Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. XI:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom on Paul's Epistle to the Romans: Homily XXV on Rom. xiv. 1, 2.
Rom. 14:1, 2
“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things; another, who is weak, eateth herbs.”
I Am aware that to most what is here said is a difficulty. And therefore I must first give the subject of the whole of this passage, and what he wishes to correct in writing this. What does he wish to correct then? There were many of the Jews which believed, who adhered of conscience to the Law, and after their believing, still kept to the observance of meats, as not having courage yet to quit the service of the Law entirely. Then that they might not be observed if they kept from swines flesh only, they abstained in consequence from all flesh, and ate herbs only, that what they were doing might have more the appearance of a fast than of observance of the Law. 1586 Others again were farther advanced, (τελειότεροι) and kept up no one thing of the kind, who became to those, who did keep them, distressing and offensive, by reproaching them, accusing them, driving them to despondency. Therefore the blessed Paul, out of fear lest, from a wish to be right about a trifle, they should overthrow the whole, and from a wish to bring them to indifferency about what they ate, should put them in a fair way for deserting the faith, and out of a zeal to put everything right at once, before the fit opportunity was come, should do mischief on vital points, so by this continual rebuking setting them adrift from their agreement in (ὁμολογίας εἰς) Christ, and so they should remain not righted in either respect: observe what great judgment he uses and how he concerns himself with both interests with his customary wisdom. For neither does he venture to say to those who rebuke, Ye are doing amiss, that he may not seem to be confirming the other in their observances; nor again, Ye are doing right, lest he should make them the more vehement accusers: but he makes his rebuke to square with each. And in appearance he is rebuking the stronger, but he pours forth all he has to say 1587 against the other in his address to these. For the kind of correction most likely to be less grating is, when a person addresses some one else, while he is striking a blow at a different person, since this does not permit the person rebuked to fly into a passion, and introduces the medicine of correction unperceived. See now with what judgment he does this, and how well-timed he is with it. For after saying, “make not provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof,” then he proceeds to the discussion of these points, that he might not seem to be speaking in defence of those who were the rebukers, and were for eating of anything. For the weaker part ever requires more forethought. Wherefore he aims his blow against the strong, immediately saying as follows, “Him that is weak in the faith.” You see one blow immediately given to him. For by calling him weak (ἀσθενοὕντα), he points out that he is not healthy (ἄρρωστον). Then he adds next, “receive,” and point out again that he requires much attention. And this is a sign of extreme debility. “Not to doubtful disputations.” 1588 See, he has laid on a third stripe. For here he makes it appear that his error is of such a nature, that even those who do not transgress in the same manner, and who nevertheless admit him to their affection, and are earnestly bent upon curing him, are at doubt. 1589 You see how in appearance he is conversing with these, but is rebuking others secretly and without giving offence. Then by placing them beside each other, one he gives encomiums, the other accusations. For he goes on to say, “One believeth that he may eat all things,” commending him on the score of his faith. “Another who is weak, eateth herbs,” disparaging this one again, on the score of his weakness. Then since the blow he had given was deadly (καιρίαν, used hyperbolically), he comforts him again in these words,
Rom. 14.3. “Let not him that eateth, despise him that eateth not.”
He does not say, let him alone, nor does he say, do not blame him, nor yet, do not set him right; but do not reproach him, do not “despise” him, to show they were doing a thing perfectly ridiculous. But of this he speaks in other words. “Let not him which eateth not, judge him that eateth.” For as the more advanced made light of these, as of little faith, and falsely healed, and spurious, and still Judaizers, so they too judged these as law-breakers, or as given to gluttony. And of these it is likely that many were of the Gentiles too. Wherefore he proceeds, for God hath received him. But in the others case he does not say this. And yet to be despised was the eaters share, as a glutton, but to be judged, his that did not eat, as of little faith. But he has made them change places, to show that he not only does not deserve to be despised, but that he can even despise. But do I condemn him? he means. By no means. For this is why he proceeds, “for God hath received him.” Why then speakest thou to him of the law, as to a transgressor? “For God hath received him:” that is, has shown His unspeakable grace about him, and hath freed him from all charges against him; then again he turns to the strong.
Rom. 14.4. “Who art thou that judgest another mans servant?”
