17.Behold, thou art named a Jew, etc. Some old copies read εἰ δὲ, though indeed; which, were it generally received, would meet my approbation; but as the greater part of the manuscripts is opposed to it, and the sense is not unsuitable, I retain the old reading, especially as it is only a small difference of one letter. (77)
Having now completed what he meant to say of the Gentiles, he returns to the Jews; and that he might, with greater force, beat down their great vanity, he allows them all those privileges, by which they were beyond measure transported and inflated: and then he shows how insufficient they were for the attainment of true glory, yea, how they turned to their reproach. Under the name Jew he includes all the privileges of the nation, which they vainly pretended were derived from the law and the prophets; and so he comprehends all the Israelites, all of whom were then, without any difference, called Jews.
But at what time this name first originated it is uncertain, except that it arose, no doubt, after the dispersion. (78) [Josephus ] , in the eleventh book of his Antiquities, thinks that it was taken from Judas Maccabæus, under whose auspices the liberty and honor of the people, after having for some time fallen, and been almost buried, revived again. Though I allow this opinion to be probable, yet, if there be some to whom it is not satisfactory, I will offer them a conjecture of my own. It seems, indeed, very likely, that after having been degraded and scattered through so many disasters, they were not able to retain any certain distinction as to their tribes; for a census could not have been made at that time, nor did there exist a regular government, which was necessary to preserve an order of this kind; and they dwelt scattered and in disorder; and having been worn out by adversities, they were no doubt less attentive to the records of their kindred. But though you may not grant these things to me, yet it cannot be denied but that a danger of this kind was connected with such disturbed state of things. Whether, then, they meant to provide for the future, or to remedy an evil already received, they all, I think assumed the name of that tribe, in which the purity of religion remained the longest, and which, by a peculiar privilege, excelled all the rest, as from it the Redeemer was expected to come; for it was their refuge in all extremities, to console themselves with the expectation of the Messiah. However this may be, by the name of Jews they avowed themselves to be the heirs of the covenant which the Lord had made with Abraham and his seed.
And restest in the law, and gloriest in God, etc. He means not that they rested in attending to the law, as though they applied their minds to the keeping of it; but, on the contrary, he reproves them for not observing the end for which the law had been given; for they had no care for its observance, and were inflated on this account only, — because they were persuaded that the oracles of God belonged to them. In the same way theygloried in God, not as the Lord commands by his Prophet, — to humble ourselves, and to seek our glory in him alone, (Jeremiah 9:24,) — but being without any knowledge of God’s goodness, they made him, of whom they were inwardly destitute, peculiarly their own, and assumed to be his people, for the purpose of vain ostentation before men. This, then, was not the glorying of the heart, but the boasting of the tongue.
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