|8First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; 10Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. 11For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; 12That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. 13Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. 14I am debtor both to the Greeks and the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. 15So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.||8Chiefly, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is spoken of in the whole world. 9God, whom I serve spiritually in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness of how I mention you unceasingly; 10always in my prayers I ask whether now, at last, I will be blessed by God’s will to come to you. 11For I long to see you so that I can share some spiritual gift with you so that you may be strengthened. 12This gift is that I will be strengthened with you through the trust we share, your trust and mine. 13However, I do not wish you to be ignorant, brothers: I often intended to come to you so that I might have some fruit among you, too, even as I have had among the other gentiles, but I was prevented until the present. 14I am a debtor to Greeks and non-Greeks, to the wise and the foolish; 15thus, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel also to you in Rome.|
To this point Paul’s address has been somewhat formal. In verse 8 it becomes more personal. Paul wants the Romans to know and understand him not only because of his official position, but also because of his interest in them.
In verse 7, Paul sent grace to the saints in Rome, and verse 8 shows part of what that grace includes. Remember that grace includes not only kindness or a gift, but thankfulness as well (see the discussion of verse 5, page 29). Thankfulness is part of the grace Paul sends them.
First can mean “the first thing I want to say is . . .” Yet this word can be taken not just as a marker for the first item in a list, but, as shown in the alternate translation, it can also mean “chiefly.” Since no other elements of a list appear in the letter, “chiefly” seems to capture the meaning more clearly.
The root of the word translated “I thank” (eucharisteō, ευχαριστέω) is charis (χάρις), meaning “grace.” The grace of thanks is Paul’s response to the grace of God.
As a side note, many Christians refer to what Latter-day Saints call the sacrament (presumably short for the sacrament of the Lord’s supper) as the Eucharist. In so doing, they recognize that the sacrament is a sacrament of grace. Our sacrament prayers make this explicit in asking that the bread and water be blessed and sanctified to the souls of those who partake of them.
Paul begins most of his letters with thanks and, somewhat less often, blessings (see 1 Corinthians 1:4; Philippians 1:3; Colossians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; Philemon 1:4 for similar thanks; and see 2 Corinthians 1:3–4; Ephesians 1:3 for blessings). Notice, however, that Galatians offers neither thanks nor blessings, a fact that is undoubtedly associated with the context in which that letter was written.
I thank my God through Jesus Christ
The blessing to the saints comes through two beings, the Father and the Son, and Paul prays to the Father through Jesus Christ.
That your faith
The word that has the sense of “because” in the phrase that your faith. That the Roman saints are well-known is a cause for gratitude.
Your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world
Rome was considered in the West to be the center of the world, and the Roman saints were part of “a city that is set on a hill” (Matthew 5:14). It is not clear whether Paul is grateful that all people know that there is a Christian congregation in Rome, whether he is grateful that the saints in other locations know about the Roman congregation, or whether he is grateful that the saints in Rome have made a good name for Christianity. Because in Romans 2 Paul makes what can be taken as a strong criticism of the Roman saints, we might be tempted to assume that he means only the first: he is grateful that people know that there is a congregation in Rome. However, the criticism Paul levies in chapter 2 is the kind that can be brought against almost all Christians at any time and at any place, and it is directed at “someone” or “anyone who would say such and such” rather than at a particular person or group. It seems unreasonable to suppose that Paul thinks the Roman Christians have made a poor name for the church. If we include the idea that both all people and other saints are aware of the Roman congregation in our understanding of verse 8, then from the phrase your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world we can conclude that Paul believes that it is good that Christians are in Rome and that both Christians and non-Christians know that they are. Surely that would help in missionary work. In addition, Paul is grateful that the saints have made a good reputation for Christians.
There is another way of understanding the phrase your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. Perhaps Paul is using hyperbole, or exaggeration, to carry on the theme he began in verse 6: these men and women are known for their faith. Not only have they taken on themselves the name of Christ and thereby become known among believers as people of faith, but they are also known for their faith among those who do not believe.
Perhaps this letter is addressed to those in obvious need of repentance, maybe even those guilty of the sins described at the end of Romans 1. If this reading is correct, Paul’s compliment is backhanded. Because he has never been to Rome, he can know the saints there only by reputation, and a worldly reputation is something of which we must beware (see 1 Nephi 13:8–9). Perhaps by knowing that they are renowned for their faith, Paul knows he must call them to repentance. However, this suggestion seems unlikely. After all, Paul begins his letter by dwelling on the fact that these people are well-known for their faith, not only to him (see verse 6), but to the world in general. This letter is to those who are already obedient, at least in the eyes of most, but who nonetheless stand in need of repentance. What Paul says is not what he would say to those who are not yet Christians; he speaks to those who are already thought of as faithful members. This message to those known for their faith and obedience is important not only to the saints in Paul’s time, but to Latter-day Saints as well. However, the message has relatively little to say to those who have not yet taken Christ’s name on themselves, who are not yet “called saints” (see the discussion of verse 7, pages 36–37). This letter is less like a missionary tract and more like an address in stake or general conference, an address to those who have already taken Christ’s name on themselves through covenant.
