For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)A zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.—It would be difficult to find a more happy description of the state of the Jews at this period. They had “a zeal for God.” “The Jew,” said Josephus, “knows the Law better than his own name . . . The sacred rules were punctually observed . . . The great feasts were frequented by countless thousands . . . Over and above the requirements of the Law, ascetic religious exercises advocated by the teachers of the Law came into vogue. . . . Even the Hellenised and Alexandrian Jews under Caligula died on the cross and by fire, and the Palestinian prisoners in the last war died by the claws of African lions in the amphitheatre, rather than sin against the Law. What Greek,” exclaims Josephus, “would do the like? . . . The Jews also exhibited an ardent zeal for the conversion of the Gentiles to the Law of Moses. The proselytes filled Asia Minor and Syria, and—to the indignation of Tacitus—Italy and Rome.” The tenacity of the Jews, and their uncompromising monotheism, were seen in some conspicuous examples. In the early part of his procuratorship, Pilate, seeking to break through their known repugnance to everything that savoured of image-worship, had introduced into Jerusalem ensigns surmounted with silver busts of the emperor. Upon this the people went down in a body to Cæsarea, waited for five days and nights in the market-place, bared their necks to the soldiers that Pilate sent in among them, and did not desist until the order for the removal of the ensigns had been given. Later he caused to be hung up in the palace at Jerusalem certain gilded shields bearing a dedicatory inscription to Tiberius. Then, again, the Jews did not rest until, by their complaints addressed directly to the emperor, they had succeeded in getting them taken down. The consternation that was caused by Caligula’s order for the erection of his own statue in the Temple is well known. None of the Roman governors dared to carry it into execution; and Caligula himself was slain before it could be accomplished.
Justice must be done to the heroic spirit of the Jews. But it was zeal directed into the most mistaken channels. Their religion was legal and formal to the last degree. Under an outward show of punctilious obedience, it concealed all the inward corruption described by the Apostle in Romans 2:17-29, the full extent of which was seen in the horrors of the great insurrection and the siege of Jerusalem.Acts 26:5; Philippians 3:5, and he well knew the extraordinary exertions which they put forth to obey the commands of the Law.
A zeal of God - A zeal for God. Thus, John 2:17," The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up;" an earnest desire for the honor of the sanctuary has wholly absorbed my attention; compare Psalm 69:9; Acts 21:20, "Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe, and they are all zealous of the law;" Acts 22:3, "And was zealous toward God as ye all are this day." Zeal for God here means passionate ardor in the things pertaining to God, or in the things of religion. In this they were, doubtless, many of them sincere; but sincerity does not of itself constitute true piety; John 16:2, "The time cometh that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service." This would be an instance of extraordinary zeal, and in this they would be sincere; but persecution to death of apostles cannot be true religion; see also Matthew 23:15; Acts 26:9, "I thought that I ought to do," etc. So many persons suppose that, provided they are sincere and zealous, they must of course be accepted of God. But the zeal which is acceptable is what aims at the glory of God, and which is founded on true benevolence to the universe; and which does not aim primarily to establish a system of self-righteousness, as did the Jew, or to build up our own sect, as many others do. We may remark here, that Paul was not insensible to what the Jews did, and was not unwilling to give them credit for it. A minister of the gospel should not be blind to the amiable qualities of people or to their zeal; and should be willing to speak of it tenderly, even when he is proclaiming the doctrine of depravity, or denouncing the just judgments of God.
Not according to knowledge - Not an enlightened, discerning, and intelligent zeal. Not what was founded on correct views of God and of religious truth. Such zeal is enthusiasm, and often becomes persecuting. Knowledge without zeal becomes cold, abstract, calculating, formal; and may be possessed by devils as well as human beings. It is the union of the two - the action of the man called forth to intense effort by just views of truth and by right feeling - that constitutes true religion. This was the zeal of the Saviour and of the apostles.
that they have a zeal of—"for"
God, but not according to knowledge—(Compare Ac 22:3; 26:9-11; Ga 1:13, 14). He alludes to this well-meaning of his people, notwithstanding their spiritual blindness, not certainly to excuse their rejection of Christ and rage against His saints, but as some ground of hope regarding them. (See 1Ti 1:13).For I bear them record, i.e. I must testify this of them, or of many of them,
that they have a zeal of God; that they have a fervent desire to maintain the law of God, with all the Mosaical rites and ceremonies, as thinking thereby to promote the glory of God.
But not according to knowledge; i.e. true and right knowledge. Though it be a warm, yet it is a blind zeal. They know not the will of God, or what that righteousness is which he will accept. They know not for what end the law and worship of God, under the Old Testament, was instituted. They knew not that Christ, in, and by whom, that law is fulfilled.
but not according to knowledge: it was not well regulated, it proceeded on mistaken principles, and moved in a wrong way, in persecuting the church of God, in doing things contrary to the name of Christ, in putting to death his ministers and members, thinking that hereby they did God good service; which arose from their ignorance of their Father, and of the Son: though they had a zeal of God, they knew neither God nor Christ aright; they did not know God in Christ, nor Jesus to be the true Messiah; they understood neither law nor Gospel truly, and fancied the Gospel was contrary to the law, and an enemy to it; and therefore in their great zeal opposed it, and the professors of it; they were zealous of the law, and of doing the commands of it, but knew not the true nature, use, and end of the law; as appears by what follows.For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Romans 10:2. Reason assigned why ἡ εὐδοκία … εἰς σωτηρίαν.
