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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Romans 3



Other Authors
Verse 1

What advantage then hath the Jew? (τι ουν το περισσον του Ιουδαιουti oun to perisson tou Ioudaiou̇). Literally, “What then is the overplus of the Jew?” What does the Jew have over and above the Gentile? It is a pertinent question after the stinging indictment of the Jew in chapter 2.

The profit (η ωπελιαhē ōphelia). The help. Old word, only here in N.T. See Mark 8:36 for ωπελειōphelei the verb to profit.

Verse 2

Much every way (πολυ κατα πανταpolu kata panta). ΠολυPolu points back to το περισσονto perisson So it means the overplus of the Jew is much from every angle.

First of all (πρωτον μενprōton men). As in Romans 1:8; 1 Corinthians 11:18 Paul does not add to his “first.” He singles out one privilege of the many possessed by the Jew.

They were intrusted with (επιστευτησανepisteuthēsan). First aorist passive indicative of πιστευωpisteuō to intrust, with accusative of the thing and dative of the person in the active. In the passive as here the accusative of the thing is retained as in 1 Thessalonians 2:4.

The oracles of God (τα λογια του τεουta logia tou theou). In the accusative case, therefore, the object of επιστευτησανepisteuthēsan ΛογιονLogion is probably a diminutive of λογοςlogos word, though the adjective λογιοςlogios also occurs (Acts 18:24). The word was early used for “oracles” from Delphi and is common in the lxx for the oracles of the Lord. But from Philo on it was used of any sacred writing including narrative. It occurs four times in the N.T. (Acts 7:38, which see; Romans 3:2; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 4:11). It is possible that here and in Acts 7:38 the idea may include all the Old Testament, though the commands and promises of God may be all.

Verse 3

For what if? (τι γαρ ειti gar ei̇). But Westcott and Hort print it, Τι γαρ ειTimothy gaṙ ei See note on Philemon 1:18 for this exclamatory use of τι γαρti gar (for how? How stands the case?).

Some were without faith (ηπιστησανēpistēsan). First aorist active indicative of απιστεωapisteō old verb, to disbelieve. This is the common N.T. meaning (Luke 24:11, Luke 24:41; Acts 28:24; Romans 4:20). Some of them “disbelieved,” these “depositaries and guardians of revelation” (Denney). But the word also means to be unfaithful to one‘s trust and Lightfoot argues for that idea here and in 2 Timothy 2:13. The Revised Version renders it “faithless” there. Either makes sense here and both ideas are true of some of the Jews, especially concerning the Messianic promises and Jesus.

The faithfulness of God (την πιστιν του τεουtēn pistin tou theou). Undoubtedly πιστιςpistis has this sense here and not “faith.” God has been faithful (2 Timothy 2:13) whether the Jews (some of them) were simply disbelievers or untrue to their trust. Paul can use the words in two senses in Romans 3:3, but there is no real objection to taking ηπιστησαν απιστιαν πιστινēpistēsanapistianpistin all to refer to faithfulness rather than just faith.

Verse 4

Let God be found true (γινεστω ο τεος αλητηςginesthō ho theos alēthēs). “Let God continue to be true” (present middle imperative).

But every man a liar (πας δε αντρωπος πσευστηςpās de anthrōpos pseustēs). The contrast in δεde really means, “though every man be found a liar.” Cf. Psalm 116:12.

As it is written (κατως γεγραπταιkathōs gegraptai). Psalm 51:6.

That thou mightest be justified (οπως αν δικαιωτηιςhopōs an dikaiōthēis). οπωςHopōs rather than the common ιναhina for purpose and ανan with the first aorist passive subjunctive of δικαιοωdikaioō Used of God this verb here has to mean “declared righteous,” not “made righteous.”

Mightest prevail (νικησειςnikēseis). Future active indicative with οπωςhopōs of νικαωnikaō to win a victory, though B L have νικησηιςnikēsēis (first aorist active subjunctive, the usual construction).

