Romans Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern
1. “In that case, I say, isn’t it that God has repudiated his people?” Heaven forbid! For I myself am a son of Isra’el, from the seed of Avraham, (2 Chronicles 20:7, Psalm 105:6) of the tribe of Binyamin.
2. God has not repudiated his people (1 Samuel 12:22, Psalm 94:14) whom he chose in advance. Or don’t you know what the Tanakh says about Eliyahu? He pleads with God against Isra’el,
3. 'Adonai, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars, and I’m the only one left, and now they want to kill me too!' (1 Kings 19:10, 14)
4. But what is God’s answer to him? 'I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not knelt down to Ba‘al' (1 Kings 19:18).
5. It’s the same way in the present age: there is a remnant, chosen by grace.
6. (Now if it is by grace, it is accordingly not based on legalistic works; if it were otherwise, grace would no longer be grace.)
Sha'ul's imaginary non-Messianic Jewish opponent, introduced at 10:14—I5&N, has given up trying to prove that Israel is not responsible for its unbelief. His new tack is to try to show that Sha'ul's message, with its accusation of Jewish culpability for failing to heed it. is not merely unpleasant to Jewish ears but inconsistent with Scripture and therefore unworthy of being heeded. If the opponent can make his point stick, Sha'ul's case will be discredited on the ground that it contradicts what God has already revealed. "In that case," says the opponent, "if Israel has, as you say. 'kept disobeying and contradicting,' (10:21) isn't it a necessary implication that God has repudiated (or: "cast aside" or "abandoned") his people?" The opponent wants the reader to admit this; but if he does he must also admit an unacceptable implication, that God has broken his word, as promised in the Tanakh. "God will not repudiate his people." If Sha'ul's message entails believing in a God who breaks his word, it is not God but Sha'ul's message that must be rejected.
Sha'ul's reply is couched in the strongest possible denial language (see 3:4N), Heaven forbid! Sha'ul's logical method here begins with a reductio adabsurdum: God at least cannol have cast aside every single Jewish individual, for indeed I myself am a son of Israel, and he hasn't rejected me. More specifically, I am from the seed of Avraham as defined in 9:6-13; and lest the imaginary opponent suppose I am spiritualizing that phrase and letting it include Gentiles (which it does in Galatians 3-4; compare 9:24 above and Ml 3:9), I mean here that I am a literal physical descendant, from the tribe of Binyamin — a claim which, at the time Sha'ul wrote, could probably have been independently verified. Sha'ul refers elsewhere to his Jewishness (2C 11:22; Ga 1:13-14,2:15; Pp 3:5-6; see also Ac 22:3,23:6,26:5) and does so again here, not in order to boast (2:17) but to advance his argument.
Having begun with himself, he will prove in the rest of the chapter that — using the very words of the Tanakh which the opponent implies are contradicted by Sha'ul's message — God has not repudiated his people (1 Samuel 12:22, Psalm 94:14; the first four printings of the У/VTcite "Isaiah 12:22" by mistake), whom he chose in advance (Greek proegno. rendered "knew in advance" at 8:29). Sha'ul is not falling for his opponent's trick of trying to set the Gospel message in opposition to God's word. In fact, Sha'ul agrees with his opponent that God does not renege on his promises; later Sha'ul himself insists that "God's free gifts and his calling are irrevocable" (v. 29 below).
If you (the opponent) think otherwise. Don't you know what the Tanakh says about Eliyahu the prophet, who thought he was the only Jew of his time who had not apostatized? God disabused him of his melancholy conclusion by saying, "I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not knelt down to the false god Ba'al" to worship him. Sha'ul's point is that it's the same way in the present age as it was then: there is a remnant (same word as at 9:27) of Israel, the Messianic Jews, chosen not by themselves but by God's grace (see 6:23N). Thus does Sha'ul recapitulate Part I of these three chapters (see 9:1-11:36N), that God is sovereignly, justly, and, most of all, mercifully (see vv. 30-32 below, as well as 9:6b-29&NN) at work fulfilling his promises in history, even when our eyes and ears seem to tell us differently.
Then in v. 6 he recapitulates what he said in Part II (9:30-10:21 &NN), that legalistic works (self-efforts apart from trust in God; see 3:20bN), are incompatible with grace, which requires no effort or prior deeds, only trust. But here the emphasis is on the relationship between good works and being chosen: works that please God must follow election by him, not precede it (Ep 2:8-10&NN).
