they were entrusted with: That is, the Jews. (See Glossary, “Jew.”) Moses wrote at De 29:29: “The things revealed belong to us [Israelites] and to our descendants forever.” At Ps 147:19, 20, God is said to declare “his word . . . to Israel,” something he had not done “with any other nation.” Jesus alluded to the Jews’ being entrusted with God’s word of salvation and true worship when he said: “Salvation begins with the Jews.” (Joh 4:22; see study note.) Paul here confirms that Jehovah had entrusted the Jews with writing the Hebrew-Aramaic portion of the inspired Scriptures. Also, the books of the Christian Greek Scriptures were composed by the Jewish disciples of Jesus. So the Jews were custodians of Scriptural knowledge, and they were responsible for composing the books of the entire Bible canon.—See study notes on Lu Title and 24:44.
sacred pronouncements: This expression occurs only four times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, and it translates the plural form of the Greek word loʹgi·on (meaning “little word”), a diminutive of loʹgos (word). Originally, loʹgi·on meant only a brief sacred statement, but in time it came to signify any divine communication. Paul here referred to the entire Hebrew Scriptures and apparently also to the part of the Christian Greek Scriptures written up to that time. The writing of this body of inspired Scriptures was entrusted to the Jews, who wrote “as they were moved by holy spirit.” (2Pe 1:20, 21) In the Septuagint, the word loʹgi·on is often used to render Hebrew expressions that refer to God’s pronouncements, such as at Ps 12:6 (11:6, LXX): “The sayings of Jehovah are pure.”
Certainly not!: This expression renders a Greek phrase that Paul uses ten times in his letter to the Romans. It is also rendered “By no means!” and “Not at all!” (Ro 3:4, 6, 31; 6:2, 15; 7:7, 13; 9:14; 11:1, 11) A more literal rendering would be “Never may it occur (happen).” It is an emphatic way of making a negative response to questions that are often rhetorical. It expresses strong aversion to the idea, as if to say, “Away with the thought.”
let God be found true: Paul’s exclamation “Certainly not!” at the beginning of this verse is in reply to the question he raised in the preceding verse: “If some lacked faith, will their lack of faith invalidate the faithfulness of God?” The majority of Jews of that day showed a lack of faith, particularly when they rejected the Hebrew Scripture prophecies that pointed to Jesus as the Messiah. (Ro 3:21) By taking that position, they—the people to whom God had entrusted those “sacred pronouncements” (Ro 3:2)—made it seem that Jehovah had been untrue to his promises. But Jehovah had faithfully fulfilled those pronouncements through Christ. In establishing that God is trustworthy, Paul quoted the words of King David, as rendered in the Septuagint: “That you [God] might be proved righteous in your words.” (Ps 51:4 [50:6, LXX]) In that verse, David admitted his error, acknowledging that God is true and righteous. He did not try to justify himself and discredit God. Paul used David’s words to show that God is always loyal and true, regardless of who or how many claim otherwise.
under sin: That is, under the power of sin. The Greek preposition hy·poʹ, “under,” here conveys the idea of being under the control of someone or something. In the Bible, sin is personified as a domineering master who holds humans in slavery. (Joh 8:34; Ro 6:16-20; 7:14) In a similar way, Paul describes sin as ruling “as king.”—Ro 5:21.
sin: The basic Greek term for “sin” in the Scriptures is ha·mar·tiʹa. This is the first occurrence of the word in the book of Romans. The related verb, ha·mar·taʹno, literally means “to miss,” in the sense of missing a target or not reaching a goal. For example, secular Greek writers used ha·mar·taʹno with regard to a spearman missing his target. The corresponding Hebrew terms chat·taʼthʹ, “sin,” and cha·taʼʹ, “to sin,” convey a similar meaning. At Jg 20:16, cha·taʼʹ is used with a negative to describe the Benjaminites who “could sling a stone to within a hairbreadth and would not miss.” Both the Hebrew and the Greek terms could refer to missing, or failing to reach, not only physical goals but also moral or intellectual ones. But in the Scriptures, these terms refer mainly to human sin, a failure to live or act in harmony with moral standards set by the Creator. (Ge 39:9; 1Sa 7:6; Ps 51:4; Da 9:8; Lu 15:18; Ro 2:12; 5:12) The Septuagint often uses the verb ha·mar·taʹno to render the Hebrew verb cha·taʼʹ.—See study note on Ro 3:23.