When thou comest into judgement (εν τωι κρινεσται σεen tōi krinesthai se). “In the being judged as to thee” (present passive infinitive or, if taken as middle, “in the entering upon trial as to thee”). Common construction in the lxx from the Hebrew infinitive construct.

Verse 5

What shall we say? (τι ερουμενti eroumeṅ). Rhetorical question, common with Paul as he surveys the argument.

Commendeth (συνιστησινsunistēsin). This common verb συνιστημιsunistēmi to send together, occurs in the N.T. in two senses, either to introduce, to commend (2 Corinthians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 4:2) or to prove, to establish (2 Corinthians 7:11; Galatians 2:18; Romans 5:8). Either makes good sense here.

Who visiteth the wrath (ο επιπερων την οργηνho epipherōn tēn orgēn). “Who brings on the wrath,” “the inflicter of the anger” (Vaughan).

I speak as a man (κατα αντρωπονkata anthrōpon). See note on Galatians 3:15 for same phrase. As if to say, “pardon me for this line of argument.” Tholuck says that the rabbis often used κατα αντρωπονkata anthrōpon and τι ερουμενti eroumen Paul had not forgotten his rabbinical training.

Verse 6

For then how (επει πωςepei pōs). There is a suppressed condition between επειepei and πωςpōs an idiom occurring several times in the N.T. (1 Corinthians 15:29; Romans 11:6, Romans 11:22). “Since, if that were true, how.”

Verse 7

Through my lie (εν τωι εμωι πσευσματιen tōi emōi pseusmati). ] Old word from πσευδομαιpseudomai to lie, only here in N.T. Paul returns to the imaginary objection in Romans 3:5. The MSS. differ sharply here between ει δεei de (but if) and ει γαρei gar (for if). Paul “uses the first person from motives of delicacy” (Sanday and Headlam) in this supposable case for argument‘s sake as in 1 Corinthians 4:6. So here he “transfers by a fiction” (Field) to himself the objection.

Verse 8

And why not (και μηkai mē). We have a tangled sentence which can be cleared up in two ways. One is (Lightfoot) to supply γενηταιgenētai after μηmē and repeat τιti (και τι μη γενηταιkai ti mē genētai deliberative subjunctive in a question): And why should it not happen? The other way (Sanday and Headlam) is to take μηmē with ποιησωμενpoiēsōmen and make a long parenthesis of all in between. Even so it is confusing because οτιhoti also (recitative οτιhoti) comes just before ποιησωμενpoiēsōmen The parenthesis is necessary anyhow, for there are two lines of thought, one the excuse brought forward by the unbeliever, the other the accusation that Paul affirms that very excuse that we may do evil that good may come. Note the double indirect assertion (the accusative and the infinitive ημας λεγεινhēmās legein after πασινphasin and then the direct quotation with recitative οτιhoti after λεγεινlegein a direct quotation dependent on the infinitive in indirect quotation.

Let us do evil that good may come (ποιησωμεν τα κακα ινα ελτηι τα αγαταpoiēsōmen ta kaka hina elthēi ta agatha). The volitive aorist subjunctive (ποιησωμενpoiēsōmen) and the clause of purpose (ιναhina and the aorist subjunctive ελτηιelthēi). It sounds almost uncanny to find this maxim of the Jesuits attributed to Paul in the first century by Jews. It was undoubtedly the accusation of Antinomianism because Paul preached justification by faith and not by works.

Verse 9

What then? (τι ουνti ouṅ). Paul‘s frequent query, to be taken with Romans 3:1, Romans 3:2.

Are we in worse case than they? (προεχομεταproechomethȧ). The American Revisers render it: “Are we in better case than they?” There is still no fresh light on this difficult and common word though it occurs alone in the N.T. In the active it means to have before, to excel. But here it is either middle or passive. Thayer takes it to be middle and to mean to excel to one‘s advantage and argues that the context demands this. But no example of the middle in this sense has been found. If it is taken as passive, Lightfoot takes it to mean, “Are we excelled” and finds that sense in Plutarch. Vaughan takes it as passive but meaning, “Are we preferred?” This suits the context, but no other example has been found. So the point remains unsettled. The papyri throw no light on it.