Whence it appears that they too judged, and did not despise only. “To his own Master he standeth or falleth.” See here is another stroke. And the indignation seems to be against the strong man, and he attacks him. When he says, “Yea, he shall be holden up,” he shows that he is still wavering, and requireth so much attention as to call in God as a physician for this, “for God,” he says, “is able to make him stand.” And this we say of things we are quite in despair about. Then, that he may not despair he both gives him the name of a servant when he says, “Who art thou that judgest another mans servant?” And here again he secretly attacks him. For it is not because he does things worthy to exempt him from being judged, that I bid you not judge him, but because he is Anothers servant, that is, not thine, but Gods. Then to solace him again he does not say, “falleth,” but what? “standeth or falleth.” But whether it be the latter or the former, either of these is the Masters concernment, since the loss also goes to Him, if he does fall, as the riches too, if he stand. And this again if we do not attend to Pauls aim in not wishing them to be rebuked before a fitting opportunity, is very unworthy of the mutual care becoming for Christians. But (as I am always saying) we must examine the mind with which it is spoken, and the subject on which it is said and the object he would compass when he says it. But he makes them respectful by no slight motive, when he says this: for what he means is, if God, Who undergoeth the loss, hitherto doth nothing, how can you be else than ill-timed and out of all measure exact, when you seize on (ἄγκων, throttle) him and annoy him?
Rom. 14.5. “One man esteemeth one day above another, another esteemeth every day alike.”
Here he seems to me to be giving a gentle hint about fasting. For it is not unlikely that some who fasted were always judging those who did not, or among the observances it is likely that there were some that on fixed days abstained, and on fixed days did not. 1590 Whence also he says, “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” And in this way he released those who kept the observances from fear, by saying that the thing was indifferent, and he removed also the quarrelsomeness of those who attacked them, by showing that it was no very desirable (or urgent, περισπούδαστον) task to be always making a trouble about these things. Yet it was not a very desirable task, not in its own nature, but on account of the time chosen, and because they were novices in the faith. For when he is writing to the Colossians, it is with great earnestness that he forbids it, saying, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the elements of the world, and not after Christ.” (Col. ii. 8, see p. 4.) And again, “Let no man judge you in meat or in drink” (Col. 2.16), and, “let no man beguile you of your reward.” (Col. 2.18.) And when writing to the Galatians with great precision, he exacts of them Christian spirit and perfectness in this matter. But here he does not use this vehemency, because the faith was lately planted in them. Let us therefore not apply the phrase, “Let every man be persuaded in his own mind,” to all subjects. For when he is speaking of doctrines, hear what he says, “If any one preacheth unto you any gospel other than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. i. 9), “even” if it be “an angel.” And again, “I fear lest by any means as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted.” (2 Cor. xi. 3.) And in writing to the Philippians, he says, “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.” (Phil. iii. 2.) But with the Romans, since it was not yet the proper time for setting things of this sort right, “Let every man,” he says, “be fully persuaded in his own mind.” For he had been speaking of fasting. It was to clear away the vanity of the others and to release these from fear then, that he said as follows:
Rom. 14.6. “He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it.” And, “He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.”
He still keeps to the same subject. And what he means is about this. The thing is not concerned with fundamentals. For the thing requisite is, if this person and the other are acting for Gods sake, the thing requisite is (these words are repeated 3 mss.), if both terminate in thanksgiving. For indeed both this man and that give thanks to God. If then both do give thanks to God, the difference is no great one. But let me draw your notice to the way in which here also he aims unawares a blow at the Judaizers. For if the thing required be this, the “giving of thanks,” it is plain enough that he which eateth it is that “giveth thanks,” and not “he which eateth not.” For how should he, while he still holds to the Law? As then he told the Galatians, “As many of you as are justified by the Law are fallen from grace” (Gal. v. 4); so here he hints it only, but does not unfold it so much. For as yet it was not time to do so. But for the present he bears with it (see p. 337): but by what follows he gives it a further opening. For where he says,
Rom. 14:7, 8. “For none of us liveth unto himself, and no man dieth unto himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord,” by this too he makes the same clearer. For how can he that liveth unto the Law, be living unto Christ? But this is not the only thing that he effects by this, he also holds back the person who was in so much haste for their being set right, and persuades him to be patient, by showing that it is impossible for God to despise them, but that in due time He will set them right. What is the force then of “none of us liveth to himself?” It means, We are not free, we have a Master who also would have us live, and willeth not that we die, and to whom both of these are of more interest than to us. For by what is here said he shows that he hath a greater concern for us than we have ourselves, and considereth more than we do, as well our life to be wealth, as our death to be a loss. For we do not die to ourselves alone, but to our Master also, if we do die. But by death here he means that from the faith. However, this were enough to convince us that He taketh care for us, in that it is to Him we live, and to Him we die. Still he is not satisfied with saying this, but proceeds further. For after saying, “Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lords,” and passing from that death to the physical one, that he may not give an appearance of harshness to his language, he gives another very great indication of His care for us. Now of what kind is this?