just as it is written: In verses 10 through 18, Paul uses several quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures to prove his point “that Jews as well as Greeks are all under sin.” (Ro 3:9) In verses 10 through 12, the quotes are taken from Ps 14:1-3 and Ps 53:1-3; Ro 3:13 is taken from Ps 5:9 and Ps 140:3; Ro 3:14, from Ps 10:7; Ro 3:15-17, from Pr 1:16 and Isa 59:7, 8; and Ro 3:18, from Ps 36:1.—See study note on Ro 1:17.
the Law: See study note on Ro 2:12.
all have sinned: Paul makes a similar point at Ro 3:9, 12; 5:12. The Greek word rendered fall short of could also be rendered “fail to reach” or “come short of.” God created humans “in his image” by giving them the ability to reflect his personality and qualities. (Ge 1:26, 27) However, when the first humans, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God’s command (Ge 2:15-17; 3:1-6), they came short of reflecting the glory of God, including his glorious qualities. Since all of Adam’s offspring have inherited sin and its consequence, death, every member of the human family falls short of properly reflecting God’s lofty qualities.
being declared righteous: In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the Greek verb di·kai·oʹo and the related nouns di·kaiʹo·ma and di·kaiʹo·sis, traditionally rendered “to justify” and “justification,” carry the basic idea of clearing of any charge, holding as guiltless, and therefore pronouncing and treating as righteous. For example, the apostle Paul wrote that the person who has died has been “acquitted [form of di·kai·oʹo] from his sin,” having paid the penalty, death. (Ro 6:7, 23) In addition to such usage, these Greek words are used in a special sense in the Scriptures. They refer to God’s viewing as guiltless an imperfect person who exercises faith.—Ac 13:38, 39; Ro 8:33.
the release by the ransom paid by Christ Jesus: Or “the redemption that is in (by) Christ Jesus.” The Greek word a·po·lyʹtro·sis is related to several other words having to do with the ransom.—See study note on Mt 20:28.
an offering for propitiation: Or “an offering for atonement (reconciliation).” The Greek word hi·la·steʹri·on, here rendered “an offering for propitiation,” and the related word hi·la·smosʹ, rendered “propitiatory sacrifice” at 1Jo 2:2 and 4:10, can signify a means of appeasement. In the Scriptures, these terms are used to refer to a restoration of good relations between God and man. When Adam was created as an earthly “son of God,” he enjoyed a peaceful relationship with his Creator. (Lu 3:38) By disobeying God and sinning, Adam forfeited his favorable relationship and his perfect human life. He also sold his descendants into slavery to sin and death. (Ro 5:12) God’s perfect justice required like for like in order for mankind’s relationship with God to be restored. (Ex 21:23-25; De 19:21) When Jesus sacrificed his perfect human life, the sacrifice he offered appeased, or satisfied, Jehovah’s standard of justice by providing the righteous and just basis for pardoning sin. Thereafter, God could “be righteous even when declaring righteous the [inherently sinful] man who has faith in Jesus.” (Ro 3:26) Jesus’ sacrifice made it propitious, or favorable, for humans to seek and receive restoration to a peaceful relationship with Jehovah. (Eph 1:7) At Heb 9:4, 5, the Greek word hi·la·steʹri·on is used in connection with the cover of the chest called “the ark of the covenant” and is rendered “the propitiatory cover” or, as found in the footnote, “the place of atonement.”
forbearance: Or “tolerance.”—See study note on Ro 2:4.
was forgiving the sins that occurred in the past: Jehovah began to forgive sins even before Jesus provided the ransom to redeem Adam’s descendants from imperfection, sin, and death. This became possible from the moment Jehovah began to reveal his purpose to provide an “offspring” who would save believing mankind. (Ge 3:15; 22:18; Isa 53:5, 6, 10-12; Mt 20:28; Ga 3:19) From the viewpoint of God Almighty, the ransom was as good as paid; he had absolute confidence in the willingness of his Son to provide this sacrifice. (Ps 40:6-8; Heb 10:7-10) Nothing could ever prevent God from fulfilling his purpose. (Nu 23:19; Isa 46:10; Tit 1:2) Thus, God could pardon repentant sinners while at the same time maintain his own justice. (De 32:4; Ps 32:1, 2, 5; Isa 1:18) He could also declare faithful humans righteous in a relative sense, without compromising his standards of righteousness. (Ge 15:1, 6; Eze 14:14; Mt 23:35; Jas 2:23-25) Likewise, Jesus, while on earth as God’s representative, had the authority to forgive sins in advance of the ransom by applying the value of his yet future sacrifice to individuals of faith.—Mt 9:2-6; Lu 7:36-50; Heb 2:9; see Glossary, “Ransom,” “Righteousness.”