Romans Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern
1. From: Sha’ul, a slave of the Messiah Yeshua, an emissary because I was called and set apart for the Good News of God.
Here is an outline of the book of Romans, Sha'ul's consummate epitome of the Gospel and its consequences..
Theme: The Gospel brings salvation to Jews especially and also to Gentiles, and its benefits are acquired by trusting.
I. What the Gospel is: what God has done already and what He will yet do.
A. Everyone is guilty in God's sight.
v. 1:18-2:16. 1. Gentiles are guilty.
v. 2:17-3:20. 2. Jews are guilty/
B. The guilty will be regarded by God as forgiven and righteous if they trust in Yeshua's atoning sacrificial death.
C. Being united with the Messiah enables believers to lead increasingly righteous lives pleasing to God and to have eternal life.
D. Believers can trust God to keep his promises to them. The chief obstacle to such trust is God's apparent failure to keep his promises to the Jewish people, accompanied by Jewish unbelief. But God will keep his promises to the Jews as individuals; and as a nation, the Jewish people will accept Yeshua as the Messiah: thus "all Israel will be saved." See 9:1-11:36N for detailed outline.
II What believers should do because of what God has done. Ethical behavior and right heart attitudes.
A motif running through the entire book, perhaps even the point of the letter, is that, in contrast with the historical period covered by the Tanakh, when the Jews alone were God's chosen people, now, united with Yeshua the Messiah of Israel, believing Gentiles and Jews are fully equal members of God's people in respect to every element of salvation (see v. 16N).
I wish to call attention to a massive work in progress which I hope will soon be ready for publication: Joseph B. Shulam and Hilary Le Cornu, Л Jewish Commentary on the New Testament: Romans. For information write Netivyah, РОВ 8043, 91080 Jerusalem, Israel.
Sha'ul. "also known as Paul" (Ac I3:9&N), was a Messianic Jew who, as a slave (or: "servant") of the Messiah Yeshua (Mt 1:1N) and as an emissary (Mt 10:2-4N), called and set apart (Ac 9:3-19, 22:5-21; Ga 1:13-2:10), showed how Gentiles become part of God's people without having to become Jews through believing and obeying the Good News (or: "Gospel": see Mt 4:23N) of God — both from God and about God.
2. God promised this Good News in advance through his prophets in the Tanakh.
God promised this Good News in advance (see Ga 3:8&N). In his letter to the Romans Sha'ul is always showing how the great truths he is expounding are derived from God's prophets in the Tanakh (what Christians call the Old Testament). As Edith Schaeffer put it in a book title. "Christianity is Jewish."
3. It concerns his Son — he is descended from David physically;
4. he was powerfully demonstrated to be Son of God spiritually, set apart by his having been resurrected from the dead; he is Yeshua the Messiah, our Lord.
-4 His Son, i.e., the Son of God (on which see Mt 4:3N). The Greek text of v. 4 is difficult and can be rendered differently; but its form suggests that Sha'ul is quoting a hymn, a fact reflected in the JNT by the three parallel clauses describing Yeshua:
(1) He is descended from David, physically (literally, "of seed of David according to flesh"), through his mother Miryam (Lk 3:23-38&N). Her husband Yosef was also descended from King David (Mt 1:I-I6&N) but was not Yeshua's physical father; for Miryam was caused to give birth by God's Holy Spirit (Mt 1:18—2:12&NN; Lk 1:26-56&NN, 2:1-38&NN). While God is in one sense father to everyone, and in a more intimate sense to Ihe people of Israel (Exodus 4:22. Mt 2:15N), he is father in this unique sense only to Yeshua (8:3&N, Yn 1:18&N, MJ 5:7-10).
(2) He is Son of God spiritually. Yeshua is therefore a man set apart (or: "designated," "determined"), different from other people in that he alone was qualified to bring salvation to humanity. This is powerfully demonstrated less by his manner of birth than by his having been resurrected from the dead, since that happened after a widely known ministry and was a public fact witnessed on a number of occasions (1С 15:3-8&NN). Moreover, his resurrection also powerfully demonstrates that believers are assured of their own resurrection (8:28-39, 1С 15:12-57); this too is in consequence of his being the Son of God, spiritually.
(3) He is Yeshua the Messiah, our Lord. His being "Son of David" makes him the Messiah (see Mt 1: IN on both terms). His being Son of God implies that he shares God's very nature (Mt 4:3N) and is worthy to be called our Lord.