7. What follows is that Isra’el has not attained the goal for which she is striving. The ones chosen have obtained it, but the rest have been made stonelike,
8. just as the Tanakh says, 'God has given them a spirit of dullness — eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear, right down to the present day' (Deuteronomy 29:3(4), Isaiah 29:10).
Returning to the main thrust of his argument, Sha'ul summarizes: What follows is that Israel as a nation has not attained the goal for which she is striving (not: "was striving," as in most translations, for this suggests that Israel is no longer striving for righteousness). The ones chosen, the Messianic Jews, have obtained it through trusting in the atonement God has provided in Yeshua, but the rest have been made stonelike.
Made stonelike. The Greek verb "pdroo" is found here and at Mk 6:52, 8:17; Yn 12:40 and 2C 3:14. The related noun, "pordsis," is used at v. 25 below, Mk 3:5 and Ep 4:18. In most versions the verb is rendered "hardened" or "blinded"; the JNT's literal translation points up the allusion to Ezekiel 36:26, where God, speaking of what he will do for Israel in the Latter Days, says, "I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and 1 will give you a heart of flesh." As at 10:14-21 Sha'ul does not give a tough answer without Scriptural support. Here three of Israel's major figures writing in the three main sections of the Tanakh (Moses in the Torah; Isaiah in the Prophets; David in the Writings) are shown to bear witness to Israel's dullness, blindness and deafness to God, and consequent bondage. Sha'ul, who might otherwise be accused of arrogance or antisemitism, is seen instead to be in the tradition of the great prophets of our people, on whom he is relying.
9. And David says, 'Let their dining table become for them a snare and a trap, a pitfall and a punishment.
10. Let their eyes be darkened, so that they can’t see, with their backs bent continually' (Psalm 69:23–24(22–23)).
The dining table refers not to the laws of kashrut, which, although complicated to the outsider, are hardly sufflciently complex to become a snare and a trap, but to fellowship at meals, which is highly valued in Judaism, especially if "words of Torah" are exchanged. In the Mishna we read:
"Rabbi Shim'on said: 'If three have eaten at one table and have not spoken there words of Torah, it is as if they had eaten from the sacrifices of the dead; since it is said, "For all their tables are full of vomit and feces, without God present" (Isaiah 28:8). But if three have eaten at one table and have spoken there words of Torah, it is as if they had eaten from the table of God, blessed be he; since it is said, "And he said to me, this is the table which is before AdonaT (Ezekiel 41:22).'"(Avot 3:3)
(In Isaiah 28:8 the Hebrew phrase, "b'li makom," means, literally, "without a place"; the verse really means, "For all their tables are full of vomit and feces, without a place |toeat]." But Rabbi Shim'on relies on wordplay to make his point: by Mishnaic times the word "Makom" ("place") had also become a euphemism for "God," probably referring particularly to his omnipresence; hence above I twice render "Makom" as "God.")
But if Jews who reject Yeshua have conversation purporting to be "words of Torah" then the dining table has indeed become for them a snare and a trap, a pitfall and a punishment — in the sense that when the worldview of non-Messianic Jewish life pervades the relaxed atmosphere of mealtimes, it becomes difficult for an individual Jew to recognize Yeshua and come to trust in him.
Backs that are bent symbolize slavery, in this case slavery to sin and its consequences. Sha'ul quotes the Septuagint Greek version, but the Hebrew original has, "make their loins continually totter," "loins" being understood as a center of strength.
Greek dia pantos, corresponding to Hebrew tamid, is rendered "continually," not "forever," as in some English versions. "Continually" means "all the time, at present," while "forever" implies "always — now, in the future, and till the end of time." Here "forever" would be inconsistent with God's promises to Israel and also with what is said in vv. 11-32 immediately following.
On Psalm 69 see 15:3-4N.
11. “In that case, I say, isn’t it that they have stumbled with the result that they have permanently fallen away?” Heaven forbid! Quite the contrary, it is by means of their stumbling that the deliverance has come to the Gentiles, in order to provoke them to jealousy (Deuteronomy 32:21).
12. Moreover, if their stumbling is bringing riches to the world — that is, if Isra’el’s being placed temporarily in a condition less favored than that of the Gentiles is bringing riches to the latter — how much greater riches will Isra’el in its fullness bring them!
