Romans 2:20
An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which have the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.
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(20) The form of knowledge and of the truth.—As we might say, “the presentation of knowledge and of truth.” Here not form as opposed to substance, but as implying substance—“presentation,” or “embodiment.”

2:17-24 The apostle directs his discourse to the Jews, and shows of what sins they were guilty, notwithstanding their profession and vain pretensions. A believing, humble, thankful glorying in God, is the root and sum of all religion. But proud, vain-glorious boasting in God, and in the outward profession of his name, is the root and sum of all hypocrisy. Spiritual pride is the most dangerous of all kinds of pride. A great evil of the sins professors is, the dishonour done to God and religion, by their not living according to their profession. Many despise their more ignorant neighbours who rest in a dead form of godliness; yet themselves trust in a form of knowledge, equally void of life and power, while some glory in the gospel, whose unholy lives dishonour God, and cause his name to be blasphemed.Of the foolish - The word "foolish" is used in the Scriptures in two significations: to denote those who are void of understanding, and to denote the wicked. Here it is clearly used in the former sense, signifying that the Jew esteemed himself qualified to instruct those without knowledge.

Of babes - This is the literal meaning of the original word. The expression is figurative, and denotes those who were as ignorant as children - an expression which they would be likely to apply to all the Gentiles. It is evident that the character bare given by Paul to the Jews is one which they claimed, and of which they were proud. They are often mentioned as arrogating this prerogative to themselves, of being qualified to be guides and teachers of others; Matthew 15:14; Matthew 23:2, Matthew 23:16, Matthew 23:24. It will be remembered, also, that the Jews considered themselves to be qualified to teach all the world, and hence evinced great zeal to make proselytes. And it is not improbable (Tholuck) that their Rabbies were accustomed to give the names "foolish" and "babes" to the ignorant proselytes which they had made from the pagan.

Which hast the form of knowledge - The word translated here as "form" properly denotes a delineations or picturing of a thing. It is commonly used to denote also the appearance of any object; what we see, without reference to its internal character; the external figure. It sometimes denotes the external appearance as distinguished from what is internal; or a hypocritical profession of religion without its reality; 2 Timothy 3:5. "Having the form of godliness, but denying its power." It is sometimes used in a good, and sometimes in a bad sense. Here it denotes that in their teaching they retained the semblance, sketch, or outline of the true doctrines of the Old Testament. They had in the Scriptures a correct delineation of the truth. Truth is the representation of things as they are; and the doctrines which the Jews had in the Old Testament were a correct representation or delineation of the objects of knowledge; compare 2 Timothy 1:13.

In the law - In the Scriptures of the Old Testament. In these verses the apostle concedes to the Jews all that they would claim. Having made this concession of their superior knowledge, he is prepared with the more fidelity and force to convict them of their deep and dreadful depravity in sinning against the superior light and privileges which God had conferred on them.

20. hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law—not being left, as the heathen are, to vague conjecture on divine things, but favored with definite and precise information from heaven. Babes; such as have little or no knowledge.

The form of knowledge; a scheme or system of notions, a compendious model or method, which is artificially composed; such as tutors and professors of arts and sciences, do read over again and again to their pupils and auditors. An instructor of the foolish,.... All men in a state of unregeneracy are foolish, and need instruction; here the common people among the Jews, who knew not the law, are meant; it was very usual to call anyone of their doctors and masters "an instructor": it follows,

a teacher of babes; either in age or in understanding; such who taught either of them were called by the Jews , "teachers of babes". Thus they paraphrase the text in Daniel 12:3,

"they that be wise, shall shine as the brightness of the firmament. This is the Judge who judges, the judgment of truth truly, and the collectors of alms: and they that turn, many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever; these are, , "the teachers of babes" (z).''

Though these are said (a) to be inferior to the wise men, or doctors:

which hast the form of knowledge, and of the truth in the law: they had not a true knowledge of the law; only a draught and scheme, the outward form of the law, and a mere shadow and appearance of the knowledge of the truth of it. From hence the apostle would have it concluded, that though the Jews had the law, and in some sense knew it, yet inasmuch as they did not perform it, they could not be justified by it; and that even their teachers, their greatest masters and doctors, were very deficient, as appears from what follows; and since they could not be instilled by it, who taught others the knowledge of it, the hearers of it could not expect justification from it.

(z) T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 8. 2. & 21. 1, 2. Maimon. Hilchot Talmud Tora, c. 2. sect. 1.((a) Gloss in Sota, fol. 49. 1.

An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the {o} form of knowledge and of the truth in the {p} law.

(o) The way to teach and to form others in the knowledge of the truth.

(p) As though he said that the Jews under a pretence of an outward serving of God, attributed all to themselves, when in reality they did nothing less than observe the Law.

20. the foolish] the thoughtless. Same word as Luke 11:40; 1 Corinthians 15:36; Ephesians 5:17, &c.

hast the form, &c.] Read, having in the law the form of knowledge and of truth.—“The form:”—same word as 2 Timothy 3:5, where certainly it means outward form as separate from inward life. Here the same meaning is present, but not as the only or chief one. The Greek word (not found in the classics) strictly means “shaping,” “moulding;” but this must not be pressed: it may well mean, practically, the result of shaping—i.e. form. And certainly in the derivation of the word there is no necessary idea of unreality; rather the opposite. The natural reference here is to the divinely-drawn outline and scheme, the delineation, of spiritual “knowledge and truth” in the Old Testament. But beneath the word, in this context, inevitably lies the thought that this delineation is (in the self-righteous Jew’s use of it) taken apart from life and love.Romans 2:20. μόρφωσιν) The word is taken here in a good sense, in reference to the Jew, who is boasting: the form, or correct outline.—τῆς γνώσως καὶ τῆς ἀληθείας, of knowledge and of the truth) a Hendiadys; the truth in this passage expresses accuracy in established doctrine, in our days called orthodoxy.Instructor (παιδευτὴν)

Rev., corrector. Better, because emphasizing the element of discipline or training. See on chastise, Luke 23:16.

Of babes (νηπίων)

The term used by the Jews to designate proselytes or novices. Paul uses it of one not come of legal age, Galatians 4:1.

The form - in the law (μόρφωσιν)

Not mere appearance, but the scheme, the correct embodiment of the lineaments of truth and knowledge in the law.

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