Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans 5:12-19

This post opens with Father MacEvilly’s brief analysis of Romans 5, followed by his commentary on verses 12-19. Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.

ANALYSIS OF ROMANS CHAPTER 5

The Apostle, having proved in the preceding chapters, that our justification comes from faith and not from the works performed by the sole aid of cither the natural law or the law of Moses, now points out the excellence if this justification from its effects and the fruits which it produces. The first effect is, peace and tranquillity of conscience (verse 1). The second is the adoption of us, as sons of God (2). The third is joy in our afflictions, which subserve as means to bring us to the enjoyment of our eternal inheritance (3, 4, 5). We have two most consoling and certain grounds for this hope, viz., the diffusion of the Holy Ghost in our hearts, and the death if Christ, than which God could not furnish a greater proof of his boundless love (6–10). The fourth effect of our justification is our glorying in God, as our Father, and in Jesus Christ, as our Mediator (11). In order to show the absolute necessity of this reconciliation on the part of Christ, the Apostle traces matters to the very root of all evil, viz., original sin, of which subject he treats in the remainder of the chapter.

12 Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world and by sin death: and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.

(Through Christ alone have we been reconciled to God, and we needed him to reconcile us). For, as by one man (Adam) sin entered into this world, and by sin death, thus death has passed into all men, since all sinned in Adam, as the principal and head of the human race. (So also through one man Christ—the principal and head of all who are spiritually regenerated—has justice entered into the world, and through justice, eternal life).

The Apostle, in order to show the necessity of reconciliation through Christ, traces matters back to the root of all evil, and propounds the mysterious doctrine of original sin. What it is that constitutes this sin, and what the particular mode is of contracting it, which we have inherited from Adam, and which has been transmitted to all who have been, by the natural course of generation, descended from him (the glorious Mother of God, alone, excepted, who, according to the doctrine of faith, “by a singular privilege and grace of Almighty God, has been preserved free from all stain of original sin in the first instant of Her conception, in view of the merits of Christ Jesus, the Saviour of the human race”), no way concerns us to inquire. This much we know and believe as an article of Catholic faith, that this sin has been transmitted to all men, not by imitation, but by carnal generation. “Hoc Adæ peccatum … propagatione non imitatione transfusum omnibus, inest unicuique proprium.”—(Concil. Trid. SS. 5. de Peccato Orig.) And this doctrine has been proved from this passage by several Councils against the Pelagians.

“Wherefore,” δια τουτο, may mean, for, with the connexion in Paraphrase, or it may be thus connected: “Since, then, Christ is the meritorious cause of our salvation, it is meet that we should, therefore, institute the following comparison. “As by one man,” i.e., Adam, who was by God constituted the head and representative of the whole mass of mankind, “sin entered into this world,” i.e., infected the whole human race, which thereby contracted the necessity of dying. By “sin,” is meant the guilt of original sin, and not its effects, death and bodily suffering, as defined by the Council of Trent—(SS. 5, Can. 2). It is opposed to justification, and moreover, if it referred to the effects of sin, it would be identified with “death.” “And so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.” “In whom,” regards the “one man,” δἰ ἑνὸς ἀνθρώπου, or Adam, as is clear from the Greek, ἐφʼ ᾧ. This is the interpretation of St. Augustine and St. Chrysostom. In this construction, the words intervening between “one man,” and “in whom.” are included in a parenthesis, “wherefore, as by one man (…) in whom all have sinned.” Others understand the words, ἐφʼ ῳ, causatively to mean inasmuch as, or because, and this is preferred by many (see Beelen). Some Commentators say the sense is suspended as far as verse 18—“therefore as by the offence,” &c.—others finish the sense as in Paraphrase. And this is the more probable; for in verse 18, it is a conclusion that is expressed, “therefore,” &c. Others, with Beelen, say the second member of the comparison which should correspond with the words, “as by one man,” &c., and should complete the sentence, is expressed, if not in words, at least in reality, wherein is conveyed the contrast between the first and second Adam, in verse 14, “who is a figure,” &c.

13 For until the law sin was in the world: but sin was not imputed, when the law was not.
14 But death reigned from Adam unto Moses, even over them also who have not sinned, after the similitude of the transgression of Adam, who is a figure of him who was to come.

And that this sin existed in the world at all times, even before the written law was given to Moses, although before the law, it was not so much attended to by mankind, following the bent of their corrupt passions, and having no positive law to point out the enormity and fix the special punishment of their crimes, is evident from the fact, that death, its consequence, reigned from Adam to Moses even over those (v.g., infants and mentally/intellectually impaired) who were incapable, by actual transgression, of sinning after the manner of Adam, who, as the head of a sinful race, was, by contraries, a type of the second Adam, Christ, through whom, as the head of a ransomed race, justice and life were to be introduced into this world.