5. Through him we received grace and were given the work of being an emissary on his behalf promoting trust-grounded obedience among all the Gentiles,
Grace or "undeserved favor," Greek charts, which incorporates attributes of God which the Hebrew of the Tanakh calls chesed ("loving-kindness") and rachamim ("mercy").
Sha'ul's commission from Yeshua is to promote trust-grounded obedience, often translated literally, "the obedience of faith" (on Greek pistis, "trust, faith," see Ac 3:16N). But this expression is ambiguous. Sha'ul does not mean "the obedience which is faith," he is not saying thai obedience consists in having faith in Yeshua. Rather, he is speaking of the good works which flow from obeying God — the right deeds which are the necessary consequence of truly putting one's trust in God, his Word and his Messiah. This needs to be said because Sha'ul is often portrayed as promoting "faith" and opposing "works." The wrongness of such an oversimplification is discussed at 3:27-28&N, Ep 2:8-IO&NN and Ya 2:14-26&NN.
Sha'ul's self-definition of his ministry at this early point in the letter and again at the end of it (16:26) must be kept in mind when reading Romans. With passion he opposes both legalism (works stemming from prideful self-sufficiency that ignores trust and regards performing good deeds as doing God a favor) and antinomianism (undisciplined living that ignores the obedience which leads to right action).
6. including you, who have been called by Yeshua the Messiah.
Among all the Gentiles, including you. Greek ethne corresponds to Hebrew goyim and may be translated "nations, ethnic groups, Gentiles, non-Jews, pagans, heathen"; see Mt 5:47N, 10:5N. If "Gentiles" is correct, Sha'ul is writing mostly to Gentiles; if "nations," he is writing to a mixed congregation of Gentiles and Jews. His addressing a Jew at 2:17 is inconclusive, since this is a rhetorical device. But his self-identification as "an emissary... among all the Gentiles" (v. 5; see also v. 13) and his specifically addressing Gentiles at 11:13 means that he is in this letter indeed speaking primarily to them. Thus, while his teaching in Romans is true (and truth is the same for both Gentiles and Jews), much of what he writes is directly applicable only to Gentiles. Understanding the book of Romans properly depends on determining which portions of it apply to everyone and which apply directly only to non-Jews.
7. To: All those in Rome whom God loves, who have been called, who have been set apart for him:
Grace to you and shalom from God our Father and the Lord Yeshua the Messiah.
Grace to you and shalom (more than merely "peace"; see Mt 10:12N) from God our Father and the Lord Yeshua the Messiah. This is Sha'ul's usual greeting, found in one form or another at the beginning of all his letters.
8. First, I thank my God through Yeshua the Messiah for all of you, because the report of your trust is spreading throughout the whole world.
9. For God, whom I serve in my spirit by spreading the Good News about his Son, is my witness that I regularly remember you
10. in my prayers; and I always pray that somehow, now or in the future, I might, by God’s will, succeed in coming to visit you.
11. For I long to see you, so that I might share with you some spiritual gift that can make you stronger —
12. or, to put it another way, so that by my being with you, we might, through the faith we share, encourage one another.
13. Brothers, I want you to know that although I have been prevented from visiting you until now, I have often planned to do so, in order that I might have some fruit among you, just as I have among the other Gentiles.
14. I owe a debt to both civilized Greeks and uncivilized people, to both the educated and the ignorant;
Narrowly religious people, whether ultra-fundamentalist Christian or ultra-Orthodox Jewish, in their eagerness not to be contaminated by worldly, secular influences, sometimes forgo gaining knowledge which could enlarge their universe of experience and their understanding of how things and people work. Sha'ul was not like this.
He was a cosmopolitan who gladly acknowledged his debt to whoever had enriched his life.
15. therefore I am eager to proclaim the Good News also to you who live in Rome.
Sha'ul longed to reach Rome himself. He finally did so — in bonds (Ac 28:16; see Ac 25:9-11&N). The theme returns at 15:14-33.
16. For I am not ashamed of the Good News, since it is God’s powerful means of bringing salvation to everyone who keeps on trusting, to the Jew especially, but equally to the Gentile.
I am not ashamed of the Good News. How often believers hide the Good News of the Messiah out of fear or shame — fear of being rejected or opposed (see Pp 1:27-28N), shame or embarrassment at being thought foolish or "different"!
