A Summary of Romans 2:17-24. Paul now openly addresses the Jews, and vehemently denounces their delusion in thinking that they could be saved by the sole fact that they had received a written law from God. At first he enumerates (verses Rom 2:17-18) the privileges which they had in possessing the Law, thereby knowing God’s will and things right and wrong, and then he ironically relates (verses Rom 2:19-20) certain claims and prerogatives on which they prided themselves, in order, in the following verses (Rom 2:21-24), to show more clearly the disagreement between their doctrine and their lives.
Rom 2:17. But if thou art called a Jew and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,
In verses 17-20 we have a case of anacoluthon—a protasis without an apodosis; but the irregularity is lessened if we read ιδε (ide = “behold”) in place of ει δε (ie de = “but if”) [Lagrange]. Still, the particle of contrast (i.e., “but if”) seems to be proper, since the thought is now passing from the Gentile to the Jew with the latter’s special conditions (Parry).
Called a Jew, i.e., called by a praised and honored name. In St. Paul’s time the term “Jew” was more in esteem than at present. It signified the Lord’s people, the worshippers of the true God, the chosen race to whom the Messiah was promised.
Restest in the law. The principal benefit conferred on the Jews by God was the giving of the Law, which taught them what to do and what to avoid, and in which they could rest with assurance and safety. They could boast of God, because they were God’s people, bound to Him by alliance and special privileges and benefits.
Rom 2:18. And knowest his will, and approvest the more profitable things, being instructed by the law,
The Jews, being instructed by the Law, knew God’s will and the things that pleased Him, as well as the things that displeased Him.
In the Vulgate, eius after voluntatem is not represented in the Greek.
Rom 2:19. Art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of
them that are in darkness,
Rom 2:20. An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, having the form of knowledge and of truth in the law.
Guide . . . light . . . instructor . . . having the form, etc. Here the Apostle ironically enumerates certain claims to excellence in which the Jews gloried. Their morals in many respects were not above those of the Gentiles, and yet they considered themselves immeasurably superior to the latter. It was true, indeed, that the Gentiles, being deprived of God’s revelation through the Law, were to a great degree “blind” and “in darkness,” “foolish” and “infants,” as regards the true knowledge of God and their consequent duties toward Him. On the contrary, the Jews, possessing the Law, had the truth, and were in a position to guide, enlighten and instruct the Gentiles; but their error lay in this, that they thought the mere possession of the Law, without its practice on their part, to be all that was required of them.
Rom 2:21. Thou therefore that teachest another, teachest not thyself: thou that preachest that men should not steal, stealest:
The Apostle now interrupts his enumeration of the Jews’ privileges and prerogatives to call attention to the difference between their boasted pretensions and their own lives. Their possession of the Law, their better knowledge of God and their obligations to Him only increased their sins and culpability in failing to practice what they taught and preached to others. The Jews were often guilty of stealing, especially in business and commercial affairs.
Rom 2:22. Thou that sayest, men should not commit adultery, committest adultery: thou that abhorrest idols, committest sacrilege:
Sacrilege (ιεροσυλεις) . The Greek word ἱεροσυλέω properly signifies to despoil, to pillage the temples. St. Paul wishes to say that some Jews, who were so hateful of idols that they would not even touch them, had no scruples about robbing the temples of idols for the pecuniary gain they thus acquired (cf. Acts 19:37. As I sure most are aware, such blatant hypocrisy-a kind of double standard-is widespread among humanity in religion, secularism, business, sports etc.). “The Jews were severely forbidden to touch the wealth lying in the temples of idols, as being an abomination (Deut 6:25-26; 2 Macc 12:4); but the tyranny of love of money induced them to trample on this law” (St. Chrys.).
Rom 2:23. Thou that makest thy boast of the law, by transgression of the law dishonourest God.
The Jews knew very well that the crimes of which they were guilty were a reproach to their religion. Their sins dishonored the Law of which they were so proud; and they themselves dishonored God, the Lawgiver, whose representatives in declaring and interpreting the Law they boastfully pretended to be.
Rom 2:24. (For the name of God through you is blasphemed among the Gentiles, as it is written.)
The Jews, by their disorderly and sinful lives and actions, caused the name of God to be blasphemed among the idolatrous Gentiles. As the observation of the Law of God causes both God and the Law to be praised, so its transgression causes it and its giver to be despised.
There is no reason for parentheses here.
Per vos of the Vulgate should be propter vos; hence through you means “on account of you.”
As will become clear in later posts, the problem with the Law is that though it can give knowledge of sin, it does not of itself supply the power to avoid sin (see Rom 2:29; 3:19-20). This divine pedagogy appears especially in the gift of the Law [Ex 19:1-20:26; Deut 1:1-11:32; 29:1-20] . God gave the Law as a “pedagogue” to lead his people towards Christ [Gal 3:24]. But the Law’s powerlessness to save man deprived of the divine “likeness,” along with the growing awareness of sin that it imparts [cf. Rom 3:20], enkindles a desire for the Holy Spirit. The lamentations of the Psalms bear witness to this [CCC #708. See also #1961-1964].