A Summary of Romans 11:1-10
justifications gratiam promereri.
stumbling block, and a recompense unto them.
Rom 11:10. Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see : and bow down their
Lagrange, h. 1.).
Rom 11:12. Now if the offence of them be the riches of the world, and the
diminution of them, the riches of the Gentiles; how much more the fulness of them?
If the failure of Israel has brought such great benefits to the world, how enormous will be the benefit of the final conversion of all the Jews!
If the offence (παραπτωμα) of them (αυτων), i.e., of those hardened, be the riches of the world, i.e., be the occasion of the conversion of the Gentiles to the faith, and the diminution (ηττημα) of them (αυτων), i.e., the defeat, the loss of those hardened, be the means of inestimable blessings to the pagans, how much more the fulness (πληρωμα) of them (αυτων), i.e., how much greater blessings will come to the world from the total conversion to the faith of all the Jews!
In this interpretation, following Lagrange, we have given to the first and second αυτων (“them”) the meaning of those hardened, and to the third, the meaning of all the Jews. We have understood ηττημα (“diminution”) here to mean, not the remnant, a small number; but defeat, loss. πληρωμα (“fulness”) means the completing of Israel, i.e., the adding of the hardened (who will cease to be such) to the faithful Jews.
Rom 11:13. For I say to you, Gentiles : as long indeed as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I will honour my ministry,
Rom 11:14. If, by any means, I may provoke to emulation them who are my flesh, and may save some of them.
I say to you, Gentiles. Continuing the theme of verses 11, 12 St. Paul openly speaks to the Gentiles, showing that the community to which he was writing was chiefly composed of them. He tells them that as long as, i.e., inasmuch as (εφ οσον not followed by χρóνον) he is the apostle of the Gentiles he honors his ministry, by consecrating himself entirely to it, with the ulterior purpose of exciting the jealousy of his fellow-Jews and moving them to emulate the faithful Gentiles, thus saving some of them now, and all in the end (verse 25). In St. Paul’s mind there is question of the design of God which cannot be fully accomplished, even to the profit of the Gentiles, if the ultimate salvation of the Jews is not first assured. His zeal for the one would work also the profit of the other, and the profit of the latter would in turn add to and complete that of the former (Lagrange).
I will honour should be “I do honour” (δοξαζω) my ministry, by devoting myself entirely to the services of the Gentiles, but not for their profit alone, as explained above.
In the Vulgate quamdiu would better be quatenus, and honorificabo should be honorifico, to agree with the Greek.
Rom 11:15. For if the loss of them be the reconciliation of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?
The thought of verse 12 is taken up here and developed more vividly. If the loss, etc., i.e., if the rejection of the Jews from the Messianic kingdom be the reconciliation, etc., i.e., be the occasion of bringing the Gentiles into the Church of Christ, what great joy and spiritual benefits will result to Christ’s kingdom from the receiving of them in mass into the Church.
But life from the dead, ει μη ζωη εκ νεκρων. These words have been variously interpreted. Some say they refer to the final consummation before the Second Coming of Christ, and consequently to the general resurrection of the dead, of which the conversion in mass of the Jews will be the signal (Origen, St. Chrysostom, St. Thomas, Lagrange, etc.). But as the terms here used are not very precise, one cannot well conjecture what relation of time there will be between the final conversion of the Jews and the general resurrection of the dead (Lagrange). Others think there is reference in the above words to an increase of spiritual life, among the Christians already converted, that will come from the final conversion of the Jews (MacEvilly). Cornely rejects this last explanation. He disapproves of the first one also, because he says that St. Paul, when speaking of the general resurrection uses a different phrase, η αναστασις or εκ νεκρων. He therefore believes the Apostle is speaking indeterminately here, as in verse 12, of some wonderful benefit and happiness that are to result from the final and total conversion of the Jews; or that this final restoration of the Jews will be a good so great, as to be comparable to the resurrection of the dead.
Rom 11: 16. For if the firstfruit be holy, so is the lump also: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.
Although the Law has been abrogated and the mass of the Jews have been rejected, still, St. Paul reminds his Roman readers, the designs of God regarding His people have not failed, nor has the Jewish race ceased to belong, in a certain sense, to God, and to be consecrated to Him. This the Apostle proves by two comparisons.