How can such unworthy motives be overcome? By remembering Sha'ul's reason: since it is God's powerful means of bringing salvation. Salvation implies escape, safety, preservation, soundness, healing and deliverance from the consequences of sin, chief of which is death (Genesis 2:17). The Hebrew word for "salvation," "yeshu'ah," is the female form of the Messiah's name, Yeshua; for more see Mt 1:21N and Lk 2:11N. While the Good News is powerful, it can seem weak: but it is the weak and foolish things of God that confound the worldly-wise (1С 1:18-31).
To everyone who keeps on trusting. This renders the Greek more accurately than the usual translation, "to everyone who believes," not only because "trust" is closer to the biblical concept than "believe" (see Ac 3:16N), but also because the present tense of a Greek verb implies ongoing activity, not a once-and-for-all event.
To the Jew especially, but equally to the Gentile, literally, "both to Jew firstly and to Greek." A major theme of the book of Romans — some would say the main theme— is that, so far as salvation is concerned, Jews and Gentiles are equal before God (2:7-12; 3:9-31; 4:9-12; 5:12, 17-19; 9:24; 10:12-13; 11:30-32). By stating that the Gospel is the same for Jew and Gentile, this verse contradicts the Two-Covenant theory, which says that Jews and Gentiles have different ways to God, so that Jews do not need the Gospel (for further explanation and refutation see Yn 14:6&N).
Nevertheless, in spite of Jewish-Gentile equality before God, I have taken the Greek word "proton" which has the literal meaning, "firstly," to mean "especially" in this verse. At 2:9-10 the same Greek phrase is twice translated, "to the Jew first, and then to the Gentile." My justification for the different rendering in this verse has to do with what sort of "firstly" is meant. 1 discussed this in my book Messianic Jewish Manifesto (pp. 259-261), from which the remainder of this note, except for the last paragraph, is taken (with minor changes):
Mitch Glaser, of Jews for Jesus, in his 1984 Covenant Theological Seminary lecture trenchantly entitled. '"To the Jew First': The Starting Point For The Great Commission" (lecture given at Covenant Theological Seminary, 1984), presented three options for understanding this phrase. He concluded that it does not refer only to "historical priority," to the historical fact that Yeshua brought the Gospel to Jews before Gentiles knew about it, or to Sha'ul's always proclaiming it to Jews prior to focussing on Gentiles — although both are historically true.
Nor does it refer only to "covenant priority," the idea that — as John Murray put it in his commentary on Romans,
"Salvation through faith has primary relevance to the Jew... aris[ing] from the fact that [he] had been chosen by God to be the recipient of the promise of the Gospel and that to him were committed the oracles of God,"
although this too is true. Rather, "to the Jew first" means that there is a "present priority" to proclaim the Gospel to Jews, and the Church should acknowledge it. This does not necessarily mean that every single believer should seek out the Jews in the community and witness to them before telling any Gentiles about Yeshua — although that is exactly what Sha'ul did throughout the book of Acts. As Mitch Glaser puts it, believers today should have "a priority of Gospel concern for the Jewish people.... Perhaps the most lucid explanation of the Present Priority view of Romans 1:16 can be found in the statement of the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism, Occasional Papers #7:
"There is, therefore, a great responsibility laid upon the church to share Christ with the Jewish people. This is not to imply that Jewish evangelism is more important in the sight of God, or that those involved in Jewish evangelism have a higher calling. We observe that the practical application of the scriptural priority is difficult to understand and apply. We do not suggest that there should be a radical application of "to the Jew first" in calling on all the evangelists, missionaries, and Christians to seek out the Jews within their sphere of witness before speaking to non-Jews! Yet we do call the church to restore ministry among this covenanted people of God to its biblical place in the strategy of world evangelization.'"
Christians pray in the Lord's Prayer, 'Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Jews pray in the Kaddish, "May he establish his kingdom in your lifetime and in your days, and within the life of the whole house of Israel, speedily and soon." 2 Kefa 3:12 says that believers in Yeshua should work to hasten the coming of the Day of God. Could it be that one reason for the "present priority" of preaching the Gospel to the Jew especially is that neglecting Jewish evangelism delays the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth?
Thus it is because of the need to understand "proton" as underlining the "present priority" of bringing the Gospel to the Jewish people that I translate it here by the word "especially."
17. For in it is revealed how God makes people righteous in his sight; and from beginning to end it is through trust — as the Tanakh puts it, "But the person who is righteous will live his life by trust" (Habakkuk 2:4).
The Gospel discloses how God makes people righteous in his sight; these eight words render two Greek words which mean, literally, "God's righteousness." This is the theme of the first eleven chapters of the book of Romans.
