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Romans 2:1--3:20

Context
The Condemnation of the Moralist

2:1 1 Therefore 2  you are without excuse, 3  whoever you are, 4  when you judge someone else. 5  For on whatever grounds 6  you judge another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge practice the same things. 2:2 Now we know that God’s judgment is in accordance with truth 7  against those who practice such things. 2:3 And do you think, 8  whoever you are, when you judge 9  those who practice such things and yet do them yourself, 10  that you will escape God’s judgment? 2:4 Or do you have contempt for the wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know 11  that God’s kindness leads you to repentance? 2:5 But because of your stubbornness 12  and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourselves in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed! 13  2:6 He 14  will reward 15  each one according to his works: 16  2:7 eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, 2:8 but 17  wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition 18  and do not obey the truth but follow 19  unrighteousness. 2:9 There will be 20  affliction and distress on everyone 21  who does evil, on the Jew first and also the Greek, 22  2:10 but 23  glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, for the Jew first and also the Greek. 2:11 For there is no partiality with God. 2:12 For all who have sinned apart from the law 24  will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 2:13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous before God, but those who do the law will be declared righteous. 25  2:14 For whenever the Gentiles, 26  who do not have the law, do by nature 27  the things required by the law, 28  these who do not have the law are a law to themselves. 2:15 They 29  show that the work of the law is written 30  in their hearts, as their conscience bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or else defend 31  them, 32  2:16 on the day when God will judge 33  the secrets of human hearts, 34  according to my gospel 35  through Christ Jesus.

The Condemnation of the Jew

2:17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law 36  and boast of your relationship to God 37  2:18 and know his will 38  and approve the superior things because you receive instruction from the law, 39  2:19 and if you are convinced 40  that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 2:20 an educator of the senseless, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the essential features of knowledge and of the truth – 2:21 therefore 41  you who teach someone else, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 2:22 You who tell others not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor 42  idols, do you rob temples? 2:23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by transgressing the law! 2:24 For just as it is written, “the name of God is being blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” 43 

2:25 For circumcision 44  has its value if you practice the law, but 45  if you break the law, 46  your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 2:26 Therefore if the uncircumcised man obeys 47  the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 2:27 And will not the physically uncircumcised man 48  who keeps the law judge you who, despite 49  the written code 50  and circumcision, transgress the law? 2:28 For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision something that is outward in the flesh, 2:29 but someone is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart 51  by the Spirit 52  and not by the written code. 53  This person’s 54  praise is not from people but from God.

3:1 Therefore what advantage does the Jew have, or what is the value of circumcision? 3:2 Actually, there are many advantages. 55  First of all, 56  the Jews 57  were entrusted with the oracles of God. 58  3:3 What then? If some did not believe, does their unbelief nullify the faithfulness of God? 3:4 Absolutely not! Let God be proven true, and every human being 59  shown up as a liar, 60  just as it is written: “so that you will be justified 61  in your words and will prevail when you are judged.” 62 

3:5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates 63  the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is he? 64  (I am speaking in human terms.) 65  3:6 Absolutely not! For otherwise how could God judge the world? 3:7 For if by my lie the truth of God enhances 66  his glory, why am I still actually being judged as a sinner? 3:8 And why not say, “Let us do evil so that good may come of it”? – as some who slander us allege that we say. 67  (Their 68  condemnation is deserved!)

The Condemnation of the World

3:9 What then? Are we better off? Certainly not, for we have already charged that Jews and Greeks alike are all under sin, 3:10 just as it is written:

There is no one righteous, not even one,

3:11 there is no one who understands,

there is no one who seeks God.

3:12 All have turned away,

together they have become worthless;

there is no one who shows kindness, not even one. 69 

3:13Their throats are open graves, 70 

they deceive with their tongues,

the poison of asps is under their lips. 71 

3:14Their mouths are 72  full of cursing and bitterness. 73 

3:15Their feet are swift to shed blood,

3:16 ruin and misery are in their paths,

3:17 and the way of peace they have not known. 74 

3:18There is no fear of God before their eyes. 75 

3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under 76  the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 3:20 For no one is declared righteous before him 77  by the works of the law, 78  for through the law comes 79  the knowledge of sin.

1 sn 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).

2 tn 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.

3 tn That is, “you have nothing to say in your own defense” (so translated by TCNT).

4 tn Grk “O man.”

5 tn Grk “Therefore, you are without excuse, O man, everyone [of you] who judges.”

6 tn Grk “in/by (that) which.”

7 tn Or “based on truth.”

8 tn Grk “do you think this,” referring to the clause in v. 3b.

9 tn Grk “O man, the one who judges.”

10 tn Grk “and do them.” The other words are supplied to bring out the contrast implied in this clause.

11 tn Grk “being unaware.”

12 tn Grk “hardness.” Concerning this imagery, see Jer 4:4; Ezek 3:7; 1 En. 16:3.

13 tn Grk “in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”

14 tn 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.

15 tn Or “will render,” “will recompense.” In this context Paul is setting up a hypothetical situation, not stating that salvation is by works.

16 sn A quotation from Ps 62:12; Prov 24:12; a close approximation to Matt 16:27.

17 tn This contrast is clearer and stronger in Greek than can be easily expressed in English.

18 tn Grk “those who [are] from selfish ambition.”

19 tn Grk “are persuaded by, obey.”

20 tn No verb is expressed in this verse, but the verb “to be” is implied by the Greek construction. Literally “suffering and distress on everyone…”

21 tn Grk “every soul of man.”

22 sn Paul uses the term Greek here and in v. 10 to refer to non-Jews, i.e., Gentiles.

