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St. Paul, having leveled his charges against his Jewish opponent, now begins to speak on his opponent's behalf, asking a series of rhetorical questions.  He anticipates his interlocutor's objections, and then answers them.
Because he has just finished showing, at the end of chapter 2, that Baptism is the new rite of initiation which replaces circumcision, and that the Jews are in much the same position as the Gentiles with regard to their guilt, he begins by anticipating the interlocutor's objection (I have italicized those portions in the text, to make it clear where St. Paul is speaking with the voice of his opponent):
Quote:1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews are entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though every man be false, as it is written, "That thou mayest be justified in thy words, and prevail when thou art judged."
St. Paul does not deny that the Jews occupy a privileged position - it was a great privilege, for example, to have been "entrusted with the oracles of God" - the Law given at Sinai.  This Law showed the Jews explicitly how to live in right relationship with God, how to worship Him in the way He desired, etc.  But once again, the question is one of obedience: what good is this Law if it is not going to be obeyed?  What good is a Divinely-inspired liturgy, if the worshipers themselves are merely going through the routine, mouthing the words, never letting them penetrate the heart?
"But," says the opponent, "does the infidelity of the Jews mean that God will no longer be faithful Himself?"  This is an oblique reference to the covenant promise sworn on oath by God to Abraham, after the latter had made an offering of his only son - "in thy seed," that is, the Jews, "shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." (Gen. 22:18)
There is that little problem, isn't there?  God did, after all, bind Himself by oath to bless all the Gentile nations, not by any general means, but through the specific agency of the Jewish seed.  But how could God use Israel as an instrument of blessing when their apostasy had put them under a curse?  This is the great conundrum.
Nonetheless, St. Paul says the God will "be true though every man be false," and then he does a strange thing: he quotes from one of David's Psalms.  Not just any Davidic Psalm, either.  This is a quote from the Miserere, the great penitential Psalm penned by David after he had committed the grievous sin of adultery.  Therein lies a link to the previous chapter, because St. Paul had just accused the Jews of the same: "You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery?"
David, then, is used by St. Paul as a kind of personification of Israel by quoting from this great penitential Psalm.  St. Paul quotes just a small portion of the passage, but certainly intends to evoke in his Jewish readers' minds the entire context:
Quote:Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy. And according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my iniquity. Wash me yet more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my iniquity, and my sin is always before me. To thee only have I sinned, and have done evil before thee: that thou mayest be justified in thy words, and mayest overcome when thou art judged ... For behold thou hast loved truth: the uncertain and hidden things of thy wisdom thou hast made manifest to me. (Ps. 50:3-8 DR, 51:1-6)
This should be, intimates St. Paul, the prayer of the Jew at this stage of history: have mercy on us, O God, and blot out our iniquities; for we know (and confess) our iniquities, and our sins are always before us!  To simply drop the phrase, "that thou mayest be justified in thy words, and prevail when thou art judged," as St. Paul has done, is to evoke the humility and repentance of David, to say nothing of his confession that he had indeed sinned, and deserved judgment.  Were the Jews willing to admit that they had been faithless, and that God would be just in condemning them?
The latter part of the Psalm also echoes what St. Paul has just said - to the Jews were entrusted the oracles of God, and in like manner David had said, "the hidden things of thy wisdom thou hast made manifest to me."
The Psalm continues, in remarkable words - remarkable for the fact that, again, they could easily be spoken verbatim on the lips of the Jews in St. Paul's day:  "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and strengthen me with a perfect spirit."  Then, and only then, "I will teach the unjust thy ways: and the wicked shall be converted to thee." 
Israel was intended to be God's channel of Divine blessing to "the unjust" and "wicked" Gentiles, to convert the nations to Him.  But this they could not do, until the "joy of Thy salvation" was restored to them.
The last verses of the Psalm are perhaps the most poignant, when imported from David's time into St. Paul's time, and given this nationalist coloring: "If thou hadst desired sacrifice, I would indeed have given it: with burnt offerings thou wilt not be delighted. A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Deal favourably, O Lord, in thy good will with Sion; that the walls of Jerusalem may be built up. Then shalt thou accept the sacrifice of justice, oblations and whole burnt offerings: then shall they lay calves upon thy altar."
