Romans 4
ICC New Testament Commentary
What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?

4:1-8. Take the crucial case of Abraham. He, like the Christian, was declared righteous, not on account of his works—as something earned, but by the free gift of God in response to his faith. And David describes a similar state of things. The happiness of which he speaks is due, not to sinlessness but to God’s free forgiveness of sins.

1Objector. You speak of the history of Abraham. Surely he, the ancestor by natural descent of our Jewish race, might plead privilege and merit. 2If we Jews are right in supposing that God accepted him as righteous for his works—those illustrious acts of his—he has something to boast of.

St. Paul. Perhaps he has before men, but not before God. 3For look at the Word of God, that well-known passage of Scripture, Genesis 15:6. What do we find there? Nothing about works, but ‘Abraham put faith in God,’ and it (i. e. his faith) was credited to him as if it were righteousness.

4This proves that there was no question of works. For a workman claims his pay as a debt due to him; it is not an act of favour. 5But to one who is not concerned with works but puts faith in God Who pronounces righteous not the actually righteous (in which there would be nothing wonderful) but the ungodly—to such an one his faith is credited for righteousness.

6Just as again David in Psa_32 describes how God ‘pronounces happy’ (in the highest sense) those to whom he attributes righteousness without any reference to works: 7‘Happy they,’ he says,—not ‘who have been guilty of no breaches of law,’ but ‘whose breaches of law have been forgiven and whose sins are veiled from sight. 8A happy man is he whose sin Jehovah will not enter in His book.’

1 ff. The main argument of this chapter is quite clear but the opening clauses are slightly embarrassed and obscure, due as it would seem to the crossing of other lines of thought with the main lines. The proposition which the Apostle sets himself to prove is that Law, and more particularly the Pentateuch, is not destroyed but fulfilled by the doctrine which he preaches. But the way of putting this is affected by two thoughts, which still exert some influence from the last chapter, (i) the question as to the advantage of the Jew, (ii) the pride or boasting which was a characteristic feature in the character of the Jew but which St. Paul held to be ‘excluded.’ Hitherto these two points have been considered in the broadest and most general manner, but St. Paul now narrows them down to the particular and crucial case of Abraham. The case of Abraham was the centre and stronghold of the whole Jewish position. If therefore it could be shown that this case made for the Christian conclusion and not for the Jewish, the latter broke down altogether. This is what St. Paul now undertakes to prove; but at the outset he glances at the two side issues—main issues in ch. 3 which become side issues in ch. 4—the claim of ‘advantage,’ or special privilege, and the pride which the Jewish system generated. For the sake of clearness we put these thoughts into the mouth of the objector. He is of course still a supposed objector; St. Paul is really arguing with himself; but the arguments are such as he might very possibly have met with in actual controversy (see on 3:1 ff.).

1. The first question is one of reading. There is an important variant turning upon the position or presence of εὑρηκέναι. (1) K L P, &c., Theodrt; and later Fathers (the Syriac Versions which are quoted by Tischendorf supply no evidence) place it after τὸν προπάτορα ἡμῶν. It is then taken with κατὰ σάρκα: ‘What shall we say that A. has gained by his natural powers unaided by the grace of God?’ So Bp. Bull after Theodoret. [Euthym.-Zig. however, even with this reading, takes κατὰ σάρκα with πατέρα: ὑπερβατὸν γὰρ τὸ κατὰ σάρκα]. But this is inconsistent with the context. The question is not, what Abraham had gained by the grace of God or without it, but whether the new system professed by St. Paul left him any gain or advantage at all. (2) א A C D E F G, some cursives, Vulg. Boh. Arm. Aeth., Orig.-lat. Ambrstr. and others, place after ἐροῦμεν. In that case κατὰ σάρκα goes not with εὑρηκέναι but with τὸν προπάτορα ἡμῶν which it simply defines, ‘our natural progenitor.’ (3) But a small group, B, 47*, and apparently Chrysostom from the tenor of his comment, though the printed editions give it in his text, omit εὑρηκέναι altogether. Then the idea of ‘gain’ drops out and we translate simply ‘What shall we say as to Abraham our forefather?’ &c. The opponents of B will say that the sense thus given is suspiciously easy: it is certainly more satisfactory than that of either of the other readings. The point is not what Abraham got by his righteousness, but how he got his righteousness—by the method of works or by that of faith. Does the nature of A.’s righteousness agree better with the Jewish system, or with St. Paul’s? The idea of ‘gain’ was naturally imported from ch. 3:1, 9. There is no reason why a right reading should not be preserved in a small group, and the fluctuating position of a word often points to doubtful genuineness. We therefore regard the omission of εὑρηκέναι as probable with WH. text Tr. RV. marg. For the construction comp. John 1:15 οὗτος ἦν ὀ͂ν εἶπον.

1-5. One or two small questions of form may be noticed. In ver. 1 προπάτορα (א*etc A B C* al.) is decisively attested for πατέρα, which is found in the later MSS. and commentators. In ver. 3 the acute and sleepless critic Origen thinks that St. Paul wrote Ἀβράμ (with Heb. of Gen_15; cf. Genesis 17:5), but that Gentile scribes who were less scrupulous as to the text of Scripture substituted Ἀβραάμ. It is more probable that St. Paul had before his mind the established and significant name throughout: he quotes Genesis 17:5 in ver. 17. In ver. 5 a small group (א D* F G) have ἀσεβἠν, on which form see WH. Introd. App. p. 157 f.; Win. Gr. Exo_8, § 9:8; Tisch. on Hebrews 6:19. In this instance the attestation may be wholly Western, but not in others.

τὸν προπάτορα ἡμῶν. This description of Abraham as ‘our forefather’ is one of the arguments used by those who would make the majority of the Roman Church consist of Jews. St. Paul is not very careful to distinguish between himself and his readers in such a matter. For instance in writing to the Corinthians, who were undoubtedly for the most part Gentiles, he speaks cf ‘our fathers’ as being under the cloud and passing through the sea (1 Corinthians 10:1). There is the less reason why he should discriminate here as he is just about to maintain that Abraham is the father of all believers, Jew and Gentile alike,—though it is true that he would have added ‘not after the flesh but after the spirit.’ Gif. notes the further point, that the question is put as proceeding from a Jew: along with Orig. Chrys. Phot. Euthym.-Zig. Lips. he connects τὸν προπάτ. ἡμ. with κατὰ σάρκα. It should be mentioned, however, that Dr. Hort (Rom. and Eph. p. 23 f.) though relegating εὑρηκέναι to the margin, still does not take κατὰ σάρκα with τὸν προπάτορα ἡμῶν.

2. καύχημα: ‘Not materies gloriandi as Meyer, but rather gloriatio, as Bengel, who however might have added facta’ (T. S. Evans in Sp. Comm. on 1 Corinthians 5:6). The termination -μα denotes not so much the thing done as the completed, determinate, act; for other examples see esp. Evans ut sup. It would not be wrong to translate here ‘has a ground of boasting,’ but the idea of ‘ground’ is contained in ἕχει, or rather in the context.