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ, that you are all steadfast, and your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
By changing for you all to that you are all steadfast, the Joseph Smith revision creates a parallel: you are all steadfast is parallel to the Roman’s exemplary faith “spoken of throughout the whole world.” This draws our attention to the faithfulness of the saints in Rome, creating an even stronger contrast between their faithfulness and Paul’s calling them to repentance than does the Greek text or the King James translation.
This contrast makes it more apparent that the book of Romans is for the saints of any time. Rather than speaking to those still outside the church, Paul speaks, according to the Joseph Smith Translation, to those who have already been baptized, those who have already accepted the gospel and its obligations. It is they who stand in need of conversion, not to Christianity, but within Christianity to genuine faith in Christ. They are already Christians in name, but now they need to be sanctified; in other words, they need to become fully Christian. The work of Paul is much the same as that of Alma (see Alma 5:14–42), namely, calling those within the church to recognize the full meaning of their membership.
The Greek word translated “for” (gar, γάρ) is a weak connective that is often used as we might use and in conversation: to continue without necessarily indicating a particular logical connection between what came before and what comes next.66 The alternate translation leaves the word untranslated because it does not contribute significantly to the sense of the passage and could even be misleading.
God is my witness
The Greek word for witness (martus, μάρτυς) is also the root of the English word martyr. To us martyr means something like “one who dies for a cause” or perhaps “one who bears testimony of the truth by dying for it,” but the Greek word signifies merely “one who can or should testify to something.” Thus the word martus can also be translated as a word we hear more commonly: testimony. A testimony is something we say to establish the truth. Since the Roman saints do not know Paul personally and therefore cannot directly know of his love for them, God bears testimony to them through the Holy Ghost that Paul prays for the saints continually.
The Greek word latreuō (λατρεύω) means “service to the gods” or “worship.” The Septuagint always uses the word to refer to religious service, whether to God or idols. It is used in Exodus 12:26 (to mean “service”) and 1 Chronicles 28:13 (where it refers to the “vessels of service” in the tabernacle). Although this Greek word for service does not share a root with the Greek word for saint, both imply the same idea, namely, service to the gods. As 1 Chronicles 28:13 shows, temple service is one of the connotations of the word serve, though I doubt it is relevant to this verse since the context is unrelated to temple service.
A different connection to temple service is nonetheless evident. By using a word that connotes temple service, Paul points out that his service is a form of worship: he honors God by the service he renders as an apostle. In that sense, any service to the Divine is worship, whether partaking of the sacrament in a worship meeting, working in the stake cannery or on the welfare farm, teaching in the Primary, or visiting and home teaching. Paul teaches the same concept as King Benjamin: “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:18).
The meaning of the Greek word translated “spirit” (pneuma, πνευμα) is similar to the traditional notion of soul or the Latter-day Saint understanding of the spirit. The Greek word, however, can be more broadly translated “mind,” though the KJV does not use this particular translation. Pneuma refers to the knowing and willing self and is also the word translated “ghost” in KJV references to the Holy Ghost. (For more on pneuma, see the commentary on verse 11, page 46.)
I serve with my spirit
The alternate translation renders the phrase I serve with my spirit as “I serve spiritually.” A major theme of this letter is the contrast between the spirit and the flesh. Earlier Paul spoke of Christ’s ancestry according to the flesh (see verse 3) and the spirit (see verse 4). In so doing he showed that he is talking not about dichotomy between the flesh and the spirit or between works and faith, but about a unity between them. In verse 9 Paul talks similarly about his own service in the spirit. If the letter contained this absolute dichotomy that some read into it and deduce from scriptures such as Galatians 6:7–8, then Paul would be loath to associate Christ with the flesh and himself with the spirit. That he makes both these associations shows, again, that he does not see the flesh and the spirit as necessarily opposed to one another—except in the unrepentant. Because the unrepentant find the flesh and the spirit, the living body, to be necessarily opposed, conflicted, and self-alienated, they do not find the reconciliation of works and grace that the repentant find. To those who are repentant, grace and works—or the spirit and the body—are ultimately each two ways of talking about the same thing, even if, in a fallen world, they sometimes seem irreconcilable. (However, as we see in Romans 7 and the beginning of Romans 8, Paul sometimes uses the word flesh to indicate what we today might call the unrepentant or fallen soul.)
