Ver. 1. Wherefore thou art inexcusable, &c. He seems to give a general admonition to every one, both Jews and Gentiles, not to blame, judge, or condemn others, when perhaps he, or those of his religion, may be guilty of the like sins. Let him rather call to mind the just judgment of God, which, they that are sinners, cannot escape. Let him also reflect, that if God hath hitherto deferred to punish him, it hath been through the riches and abundance of his goodness, patience, and long-forbearance, or longanimity: that he must take care not to harden his heart any longer, lest he heap up to himself a fatal treasure at the day of judgment, when God will render to every one according to his works, and not according to his faith only, says S. Chrys. hom. v. Wi.
Ver. 5. The apostle is evidently speaking to the converted Jews, and not to the Gentiles. For the Gentiles believed in certain judges in hell, who passed sentence on every one as soon as he departed out of life. This is what the learned call poetical theology, and considered as fabulous. But besides a particular judgment at the hour of death, the Hebrews believed in a general judgment of all men, or at least of all the just, in the valley of Jehosaphat; as may be seen in the prophets, and the books of Wisdom and Machabees. Calmet.
Ver. 9-10. Of the Jew first, and also of the Greek. That is, God, as a just judge, will not have any respect to their persons, but punish or reward both Jews and Gentiles, according to their good or bad works. And salvation is now offered to both. Wi.
Ver. 12. Whosoever have sinned without the law. That is, without the written law of Moses, against their reason and conscience, &c. And also those who being Jews, have sinned under this written law, shall be judged, even with greater severity, for having transgressed against the known law. Wi.
Ver. 14-15. When the Gentiles . . . do by nature, or naturally, that is, without having received any written law, these men are a law to themselves, and have it written in their hearts, as to the existence of a God, and their reason tells them, that many sins are unlawful: they may also do some actions that are morally good, as by giving alms to relieve the poor, honouring their parents, &c. not that these actions, morally good, will suffice for their justification of themselves, or make them deserve a supernatural reward in the kingdom of heaven; but God, out of his infinite mercy, will give them some supernatural graces, by which they come to know, and believe, that he will reward their souls for eternity. Such, says S. Chrys. were the dispositions of Melchisedech, Job, Cornelius the Centurion, &c. Wi.
Ver. 17. But if thou art called a Jew. In the common Greek copies, we read, behold, thou art a Jew, &c. S. Paul here turns his discourse particularly to the Jews, who valued themselves so much upon their law, their temple, and their ceremonies; and therefore are said to rest on the law, as if it were enough to be by profession a Jew. Wi.
--- But many manuscripts, Clement Alexand. Origen, Ambrose, Sedul. Theophyl. &c. read it as in the Vulgate, ei su IoudaioV. Calmet.
Ver. 21. Thou, therefore, that teachest another, teachest not thyself, &c. S. Chrys. (hom. vi.) takes these sentences as so many interrogations; dost thou teach thyself? dost thou not steal? dost thou not commit adultery? &c. Wi.
Ver. 22. Idols, &c. The Jews, at the time of our Saviour, were free from idolatry, to which their ancestors had been so prone for so long a time. But to this evil had succeeded another, scarcely less heinous, viz. sacrilege, and a profanation of holy things. The greater part of the high priests bought their office. The priests permitted in the temple itself a kind of traffic, which caused our Saviour to declare to them, that they had made the house of his Father a den of thieves. And to favour their own avarice, they taught that it was lawful to defraud their creditors, and refuse to their parents the necessary succour, in the case of vows to give to the temple. S. Paul does not here reproach them for the profanations of the temple which they committed in the last siege of Jerusalem, for it had not then taken place; but he knew full will the dispositions of their hearts, and the little regard they had for the most sacred things. Calmet.
Ver. 24. The apostle here only repeats the reproaches which the prophets had repeated so often before, that the Jews, by the contrast between their lives and the sanctity of their religion, had been the cause of that religion and worship being the ridicule and laughing-stock of the Gentile world. Calmet.
--- A reproach this, which also bears very heavy upon many Christians of the present day; who by their profession believe the truth of the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic faith, and by their conduct belie the same, leading lives unworthy of pagans. A.
Ver. 25. Circumcision profiteth indeed, inasmuch as it was ordained by Almighty God, as were also the precepts of the law, which were to be observed before the publishing of the new law of Christ. See Gal. v. 6. But it was never profitable to the transgressors of the law. Nay, the uncircumcised Gentiles, who have complied with those natural precepts, which are also commanded by the law of Moses, shall judge and condemn those, who received the written law, and at the same time were transgressors of it. Wi.
Ver. 26. Shall not his uncircumcision (Lit. his præputium) be reputed for circumcision? Nonne præputium illius in circumcisionem reputabitur? h peritomh sou akrobustia gegonen. A translation may adhere to the letter too much; this seems literal enough. Wi.
Ver. 28. Nor is that circumcision, which is outwardly in the flesh. S. Paul distinguisheth two sorts of circumcision; that which is made in the flesh, according to the letter of the law, which is an outward circumcision; and a more necessary circumcision of the heart, and of the spirit, by which a man's interior is reformed, and by which his vices and disorders are cut off. The first circumcision would never avail a man any thing without the second. Wi.