ἀλλʼ οὐ πρὸς τὸν Θεόν. It seems best to explain the introduction of this clause by some such ellipse as that which is supplied in the paraphrase. There should be a colon after καύχημα. St. Paul does not question the supposed claim that Abraham has a καύχημα absolutely—before man he might have it and the Jews were not wrong in the veneration with which they regarded his memory,—but it was another thing to have a καύχημα before God. There is a stress upon τὸν Θεόν which is taken up by τῷ Θεῷ in the quotation. ‘A. could not boast before God. He might have done so if he could have taken his stand on works; but works did not enter into the question at all. In God he put faith.’ On the history and application of the text Genesis 15:6, see below.

3. ἐλογίσθη: metaphor from accounts, ‘was set down,’ here ‘on the credit side.’ Frequently in LXX with legal sense of imputation or non-imputation of guilt, e.g. Leviticus 7:8 ἐὰν δὲ φαγὼν φάγῃ … οὐ λογισθήσεται αὐτῷ, 17:4 λογισθήσεται τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ ἐκείνῳ αἷμα, &c. The notion arises from that of the ‘book of remembrance’ (Malachi 3:16) in which men’s good or evil deeds, the wrongs and sufferings of the saints, are entered (Psalm 56:8; Isaiah 65:6). Oriental monarchs had such a record by which they were reminded of the merit or demerit of their subjects (Esther 6:1 ff.), and in like manner on the judgement day Jehovah would have the ‘books’ brought out before Him (Daniel 7:10; Revelation 20:12; comp. also ‘the books of the living,’ ‘the heavenly tablets,’ a common expression in the Books of Enoch, Jubilees, and Test. XII Patr., on which see Charles on Enoch xlvii. 3; and in more modern times, Cowper’s sonnet ‘There is a book … wherein the eyes of God not rarely look’).

The idea of imputation in this sense was familiar to the Jews (Weber, Altsyn. Theol. p. 233). They had also the idea of the transference of merit and demerit from one person to another (ibid. p. 280 ff.; Ezekiel 18:2; John 9:2). That however is not in question here; the point is that one quality faith is set down, or credited, to the individual (here to Abraham) in place of another quality—righteousness.

ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς δικαιοσύνην: was reckoned as equivalent to, as standing in the place of, ‘righteousness.’ The construction is common in LXX: cf. 1 Reg. (Sam.) 1:13; Job 61:23 (24); Isaiah 29:17 ( = 32:15); Lamentations 4:2; Hosea 8:12. The exact phrase ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς δικαιος. recurs in Psa_105 [106]. 31 of the zeal of Phinehas. On the grammar cf. Win. § xxix. 3 a. (p. 229, ed. Moulton).

On the righteousness of Abraham see esp. Weber, Altsyn. Paläst. Theologie, p. 255 ff. Abraham was the only righteous man of his generation; therefore he was chosen to be ancestor of the holy People. He kept all the precepts of the Law which he knew beforehand by a kind of intuition. He was the first of seven righteous men whose merit brought back the Shekinah which had retired into the seventh heaven, so that in the days of Moses it could take up its abode in the Tabernacle (ibid. p. 183). According to the Jews the original righteousness of Abraham, who began to serve God at the age of three (ibid. p. 118) was perfected (1) by his circumcision, (2) by his anticipatory fulfilment of the Law. But the Jews also (on the strength of Genesis 15:6) attached a special importance to Abraham’s faith, as constituting merit (see Mechilta on Exodus 14:31, quoted by Delitzsch ad loc. and by Lightfoot in the extract given below).

4, 5. An illustration from common life. The workman earns his pay, and can claim it as a right. Therefore when God bestows the gift of righteousness, of His own bounty and not as a right, that is proof that the gift must be called forth by something other than works, viz. by faith.

5. ἐπὶ τὸν δικαιοῦντα: ‘on Him who pronounces righteous’ or ‘acquits,’ i.e. God. It is rather a departure from St. Paul’s more usual practice to make the object of faith God the Father rather than God the Son. But even here the Christian scheme is in view, and faith in God is faith in Him as the alternative Author of that scheme. See on 1:8, 17, above.

We must not be misled by the comment of Euthym.-Zig. τουτέστι πιστεύοντι ὅτι δύναται ὁ Θεὸς τὸν ἐν ἀσεβείᾳ βεβιωκύτα, τοῦτον ἐξαιφνης οὐ μόνον ἐλευθερῶσαι κολάσεως, ἀλλὰ καὶ δίκαιον ποιῆσαι (comp. the same writer on ver. 25 ἵνα δικαίους ἡμᾶς ποιήσῃ). The evidence is too decisive (p. 30 f. sup.) that δικαιοῦν = not ‘to make righteous’ but ‘to declare righteous as a judge.’ It might however be inferred from ἐξαίφνης that δίκαιον ποιῆσαι was to be taken somewhat loosely in the sense of ‘treat as righteous.’ The Greek theologians had not a clear conception of the doctrine of Justification.

τὸν ἀσεβῆ: not meant as a description of Abraham, from whose case St. Paul is now generalizing and applying the conclusion to his own time. The strong word ἀσεβῆ is probably suggested by the quotation which is just coming from Psalm 32:1.

6. Δαβίδ (Δαυείδ). Both Heb. and LXX ascribe Psa_32 to David. In two places in the N. T., Acts 4:25, Acts 4:26 (= Psalm 2:1, Psalm 2:2), Hebrews 4:7 (= Psalm 95:7) Psalms are quoted as David’s which have no title in the Hebrew (though Psa_95 [94] bears the name of David in the LXX), showing that by this date the whole Psalter was known by his name. Psa_32 was one of those which Ewald thought might really be David’s: see Driver, Introduction, p. 357.

τὸν μακαρισμόν: not ‘blessedness,’ which would be μακαριότης but a ‘pronouncing blessed’; μακαρίζειν τινα= ‘to call a person blessed or happy’ (τούς τε γὰρ θεοὺς μακαρίζομεν … καὶ τῶν ἀνδρῶν τοὺς θειοτάτους μακαρίζομεν Arist. Eth. Nic. I. 12:4; comp. Euthym.- Zig. ἐπίτασις δὲ καὶ κορυφὴ τιμῆς καὶ δόξης ὁ μακαρισμός, ‘Felicitation is the strongest and highest form of honour and praise’). St. Paul uses the word again Galatians 4:15. Who is it who thus pronounces a man blessed? God. The Psalm describes how He does so.

7, 8. Μακάριοι, κ.τ.λ. This quotation of Psalm 32:1, Psalm 32:2 is the same in Heb. and LXX. It is introduced by St. Paul as confirming his interpretation of Genesis 15:6.

μακάριοι is, as we have seen, the highest term which a Greek could use to describe a state of felicity. In the quotation just given from Aristotle it is applied to the state of the gods and those nearest to the gods among men.

ᾧ οὐ μή. So אc A C Dc F K L &c.: οὗ οὐ μή א B D E (?) G, 67**. οὗ is also the reading of LXX (ᾧ שׂאca Ra). The authorities for οὗ are superior as they combine the oldest evidence on the two main lines of transmission (א B + D) and it is on the whole more probable that ᾧ has been assimilated to the construction of λογίζεσθαι in vv. 3, 4, 5, 6 than that οὗ has been assimilated to the preceding ὧν or to the O.T. or that it has been affected by the following οὐ: ᾧ naturally established itself as the more euphonious reading.

