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Wednesday, June 8, 2022

The Reference in Romans 2 to Gentiles Blaspheming God's Name

For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.

-Romans 2:24-25

Now therefore, what have I here, saith the Lord,
that my people is taken away for nought?
they that rule over them make them to howl, saith the Lord;
and my name continually every day is blasphemed.

-Isaiah 52:5

The question arises when comparing these passages, why does Paul's quotation differ from that which is found in Isaiah? It could be as simple as Paul referencing the Septuagint (which we shall review) or it could be that he was quoting Ezekiel, or combining the prophecies.

The NIV notes: 

And when it had come to the Gentiles, where they went, the Gentiles profaned my holy name, when they said to them, ‘These are the Lord's people, but they have come out of his land.’ Then I had pity on my holy name which the house of Israel had profaned among the Gentiles to whom they went. So say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what my Lord the Lord says: «I am not acting for your sake, O house of Israel, but for the sake of my holy name which you have profaned among the nations to which you have gone. And I will sanctify my great name which has been profaned among the Gentiles, which you profaned among them, and the Gentiles will know that I am the Lord, says my Lord the Lord, when I am sanctified among them in their sight.

-Ezekiel 36:2-23 (Far Above All translation)

A noted, the Lord (as recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) and the Apostles tended to quote from the Septuagint since they were speaking/writing in Greek.

Here is Isaiah 52:5 in the Septuagint:

καὶ νῦν τί ὧδέ ἐστε τάδε λέγει κύριος. ὅτι ἐλήμφθη ὁ λαός μου δωρεάν, θαυμάζετε καὶ ὀλολύζετε· τάδε λέγει κύριος. δι᾿ ὑμᾶς διὰ παντὸς τὸ ὄνομά μου βλασφημεῖται ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν [éthnos].

Using a couple of online translators:

and what is this, saith the Lord. for my people have been pitied, Ye Marvel, and Marvel· thus saith the Lord. for all my name is blasphemed in this world.

And now what are you, sir? for my people have been free of charge, you admire and solve; for you, for all my name is blasphemed in the nation.

What I am looking for is "éthnos" which is there (ἔθνεσιν, the last word) and why the KJV and others seem to blend it in instead of translating it. It almost always means "gentiles" (the other nations) as used in the OT. Brenton (Brenton Septuagint Translation, 1870) uses "gentiles" which makes it far more clear.

I don't want to open any can of worms, but the Masoretic text doesn't seem to have the reference to Gentiles.

ועתה מה לי פה נאם יהוה כי לקח עמי חנם משׁלו יהילילו נאם יהוה ותמיד כל היום

And now, what -- to Me here, An affirmation of Jehovah, That taken is My people for nought? Its rulers cause howling, -- an affirmation of Jehovah, And continually all the day My name is despised. 
(Young's Literal Translation)

No reference to the gentiles. Implied, maybe, but the word is missing (as far as I can tell, I'm no Hebrew scholar). So, if you stick with the Masoretic text, Ezekiel 36:23 makes more sense. I happen to like the Septuagint (minus the Apocrypha, which has value, it's just not inspired). I would again suggest combining both prophecies. 

Here is Ezek 36:23 in several translations:

And I have sanctified My great name, That is profaned among nations (YLT)

And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen (KJV)

And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the Gentiles (Jubilee)

Verse 22 has the same wording.

I would add that since Paul wrote Romans with the re-establishment of the Kingdom in Israel and the return of the Lord "at hand," his reference to Ezek 36 would be quite appropriate as it goes on to note Israel's future cleansing from sin and the establishment of the New Covenant (which was not yet in place).

Now I want to go back to the verse that follows in Romans 2 (quoted above) and the verse that precedes:

Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. (KJV)

You who tell people not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abominate idols, do you steal sacred items? You who boast in the law, do you through your transgression of the law dishonor God? “For the name of God is blasphemed because of you among the Gentiles”, as it stands written. For circumcision is indeed of benefit if you carry out the law, but if you are a transgressor of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. (Far Above All)

Clearly Paul is addressing the people of Israel who boated and trusted in the Law and God's covenant with them. As we have noted many times, during the Book of Acts age, the Kingdom was still "at hand," Israel was still be offered "the times of refreshing" (Acts 3) and the "restoration of the Kingdom in Israel" (Acts 1) as the Lord had offered in his earthly ministry "to none, but to the lost sheep of the House of Israel" (Matt 15). This was an extension of the "gospel of the Kingdom" Matt 4) the Lord forbade his disciples to teach outside of Israel or to preach to Gentiles (Matt 10). 

Of course, by the writing of Romans, the Lord had grafted in Gentiles for the sake of making Israel jealous (thus exhibiting, again, that God was still dealing with Israel, the root, in the Acts Age). This is part of Paul's argument in the Book of Romans (as we have seen in other studies).

Allow me to turn to the Berean Expositor (Vol 44), not as an authority, but in words which express the teaching here quite well and ties it back to the Lord's teaching in Matthew:

Instead of God’s name being sanctified by the sanctified people serving the Lord and keeping the Law, rather was it being blasphemed through them. Obedience to the voice of the Lord and the keeping of His covenant with them, would have constituted them a “kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Exod. xix. 5, 6), but this covenant they brake. Under the terms of the New Covenant there will yet be the fulfillment of this promise in Exodus, and during the Acts period it was anticipated:  
“Peter . . . . . to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus . . . . . ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a people for a possession, that ye should shew forth the virtues of Him Who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Pet. i. 1; ii. 9).

 During the future Millennium the promise will find its fulfillment, and then will the Lord God be sanctified in His people, and the prayer, ‘sanctified be Thy Name’, answered in its fullness. 

“For in mine holy mountain . . . . . saith the Lord God, there shall all the house of Israel . . . . . serve me in the land . . . . . and I will be sanctified in you in the sight of the nations . . . . .” (Ezek. xx. 40, 41 R.V.). “When the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their way . . . . . and I scattered them among the nations . . . . . and when they came unto the nations . . . . . they profaned my holy name . . . . . I will sanctify My great name, which hath been profaned among the nations . . . . . and the nations shall know that I am the Lord . . . . . when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes . . . . .” (Ezek. xxxvi. 17-23 R.V. See also Ezek. xxxix. 25-27, etc.). 

The close connection of the clause ‘sanctified be Thy Name’ with ‘Thy kingdom come’ and ‘Thy will be done’, suggests when the answer to this part of the prayer will be fulfilled. The will or wishes of the Father being done on earth will be when this kingdom (the subject of the Lord’s Prayer) shall have come, and at that time will the Father’s Name be sanctified. 

Note the context here recalls the "Lord's Prayer" from Matthew 6:9-13. This is all "Kingdom" truth. Imagine the conditions in Israel during the Tribulation, then read The Lord's Prayer. It makes far more sense in that context than for me to pray it in this current age (while we also recognize the general truths in it, we are careful to place it in its correct context).

Paul is arguing that it is not in being under the Law that fulfilled the covenant of Sinai, but keeping the Law. To that end, no Jew was truly innocent of the Law. They had to trust in the finished work of the Savior on Calvary (in his death, lack of decay, and resurrection) to be eligible for the blessings of the New Covenant (which is not eternal life, but a restored people into a restored Kingdom with renewed hearts and minds, Jer 31, Heb 8, etc.).

As an application, we can bring the Lord's name into disrepute if we teach (or appear to teach) that believers have any hope in our own righteousness. Just Jews in the Acts age still kept the Law (in their daily lives, Acts 15, Acts 20, etc.) as part of an earthly hope, so do we seek to lead lives of purity, love, and kindness with a heavenly blessing before us (and the related judgment of our works for rewards). That is, neither the Jew then nor the believer now should point to his own "righteousness." We preach, teach, and present Christ in all his glory as our only hope.

We could say this to believers today, "do not boast in your supposed morality as your morality is not perfect, boast only in the Lord as you seek a moral life for His sake.'

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

-Ephesians 3:8-10

And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

-1 Corinthians 2:1-2

To God alone be the Glory!