Paul’s spiritual service also anticipates the spiritual gift mentioned in verse 11; he serves in the spirit so that he can deliver a spiritual gift to the Romans. Paul also draws a parallel between himself and Christ: because the Son is defined by the spirit of holiness, Paul, as the slave of Jesus Christ, must serve in that spirit, and he serves to call us to that spirit.
When Paul says that he serves or worships God in his spirit, he is not saying that he worships only inwardly, ignoring ordinances and works. Were that the case, he would not have taken the Nazarite vows (see the discussion on page 12). Neither would the admonitions of Romans 12–15 make any sense. Instead, Paul worships with his whole being by preaching the gospel.
For God is my witness, whom I serve //, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, that you may be kept through the Spirit, in the gospel of his Son,
The deletion of in my spirit lessens the impact of Paul’s service on the verse and erases the ironic parallel of Christ’s flesh and Paul’s spirit (see the discussion of I serve in my spirit, above). Joseph Smith’s revision also moves the rest of the deletion, in the gospel of his Son, to the end of the verse and makes it part of the object of Paul’s prayers: “that you may be kept through the Spirit, in the gospel of his Son.” This changes the character of the verse considerably. The King James and Greek texts make a point of Paul’s praying continually for the saints in Rome, while the Joseph Smith Translation focuses on Paul’s prayers that the saints be kept through the Spirit.
Normal word order for the phrase that you may be kept through the Spirit, in the gospel of his Son would be “that you may be kept in the gospel of his Son through the Spirit.” What are we to make of the inverted word order in Joseph Smith’s translation? Rather than emphasizing that Paul desires the Roman saints to be kept in the gospel, the inverted word order emphasizes that they are to be kept by means of the Spirit. The Oxford English Dictionary and the 1828 edition of Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language tell us that in this context in the nineteenth century, kept could mean “to guard, defend, protect,” “to maintain or preserve in proper order,” “to provide for the sustenance of,” “to tend; to have the care of,” “to preserve in being or operation,” or “to retain in one’s power or control.”67 We can therefore understand the addition to mean that Paul prays that
1. the saints of Rome will be protected and sustained in the gospel;
2. they will be maintained in the order given them by the gospel—perhaps the order of the church, perhaps the order of a gospel life;
3. the saints will be preserved as followers of the gospel;
4. and within the gospel, the saints will remain under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
Joseph Smith’s revision suggests a possible change of emphasis in the letter as a whole. It suggests that the letter is perhaps intended not as an explanation of sanctification, but as a means of strengthening the members of the church in Rome. If we take the letter as a discourse on sanctification, then we read it to say something like “Although you are known throughout the world for your faith, you do not yet understand sanctification.” According to the reading suggested by the Prophet’s revision of this verse, in spite of the renown of the saints, their faith needs to be strengthened (verse 11 may support this understanding of the purpose of the letter). Of course, the letter may also be some combination of both purposes: an explanation of sanctification and a letter intended to strengthen the saints’ faith.
To come unto you
In his prayers Paul has asked whether he might be permitted to “come unto” Rome to preach the gospel. It appears he has been asking for some time and has so far been refused. The King James translation seems to indicate that Paul has been requesting permission to make an actual visit to Rome, but in the Greek that is not clearly the case. It is ambiguous whether Paul’s prayer has been for a visit or simply for contact with the Roman saints. In the latter case, the idea of a journey is a metaphor and this letter is Paul’s way of coming to them. It is what he would say to them if he came in person. As we will see in Romans 15:24, however, Paul would like to visit the Romans on his way to Spain—if he can. Though the King James Version takes a definite stand on the question of whether Paul is speaking of an actual visit to Rome, at this point in the letter the Greek is ambiguous.
Have a prosperous journey
Strictly and etymologically interpreted, the Greek word euodoø
) means “to have a prosperous journey.” This meaning is the basis for the King James translation. However, in the Greek of Paul’s time, the phrase have a prosperous journey could also mean “to have success in general,” as it probably does here.68 (For similar uses, see 1 Corinthians 16:2–3; 3 John 1:2.) The alternate translation uses “blessed.”
By the will of God
Because, by virtue of their membership in the church, all saints have always already come together in spirit, even if not physically, Paul needs to come to Rome himself only if the Father wills it. Members of the church have a fellowship that is described in the greeting of the school of the prophets: “Art thou a brother or brethren? I salute you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant, in which covenant I receive you to fellowship, in a determination that is fixed, immovable, and unchangeable, to be your friend and brother through the grace of God in the bonds of love, to walk in all the commandments of God blameless, in thanksgiving, forever and ever. Amen” (D&C 88:133). This kind of fellowship explains why Latter-day Saints feel at home wherever they are when they meet other Latter-day Saints. Anyone moving to a new city or meeting another member of the church for the first time in a strange place, such as when on vacation, can experience instantly having a friend, instantly being at home. The saints have already come together in coming to Christ through baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and any meeting they hold symbolizes and enacts that prior union. Our modern worship services are an obvious instance of this, but so are our more mundane meetings, from work on welfare projects, to chance meetings on vacation, to our first contact with the saints in cities or towns that are new to us. Paul would like to join with the saints in Rome, just as he would presumably enjoy visiting with saints in other places, but given his duty to preach the gospel of Christ, he will come to Rome only if the Father wills it.