The firstfruit and the root mean the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc., who were holy men and faithful servants of God.
The lump and the branches are the Jewish people, the descendants of the Patriarchs. When the Jews made bread they were accustomed to put aside a piece of the dough which they baked into a small cake to be offered to God and burnt, or given to the priest (Num. 15:19-21). The whole mass was considered to have a part in the consecration of this portion that was offered to God. Thus the Jews, by reason of their natural connection with their ancestors, the Patriarchs, who were holy men consecrated to God, have also a kind of holiness and consecration to God, even though it be only an external relation like that of the lump and the branches.
Rom 11:17. And if some of the branches be broken, and thou, being a wild olive, art ingrafted in them, and art made partaker of the root and of the fatness of the olive tree,
Rom 11:18. Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.
Lest any of the Romans should feel puffed up and boastful over their call to the faith, and should therefore be
inclined to despise the rejected Jews, St. Paul reminds them that they owe their inclusion in the stock of Israel only to that mercy of God which first looked with favor on the chosen people, and that if they guard not with fidelity the gratuitous gift they have received, they too will come short of their destined prizes (see Rom 11:20). No Gentile, therefore, should boast of his own condition or rejoice at that of the fallen Jew, but should rather fear for himself, while hoping for mercy toward the Jews.
The broken branches are the rejected Jews.
The wild olive represents the Gentile whom St. Paul has in mind, and who, like all the converted Gentiles, has, by the mercy of God and without any merit of his own, been ingrafted in them, i.e., has been ingrafted among (Cornely) the converted Jews and become partaker of the root, etc., i.e., of the blessings which were the Jews’ by right of inheritance.
Boast not, etc., because you remember that once you were a stranger to the covenant with God, without hope or promise in this world (Eph. 2:11-12), and that you were liberated from your misery only by being grafted on the true stock. The Gentile has nothing, then, whereof to boast, because salvation is from the Jews to the Gentiles (John 4:22), and not from the Gentiles to the Jews.
The branches (verse 18) refers to all the Jews (St. Thomas). The verbs “be broken” and “art ingrafted” should be in the past tense, according to the Greek.
St. Paul here speaks of the wild olive being grafted upon the cultivated variety. This causes some difficulty, inasmuch as the ordinary process of grafting was to graft a domestic shoot on a stock of the same kind, after cutting away all the original branches. But Prof. Fischer (Ramsay, Pauline Studies, p. 223 ff.) relates an exceptional process which was employed to invigorate an old olive tree that was failing; the branches of the old tree having been cut away, a shoot of the wild olive was grafted on the domestic stock to invigorate and render fertile the old tree. This process of grafting is witnessed to by two Roman writers, Columella, De re rustica, V. 9, and Palladius, De incisione, XIV. 53, and, according to Prof. Fischer, is in practice in Palestine at the present day.
Rom 11:19. Thou wilt say then : The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.
The Gentile is here represented as justifying his triumph by the fact that his inclusion was the purpose of the Jews’ rejection. As the gardener cuts away the branches in order to insert the new shoot, so the Jews were rejected in order that the Gentiles might be brought in. The role of the Jews, therefore, like that of the Law, was only preparatory; in the designs of God they have been replaced by the Gentiles (Lagr.).
Rom 11:20. Well: because of unbelief they were broken off. But thou standest by faith: be not highminded, but fear.
There was something of truth in the above argument of the supposed boastful Gentile, and St. Paul replies, not without irony, καλως, well. But he at once observes that the Jews were cut off and rejected for the precise reason that they did not believe, they had not sufficient humility to accept on faith the Gospel teaching; whereas the Gentiles, by believing, have come into the inheritance which was primarily intended for the Jews. It was, then, the faith, the humility, the obedience and submission of the Gentiles that made possible for them the bestowal of God’s gratuitous gift of faith. But this gift can be retained only by profound humility and fidelity, and hence the necessity of eschewing all pride and high-mindedness, and of cultivating the fear of God.
Because of unbelief should rather be “by unbelief” τη απιστια, corresponding to “by faith.” τη πιστει,—datives of cause or occasion (Cornely).
In the Vulgate propter incredulitatem should be incredulitate.