Sha'ul's imaginary non-Messianic Jewish opponent (see 10:14-15N) makes his fifth and final attempt to overturn Sha'ul's reasoning. "In that case, that is, if, as you, Sha'ul, claim, it is Israel's own fault that they do not trust Ycshua as the Messiah (10:14—21), and if, as you claim, this rejection does not signify that God has repudiated his people (11:1-10), then, I say, isn't it that they, Israel, have stumbled with the result that they have permanently fallen away?" This is not, as some commentators think, a repetition of the question in v. 1. There it was whether God had acted to abandon Israel; here it is whether Israel's rejection of Yeshua has as its necessary consequence the permanent self-exclusion of the Jewish people from the purview of God's promises, without any positive action on God's part. If Sha'ul answers, "Yes," his whole Gospel will be unacceptable to Jews, again not because it offends them, but because it contradicts the Tanakh, which presents God's promises to Israel as unconditional (vv. 28-29). As at v. 1, Sha'ul's shocked disclaimer. Heaven forbid! (see 3:4N), highlights how unthinkable he regards the notion that the Jewish people might not receive what God has promised them. That would be bad, but the reality is quite the contrary, good, on four counts:
(1) By means of Israel's stumbling (the word sometimes implies stumbling to one side of a path, getting off the track), deliverance has come to the Gentiles, and that is a good thing in itself.
(2) This deliverance for Gentiles is intended to fulfill the prophecy of Deuteronomy 32:21, quoted at 10:19 above, that God will provoke Israel to jealousy "over a non-nation, over a nation void of understanding." It is good when God fulfills one of his prophecies, for it vindicates God's name and character.
(3) Israel's eclipse is not permanent, she is only temporarily placed in a condition less favored than that of the Gentiles. Although in itself this may seem bad, in the context of God's long-range plan it is good; as will be shown, it is part of how God brings salvation to the Jewish people.
(4) Israel's forthcoming full commitment to Yeshua the Messiah, which is what Israel in its fullness implies, will bring even greater riches, even greater good, to humanity than their temporary abasement has brought (point I above).
Here is a literal translation of Sha'ul's answer in these verses:
11. "...May it not be! Rather, on the contrary, by the stumble of them [is] the deliverance to the Gentiles, unto the provoking-to-jealousy of them;
12. and if the stumble of them [is] riches of world, that is, [if] the defeat (or: "inferior status"] of them [is] riches of Gentiles, by how much more the fullness of them."
By means of their stumbling. The Greek word "parapiama" is elsewhere rendered figuratively as "trespass," but in vv. 11-12 it has for its context the related verb "ptaid" which means "stumbled" in v. 11; the prefix "para-" means "next to, alongside." The passage recalls 9:32-33 and portrays Israel tripping over the "stone that makes people stumble" (9:33), Yeshua, and falling alongside the path of Torah (which has trust in the Messiah as its "goal and fulfillment," 10:4&N), off to the side, where the light of God's glory does not shine (Psalm 119:105).
The deliverance. What deliverance? That which had been promised in the Tanakh to Israel, nothing less than deliverance (or: "salvation") from sin and its consequences, including all the evils in the world. Has come, meaning it has begun and will certainly be completed, but not meaning that its full implications (such as world peace) have already happened in history (see 8:14-39, especially 8:28-30&N). To the Gentiles, the Goyim, iht,- nations (see Mt 5:47N). The deliverance was meant for Israel (Mt 10:6,15:24); but as В nation, Israel failed to receive it. Individuals did accept it, but the majority, including the establishment, did not. This led to its being offered to the Gentiles, as the book of Acts documents (see especially Ac 13:42—47&NN), although God has never stopped holding out his hands to his "disobeying and contradicting" people (10:21).
The traditional non-Messianic Jewish counterclaim is that the righteous of all nations have always had a place in the world to come, and therefore Christianity is essentially unnecessary, although it deserves credit for helping to lead Gentiles out of idolatry toward monotheism. However, it does not lead them to true monotheism because it "teaches that a man is God." Moreover, in this view, Christianity is not only unnecessary for Jews but a positive evil, since it leads them away from their more perfect monotheism.
I have dealt with these arguments at various places in this commentary. For example, at Yn 14:6&N it was pointed out that Yeshua is the only route to righteousness for Jews as well as for Gentiles, so that monotheism which excludes Yeshua as the Messiah is mistaken. Here I wish to focus on the question of whether Israel's failure to acknowledge her Messiah when he came had positive consequences for the Gentiles. It is a fact that in the first century, Gentiles as a rule did not know, fear and obey God (Ep 2:11-12&NN). Thus they did not meet the Jewish criterion for having a place in the world to come (1:18-2:16), so that if the Gospel had not been proclaimed to them, very few of them would have received "the deliverance." It is pointless to speculate how God might have brought them that deliverance, had the leaders and the majority of Israel obeyed the Gospel when it was first offered; what we do know is that God did in fact use Israel's disobedience as a means, causing Messianic Jews (notably Sha'ul, v. 13) to evangelize Gentiles as well as Jews, and we know that many Gentiles responded positively.
