These concluding chapters present some remarkable phenomena which seem to need a special theory to account for them.
It will be seen that Romans 16 ends, according to the Received text, with a two-fold benediction and a doxology, one at the end of Romans 15:20, another in Romans 15:24, and the third covering Romans 15:25-27.
Of these, the two benedictions in Romans 15:20; Romans 15:24 are alternatives. They are not found in the same group of MSS. at both places, but the MSS. which insert them in the first place omit them at the second, and vice versâ. Weighing the authorities on both sides together, there can be little doubt that the earlier position is the right one—that the doxology ought to stand at Romans 16:20 and to be erased in Romans 16:24. How it came to be inserted there we shall see presently.
The longer, concluding doxology is also placed where it is by a quite decisive preponderance of authority. At the same time it is also found at the end of Romans 14 in one important MS., the Codex Laudianus, and in a number of others of lesser value, while the Alexandrine Codex and Porphyrian Palimpsest, with some few others, have it in both places.
It is to be observed also that Marcion, the Gnostic writer, who lived about 140 A.D., had a copy of the Epistle in which these last two chapters were omitted altogether.
How is this series of facts to be accounted for? It is obviously only a rude and reckless logic which infers from them that the whole two chapters are not genuine. The same conclusion has been supported by other arguments, which need not be mentioned in this Commentary. The proof of the genuineness of the chapters is overwhelming.
Other theories have been propounded, which, while assigning the chapters to St. Paul himself, have treated them as either entirely or in part fragments inserted here from some other lost Epistle. For instance, Ewald held that Romans 16:3-20 was written by St. Paul from Rome to Ephesus, and M. Renan has recently put forward the view that the main body of the Epistle was sent to different churches with different endings—Romans 1-11 with the ending Romans 15 to the Romans; Romans 1-14. with the ending Romans 16:1-20 to the Ephesians; Romans 1-14 with the ending Romans 16:21-24 to the Thessalonians; and Romans 1-14 with the ending Romans 16:25-27 to a fourth unknown church.
This last is an ingenious theory, but, like the rest, does not appear to be tenable when applied in detail.
We will only mention one more theory which has the advantage of being simpler than most, and which seems to account almost if not quite satisfactorily for the complex and peculiar phenomena of the text, while it accords well with the general character of the Epistle. It is this:—
The Epistle was originally written and sent to the Romans in the form in which we have it now, except that it ended at Romans 16:23. The portion which was dictated by St. Paul himself really concluded with the benediction given in Romans 16:20, but a brief and informal postscript was added by Tertius and his companions.
At some later period of his life, probably during one or other of his two imprisonments, finding the Epistle current in Rome, it occurred to the Apostle that it might with advantage be circulated more widely. Accordingly he struck out the whole of the more personal matter, i.e., Romans 15, 16, And, in order to give somewhat more finish to the composition, he added the elaborate doxology, which now concludes the whole, at the end of Romans 14. At the same time, at the beginning of the Epistle, he erased the express mention of Rome (Romans 1:7), and left merely the general phrase “To them that are beloved of God”—a change of which some traces are still to be found remaining in the MSS.
There was thus a shorter and a longer recension of the Epistle—the shorter with a formal ending, the longer without. It was the shorter form which happened to fall into the hands of Marcion, who, for reasons of his own, cut off the doxology. Later copyists, observing the ragged edge which was caused by the postscript of Tertius, sought to remedy this by transferring the benediction of Romans 15:20 to Romans 15:24 : and others, with more success, by adding to the original Epistle the doxology composed for the shorter recension. The general tendency in the scribes being to add and accumulate rather than to subtract, all three forms have come down to us.
The main arguments in favour of this theory are—(1) the extent to which it accounts for the phenomena of the text; (2) the striking resemblance between the style and diction of the concluding doxology and those of the Epistle to the Ephesians and Pastoral Epistles, which would make it appear as if it had been composed at that later date, rather than when St. Paul originally wrote to the Romans; and (3) the analogy of the Epistle to the Ephesians, which seems to have gone through a somewhat similar process, being circulated in two forms—as a circular or general Epistle, and also as one addressed to a particular Church. The opinion is also growing that the Gospel according to St. Luke received additions, and was issued in an enlarged form during the lifetime of the Evangelist himself.
It would not be well to speak too positively where all is so much a matter of conjecture; but so far as conjecture can carry us, this theory seems, on the whole, the most probable and most likely to represent the real state of the facts. The author of it is Dr. Lightfoot.
Bear the infirmities.—Take them upon ourselves, act as if they were our own, and, at the same time, by our sympathy relieve the consciences of the weak.
Reproached thee fell on me.—The insults directed against God Himself fell upon His servants.