No, in no wise (ου παντωςou pantōs). “Not at all.” See note on 1 Corinthians 5:10.

We before laid to the charge (προηιτιασαμεταproēitiasametha). First aorist middle indicative of προαιτιαομαιproaitiaomai to make a prior accusation, a word not yet found anywhere else. Paul refers to Romans 1:18-32 for the Greeks and 2:1-29 for the Jews. The infinitive ειναιeinai with the accusative πανταςpantas is in indirect discourse.

Under sin (υπο αμαρτιανhupo hamartian). See note on Galatians 3:22; Romans 7:14.

Verse 10

As it is written (κατως γεγραπται οτιkathōs gegraptai hoti). Usual formula of quotation as in Romans 3:4 with recitative οτιhoti added as in Romans 3:8. Paul here uses a catena or chain of quotations to prove his point in Romans 3:9 that Jews are in no better fix than the Greeks for all are under sin. Dr. J. Rendel Harris has shown that the Jews and early Christians had Testimonia (quotations from the Old Testament) strung together for certain purposes as proof-texts. Paul may have used one of them or he may have put these passages together himself. Romans 3:10-12 come from Psalm 14:1-3; first half of Romans 3:13 as far as εδολιουσανedoliousan from Psalms 4:9, the second half from Psalm 140:3; Romans 3:14 from Psalm 10:7; Romans 3:15-17 from an abridgment of Isaiah 59:7.; Romans 3:18 from Psalm 35:1. Paul has given compounded quotations elsewhere (2 Corinthians 6:16; Romans 9:25.,27f; Romans 11:26.,34f.; Romans 12:19.). Curiously enough this compounded quotation was imported bodily into the text (lxx) of Psalms 14 after Romans 3:4 in Aleph B, etc.

There is none righteous, no, not one (ουκ εστιν δικαιος ουδε ειςouk estin dikaios oude heis). “There is not a righteous man, not even one.” This sentence is like a motto for all the rest, a summary for what follows.

Verse 11

That understandeth (συνιωνsuniōn). Present active participle of συνιωsuniō late omega form of μι̇mi verb συνιημιsuniēmi to send together, to grasp, to comprehend. Some MSS. have the article οho before it as before εκζητωνekzētōn (seeking out).

Verse 12

They are together become unprofitable (αμα ηχρεωτησανhama ēchreōthēsan). First aorist passive indicative of αχρεοωachreoō Late word in Polybius and Cilician inscription of first century a.d. Some MSS. read ηχρειωτησανēchreiōthēsan from αχρειοςachreios useless (αa privative and χρειοςchreios useful) as in Luke 17:10; Matthew 25:30, but Westcott and Hort print as above from the rarer spelling αχρεοςachreos Only here in N.T. The Hebrew word means to go bad, become sour like milk (Lightfoot).

No, not so much as one (ουκ εστιν εως ενοςouk estin heōs henos). “There is not up to one.”

Verse 13

Throat (λαρυγχlarugx). Old word, larynx.

Open sepulchre (ταπος ανεωιγμενοςtaphos aneōigmenos). Perfect passive participle of ανοιγωanoigō “an opened grave.” Their mouth (words) like the odour of a newly opened grave. “Some portions of Greek and Roman literature stink like a newly opened grave” (Shedd).

They have used deceit (εδολιουσανedoliousan). Imperfect (not perfect or aorist as the English implies) active of δολιοωdolioō only in lxx and here in the N.T. from the common adjective δολιοςdolios deceitful (2 Corinthians 11:13). The regular form would be εδολιουνedolioun The οσαν̇osan ending for third plural in imperfect and aorist was once thought to be purely Alexandrian because so common in the lxx, but it is common in the Boeotian and Aeolic dialects and occurs in ειχοσανeichosan in the N.T. (John 15:22, John 15:24). “They smoothed their tongues” in the Hebrew.