Rom 11:21. For if God hath not spared the natural branches, fear lest perhaps he also spare not thee.
St. Paul admonishes the Gentile whom he has before his mind to give up all high thoughts of self and to school himself in humility and fear, lest what happened to the Jews happen to him also. The Apostle is not saying here that the Gentile is going to be cut off, nor that he could be rejected more easily than the Jews were rejected (Lagr.).
Rom 11:22. See then the goodness and the severity of God: towards them indeed that are fallen, the severity; but towards thee, the goodness of God, if thou abide in goodness, otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
In order still more to inculcate salutary sentiments of humility and fear, St. Paul draws the Gentile’s attention to God’s actions toward the Jews and Gentiles respectively. Toward the Jews, in punishment of their unbelief, God has shown severity; but to the Gentiles, for contrary reasons, He has exhibited goodness and mercy by calling them gratuitously to the faith.
If thou abide, etc., i.e., if the Gentile perseveres in the faith received, and continues to live under the divine influence of the Goodness that blessed him with faith, God will also continue to manifest His mercy toward him.
Otherwise thou also shalt be cut off, because the just man can fall from the state of grace and justice, and no one, apart from special revelation, can be infallibly certain of his own perseverance
(Conc. Trid., Sess. VI. cap. 16, 23).
Canon 16 of Trent reads; If anyone says that a man who is born again and justified is bound ex fide to believe that he is certainly in the number of the predestined, let him be anathema.
Canon 23: If anyone says that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified; or on the contrary, that he can during his whole life avoid all sins, even those that are venial, except by a special privilege from God, as the Church holds in regard to the Blessed Virgin, let him be anathema. (source). On may also consult chapters 13 & 14 of the decree here.
Rom 11:23. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.
If the Jews will give up their unbelief, they also will be grafted on the faithful stock; the obstacle comes from them, because they refuse to believe in Jesus Christ. But God is able to triumph over their unbelief, since His power is infinite. St. Paul’s hope for Israel, hinted in Rom 11:12, is here explicitly declared.
Rom 11:24. For if thou wert cut out of the wild olive tree, which is natural to thee; and, contrary to nature, were grafted into the good olive tree; how much more shall they that are the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
It is more natural, and therefore easier to graft on a tree a homogeneous than a heterogeneous shoot. In fact, for successful grafting there must be some affinity of nature between the subject and the shoot; one can only use for grafting, therefore, varieties of the same species, or at least of the same genus. If the Gentiles, who were like the wild olive, have been grafted on the domestic tree of Israel, how much more natural, and how much easier, to our way of thinking, will it be to graft the Israelites, who are the natural branches, into their own olive tree.
Contrary to nature, i.e., beside the natural course of nature, praeter naturam.
The natural branches. The Jews were the natural descendants of Abraham and the Patriarchs, and as such, the natural heirs of the Messianic promises and blessings.
A Summary of Romans 11:25-32
Rom 11:25. For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, of this mystery (lest you should be wise in your own conceits), that blindness in part has happened in Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles should come in.
I would not have you ignorant, brethren. This is a favorite phrase of St. Paul’s when he wishes to speak confidentially and announce some matter of great importance (Rom 1:13; 1 Cor 10:1; 12:1; 2 Cor 1:8; 1 Thess 4:13). He is speaking to the Gentile Christians, and he wishes to remind them of doctrines already familiar to the Church in general, namely, that the Jews were to be hardened (Matt 12:38-48; 13:11-16; 23:29-36), that the failure of Israel would bring in the Gentiles (Matt 20:1-16; 24:14), and that the Jews themselves would at last turn to Christ (Matt 23:39; Luke 13:35).
This mystery, i.e., the final conversion of Israel to Christianity, which will take place after the conversion of the Gentiles, but before the end of the world. St. Paul calls this great truth a mystery, because it could not be known short of revelation, and was in fact revealed to him by God along with the other truths of the Gospel of Christ (Gal 1:12, 16; Eph 2:11-22; 3:1-13).
Lest you be wise, etc. The quotation is from Prov 3:7. The Apostle is admonishing the Gentiles to guard against self-conceit, as if they had merited their call to the faith, and also against despising the rejected Jews.