Through patience and comfort of the scriptures—i.e., “by the patience and comfort which the Scriptures afford.” The promises and consolations of Scripture support the Christian under his trials, and enable him to endure them not only patiently but cheerfully.
Might have hope.—Literally, the hope—i.e., the Messianic hope. The promises of Scripture centre in the hope of the future Messianic glory, and the fortitude with which the Christian endures his trials is to be sustained by that hope, and itself reacts upon the hope and makes it held with firmer tenacity.
Consolation. . . .—The same word as “comfort” in the previous verse.
To be likeminded. . . .—To have the same thoughts, feelings, sentiments, hopes, and aims.
According to Christ Jesus.—The conforming to that “spirit of Christ” which it is to be assumed that all who call themselves Christians have put on.
To the glory of God.—That God might be glorified by the admission into the Church of Gentiles as well as Jews; a parenthetic remark without direct bearing on the argument.
Was. . . .—This is the reading of the Vatican MS. and Paris rescript; the Sinaitic and Alexandrine have, “hath been made.”
For the truth of God—i.e., to make good the truthfulness of God in keeping His promises.
For this cause. . . .—Psalms 18, from which this quotation is taken, is assigned by the heading, as most commentators believe, rightly, to David himself, as a review of his past life, and a thanksgiving for his deliverance from his enemies. David is here taken as a type of Christ. He is said to “confess to God among the Gentiles,” inasmuch as He is the head of the Gentile Church, in whose name its praises are offered, and by whom they are presented.
Confess. . . .—Comp. the Note on Romans 14:11. Here the meaning, “praise,” is more distinctly brought out. The confession or acknowledgment of mercies is itself an act of praise.
A root of Jesse.—Strictly, the root, or, root-shoot of Jesse, as in Proverbs 5:5—i.e., the expected descendant of Jesse’s line, which, to bring out its intimate connection with the founder of the line, and to distinguish it from all other collateral branches, is identified with the very root, or first shoot, of the line itself.
Trust.—The same word as “hope” in the next verse, the introduction of which was probably suggested, through the association of ideas, by the concluding words of the LXX. quotation—“On Him shall the Gentiles place their hopes. Now the God of hope, &c.
I write thus to you though you do not really need all these exhortations. Not only do others tell me, but I am convinced myself that you possess all the qualifications which would fit you to teach others instead of receiving instruction yourselves.
Ye also.—Rather, even yourselves, as you are, and without any stimulus or incitement given to you from without.
Goodness—i.e., goodness of disposition, readiness to practise all the Christian virtues, especially those to which the last section had been exhorting.
Knowledge—i.e., of the doctrinal aspects of Christianity as they had been set forth in the earlier portion of the Epistle. No doubt the Apostle had really much to teach his readers—he does not say that he had not—but he courteously gives them credit for all they knew.
Brethren.—The weight of evidence in the MSS. is against the retention of this word.
In some sort.—Literally, in part, qualifying the phrase, “I have written more boldly,” both in extent and degree. In some passages the Apostle feels that he had gone beyond the modest limits which he might have seemed to mark out for himself by what he had just been saying. He had taken a liberty, but not too great a liberty. He had spoken to them rather pointedly at times, but he had been careful not to go too far. The reference may be supposed to be to exhortations such as those in Romans 13, 14, and in other parts of the Epistle.
As putting you in mind.—Another delicate expression. The Apostle has not been telling them of something that they did not know before, but merely reminding them of what they knew. And he claims the right to do this because of the special grace given to him as an Apostle. The Judaising section in the Church at Rome did not go so far as that in Galatia. It recognised the apostleship of St. Paul, and he knew that he could safely appeal to this recognition.
Because of the grace.—Comp. “grace and apostleship” in Romans 1:5. “Grace” is here that special endowment with divine gifts by which the Apostles were distinguished from other Christians.
To the Gentiles.—Strictly, in reference to the Gentiles. The branch, or department of the Christian ministry specially allotted to St. Paul was the evangelisation of the Gentiles.
Ministering the gospel of God.—Serving the gospel of God as a priest stands at the altar in the service of the tabernacle. The offering which the priest is thus to present is the Gentile Church.
The offering up of the Gentiles.—Not “that which the Gentiles offer,” but “the offering which the Gentiles are;” the sacrifice which they themselves form and constitute.
Sanctified by the Holy Ghost.—Rather, consecrated in the Holy Ghost. The sanctifying influence of the Holy Ghost overshadows, as it were, the Church, encloses and embraces it on every side.
I will not dare to speak.—I have a certain just and legitimate pride, but I shall not, therefore, presume to boast of successes of which others have been the instrument. All successes in the mission field are due ultimately to Christ; for some he has made use of me, for others of other men. I will confine myself to those in which I have been myself directly concerned.
