Romans 2:21
Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?
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(21) Therefore.—See above on Romans 2:17.

Romans 2:21-24. Thou therefore which teachest another — And valuest thyself upon thy ability to do it, trusting therein for acceptance with God; teachest thou not thyself? — He does not teach himself, who does not practise what he teaches. This, and what follows, is mentioned, to show that the knowledge, which the scribes and doctors pretended to derive from the law, had had no manner of influence on their spirit and conduct; so that their boasting in the law, and their claim to be the teachers of the Gentiles, were very little to be regarded by the Gentiles. Dost thou steal — commit adultery — commit sacrilege — Sin grievously against thy neighbour, thyself, God. St. Paul had shown the Gentiles, first, their sins against God, then against themselves, then against their neighbours. He now inverts the order, for sins against God are the most glaring in a heathen; but not in a Jew. Thou that abhorrest idols — Which all the Jews did, from the time of the Babylonish captivity: thou committest sacrilege — Dost what is still worse, robbing him, who is God over all, of the glory which is due to him. None of these charges were rashly advanced against the Jews of that age. For (as their own historian relates) some even of the priests lived by rapine, and others in gross uncleanness. And as for sacrilegiously robbing God and his altar, it had been complained of ever since Malachi. So that the instances are given with great propriety and judgment. Thou that makest thy boast of the law — As so excellent, and thinkest it such an honour to be acquainted with it, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? — Dost thou act as if thou wert studying the declaration of his will, only to show him in a more presumptuous and contumacious manner, that thou dost not regard it? For the name of God is blasphemed — Spoken evil of, as if it countenanced and encouraged such wickedness as that in which you live, and his holy religion is brought into contempt thereby; as it is written, in your own Scriptures, concerning your fathers, whose evil deeds you so generally imitate. See the margin. We find Josephus frequently accusing the Jews of what is here laid to their charge by the apostle, saying, “What wickedness do you conceal, or hide, which is not known to your enemies? You triumph in your wickedness, strive daily who shall be most vile, making a show of your wickedness as if it were virtue.” “And thinkest thou this, O man, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God, who punishes the Gentiles, when thou art as guilty as they of acting against thy conscience, and doing that for which thine own mouth condemns thee, or, which is as bad as that which thou condemnest in them, and which also causes them to blaspheme that holy name by which thou art called! Surely after these things, so scandalously done, it will be of no advantage to thee that thou art called a Jew, or hast received the sign of circumcision.” — Whitby.

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.Thou therefore ... - He who is a teacher of others may be expected to be learned himself. They ought to be found to be possessed of superior knowledge; and by this question the apostle impliedly reproves them for their ignorance. The form of a question is chosen because it conveys the truth with greater force. He puts the question as if it were undeniable that they were grossly ignorant; compare Matthew 23:3, "They say, and do not," etc.

That preachest - This word means to proclaim in any manner, whether in the synagogue, or in any place of public teaching.

Dost thou steal? - It cannot be proved, perhaps, that the Jews were extensively guilty of this crime. It is introduced partly, no doubt, to make the inconsistency of their conduct mere apparent. We expect a man to set an example of what he means by his public instruction.

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. Teachest thou not thyself? q.d. Dost not thou thyself do what thou pressest upon others? see Matthew 23:3.

Dost thou steal? the Jews were infamous of old for this sin, Psalm 50:18 Matthew 23:14.

Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?.... Several charges are here brought against the Jews, even against their teachers; for though they are put by way of question, they are to be considered as so many assertions and matters of fact; thus, though they taught others, they did not teach themselves; they were blind leaders of the blind; they were ignorant of the law, of the spirituality of it; they were desirous to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they said, nor whereof they affirmed: they were ignorant of the righteousness of God, of whom they boasted; and of the more excellent things of Moses, and the prophets, they pretended to explain; and of the Messiah, of whom their prophecies so much spoke: and besides, what they did understand and teach, they did not practise themselves; than which nothing is more shameful, or more betrays stupidity and ignorance; for as they themselves (b) say,

"he that teaches men, , "that which he himself does not do", is like a blind man who has a lamp in his hand, and enlightens others, but he, himself walks in darkness.''

And such teachers they own were among them.

"Beautiful (say they (c)) are the words which come out of the mouths of them that do, them: Ben Assai was a beautiful preacher, but did not well observe;''

i.e., to do what he said.

Thou that preach at a man should not steal, dost thou steal? some understand this figuratively, of stealing, or taking away the true sense of the law, and putting a false one upon it; of which these men were notoriously guilty: but rather, it is to be understood literally, not only of the inward desires and motions of their minds after this sin, and of their consenting to, and conniving at theft and robbery, but of their doing it themselves; who, under pretence of long prayers, "devoured widows' houses", Matthew 23:14, plundered and robbed them of their substance: no wonder that these men preferred Barabbas, a thief and a robber, to Jesus Christ.

(b) Sepher Hamaalot, p. 87. Apud Buxtorf. Heb. Florileg. p. 75. (c) Bereshit Rabba, fol. 30. 3.

Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?
Romans 2:21-22. Apodosis interrogating with lively indignation. See generally, and respecting οὖν, above on Romans 2:17-24. The form of the questions is expressive of surprise at the existence of an incongruity so much at variance with the protases, Romans 2:17 f.; it must have been in fact impossible. So also in 1 Corinthians 6:2.

Dost thou, who teachest others accordingly, not teach thine own self? namely, a better way of thinking and living than thou showest by thy conduct. Analogous passages expressing this contrast (comp LXX. Psalm 1:6 ff.; Ignat. Eph. 15) from Greek and Rabbinical authors may be seen in Wetstein.