ὐ μὴ λογίσηται. There is a natural tendency in a declining language to the use of more emphatic forms; but here a real emphasis appears to be intended, ‘Whose sin the Lord will in no wise reckon’: see Ell. on 1 Thessalonians 4:15 [p. 154], and Win. § Lev_3, p. 634 f.

The History of Abraham as treated by St. Paul and by St. James

It is at first sight a remarkable thing that two New Testament writers should use the same leading example and should quote the same leading text as it would seem to directly opposite effect. Both St. Paul and St. James treat at some length of the history of Abraham; they both quote the same verse, Genesis 15:6, as the salient characterization of that history; and they draw from it the conclusion—St. Paul that a man is accounted righteous πίστει χωρὶς ἔργων (Romans 3:28; cf. 4:1-8), St. James as expressly, that he is accounted righteous ἐξ ἔργων καὶ οὐκ ἐκ πίστεως μόνον (Jam 2:24).

We notice at once that St. Paul keeps more strictly to his text. Genesis 15:6 speaks only of faith. St. James supports his contention of the necessity of works by appeal to a later incident in Abraham’s life, the offering of Isaac (Jam 2:21). St. Paul also appeals to particular incidents, Abraham’s belief in the promise that he should have a numerous progeny (Romans 4:18), and in the more express prediction of the birth of Isaac (Romans 4:19-21). The difference is that St. Paul makes use of a more searching exegesis. His own spiritual experience confirms the unqualified affirmation of the Book of Genesis; and he is therefore able to take it as one of the foundations of his system. St. James, occupying a less exceptional standpoint, and taking words in the average sense put upon them, has recourse to the context of Abraham’s life, and so harmonizes the text with the requirements of his own moral sense.

The fact is that St. James and St. Paul mean different things by ‘faith,’ and as was natural they impose these different meanings on the Book of Genesis, and adapt the rest of their conclusions to them. When St. James heard speak of ‘faith,’ he understood by it what the letter of the Book of Genesis allowed him to understand by it, a certain belief. It is what a Jew would consider the fundamental belief, belief in God, belief that God was One (Jam 2:19). Christianity is with him so much a supplement to the Jews’ ordinary creed that it does not seem to be specially present to his mind when he is speaking of Abraham. Of course he too believes in the ‘Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory’ (Jam 2:1). He takes that belief for granted; it is the substratum or basement of life on which are not to be built such things as a wrong or corrupt partiality (προσωποληψία). If he were questioned about it, he would put it on the same footing as his belief in God. But St. James was a thoroughly honest, and, as we should say, a ‘good’ man; and this did not satisfy his moral sense. What is belief unless proof is given of its sincerity? Belief must be followed up by action, by a line of conduct conformable to it. St. James would have echoed Matthew Arnold’s proposition that ‘Conduct is three-fourths of life.’ He therefore demands—and from his point of view rightly demands—that his readers shall authenticate their beliefs by putting them in practice.

St. Paul’s is a very different temperament, and he speaks from a very different experience. With him too Christianity is something added to an earlier belief in God; but the process by which it was added was nothing less than a convulsion of his whole nature. It is like the stream of molten lava pouring down the volcano’s side. Christianity is with him a tremendous over-mastering force. The crisis came at the moment when he confessed his faith in Christ; there was no other crisis worth the name after that. Ask such an one whether his faith is not to be proved by action, and the question will seem to him trivial and superfluous. He will almost suspect the questioner of attempting to bring back under a new name the old Jewish notion of religion as a round of legal observance. Of course action will correspond with faith. The believer in Christ, who has put on Christ, who has died with Christ and risen again with him, must needs to the very utmost of his power endeavour to live as Christ would have him live. St. Paul is going on presently to say this (Romans 6:1, Romans 6:12, Romans 6:15), as his opponents compel him to say it. But to himself it appears a truism, which is hardly worth definitely enunciating. To say that a man is a Christian should be enough.

If we thus understand the real relation of the two Apostles, it will be easier to discuss their literary relation. Are we to suppose that either was writing with direct reference to the other? Did St. Paul mean to controvert St. James, or did St. James mean to controvert St. Paul? Neither hypothesis seems probable. If St. Paul had had before him the Epistle of St. James, when once he looked beneath the language to the ideas signified by the language, he would have found nothing to which he could seriously object. He would have been aware that it was not his own way of putting things; and he might have thought that such teaching was not intended for men at the highest level of spiritual attainment; but that would have been all. On the other hand, if St. James had seen the Epistle to the Romans and wished to answer it, what he has written would have been totally inadequate. Whatever value his criticism might have had for those who spoke of ‘faith’ as a mere matter of formal assent, it had no relevance to a faith such as that conceived by St. Paul. Besides, St. Paul had too effectually guarded himself against the moral hypocrisy which he was condemning.

It would thus appear that when it is examined the real meeting-ground between the two Apostles shrinks into a comparatively narrow compass. It does not amount to more than the fact that both quote the same verse, Genesis 15:6, and both treat it with reference to the antithesis of Works and Faith.

Now Bp. Lightfoot has shown (Galatians, p. 157 ff., Exo_2) that Genesis 15:6 was a standing thesis for discussions in the Jewish schools. It is referred to in the First Book of Maccabees: ‘Was not Abraham found faithful in temptation, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness’ (1 Macc. 2:52)? It is repeatedly quoted and commented upon by Philo (no less than ten times, Lft.). The whole history of Abraham is made the subject of an elaborate allegory. The Talmudic treatise Mechilta expounds the verse at length: ‘Great is faith, whereby Israel believed on Him that spake and the world was. For as a reward for Israel’s having believed in the Lord, the Holy Spirit dwelt in them … In like manner thou findest that Abraham our father inherited this world and the world to come solely by the merit of faith, whereby he believed in the Lord; for it is said, “and he believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness”’ (quoted by Lft. ut sup. p. 160). Taking these examples with the lengthened discussions in St. Paul and St. James, it is clear that attention was being very widely drawn to this particular text: and it was indeed inevitable that it should be so when we consider the place which Abraham held in the Jewish system and the minute study which was being given to every part of the Pentateuch.

It might therefore be contended with considerable show of reason that the two New Testament writers are discussing independently of each other a current problem, and that there is no ground for supposing a controversial relation between them. We are not sure that we are prepared to go quite so far as this. It is true that the bearing of Genesis 15:6 was a subject of standing debate among the Jews; but the same thing cannot be said of the antithesis of Faith and Works. The controversy connected with this was essentially a Christian controversy; it had its origin in the special and characteristic teaching of St. Paul. It seems to us therefore that the passages in the two Epistles have a real relation to that controversy, and so at least indirectly to each other.