To make the Gentiles obedient.—Comp. Romans 1:5, “for obedience to the faith among all nations” (i.e., to bring over all the Gentiles into obedience to the faith; see Note).
By word and deed.—This goes with the phrase “wrought by me,” and signifies “either by preaching or by miracles.”
It will be seen that the structure of this verse is not, in a rhetorical sense, quite elegant. The Apostle uses a negative form of sentence where a positive form would seem to be more appropriate. Instead of saying, “I will confine myself to what Christ has wrought by me,” he says, “I will not speak of what Christ has not wrought by me,” though the description which follows is that of his own ministry.
By the power of the Spirit of God.—The two clauses at the beginning of this verse correspond roughly to “by word and deed” at the end of the last. “Signs and wonders” are the manifestation of the effectual working of Christ in “deed.” The “power of the Spirit of God” is exemplified both in “deed” and in “word.”
So that . . .—It is to be noticed that the language of the Apostle becomes more and more definite and concrete, till he ends by describing the geographical extent of his own labours.
Jerusalem.—The Apostle naturally takes this as the terminus à quo, partly because it was at this time the centre and head-quarters of Christianity, and also more especially because it was the extreme point eastwards and southwards of his own public ministry. (His sojourn in “Arabia,” which may include the desert of Sinai, appears to have been of a more private character.)
And round about . . .—In a sort of rough curve, embracing a large portion of Asia Minor, and finally turning towards the starting-point again in Illyricum.
Illyricum.—A Roman province, stretching along the eastern coast of the Adriatic, and forming the northern boundary of Epirus, and the north-western of Macedonia. Whether St. Paul had actually visited Illyricum does not appear from his language in this passage. Illyricum is the terminus ad quem of his journeyings, but it may be inclusive, or it may be exclusive. The description would be sufficiently satisfied if he had approached the outskirts of Illyricum during his journey through Macedonia. That journey must be the one recorded in Acts 20:2. The earlier journey of Acts 16, 17 can be traced clearly from place to place, and did not extend far enough inland, while the vague expression which we find in Acts 20:2, “When he had gone over those parts,” affords ample room for the circuit in question. This would place it at the end of the year 57 A.D.
Fully preached.—Literally, fulfilled. The translation of our version can perhaps hardly be improved, though, at the same time, it seems probable that what is intended is the publication of the gospel to its full geographical extent, and not the subjective sense in the Apostle of his own fulfilment of the duty of preaching the gospel laid upon him.
(20) Yea, so have I strived.—Rather, but making it my ambition. The Apostle set it before him as a point of honour, not merely to carry forward a work that others had begun, but to build up the whole edifice from the foundation himself.
Not where Christ was named.—Not in places where there were Christians already.
Another man’s foundation.—Comp. 2 Corinthians 10:15-16; and for the use of the word “foundation” for the first preaching of the gospel, 1 Corinthians 3:10.
Much.—These many times; so often.
Place.—Room for (new) working. The whole. ground had been already occupied.
Parts.—A peculiar word from which our word “climate” is derived. The original idea appears to be the slope or inclination of the earth from the equator towards the pole. Hence a “zone” or “region.” The same word occurs in 2 Corinthians 11:10; Galatians 1:21.
I will come to you . . .—These words are wanting in the true text, and have to be supplied. The sentence is left unfinished.
To be brought on my way.—A graphic description of this “bringing upon the way,” is given in the account of the departure of St. Paul after his seven days’ sojourn at Tyre, Acts 21:5. (Comp. Acts 20:36-38.)
Somewhat filled.—Another characteristic touch. The Apostle will not allow it to be supposed that he could have enough of the society of the Roman Church. He therefore qualifies his expression, “somewhat filled,” or “satisfied,” “satisfied if only in part.”
If first I be somewhat filled is practically equivalent to “when I have been filled.”
Will come by you.—Will pass through your city on my way to Spain.
Strive together with me.—Second my own earnest entreaties.
My service which I have for Jerusalem.—My service or ministration (i.e., “The gift of which I am the bearer”) which is destined for Jerusalem.
May be accepted.—It is possible, though we cannot speak at all positively, that there was mingled with the desire of the Apostle to benefit the church at Jerusalem something of a wish to do a graceful and conciliatory act to that Judaising branch of the church from which circumstances tended to estrange him.
With you be refreshed.—The Greek word is a rare compound, which is found besides in the LXX. version of Isaiah 11:6, “the leopard shall lie down with the kid.” The whole phrase (“and may with you be refreshed”) is wanting in the Vatican MS.
It does not, however, follow that the benediction was intended, as some have thought, to close the Epistle. Intercalated benedictions and doxologies are frequent in the writings of St. Paul. (Comp. Romans 9:5; Romans 11:36; Galatians 5; Ephesians 3:20-21, et al.)