Rom. 14.9. “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living.”
And so let us at least convince thee, that He is thoughtful for our salvation. For had He not had this great care for us, where were the need of the Dispensation (or Incarnation, οἰκονομίας)? He then that hath shown so much anxiety about our becoming His, as to take the form of a servant, and to die, will He despise us after we have become so? This cannot be so, assuredly it cannot! Nor would He choose to waste so much pains. “For to this end (he says) he also died,” as if any one were to say, Such an one will not have the heart to despise his servant. For he minded his own purse. (Cf. Ex. xxi. 21.) For indeed we are not so much in love with money, as is He with our salvation. Wherefore it was not money, but His own Blood that He gave as bail for us. And for this cause He would not have the heart to give them up, for whom He had laid down so great a price. See too how he shows that His power also is unspeakable. For he says, “to this end He both died and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and the living.” And above he said, “for whether we live or die, we are His.” See what a wide extended Mastery! see what unconquerable might! see what exact providence over us! For tell me not, he means, of the living. Even for the departed He taketh care. But if He doth of the departed, it is quite plain that He doth of the living also. For He hath not omitted any point for this Mastery, making out for Himself more claims than men do, and especially beside 1591 all other things in order to take care of us. For a man puts down money, and for this clings strongly to his own slave. But He Himself paid down His death; and the salvation of one who was purchased at so great a price, and the Mastery over whom He had gained with so much anxiety and trouble, He is not likely to count of no value. But this he says to make the Judaizer abashed, and to persuade him to call to mind the greatness of the benefit, and how that when dead he had come to be alive, and that there was nothing that he gained from the Law, and how that it would be the last degree of unfeelingness, to leave Him Who had shown so much care toward him, and run away back to the Law. After attacking him then sufficiently, he relaxes again, and says,
Rom. 14.10. “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother?”
And so he seems to be setting them upon a level, but from that he has said, he shows that the difference between them is great. First then by the appellation of “brother” he does away with disputatiousness, and then also by calling that awful day to their mind. For after saying, “Why dost thou set at nought thy brother?” he proceeds, “For we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ.”
And he seems indeed to be again rebuking the more advanced in saying this, but he is putting the mind of the Judaizer to confusion by not only calling for his reverence to the benefit that had been done him, but also making him afraid of the punishment to come. “For we shall all,” he says, “stand before the judgment-seat of Christ.”
Rom. 14:11, 12. “For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”
See how he again puts his mind into confusion, while he seems to be rebuking the other. For he intimates some such thing, as if he had said, How does it affect you? Are you to be punished for him? But this he does not say, but hints at it by putting it in a milder form, and saying, “For we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ:” and, “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” And he introduces the prophet 1592 in witness of the subjection of all to Him, yea a subjection extended even to those in the Old Testament, and of all absolutely. For he does not barely say every one shall worship, but “shall confess,” that is, shall given an account of what he has done. Be in anxiety then as seeing the Master of all sitting on his judgment-seat, and do not make schisms and divisions in the Church, by breaking away from grace, and running over to the Law. For the Law also is His. And why say I so of the Law? Even those in the Law and those before the Law are His. And it is not the Law that will demand an account of thee, but Christ, of thee and of all the human race. See how he has released us from the fear of the Law. Then that he may not seem to be saying this to frighten them for the occasion, but to have come to it in the course he had proposed himself, he again keeps to the same subject, and says,
Rom. 14.13. “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in his brothers way.”