ζῆλον Θεοῦ] zeal for God. Comp. Acts 21:20; Acts 22:3; Galatians 1:14; John 2:17; 1Ma 2:58. This their zeal makes them worth that interest of my heart.
οὐ κατʼ ἐπίγνωσιν] knowledge is not that, according to the measure of which they are zealous for God. We must here again (comp. on Romans 1:28) note the composite expression; for the Jews were not wanting in γνῶσις generally, but just in the very point, on which it depended whether their γνῶσις was the right and practically vital ἐπίγνωσις.Romans 10:2. Their good qualities compel his affection. ζῆλον θεοῦ ἔχουσιν: they have a zeal for God, are intensely (though mistakenly) religious. Cf. Galatians 1:14. An unbelieving Jew could interpret his opposition to the lawless gospel of Paul as zeal for the divinely-given rule of life, and his opposition to the crucified Messiah as zeal for the divinely-given promises. It was God’s honour for which he stood in refusing the Gospel. ἀλλʼ οὐ κατʼ ἐπίγνωσιν: this religious earnestness is not regulated by adequate knowledge. For ἐπίγνωσις see Ephesians 4:13, Php 1:9, Colossians 1:9-10; Colossians 2:2, 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Timothy 2:25; it is especially used of religious knowledge, and suggests attainment in it (ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους, τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι, 1 Corinthians 13:12).2. For] The connexion is, that they seem to be, but are not, in the way to salvation; and that this stirs up his affectionate and anxious longing that they may find it.
record] witness; as one who so intimately knows them and their state of conscience and will.
zeal of God] So lit. The genitive implies that the zeal is in close connexion with, and directed towards, Him. So “faith of God” (Gr. of Mark 11:22). Jewish jealousy for the Law, Temple, Scriptures, &c.—eagerness to proselytize—hatred of Christian renegades—is all implied here; all being connected, rightly or mistakenly, with the true God, and intended, more or less, to “do Him service.”—Observe that St Paul gives them full credit for sincerity, and yet does not look on their sincerity as a ground of safety. His true generosity had in it no false “liberalism.” The Jews (like himself of old, 1 Timothy 1:13,) acted “ignorantly in unbelief;” but their “ignorance,” in face of offered knowledge, was their crime; and so their misguided zeal was indirectly sinful.
knowledge] Lit. full knowledge. (German, Erkenntniss.) Same word as Romans 1:28, Romans 3:20. The word is appropriate, for it was just the full knowledge of the true God as God in Christ which they lacked. Their knowledge of God impelled them to persecuting zeal exactly because it was not full knowledge. (See Acts 13:27.) So it is with all persecution in the name of the true God.Romans 10:2. Ζῆλου Θεοῦ, a zeal of God) Acts 22:3, note. Zeal of God, if it is not against Christ, is good.—οὐ κατʼ ἐπίγνωσιν, not according to knowledge) An example of Litotes [expressing in less strong terms a strong truth] i.e. with great blindness; it agrees with the word, ignorant, in the next verse. Flacius says: The Jews had and now have a zeal without knowledge; we on the contrary, alas! to our shame, have knowledge without zeal. Zeal and ignorance are referred to at Romans 10:19.
 Γὰρ, for.) Therefore even in those, who are not in a state of grace, something at least may be found which may induce those, who rejoice in the Divine favour, to intercede for them.—V. g.Verses 2, 3. - For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God. For ζῆλον Θεοῦ, meaning zeal for God, cf. John 2:17; Acts 22:3; Galatians 1:14. The word ζῆλος was commonly used for the religious ardour of the Jews at that time (cf. Acts 21:20, Πάντες ζηλωταὶ τοῦ νόμου ὑπάρχουσι), and there was a faction among them called distinctively Ζηλωταὶ, to which Simon Zelotes (Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13) is supposed to have belonged originally. St. Paul's mention of the religious zeal of the Jews of his day is apposite in this place. In Romans 9:1-5, where he was about to speak of their rejection from the inheritance of the promises, he appropriately dwelt on their ancient privileges; here, where he has in view their own failure to respond to God's purpose for them, he as appropriately refers to their undoubted zeal, which he regrets should be misdirected. But not according to knowledge. For being ignorant of (ἀγνοοῦντες, in explanation of οὐ κατ ἐπίγνωσιν preceding) God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own (righteousness, repeated here, is ill supported), they have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God. For the meaning of God's righteousness, opposed to man's own righteousness, see on Romans 3:19, 20; also on Romans 1:17, and Introduction.
Rev. witness. "He seems to be alluding to his conduct of former days, and to say, 'I know something of it, of that zeal'" (Godet).
Zeal of God (ζῆλον Θεοῦ)
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