In this verse (13), the Apostle anticipates and solves an objection which might be made against the universality of the preceding doctrine, namely, as sin is the violation of some law, how could there be any violation of a law before it was given? The Apostle says, that even before the law was given to Moses, this sin of Adam, as well in itself as in its effects, viz., actual sins, existed in this world; but these sins were not “imputed,” or attended to by mankind following their corrupt passions; because there was no particular positive enactment clearly to point out their enormity—so that “sin” in this verse embraces not only original but actual sins, of which the corruption we have inherited from Adam is the source and principle. “But sin,” under which are included original sin, and the actual sins flowing from it, superadded by our own wills—“was not imputed.” Some say was not imputed unto punishment, or as a transgression. The interpretation adopted in the Paraphrase is preferable; for, it is very hard to reconcile the other interpretation with the heavy chastisements always visited upon sin, even before the time of Moses; for, even then, death reigned as well as afterwards.

But as a proof that this sin existed, even during the interval that elapsed between Adam and Moses, the Apostle adduces the fact that death (verse 14), the consequence and punishment of sin, reigned over those who could not deserve any such punishment by actual positive guilt of their own. Such, for instance, were infants and idiots, who, unlike Adam, were incapable of actual sin.

“Who is a figure of him who was to come.” Adam was, by contraries, a type of the future or second Adam, Christ, who is the principle of spiritual life, as the first Adam was the principle of spiritual death. Some Commentators, and among them Beelen, are of opinion that the second member of the antithesis between Adam and Christ is insinuated here, although not clearly expressed, as has been done in Paraphrase of verse 12.

This passage had been adduced by St. Augustine and the early Fathers, to establish against the Pelagians the doctrine of original sin. The Apostle says, “all have sinned,” verse 12, and that this is not to be understood of actual sin, he shows in verse 14, since death, the consequence and punishment of sin, had been inflicted upon all, not even excepting those who were incapable of committing actual sin, viz., infants and idiots. Hence, it must be inflicted as a punishment of that sin, which by generation was transmitted to them from Adam, whom, in his infinite wisdom, God had constituted the head of all his descendants; so that his sin would be imputable to them, as would his fidelity have been accounted in their favour, had he persevered in justice.

15 But not as the offence, so also the gift. For if by the offence of one, many died: much more the grace of God and the gift, by the grace of one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

We are not, however, to imagine, that the sin of the first Adam has been so detrimental in its effects, as the gift of the second Adam, by which these effects were removed, has been useful. For, if by the sin of the first Adam his many descendants were deprived of spiritual life and rendered subject to eternal death, far more numerous and precious were the gratuitous gifts of God, through the grace of one man Jesus Christ, conferred on the many (for, besides restoring spiritual life, he has bestowed many gifts of the Holy Ghost and immortality itself).

In the preceding verse, the Apostle had asserted, that Adam was a type or figure of him, “who is to come,” i.e., of Christ, who is often in SS. Scripture styled, the last Adam.—(1 Cor. 15:45). He was a figure by contraries, because, as the first Adam was the principle of death and sin, so the last was the principle of justice and of life, in all who were to be spiritually regenerated and born of him. This resemblance was not, in every respect, perfect. “Many died,” in Greek, οἱ πολλοὶ, “the many.” The first point of dissimilitude, even on contrary sides, was that the guilt of the one had only inflicted temporal and eternal death; whereas, “the grace of God and the gift,” i.e., the gratuitous gift of God furnished by the grace and merits of the man-God, Jesus Christ, “hath much more abounded,” not in point of extensive application, but in the comprehensive excellence and abundance of the benefits which it conferred; since it was not merely confined to the removal of the evil effects of the sin of Adam, but it also bestowed the gifts of the Holy Ghost and perseverance in grace, of which the sin of Adam did not deprive us; for, Adam had not these gifts in Paradise.

“Unto many,” or, as in the Greek, εἰς τους πολλους, “unto the many.” Of course, “the many” in this latter member of the sentence is not as extensive as in the former member, “by the offence of one many died;” for, the many in the former are called “all men,” verse 12; while in this latter part, there is question only of the many who are spiritually born or begotten of Christ, in the same way as treating of the descendants of Adam there is question of those carnally descended from him. It is not in the extent of their actual application that the Apostle compares “the gift” and “the sin,” but in their comprehensive or intrinsic effects where they are applied.

16 And not as it was by one sin, so also is the gift. For judgment indeed was by one unto condemnation: but grace is of many offences unto justification.

There is another point of difference besides; for, it was only for the one sin of Adam, that all have been subject to the sentence of condemnation; whereas, the gratuitous gift effected the justification of all, not only from that sin, but from all others, and so it rescued us from more evils than the sin of Adam had introduced.