This does not apply to one less than the other: wherefore it may well fit with both, both the advanced man that was offended at the observance of meats, and the unadvanced that stumbled at the vehement rebuke given him. But consider, I pray you, the great punishment we shall suffer, if we give offence at all. For if in a case where the thing was against law, yet, as they rebuked unseasonably, he forbade their doing it, in order that a brother might not be made to offend and stumble; when we give an offence without having anything to set right even, what treatment shall we deserve? For if not saving others be a crime (and that it is so, he who buried the talent proves), what will be the effect of giving him offence also? But what if he gives himself the offence, you may say, by being weak? Why this is just why thou oughtest to be patient. For if he were strong, then he would not require so much attention. But now, since he is of the feebler sort, he does on this ground need considerable care. Let us then yield him this, and in all respects bear his burdens, as it is not of our own sins only that we shall have to give an account, but for those also wherein we cause others to offend. For if that account, were even by itself hard to pass, when these be added too, how are we to be saved? And let us not suppose, that if we can find accomplices in our sins, that will be an excuse; as this will prove an addition to our punishment. Since the serpent too was punished more than the woman, as was the woman likewise more than the man (1 Tim. ii. 14); and Jezebel also was punished more severely than Ahab, who had seized the vineyard; for it was she that devised the whole matter, and caused the king to offend. (1 Kings 21:23, 25, 29.) And therefore thou, when thou art the author of destruction to others, wilt suffer more severely 1593 than those who have been subverted by thee. For sinning is not so ruinous as leading others also into the same. Wherefore he speaks of those who “not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” (Rom. i. 32.) And so when we see any sinning, let us, so far from thrusting them on, even pull them back from the pit of iniquity, that we may not have to be punished for the ruin of others besides ourselves. And let us be continually in mind of the awful judgment-seat, of the stream of fire, of the chains never to be loosed, of the darkness with no light, the gnashing of teeth, and the venomous worm. “Ah, but God is merciful!” Are these then mere words? and was not that rich man punished for despising Lazarus? Are not the foolish 1594 virgins cast out of the Bride-chamber? Do not they who did not feed Him go away into “the fire prepared for the devil?” (Matt. xxv. 41.) Will not he that hath soiled garments be “bound hand and foot” (Matt. 22.13), and go to ruin? Will, not he that demanded the hundred pence to be paid, be given over to the tormentors? Is not that said of the adulterers 1595 true, that “their worm shall not die, nor their fire be quenched?” 1596 (Mark ix. 43.) Are these but mere threats then? Yea, it is answered. And from what source pray dost thou venture to make such an assertion, and that too when thou passest judgment of thine own opinion? Why, I shall be able to prove the contrary, both from what He said, and from what He did. (See John v. 22.) For if you will not believe by the punishments that are to come, at least believe by those that have happened already. For what have happened, and have come forth into reality, surely are not threats and words. Who then was it that flooded the whole world, and affected that baleful wreck, and the utter destruction of our whole race! Who was it that after this hurled those thunders and lightnings upon the land of Sodom? Who that drowned all Egypt in the sea? Who that consumed the six hundred thousand men in the wilderness? Who that burnt up the synagogue of Abiram? Who that bade the earth open her mouth for the company of Core and Dathan, and swallow them up? Who that carried off the threescore and ten thousand at one sweep in Davids time? Shall I mention also those that were punished individually! Cain, who was given up to a continual vengeance? (the son of) Charmi, 1597 who was stoned with his whole family? Or him, that suffered the same thing for gathering sticks on the sabbath? The forty children who were consumed by those beasts, and obtained no pardon even on the score of their age? And if you would see these same things even after the times of grace, just consider what great suffering the Jews had, how the women ate their children, some roasting them, and some consuming them in other ways: 1598 how after being given up to irremediable famine, and wars varied and severe, they threw all previous catastrophes into the shade by the exceeding greatness of their own calamities. For that it was Christ Who did these things unto them, hear Him declaring as much, both by parables, and clearly and explicitly. By parables, as when He says, “But those that would not that I should reign over them, bring hither and slay them” (Luke xix. 27); and by that of the vineyard, and that of the marriage. But clearly and explicitly, as when He threatens that they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into the nations, and there shall be upon the earth “distress of nations with perplexity, at the roaring of the sea and waves; 1599 mens hearts failing them for fear.” (Luke 21:24, 25, 26.) “And there shall be tribulation, such as there never was, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matt. xxiv. 21.) And what a punishment Ananias too and Sapphira suffered, for the theft of a few pieces of money, ye all know. Seest thou not the daily calamities also? Or have these too not taken place? Seest thou not now men that are pining with famine? those that suffer elephantiasis, or are maimed in body? those that live in constant poverty, those that suffer countless irreparable evils? Now then will it be reasonable for some to be punished, and some not? For if God be not unjust (and unjust He is not), thou also wilt assuredly suffer punishment, if thou sinnest. But if because He is merciful He doth not punish, then ought not these either to have been punished. But now because of these words of yours, God even here punisheth many, that when ye believe not the words of the threatening, the deeds of vengeance ye may at least believe.
And since things of old do not affright you so much, by things which happen in every generation, He correcteth those that in every generation are growing listless. And what is the reason, it may be said, why He doth not punish all here? That He may give the others an interval 1600 for repentance. Why then does He not take vengeance upon all in the next world? 1601 It is lest many should disbelieve in His providence. How many robbers are there who have been taken, and how many that have left this life unpunished? Where is the mercy of God then? it is my turn now to ask of thee. For supposing no one at all had vengeance taken upon him, then you might have taken refuge in this. But now that some are punished, and some are not, though they be the worse sinners, how can it be reasonable that there be not the same punishments for the same sins? How can those punished appear to be else than wronged? What reason is there then why all are not punished here? Hear His own defence for these things. For when some had died by the falling of a tower on them: He said to those who raised a question upon this, “Suppose ye that they were sinners above all men? I tell you nay, but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4, 5); so exhorting us not to feel confident when others suffer punishment, and we ourselves, though we have committed many transgressions, do not. For except we change our conduct, we assuredly shall suffer. And how, it may be said, is it that we are to be punished without end for sinning a short time here? how, I ask, is it that in this world, 1602 those who in a short moment of time have done one murder, are condemned to constant punishment in the mines? “But it is not God that does this,” it may be said. How then came He to keep the man with a palsy for thirty and eight years in so great punishments? For that it was for sins that He punished him, hear what He says, “Behold, thou art made whole, sin no more.” (John v. 14.) Still it is said, he found a release. But the case is not so with the other life. For that there, there will never be any release, 1603 hear from His own mouth, “Their worm will not die, nor their fire be quenched.” (Mark ix. 44.) And “these shall go into everlasting life, but these into everlasting punishment.” (Matt. xxv. 46.) Now if the life be eternal, the punishment is eternal. Seest thou not how severely He threatened the Jews? Then have the things threatened come to pass, or were those that were told them a mere talk? “One stone shall not remain upon another.” (Luke xxi. 6.) And has it remained? But what, when He says, “There shall be tribulation such as hath not been?” (Matt. xxiv. 21.) Has it not come then? Read the history of Josephus, and thou wilt not be able to draw thy breath even, at only hearing what they suffered for their doings. This I say, not that I may pain you, but that I may make you secure, and lest by having humored you overmuch, I should but make a way for the endurance of sorer punishments. For why, pray, dost thou not deem it right thou shouldest be punished for sinning? Hath He not told thee all beforehand? Hath He not threatened thee? not come to thy aid? 1604 not done things even without number for thy salvations sake? Gave He thee not the laver of Regeneration, and forgave He not all thy former sins? Hath He not after this forgiveness, and the laver, also given thee the succor of repentance if thou sin? Hath He not made the way to forgiveness of sins, even after all this, easy 1605 to thee? Hear then what He hath enjoined: “If thou forgive thy neighbor, I also will forgive thee” (Matt. 6.14), He says. What hardship is there in this? “If ye judge the cause of the fatherless, and see that the widow have right, come and let us converse together,” He saith, “and if your sins be as purple, I will make them white as snow.” (Isa. 1:17, 18.) What labor is there here? “Tell thy sins, that thou mayest be justified.” (Is. xliii. 26. LXX.) What hardship is there in this? “Redeem thy sins with alms.” (Dan. iv. 24.) What toilsomeness is there in this? The Publican said, “Be merciful to me a sinner,” and “went down home justified.” (Luke 18:13, 14.) What labor is it to imitate the Publican? And wilt thou not be persuaded even after this that there is punishment and vengeance? At that rate thou wilt deny that even the devil is punished. For, “Depart,” He says, “into the fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matt. xxv. 41.) Now if there be no hell, then neither is he punished. But if he is punished, it is plain that we shall also. For we also have disobeyed, even if it be not in the same way. And how comest thou not to be afraid to speak such daring things? For when thou sayest that God is merciful, and doth not punish, if He should punish he will be found in thy case to be no longer merciful. See then unto what language the devil leadeth you? And what are the monks that have taken up with the mountains, and yield examples of such manifold self-denial, 1606 to go away without their crown? For if the wicked are not to be punished, and there is no recompense made to any one, some one else will say, perhaps, that neither are the good crowned. Nay, it will be said, For this is suitable with God, that there should be a kingdom only, and not a hell. Well then, shall the whoremonger, and the adulterer, and the man who hath done evils unnumbered, enjoy the same advantages with the man who has exhibited soberness and holiness, and Paul is to stand with Nero, or rather even the devil with Paul? For if there be no hell and yet there will be a Resurrection of all, then the wicked will attain to the same good things! And who would say this? Who even of men that were quite crazed? or rather, which of the devils even would say this? For even they confess that there is a hell. Wherefore also they cried out and said, “Art Thou come hither to torment us before the time?” (Matt. 8.29.)
How then comest thou not to fear and tremble, when even the devils confess what thyself art denying? Or how is it that thou dost not see who is the teacher of these evil doctrines? For he who deceived the first man, and under the pretext of greater hopes, threw them out even of the blessings they had in possession, he it is who now suggests the saying and fancying of these things. And for this reason he persuades some to suspect there is no hell, that he may thrust them into hell. As God on the other hand threateneth hell, and made hell ready, that by coming to know of it thou mightest so live as not to fall into hell. And yet if, when there is a hell, the devil persuades thee to these things, how came the devils to confess it, if it did not exist, 1607 whose aim and desire it is that we should not suspect anything of the kind, that through fearlessness we might become the more listless, and so fall with them into that fire? How then (it will be said) came they to confess it? It was through their not bearing the compulsion laid upon them. Taking all these things into consideration then, let those who talk in this way leave off deceiving both themselves and others since even for these words of theirs they will be punished for detracting (διασύροντες) from those awful things, and relaxing the vigor 1608 of many who are minded to be in earnest, and do not even do as much as those barbarians, for they, though they were ignorant of everything, when they heard that the city was to be destroyed, were so far from disbelieving, that they even groaned, and girded themselves with sackcloth, and were confounded, and did not cease to use every means until they had allayed the wrath. (Jonah iii. 5.) But dost thou, who hast had so great experience of facts and of teaching, make light of what is told thee? The contrary then will be thy fate. For as they through fear of the words had not to undergo the vengeance in act, so thou who despisest the threatening by words, wilt have to undergo the punishment in very deed. And if now what thou art told seems a fable to thee, it will not, however, seem so when the very things convince thee, in that Day. Have you never noticed what He did even in this world? How when He met with two thieves, He counted them not worthy of the same estate, but one He led into the Kingdom, and the other He sent away into Hell? And why speak I of a robber and murderer? For even the Apostle He did not spare, when he had become a traitor, but even when He saw him rushing to the halter, and hanging, and bursting asunder in the midst (for he did “burst asunder, and all his bowels gushed out”) (Acts i. 18), still when He foresaw all these things, He let him suffer all the same, giving thee from the present a proof of all that is in the other world also. Do not then cheat yourselves, through being persuaded of the devil. These devices are his. For if both judges, and masters, and teachers, and savages, respect the good, and punish the evil, with what reason is the contrary to be the case with God, while the good man and he who is not so are deemed worthy of the same estate? And when will they leave off their wickedness? For they who now are expecting punishment, and are amongst so many terrors, those from the judges and from the laws, and yet do not for this depart from iniquity; when on their departing this life they are to lay aside even this fear, and are not only not to be cast into hell, but are even to obtain a kingdom; when will they leave doing wickedly? Is this then mercy, pray? to add to wickedness, to set up rewards for iniquity, to count the sober and the unchastened, the faithful and the irreligious, Paul and the devil, to have the same deserts? But how long am I to be trifling? Wherefore I exhort you to get you free from this madness, and having grown to be your own masters, persuade your souls to fear and to tremble, that they may at once be saved from the hell to come, and may, after passing the life in this world soberly, attain unto the good things to come by the grace and love towards man, etc.