23 tn Grk “but even,” to emphasize the contrast. The second word has been omitted since it is somewhat redundant in English idiom.

24 sn 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.

25 tn 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.”

26 sn Gentile is a NT term for a non-Jew.

27 tn 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.

28 tn Grk “do by nature the things of the law.”

29 tn 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.

30 tn Grk “show the work of the law [to be] written,” with the words in brackets implied by the Greek construction.

31 tn Or “excuse.”

32 tn Grk “their conscience bearing witness and between the thoughts accusing or also defending one another.”

33 tn 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.

34 tn Grk “of people.”

35 sn On my gospel cf. Rom 16:25; 2 Tim 2:8.

36 sn The law refers to the Mosaic law, described mainly in the OT books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

37 tn Grk “boast in God.” This may be an allusion to Jer 9:24.

38 tn Grk “the will.”

39 tn Grk “because of being instructed out of the law.”

40 tn 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.

41 tn 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).

42 tn Or “detest.”

43 sn A quotation from Isa 52:5.

44 sn 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, peritomh) 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).

45 tn This contrast is clearer and stronger in Greek than can be easily expressed in English.

46 tn Grk “if you should be a transgressor of the law.”

47 tn The Greek word φυλάσσω (fulassw, traditionally translated “keep”) in this context connotes preservation of and devotion to an object as well as obedience.

48 tn Grk “the uncircumcision by nature.” The word “man” is supplied here to make clear that male circumcision (or uncircumcision) is in view.

49 tn Grk “through,” but here the preposition seems to mean “(along) with,” “though provided with,” as BDAG 224 s.v. διά A.3.c indicates.

50 tn Grk “letter.”

51 sn On circumcision is of the heart see Lev 26:41; Deut 10:16; Jer 4:4; Ezek 44:9.

52 tn 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).

53 tn Grk “letter.”

54 tn 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.

55 tn Grk “much in every way.”

56 tc ‡ Most witnesses (א A D2 33 Ï) have γάρ (gar) after μέν (men), though some significant Alexandrian and Western witnesses lack the conjunction (B D* G Ψ 81 365 1506 2464* pc latt). A few mss have γάρ, but not μέν (6 1739 1881). γάρ was frequently added by scribes as a clarifying conjunction, making it suspect here. NA27 has the γάρ in brackets, indicating doubt as to its authenticity.

tn Grk “first indeed that.”

57 tn Grk “they were.”

58 tn The referent of λόγια (logia, “oracles”) has been variously understood: (1) BDAG 598 s.v. λόγιον takes the term to refer here to “God’s promises to the Jews”; (2) some have taken this to refer more narrowly to the national promises of messianic salvation given to Israel (so S. L. Johnson, Jr., “Studies in Romans: Part VII: The Jews and the Oracles of God,” BSac 130 [1973]: 245); (3) perhaps the most widespread interpretation sees the term as referring to the entire OT generally.

59 tn Grk “every man”; but ἄνθρωπος (anqrwpo") is used in a generic sense here to stress humanity rather than masculinity.

60 tn Grk “Let God be true, and every man a liar.” The words “proven” and “shown up” are supplied in the translation to clarify the meaning.

61 tn Grk “might be justified,” a subjunctive verb, but in this type of clause it carries the same sense as the future indicative verb in the latter part. “Will” is more idiomatic in contemporary English.

62 tn Or “prevail when you judge.” A quotation from Ps 51:4.

63 tn Or “shows clearly.”

64 tn Grk “That God is not unjust to inflict wrath, is he?”

65 sn The same expression occurs in Gal 3:15, and similar phrases in Rom 6:19 and 1 Cor 9:8.

66 tn Grk “abounded unto.”

67 tn Grk “(as we are slandered and some affirm that we say…).”

68 tn Grk “whose.” Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, this relative clause was rendered as a new sentence in the translation.

69 sn Verses 10-12 are a quotation from Ps 14:1-3.

70 tn Grk “their throat is an opened grave.”

71 sn A quotation from Pss 5:9; 140:3.

72 tn Grk “whose mouth is.” Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.

73 sn A quotation from Ps 10:7.

74 sn Rom 3:15-17 is a quotation from Isa 59:7-8.

75 sn A quotation from Ps 36:1.

76 tn Grk “in,” “in connection with.”

77 sn An allusion to Ps 143:2.

78 tn Grk “because by the works of the law no flesh is justified before him.” Some recent scholars have understood the phrase ἒργα νόμου (erga nomou, “works of the law”) to refer not to obedience to the Mosaic law generally, but specifically to portions of the law that pertain to things like circumcision and dietary laws which set the Jewish people apart from the other nations (e.g., J. D. G. Dunn, Romans [WBC], 1:155). Other interpreters, like C. E. B. Cranfield (“‘The Works of the Law’ in the Epistle to the Romans,” JSNT 43 [1991]: 89-101) reject this narrow interpretation for a number of reasons, among which the most important are: (1) The second half of v. 20, “for through the law comes the knowledge of sin,” is hard to explain if the phrase “works of the law” is understood in a restricted sense; (2) the plural phrase “works of the law” would have to be understood in a different sense from the singular phrase “the work of the law” in 2:15; (3) similar phrases involving the law in Romans (2:13, 14; 2:25, 26, 27; 7:25; 8:4; and 13:8) which are naturally related to the phrase “works of the law” cannot be taken to refer to circumcision (in fact, in 2:25 circumcision is explicitly contrasted with keeping the law). Those interpreters who reject the “narrow” interpretation of “works of the law” understand the phrase to refer to obedience to the Mosaic law in general.

79 tn Grk “is.”



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