Poison (ιοςios). Old word both for rust (James 5:3) and poison (James 3:8).

Of asps (ασπιδωνaspidōn). Common word for round bowl, shield, then the Egyptian cobra (a deadly serpent). Often in lxx. Only here in the N.T. The poison of the asp lies in a bag under the lips (χειληcheilē), often in lxx, only here in N.T. Genitive case after γεμειgemei (is full).

Verse 15

To shed (εκχεαιekcheai). First aorist active infinitive of εκχεωekcheō to pour out, old verb with aorist active εχεχεαexechea f0).

Verse 16

Destruction (συντριμμαsuntrimma). Rare word from συντριβωsuntribō to rub together, to crush. In Leviticus 21:19 for fracture and so in papyri. Only here in N.T.

Misery (ταλαιπωριαtalaipōria). Common word from ταλαιπωροςtalaipōros (Romans 7:24), only here in the N.T.

Verse 17

The way of peace (οδον ειρηνηςhodon eirēnēs). Wherever they go they leave a trail of woe and destruction (Denney).

Verse 18

Before (απεναντιapenanti). Late double compound (απο εν αντιapoenanti) adverbial preposition in lxx and Polybius, papyri and inscriptions. With genitive as here.

Verse 19

That every mouth may be stopped (ινα παν στομα πραγηιhina pān stoma phragēi). Purpose clause with ιναhina and second aorist passive subjunctive of πρασσωphrassō old verb to fence in, to block up. See note on 2 Corinthians 11:10. Stopping mouths is a difficult business. See note on Titus 1:11 where Paul uses επιστομιζεινepistomizein (to stop up the mouth) for the same idea. Paul seems here to be speaking directly to Jews (τοις εν τωι νομωιtois en tōi nomōi), the hardest to convince. With the previous proof on that point he covers the whole ground for he made the case against the Gentiles in Romans 1:18-32.

May be brought under the judgement of God (υποδικος γενηται τωι τεωιhupodikos genētai tōi theōi). “That all the world (Jew as well as Gentile) may become (γενηταιgenētai) answerable (υποδικοςhupodikos old forensic word, here only in N.T.) to God (dative case τωι τεωιtōi theōi).” Every one is “liable to God,” in God‘s court.

Verse 20

Because (διοτιdioti again, δια οτιdiaεχ εργων νομουhoti).

By the works of the law (επιγνωσις αμαρτιαςex ergōn nomou). “Out of works of law.” Mosaic law and any law as the source of being set right with God. Paul quotes Psalm 43:2 as he did in Galatians 2:16 to prove his point.

The knowledge of sin (epignōsis hamartias). The effect of law universally is rebellion to it (1 Corinthians 15:56). Paul has shown this carefully in Galatians 3:19-22. Cf. Hebrews 10:3. He has now proven the guilt of both Gentile and Jew.

Verse 21

But now apart from the law (νυνι δε χωρις νομουnuni de chōris nomou). He now (νυνιnuni emphatic logical transition) proceeds carefully in Romans 3:21-31 the nature of the God-kind of righteousness which stands manifested (δικαιοσυνη τεου πεπανερωταιdikaiosunē theou pephanerōtai perfect passive indicative of πανεροωphaneroō to make manifest), the necessity of which he has shown in 1:18-3:20. This God kind of righteousness is “apart from law” of any kind and all of grace (χαριτιchariti) as he will show in Romans 3:24. But it is not a new discovery on the part of Paul, but “witnessed by the law and the prophets” (μαρτυρουμενηmarturoumenē present passive participle, υπο του νομου και των προπητωνhupo tou nomou kai tōn prophētōn), made plain continuously by God himself.

Verse 22

Even (δεde). Not adversative here. It defines here.