Making request of you, to remember me in your prayers, I now write unto you, that you will ask him in faith, that if by any means //, at length, I may serve you with my labors, and may have a prosperous journey by the will of God, to come unto you.
The Greek and King James versions of verse 10 make Paul’s request part of his prayer. Joseph Smith’s version seems to make it a request Paul makes of the saints in Rome: “remember me in your prayers” and “ask him . . . if . . . I may serve you.” Joseph Smith’s version is problematic in that the grammar is odd, but not impossible. The question is how to connect the prayer in verse 9 with the request in verse 10. The grammar of Joseph Smith’s version suggests that Paul’s request of the saints is part of his prayer: he prays that the saints will be kept and will remember him in their prayers.
However, if verse 9 were to end with a semicolon rather than a comma (this is entirely possible because early-nineteenth-century punctuation was anything but consistent and rule governed) and verse 10 were to begin with the word and, then the two verses together would easily make sense. The oddity of their relation would disappear. With that simple change of punctuation, the Joseph Smith Translation of verses 9 and 10 would read: “For God is my witness, whom I serve, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, that you may be kept through the Spirit, in the gospel of his Son; and making request of you, to remember me in your prayers, I now write unto you, that you will ask him in faith, that if by any means, at length, I may serve you with my labors, and may have a prosperous journey by the will of God, to come unto you.” If this revision is accurate, verse 9 would express Paul’s prayer that the saints be kept in the gospel, and verse 10 would express his request that the saints pray for him to have a safe journey and to come to visit them.
Another difference between Joseph’s translation and the standard text, the deletion of the word now, also changes the meaning. The King James Version says that Paul would like to visit Rome now, while Joseph Smith’s revision of the verse says that Paul would like to visit Rome at some time in the future. This revision makes Paul’s visit considerably more tentative. Since it is possible to read the Greek as implying only a general hope that Paul will visit the saints in Rome—perhaps the visit he proposes will be accomplished only by the letter he is writing—Joseph Smith’s changes are in line with one possible meaning of the Greek text.
Finally, the Prophet adds “I may serve you with my labors” to what the Romans should pray for. Not only should they pray that he can come to them, but also that he can serve them. This addition anticipates what we will see in verse 13 (see page 49), namely, Paul’s hope that he can have fruit among the Romans. It also recalls the potentially provocative comparison of the Roman church members to the gentiles that we have already seen (see verse 5).
The Greek word translated “long” (epipotheo, επιποθέω) is a combination of a word meaning “to yearn or to long for something” and a prefix that intensifies the meaning of the word. One could read that Greek word as saying “to long for something especially.”
Impart means “share with.”
The gift Paul brings through his service in the spirit is a gift of the Spirit. The word spirit and the words related to it are rich. Quite literally, the Greek word for spirit (pneuma, πνευμα) means “breath” or “wind.” (For more on pneuma, see page 42.) Because to be inhabited by a spirit is to be alive, and to be alive is, most obviously, to breathe, the connection between breath and spirit is not difficult to see or understand. In Hebrew, spirit and breath are similarly connected. Hebrew and Greek writers often use the literal meanings of the word spirit to connect ideas. For example, the breath of life breathed into Adam (see Genesis 2:7) and the Holy Spirit we receive when we are born again can be connected as parallels via the word spirit. Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus (see John 3:5–8) about spiritual rebirth uses the same connection to draw a parallel between physical birth and spiritual rebirth and to teach about the gift of the Holy Ghost and our inability to explain its inspiration.
Given the association in Greek between the word spirit and the breath of life, it is appropriate to see in Paul’s reference to a spiritual gift a reference to the gift of life. Paul offers the Roman saints a gift that will give them life. If they were not already members of the church, he might be offering them the gift that comes through baptism, the gifts associated with being members of the church. But because he is specifically addressing baptized members, we must ask ourselves what further gift he could offer. I think we will see that he is offering them the gift of an understanding of sanctification: the gift that shows how God transforms what is unclean into what is clean, what is unholy into what is holy.