There is another point of dissimilitude. For, the gift of the last Adam did more than remove the evil effects of which the transgression of the first was productive. For, by the transgression of Adam, all had been subject to the sentence of condemnation for only one sin; whereas, the gratuitous gift of Christ not only justified us from that one general sin, but from all our own actual sins, superadded by depraved and corrupt nature. “And not as it was by one sin,” the Greek is, καὶ ουχ ὡς δἰ ἑνος ἁμαρτησαντος, “and not as by one who sinned.” The Vulgate reading is, however, found in some of the principal Greek manuscripts, and in the Arabic version.

17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned through one; much more they who receive abundance of grace and of the gift and of justice shall reign in life through one, Jesus Christ.

For, if through the sin of one man (Adam), and as the consequence of his sin, death reigned over the entire human race; with far greater reason should we believe, that those who receive the abundance of divine grace, of justice, and of all supernatural favours, shall reign for endless ages, through the merits of the one man, Jesus Christ, which are boundless and infinite.

The Apostle repeats, with greater emphasis in this verse, the points of similitude and dissimilitude between Christ and Adam, as opposite principles of life and death. He represents life and death introduced by both, as reigning over the human race. Adam introduced the reign of death and sin; Christ, the reign of justice and life. He does not say, as In the preceding member, that “life shall reign,” but “they shall reign in life,” to point out the dignity of the sons of God, to whom the form, “they shall reign in life,” is more honourable than “life shall reign over them,” as is said of death in the preceding; “much more”—i.e., it is much more natural, considering the infinite power and boundless merits of the one man, Jesus Christ, the principle of spiritual and eternal life, to expect that his children shall reign for ever; the word “reign” expresses the height of happiness, together with the exalted honour they shall enjoy. “Abundance of grace” may mean the abundant, transcendant grace; “and of the gift, and of justice,” (in the common Greek, καὶ της δωρεας της δικαιοσυνης, “and of the gift of justice.”). In the Vatican MS. the word “gift” is wanting.

18 Therefore, as by the offence of one, unto all men to condemnation: so also by the justice of one, unto all men to justification of life.

Therefore, as by the sin of one man, Adam, the entire mass of mankind incurred the guilt through which they were subject to condemnation; so also, by the justice of one man, Christ, have all men born of him, obtained that justice which makes them sharers of eternal life.

In this verse, according to the interpretation adopted by many, the Apostle reverts to the preceding, for the purpose of completing the sense, and of filling up the comparison left incomplete at verse 12. The intervening verses are, according to this connexion, to be read as within a parenthesis, in which the sacred writer is hurried off from the main subject to note some points of similitude or dissimilitude that occurred to him in reference to the subject in question—a thing not at all unusual in the style of the Apostle. Against this connexion, however, it may be fairly objected, that in this verse the Apostle only draws a conclusion from the foregoing, in which the comparison is supposed to have been already instituted, and indeed, according to many (vide Beelen), the points of comparison are carried out in the words of verse 14, “who is a figure of him who was to come;” “Therefore,” i.e., so then, “as by the offence of one unto all men to condemnation,” the word judgment is understood (judgment passed), “unto all men to condemnation,” as in verse 16; “so also by the justice of one,” (grace or justice passed) “unto all men to justification of life;” “all men,” in this latter clause, regarding justification, are to be understood of all spiritually born of Christ, as in the preceding, reference is made to all carnally descended from the principle of death and condemnation—viz., Adam.

19 For as by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners: so also by the obedience of one, many shall be made just.

For, as by the disobedience of one man, Adam, the many descended from him are made sinners; so also, by the obedience of Christ, shall the many, spiritually born of him, be constituted just.

On account of the great importance of the doctrine, the Apostle repeats in this verse the same thing conveyed in the preceding, “as by the disobedience of the one”—viz., Adam eating the forbidden fruit, “the many,” i.e., all his descendants, who are many (he calls them “all men,” verse 18), “are made sinners;” “so also by the obedience of the one, the many (descended of him) shall be,” &c.; “the many,” in this latter member is not co-extensive with “the many” in the preceding, according to the interpretation now given; or, if we take “the many” who shall be “made just,” to refer to the entire human race, then the words “made just” will not imply that they are actually justified, but only that the grace of justification is intended for all, and it is their own fault if they fail to obtain it; and that all who are rendered just, are made so by the grace of Christ. From this and the preceding verse is derived a convincing argument of the Catholic doctrine of inherent justice, as Beelen well observes. For, according to the teaching of the Apostle, we are constituted just, and even obtain the gift of justice, through the obedience of Christ, as we are constituted sinners through the disobedience of Adam. Now, in the latter case, we were really sinners, “by nature, children of wrath,” (Eph. 2:3) by the guilt of sin inherent in each of us, transmitted by carnal generation from him. Therefore, by the obedience of Christ, all who are spiritually born of him are constituted really just by justice really inherent in them, and not by the imputation of the justice of Christ, as it was not by the imputation of the sin of Adam that all are sinners. For, the spiritual regeneration in Christ corresponds with the carnal descent from Adam, in which guilt is not imputed but really contracted.

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One Response to Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans 5:12-19

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the First Sunday of Lent, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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