Through faith in Jesus Christ (δια πιστεως Ιησου Χριστουdia pisteōs ̣Iēsoǔ Christou). Intermediate agency (διαdia) is faith and objective genitive, “in Jesus Christ,” not subjective “of Jesus Christ,” in spite of Haussleiter‘s contention for that idea. The objective nature of faith in Christ is shown in Galatians 2:16 by the addition εις Χριστον Ιησουν επιστευσαμενeis Christon Iēsoun episteusamen (we believed in Christ), by της εις Χριστον πιστεως υμωνtēs eis Christon pisteōs humōn (of your faith in Christ) in Colossians 2:5, by εν πιστει τηι εν Χριστωι Ιησουen pistei tēi en Christōi Iēsou (in faith that in Christ Jesus) in 1 Timothy 3:13, as well as here by the added words “unto all them that believe” (εις παντας τους πιστευονταςeis pantas tous pisteuontas) in Jesus, Paul means.

Distinction (διαστοληdiastolē). See note on 1 Corinthians 14:7 for the difference of sounds in musical instruments. Also in Romans 10:12. The Jew was first in privilege as in penalty (Romans 2:9.), but justification or setting right with God is offered to both on the same terms.

Verse 23

Sinned (ηρμαρτονhērmarton). Constative second aorist active indicative of αμαρτανωhamartanō as in Romans 5:12. This tense gathers up the whole race into one statement (a timeless aorist).

And fall short (και υστερουνταιkai husterountai). Present middle indicative of υστερεωhustereō to be υστεροςhusteros (comparative) too late, continued action, still fall short. It is followed by the ablative case as here, the case of separation.

Verse 24

Being justified (δικαιουμενοιdikaioumenoi). Present passive participle of δικαιοωdikaioō to set right, repeated action in each case, each being set right.

Freely (δωρεανdōrean). As in Galatians 2:21.

By his grace (τηι αυτου χαριτιtēi autou chariti). Instrumental case of this wonderful word χαριςcharis which so richly expresses Paul‘s idea of salvation as God‘s free gift.

Through the redemption (δια της απολυτρωσεωςdia tēs apolutrōseōs). A releasing by ransom (απο λυτρωσιςapoλυτροωlutrōsis from λυτρονlutroō and that from λυτρονlutron ransom). God did not set men right out of hand with nothing done about men‘s sins. We have the words of Jesus that he came to give his life a ransom (Λυτρονlutron) for many (Mark 10:45; Matthew 20:28). τηι εν Χριστωι ΙησουLutron is common in the papyri as the purchase-money in freeing slaves (Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, pp. 327f.).

That is in Christ Jesus (tēi en Christōi Iēsou). There can be no mistake about this redemption. It is like John 3:16.

Verse 25

Set forth (προετετοproetheto). Second aorist middle indicative. See note on Romans 1:13 for this word. Also in Ephesians 1:9, but nowhere else in N.T. God set before himself (purposed) and did it publicly before (προpro) the whole world.

A propitiation (ιλαστηριονhilastērion). The only other N.T. example of this word is in Hebrews 9:5 where we have the “cherubim overshadowing the mercy seat” (το ιλαστηριονto hilastērion). In Hebrews the adjective is used as a substantive or as “the propitiatory place” But that idea does not suit here. Deissmann (Bible Studies, pp. 124-35) has produced examples from inscriptions where it is used as an adjective and as meaning “a votive offering” or “propitiatory gift.” Hence he concludes about Romans 3:25: “The crucified Christ is the votive gift of the Divine Love for the salvation of men.” God gave his Son as the means of propitiation (1 John 2:2). ιλαστηριονHilastērion is an adjective (ιλαστηριοςhilastērios) from ιλασκομαιhilaskomai to make propitiation (Hebrews 2:17) and is kin in meaning to ιλασμοςhilasmos propitiation (1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10). There is no longer room for doubting its meaning in Romans 3:25.

Through faith, by his blood (δια πιστεως εν τωι αυτου αιματιdia pisteōs en tōi autou haimati). So probably, connecting εν τοι αιματιen toi haimati (in his blood) with προετετοproetheto

To show his righteousness (εις ενδειχιν της δικαιοσυνης αυτουeis endeixin tēs dikaiosunēs autou). See note on 2 Corinthians 8:24. “For showing of his righteousness,” the God-kind of righteousness. God could not let sin go as if a mere slip. God demanded the atonement and provided it.