The gift Paul has may be this letter or it may be his apostolic visit. As mentioned on page 29, the Greek word translated “gift,” charisma (χαρίσμα), is a cognate of the word translated “grace” (charis, χάρις). Paul has received grace and has been called to deliver a message that reflects that grace. His message itself is a spiritual gift, or a grace, to the Roman saints. Paul wants to make it plain that his love and concern for the saints generates the message, and his message also reflects the Father’s loving-kindness toward them. If we recall the two parts of grace (see the discussion of verse 5, page 29), then the gift offered, which reflects the Father’s loving-kindness, should be received with thanks and gratitude. Though Paul’s letter is partly a call to repentance and might seem harsh to those who do not want to hear it, it is offered in kindness and should be received in gratitude. Doctrine and Covenants 121:41–46 tells us that a call to repentance must be made lovingly—with grace. Here we see that it should also be received with gratitude, for a call to repentance is a gift that can strengthen us if we accept it.
The Greek word for established (stērizō, στηρίζω) means “set firmly in place,” as well as “supported” and even “propped up.”69 (See its use in Romans 16:25, where it is translated “stablish.”) Oddly, the verb is in the aorist case, meaning that it refers to a completed event or a specific point in time when something is or will be completed. Usually, but not necessarily, the aorist tense is used to refer to past events. Since Paul is not referring to something in the past, he uses the aorist case to say that he desires to give the Romans a spiritual gift so that, at a definite point in time, they will have been made firm. His prayer is not for something in general, but for specific support for the Romans, perhaps at the time of his intended visit.
To the end ye may be established
This letter is a way of supporting and establishing—strengthening—the members in Rome. In modern terms, it is a way of sustaining them, for to sustain is to support, establish, and strengthen. The spiritual gift that Paul longs to give them, an explanation of sanctification, is something that will strengthen and sustain them.
For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, that it may be established in you to the end //;
In the Joseph Smith Translation, the purpose of Paul’s letter is to make the spiritual gift Paul has to offer firm in the saints rather than to sustain them. The difference is one of emphasis rather than substance, because if the spiritual gift is strengthened in the saints, then they have also been strengthened.
However, Joseph’s translation changes the meaning of this verse. The King James translation uses end as part of the phrase to the end (a phrase that is translated from one Greek word meaning “in order to”), but in Joseph’s translation the phrase refers to the saints’ duty to endure to the end. In the King James and Greek versions of this verse, end means “purpose.” In the Joseph Smith Translation, it means “final point.” The Prophet’s understanding of the verse underscores the purpose of the letter: Paul wants to convert the saints in Rome—not only to the gospel itself, but also to the holy life the gospel demands of those who have accepted it. Paul wants to show the saints in Rome the difference between mere membership in the church and a saintly life that is in accordance with their calling.
The word Paul uses for comfort is sumparakaleō (συμπαρακαλέω) and literally means “called together.” As mentioned before (see page 10), it is a wordplay on called (see verses 1, 6, and 7). We usually think of comfort in terms of sympathy and thus think of comfort as a matter of consolation, reassurance, or soothing. That is not incorrect, but it is useful to think of the word comfort etymologically. In Latin, com means “with” and fort is associated with strength (hence the English words fort and fortitude), so comfort means “to be strong with.” This is the meaning of comfort in the King James translation and is also what the Greek word indicates. To be comforted is to be strengthened, and we are strengthened together and have strength with another. Offering consolation and reassurance is one way we can strengthen others, one way we can comfort them, but it is not the only way. Our way of thinking about the word comfort is narrower than was Paul’s.
The phrase comforted together emphasizes being with one another; the Roman saints are called to be with each other by virtue of their membership in the church. Encouraged is a good synonym for comforted together, and its etymology is similar to that of comfort: “to give courage, hope, or confidence.” This is at least one major sense in which the Holy Ghost is a comforter: besides giving sympathy, he strengthens and encourages by being with us in our trials. As the Second Comforter, the Savior will also stand with us (see page 10).
The preaching of the gospel that leads to repentance, the support that Paul will offer in this letter, brings comfort and hope—not just comfort against the ills and misfortunes of life and hope that we will have something better in the foreseeable future (though both certainly are included), but a general feeling of peace and comfort, the assurance that we are on the right track and acceptable to God even when we do not know what to expect, even when we have no reason for natural hope (see Romans 4:18). Comfort, strength, and hope come not only through our faith in Christ as individuals, but also through our faith in and with one another. In the community of the church, faith in God founds and creates faith in one another, and faith in one another strengthens our faith in God. Bearing our testimonies to each other strengthens us all. Though we must each work out our own salvation, we do so together. Part of working out salvation is comforting one another, strengthening and encouraging one another through our faith, as Paul is doing here.
The mutual faith of both you and me
In the phrase the mutual faith of both you and me, Paul is not emphasizing his apostolic authority. Instead, he is emphasizing what the word comfort means: by being with the saints, serving them, and preaching to them, Paul will not only strengthen them through his faith, but he will be strengthened by their faith. His visit, whether physical or by letter, will bless them both. Anyone who, like Paul, has served in the spirit (see verse 9, pages 42–43) has had a similar experience.