Chrys. adopts the view which was common in antiquity as to who the “weak” here mentioned were. He regards them as judaizing Christians who were over-zealous for the Mosaic law and even went beyond its explicit requirements to abstain from swines flesh and abstained from meat altogether. Another class of interpreters have supposed that the scruples of the “weak” concerning meat had the same ground as in 1 Cor. 8:0, 1 Cor. 10:01 Cor. viii. and 1 Cor. x., viz., the fear of eating flesh and drinking wine that had been used in the heathen sacrificial worship (So Rückert, Philippi, Neander). The chief objection to the former view is that they could not have derived their doctrine of entire abstinence from meat and wine from the Mosaic law, which prohibits only the flesh of certain unclean animals and does not prohibit wine at all except in particular cases. The difficulty with the second view is that the whole passage has no allusion to heathen sacrifices, which could hardly have been the case if they had been the ground of the scruple. On the contrary in Rom. 14.14 Paul in correcting these ascetic notions declares his conviction that nothing is “unclean of itself,” showing that their view was that flesh and wine possessed in themselves some power of pollution. The difficulties connected with these explanations have led many recent scholars to different explanations. Baur regarded the “weak” as Ebionitic Christians, but the Ebionites abstained from flesh as inherently sinful and it would seem that if this had been the opinion of the “weak” that Paul could hardly have treated it so mildly. Since the Ebionites date from about 70 a.d., these ascetics at Rome could have been Ebionitic only in the sense of having the germs of subsequent Ebionism. An opinion similar to this has been advocated by Ritschl, Meyer and Mangold. In their view the root of this asceticism was Essenic. There was certainly a Judeo-Christian minority in the Roman church. The ideas of the Essenes were widely disseminated among the Jews at the time. It is natural to suppose that among the Roman Jews there were Essenes or those of Essenic tendencies who upon their conversion would associate their rigorous asceticism with the Christian doctrine of the subjugation of the flesh. This view best meets the requirements of the passage. The Essenes abstained wholly from wine and practised a supra-legal regimen in regard to food. They would have no occasion to array themselves against the apostles doctrine and he therefore treats their scruples not in a polemic but in a cautious and conciliatory spirit.—G.B.S.i:1587
κενοῖ, i.e. so as not to have to say anything against them directly. St. Chrysostom turns the passage in that way more than Theodoret. See on v. 4, which Theod. applies directly against the Judaizers. His general remarks on the rhetoric of the passage are independent of this question.i:1588
Rom. 14.2 counsels receiving to Christian fellowship those affected by these ascetic scruples but μὴ εἰς διακρίσεις διαλογισμῶν. These words have been variously rendered: (1) “not to doubtful disputations” (A.V., R.V.); (2) “for decisions of doubts” (marg. R.V.); (3) not to judgings of thoughts (Meyer); “not to discussions of opinions” (Godet). It is clear that the apostle exhorts the church against allowing the scruples in question to be matter of debate and division but whether he means to place a limitation upon the churchs duty to receive the weak brethren or whether he exhorts them to refrain from making the opinions of the weak a matter of discussion and judgment, is a question still unsettled. The following consideration deserve attention in the decision of the question (1) Paul treats the “weak” throughout with great forbearance and tenderness. (2) The church is the party exhorted. (3) It is probably that the διακρίσεις διαλογισμῶν refer to actions or judgments which the church would be in danger of exercising toward the weak. (4) It is likely that the question of eating meats or herbs only (Rom. 14.2) is a specimen of the διαλογισμοί referred to. (5) Διακρίσις means an act of distinguishing things that differ, i.e. a logical or moral judgment. (6) The question remains whether διαλογισμός means a doubt, or a thought, an opinion. The latter is the primary meaning and seems preferable here. Then the meaning would be: receive these persons to fellowship and abstain from criticisms and judgments upon their conscientious opinions. The translation of our Eng. vs. “not to doubtful disputations” is as ambiguous as the original phrase is in Greek, and is, therefore, a faithful rendering in respect of ambiguity. These translators seem to take διακρίσεις as meaning “doubts”—a meaning which that word cannot be shown to bear.—G.B.S.i:1589