Blindness in part, etc. While the Jews as a people had failed to accept the Gospel, a number of them had been converted. And the blindness or obduracy of the majority is not to last forever; but until the fulness of the Gentiles shall come in, i.e., until the other nations of the world have accepted the Gospel and entered the Church of Christ. It is to be noted that this fulness of the Gentiles relates to peoples, not to individuals: all the nations or peoples of the earth will be converted to Christ before the end of the world, but not all the individuals of each nation (St. Thomas, Cornely, Lagrange, etc.).
God, therefore, in His all-wise designs has called a few of the Jews to the faith already. He has made the incredulity of the majority the occasion of the conversion of the Gentiles, and this latter He will make in turn the occasion for the final call to the faith of all the Jews. We have no sign, however, that this general conversion of the world will be soon. Here it may be useful to recall what Origen said on this subject: “God only knows, and His Only-begotten Son, and any friends that may be privy to His secrets, what is all Israel that is to be saved, and what is the fulness of the Gentiles that is to come in.”
Rom 11:26. And so all Israel should be saved, as it is written: There shall come out of Sion, he that shall deliver, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.
All Israel does not mean the predestined (St. Augustine), nor all the Jews taken individually (St. Thomas), but the mass of the people, as opposed to individuals who are converted during the time that intervenes before the last days come. Israel then as a nation, like the other nations of the world, will finally embrace the faith; but it will not be until after all those others have been gathered in that she shall enter the fold of Christ. What fate has overtaken or awaits those Jews who have been hardened meanwhile, St. Paul does not anywhere tell us.
As it is written. The Apostle has been speaking of a mystery which he has learned through revelation, and he confirms the truth of it by showing that it was already more or less clearly foretold in the Old Test. (Isa 59:20). The citation is fairly literal from the LXX, which faithfully follows the Hebrew with the exception that where the latter has “out of Sion,” the LXX has “for Sion’s sake.” In the best MSS. the quotation is read as follows: “There shall come out of Sion the deliverer: he shall turn away impieties from Jacob.” St. Paul seems to make the citation refer in a general way to the Second Coming of Christ, although the conversion of the Jews will just precede that Second Coming, and will be a consequence of the first advent of the Saviour.
Rom 11:27. And this is to them my covenant: when I shall take away their sins.
The first part of this verse is from Isa 59:21, and the second from Isa 27:9. God promises to make a new alliance with the people of Israel, when He will take away their sins and confer upon them forever His spirit and His doctrine.
In verses 25-27 we have the following unfulfilled prophecies: (a) Before the end of the world all Gentile nations shall be converted to Christianity, that is, the greater part of all nations, not all the individuals of each nation (St. Thomas); (b) after the conversion of the Gentiles, but before the end of the world, the Jews as a people will embrace Christianity. The fulfillment of these prophecies, and therefore the end of all things seem yet far off.
Rom 11:28. As concerning the gospel, indeed, they are enemies for your sake: but as touching the election, they are most dear for the sake of the fathers.
The present incredulity of the Jews will not hinder the final realization of God’s promises to them. God still loves them in their faithful ancestors.
As concerning the gospel, i.e., inasmuch as they have wilfully rejected the Gospel, the only means of salvation, they are enemies (εχθροι, odiosi), i.e., hateful to God (St. Thomas, Lagrange, etc.), and so have been excluded by God from their Messianic inheritance. This has happened to them, in the designs of God, for your sake, i.e., for the benefit of you Gentiles, because their unfaithfulness has been the occasion of your call to the Gospel (Rom 11:11, 12, 15).
But as touching the election, i.e., as regards their election from among all other peoples, by which they were made God’s chosen people and the depositories and custodians of God’s special revelation and divine promises, they are most dear to God for the sake of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob— God’s special friends and faithful servants.
Rom 11:29. For the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance.
God will not forsake His people forever, because His special gifts and calling are without repentance, and are consequently not subject to change (cf. 2 Cor 7:10). The Apostle is not speaking here of an invariable rule of Providence as regards creatures, but only of the great designs of God, such as respected the gifts and privileges of Israel and the latter’s call to be the adopted people of the Most High. As regards these privileges God will never change, or repent of having conceded them, because He pledged them to the Patriarchs with an oath (Deut 7:6-11). Despite, therefore, the unfaithfulness of the Jews, God will be true to His promises and will one day convert them as a whole to the faith. The call still holds if Israel will hear.