It does not follow that the relation was a literary relation. We have seen that there are strong reasons against this*. We do not think that either St. Paul had seen the Epistle of St. James, or St. James the Epistle of St. Paul. The view which appears to us the most probable is that the argument of St. James is directed not against the writings of St. Paul, or against him in person, but against hearsay reports of his teaching, and against the perverted construction which might be (and perhaps to some slight extent actually was) put upon it. As St. James sate in his place in the Church at Jerusalem, as yet the true centre and metropolis of the Christian world; as Christian pilgrims of Jewish birth were constantly coming and going to attend the great yearly feasts, especially from the flourishing Jewish colonies in Asia Minor and Greece, the scene of St. Paul’s labours; and as there was always at his elbow the little coterie of St. Paul’s fanatical enemies, it would be impossible but that versions, scarcely ever adequate (for how few of St. Paul’s hearers had really understood him!) and often more or less seriously distorted, of his brother Apostle’s teaching, should reach him. He did what a wise and considerate leader would do. He names no names, and attacks no man’s person. He does not assume that the reports which he has heard are full and true reports. At the same time he states in plain terms his own view of the matter. He sounds a note of warning which seems to him to be needed, and which the very language of St. Paul, in places like Romans 6:1ff., Romans 6:15 ff., shows to have been really needed. And thus, as so often in Scripture, two complementary sets of truths, suited to different types of mind and different circumstances, are stated side by side. We have at once the deeper principle of action, which is also more powerful in proportion as it is deeper, though not such as all can grasp and appropriate, and the plainer practical teaching pitched on a more every-day level and appealing to larger numbers, which is the check and safeguard against possible misconstruction.


4:9-12. The declaration made to Abraham did not depend upon Circumcision. For it was made before he was circumcised; and Circumcision only came in after the fact, to ratify a verdict already given. The reason being that Abraham might have for his spiritual descendants the uncircumcised as well as the circumcised.

9Here we have certain persons pronounced ‘happy.’ Is this then to be confined to the circumcised Jew, or may it also apply to the uncircumcised Gentile? Certainly it may. For there is no mention of circumcision. It is his faith that we say was credited to Abraham as righteousness. 10And the historical circumstances of the case prove that Circumcision had nothing to do with it. Was Abraham circumcised when the declaration was made to him? No: he was at the time uncircumcised. 11And circumcision was given to him afterwards, like a seal affixed to a document, to authenticate a state of things already existing, viz. the righteousness based on faith which was his before he was circumcised. The reason being that he might be the spiritual father alike of two divergent classes: at once of believing Gentiles, who though uncircumcised have a faith like his, that they too might be credited with righteousness; 12and at the same time of believing Jews who do not depend on their circumcision only, but whose files march duly in the steps of Abraham’s faith—that faith which was his before his circumcision.

10. St. Paul appeals to the historic fact that the Divine recognition of Abraham’s faith came in order of time before his circumcision: the one recorded in Genesis 15:6, the other in Genesis 17:10ff. Therefore although it might be (and was) confirmed by circumcision, it could not be due to it or conditioned by it.

11. σημεῖον περιτομῆς. Circumcision at its institution is said to be ἐν σημείῳ διαθήκης (Genesis 17:11), between God and the circumcised. The gen. περιτομῆς is a genitive of apposition or identity, a sign ‘consisting in circumcision,’ ‘which was circumcision.’ Some authorities (A C* al.) read περιτομήν.

σφραγῖδα. The prayer pronounced at the circumcising of a child runs thus: ‘Blessed be He who sanctified His beloved from the womb, and put His ordinance upon His flesh, and sealed His offspring with the sign of a holy covenant.’ Comp. Targum Cant. iii. 8 ‘The seal of circumcision is in your flesh as it was sealed in the flesh of Abraham’; Shemoth R. 19 ‘Ye shall not eat of the passover unless the seal of Abraham be in your flesh.’ Many other parallels will be found in Wetstein ad loc. (cf. also Delitzsch).

At a very early date the same term σφραγίς was transferred from the rite of circumcision to Christian baptism. See the passages collected by Lightfoot on 2 Clem. vii. 6 (Clem. Rom. ii. 226), also Gebhardt and Harnack ad loc., and Hatch, Hibbert Lectures, p. 295. Dr. Hatch connects the use of the term with ‘the mysteries and some forms of foreign cult’; and it may have coalesced with language borrowed from these; but in its origin it appears to be Jewish. A similar view is taken by Anrich, Das antike Mysterienwesen in seinem Einfluss auf das Christentum (Göttingen, 1894), p. 120 ff., where the Christian use of the word σφραγίς is fully discussed.

Barnabas (ix. 6) seems to refer to, and refute, the Jewish doctrine which he puts in the mouth of an objector: ἀλλʼ ἐρεῖς· Καὶ μὴν περιτέτμηται ὁ λαὸς εἰς σφραγῖδα. ἀλλὰ πᾶς Σύρος καὶ ῎ Αραψ καὶ πάντες οἱ ἱερεῖς τῶν εἰδώλων. ἆρα οὖν κἀκεῖνοι ἐκ τῆς διαθήκης αὐτῶν εἰσίν ; ἀλλὰ καὶ οἱ Αἰγύπτιοι ἐν περιτομῇ εἰσίν. The fact that so many heathen nations were circumcised proved that circumcision could not be the seal of a special covenant.

εἰς τὸ εἶναι, κ.τ.λ. Even circumcision, the strongest mark of Jewish separation, in St. Paul’s view looked beyond its immediate exclusiveness to an ultimate inclusion of Gentiles as well as Jews. It was nothing more than a ratification of Abraham’s faith. Faith was the real motive power; and as applied to the present condition of things, Abraham’s faith in the promise had its counterpart in the Christian’s faith in the fulfilment of the promise (i.e. in Christ). Thus a new division was made. The true descendants of Abraham were not so much those who imitated his circumcision (i.e. all Jews whether believing or not), but those who imitated his faith (i.e. believing Jews and believing Gentiles). εἰς τό denotes that all this was contemplated in the Divine purpose.

πατέρα πάντων τῶν πιστευόντων. Delitzsch (ad loc.) quotes one of the prayers for the Day of Atonement in which Abraham is called ‘the first of my faithful ones.’ He also adduces a passage, Jerus. Gemara on Biccurim, i. 1, in which it is proved that even the proselyte may claim the patriarchs as his אֲבוֹתֵיכוּ because Abram became Abraham, ‘father of many nations,’ lit. ‘a great multitude’; ‘he was so,’ the Glossator adds, ‘because he taught them to believe.’

διʼ ἀκροβυστίας: ‘though in a state of uncircumcision.’ διά of attendant circumstances as in διὰ γράμματος καὶ περιτομῆς ii. 27, τῷ διὰ προσκόμματος ἐσθίοντι xiv. 20.

12. τοῖς στοιχοῦσι. As it stands the art. is a solecism: it would make those who are circumcised one set of persons, and those who follow the example of Abraham’s faith another distinct set, which is certainly not St. Paul’s meaning. He is speaking of Jews who are both circumcised and believe. This requires in Greek the omission of the art. before στοιχοῦσιν. But τοῖς στ. is found in all existing MSS. We must suppose therefore either (1) that there has been some corruption. WH. think that τοῖς may be the remains of an original αὐτοῖς: but that would not seen to be a very natural form of sentence. Or (2) we may think that Tertius made a slip of the pen in following St. Paul’s dictation, and that this remained uncorrected. If the slip was not made by Tertius himself, it must have been made in some very early copy, the parent of all our present copies.

