1. I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,
1. Veritatem dico in Christo, non mentior, testimonium simul mihi reddente mea conscientia eum Spiri-tu sancto,
2. That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
2. Quod dolor sit mihi magnus, et assiduus cruciatus cordi meo:
3. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
3. Optarim enim ego ipse anathema esse a Christo pro fratribus meis, cognatis inquam meis secundum car-nem;
4. Who are Israelites;to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;
4. Qui sunt Israelitae, quorum est adoptio, et gloria, et testamenta, et legislatio, et cultus, et promissiones;
5. Whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
5. Quorum sunt Patres, et ex quibus est Christus secundum car-nem, qui est super omnia Deus bene-dictus in secula. Amen.
In this chapter he begins to remove the offences which might have diverted the minds of men from Christ: for the Jews, for whom he was appointed according to the covenant of the law, not only rejected him, but regarded him with contempt, and for the most part bated him. Hence one of two things seemed to follow, -- either that there was no truth in the Divine promise, -- or that Jesus, whom Paul preached, was not the Lord's anointed, who had been especially promised to the Jews. This twofold knot Paul fully unties in what follows. He, however, so handles this subject, as to abstain from all bitterness against the Jews, that he might not exasperate their minds; and yet he concedes to them nothing to the injury of the gospel; for he allows to them their privileges in such a way, as not to detract anything from Christ. But he passes, as it were abruptly, to the mention of this subject, so that there appears to be no connection in the discourse. 1 He, however, so enters on this new subject, as though he had before referred to it. It so happened in this way, -- Having finished the doctrine he discussed, he turned his attention to the Jews, and being astonished at their unbelief as at something monstrous, he burst forth into this sudden protestation, in the same way as though it was a subject which he had previously handled; for there was no one to whom this thought would not of itself immediately occur, -- "If this be the doctrine of the law and the Prophets, how comes it that the Jews so pertinaciously reject it?" And further, it was everywhere known, that all that he had hitherto spoken of the law of Moses, and of the grace of Christ, was more disliked by the Jews, than that the faith of the Gentiles should be assisted by their consent. It was therefore necessary to remove this obstacle, lest it should impede the course of the gospel.
But the perdition of the Jews caused very great anguish to Paul, though he knew that it happened through the will and providence of God. We hence learn that the obedience we render to God's providence does not prevent us from grieving at the destruction of lost men, though we know that they are thus doomed by the just judgment of God; for the same mind is capable of being influenced by these two feelings: that when it looks to God it can willingly bear the ruin of those whom he has decreed to destroy; and that when it turns its thoughts to men, it condoles with their evils. They are then much deceived, who say that godly men ought: to have apathy and insensibility, (
Many indeed doubt whether this was a lawful desire; but this doubt may be thus removed: the settled boundary of love is, that it proceeds as far as conscience permits; 3 if then we love in God and not without God's authority, our love can never be too much. And such was the love of Paul; for seeing his own nation endued with so many of God's benefits, he loved God's gifts in them, and them on account; of God's gifts; and he deemed it a great evil that those gifts should perish, hence it was that his mind being overwhelmed, he burst forth into this extreme wish. 4
Thus I consent not to the opinion of those who think that Paul spoke these words from regard to God only, and not to men; nor do I agree with others, who say, that without any thought of' God, he was influenced, only by love to men: but I connect the love of men with a .zeal for God's glory.
I have not, however, as yet explained that which is the chief thing, -- that the Jews are here regarded as they were adorned with those singular tokens, by which they were distinguished from the rest of mankind. For God had by his covenant so highly exalted them, that by their fall, the faithfulness and truth of God himself seemed also to fail in the world: for that covenant would have thus become void, the stability of which was promised to be perpetual, as long' as the sun and moon should shine in heaven. (Psalm 72:7.) So that the abolition of this would have been more strange, than the sad and ruinous confusion of the whole world. It was not therefore a simple and exclusive regard for men: for though it is better that one member should perish than the whole body; it was yet for this reason that Paul had such a high regard for the Jews, because he viewed them as bearing the character, and, as they commonly say, the quality of an elect people; and this will appear more evident, as we shall soon see, from what follows.
But though they had already stripped themselves of these ornaments, so that it availed them nothing to be called the children of Abraham, yet as there was a danger, lest through their fault the majesty of the gospel should be depreciated among the Gentiles, Paul does not regard what they deserved, but covers their baseness and disgraceful conduct by throwing vails over them, until the Gentiles were fully persuaded, that the gospel had flowed to them from the celestial fountain, from the sanctuary of God, from an elect nation. For the Lord, passing by other nations, had selected them as a people peculiar to himself, and had adopted them as his children, as he often testifies by Moses and the prophets; and not content simply to give them the name of children, he calls them sometimes his first-begotten, and sometimes his beloved. So the Lord says in Exodus 4:22, --
"My first-begotten son is Israel; let my son go,
that he may serve me."
In Jeremiah 31:9, it is said,
"I am become a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-begotten:"
and again, "Is not my son Ephraim precious to me? Is he not a delightful child? Hence troubled for him are my bowels, and I will yet pity him." By these words he means, not only to set forth his kindness towards the people of Israel, but rather to exhibit the efficacy of adoption, through which the promise of the celestial inheritance is conveyed.