We read in 1 Kings 15:11 that God repented that He had chosen Saul; but the rejection of this king was only an episode, comparable to the temporary hardening of the Jews (Lagrange).
Rom 11:30. For as you also in times past did not believe God, but now have obtained mercy, through their unbelief;
Rom 11:31. So these also now have not believed, for your mercy, that they also may obtain mercy.
As mercy has found the Gentiles and led them to the faith, so at last it will seek out the Jews and bring them to Christianity.
As you Gentiles in times past were rebellious to the call of God and thus became an object of mercy, thanks to the obstinacy of the Jews, which has facilitated your conversion; so the Jews, now hardened, will become obedient to the Gospel on account of the mercy which you have experienced (Cornely, Lipsius, Julicher, etc.). In this interpretation the mercy shown to the Gentiles will be the occasion of showing mercy to the Jews, because it will excite the latter to jealous emulation. But since St. Paul has insisted on this thought several times before, and since it does not so well fit in with verse 32, it would seem that the Apostle is here rather drawing out a general idea, namely, that it is the purpose of God to permit all to fall into disobedience, so as to give play to the exercise of mercy. The ancient disobedience of the Gentiles has been followed by mercy, and likewise the disobedience of the Jews will finally issue in a display of mercy (Lagr., Kuhl, S. H., etc.).
Modern interpreters generally suppose ηπειθησαν to signify to be disobedient, and απειθειαν to mean disobedience.
Rom 11:32. For God hath concluded all in unbelief, that he may have mercy on all.
Hath concluded (συνεκλεισεν) , has enslaved.
All (τους παντας) refers not to the hardened Jews only, nor to individuals among the Gentiles and Jews, but to all classes, as explained above.
In unbelief (απειθειαν), i.e., in disobedience. All, therefore,—Jews and Gentiles, have sinned and need justification, which only the mercy of God can procure; the sinful Gentiles have already been touched by God’s mercy, and the wayward Jews shall later yield to the same merciful Providence.
The omnia of the Vulgate should be omnes here, to agree with the Greek. In incredulitate should be in inobedientiam.
A Summary of Romans 11:33-36
Rom 11:33. O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways
O the depth. All the Greek MSS. and the Fathers read: “O depth of riches and of wisdom and of knowledge of God.” “Depth” may signify height, as well as profundity; here it means the immensity of God’s riches, wisdom, etc.
Wisdom indicates the divine prudence with which God governs all creatures and leads them to their ends which have been ordained from all eternity.
Knowledge means the science with which God penetrates all things, knowing and choosing the means most fitted to their ends. The end here in question is the salvation of souls, to which God has ordered faith in Christ as a means.
How incomprehensible, etc. The reasons which underlie God’s judgments in showing mercy to some rather than to others are altogether inscrutable to the mind of man.
How unsearchable, etc. The ways which God takes and the means He employs in executing the decrees of His infinite knowledge are beyond the power of any creature to trace.
In the Vulgate et should precede sapientiae.
St. Paul confirms the profundity of God’s divine attributes by three citations from the Old Testament, the first two of which are almost literally from the LXX of Isaiah 40:13, 14, and the third from the Hebrew text of Job 41:3. God reveals to some extent, but His mind is open to no one, because none can penetrate the divine thoughts; He draws His counsels from no one, for He has no need of counselors; to none is He indebted, since He is the source and ruler and end of all.
Rom 11:36. For of him, and by him, and in him, are all things: to him be glory for ever. Amen.
We can neither penetrate the knowledge of God, nor aid Him with our counsels, nor help Him with our resources, because all things are of him, i.e., they depend upon Him as upon their cause and creator; all things are by him, i.e., they are sustained by Him; all things are in him, or unto him (εις αυτον), i.e., they tend to Him as to their last end (Comely, Lagr., Zahn). Origen, St. Aug. and others have seen an allusion to the Trinity in the three expressions of him, by him, and in him; but there is no good reason for this opinion (Cornely, Lagr.).
To him be glory, etc. Thus, by calling on all creatures to give glory to God, does the Apostle terminate the Dogmatic Portion of this great Epistle.