στοιχοῦσι. στοιχεῖν is a well-known military term, meaning strictly to ‘march in file’: Pollux viii. 9 τὸ δὲ βαθος στοῖχος καλεῖται, καὶ τὸ μὲν ἐφεξῆς εἶναι κατὰ μῆκος ζυγεῖν· τὸ δὲ ἐφεξῆς κατὰ βάθος στοιχεῖν, ‘the technical term for marching abreast is ζυγεῖν, for marching in depth or in file, στοιχεῖν’ (Wets.).

On οὐ μόνον rather than μὴ μόνον in this verse and in ver. 16 see Burton, M. and T. § 481.

Jewish Teaching on Circumcision

The fierce fanaticism with which the Jews insisted upon the rite of Circumcision is vividly brought out in the Book of Jubilees (xv. 25 ff.): ‘This law is for all generations for ever, and there is no circumcision of the time, and no passing over one day out of the eight days; for it is an eternal ordinance, ordained and written on the heavenly tables. And every one that is born, the flesh of whose foreskin is not circumcised on the eighth day, belongs not to the children of the covenant which the Lord made with Abraham, for he belongs to the children of destruction; nor is there moreover any sign on him that he is the Lord’s, but (he is destined) to be destroyed and slain from the earth, and to be rooted out of the earth, for he has broken the covenant of the Lord our God. … And now I will announce unto thee that the children of Israel will not keep true to this ordinance, and they will not circumcise their sons according to all this law; for in the flesh of their circumcision they will omit this circumcision of their sons, and all of them, sons of Belial, will have their sons uncircumcised as they were born. And there shall be great wrath from the Lord against the children of Israel, because they have forsaken His covenant and turned away from His word, and provoked and blasphemed, according as they have not observed the ordinance of this law; for they treat their members like the Gentiles, so that they may be removed and rooted out of the land. And there will be no pardon or forgiveness for them, so that there should be pardon and release from all the sin of this error for ever.’

So absolute is Circumcision as a mark of God’s favour that if an Israelite has practised idolatry his circumcision must first be removed before he can go down to Gehenna (Weber, Altsyn. Theol. p. 51 f.). When Abraham was circumcised God Himself took a part in the act (ibid. p. 253). It was his circumcision and anticipatory fulfilment of the Law which qualified Abraham to be the ‘father of many nations’ (ibid. p. 256). Indeed it was just through his circumcision that Isaac was born of a ‘holy seed.’ This was the current doctrine. And it was at the root of it that St. Paul strikes by showing that Faith was prior to Circumcision, that the latter was wholly subordinate to the former, and that just those privileges and promises which the Jew connected with Circumcision were really due to Faith.


4:13-17. Again the declaration that was made to Abraham had nothing to do with Law. For it turned on Faith and Promise which are the very antithesis of Law. The reason being that Abraham might be the spiritual father of all believers, Gentiles as well as Jews, and that Gentiles might have an equal claim to the Promise.

13Another proof that Gentiles were contemplated as well as Jews. The promise made to Abraham and his descendants of world-wide Messianic rule, as it was not dependent upon Circumcision, so also was not dependent upon Law, but on a righteousness which was the product of Faith. 14If this world-wide inheritance really depended upon any legal system, and if it was limited to those who were under such a system, there would be no place left for Faith or Promise: Faith were an empty name and Promise a dead letter. 15For Law is in its effects the very opposite of Promise. It only serves to bring down God’s wrath by enhancing the guilt of sin. Where there is no law, there is no transgression, which implies a law to be transgressed. Law and Promise therefore are mutually exclusive; the one brings death, the other life. 16Hence it is that the Divine plan was made to turn, not on Law and obedience to Law, but on Faith. For faith on man’s side implies Grace, or free favour, on the side of God. So that the Promise depending as it did not on Law but on these broad conditions, Faith and Grace, might hold good equally for all Abraham’s descendants—not only for those who came under the Mosaic Law, but for all who could lay claim to a faith like his. 17Thus Abraham is the true ancestor of all Christians (ἡμῶν), as it is expressly stated in Genesis 17:5 ‘A father’ (i.e. in spiritual fatherhood) ‘of many nations have I made thee*.’

13-17. In this section St. Paul brings up the key-words of his own system Faith, Promise, Grace, and marshals them in array over against the leading points in the current theology of the Jews—Law, Works or performance of Law, Merit. Because the working of this latter system had been so disastrous, ending only in condemnation, it was a relief to find that it was not what God had really intended, but that the true principles of things held out a prospect so much brighter and more hopeful, and one which furnished such abundant justification for all that seemed new in Christianity.

13. οὐ γάρ, κ.τ.λ. The immediate point which this paragraph is introduced to prove is that Abraham might be, in a true though spiritual sense, the father of Gentiles as well as Jews. The ulterior object of the whole argument is to show that Abraham himself is rightly claimed not as the Jews contended by themselves but by Christians.

διὰ νόμου: without art., any system of law.

ἡ ἐπαγγελία: see on ch. 1:2 (προεπηγγείλατο), where the uses of the word and its place in Christian teaching are discussed. At the time of the Coming of Christ the attention of the whole Jewish race was turned to the promises contained in the O. T.; and in Christianity these promises were (so to speak) brought to a head and definitely identified with their fulfilment.

The following examples may be added to those quoted on ch. 1:2 to illustrate the diffusion of this idea of ‘Promise’ among the Jews in the first century a.d.: 4 Ezra 4:27 non capiet portare quae in temporibus iustis repromissa sunt; vii. 14 si ergo non ingredientes ingressi fuerint qui vivuni angusta et vana haec, non poterunt recipere quae sunt reposita (= τὰ ἀποκεἰμενα Genesis 49:10); ibid. 49 (119) ff. quid enim nobis prodest si promissum est nobis immortale tempus, nos vero mortalia opera egimus? &c. Apoc. Baruch. xiv. 13 propter hoc etiam ipsi sine timore relinquunt mundum istum, et fidentes in laetitia sperant se recepturos mundum quem promisisti eis. It will be observed that all these passages are apocalyptic and eschatological. The Jewish idea of Promise is vague and future; the Christian idea is definite and associated with a state of things already inaugurated.

τὸ κληρονόμον αὐτὸν εἶναι κόσμου. What Promise is this? There is none in these words. Hence (1) some think that it means the possession of the Land of Canaan (Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:14 f.; Genesis 15:18; Genesis 17:8; cf. 26:3; Exodus 6:4) taken as a type of the world-wide Messianic reign; (2) others think that it must refer to the particular promise faith in which called down the Divine blessing—that A. should have a son and descendants like the stars of heaven. Probably this is meant in the first instance, but the whole series of promises goes together and it is implied (i) that A. should have a son; (ii) that this son should have numerous descendants; (iii) that in One of those descendants the whole world should be blessed; (iv) that through Him A.’s seed should enjoy world-wide dominion.

