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Commentary On Romans by Jean Calvin

Romans 3:1-2

1. What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?

1. Quae igitur praerogativa Iudaei, aut quae utilitas circumcisionis?

2. Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.

2. Multa per omnem modem; ac primum quidem, quod illis credits sunt oracula Dei.

1. Though Paul has clearly proved that bare circumcision brought nothing to the Jews, yet since he could not deny but that there was some difference between the Gentiles and the Jews, which by that symbol was sealed to them by the Lord, and since it was inconsistent to make a distinction, of which God was the author, void and of no moment, it remained for him to remove also this objection. It was indeed evident, that it was a foolish glorying in which the Jews on this account indulged; yet still a doubt remained as to the design of circumcision; for the Lord would not have appointed it had not some benefit been intended. He therefore, by way of an objection, asks, what it was that made the Jew superior to the Gentile; and he subjoins a reason for this by another question, What is the benefit of circumcision? For this separated the Jews from the common class of men; it was a partition-wall, as Paul calls ceremonies, which kept parties asunder.

2. Much in every way, etc.; that is, very much. He begins here to give the sacrament its own praise; but he concedes not, that on this account the Jews ought to have been proud; for when he teaches that they were sealed by the symbol of circumcision, by which they were counted the children of God, he does not allow that they became superior to others through any merit or worthiness of their own, but through the free mercy of God. If then regard be had to them as men, he shows that they were on a level with others; but if the favors of God be taken to the account, he admits that they possessed what made them more eminent than other men.

First indeed, because, intrusted to them, etc. Some think there is here an unfinished period, for he sets down what he does not afterwards complete. But the word first seems not to me to be a note of number, but means chiefly| or especially, and is to be taken in this sense -- |Though it were but this one thing, that they have the oracles of God committed to them, it might be deemed sufficient to prove their superiority.| And it is worthy of being noticed, that the advantage of circumcision is not made to consist in the naked sign, but its value is derived from the word; for Paul asks here what benefit the sacrament conferred on the Jews, and he answers, that God had deposited with them the treasure of celestial wisdom. It hence follows, that, apart from the word, no excellency remained. By oracles he means the covenant which God revealed first to Abraham and to his posterity, and afterwards sealed and unfolded by the law and the Prophets.

Now the oracles were committed to them, for the purpose of preserving them as long as it pleased the Lord to continue his glory among them, and then of publishing them during the time of their stewardship through the whole world: they were first depositories, and secondly dispensers. But if this benefit was to be so highly esteemed when the Lord favored one nation only with the revelation of his word, we can never sufficiently reprobate our ingratitude, who receive his word with so much negligence or with so much carelessness, not to say disdain.

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