This curse on Jerusalem, the desolate place, which Daniel prayed would be lifted during the Bablyonian exile, still hung over the people.  David saw clearly the order of events which must take place: repentance, an afflicted spirit, a contrite and humble heart must come first, and then God would "deal favourably ... with Sion," and accept their sacrifices again.
St. Paul effectively levels all of this against his Jewish opponent: what if some Jews were faithless?  Does it mean that God will be faithless as well?  No.  God will be faithful, but His faithfulness will take a different shape depending on Israel's disposition.  To take a phrase from Dom Prosper Gueranger, and give it a slightly different twist, "He must triumph; if it be not by mercy, it will be by justice." (The Liturgical Year, Vol. V, "Monday, Second Week of Lent")  In the same sense, God will be faithful in the end - either faithful by a show of justice in condemning, or by a show of mercy in pardoning.
Quote:5 But if our wickedness serves to show the justice of God, what shall we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my falsehood God's truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not do evil that good may come? --as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.
Apparently, St. Paul's opponents had slandered him and accused him of teaching that evil may be permitted if good would result - something that Catholic moral theology has always condemned, and so also St. Paul condemns it here.
The troubling question in verse 5 is raised here in anticipation of Romans 9, where St. Paul will deal more fully with the perplexing issue: if Man's wickedness shows God's righteousness, isn't this a good thing?  Isn't it a good thing to bring God's goodness and justice into sharper focus? Then isn't it unjust of God to punish the wicked, since all they were doing was highlighting His righteousness?  This is what leads St. Paul to the rhetorical question, "why not do evil that good" - i.e., showing forth God's righteousness - "may come?"
He continues:
Quote:9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all; for I have already charged that all men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, 10 as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands, no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one." 13 "Their throat is an open grave, they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." 14 "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." 15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood, 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they do not know." 18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes."
Note well the question and the answer: are the Jews any better off, ultimately, than the Gentiles, in terms of the Last Judgment?  No - all will be judged by the same standard of God's law.  The Jews may have had an advantage, in that they had His law clearly revealed to them, which would (it hardly needs to be said) make it easier for them to obey it than the Gentiles, who didn't even know what that law contained; but the standard of judgment is the same for all - the doers of the law will be justified (as he said in chapter 2), but "for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury," and "there will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek." (Rom. 2:8-9)  Again, the Protestant version of the gospel is reduced to ridiculousness at this point.
St. Paul's thesis statement, which he then endeavors to prove by a chain of Old Testament quotations, is this (we will quote his own words): all men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin.  It is that simple.  Did the Jews believe that the Gentiles (the "Greeks") were under the power of sin?  Of course.  But did they believe that they themselves were under the power of sin?  A quick review of the ninth chapter of St. John's Gospel may refresh our memories on this point.
Quote:Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind." Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, "Are we also blind?" Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt remains." (John 9:39-41)
The Jews did not necessarily believe they were under the power of sin; they were more inclined to believe they were God's darlings.  They were the "clean," set apart from the "unclean" Gentiles.  They failed to realize that God set them apart from the Gentiles because of their weak constitution, and their proclivity towards being badly influenced by the nations.  Instead of recognizing this and being ashamed, they mistook it for something else - and became prideful instead. 
Moses saw this misplaced pride and misunderstanding of their own position in Israel's collective mind before they even came into the Promised Land, and he warned them of it:
Quote:Know therefore this day that he who goes over before you as a devouring fire is the LORD your God; he will destroy [the current inhabitants of the land] and subdue them before you; so you shall drive them out, and make them perish quickly, as the LORD has promised you.
Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, 'It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land'; whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you.
Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land; but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
Know therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness; for you are a stubborn people. (Dt. 9:3-6)
Still, Israel persisted in their erroneous belief that they had been so treated by God because of something good in them.  Now, centuries and centuries later, St. Paul must endeavor to disabuse them of this notion, and he does so by stringing together several Old Testament quotations.