The deliverance has come to the Gentiles. This is, of course, a good in itself. But just as God used Israel's decline as a means of bringing that deliverance to the Gentiles, so God is now using the Gentiles' deliverance in order to provoke them (Israel) to jealousy, in fulfillment of Deuteronomy 32:31, which was quoted above at 10:19. That is, the Gentiles' deliverance is itself a means of bringing that same deliverance to Israel, to whom it was promised (see vv. 3O-32&NN below).
To provoke them to jealousy. Is there anything about Gentile Christians that would make non-Messianic Jews jealous of them? Throughout most of the last two thousand years, the Church, to its great shame, not only has not provoked Jews to jealousy but has engendered repugnance and fear; so that Jewish people, instead of being drawn to love the Jewish Messiah Yeshua, have usually come to hate or ignore him, remaining convinced that their non-Messianic Judaism or secularism or agnosticism is superior to Christianity.
If this seems a harsh judgment, then let us hear of which Christians Jews are expected to be jealous. Of the "Christians" who trapped Jews in their synagogues and burned them alive (which happened when the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem in 1099, as well as in several European cities)? Of the "Christians" who forced Jews to hear conversionary sermons against their will and expelled from the country those who did not respond (which took place for centuries during the Middle Ages and the Inquisition)? Of the "Christians" who invented the "blood libel" that Jews murder a Christian child and use his blood in their Passover matzah! Of the cross-carrying "Christian" priests leading murderous mobs in pogroms? Of the "Christians" who remained silent while six million Jews perished in the Holocaust? Or perhaps of the "Christians" who murdered them — including Hitler himself, who was never excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church? Of "Christian" members of the Ku Klux Klan and other white "Christian" supremacy gangs and their brutish demonstrations? Of "Christians" that support Palestinian organizations whose terrorists kill and maim Israeli Jewish children? Of Greek Orthodox Archbishop Capucci, convicted of gun-running for those same Palestinian terrorist organizations? (These horrific events are further chronicled by Messianic Jew Michael L. Brown in his book, Омг Hands Are Stained With Blood: The Tragic Story of "The Church " and the Jewish People, Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: Destiny Image Publishers, 1992.) Of which of these "Christians" are we Jews supposed to be jealous? After such a recital, it is kinder not to dwell on what these people provoke us to — but jealousy it is not.
The Jews' pain would have been the same regardless of whether these people called themselves Christians: and the name "Christian" is not copyrighted, so that anyone who chooses can apply it to himself, whether his behavior entitles him or not. But the Church's shame is not only in not having taken a stand consistently repudiating every one of these and other horrors committed against the Jews, but in having actually authorized and encouraged some of them. There is no way of silencing every individual who misuses the name of the Messiah, falsely claiming his authority for their evil deeds. But there is a way for a community to withdraw its approval and fellowship from such people and condemn them publicly; instead, through much of its history, the Church did exactly the opposite. Of this Jews are to be jealous?
Nevertheless, there is another side. The point is not to cite merciful deeds done for the Jews in Christ's name, to "balance the ledger"; that is no consolation at all. Rather, it is that Gentile Christians should understand the words, "provoke them to jealousy." as a command, or at least as a challenge. Non-Messianic Jews ought to be able to look at saved Gentiles in the Church and see in them such a wonderful change from their former selves, such holy lives, such dignified, godly, peaceful, peace-bringing, honorable, ethical, joyful and humble people, that they become jealous and want for themselves too whatever it is that makes these Gentiles different and special. Many Jews — myself among them — have been won to trust in Yeshua through the jealousy-provoking behavior of Gentile Christians, behavior that overcomes with its love all the pent-up antipathy, distrust and pain which a Jewish person can feel, even when these feelings are justifiable by objective historical reality. Not natural? Yes, the Good News is not natural, but supernatural. Its work is done in people and through them by the Ruach HuKodesh, the Holy Spirit, who can remove every shred of antisemitism and falseness and replace them with the transparent love that truly "fulfills the whole Torah" (13:10). The rest of Chapter 11 expands on this theme, and Chapters 12-15 are nothing if not a manual on how to provoke Jews — and unbelieving Gentiles — to jealousy (see 12:1N).