Paul may also be explaining why he is coming to Rome, though his usual practice is to preach only where others have not (see Romans 15:20).
Notice that Paul does not speak of faith as an individual thing. We have an individualistic understanding of faith—his faith and my faith—but Paul speaks of the collective faith among the saints. To see this difference more clearly, compare Abraham with Achilles, the hero of Homer’s Iliad. Achilles trusts only himself, and he claims all the credit: “I am going to get Hector.” “I am going to possess the prize.” In contrast, when commanded to sacrifice his son, Isaac, Abraham trusts Isaac (Isaac is probably in his thirties70 and seems not to be a simple, mute victim), Isaac trusts Abraham, and they both trust God, who also obviously trusts them. Abraham is willing to give up everything, including all hope of having his divine promise fulfilled, simply because the Lord demands it. Achilles considers trust or faith in and with others to be secondary at best, but such faith and trust are at the very heart of Abraham’s experience. The trust that we see among Abraham, Isaac, and God, as well as in Paul’s letter, does not occur merely in the individual. It happens among the saints.
// That I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
The only difference between Joseph Smith’s version of verse 12 and the King James Version is the deletion of the introductory phrase that is. If the phrase is included, verse 12 restates verse 11: giving the Roman saints a spiritual gift to sustain them is the same as their being comforted together by faith. By deleting the opening phrase, the Joseph Smith Translation makes this verse a consequence of verse 11: Paul wants to give the Romans a spiritual gift to strengthen the gospel in them so that he can be comforted together with the Romans by their mutual faith.
I would not have you ignorant
The phrase I would not have you ignorant is common in Paul’s writing (see Romans 11:25; 1 Thessalonians 4:13; 1 Corinthians 10:1; 12:1; 2 Corinthians 1:8). Though the saints in Rome are renowned for their faith, they can still learn what it means to be saints. Paul writes to them for that reason. He believes that he can have a harvest from among them as he has had among the gentiles.
The intimacy Paul shows with the word brethren may be surprising given that, though he knows some of the Roman saints personally (see Romans 16:3, 6–16), he is generally unacquainted with the Romans because he has never been to Rome. The intimacy is also a little odd considering the formality of the opening of the letter. On the other hand, an intimate feeling toward other members of the church, even those one does not know, is hardly unusual (see the discussion of by the will of God in verse 10, pages 44–45, as well as examples of Paul’s similar intimacy in Romans 7:1, 4; 8:12; 10:1; 11:25; 15:14, 30; 16:17). Fitzmyer points out that speaking of the saints as brothers was adopted from Palestinian Jewish usage71 (compare Deuteronomy 15:1–18 for the Jewish basis of that usage).
I purposed to come unto you
In the phrase I purposed to come unto you, the Greek word translated “purposed” indicates at least intention and probably a definite plan. On the other hand, as explained in the discussion of verse 10 (page 44), that plan may or may not have been to make a physical journey to Rome.
Was let hitherto
Let, in the phrase was let hitherto, does not mean “allowed,” as we might expect. It means “prevented.” We do not know what has kept Paul from coming to the Romans, whether by letter or in person, but when we consider this remark in conjunction with the statement in verse 10 that he has been praying that he might come, we can perhaps conclude that the Lord has until now refused permission. If that is the case, verse 13 may imply that Paul was previously prevented from coming because he would not have been able to find fruit among them. Perhaps their reputation for righteousness would earlier have prevented them from hearing Paul’s message, but now they are ready.
The metaphor of fruit is obvious. In Greek, the word fruit generally indicates the products of one’s labor, what comes as a result of work.72 Note that this metaphor questions some of our ordinary thinking about work, especially how we sometimes think about our work in the church. A tree does not produce fruit through an extraordinary effort. It produces fruit naturally. The fruit is the natural result of the tree’s being what it is. One can hardly imagine admonishing an apple tree to try harder to produce better fruit. To produce better fruit, the apple tree must change itself, and that is almost surely impossible. Perhaps the tree must be pruned. Perhaps it must be fertilized. The apple tree can be worked on, but if it is to produce better fruit, it must be a better apple tree, and it cannot do this on its own.
That our works are compared to fruits should therefore give us pause, as should the fact that we are judged by those fruits. Just like an apple tree, we produce fruit—works—of one kind or another because we are human beings. There is no alternative; our fruits are the natural product of who we are. If we want better fruit, we must become better people. But, like the apple tree or the olive tree (see Jacob 5), we cannot make ourselves better. That is the work of the One who tends us.