Before we consider what is the true meaning of these quotations, and why they are employed by St. Paul in this manner, we should look at how these verses are misinterpreted and deployed by Protestants.
Quote:Third, the Bible teaches that justification means righteousness is imputed, not infused. Righteousness is "reckoned," or credited to the account of those who believe (Rom. 4:3-25). They stand justified before God not because of their own righteousness (Rom. 3:10), but because of a perfect righteousness outside themselves that is reckoned to them by faith (Phil. 3:9). (John MacArthur, "Is Roman Catholicism Biblical?",
According to the express teaching of Holy Scripture no man after the Fall can be justified and saved by the deeds of the Law, or through good works ... All who endeavor to acquire salvation by the works of the Law shall not be justified, but damned ... The reason for this is that no man after the Fall can fulfil the divine Law or satisfy the claims of divine justice. Rom. 3,10: "There is none righteous, no, not one" ... (John T. Mueller, "The Meaning of Grace", )
Hunt wrongly assumes that the free offer of the gospel to all requires that those to whom it is offered are able to respond. But there are many Scriptures that directly state the inability of the sinner to respond to spiritual truth (John 6:44, 65; 8:43; Rom. 3:10-18; 8:6-8; 1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:1-3; etc.). (Pastor Steven J. Cole, "What Theology is This?",
This verse is often wrongly interpreted to mean that literally there is no one on the earth that God considers to be righteous.  That is not St. Paul's intention at all.  One very reliable key to interpreting St. Paul is to ask, if our interpretation of his meaning is correct, could his Jewish opponent have easily refuted him using the Scriptures?  If so, then we have probably misunderstood St. Paul, for he was a master student of the Old Testament, trained by one of the greatest rabbis in Jewish history (Gamaliel).
If indeed St. Paul were attempting to prove that there is literally no man on earth who is righteous, he could be easily refuted by appealing to Job:
Quote:There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God, and turned away from evil.
And the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?" (Job 1:1, 8)
Here we have God's own testimony that there is at least one man whom He considered righteous.  There are more.  Consider Noah:
Quote:Then the LORD said to Noah, "Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation." (Gen. 7:1)
Once again, we have God's own word for it that He Himself found Noah to be righteous.
Turning to the New Testament, we read this about Ss. Elizabeth and Zechariah (Zachary):
Quote:In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah ... and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. (Luke 1:5-6)
If we look at the actual context of the passage that St. Paul quotes, we will find even there, right in the very chapter from which he quotes, that the Protestant understanding is false:
Quote:1 The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none that does good. 2 The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God. 3 They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, no, not one.
4 Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon the LORD? 5 There they shall be in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. 6 You would confound the plans of the poor, but the LORD is his refuge. 7 O that deliverance for Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, Israel shall be glad. (Ps. 14:1-7, 13:1-7 DR)
If indeed there is literally no one who is righteous, no one who does good, then who is this "generation of the righteous" whom the Psalmist says the Lord is with?
No, this cannot be St. Paul's meaning.  But we do not have to look very far to understand St. Paul's meaning, because he states it himself clearly before he even begins quoting the Psalm - he is out to prove that both the Jews and the Gentiles are under the power of sin.  Since the Jews already believed that the Gentiles were sinners, we may narrow the scope even further and say that St. Paul is out to prove, to the Jews, that the Jews themselves were unrighteous.
This is why he reaches for Psalm 14.  David did not pen this Psalm as an indictment of the Gentiles!  On the contrary, David's worst enemies during his lifetime were members of the house of Israel: Saul, his own son Absolom, and so on.
Next, St. Paul quotes from Psalm 5:9: "For there is no truth in their mouth; their heart is destruction, their throat is an open sepulchre, they flatter with their tongue."  Again, who is David complaining about?  The previous verse tells us who "they" are: "my enemies."
In Psalm 140:3, David complains again about those who "make their tongue sharp as a serpent's, and under their lips is the poison of vipers," again referring to "violent men, who have planned to trip up my feet" and "arrogant men" who "have hidden a trap for me."
