This Commentary on Paul's Epistle to the Romans was written at the request of the Board of Publication whose imprint it bears. It was the desire of the board, as expressed by Dr. W. J. Darby, that I should base my work on the King James version of the epistle, and that it should little exceed a hundred thousand words, being only a handy commentary intended chiefly for those readers who, in all Churches, will ever be the majority. And yet it is hoped that the volume may not be without value to many ministers of the gospel, who may not often have opportunity to study those works which deal at greater length with questions of critical detail.
Not only, however, was the previous intellectual preparation on the part of the reader for commentary study to be taken into consideration, but his purse as well ; for if the book had been much larger it would also have cost much more, and hence while it might have done a greater good to the few, it would have done less to the many.
The above words being addressed to my readers in general I now beg to address a few to my reader in particular:
My object has been to ascertain as clearly as possible at the outset the one thing of which the Apostle is writing to the Romans, and to keep distinct trace of this one thing during our movement from the beginning to the end of the epistle. It seemed to me possible to do this, for before the actual work of writing the commentary was begun, I had studied the epistle sufficiently to see that it was not made up of a collection of disjointed chapters or paragraphs, but that in it there was a thought in which all its other thoughts found a bond of unity. I therefore ask the reader to withhold his judgment concerning the merits or demerits of my work until he has read the book through carefully, including the Introduction, taking into consideration meanwhile the words above addressed to my readers in general.
The Epistle to the Romans is regarded as the one most difficult of interpretation in the New Testament. It abounds in conjunctions and other words which denote relations ; and relational words, though the smallest, are the very ones whose meanings are the most elusive. These are they upon which the reader must keep his eye constantly fixed if he would not drop the thread and lose himself in the labyrinth. And let the English reader say what he will about the unimportance of knowing Greek, it is utterly impossible to know with any certainty what the meaning in English is unless one knows what is the correspondent in the original.
I,et the English reader notice, for example, as he reads the epistle, how frequently the word " for," or " because," or " therefore," etc., occurs, and let him notice the number of instances in which he can make anything out of it. Indeed, a knowledge of the Greek original itself is not always sufficient, for instances are not infrequent in which it devolves on us to choose the one we prefer of two or more tolerably well authenticated Greek readings; or, it may be, the one we prefer of several well attested definitions. These are not matters, ordinarily, that interfere in any serious way with any of the fundamental doctrines or principles of Christianity. But, nevertheless, when one comes to interpret -- and all Bible students are interpreters -- it is necessary for one to decide, either tentatively or absolutely, which one of the two or more exegetical possibilities he will prefer.
No book of the New Testament has a larger literature than the Epistle to the Romans, and none has given rise to a longer list of exegetical opinions, each differing from all the others. But this only shows that it is a great epistle, and need not be a source of discouragement even to the humblest student. The "word," at least in its main significancies, "is nearly you, even in your mouth."
If the reader is not willing to walk without a guide through the museum wherein the wonderful thoughts of the greatest of the apostles are exhibited, let him select the one whom he is willing to follow at least for once. If he should not find in this little volume the interpretation he prefers, he may be comforted in knowing that he has only to search elsewhere, in order to find it, for hardly an interpretation could be thought of which some writer has not entertained. Are we, therefore, utterly at sea ? No. Protestantism is not excessive individualism. It thinks in recognized and organized groups, and within certain defined limits every individual finds himself thinking in harmony with his group.
It has sometimes been said that it is a blessed thing that every poor sinner does not have to understand the deep things of the Bible and of theology in order to be saved. It is indeed a blessed thing -- for otherwise none could be saved. If I may reverently make the comparison, it is also a blessed thing that every man does not have to understand the deep things of legal science in order to citizenship in the State. And yet every citizen may laudably desire to be intelligent and somewhat informed in regard to that noble science.
It is my earnest prayer that the Holy Spirit, in whose dispensation we live, may so use this little volume as to make it helpful to some readers in their effort to become good citizens of the kingdom of heaven on earth.
R. V. Foster.
From The Epistle to the Romans by Dr. R. V. Foster. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012. The update is not complete.
Insights of the past for the present
To the Romans - R.V. Foster
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your insights be worthy.