From beginning to end it is through trust (see Ac 3:16N). Without trust in God one cannot understand God's means of making people righteous in his sight. The eleventh-century theologian Anselm put it simply and straightforwardly: "I believe so that I may understand." Sha'ul quotes the prophet Habakkuk in the Tanakh to prove his point, and in so doing he proves mistaken narrowminded Christians who regard Judaism as lacking the element of faith.
A literal rendering of this verse is: "For in it is revealed God's righteousness from faith to faith; as it has been written, 'And the righteous one by faith will live.'"
18. What is revealed is God’s anger from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people who in their wickedness keep suppressing the truth;
God's anger or "wrath." It is not popular these days to point out that God is a God of wrath. People would rather quote 1 Yn 4:8 ("God is love") and look no further. But it is in the context of God's holiness, meaning his hatred for sin, and his justice, meaning his dispensing the punishment that sin brings on itself, that his love, mercy and grace become so precious. The paradox of how God can be both just and merciful has been a theme in Jewish writing. "If you want the world to endure there can be no absolute justice, while if you want absolute justice the world cannot endure" (Genesis Rabbah 39:6). The solution to the paradox is Yeshua's atoning death, as summed up in Ro 3:19-26&NN and Yn 3:16.
The wrath is continuously being revealed, because people keep on sinning. Note the passive verb. God's delight is in his mercy, not in actively pouring out wrath. But the moral laws of the universe he created are such that God's anger automatically goes on being revealed to those who go on disobeying him.
Wrath is revealed against all godlessness. Humanists and legalists, ignoring the most important "X" in the equation, suppose they can become righteous by their own efforts without trusting God. And wickedness. Antinomians, persons who oppose law and eschew discipline, who overrate inner experience and underrate outward behavior, can easily make the opposite error, imagining that they can have a good relationship with God while disobeying his commands. Such people's lives, lacking adequate moral restraints, can all too easily degenerate into wickedness.
19. because what is known about God is plain to them, since God has made it plain to them.
20. For ever since the creation of the universe his invisible qualities — both his eternal power and his divine nature — have been clearly seen, because they can be understood from what he has made. Therefore, they have no excuse;
If you do not know God, it is not God's fault but yours. The characteristics of God that make his existence self-evident, his eternal power and his divine nature, are known to you, because God has made it plain to you.
'The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
"Each day utters speech,
and each night expresses knowledge." (Psalm 19:2-3(1-2)
Therefore only "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God'"(Psalms 14:1, 53:2(1)) — meaning not "No God exists," but "No God exists who actively concerns himself with people's thoughts and deeds and judges them."
This is as close as the Bible comes to "proving the existence of God," for there is no reason why it should prove it. Rather, it takes effort for sinners to ignore God; defense mechanisms require active energy for their maintenance by people who in their wickedness keep suppressing the truth. Or, as the prophet Yesha'yahu put it centuries earlier, "Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God" (Isaiah 59:2). In sum, since you already know enough to trust God and obey him, you have no excuse for not doing so.
21. because, although they know who God is, they do not glorify him as God or thank him. On the contrary, they have become futile in their thinking; and their undiscerning hearts have become darkened.
Whether you acknowledge God's existence is not the question. Even demons believe in God, but their "belief makes them tremble (Ya 2:19), because they know they cannot avoid his punishment for their evil deeds and thoughts. So it is taken as axiomatic that you know who God is (vv. 18-20) and are aware of his existence. The issue, rather, is that you do not glorify him as God or thank him, you do not relate to him personally as who he is. It is this initial failing that produces the long downhill slide. Once God is no longer in your thinking, everything becomes futile or "vain." Your heart becomes spiritually undiscerning; and, lacking Gods light (Yn 8:12&N), it can only be darkened.
22. Claiming to be wise, they have become fools!
The next stage of downfall consists, as in Orwell's novel, 1984, in asserting as truth its opposite — darkness is really light, futility is really wisdom. Claiming to be wise, though perhaps masking your pride by a false humility, you nevertheless have become a fool.
23. In fact, they have exchanged the glory of the immortal God for mere images, like a mortal human being, or like birds, animals or reptiles!
Jews seeing Christians at worship are frequently offended by images. The Eastern Orthodox Church uses icons, and the Roman Catholic Church uses crucifixes (statues of Yeshua on the execution-stake) and other representations. Protestants generally reject the practice as violating the second Commandment, "You are not to make for yourself any carved idol" (Exodus 20:4).
