Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans 1:26-32

Rom 1:26 For this cause, God delivered them up to shameful affections. For their women have changed the natural use into that use which is against nature.

On this account, God in his anger suffered them to fall into shameful and filthy sins of uncleanness; for, their women have changed their natural use into that use which is against nature.

“For this cause,” in punishment of the unnatural abandonment of the Creator, and of their transferring to lying, false divinities, to gods made by human hands, the supreme honour due to Him alone, “God delivered them up,” or abandoned them, “to shameful affections,” i.e., shameful sins of impurity, in which they were so grossly immersed, that this indulgence might be termed “affection,” or passion, on their part. “For their women have changed,” &c. Although the Apostle is treating of the vices of the learned philosophers among the Pagans (“professing themselves to be wise,” &c., verse 22), still, to show how excessive were their enormities, he says, the women themselves were visited with the punishment of the men, and followed their example in committing deeds of unnatural and more than bestial lust.

Rom 1:27 And, in like manner, the men also, leaving the natural use of the women, have burned in their lusts, one towards another: men with men, working that which is filthy and receiving in themselves the recompense which was due to their error.

And in like manner the men also leaving the natural use of the women, have burned in their lusts, one towards another, men with men, doing that which is filthy; and in being thus abandoned to their own corruption, they have met with the recompense, or rather punishment, due to their unnatural revolt from God, and to their idolatrous errors.

“And in like manner the men also,” &c. The history of the most polished nations of antiquity is but a record of the most shameful and abominable sins against nature: and even the wisest, and those reputed the most virtuous among their wise men, were guilty of these shameful lusts. Tertullian (Libro de Anima, chap. i, and in Apologetico adversus Gentes, chap. xlvi.) testifies this regarding the wisest of the ancients. viz., Socrates. Even the divine Plato is charged with the same. Theodoret (Libro de Legibus) charges him with praising and promising rewards to these unnatural, shameful indulgences. This is true of the other philosophers of antiquity. “Receiving in themselves the recompense due to their error.” As they, against the order of nature, ignominiously abandoned the Creator, and transferred his honour to the creature, it was a just punishment on the part of the Creator to abandon them in turn, and suffer them to perpetrate deeds of impurity against the order of nature also. Can we forget that in this fearful account of Pagan vice, the Apostle is but drawing a faithful picture of what we ourselves would be, if left to our own strength, if the grace and mercy of God had not visited us; for, we also are born of Gentile parents, and things would be, in all probability, if possible, worse with us than with them. Et hæc quidem fuistis, sed abluti estis, sanctificati estis; in nomine Domini Jesu Christi, et in spiritu Dei nostri.—(1 Cor. 6). Where, then, is our gratitude for this gratuitous goodness of God, rescuing us from this prison of sin, darkness, and infidelity, and asserting us into his admirable light?

Rom 1:28 And as they liked not to have God in their knowledge, God delivered them up to a reprobate sense, to do those things which are not convenient.

And because they valued not and disregarded the great blessing of having known God, they were delivered up by him to a perversity of mind and judgment, judging right to be wrong, and wrong right, so that they were plunged into an abyss of crime opposed to the dictates of justice and reason.

“And as they liked not to have God in their knowledge,” i.e., as they undervalued and disregarded this great blessing which God bestowed on them, of knowing himself, hence, in punishment of this abuse of the mind, God gave them up to a “reprobate sense,” i.e., to a perversity of judgment, through which they judged of things erroneously, and were deprived of the faculty of distinguishing right from wrong: the consequence of which was, that they perpetrated many crimes opposed to the dictates of right reason, utterly unbecoming rational creatures—“things not convenient,” i.e., abominable things. “He delivered them to a reprobate sense;” the most dreadful punishment God has in store for sinners is to permit them to fall into greater sins, which induce a blindness of intellect, a perversity of judgment, a deprivation of moral sense, a hardness and obduracy of heart, which is generally the assured forerunner of final impenitence. How terrible and just, at the same time, was the punishment of the philosophers! They transferred to creatures—to the very beasts—the worship due to God; and he, in turn, suffered them to fall into crimes which were more than bestial, which lowered them beneath the brute creation.