St. Paul quotes also from Isaiah: "Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, desolation and destruction are in their highways."  Here, however, we find something most interesting.  In this prophetic text, in its full context, we find elements of several of the Psalms St. Paul has just quoted, and this prophetic text is most decidedly a condemnation of Israel!  After declaring to the Jews, "your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you so that he does not hear," Isaiah goes on to roundly condemn Israel - note the similarities between the Isaian text and the Psalms already quoted:
Quote:The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God. They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, no, not one. (Ps. 14:2-3)
Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth has fallen in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. (Is. 59:14-15)
For there is no truth in their mouth; their heart is destruction, their throat is an open sepulchre, they flatter with their tongue. (Ps. 5:9)
For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue mutters wickedness. (Is. 59:3)
They make their tongue sharp as a serpent's, and under their lips is the poison of vipers. (Ps. 140:3)
They hatch adders' eggs, they weave the spider's web; he who eats their eggs dies, and from one which is crushed a viper is hatched. (Is. 59:5)
His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue are mischief and iniquity. (Ps. 10:7)
For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities: transgressing, and denying the LORD, and turning away from following our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words. (Is. 59:12-13)
Finally, the catena ends with these words from Isaiah 59:
Quote:Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, desolation and destruction are in their highways. The way of peace they know not, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked, no one who goes in them knows peace. (Is. 59:7-8)
St. Paul has scored a direct hit.  With his hard-hitting recitation of Old Testament passages, he has reminded the Jews that they, too, are under the power of sin.  Having just quoted from the Law, he continues:
Quote:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.
Who are "those who are under the law?"  That is the privileged position of the Jews.  And thus, since they are "those who are under the law," then everything St. Paul has cited applies to them, because "whatever the law says" - everything he just quoted - "speaks to those who are under the law."
And now we come to the most controversial passages in the book:
Quote:20 For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; 26 it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.
For the first time in the epistle, St. Paul uses a key phrase: "works of the law."  These, he says, cannot justify a man, "for no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law."  What does he set up in contrast to "works of the law"?  "The righteousness of God" which comes "through faith in Jesus Christ."  No man can be justified by "works of the law," but rather, God "justifies him who has faith in Jesus."
So the ringing question is this: what are these "works of the law" which play no part in our justification?
We must read on:
Quote:27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On the principle of works? No, but on the principle of faith. 28 For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
The picture comes into slightly clearer focus here, as St. Paul elaborates: "works of the law," whatever they are, are associated also with "boasting."  They must also draw a distinction between Jews and Gentiles, because after saying that man is not justified by these "works of the law," St. Paul asks the rhetorical question, "Or is God the God of Jews only?  Is he not the God of Gentiles also?"
He then moves back to pinpoint one particular Jewish distinctive: God "will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith."
These elements all seem to hang together: "works of the law," boasting, the distinction between Jews and Gentiles, and circumcision.
So what are the "works of the law?"  There are, roughly, three views.
Luther's view was that "works of the law" referred to any good works a man could perform, period.  In his "Preface to the Book of Romans," he said (emphasis added):
Quote:The works of the law are every thing that a person does or can do of his own free will and by his own powers to obey the law. But because in doing such works the heart abhors the law and yet is forced to obey it, the works are a total loss and are completely useless ... you can see that the schoolmasters and sophists are seducers when they teach that you can prepare yourself for grace by means of works ... faith alone makes someone just and fulfills the law; faith it is that brings the Holy Spirit through the merits of Christ. The Spirit, in turn, renders the heart glad and free, as the law demands. Then good works proceed from faith itself.
St. Augustine's view was that "works of the law" referred to the entirety of the Mosaic Law: the Ten Commandments, the ceremonial laws, the dietary laws, etc.
