Romans 2

The Condemnation of the Moralist

Rom 2:1–29 presents unusual difficulties for the interpreter. There have been several major approaches to the chapter and the group(s) it refers to: (1) Rom 2:14 refers to Gentile Christians, not Gentiles who obey the Jewish law. (2) Paul in Rom 2 is presenting a hypothetical viewpoint: If anyone could obey the law, that person would be justified, but no one can. (3) The reference to “the ones who do the law” in 2:13 are those who “do” the law in the right way, on the basis of faith, not according to Jewish legalism. (4) Rom 2:13 only speaks about Christians being judged in the future, along with such texts as Rom 14:10 and 2 Cor 5:10. (5) Paul’s material in Rom 2 is drawn heavily from Diaspora Judaism, so that the treatment of the law presented here cannot be harmonized with other things Paul says about the law elsewhere (E. P. Sanders, Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People, 123); another who sees Rom 2 as an example of Paul’s inconsistency in his treatment of the law is H. Räisänen, Paul and the Law [WUNT], 101–9. (6) The list of blessings and curses in Deut 27–30 provide the background for Rom 2; the Gentiles of 2:14 are Gentile Christians, but the condemnation of Jews in 2:17–24 addresses the failure of Jews as a nation to keep the law as a whole (A. Ito, ”Romans 2: A Deuteronomistic Reading,” JSNT 59 [1995]: 21-37).
Some interpreters (e.g., C. K. Barrett, Romans [HNTC], 43) connect the inferential Διό (dio, “therefore”) with 1:32a, treating 1:32b as a parenthetical comment by Paul.
you are without excuse,
That is, “you have nothing to say in your own defense” (so translated by TCNT).
whoever you are,
Grk “O man.”
when you judge someone else.
Grk “Therefore, you are without excuse, O man, everyone [of you] who judges.”
For on whatever grounds
Grk “in/by (that) which.”
you judge another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge practice the same things.
2Now we know that God’s judgment is in accordance with truth
Or “based on truth.”
against those who practice such things.
3And do you think,
Grk “do you think this,” referring to the clause in v. 3b.
whoever you are, when you judge
Grk “O man, the one who judges.”
those who practice such things and yet do them yourself,
Grk “and do them.” The other words are supplied to bring out the contrast implied in this clause.
that you will escape God’s judgment?
4Or do you have contempt for the wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know
Grk “being unaware.”
that God’s kindness leads you to repentance?
5But because of your stubbornness
Grk “hardness.” Concerning this imagery, see Jer 4:4; Ezek 3:7; 1 En. 16:3.
and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourselves in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed!
Grk “in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”
Grk “who.” The relative pronoun was converted to a personal pronoun and, because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.
will reward
Or “will render,” “will recompense.” In this context Paul is setting up a hypothetical situation, not stating that salvation is by works.
each one according to his works :
A quotation from Ps 62:12; Prov 24:12; a close approximation to Matt 16:27.
7eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, 8but
This contrast is clearer and stronger in Greek than can be easily expressed in English.
wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition
Grk “those who [are] from selfish ambition.”
and do not obey the truth but follow
Grk “are persuaded by, obey.”
9There will be
No verb is expressed in this verse, but the verb “to be” is implied by the Greek construction. Literally “suffering and distress on everyone…”
affliction and distress on everyone
Grk “every soul of man.”
who does evil, on the Jew first and also the Greek,
Paul uses the term Greek here and in v. 10 to refer to non-Jews, i.e., Gentiles.
Grk “but even,” to emphasize the contrast. The second word has been omitted since it is somewhat redundant in English idiom.
glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, for the Jew first and also the Greek.
11For there is no partiality with God. 12For all who have sinned apart from the law
This is the first occurrence of law (nomos) in Romans. Exactly what Paul means by the term has been the subject of much scholarly debate. According to J. A. Fitzmyer (Romans [AB], 131–35; 305–6) there are at least four different senses: (1) figurative, as a “principle”; (2) generic, meaning “a law”; (3) as a reference to the OT or some part of the OT; and (4) as a reference to the Mosaic law. This last usage constitutes the majority of Paul’s references to “law” in Romans.
will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.
13For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous before God, but those who do the law will be declared righteous.
The Greek sentence expresses this contrast more succinctly than is possible in English. Grk “For not the hearers of the law are righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be declared righteous.”
14For whenever the Gentiles,
Gentile is a NT term for a non-Jew.
who do not have the law, do by nature
Some (e.g. C. E. B. Cranfield, Romans [ICC], 1:135–37) take the phrase φύσει (fusei, “by nature”) to go with the preceding “do not have the law,” thus: “the Gentiles who do not have the law by nature,” that is, by virtue of not being born Jewish.
the things required by the law,
Grk “do by nature the things of the law.”
these who do not have the law are a law to themselves.
Grk “who.” The relative pronoun was converted to a personal pronoun and, because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.
show that the work of the law is written
Grk “show the work of the law [to be] written,” with the words in brackets implied by the Greek construction.
in their hearts, as their conscience bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or else defend
Or “excuse.”
Grk “their conscience bearing witness and between the thoughts accusing or also defending one another.”
16on the day when God will judge
The form of the Greek word is either present or future, but it is best to translate in future because of the context of future judgment.
the secrets of human hearts,
Grk “of people.”
according to my gospel
On my gospel cf. Rom 16:25; 2 Tim 2:8.
through Christ Jesus.

The Condemnation of the Jew

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law
The law refers to the Mosaic law, described mainly in the OT books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
and boast of your relationship to God
Grk “boast in God.” This may be an allusion to Jer 9:24.
18and know his will
Grk “the will.”
and approve the superior things because you receive instruction from the law,
Grk “because of being instructed out of the law.”
19and if you are convinced
This verb is parallel to the verbs in vv. 17–18a, so it shares the conditional meaning even though the word “if” is not repeated.
that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,
20an educator of the senseless, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the essential features of knowledge and of the truth – 21therefore
The structure of vv. 21–24 is difficult. Some take these verses as the apodosis of the conditional clauses (protases) in vv. 17–20; others see vv. 17–20 as an instance of anacoluthon (a broken off or incomplete construction).
you who teach someone else, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal?
22You who tell others not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor
Or “detest.”
idols, do you rob temples?
23You who boast in the law dishonor God by transgressing the law! 24For just as it is written, “ the name of God is being blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you .”
A quotation from Isa 52:5.

25 For circumcision
Circumcision refers to male circumcision as prescribed in the OT, which was given as a covenant to Abraham in Gen 17:10–14. Its importance for Judaism can hardly be overstated: According to J. D. G. Dunn (Romans [WBC], 1:120) it was the “single clearest distinguishing feature of the covenant people.” J. Marcus has suggested that the terms used for circumcision (περιτομή, peritomē) and uncircumcision (ἀκροβυστία, akrobustia) were probably derogatory slogans used by Jews and Gentiles to describe their opponents (“The Circumcision and the Uncircumcision in Rome,” NTS 35 [1989]: 77-80).
has its value if you practice the law, but
This contrast is clearer and stronger in Greek than can be easily expressed in English.
if you break the law,
Grk “if you should be a transgressor of the law.”
your circumcision has become uncircumcision.
26Therefore if the uncircumcised man obeys
The Greek word φυλάσσω (fulassō, traditionally translated “keep”) in this context connotes preservation of and devotion to an object as well as obedience.
the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?
27And will not the physically uncircumcised man
Grk “the uncircumcision by nature.” The word “man” is supplied here to make clear that male circumcision (or uncircumcision) is in view.
who keeps the law judge you who, despite
Grk “through,” but here the preposition seems to mean “(along) with,” “though provided with,” as BDAG 224 s.v. διά A.3.c indicates.
the written code
Grk “letter.”
and circumcision, transgress the law?
28For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision something that is outward in the flesh, 29but someone is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart
On circumcision is of the heart see Lev 26:41; Deut 10:16; Jer 4:4; Ezek 44:9.
by the Spirit
Some have taken the phrase ἐν πνεύματι (en pneumati, “by/in [the] S/spirit”) not as a reference to the Holy Spirit, but referring to circumcision as “spiritual and not literal” (RSV).
and not by the written code.
Grk “letter.”
This person’s
Grk “whose.” The relative pronoun has been replaced by the phrase “this person’s” and, because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started in the translation.
praise is not from people but from God.

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