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Romans 2:17-29

Context
The Condemnation of the Jew

2:17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law 1  and boast of your relationship to God 2  2:18 and know his will 3  and approve the superior things because you receive instruction from the law, 4  2:19 and if you are convinced 5  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 6  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 7  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.” 8 

2:25 For circumcision 9  has its value if you practice the law, but 10  if you break the law, 11  your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 2:26 Therefore if the uncircumcised man obeys 12  the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 2:27 And will not the physically uncircumcised man 13  who keeps the law judge you who, despite 14  the written code 15  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 16  by the Spirit 17  and not by the written code. 18  This person’s 19  praise is not from people but from God.

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

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

3 tn Grk “the will.”

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

5 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.

6 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).

7 tn Or “detest.”

8 sn A quotation from Isa 52:5.

9 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).

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

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

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

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

14 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.

15 tn Grk “letter.”

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

17 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).

18 tn Grk “letter.”

19 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.



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