Being placed temporarily in a condition less favored than that of the Gentiles. This phrase gives the sense in context of the single Greek word "'ettema" ("inferior status, defeat, diminishing"); in particular, the word "temporarily" is added because a future, different pleroma ("fullness") is foreseen. It is possible to understand Sha'ul in terms of quantity rather than condition: "If the diminishing of remnant Israel's numbers is bringing riches to the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full numbers bring!" This interpretation is rejected in v. 25N on the word "pleroma." The comparison, than that of the Gentiles, is implied, not stated, in the text.
The idea of a temporary eclipse of Israel by the Gentiles can be found in rabbinic writings too. In the Talmud the passage, "But if you will not hear it, my soul will weep in secret for the pride" (Jeremiah 13:17) is examined:
"What is the meaning of the phrase, "for the pride'? Rabbi Shmu'el ben-Yitzchak said, 'For the glory | Hebrew gavek, literally, "pride"1 has been taken away from them and given to the nations of (he world.'"(Chagigah 5b)
Also in the Talmud, the saying of Rabbi Papa, "When the ox runs and falls, the horse is put in the ox's stall" (Sanhedrin 98b), is explained by the Jewish commentators, such as Rashi, as referring to Israel and the Gentile nations. Thus the Soncino English edition of the Talmud explains that the horse is allowed to replace the ox, but when the ox recovers it is hard to remove the horse. Likewise, the Israelites fell and the Gentiles were given power, but when Israel recovers it will be hard to remove the Gentiles from their position of power without inflicting much suffering (see Sanhedrin, p. 667, note 3). One difference between Sha'ul and the rabbis is that in Sha'ul's understanding, it is the spiritual element in the "glory" or "power" which has passed to the nations from that part of Israel which has remained "stonelike" (w. 7, 25); whereas for the rabbis, the spiritual glory and power remain with Israel even when the temporal outward aspects pass to others.
How much greater riches will Israel in its fullness bring them! Here Gentiles are offered a "selfish" motive for evangelizing Jews: if Jewish spiritual failure has brought riches to the Gentiles, but Jewish spiritual success will bring them even greater riches, it pays spiritually to win Jews. God, who created humanity, knows human nature very well and does not shrink from using self-interest to motivate right behavior. There are numerous examples of it in the Tanakh; two of the best known are the second paragraph of the Sh'ma (Deuteronomy 11:13-21) and the fifth commandment (Deuteronomy 5:16).
13. However, to those of you who are Gentiles I say this: since I myself am an emissary sent to the Gentiles, I make known the importance of my work
14. in the hope that somehow I may provoke some of my own people to jealousy and save some of them!
Since I myself am an emissary sent to the Gentiles (as he said at 1:13; see also Ga 1:16, 2:7-9, and Ep 3:8; while Ac 9:15, 22:17-21 and 26:17-20 report this commission from Yeshua himself), I make known the importance of my work (literally, "I glorify my work"), I make a point of letting Jewish people know about it, in the hope that somehow I may make some of my own people jealous of saved Gentiles (w. 11-I2&N) and by this roundabout method, as an indirect byproduct of my ministry to Gentiles, save some of them too not that Sha'ul by himself saves anyone, for Yeshua the Messiah does that; rather, Sha'ul, by obeying God, participates in God's work (1С 3:6; Mt 9:36-38).
One hears little these days about this principle of evangelism. Most Christians do not have a ministry to Jewish people, so they suppose that they have no particular responsibility toward them. They are rarely exhorted to make their ministry to Gentiles known among Jews as a means of provoking them to jealousy, the way Sha'ul did.
Sha'ul is very circumspect about what he hopes to accomplish — he has the hope that somehow he may make some of them jealous and save some of them. Actually, he spent considerable time among Jews (see Ac 13:5N) and in at least one instance, in Rome, the very city to which this letter was written, he seems to have had, a few years later, a notable evangelistic success with them (Ac 28:24-25&N).
15. For if their casting Yeshua aside means reconciliation for the world, what will their accepting him mean? It will be life from the dead!
Why does Sha'ul persist in using his energy to make his ministry known among people whom he expects to be unreceptive? Because if their rejecting Yeshua means reconciliation for the world, what will their accepting him mean if not life from the dead!
The phrase, "life from the dead," can be taken in three ways; the first offers the weakest motivation for Sha'ul's behavior, the last the strongest:
(1) Vaguely. Reconciliation for the world, meaning "individual believers' salvation and reconciliation with God," is the downpayment we have now; while "life from the dead," meaning, in some vague symbolic sense, "something even more wonderful." is what we will have when the Messianic Age has fully come.