If we are to be better, we must repent and make ourselves available to do God’s work. We must submit to him as the tree submits to the farmer. Concentrating on the fruit we produce will not help. Comparing our fruit to that of others will probably be counterproductive. Gritting our teeth, cinching our belts, and firmly deciding to produce better fruit will not help. Neither will setting the goal of producing better fruit and writing it in our planners or imagining ourselves as better producers. Only becoming better people will do the job. But we cannot become better simply by choosing to be better. Becoming better is not really the result of an expenditure of our effort. A tree is a better tree because of the care given it by the gardener. Some trees may produce bad fruit in spite of that care, but they can hardly claim to have done so by an act of their will. Likewise, we may reject what the Father offers us through his Son and produce bad fruit. However, if we accept what is offered, we will be good and our fruit will be good, but that fruit will be nothing of which we can boast or be proud. Our fruit is not our work, but the Father’s and the Son’s (compare the discussion of a servant of Jesus Christ in verse 1 [pages 3–9] and the allegory of the olive tree in Jacob 5).
That I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles
With the phrase that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles, Paul indicates that he would like a harvest among the Romans as he has had among others. In other words, he expects the saints in Rome to be better as a result of his service.
The Greek emphasizes the comparison of the Roman congregations to the other gentiles. Literally it reads, “Also among you, even as also among the other gentiles.” The church in Rome may be primarily composed of gentiles—Greeks and Romans, rather than Jews. However, as is obvious from the content of the letter, there are a number of Jews among them (see the list of names in Romans 16, which includes Jewish, Roman, Greek, and Latin names). Paul is writing to all the members of the church in Rome. He compares them to gentiles, perhaps because most are gentiles or perhaps because all are living in a gentile city. Paul uses the word gentiles in an equivocal way.
Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was hindered hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.
The only change is one of clarification: hindered rather than let.
I am debtor
Why does Paul say he is indebted? After all, he is preaching and the Romans are receiving the gift he offers. It seems they should be indebted to him. However, in verse 12 Paul says that the saints and he will be strengthened if they can share their faith, and in verse 13 he mentions that he would like a harvest from among them. He seems, therefore, to be indebted on several counts. First, he has gathered fruit from among both the Greeks and the non-Greeks. That is in itself rewarding. It has often been noted that genuine service to another brings satisfaction. (And what greater service could there be than preaching the message of Christ?) Service also brings a sense of gratitude. When we serve others, the feeling that results is not pride, but thankfulness—thankfulness for the people we have served, for our relation to them, for the work we have done, for our Father in Heaven. Anyone who has helped another hear and understand the gospel and then seen that person accept it is familiar with this feeling.
Paul is indebted to all people because he is indebted to Christ. To be obligated to the Savior is to be obligated to those for whom he died. In one sense, to owe is to be owned: I am owned by those whom I owe. Because Paul owes Jesus Christ, he also owes those for whom Jesus Christ has sacrificed. As a result, Paul is not only a slave of Christ, but also a slave of those to whom he preaches. He preaches to them because he owes it to them. Though Paul is an apostle, the saints and those to whom he has been called to preach are his masters.
Building on this notion, we can conclude that if, as verse 12 indicates, our faith is shared rather than individual, then we are indebted to each other. Having been purchased by the blood of Christ, each is owned by all others; each always owes the other as Paul owes him. We cannot escape our obligation to one another except by dying spiritually.
Paul’s debt might well come as a surprise to many of his contemporaries in Rome, especially considering that they may think that he at times deals with them harshly. It is odd to imagine a slave owing his master a call to repentance, but that is exactly what Paul owes the saints. His obligation is to bring them grace and peace (see verse 7, pages 28–29). It is to do for them what they need—what the Father would do for them—not necessarily what they desire. If I were to attempt to meet such an obligation on the basis of only my own understanding, then I could never be sure that what I did, even if it were in accordance with the other’s will, was what that person genuinely needed. Because I can be sure of neither the goodness of my will nor the will of another human being, I cannot deal fairly with others based on what either of us thinks is best. In other words, I cannot be sure of my own justice. In fact, the more sure I am of it, the more likely I am to be wrong about it. I must always worry that my justice is really injustice, but the Father is truly just. To the degree that my service to my fellows is according to the will of the Father, rendered as part of my slavery to the Son, I need not worry about whether I have done right (though I must always be wary of being overly confident that my service is indeed what the Father wills). My will becomes irrelevant, and as a servant, my actions are not really mine. In this idea we see the necessity of being enslaved to God rather than having free will.
The theme of being indebted comes up again in chapters 3 and 4, where we see that even father Abraham is indebted and cannot claim sanctification as his right.
The word Greeks refers to those who speak Greek. Though the Romans ruled the Mediterranean world and spoke Latin, Greek was the language of the cultured, even among the Romans. As a result, the word Greek was often used by people of the time to refer to the dominant culture.