Quote:Although, therefore, the apostle seems to reprove and correct those who were being persuaded to be circumcised, in such terms as to designate by the word "law" circumcision itself and other similar legal observances ... he at the same time, nevertheless, would have it to be clearly understood that the law, by which he says no man is justified, lies not merely in those sacramental institutions which contained promissory figures, but also in those works by which whosoever has done them lives holily, and amongst which occurs this prohibition: "Thou shalt not covet." [i.e., the Ten Commandments]
A third view is somewhat more complex.  To the Jews, salvation was to be had by means of Judaism itself - by receiving circumcision, which initiated a man into the Jewish religion, and then by adherence to the Law, that is, the Ten Commandments, the dietary laws, the ceremonial laws, the laws of separation from the Gentiles, etc.
But the current form of this Israelite Law was what had been imposed upon Israel on the plains of Moab, after their idolatry in worshiping Ba'al of Peor (Numbers 25), and before they came into the Promised Land.  This "second law" is known best by its Greek name: deuteros nomos, the "second law," or simply, "Deuteronomy."
The Deuteronomic Law was a covenant loaded with curses, however, and it was these curses under which Israel had fallen - especially the curse of exile.
Thus, any convert to the Jewish religion in the time of St. Paul would have been uniting himself to a covenant now-violated, and currently under a curse.  Circumcision, which brought a man into the Jewish religion, was then like a doorway into a world of guaranteed curses and death.
Traces of this understanding can be found in the Didascalia Apostolorum ("The Teaching of the Apostles"); St. Jerome was likewise of the opinion that the "works of the law" referred to the ceremonial laws, and it bears repeating that these laws were - in St. Paul's day - under the cursed Deuteronomic legislation.
Of course, St. Jerome's opinion and St. Augustine's opinion can be reconciled; a man is not justified initially by observing the moral law spelled out in the Ten Commandments - he is justified by the Sacrament of Baptism.  Once justified, however, his justification can be increased by obedience to the moral law (which is why all of our catechisms take the time to explain the Ten Commandments), and his final justification will indeed be based upon his deeds, as St. Paul already declared in Romans 2.
But in the question of what St. Paul is immediately referring to, in this historical context, when he says "works of the law," it seems to make the most sense that he is referring to the peculiarly Jewish laws - that is, the ceremonial, dietary, purity, and sacrificial laws, etc.
This is why he emphasizes immediately that God is the God of both Jews and Gentiles - even though the Gentiles did not have the Jewish ceremonial law.  It could be said that they did not have the Ten Commandments either, but St. Paul seems to indicate that they did have the moral law written on their hearts (see Rom. 2:15), even if it was not given to them explicitly and chiseled on stone tablets.
This is also why he shifts the argument ever-so slightly to a question of circumcision versus non-circumcision - God "will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith."
It is this slight shift in focus that sets him up to mount his most devastating argument, which follows next in chapter 4.

This is great. It is exactly what I was looking for- meaning as it pertains to the audience.
 I hope I am not jumping the gun, but here is a question. In the disp/zion section we read about the various fundie sects and their quest to restore Israel to the Jews, [Image: blah.gif] . They invariably use Romans as their excuse. I do not see how St. Paul implies the following, which is a statement that a pentecostal woman made about the end times ala Hagee:
Quote: The Bible says when the full number of Gentiles is saved then the Jews{the remenant} will understand and come to know Christ as the one they have rejected.This is according to Paul Romans chapters 9,10,11. 
Am I missing something?
You aren't missing anything.  There is nothing in Romans 9-11 that says anything about the Jews getting their land back.  All it says is that they will one day be grafted back onto Christ (i.e., come into the Church) after the "full number" of Gentiles has come in.
Hey there, Lumen!
I was off looking for more info on Romans and found a great article on your website. :)
I don't think I can link the specific article Rescuing Romans from the Reformers, but it is very good. I imagine that you had quite a ride converting to Traditional Catholicism from Calvinism!
I read the essay you wrote on chapter 4, so I think I will try reading Romans 4 side by side with your commentary. Thanks.
AdoramusTeChriste Wrote:I don't think I can link the specific article Rescuing Romans from the Reformers, but it is very good.

Sure you can ... I always put a note at the top of every article that says, "Link this article by referencing this address," and then it gives the full URL.
For the article you mentioned, it's
Is that your website Lumen looks good well done mate :thumb: