Isaiah in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans


Paul Cites the Old Testament in Romans

Verses  Book
19         Isaiah
13         Psalms
7          Genesis
7          Deuteronomy
6           Exodus
2           Kings
2           Proverbs
2           Hosea
2           Joel
1           Leviticus
1           Samuel
1           Job
1           Jeremiah
1           Job
1          Nahum
1          Habakkuk
1          Malachi

Paul’s use of Isaiah in his epistle to the Romans is striking. Studying Roman’s this last month, I began to see Paul’s use of Isaiah early on; this, of course, led me to keep track. I found that he used sixteen books from the Old Testament, citing (or alluding to) sixty-three verses from the Law and the Prophets—nearly a third (19) of these quotes came from the book of Isaiah alone.

It was Christ himself who first set the pattern for citing Isaiah when quoting Isaiah 61:1-2, he proclaimed, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:18-21). In the Gospel’s both Matthew and Luke cite Isaiah to prove Christ was the promised Messiah and it likely was a custom of early Christian to use the Old Testament to help show how Christ had fulfilled the promises of the Law and the Prophets.

Paul being educated as a Pharisee in Jerusalem under the hand of Rabbi Gamaliel certainly would have known those ancient scriptures well and used them, to make his point. And, like modern Apostles, he clearly saw the Book of Isaiah as an ancient witness of the Messiah who had come as Jesus Christ.

Paul uses verses (17–24) to explain that being a chosen or elect people does not automatically put on them on the way to God—they must be righteous to be in good standing. 2:24 For the name of God is blasphemed the Gentiles through you, as it is written.52:5 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.
“The expression, ‘their feet are swift,’ etc., denotes the eagerness of the nation to commit crime, particularly deeds of injustice and cruelty… their conduct is to destroy the virtue, happiness, and peace of all with whom they come in contact. And the way of peace.” Barnes’ Notes on the Bible

3:15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:
16 Destruction and misery are in their ways:
17 And the way of peace have they not known:
59:7 Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths.
The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.
“The apostle replies in two ways [to verse 19]:first, by asserting the sovereignty of God, and affirming that he had a right to do it Romans 9:20-21; and secondly, by showing that he did it according to the principles of justice and mercy, or that it was involved of necessity in his dispensing justice and mercy to mankind.”—Barnes’ Notes on the Bible

