the personal sacrifice of my own salvation for them, even by being cut off from all communion with Christ, in any way save my own countrymen? Are they not my own brethren, my kinsmen as far as earthly relationship is concerned? 4 Are they not God’s own privileged people? They bear the sacred name of Israel with all that it implies; it is they whom He declared to be His ‘son,’ His ‘firstborn’ (Exodus 4:22); their temple has been illuminated by the glory of the Divine presence; they are bound to Him by a series of covenants repeatedly renewed; to them He gave a system of law on Mount Sinai; year after year they have offered up the solemn worship of the temple; they have been the depositories of the Divine promises; 5 their ancestors are the patriarchs, who were accounted righteous before God; from them in these last days has come the Messiah as regards his natural descent—that Messiah who although sprung from a human parent is supreme over all things, none other than God, the eternal object of human praise!

9-11. St. Paul has now finished his main argument. He has expounded his conception of the Gospel. But there still remains a difficulty which could not help suggesting itself to every thoughtful reader, and which was continually being raised by one class of Christians at the time when he wrote. How is this new scheme of righteousness and salvation apart from law consistent with the privileged position of the Jews? They had been the chosen race (we find St. Paul enumerating their privileges), through them the Messiah had come, and yet it appeared they would be rejected if they would not accept this new righteousness by faith. How is this consistent with the justice of God?

The question has been continually in the Apostle’s mind. It has led him to emphasize more than once the fact that the new εὐαγγέλιον if for both Jew and Greek, is yet for the Jew first (1:16; 2:9). It has led him to lay great stress on the fact that the Jews especially had sinned (2:17). Once indeed he has begun to discuss it directly (3:1); ‘What advantage then is there in being a Jew?’ but he postponed it for a time, feeling that it was necessary first to complete his main argument. He has dwelt on the fact that the new way of salvation can be proved from the Old Testament (chap. 4). Now he is at liberty to discuss in full the question How is this conception of Christ’s work consistent with the fact of the rejection of the Jews which it seems to imply?

The answer to this question occupies the remainder of the dogmatic portion of the Epistle, chaps. 9-11, generally considered to be the third of its principal divisions. The whole section may be subdivided as follows: in 9:6-29 the faithfulness and justice of God are vindicated; in 9:30-10:21 the guilt of Israel is proved; in chap. 11 St. Paul shows the divine purpose which is being fulfilled and looks forward prophetically to a future time when Israel will be restored, concluding the section with a description of the Wisdom of God as far exceeding all human speculation.

Marcion seems to have omitted the whole of this chapter with the possible exception of vv. 1-3. Tert. who passes from 8:11 to 10:2 says salio et hic amplissimum abruptum intercisae scripturae (Adv. Marc. v. 14). See Zahn, Gesch. des N. T. Kanons p. 518.

1. We notice that there is no grammatical connexion with the preceding chapter. A new point is introduced and the sequence of thought is gradually made apparent as the argument proceeds. Perhaps there has been a pause in writing the Epistle, the amanuensis has for a time suspended his labours. We notice also that St. Paul does not here follow his general habit of stating the subject he is going to discuss (as he does for example at the beginning of chap. 3), but allows it gradually to become evident. He naturally shrinks from mentioning too definitely a fact which is to him so full of sadness. It will be only too apparent to what he refers; and tact and delicacy both forbid him to define it more exactly.

ἀλήθειαν λέγω ἐν Χριστῷ: ‘I speak the truth in Christ, as one united with Christ’; cf. 2 Corinthians 2:17 ἀλλʼ ὡς ἐξ εἰλικρινείας, ἀλλʼ ὡς ἐκ Θεοῦ, κατέναντι Θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ λαλοῦεν: 12:19. St. Paul has just described that union with Christ which will make any form of sin impossible; cf. 8:1, 10; and the reference to this union gives solemnity to an assertion for which it will be difficult to obtain full credence.

οὐ ψεύδομαι. A Pauline expression. 1 Timothy 2:7 ἀλήθειαν λέγω, οὐ ψεύδομαι: 2 Corinthians 11:31; Galatians 1:20.

συμμαρτυρούσης: cf. 2:15; 8:16. The conscience is personified so as to give the idea of a second and a separate witness. Cf. Oecumenius ad loc. μέγα θέλει εἰπεῖν, διὸ προοδοποιεῖ τῷ πιστευθῆναι, τρεῖς ἐπιφερόμενος μάρτυρας, τὸν Χριστόν, τὸἍγιον Πνεῦμα, καὶ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ συνείδησιν.

ἐν Πνεύματι Ἁγίῳ with συμμαρτυρούσης. St. Paul adds further solemnity to his assertion by referring to that union of his spirit with the Divine Spirit of which he had spoken in the previous chapter. Cf. 8:16 αὐτὸ τὸ Πνεῦμα συμμαρτυρεῖ τῷ πνεύματι ἡμῶν.

St. Paul begins with a strong assertion of the truth of his statement as a man does who is about to say something of the truth of which he is firmly convinced himself, although facts and the public opinion of his countrymen might seem to be against him. Cf. Chrys. ad loc. πρότερον δὲ διαβεβαιοῦται περὶ ὦν μελλει λέγειν· ὅπερ πολλοῖς ἔθος ποιεῖν ὅταν μέλλωσί τι λέγειν παρὰ τοῖς πολλοῖς ἀπιστούμενον καὶ ὑπὲρ οὗ σφόδρα ἑαυτούς εἰσι πεπεικότες.

2. ὅτι: ‘that,’ introducing the subordinate sentence dependent on the idea of assertion in the previous sentence. St. Paul does not mention directly the cause of his grief, but leaves it to be inferred from the next verse.