(2) Metaphorically. Since Yeshua alone can bring spiritual life to the spiritually dead (Yn 1:4-5, 8:12, 14:6), Sha'ul, always aware of this truth and feeling such pain for his own flesh and blood (9:1 —4), uses every opportunity to make the Gospel known and a topic of discussion among Jews everywhere. This interpretation makes the verse a midrash on Ezekiel 37, which uses the valley-of-dry-bones figure to speak of the people of Israel's being metaphorically "resurrected," first physically, that is, being regathered as a united nation to inhabit the Land forever (Ezekiel 37:1-12, 15-22), and then spiritually (Ezekiel 37:13-14, 23-28; in the light of the New Covenant this can be understood as the Jewish people's coming to faith in God and his Messiah Yeshua).
Jeremiah 24:6-7 presents the same sequence: God first brings the Jews to the Land and then gives them a heart to know him. (3) Literally. "Life from the dead" is to be taken at ils face value. It is nothing less than the consummation of salvation in bodily resurrection (as in 8:11-24), a hope Pharisees held then, as Orthodox Jews do now. The resurrection will be delayed until the Jewish people, as a nation, come to faith in Yeshua; therefore Sha'ul feels duty-bound to follow the Jewish pattern of hastening the Messiah's (second!) coming (see 2 Ke 3:12&N) by evangelizing the Jewish people indirectly (vv. 13-14) as well as directly (Acts 9-28, 1С 9:19-23).
Of these three interpretations my preference is for the last. "Life from the dead" should be understood literally, since there is no reason to prefer a vague or metaphorical interpretation when the context is well served by a literal one. However, the second interpretation also provides strong motivation for Jewish evangelism.
Their casting Yeshua aside... their accepting him. The Greek words "apobole avtdn" mean, literally, "their rejection" or "the rejection of them." The Greek grammatical form of avion is known as the genitive, and two interpretations are possible:
(1) the objective genitive, "their being the object of rejection," so that the question for exegetes is, who rejects them? — and
(2) the subjective genitive, "their being the ones who do the rejecting," and the interpretative issue is, whom or what do they reject? Other places where an important subjective/objective genitive issue arises are 3:22, 26&NN and Ga 2:16c&N (section (2)).
Most translations opt for the first, "their being rejected." understood to mean that God rejects the Jews now but will later include them. I went along with this, unconsciously projecting the implied antisemitism, until a reader called my attention to the problem with the genitive. Therefore, in the First printing of the Jewish New Testament v. 15 reads: "For if their being casl aside means reconciliation for the world, what will their acceptance mean? It will be life from the dead!" I now repudiate this rendering because 1 now understand that it contradicts Sha'ul's continuing point that "God has not repudiated his people" (vv. 1-2). and that "they have not permanently fallen away" (v. 11). Even "their being placed temporarily in a condition less favored than that of the Gentiles" (v. 13) is not equivalent to their being rejected or cast aside, not even temporarily. And finally, vv. 28-29 completely rule out the possibility of the Jews' being rejected, because "God's free gifts and his calling are irrevocable."
Rather, in this verse it is the unbelieving Jews, not God, who are doing the rejecting; because whether God rejects the Jews has already been answered in the negative (vv. 1-10). Whom or what are the Jews rejecting? It can only be Yeshua, or, more or less equivalently, the Gospel. Hence I interpolate "Yeshua" and "him" into the text as the object of rejection and acceptance. Making humans and not God the ones rejecting and accepting also fits the context of vv. 17-24 which follow, where Sha'ul explains that human "branches" who lack faith and therefore reject Yeshua cannot share in the "cultivated olive tree."
16. Now if the hallah offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole loaf. And if the root is holy, so are the branches.
The metaphor of the olive tree, beloved of Messianic Jews everywhere, extends through v. 24 but is introduced by a different image, taken from Numbers 15:20-21: If the challah offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole loaf. Today "challah" means the special braided loaves of bread served in Jewish homes on Shabbat and during festivals. In the Bible the word describes a small "cake" baked from dough set aside for God: this must be done first (hence the term "firstfruits"). Only afterwards may the loaf made from that dough be eaten, so that the loaf is then "holy" in the sense of being usable at all. Talmud tractate Challah gives details of the procedure.
Also, to illustrate the same principle another way, if as is the case, the root is holy, then so are the branches, for they are connected to the root, so that the same sap flows through to the branches from the root.