διὰ δικαιοσύνης πίστεως: this ‘faith-righteousness’ which St. Paul has been describing as characteristic of the Christian, and before him of Abraham.

14. οἱ ἐκ νόμου: ‘the dependants of law,’ ‘vassals of a legal system,’ such as were the Jews.

κληρονόμοι. If the right to that universal dominion which will belong to the Messiah and His people is confined to those who are subject to a law, like that of Moses, what can it have to do either with the Promise originally given to Abraham, or with Faith to which that Promise was annexed? In that case Faith and Promise would be pushed aside and cancelled altogether. But they cannot be cancelled; and therefore the inheritance must depend upon them and not upon Law.

15. This verse is parenthetic, proving that Law and Promise cannot exist and be in force side by side. They are too much opposed in their effects and operation. Law presents itself to St. Paul chiefly in this light as entailing punishment. It increases the guilt of sin. So long as there is no commandment, the wrong act is done as it were accidentally and unconsciously; it cannot be called by the name of transgression. The direct breach of a known law is a far more heinous matter. On this disastrous effect of Law see 3:20, 5:13, 20, 7 ff.

οὗ δέ for οὗ γάρ is decisively attested (א A B C &c.).

παράβασις is the appropriate word for the direct violation of a code. It means to overstep a line clearly defined: peccare est transilire lineas Cicero, Parad. 3 (ap. Trench, Syn. p. 236).

16. ἐκ πίστεως. In his rapid and vigorous reasoning St. Paul contents himself with a few bold strokes, which he leaves it to the reader to fill in. It is usual to supply with ἐκ πίστεως either ἡ κληρονομία ἐστίν from 14 (Lips. Mey.) or ἡ ἐπαγγελία ἐστιν from 13 (Fri.), but as τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν is defined just below it seems better to have recourse to some wider thought which shall include both these. ‘It was’ = ‘The Divine plan was, took its start, from faith.’ The bold lines of God’s plan, the Providential ordering of things, form the background, understood if not directly expressed, to the whole chapter.

εἰς τὸ εἶναι. Working round again to the same conclusion as before; the object of all these pre-arranged conditions was to do away with old restrictions, and to throw open the Messianic blessings to all who in any true sense could call Abraham ‘father,’ i.e. to believing Gentile as well as to believing Jew.


4:17-22. Abraham’s Faith was remarkable both for its strength and for its object: the birth of Isaac in which Abraham believed might be described as a ‘birth from the dead.’

23-25. In this it is a type of the Christian’s Faith, to which is annexed a like acceptance and which also has for its object a ‘birth from the dead’—the Death and Resurrection of Christ.

17In this light Abraham is regarded by God before whom he is represented as standing—that God who infuses life into the dead (as He was about to infuse it into Abraham’s dead body), and who issues His summons (as He issued it then) to generations yet unborn.

18In such a God Abraham believed. Against all ordinary hope of becoming a father he yet had faith, grounded in hope, and enabling him to become the father not of Jews only but of wide-spread nations, to whom the Promise alluded when it said (Genesis 15:5) ‘Like the stars of the heaven shall thy descendants be.’

19Without showing weakness in his faith, he took full note of the fact that at his advanced years (for he was now about a hundred years old) his own vital powers were decayed; he took full note of the barrenness of Sarah his wife; 20and yet with the promise in view no impulse of unbelief made him hesitate; his faith endowed him with the power which he seemed to lack; he gave praise to God for the miracle that was to be wrought in him, 21having a firm conviction that What God had promised He was able also to perform. 22And for this reason that faith of his was credited to him as righteousness.

23Now when all this was recorded in Scripture, it was not Abraham alone who was in view 24but we too—the future generations of Christians, who will find a like acceptance, as we have a like faith. Abraham believed on Him who caused the birth of Isaac from elements that seemed as good as dead: and we too believe on the same God who raised up from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25who was delivered into the hands of His murderers to atone for our sins, and rose again to effect our justification (i.e. to put the crown and seal to the Atonement wrought by His Death, and at the same time to evoke the faith which makes the Atonement effectual).

17. πατέρα, κ.τ.λ. Exactly from LXX of Genesis 17:5. The LXX tones down somewhat the strongly figurative expression of the Heb., patrem frementis turbae, i.e. ingentis multitudinis populorum (Kautzsch, p. 25).

κατέναντι οὗ ἐπίστευσε Θεοῦ: attraction for κατέναντι Θεοῦ ᾧ ἐπίστενσε: κατέναντι describing the posture in which Abraham is represented as holding colloquy with God (Genesis 17:1 ff.).

ζωοποιοῦντος: ‘maketh alive.’ St. Paul has in his mind the two acts which he compares and which are both embraced under this word, (1) the Birth of Isaac, (2) the Resurrection of Christ. On the Hellenistic use of the word see Hatch, Ess. in Bibl. Greek, p. 5.

καλοῦντος [τὰ μὴ ὄντα ὡς ὄντα]. There are four views: (i) καλ. = ‘to name, speak of, or describe, things non-existent as if they existed’ (Va.); (ii) = ‘to call into being, issue His creative fiat’ (most commentators); (iii) = ‘to call, or summon,’ ‘issue His commands to’ (Mey. Gif.); (iv) in the dogmatic sense = ‘to call, or invite to life and salvation’ (Fri.). Of these (iv) may be put on one side as too remote from the context; and (ii) as Mey. rightly points out, seems to be negatived by ὡς ὄντα. The choice remains between (i) and (iii). If the former seems the simplest, the latter is the more forcible rendering, and as such more in keeping with the imaginative grasp of the situation displayed by St. Paul. In favour of this view may also be quoted Apoc. Bar. xxi. O qui fecisti terram audi me … qui vocasti ab initio mundi quod nondum erat, et obediunt tibi. For the use of καλεῖν see also the note on 9:7 below.

18. εἰς τὸ γενέσθαι = ὥστε γενέσθαι: ‘his faith enabled him to become the father,’ but with the underlying idea that his faith in this was but carrying out the great Divine purpose which ordered all these events.

οὕτως ἔσται: = Genesis 15:5 (LXX).

19. μὴ ἀσθενήσας. Comp. Lft. in Journ. of Class. and Sac. Philol. iii. 106 n.: ‘The New Testament use of μή with a participle … has a much wider range than in the earlier language. Yet this is no violation of principle, but rather an extension of a particular mode of looking at the subordinate event contained in the participial clause. It is viewed as an accident or condition of the principal event described by the finite verb, and is therefore negatived by the dependent negative μή and not by the absolute οὐ. Romans 4:19 … is a case in point whether we retain οὐ or omit it with Lachm. In the latter case the sense will be, “he so considered his own body now dead, as not to be weak in the (?) faith.”’ This is well expressed in RV. ‘without being weakened,’ except that ‘being weakened’ should be rather ‘showing weakness’ or ‘becoming weak.’ See also Burton, M. and T. § 145.