The theology of the denominations that use images makes clear that they are not themselves objects of worship and that God is not present in them in the sense that heathens attribute divine power to their idols or in any other way. The unsurpassed sarcasm directed at idol-worshippers in Psalm 115 and Isaiah 44:8-20 is divinely inspired and accepted by these denominations too.
Yet it cannot be denied that many unlettered believers treat images as idols or magical amulets — superstition, like any other sin, unless guarded against, can find its way into God's people. In the same way, Jewish customs such as touching the Torah scroll as it is carried around the synagogue or kissing the mezuzah on the doorpost can be subjectively converted from reminders of God into superstitious practices.
24. This is why God has given them up to the vileness of their hearts’ lusts, to the shameful misuse of each other’s bodies.
25. They have exchanged the truth of God for falsehood, by worshipping and serving created things, rather than the Creator — praised be he for ever. Amen.
The Creator — praised be he forever. Amen. See paragraphs on "Praised be Adonai forever" and "Amen" in 9:4b-5N.
26. This is why God has given them up to degrading passions; so that their women exchange natural sexual relations for unnatural;
27. and likewise the men, giving up natural relations with the opposite sex, burn with passion for one another, men committing shameful acts with other men and receiving in their own persons the penalty appropriate to their perversion.
28. In other words, since they have not considered God worth knowing, God has given them up to worthless ways of thinking; so that they do improper things.
Compare Jeremiah 2:5.
When people stray from God, he eventually gives them over to the consequences of their horrific error — in physical (v. 24), emotional (v. 26) and mental (v. 28) dimensions, that is, in every aspect of their lives. Sexual sin (v. 24) and, in particular, homosexuality (vv. 26-27) are singled out as punishments from God, punishments which themselves are sins.
Homosexuality was rife throughout the first-century Roman Empire, as it is today. This is why the Gay Liberation movement can gain a wide hearing as it seeks equality, acceptance and approval of homosexuals and their behavior. It is why the Metropolitan Community Church, with tens of thousands of members in the United States, many of them openly active homosexuals, can refuse to condemn homosexual behavior as sin. yet seek acceptance as a Christian denomination. It is why outsiders condemn the Christian community when it rejects the MCC's claim and refuses to recognize homosexuality as an "alternative lifestyle."
The basic attitude of people who believe the Bible should be to love sinners while hating their sins. But believers must accept the Bible's judgments on what is and what is not sin. Moreover, denouncing the sin is an aspect of loving the sinner; this is what enables him to repent, be forgiven, and change. All of this can be done compassionately and effectively; the real tragedy is that few Christian churches try to minister to homosexuals.
Homosexuals who have put their trust in Yeshua the Messiah, acknowledged their homosexual behavior and fantasies (see Mt 5:28N) as sin, and become part of a community of believers in the Messiah who love, for care and pray for them, have found that the Holy Spirit gives them strength to flee their temptations, turn from their sin and live godly lives, either in heterosexual marriage or in celibacy. Like former substance-abusers, many recognize that they are weak in the area of their former sin but rely on God day by day to keep them free of it (compare 2C 12:9-10).
Those who refuse God's offer of help receive in their own persons the penalty appropriate to their perversion — vice becomes self-perpetuating, self-avenging, and productive of its own punishment.
29. They are filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and vice; stuffed with jealousy, murder, quarrelling, dishonesty and ill-will; they are gossips,
30. slanderers, haters of God; they are insolent, arrogant and boastful; they plan evil schemes; they disobey their parents;
31. they are brainless, faithless, heartless and ruthless.
32. They know well enough God’s righteous decree that people who do such things deserve to die; yet not only do they keep doing them, but they applaud others who do the same.
These verses depict the dreadful consequences of rejecting God. One must understand the "Bad News" before one can properly appreciate the Good News and the central role of trust (faith) in appropriating it.
The downward slide gathers speed. With the necessary changes, the above description applies to all kinds of sins. Verses 29-31 are the Bible's most comprehensive list of the evils people invent for themselves, and v. 32 shows the state of man in deepest depravity, in which not only do they keep doing these things, but they applaud others who do the same, thus forming a godless society opposing everything God wants from his beloved creation, humanity. Even so, in each one a voice of conscience still protests that it is God's righteous decree that people who do such things deserve to die, as has been the case from the days of Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:17) until now. Thus the "Bad News."
- chapter 1
- chapter 2
- chapter 3
- chapter 4
- chapter 5
- chapter 6
- chapter 7
- chapter 8
- chapter 9
- chapter 10
- chapter 11
- chapter 12
- chapter 13
- chapter 14
- chapter 15
- chapter 16