As he has distinguished here between
But we have here a remarkable passage, -- that in Christ two natures are in such a manner distinguished, that they are at the same time united in the very person of Christ: for by saying that Christ had descended from the Jews, he declared his real humanity. The words
We must further observe, that this ascription of praise belongs to none but only to the true and eternal God; for he declares in another place, (1 Timothy 1:17,) that it is the true God alone to whom honor and glory are due. They who break off this clause from the previous context, that they may take away from Christ so clear a testimony to his divinity, most presumptuously attempt, to introduce darkness in the midst of the clearest light; for the words most evidently mean this, --
1 The connection seems to be this: he had been speaking of the impos sibility of separating God's people from the protecting influence and pre serving power of his love; he had clearly shown, that no divorce or separa tion can take place through any possible circumstances. Then the Jews might say, "If this be true, then we are safe, we are still God's people." Hence he proceeds to remove this objection, and in order to prepare their mind to receive what he is going to say and to prove, he speaks first of his deep concern for their welfare: and then he resumes the doctrine he touched upon in Romans 8:28, 29, and 30, and illustrates it by a reference to the past dealings of God with the Jews, and proves it by passages from the ancient Prophets. He shows that God's people are the called according to his purpose, and not all who wear the outward sym bol of his covenant. -- Ed.
2 "Idem valet ac secundum Christum, -- it is the same with According to Christ ;" "
3 "Ut ad aras usque procedat." Ainsworth gives a similar phrase and explains its reason, "Usque ad aras amicus -- As far as conscience permits," Gell., because in swearing they held the horns of the altar. -- Ed.
4 Most of those who take this view of the passage express the implied condition more distinctly than is done here. They have regarded the wish in this sense, "I could wish were it right or law fid." So thought Chrysostom, Photius, Theophlylact, Luther, Parcus, Beza, Estius, Lightfoot, Witsius, Mode, Whitby, and others. The words of Photius are given by Wolfius, "lie says not, I wish to be separated, but I could wish, that is, were it possible --
Almost all critics agree that the Vulgate is wrong in rendering the verb optabam -- "I did wish," as though the Apostle referred to the time, as Ambrose supposed, when he was a Pharisee; but this is wholly incon sistent with the tenor of the passage. Erasmus, Grotius, Beza, and most others regard the verb as having an optative meaning;
There are two other opinions which deserve notice. The first is, that "anathema" here means excommunication, and that "from Christ" sig nifies from his Church, Christ the head being taken for his body the Church, as in 1 Corinthians 12:12, and in Galatians 3:27, according to the manner of the Hebrews, as Grotius says, who called the wife by the name of the husband. Isaiah. 4:1. This is the view taken by Hammond, Grotius, and some of the Lutheran divines. But the word "anathema" has not in Scripture this meaning, though in after-ages it had attained it both in the Church and among the Rabbins. In the New Testament it occurs only here and in Acts 23:14; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 16:22; and Galatians 1:8, 9; and the verb
The other view is more in accordance with the meaning of the term. It is thought that "anathema" means an ignominious death, and that of one apparently separated from Christ; or that he wished to be made "an anathema" by Christ, or for the sake of Christ, or after Christ, that is, his example. The words
Both Haldane and Chalmers follow the Vulgate, and put the clause in a parenthesis, as expressing the Apostle's wish when unconverted; but there is altogether an incongruity in the terms he employs to express this wish; he surely would not have said that he wished to be separated from Christ as an accursed thing, for that is the meaning of anathema; for while he was a Pharisee he deemed it a privilege and an honour even to persecute Christ. And we cannot suppose that the Apostle would now describe his former wish in terms unsuitable to what it really was, but as he now regarded it. -- Ed.
5 Vitriaga thinks that "the glory" was the pillar of fire and the cloud in the wilderness: but Beza, Grotius, and Hammond agree with Calvin, that the ark is meant. See Psalm 78:61. It seems to refer to those manifestations made in the tabernacle, and afterwards in the temple, by peculiar brightness or splendour. See Exodus 40:34; and I Kings 8:11. This splendour or glory signified God's presence, a privilege peculiar to the Israelites. -- Ed.
6 Why he mentions "covenants,"
7 Stuart has in a most convincing manner vindicated the true and obvi ous meaning of this clause. There is no reading of any authority, nor any early version, that affects the genuineness of' the received text: and it is amazing what ingenuity has been exercised by various critics to evade the plain construction of the passage, -- a remarkable instance of the debasing power of preconceived notions. It is somewhat singular too, that some who professed at least the doctrine of' Christ's divinity, such as Erasmus, Whitby, and Locke, have attempted to make changes in the text, and those for the most part conjectural, by which the obvious meaning is wholly altered.
It is very clearly shown by Sacart, that the very position of' the words, and their connection with the context, will admit of no other construction than that which our version contains.
It is well known, that in Hebrew the word "blessed" is always placed before "God," or Jehovah, when it is an ascription of praise; and it ap pears that the Septuagint has in more than thirty instances followed the same order, and, indeed, in every instance except one, (Psalm 67:19,) and that evidently a typographical mistake. The same is the case with all the examples in the New Testament. So that if the phrase here was a doxology, it must have been written
The opinion of Chrysostom on this sentence, to which Erasmus attaches some importance, is of no value whatever, as he did not understand Hebrew; and Paul, for the most part, wrote as a Hebraist.
It is justly observed by Stuart, that the context requires the application of this sentence to Christ, as otherwise there would be no antithesis to the words "according to the flesh." -- Ed.