« Prev Preface Next »
vi

Hearing read, as I do continually, the Epistles of the blessed Paul ... I delight in the enjoyment of his spiritual trumpet, and my heart leaps up, and my longings set me glowing, as I recognize the voice so dear to me, and seem to image the speaker all but present to me, and to see him in discourse. But I mourn and am distressed, because all do not know this man as they should know him.... It is from hence our myriad evils spring—from our ignorance of the Scriptures. Hence grows this epidemic of our heresies; hence our neglected lives, hence our unfruitful toil.

St Chrysostom, Preamble to Homilies on the Epistle to the Romans.

vii

PREFACE

He who attempts to expound the Epistle to the Romans, when his sacred task is over, is little disposed to speak about his Commentary; he is occupied rather with an ever deeper reverence and wonder over the Text which he has been permitted to handle, a Text so full of a marvellous man, above all so full of God.

But it seems needful to say a few words about the style of the running Translation of the Epistle which will be found interwoven with this Exposition.

The writer is aware that the translation is often rough and formless. His apology is that it has been done with a view not to a connected reading but to the explanation of details. A rough piece of rendering, which would be a misrepresentation in a continuous version, because it would be out of scale with the general style, seems to be another matter when it only calls the reader's attention to a particular point presented for study at the moment.

Again, he is aware that his rendering of theviii Greek article in many passages (for example, where he has ventured to explain it by "our," "true," etc.) is open to criticism. But he intends no more in such places than a suggestion; and he is conscious, as he has said sometimes at the place, that it is almost impossible to render the article as he has done in these cases without a certain exaggeration, which must be discounted by the reader.

The use of the article in Greek is one of the simplest and most assured things in grammar, as to its main principles. But as regards some details of the application of principle, there is nothing in grammar which seems so easily to elude the line of law.

It is scarcely necessary to say that on questions of literary criticism which in no respect, or at most remotely, concern exposition, this Commentary says little or nothing. It is well known to literary students of the Epistle that some phenomena in the text, from the close of ch. xiv. onwards, have raised important and complex questions. It has been asked whether the great Doxology (xvi. 25-27) always stood where it now stands; whether it should stand at the close of our ch. xiv.; whether its style and wording allow us to regard it as contemporary with the Epistle as a whole, or whether they indicate that it was written later in St Paul's course; whether our fifteenth andix sixteenth chapters, while Pauline, are not out of place in an Epistle to Rome; in particular, whether the list of names in ch. xvi. is compatible with a Roman destination.

These questions, with one exception, that which affects the list of names, are not even touched upon in the present Exposition. The expositor, personally convinced that the pages we know as the Epistle to the Romans are not only all genuine but all intimately coherent, has not felt himself called to discuss, in a devotional writing, subjects more proper to the lecture-room and the study; and which certainly would be out of place in the ministry of the pulpit.

Meantime, those who care to read a masterly debate on the literary problems in question may consult the recently published volume (1893), Biblical Studies, by the late Bishop Lightfoot, of Durham. That volume contains (pp. 287-374) three critical Essays (1869, 1871), two by Bishop Lightfoot, one by the late Dr Hort, on The Structure and Destination of the Epistle to the Romans. The two illustrious friends,—Hort criticizing Lightfoot, Lightfoot replying to Hort,—examine the phenomena of Rom. xv.-xvi. Lightfoot advocates the theory that St Paul, some time after writing the Epistle, issued an abridged edition for wider circulation, omitting the direction to Rome, closing the document with our ch. xiv., and then (not before) writing, as ax finale, the great Doxology. Hort holds to the practical entirety of the Epistle as we have it, and reasons at length for the contemporaneousness of xvi. 25-27 with the rest. 11See also Westcott and Hort's N. T. in the Original Greek, vol. 2, Appendix, pp. 110-114 (ed. 1).

We may note here that both Hort and Lightfoot contend for the conciliatory aim of the Roman Epistle. They regard the great passage about Israel (ix.-xi.) as in some sense the heart of the Epistle, and the doctrinal passages preceding this as all more or less meant to bear on the relations not only of the Law and the Gospel, but of the Jew and the Gentile as members of the one Christian Church. There is great value in this suggestion, explained and illustrated as it is in the Essays in question. But the thought may easily be worked to excess. It seems plain to the present writer that when the Epistle is studied from within its deepest spiritual element, it shews us the Apostle fully mindful of the largest aspects of the life and work of the Church, but also, and yet more, occupied with the problem of the relation of the believing sinner to God. The question of personal salvation was never, by St Paul, forgotten in that of Christian policy.

To return for a moment to this Exposition, or rather to its setting; it may be doubted whether, in imagining the dictation of the Epistle to be begun and completedxi by St Paul within one day we have not imagined "a hard thing." But at worst it is not an impossible thing, if the Apostle's utterance was as sustained as his thought.

It remains only to express the hope that these pages may serve in some degree to convey to their readers a new Tolle, Lege for the divine Text itself; if only by suggesting to them sometimes the words of St Augustine, "To Paul I appeal from all interpreters of his writings."

Ridley Hall, Cambridge,
All Saints' Day, 1893.

ERRATA.

Page 113, line 8, for "circumcision" read "uncircumcision."

Page 263, line 15, for "אָמֵו" read "אָמֵן".


« Prev Preface Next »



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |