Romans: Interpreted by Early Christian Commentators

By J. Patout Burns Jr.; Constantine Newman | Go to book overview

Romans 5

In the first part of chapter 5, Paul encouraged his readers to stand fast and even rejoice in adversity, with the assurance that God was bringing them to salvation in Christ. The divine goodness is evident in Christ’s dying to make sinners righteous. Augustine pointed out that God was already loving humans when they were still sinful and acted to reconcile them.

This section includes the statement which Augustine made central to this theology: that the love by which the Christian loves God was itself the gift of divine love, the operation of the Holy Spirit within the human heart. Origen had noticed this interpretation but had not exploited it.

Beginning at verse 12, Paul turned to a complex comparison of Adam and Christ. The commentators had to explain not only Adam’s negative influence on his progeny but also Christ’s greater effect in bringing them to salvation. All affirmed that Adam’s sin had brought mortality, which weakened humanity and resulted in many, if not all, following him into sin and guilt. On the basis of the Latin translation of Rom 5:12 — “through one man sin entered into the world and through sin death, and thus it spread to all people because all sinned” — Augustine alone argued that all humans were present in and sinned together in Adam. All the commentators worked to explain how the personal sins of his descendants were like or unlike those of Adama task complicated by different ancient versions of the key text of Rom 5:14 — and how Christ’s saving action was more influential than Adam’s failure. In Origen’s interpretation, Adam and Christ had parallel influences: through generation and regeneration, and through opposite forms of education. Ambrosiaster explained that not everyone imitated Adam’s particular kind of sin but that Christ forgave other sins and opened the door to heaven, shut because of Adam’s sin. Augustine recognized that Christ had a greater effect than Adam only on the saved; he conceded that most sins are not forgiven and that the majority of humans are condemned. Chrysostom explained that Paul was primarily interested in Christ’s power to bring life to others and that he had not really explained the deadly effects of Adam’s sin in this part of his letter.


Romans 5:1-5

1Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord
Jesus Christ. 2Through him we have obtained access by faith to this grace in which we
stand; and we rejoice in our hope of sharing in the glory of God. 3More than that, we

-102-

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Romans: Interpreted by Early Christian Commentators
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Church’s Bible i
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Series Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Interpreting the New Testament xiii
  • An Introduction to Romans xxiii
  • Preface to Romans 1
  • Romans 1 13
  • Romans 2 37
  • Romans 3 61
  • Romans 4 83
  • Romans 5 102
  • Romans 6 132
  • Romans 7 154
  • Romans 8 182
  • Romans 9 217
  • Romans 10 245
  • Romans 11 260
  • Romans 12 289
  • Romans 13 314
  • Romans 14 334
  • Romans 15 359
  • Romans 16 381
  • Appendix 1- Authors of Works Excerpted 394
  • Appendix 2- Sources of Texts Translated 396
  • Index of Names 414
  • Index of Subjects 417
  • Index of Scripture References 422
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