Barbarians refers to those who do not speak Greek. In English the word barbarian refers to someone without culture. Although the Greek word barbaros (βάρβαρος; the Greeks thought the word mimicked the sound of non-Greek languages) can imply a lack of culture rather than only a difference of language, it does not necessarily do so, and it does not seem to carry that implication here. It is just the complement of Greek. Thus “the Greeks and the barbarians” includes everyone.
In Greek and Roman philosophical thought, the wise are those who know how to live well. They are those who have learned “the meaning of life.” The overarching goal of Greek education was to achieve wisdom, and this goal had a great influence on Roman education. In its best form, Greek philosophy (literally “the love of wisdom” and therefore the name for education), which originated in Socrates’ life and his quest for wisdom as virtue, centered on teaching us that we are unwise. The point of Greek and Roman philosophy and education was to gain wisdom (recall the discussion of Stoic wisdom on page 5).
A better translation than “unwise” might be “foolish,” though the word unwise is a good contrast to wise. Literally, the Greek word translated “unwise” (anoētos, ανόητος) means something like “mindless.” Paul is using the terms wise and unwise only generally, but either term can also refer specifically to those who are converted or unrepentant. From the point of view of the world, the converted are foolish and those who seek their own self-interest rather than the glory of God are wise. The reverse is true from God’s point of view (see 1 Corinthians 1:25; 3:19; 2 Nephi 9:42).
As is true of much of what follows in the letter to the Romans, what Paul says in verse 14 would have been a scandal to educated Greeks and Romans. As we have seen, the whole point of Greek and Roman philosophy was wisdom, or the overcoming of ignorance, and it would thus be difficult and even scandalous for a philosopher of Paul’s time to have thought himself indebted to the unwise.
Both to Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise
The phrases both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians and both to the wise, and to the unwise indicate that Paul is indebted to everyone. The words Greeks and barbarians emphasize language and culture, and the words wise and unwise emphasize mental ability or understanding within the culture. Paul divides everyone in two ways. These two ways overlap each other but are also distinct, and they emphasize that Paul is indebted to all: the Greeks and the non-Greeks and everyone within either group.
The King James translation expands what is quite terse in the Greek version of verse 14. Quite literally, the Greek reads, “Greeks and Romans, wise and unwise,” with the word to implied in each case by the grammatical form of the nouns.
The word so indicates that what follows is the consequence of Paul’s indebtedness. He is ready to preach the gospel to the Romans because he owes it to them.
As much as in me is
In the phrase as much as in me is,Paul shows his humility by acknowledging that he has limitations.
I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also
With the phrase I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also, the KJV indicates that Paul is ready to preach the gospel. The Greek indicates that he is not just ready, but eager. This implies that the Roman saints need to have the gospel preached to them—in spite of their reputation for faithfulness. Given what Paul has already said about their faithfulness, the Roman saints might be offended that he wants to preach the gospel to them as he has among others, most of whom were unbelievers. It might be especially offensive to those who are renowned for their faithfulness to be told that Paul hopes his preaching will find fruit among them as it has among the unbelievers, but Paul has already made clear that his letter is to strengthen, not to offend. Perhaps he has built up to this point slowly so that they will not easily be offended. Perhaps that is why he has prefaced this letter by pointing out his understanding of them and his love for them. In fact, to their credit, he thinks they are ready for his message of repentance, a message intended specifically for those renowned for faithfulness.
And, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
The King James translation begins verse 15 with so, a word that implies that verse 15 describes a consequence of verse 14. This is a reasonable interpretation of the Greek text. The editors of the Greek manuscript have put a semicolon at the end of verse 14 to connect it to verse 15. It also seems reasonable to conclude that verses 13 and 14 are two descriptions of a single fact: Paul desires to have fruit among the Romans, and he is indebted to all. Thus, as traditionally rendered, verses 13 and 14 indicate that Paul wants those in Rome to know that he has intended to come to them in order to find fruit among all people. Verse 15 then tells us that Paul is ready to preach the gospel in Rome because he intends to have fruit among the Roman saints and is indebted to all.
In contrast, Joseph Smith’s version of verse 15 is parallel to verse 14 rather than a consequence of it. This elevates the importance of verse 15. Joseph Smith’s version indicates that Paul wants the church members in Rome to know two independent things: (1) he has intended to come to them, and (2) he is ready to do so.
66. See Robertson, Grammar of the Greek New Testament, 962, 1189–90.
67. See Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., s.v. “keep”; American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), s.v. “keep.”
68. See Bauer, Greek-English Lexicon, 323.
69. See Ibid., 768.
70. Many have come to this conclusion by assuming that Sarah’s death, mentioned early in Genesis 23, occurred shortly after the sacrifice at Mount Moriah and subtracting her age at Isaac’s birth from her age at death.
71. See Fitzmyer, Romans: A New Translation, 249.
72. See Kittel, Theological Dictionary, 3:615; Bauer, Greek-English Lexicon, 404–5.