Because of the passing over (δια την παρεσινdia tēn paresin). Late word from παριημιpariēmi to let go, to relax. In Dionysius Hal., Xenophon, papyri (Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 266) for remission of punishment, especially for debt, as distinct from απεσιςaphesis (remission).

Done aforetime (προγεγονοτωνprogegonotōn). Second perfect active genitive participle of προγινομαιproginomai The sins before the coming of Christ (Acts 14:16; Acts 17:30; Hebrews 9:15).

Forbearance (ανοχηιanochēi). Holding back of God as in Romans 2:4. In this sense Christ tasted death for every man (Hebrews 2:9).

Verse 26

For the shewing (προς την ενδειχινpros tēn endeixin). Repeats point of εις ενδειχινeis endeixin Romans 3:25 with προςpros instead of ειςeis

At this present season (εν τωι νυν καιρωιen tōi nun kairōi). “In the now crisis,” in contrast with “done aforetime.”

That he might himself be (εις το ειναι αυτονeis to einai auton). Purpose with ειςeis to and the infinitive ειναιeinai and the accusative of general reference.

Just and the justifier of (δικαιον και δικαιουνταdikaion kai dikaiounta). “This is the key phrase which establishes the connexion between the δικαιοσυνη τεουdikaiosunē theou and the δικαιοσυνη εκ πιστεωςdikaiosunē ek pisteōs ” (Sanday and Headlam). Nowhere has Paul put the problem of God more acutely or profoundly. To pronounce the unrighteous righteous is unjust by itself (Romans 4:5). God‘s mercy would not allow him to leave man to his fate. God‘s justice demanded some punishment for sin. The only possible way to save some was the propitiatory offering of Christ and the call for faith on man‘s part.

Verse 27

It is excluded (εχεκλειστηexekleisthē). First aorist (effective) passive indicative. “It is completely shut out.” Glorying is on man‘s part.

Nay; but by a law of faith (ουχι αλλα δια νομου πιστεωςouchiclass="translit"> alla dia nomou pisteōs). Strong negative, and note “law of faith,” by the principle of faith in harmony with God‘s love and grace.

Verse 28

We reckon therefore (λογιζομετα ουνlogizometha oun). Present middle indicative. Westcott and Hort read γαρgar instead of ουνoun “My fixed opinion” is. The accusative and infinitive construction occurs after λογιζομεταlogizometha here. On this verb λογιζομαιlogizomai see Romans 2:3; Romans 4:3.; Romans 8:18; Romans 14:14. Paul restates Romans 3:21.

Verse 29

Of Gentiles also (και ετνωνkai ethnōn). Jews overlooked it then and some Christians do now.

Verse 30

If so be that God is one (ειπερ εις ο τεοςeiper heis ho theos). Correct text rather than επειπερepeiper It means “if on the whole.” “By a species of rhetorical politeness it is used of that about which there is no doubt” (Thayer. Cf. 1 Corinthians 8:5; 1 Corinthians 15:15; Romans 8:9.

By faith (εκ πιστεωςek pisteōs). “Out of faith,” springing out of.

Through faith (δια της πιστεωςdia tēs pisteōs). “By means of the faith” (just mentioned). ΕκEk denotes source, διαdia intermediate agency or attendant circumstance.

Verse 31

Nay, we establish the law (αλλα νομον ιστανομενalla nomon histanomen). Present indicative active of late verb ιστανωhistanō from ιστημιhistēmi This Paul hinted at in Romans 3:21. How he will show in chapter 4 how Abraham himself is an example of faith and in his life illustrates the very point just made. Besides, apart from Christ and the help of the Holy Spirit no one can keep God‘s law. The Mosaic law is only workable by faith in Christ.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Romans 3:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

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