“They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” —Psalms 14:3
“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10-12). You may have heard it said that the apostle is quoting this passage from the Greek Septuagint of Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3, but he actually seems to be quoting from the Septuagint passages in Romans 3:12-18; that is, if he is quoting from the Septuagint at all. If we believe that the holy scriptures are the very God-breathed words from God, then Paul was writing under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit to provide us God’s gospel instruction in His word. In other words, although God has used the means and vehicle of redeemed sinners to convey His holy word, it is God’s holy, inspired, authoritative word, nonetheless, regardless of whether a quote from one language to another is verbatim, reworded or paraphrased.
Keep in mind that the Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures commissioned by Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-247BC).
The Holy Spirit, through the apostle, is giving the reader (that’s the Roman Christians of Paul’s day, as well as to us today) the meaning and sense of Psalms 14:1-3,
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
“The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God” (Psalms 14:2). Here, we see that David presents the reader with the poetic illustration of an all-seeing God, examining the hearts of men to determine if any had understanding and were seeking after God. Now Paul, on the other hand, provides us with the result of God’s search: “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:11). Then Paul quotes Psalms 14:3.
The Septuagint of Psalms 14:3 and the New Testament Greek of Romans 3:12 are exactly the same, some textual variants notwithstanding. Again, this is not to suggest that the Greek Septuagint was God-breathed. That distinction is reserved only for original language manuscripts of the 66 books contained in the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation; these books alone are the inspired, infallible, and inerrant word of God. The bottom line is that rather than suggesting that the apostle Paul is quoting the Septuagint here, let’s simply say that he is quoting Psalms 14:3 and translating the Hebrew under divine inspiration.
Let us take note that Psalm 14 also presents a universal depravity among all men in verse 2, “The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men…” This does not single out the Jews; it doesn’t say, “children of Israel,” or “descendents of Jacob,” but instead, “children of men,” or literally, “the sons of Adam.” In other words, this speaks of every sinful descendent from the first fallen man: disobedient Adam. Since the apostle, in his epistle to the Romans (Romans 3:11), provides the results of the LORD’s search, as mentioned previously, the blessed truth revealed in the psalm speaks of Jehovah’s condescending grace because the all-knowing God is well aware of mankind’s fallen estate. Please mark that with great joy! Although both Psalms 14 and 53 express the depravity of man’s fallen condition and his rebellion, filthiness and foolishness with regard to heavenly things, in the midst of this corruption we see God’s condescending grace: “The LORD looked down...” Yes, because God’s gracious redemption through Jesus Christ was His eternal plan before He even said, “Light be.”
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, 1 Peter 1:18-20
Finally, when comparing Psalms 14, 53 with Romans 3, one last observation I would like to point out is that, while grace abounds in the midst of the psalms, grace is the blessed climax of Romans 3…
Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Romans 3:24-26
Read the previous article in this series, “None Righteous, Not One” (Romans 3:10-12).