Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Four observations on Romans 13:9

Note:  In preaching on Love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8-10), I offered four observations about Paul's list of commandments in v. 9:

KJV Romans 13:9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Notice at least four interesting things about this list:

1. Paul skips the commandments in the first table of the law, dealing with man’s attitude toward God, and only lists commandments from the second table of the law, dealing with man’s attitude toward his fellow man. Does this mean that Paul rejects the first table? No. But here, in context, he is dealing with the Christian’s duty to his fellow man, so he only needs to cite the second table.

2. Paul does not mention the fifth commandment about honoring father and mother. Matthew Poole explains that some say this was because the Jews made honoring parents part of the first table of the law, while others say Paul felt no obligation to repeat this commandment because it was already encompassed in what he said in 13:1 about submission to those in authority.

3. This is a place where your translation matters. Modern translations list only 4 commandments, omitting “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” though this is the reading of the traditional text and it is even supported by Codex Sinaiticus.

4. Notice the order of the commandments. The prohibition of adultery is listed before that of murder. Again, Poole is helpful. He says Paul did this either because the sin of adultery was so common among the Romans that Paul wanted to give it emphasis or because he was following the LXX translation of the OT (in Exodus 20 both adultery and stealing are listed before murder and in Deuteronomy 5 adultery is listed before murder). The other possibility is just that Paul was citing from memory and the important thing is not the order but just the fact that he lists those commandments about the believer’s duty to his fellow man.


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