9:19-21 19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
29:16 Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?
The task of the surviving remnant will, of course, be to accomplish the work of the Abrahamic covenant, to see to the work of converting the nations to peace and to the worship of the true God.— Joseph Spencer, The Vision of All9:27 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:
28 For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness
10:22 For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return:  the
consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness.
aTG Israel, Remnant of
The Lord did not allow Judah to be entirely destroyed, but he intended a remnant to continue, possibly symbolized by the solitary shelter—Madsen and Hopkin, Opening Isaiah: a Harmony, p 3
9:29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.1:9 Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.
The Messiah is referred to in the scriptures as a “stone” (see Genesis 49:24Psalm 118:22) and also as a “rock” (see Deuteronomy 32:4, 151 Samuel 2:2). The prophet here uses this expression to describe the rejection of the Savior, the stumbling and offence, by the unbelieving of Israel and Judah. The New Testament writers also cited this passage in showing how the Jews, for the most part, rejected the Savior (see 1 Peter 2:8)—Old Testament Student Manual9:33 As it is written, “Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.8:14 And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that the words in Romans 9:33 offwe a better offerionversion of this verse: “As it is written, ‘Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and 
rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.'”
9:33 (above), 10:11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.28:16 Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.
Abinadi gave a prophetic interpretation of Isaiah 52:7-10. He explained that those who follow Christ and the prophets are the seed of Christ, who as servants “are they [changing the singular “him” of Isa. 52:7 to a plural] who have published peace, who have brought good tidings of good, who have published salvation; and said unto Zion: Thy God reigneth”—David Seeley in Studies in Scripture10:15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!52:7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!
Those who reject the gospel and become darkened by sin and rebellion do not receive the blessing of sweet healing. …They could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them” (John 12:37–40).—Reg Christensen, Reg, Unlocking Isaiah, 10:16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?53:1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
The Prophet Joseph, in his inspired translation of the Bible, expanded the text and changed it: “I am found of them who seek after me, I give unto all them that ask of me; I am not found of them that sought me not, or that inquireth not after me. I said unto my servant, Behold me, look upon me; I will send you unto a nation that is not called after my name, for I have spread out my hands all the day to a people who walketh not in my ways, and their works are evil and not good, and they walk after their own thoughts.” (JST, Isaiah 65:1–2.)10:20 But Esaias is very bold, and saith, “I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.”65:1 I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name.
There is a difference between those who know that they should call upon the Lord but do not and those who do not call upon Him because they do not know they should. The Gentiles are in the latter category. Paul wrote that God manifested Himself to the Gentiles but not to the Jews because He had “stretched forth [His] hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people” all day long (for many generations), and they would not respond (Romans 10:21). It is the Gentiles’ turn now. Isaiah 65:3–7describes the Lord’s attitude toward those who, having been given much, return but little to the Giver.—Old Testament Student Manual Kings-Malachi10:21 But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.65:2 I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts;
People would experience “the spirit of deep sleep,” and the prophets and seers would be covered, or removed from the people… the world would fall into a state of spiritual darkness. This falling away from truth is …the Great Apostasy.—Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, Lesson 12211:8 (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear😉 unto this day.29:10 For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.
The concept of Israel gaining forgiveness is from Zechariah 1314; compare D&C 45:19–30,51–53. —Thomas Wayment, The New Testament, Deseret Book. 11:26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:59:20 And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord.
ibid. Wayment (above)11:27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.27:9 By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be apurged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin; when he maketh all the stones of the altar as chalkstones that are beaten in sunder, the groves and images shall not stand up.
The other verses emphasize through the impressive use of contrasts the greatness of God and the nothingness of mortal nations and the gods they worship.11:34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?Isaiah 40:13 Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him?
“The time will come when ‘every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess,’ and yet the vast majority of mankind will go into the telestial kingdom eternally. Let me read these verses: ‘The time shall come when all shall see the salvation of the Lord; when every nation, kindred, tongue, and people shall see eye to eye and shall confess before God that his judgments are just.’ [Mosiah 16:1–4.]
“It is a wonderful thing when men reach the stage when they will be willing to confess that the judgments against them are just, and they will bow the knee and will understand ‘eye to eye.’” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:30.)
14:11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.Isaiah 45:23 I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.
Only one servant was given power of judgment (see 2 Nephi 9:41), and that is He upon whose law the isles shall wait (see Isaiah 42:451:560:9), the Mediator of Israel and the Savior of the Gentiles.14:10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.Isaiah 42:4 He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.
D&C 113:5 What is the root of Jesse spoken of in the 10th verse of the 11th chapter?
6 Behold, thus saith the Lord, it is a descendant of Jesse, as well as of Joseph, unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom, for an ensign, and for the gathering of my people in the last days.
15:12 And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.Isaiah 11:10 And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.
The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible substitutes the word “gather” for “sprinkle” in this passage. The substitution makes excellent sense to Latter-day Saints who understand that through His atoning suffering, by being marred more than any, our Savior opened the way for us to be gathered, reunited, and made “at-one” with our Heavenly Father. —Terry Ball, Making Sense of Isaiah15:21 But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.52:15 So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.

Paul, of course, was an unusually qualified missionary for the early Christian Church. He was born in Tarsus of Cilicia, which is in modern southeastern Turkey. “He was also a Roman citizen by birth, a rare privilege for a Jew at that time. Finally, he was familiar with the Greek language and culture through his early environment in the Hellenistic city of Tarsus. Thus, he was able to deal with Jews, Romans, and Greeks on their own cultural terms-a great advantage for his later missionary work.”[1]

In writing his letter to the Romans, it “was meant in part to prepare the Church there to receive him when he came” en route to Spain (15:23–25). “It may also be regarded as containing a statement of doctrines that had been in dispute with the Judaizing Christians and that Paul now regarded as finally established.”[2]

Romans is Paul’s longest letter and is rich with Christian theology. In it, he “signals an interest in describing a foundational statement about belief in Jesus Christ and what it means for the believer to be considered righteous and a full participant in the community of Christian believers.”[3] Naturally as he worked to persuade his readers of Christ’s divine mission, he turned to Isaiah, who is the “messianic prophet of the Old Testament and as such is the most penetrating prophetic voice in that record.”[4]


[1] Philip Schaelling, “Paul,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Brigham Young University, 2001
[2] Pauline Epistles, Bible Dictionary, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2013
[3] Thomas Wayment, The New Testament: A New Translation for Latter-day Saints; Religious Studies Center and Deseret Book, 2018
[4] Old Testament Prophets: Isaiah, Ensign, Sep 2014

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Darryl Alder is a retired professional, with an adopted family of four, and a lovely wife of 40+years. He has blogged for a variety of sites and loves to bake, garden, camp, and study ancient scripture, all of which is reflected in his posts at,, and various Scouting blog sites


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