κατενόησε א A B C some good cursives, some MSS. of Vulg. (including am.), Pesh. Boh., Orig.-lat. (which probably here preserves Origen’s Greek), Chrys. and others; οὐ κατενόησε D E F G K L P &c., some MSS. of Vulg. (including fuld, though it is more probable that the negative has come in from the Old Latin and that it was not recognized by Jerome), Syr.-Harcl., Orig.-lat. bis, Epiph. Ambrstr. al.

Both readings give a good sense: κατενόησε, ‘he did consider, and yet did not doubt’; οὐ κατενόνσε, ‘he did not consider, and therefore did not doubt.’ Both readings are also early: but the negative οὐ κατενόησε is clearly of Western origin, and must probably be set down to Western laxity: the authorities which omit the negative are as a rule the most trustworthy.

ὑπάρχων: ‘being already about a hundred years old.’ May we not say that εἶναι denotes a present state simply as present, but that ὑπάρχειν denotes a present state as a product of past states, or at least a state in present time as related to past time (‘vorhandensein, dasein, Lat. existere, adesse, praesto esse’ Schmidt)? See esp. T. S. Evans in Sp. Comm. on 1 Corinthians 7:26: ‘the last word (ὑπάρχειν) is difficult; it seems to mean sometimes “to be originally,” “to be substantially or fundamentally,” or, as in Demosthenes, “to be stored in readiness.” An idea of propriety sometimes attaches to it: comp. ὕπαρξις, “property” or “substance.” The word however asks for further investigation.’ Comp. Schmidt, Lat. u. gr. Synonymik, § 74. 4.

20. οὐ διεκρίθη: ‘did not hesitate’ (τουτέστιν οὐδὲ ἐνεδοίασεν οὐδὲ ἀμφέβαλε Chrys.). διακρίνειν act. = diiudicare, (i) to ‘discriminate,’ or ‘distinguish’ between two things (Matthew 16:3; cf. 1 Corinthians 11:29, 1 Corinthians 11:31) or persons (Acts 15:9; 1 Corinthians 4:7); (ii) to ‘arbitrate’ between two parties (1 Corinthians 6:5). διακρίνεσθαι mid. (and pass.) = (i) ‘to get a decision,’ ‘litigate,’ ‘dispute,’ or ‘contend’ (Acts 11:2; Jam 2:4; Judges 1:9); (ii) to ‘be divided against one-self,’ ‘waver,’ ‘doubt.’ The other senses are all found in LXX (where the word occurs some thirty times), but this is wanting. It is however well established for N. T., where it appears as the proper opposite of πίστις πιστεύω. So Matthew 21:21 ἐὰν ἔχητε πίστιν, καὶ μὴ διακριθῆτε: Mark 11:23 ὃς ἂν εἴπῃ … καὶ μὴ διακριθῇ ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ ἀλλὰ πιστεύῃ: Romans 14:23 ὁ δὲ διακρινόμενος, ἐὰν φαγῇ, κατακέκριται, ὅτι οὐκ ἐκ πίστεως: Jam 1:6 αἰτείτω δὲ ἐκ πίστει μηδὲν διακρινόμενος: also probably Judges 1:22. A like use is found in Christian writings of the second century and later: e.g. Protev. Jac. 11 ἀκούσασα δὲ Μαριὰμ διεκρίθη ἐν ἑαυτῇ λέγουσα, κ.τ.λ. (quoted by Mayor on Jam 1:6): Clem. Homil. i. 20 περὶ τῆς παραδοθείσης σοι ἀληθείας διακριθήσῃ: ii. 40 περὶ τοῦ μόνου καὶ ἀγαθοῦ Θεοῦ διακριθῆναι. It is remarkable that a use which (except as an antithesis to πιστεύειν) there is no reason to connect specially with Christianity should thus seem to be traceable to Christian circles and the Christian line of tradition. It is not likely to be in the strict sense a Christian coinage, but appears to have had its beginning in near proximity to Christianity. A parallel case is that of the word δίψυχος (St. James, Clem. Rom., Herm., Didaché, &c.). The two words seem to belong to the same cycle of ideas.

ἐνεδυναμώθη τῇ πίστει. τῇ πίστει is here usually taken as dat. of respect, ‘he was strengthened in his faith,’ i. e. ‘his faith was strengthened, or confirmed.’ In favour of this would be μὴ ἀσθενήσας τῇ πίστει above; and the surrounding terms (διεκρίθη, πληροφορηθείς) might seem to point to a mental process. But it is tempting to make τῇ πίστει instrumental or causal, like τῇ ἀπιστίᾳ to which it stands in immediate antithesis: ἐνεδ. τῇ πίστ. would then = ‘he was endowed with power by means of his faith’ (sc. τὸ νενεκρωμένοι αὐτοῦ σῶμα ἐνεδυναμώθη). According to the Talmud, Abraham wurde in seiner Natur erneuert, eine neue Creatur (Bammidbar Rabba xi), um die Zeugung zu vollbringen (Weber, p. 256). And we can hardly doubt that the passage was taken in this way by the author of Heb., who appears to have had it directly in mind: comp. Hebrews 11:11, Hebrews 11:12 πίστει καὶ αὐτὴ Σάρρα δύναμιν εἰς καταβολὴν σπέρματος ἔλαβε καὶ παρὰ καιρὸν ἡλικίας … διὸ καὶ ἀφʼ ἑνὸς ἐγεννήθησαν, καὶ ταῦτα νενεκρωμένου, καθὼς τὰ ἄστρα τοῦ οὐρανοῦ τῷ πλήθει (observe esp. δύναμιν ἔλαβε, νενεκρωμένου). This sense is also distinctly recognized by Euthym.-Zig. (ἐνεδυναμώθη εἰς παιδογονίαν τῇ πίστει· ἢ ἐνεδυναμώθη πρὸς τὴν πίστιν). The other (common) interpretation is preferred by Chrys., from whom Euthym.-Zig. seems to get his ὁ πίστιν ἐπιδεικνύμενος δυνάμεως δεῖται πλείονος.

The Talmud lays great stress on the Birth of Isaac. In the name of Isaac was found an indication that with him the history of Revelation began. With him the people of revealed Religion came into existence: with him ‘the Holy One began to work wonders’ (Beresh. Rabba liii, ap. Weber, Altsyn. Theol. p. 256). But it is of course a wholly new point when St. Paul compares the miraculous birth of Isaac with the raising of Christ from the dead. The parallel consists not only in the nature of the two events—both a bringing to life from conditions which betokened only death—but also in the faith of which they were the object.

δοὺς δόξαν: a Hebraism: cf. Joshua 7:19; 1 Samuel 6:5; 1 Chronicles 16:28, &c.

21. πληροφορηθείς: πληροφορία = ‘full assurance,’ ‘firm conviction,’ 1 Thessalonians 1:5; Colossians 2:2; a word especially common amongst the Stoics. Hence πληροφορεῖσθαι, as used of persons, = ‘to be fully assured or convinced,’ as here, ch. 14:5; Colossians 4:12. As used of things the meaning is more doubtful: cf. 2 Timothy 4:5, 2 Timothy 4:17 and Luke 1:1, where some take it as = ‘fully or satisfactorily proved,’ others as = ‘accomplished’ (so Lat.-Vet. Vulg. RV. text Lft. On Revision, p. 142): see note ad loc.