But in Sha'ul's metaphor, who or what is the root, or, in the earlier metaphor, the firstfruits? Three distinct possibilities are:
(1) The believing remnant of Israel that is truly Israel (9:6-7), that is, the Messianic Jews (11:1-15),
(2) Avraham (4:12) or all the Patriarchs (11:28),
(3) Yeshua the Messiah (8:29, 1С 15:20), who alone makes Israel holy.
Any of these fits the context of vv. 17-18; but the material in Chapter 4 about Avraham (alluded to again in v. 28), as well as the truism that firstfruits are offered first, suggest something chronologically anterior, hence the people who trusted First, either Avraham or all the Patriarchs. Although some of the Church Fathers and Karl Barth opted for possibility (3), I suspect that this idea gained currency in the early Church because of its tendency to want to deprive the Jews of their place as God's people, the root and firstfruits of faith. For a more extended discussion see the comment on this verse in C. E. B. Cranfield, The International Critical Commentary: Romans.
And who are the branches growing from this root, the loaf made from the dough from which the firstfruits came? Four options are:
(1) Every single Jew, past, present and future.
(2) Every single Messianic Jew, past, present and future.
(3) The Jewish people, as a nation, though not necessarily every Jew.
(4) All believers, Jewish and Gentile, past, present and future.
In v. 26aN, I will show why it must be the third of these, the Jewish nation.
17. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you — a wild olive — were grafted in among them and have become equal sharers in the rich root of the olive tree,
18. then don’t boast as if you were better than the branches! However, if you do boast, remember that you are not supporting the root, the root is supporting you.
If some of the branches, that is, unbelieving individual Jews but not the whole Jewish people, were broken off, removed (temporarily, not permanently! — vv. 11-12, 23-24) from being eligible to receive what God has promised, and you Gentiles (v. 13). a wild olive, were grafted in among them, among the branches which are still part of the tree, the Messianic Jews, the Jewish nation as represented by its Messianic Jewish community, and have become equal sharers in the rich root of God's cultivated olive tree, then don't boast as if you were better than (literally, "don't boast against") the natural branches, neither the ones still in place (the Messianic Jews) nor the ones broken off (the non-Messianic Jews). Gentile pride in having been joined to the "chosen people" is utterly out of place, particularly when directed against those very people! As Sha'ul writes elsewhere, "After all, what makes you so special? What do you have that you didn't receive as a gift? And if in fact it was a gift, why do you boast as if it weren't?" (1С 4:7)
However, if you do boast, for whatever reason — carelessness, thickheadedness, or actual malice — it ought to help you stop if you remember that you are not supporting the root, but the root is supporting you. Or, to make Sha'ul's point as clear as it can be, whether the root is Yeshua. Avraham, the Patriarchs, the Messianic Jews or all the Jews (see v. 16N), it is a Jewish root, and don't you forget it! The Jewish community sometimes draws a picture of the Jew who comes to faith in Yeshua as someone doubly unwelcome, rejected both by other Jews and by the Gentile majority in the Church as well. It's easy enough to understand why a Messianic Jew might be rejected by some in the Jewish community, but why did the image of his being rejected by the Church even arise? It came from Gentile Christians who forgot Sha'ul's warning and regarded the Jewish believer in their midst not as a natural branch of the olive tree into which they were grafted, but as an alien.
Shifting the perspective slightly, notice that Sha'ul is reminding Gentile Christians that trusting God also means joining God's people. It is no different now than it was with Ruth: "Your people shall be my people and your God my God" (Ruth 1:16). Gentile Christians have joined Israel, not the reverse (see also Ep 2:11-16&NN). For a Gentile Christian to look down on the people he has joined is not only chutzpah and ingratitude but also self-hate.
19. So you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”
20. True, but so what? They were broken off because of their lack of trust. However, you keep your place only because of your trust. So don’t be arrogant; on the contrary, be terrified!
21. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he certainly won’t spare you!
So, seeking an excuse for pride, you, a new imaginary opponent (see 10:14-15N), a prideful boastful Gentile Christian, will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in," the implication being that God prefers Gentiles to Jews. Sha'ul's answer is, literally, "fit is] well"; my rendering, True, but so what? brings out the implicit irony, the point being that the opponent's statement, Ihough true, cannot be made into a ground for boasting against the branches. For even though They were broken off because of their lack of trust, nevertheless, the only reason you stay in place is because of your trust in the God of the Jews and in the Jewish Messiah. So don't be arrogant; on the contrary, be terrified of letting pride in having been included with God's people replace trust in God. This was the very sin Sha'ul found unbelieving Jews prone to at 2:17-29, and compare Mt 3:9. "Stand in awe" or even "fear," as some translations have, are not strong enough; you are to be terrified, once you face the fact that if God did not spare the natural branches when they apostatized through lack of trust in him, he certainly won't spare you, a grafted-in branch, when you, through antisemitic pride, demonstrate that same lack of trust.