He seems to mean, “are at doubt whether they may acknowledge such.” So Œcumenius seems to take it, who paraphrases this comment, and adds καὶ χωρίζεσθαι, “and separate themselves.”i:1590
ἐχομένους, here opposed to ἀπεχομένους.i:1591
χωρὶς: The construction seems imperfect: the Translator suggests χωρισθεὶς, “separating Himself from all others.” If the passage be not corrupt, χωρὶς τῶν ἄλλων ἁπάντων is merely = in primis; and so Field.i:1592
Some mss. and edd. “with all attesting the subjection to Him.” The passage is found Is. xlv. 23, probably the reading of the LXX., till it was corrected to suit the Hebrew. See Parsons ad loc.i:1593
Sav. Mar. and one ms. end the sentence, “having punishment exacted of the for those who have been made by thee to offend.”i:1594
The oil representing especially deeds of mercy. Hil. ad. 1. See St. Chrys. on Rom. xi. 6. p. 485.i:1595
See Matt. 5:28, 2 Pet. 2:14Matt. v. 28, and 2 Pet. ii. 14. And with respect to giving cause of offence to others, Mark. ix. 44.i:1596
Fields punctuation will give the sense, “These then are mere words—the rich man is not punished, nor the foolish virgins cast out, etc., but these are only threats!” which is perhaps more vigorous. Compare Hom. xxxi. p. 496: also Brownings Heretics Tragedy.
“Who maketh Gods menace an idle word?
Saith, it no more means what it proclaims
Than a damsels threat to her wanton bird?
—For she too prattles of ugly names.
Saith, he knoweth but one thing—what he knows?
That God is good and the rest is breath.”i:1597
Most mss. have “Charmi” or “Charmin;” one “Achar,” one “Achar the son of Charmi.”i:1598
Josephus, B. J. vi., vii. c. 8., Euseb. H. E. iii. 6.i:1599
So most mss. of St. Chrysostom, and the best of the N.T.i:1600
προθεσμίαν, lit. a set time. He has used the term before with especial view to the length of the time.i:1601
i.e. so as to spare all in this.i:1602
See Butlers Anal. i. 2. “But all this,” and i. 3. iii.i:1603
So mss. λύσιν. Sav. λῆξιν, cessation: see 383, note 3.i:1604
So Field: Vulg. “made thee afraid.”i:1605
St. Chrysostom must not be understood here as making light of the labor of an effectual repentance, nor as excluding the office of the Church in accepting the Penitent. His object is to show that there is no such difficulty in repentance, as need be an objection to our belief in eternal punishment. He is speaking of repentance in the lowest degree, and he certainly held that different degrees of it would obtain different degrees of benefit. As of almsgiving on Rom. xi. 6, p. 485. etc. “It is possible to gain approval by thy last will, not indeed in such way as in thy lifetime,” and more generally ad Theodorum Lapsum, t. i. p. 11, 12. Ben. where he represents it as difficult, though not so much so as it might seem to those who did not try it, and know its consolations: and Hom i. de S. Pentec. fin. he says, “It is possible by diligence, prayer, and exceeding watchfulness, to wipe out all our sins that are written down. This then let us make our business all our days, that when we depart thither, we may obtain some forgiveness, and all escape irrevocable punishments.” Of confession he speaks strongly, de Cruce et Latrone, Hom. i. t. 2, 407; B. ad Pop. Ant. Hom. 3, p. 42 E. on the Statues, p. 66 O.T. and of the power of the Priesthood to absolve, de Sac., c. 3, §5, t. i. p. 384 E. quoting Jas. 5:14, 15.i:1606
μυρίαν ἄσκησιν: the term asceticism is an insufficient translation of ascesis, since its termination takes off the reality. The word “crown” hints at a play on its secular sense, of gymnastic training.i:1607
This sentence may be read so as to avoid the fault in reasoning; he breaks off the supposition as too absurd, and after a pause gives the true account of the case, which he in fact assumes in the first clause. The whole passage is rhetorical, and the first mention of the devils is introduced with tremendous power, as almost any one must have felt in reading it.i:1608
Or “undoing the awe,” as edd. before Field, and some mss.
Next: Homily XXVI on Rom. xiv. 14.
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