23. διʼ αὐτὸν μόνον. Beresh. R. xl. 8 ‘Thou findest that all that is recorded of Abraham is repeated in the history of his children’ (Wetstein, who is followed by Meyer, and Delitzsch ad loc.). Wetstein also quotes Taanith ii. 1 Fratres nostri, de Ninevitis non dictum est: et respexit Deus saccum eorum.

24. τοῖς πιστεύουσιν: ‘to us who believe.’ St. Paul asserts that his readers are among the class of believers. Not ‘if we believe,’ which would be πιστεύουσιν (sine artic.).

25. διά with acc. is primarily retrospective, = ‘because of’: but inasmuch as the idea or motive precedes the execution, διά may be retrospective with reference to the idea, but prospective with reference to the execution. Which it is in any particular case must be determined by the context.

Here διὰ τὰ παραπτ. may be retrospective, = ‘because of our trespasses’ (which made the death of Christ necessary); or it may be prospective, as Gif. ‘because of our trespasses,’ i.e. ‘in order to atone for them.’

In any case διὰ τὴν δικαίωσιν is prospective, ‘with a view to our justification,’ ‘because of our justification’ conceived as a motive, i. e. to bring it about. See Dr. Gifford`s two excellent notes pp. 108, 109.

The manifold ways in which the Resurrection of Christ is connected with justification will appear from the exposition below. It is at once the great source of the Christian’s faith, the assurance of the special character of the object of that faith, the proof that the Sacrifice which is the ground of justification is an accepted sacrifice, and the stimulus to that moral relation of the Christian to Christ in which the victory which Christ has won becomes his own victory. See also the notes on ch. 6:5-8.

The Place of the Resurrection of Christ in the teaching of St. Paul

The Resurrection of Christ fills an immense place in the teaching of St. Paul, and the fact that it does so accounts for the emphasis and care with which he states the evidence for it (1 Corinthians 15:1-11). (i) The Resurrection is the most conclusive proof of the Divinity of Christ (Acts 17:31; Romans 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15:14, 1 Corinthians 15:15).

(ii) As proving the Divinity of Christ the Resurrection is also the most decisive proof of the atoning value of His Death. But for the Resurrection, there would have been nothing to show—at least no clear and convincing sign to show—that He who died upon the Cross was more than man. But if the Victim of the Cross had been man and nothing more, there would have been no sufficient reason for attaching to His Death any peculiar efficacy; the faith of Christians would be ‘vain,’ they would be ‘yet in their sins’ (1 Corinthians 15:17).

(iii) In yet another way the Resurrection proved the efficacy of the Death of Christ. Without the Resurrection the Sacrifice of Calvary would have been incomplete. The Resurrection placed upon that Sacrifice the stamp of God’s approval; it showed that the Sacrifice was accepted, and that the cloud of Divine Wrath—the ὀργή so long suspended and threatening to break (Romans 3:25, Romans 3:26)—had passed away. This is the thought which lies at the bottom of Romans 6:7-10.

(iv) The Resurrection of Christ is the strongest guarantee for the resurrection of the Christian (1 Corinthians 15:20-23; 2 Corinthians 4:14; Romans 8:11; Colossians 1:18).

(v) But that resurrection has two sides or aspects: it is not only physical, a future rising again to physical life, but it is also moral and spiritual, a present rising from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. In virtue of his union with Christ, the close and intimate relation of his spirit with Christ’s, the Christian is called upon to repeat in himself the redeeming acts of Christ. And this moral and spiritual sense is the only sense in which he can repeat them. We shall have this doctrine fully expounded in ch. 6:1-11.

A recent monograph on the subject of this note (E. Schäder, Die Bedeutung des lebendigen Christus für die Rechtfertigung nach Paulus, Gütersloh, 1893) has worked out in much careful detail the third of the above heads. Herr Schäder (who since writing his treatise has become Professor at Königsberg) insists strongly on the personal character of the redemption wrought by Christ; that which redeems is not merely the act of Christ’s Death but His Person (ἐν ᾧ ἓχομεν τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14). It is as a Person that He takes the place of the sinner and endures the Wrath of God in his stead (Galatians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:21). The Resurrection is proof that this ‘Wrath’ is at an end. And therefore in certain salient passages (Romans 4:25; Romans 6:9, Romans 6:10; Romans 8:34) the Resurrection is even put before the Death of Christ as the cause of justification. The treatise is well deserving of study.

It may be right also to mention, without wholly endorsing, Dr. Hort’s significant aphorism: ‘Reconciliation or Atonement is one aspect of redemption, and redemption one aspect of resurrection, and resurrection one aspect of life’ (Hulsean Lectures, p. 210). This can more readily be accepted if ‘one aspect’ in each case is not taken to exclude the validity of other aspects. At the same time such a saying is useful as a warning, which is especially needed where the attempt is being made towards more exact definitions, that all definitions of great doctrines have a relative rather than an absolute value. They are partial symbols of ideas which the human mind cannot grasp in their entirety. If we could see as God sees we should doubtless find them running up into large and broad laws of His working. We desire to make this reserve in regard to our own attempts to define. Without it exact exegesis may well seem to lead to a revived Scholasticism.

K Cod. Mosquensis

L Cod. Angelicus

P Cod. Porphyrianus

&c. always qualify the word which precedes, not that which follows:

Euthym.-Zig. Euthymius Zigabenus.

אԠCod. Sinaiticus

A Cod. Alexandrinus

C Cod. Ephraemi Rescriptus

D Cod. Claromontanus

E Cod. Sangermanensis

F Cod. Augiensis

G Cod. Boernerianus

Vulg. Vulgate.

Boh. Bohairic.

Arm. Armenian.

Aeth. Ethiopic.

Orig.-lat. Latin Version of Origen

B Cod. Vaticanus

WH. Westcott and Hort.

RV. Revised Version.

al. alii, alibi.

Tisch. Tischendorf.

Gif. Gifford.

Orig. Origen.

Chrys. Chrysostom.

Phot. Photius.

Lips. Lipsius.

אԠCod. Sinaiticus, corrector c

שׂאԠCod. Sinaiticus, corrector ca

Lft. Lightfoot.

* Besides what is said above, see Introduction § 8. It is a satisfaction to find that the view here taken is substantially that of Dr. Hort, Judaistic Christianity, p. 148, ‘it seems more natural to suppose that a misuse or misunderstanding of St. Paul’s teaching on the part of others gave rise to St. James’s carefully guarded language.’

* There is a slight awkwardness in making our break in the middle of a verse and of a sentence. St. Paul glides after his manner into a new subject, suggested to him by the verse which he quotes in proof of what has gone before.

Trench, Trench on Synonyms.

Mey. Meyer.

Fri. Fritzsche (C. F. A.).

Va. Vaughan.

Pesh. Peshitto.

Harcl. Harclean.

Epiph. Epiphanius.

Ambrstr. Ambrosiaster.

For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.
For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,
Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.
How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.
And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:
And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.
For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.
For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:
Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.
Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb:
He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.
Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;
But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;
Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
ICC New Testament commentary on selected books

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

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