λύπη (which is opposed to χαρά John 16:20) appears to mean grief as a state of mind; it is rational or emotional: ὀδύνη on the other hand never quite loses its physical associations; it implies the anguish or smart of the heart (hence it is closely connected with τῇ καρδίᾳ) which is the result of λύπη.

With the grief of St. Paul for his countrymen, we may compare the grief of a Jew writing after the fall of Jerusalem, who feels both the misfortune and the sin of his people, and who like St. Paul emphasizes his sorrow by enumerating their close relationship to God and their ancestral pride: 4 Ezra 8:15-18 et nunc dicens dicam, de omni homine tu magis scis, de populo autem tuo, ob quem doleo, et de haereditate tua, propter quam lugeo, et propter Israël, propter quem tristis sum, et de semine Iacob, propter quod conturbor. Ibid. 10:6-8 non vides luctum nostrum et quae nobis contigerunt? quoniam Sion mater nostra omnium in tristitia contristatur, et humilitate humiliata est, et luget validissime … 21-22 vides enim quoniam sanctificatio nostra deserta effecta est, et altare nostrum demolitum est, et templum nostrum destructum est, et psalterium nostrum humiliatum est, et hymnus noster conticuit, et exsultatio nostra dissoluta est, et lumen candelabri nostri extinctum est, et arca testamenti nostri direpta est. Apoc. Baruch. xxxv. 3 quomodo enim ingemiscam super Sione, et quomodo lugebo super Ierusalem? quia in loco isto ubi prostratus sum nunc, olim summus sacerdos offerebat oblationes sanctas.

3. This verse which is introduced by γάρ does not give the reason of his grief but the proof of his sincerity.

ηὀχόμην: ‘the wish was in my mind’ or perhaps ‘the prayer was in my heart.’ St. Paul merely states the fact of the wish without regard to the conditions which made it impossible. Cf. Lft. on Galatians 4:20 ‘The thing is spoken of in itself, prior to and independently of any conditions which might affect its possibility.’ See also Acts 25:22, and Burton, M. and T. § 33.

ἀνάθεμα: ‘accursed,’ ‘devoted to destruction.’ The word was originally used with the same meaning as ἀνάθημα (of which it was a dialectic variation, see below), ‘that which is offered or consecrated to God.’ But the translators of the Old Testament required an expression to denote that which is devoted to God for destruction, and adopted ἀνάθεμα as a translation of the Hebrew חָרָם: see Leviticus 27:28, Leviticus 27:29 πᾶν δὲ ἀνάθεμα ὃ ἐὰν ἀναθῇ ἄνθρωπος τῷ Κυρίῳ … οὐκ ἀποδώσεται οὐδὲ λυτρώσεται … καὶ πᾶν ὃ ἐὰν ἀνατεθῇ ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων οὐ λυτρωθήσεται, ἀλλὰ θανάτῳ θανατωθήσεται: Deuteronomy 7:26; Joshua 6:17 καὶ ἔσται ἡ πόλις ἀνάθεμα, αὐτὴ καὶ πάντα ὅσα ἐστὶν ἐν αὐτῇ, Κυρίῳ σαβαώθ. And with this meaning it is always used in the New Testament: Galatians 1:8, Galatians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 16:22. The attempt to explain the word to mean ‘excommunication’ from the society—a later use of the Hebrew in Rabbinical writers and the Greek in ecclesiastical—arose from a desire to take away the apparent profanity of the wish.

There is some doubt and has been a good deal of discussion as to the distinction in meaning between ἀνάθεμα and ἀνάθημα. It was originally dialectic, ἀνάθημα being the Attic form (ἀνάθημα ἀττικῶς, ἀνάθεμα ἑλληνικῶς Moeris, p. 28) and ἀνάθεμα being found as a substitute in non-Attic works (Anth. P. 6. 162, C.I.G. 2693 d and other instances are quoted by the Dictionaries). The Hellenistic form was the one naturally used by the writers of the LXX, and it gradually became confined to the new meaning attached to the word, but the distinction seems never to have become certain and MSS. and later writers often confuse the two words. In the LXX (although Hatch and Redpath make no distinction) our present texts seem to preserve the difference of the two words. The only doubtful passage Isa_2 Macc. 2:13; here A reads ἀνάθεμα where we should expect ἀνάθημα, but V (the only other MS. quoted by Swete) and the authorities in Holmes and Parsons have ἀνάθημα. In the N.T. ἀνάθημα occurs once, Luke 21:5, and then correctly (but the MSS. vary, ἀνάθημα B L, ἀνάθεμα א A D). The Fathers often miss the distinction and explain the two words as identical: so Ps.-Just. Quaest. et Resp. 121; Theod. on Romans 9:3, and Suidas; they are distinguished in Chrys. on Romans 9:3 as quoted by Suidas, but not in Field’s ed. No certain instance is quoted of ἀνάθημα for ἀνάθεμα, but ἀνάθεμα could be and was used dialectically for ἀνάθημα. On the word generally see esp. Trench Syn. i. § 5; Lft. Galatians 1:8; Fri. on Romans 9:3.

αὐτὸς ἐγώ. The emphasis and position of these words emphasizes the willingness for personal sacrifice; and they have still more force when we remember that St. Paul has just declared that nothing in heaven or earth can separate him from the love of Christ. Chrys. ad loc. τί λέγεις, ὦ Παῦλε; ἀπὸ τοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ ποθουμένου, οὗ μήτε βασιλεία μήτε γέεννα ἐχώριζε, μήτε τὰ νοούμενα, μήτε ἄλλα τοσαῦτα, ἀπὸ τούτου νῦς εὔχῃ ἀνάθεμα εἶναι

That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;
Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:
Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son.
And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;
(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)
It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.
And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.
Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:
For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.
And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.
What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.
But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.
Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;
As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
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