Rom 1:29 Being filled with all iniquity, malice, fornication, avarice, wickedness: full of envy, murder, contention, deceit, malignity: whisperers,

They became filled with all sorts of injustice towards God, their neighbour, and themselves, with malignity, impurity, rapacity, mischievous depravity, full of envy, homicide, strife, duplicity, or deceit; of a malicious disposition to misconstrue and regard everything in a bad light, by private whispering, sowers of discord amongst friends,

“Filled with all malice.” From this abandonment of them by God, followed the commission of other sins, as well as that of impurity; these other sins were the result of their abandonment by God. “With all iniquity,” refers to vice and guilt in general, against God and man. “Malice,” the malignant desire of doing injury. “Fornication,” all sorts of impurity. (The word fornication, πορνεια, is omitted in the Vatican MS.) “Covetousness,” insatiable rapacity. “Wickedness,” depravity of heart, bent on mischief. “Full of envy,” “murder,” at least in will. “Contention,” the spirit of wrangling and disputation, having for object mere superiority, without any regard to truth. “Deceit,” duplicity of heart, saying one thing and thinking another. “Malignity,” the corresponding Greek word, κακοηθεια, means, “a disposition to misinterpret everything, and view it in its worst light,” opposed to ευηθεια, open candour. “Whisperers,” this refers to those who sow discord among friends by private tale-bearing, a class of sinners emphatically pronounced accursed, in the SS. Scriptures.

Rom 1:30 Detractors, hateful to God, contumelious, proud, haughty, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

Open calumniators of the good, haters of God and hated by him, ferocious in inflicting injuries, proud of their supposed superior excellence, haughty and boastful in their demeanour, versed in the art of devising new means of doing injury, disobedient to parents,

“Detractors,” public calumniators of good men, in order to damage their reputation. “Hateful to God,” the Greek word, θεοστυγεις, will also signify haters or enemies of God, and this is the more probable construction of the word. “Contumelious,” means ferocious, in violently injuring and oppressing others. “Proud,” forming too high an opinion of their own acquirements, and undervaluing others. “Haughty,” boastful and contumelious in their demeanour.

Rom 1:31 Foolish, dissolute: without affection, without fidelity, without mercy.

Devoid of reason in their conduct, uncourteous and uncivil in their manners, devoid of natural affection, of fidelity in contracts, without humanity.

“Foolish,” showing in their actions the reprobate sense to which they have been delivered. “Dissolute,” the Greek word, ασυνθετους, is made by some to express, breakers of covenants; however, as this is sufficiently expressed in the words, “without fidelity,” which refers to covenants, it is better understand this word of a disagreeable, uncourteous spirit, which rendered them unfit to associate with others. “Without affection” for their friends; “without fidelity,” in their covenants; and “without mercy,” devoid of every feeling of humanity, towards all mankind.

Rom 1:32 Who, having known the justice of God, did not understand that they who do such things, are worthy of death: and not only they that do them, but they also that consent to them that do them.

Who, although they knew God to be supremely just in punishing prevaricators, still did not wish practically to know that the perpetrators of the above mentioned crimes are worthy of death; and not only they, but those also who consent to, and approve of them in others. (And hence, the philosophers, even though, in particular instances, not guilty of these crimes; still, as they connived at, and approved of, their perpetration by others, are deserving of death for so doing).

The Greek reading differs from the Vulgate in this verse, although both readings differ not much in sense. The Greek runs thus: “who knowing the justice of God, that they who do such things are worthy of death; not only they that do them but they also that consent to them that do them.” In this reading the words of our Vulgate, “did not understand,” are omitted, though read in some MSS. and some Greek Fathers, and the passage is designed by the Apostle to express the great malice of the philosophers, who were guilty of the two fold sin of committing the above-mentioned sins themselves, and, what is worse, of approving of them in others; for, in the former case, the violence of passion might be pleaded as some extenuation, but not in the latter, in the case of approval. According to our Vulgate reading, the Apostle wishes to convey that, should there be any of the philosophers not guilty of all the above-mentioned crimes, they were still deserving of death, because, instead of reproving, they connived at, and approved of, their commission on the part of the people. The conclusion from this chapter is, that the Gentiles, instead of being able to lay any claims to the Gospel, on the ground of their exalted natural virtues, were, on the contrary, deserving of punishment and the wrath of God; “for the wrath of God from heaven is revealed against all impiety,” &c. (verse 18); and thus the Apostle establishes that, on the ground of merits, the Gentile world had no claim to the Gospel. The same is proved in the next chapter regarding the Jews.

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