The following infinitives do not include in themselves the idea of δεῖν or ἐξεῖναι (see Lobeck, a[697] Phryn. p. 753 f.), but find their explanation in the idea of commanding, which is implied in the finite verbs; see Kühner, a[698] Xen. Mem. ii. 2, 1, Anab. v. 7, 34; Heindorf, a[699] Plat. Prot. p. 346 B; Wunder, a[700] Soph. O. C. 837.

ὁ βδελυσσόμενος τὰ εἴδωλα ἱεροσυλεῖς] Thou, who abhorrest idols, dost thou plunder temples? This is necessarily to be understood of the plundering of idols’ temples, with Chrysostom, Theophylact,[701] Clericus, Wetstein, Koppe, Rosenmüller, Fritzsche, de Wette, Tholuck, Philippi; Mehring (Rückert indecisively); as is required by the antithetic relation in which ἹΕΡΟΣΥΛΕῖς stands to the ΒΔΕΛΥΣΣΌΜ. ΤᾺ ΕἼΔΩΛΑ. “Thou who holdest all contact with idols as a detestable pollution—dost thou lay plundering hands on their temples?” Abhorrence of idols and (not, it might be, temple-destruction, Deuteronomy 7:25, but greedy) temple-plundering[702]

Paul could not have placed at the close of his reproachful questions a contrast between theory and practice more incisively affecting Jewish feeling. That robbery of temples actually occurred among the Jews, may justly be inferred from Acts 19:37, but especially from Josephus, Antt. iv. 8, 10. See also Rabbinical passages in Delitzsch’s Hebrew translation, p. 77. It is differently explained by Pelagius, Pareus, Toletus, Grotius, Heumann, Michaelis, Cramer, Reiche, Glöckler, Reithmayr, van Hengel, Ewald, and Hofmann, who understand it of robbing the Jewish temple by the embezzlement or curtailment of the temple-moneys and sacrifices (for proofs of this crime, see Josephus, Antt. viii. 3, 5 f.), by withholding the temple tribute, and the like. Compare Test. XII. Patr. p. 578. Luther, Calvin, Bengel, and others, including Morus, Flatt, Köllner, and Umbreit, interpret it, with still more deviation from the proper sense, as denoting the “profanatio divinae majestatis” (Calvin) generally.[703] Compare Luther’s gloss, “Thou art a robber of God; for it is God’s glory which all who would be holy through works take from Him.” Such unjustifiable deviations from the literal sense would not have been resorted to, if attention had been directed on the one hand to the actual unity of the object in the whole of the antitheses, and on the other to the appropriate climax: theft, adultery, robbery of idols’ temples.

[697] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[698] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[699] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[700] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[701] Theophylact (whom Estius follows) very properly refers the ἱεροσυλεῖς to the temples of idols, but limits it to the taking away of the ἀναθήματα. His exposition, moreover, aptly brings out the practical bearing of the point: ἱεροσυλίαν λέγει τὴν ἀφαίρεσιν τῶν ἀνατιθεμένων τοῖς εἰδώλοις. καὶ γὰρ εἰ καὶ ἐβδελύσσοντο τὰ εἴδωλα, ἀλλʼ ὅμως τῇ φιλοχρηματίᾳ τυραννούμενοι ἥπτοντο τῶν εἰδωλικῶν ἀναθημάτων διʼ αἰσχροκερδίαν.

[702] The objection urged by Reiche and van Hengel, that ἱεροσυλεῖν always refers to temples which the speaker really looks upon as holy places, is irrelevant for this reason, that Paul was obliged to take the word, which he found existing in the Greek, in order to indicate temple-robbery, while he has already sufficiently excluded the idea that the temples themselves were sacred in his eyes by τὰ εἴδωλα.

[703] Olshausen thinks that avarice, as inward idolatry, is meant.

Romans 2:21. Here the grammatical apodosis begins, the οὖν resuming all that has been said in Romans 2:17-20. κηρύσσων and λέγων are virtually verbs of command: hence the infinitives. The rhetorical question implies that the Jew does not teach himself, and that he does break the law he would enforce on others.

21. Thou therefore, &c.] In this and the following verses St Paul does not charge every individual Rabbinist with immorality. He exposes the spirit and principles of Rabbinism, as evinced and proved only too abundantly in multitudes of lives. Not every unconverted Rabbinist was a thief or adulterer; but in one aspect or another he did not “teach himself;” allowing in his own heart principles of self-righteousness and formalism which really cut at the root of his moral teaching of others. Meantime, the Jewish malpractices of that age were terribly real, frequent, and notorious.

preachest] Lit. proclaimest: e.g. in synagogue-discourses.

Romans 2:21. Οὐ διδάσκεις, dost thou not teach) a Metonymy for the consequent (that is, substituting the antecedent for the consequent), he, who doth not practise, doth not teach his own self.—κηρύσσων, preaching) loudly, clearly.

Verse 21. - Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? The οῦν here does not involve an anacoluthon after the reading εἴ δὲ in ver. 17, though St. Paul would not have much cared if it had been so. It serves only to sum up the lengthened protasis, and introduce the apodosis: "If... dost thou then," etc.? In what follows it is not, of course, implied that all Jews who relied on the Law were, in fact, thieves, adulterers, etc., but only that the Jews as a nation were no more exempt from such sins than others; and it may be that those specified were not selected by the apostle at random, but as being such as the Jews had a peculiar evil notoriety for at that time. Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Romans 2:21Thou that preachest (ὁ κηρύσσων)

See on Matthew 4:17. Stealing is so gross a vice that one may openly denounce it.

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