22. So take a good look at God’s kindness and his severity: on the one hand, severity toward those who fell off; but, on the other hand, God’s kindness toward you — provided you maintain yourself in that kindness! Otherwise, you too will be cut off!
Some people think that if they have given mental assent to the proposition that Yeshua is the Messiah, they have "eternal security" with God, no matter how they live their lives. This parody of genuine trust is rightly called "cheap grace." The truth of the matter is that "faith" without actions to match is dead (Ya 2:14-26); in other words, salvation is conditional: provided you maintain yourself in that kindness! Otherwise you too will be cut off! This involves taking care that faith "works itself out in love" (Ga 5:6, Ep 2:10).
23. Moreover, the others, if they do not persist in their lack of trust, will be grafted in; because God is able to graft them back in.
24. For if you were cut out of what is by nature a wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree!
Conversely, the only condition non-Messianic Jews must meet in order to become sharers in the promises God made them is not to persist in their lack of trust. Then they will most certainly be grafted in; because God is able to graft them back in. This means lhat God can keep his promises, which is specifically the issue behind Chapters 9-11 (see 9:1-11:36N).
God's ability to graft them back in is proved by another kal v'chomer argument (see Mt 6:30N), that if you Gentiles were cut out of what is by nature a wild olive tree, a nation of pagans separated from God's promises (Ep 2:11-12&NN), and were grafted, contrary to nature, that is, contrary to normal agricultural practice, contrary to what makes economic sense, into a cultivated olive tree, the Jewish people, enabling God's "foolishness" (1С 1:17-31) to highlight his sovereign control over his purposes (9:6b-29); then (the climax of the argument), how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree! How much easier it will be to bring an understanding of spiritual truth to those who belong to the people God has been dealing with for thousands of years than to those who do not! The analogy does not apply to every single Jew over against every single Gentile — especially today, when some Jews are raised without any Jewish identification, while many Gentiles, particularly those raised in Christian homes, have been exposed to spiritual truth as much as or more than many Jews. But, leaving modern exceptions aside, it ought to be easier for a Jew to believe in Yeshua as the Messiah than for a Gentile (and this would certainly have been so when Sha'ul wrote), since "Messiah" is a concept which is part of Jewish culture, whereas a Gentile has to be introduced to an idea alien to his culture (see Ac 11:2O-23N.)
Furthermore, a Jew, as a member of the Jewish people, has the advantages enumerated at 9:4-5. This is why a "Jews for Jesus" broadside says, in a lighthearted vein, "You don't have to be Jewish to believe in Jesus — but it helps!" The "olive tree" analogy of vv. 17-24 casts new light on the important theological question, "Who are God's people?" The most common theology in non-Messianic Judaism would answer this question, "The Jews." The most common theology in Christendom answers, "The Church." But from the olive tree we learn that there are three distinct groups at present who are all in some sense part of God's people, and no proper theology can ignore any of them:
(1) Messianic Jews, who are the natural branches that are part of the cultivated olive tree.
(2) Gentile Christians, the wild olive branches which have been grafted into the cultivated olive tree.
(3) Non-Messianic Jews, the natural branches which have fallen off the cultivated olive tree but can easily be grafted back in again. What I call "olive tree theology" must take into account all three groups, all three kinds of "branches," in defining and describing the past, present and future of God's people.
But theologians, like other people, want a simple life. The most widespread Christian oversimplification is found in some forms of Covenant theology and is most correctly called Replacement theology. This erroneous theology says that the Jews used to be God's chosen people; but when they spurned Jesus, God spurned them and chose a new people, the Church, to replace them — so that now, the Church receives all of God's promises and blessings, while the Jews get only the curses. Were this thinly disguised aniisemitism true, Sha'ul would have to picture a cultivated olive tree with its root, trunk and branches all dead, and the wild olive branches living by themselves, grafted into nothing alive.
Unfortunately, Replacement theology is currently gaining strength in several growing movements in Christendom: Dominionism, Reconstructionism, "Kingdom Now," and in England, Restorationism. These movements are spreading the correct idea that the Church should not retreat into a ghetto or a fortress mentality, but should bring the presence of the Kingdom into the world, actively attempting to improve life here on earth — actually a very Jewish idea. It is truly a shame that these movements propagate Replacement theology, since they don't need it to make their point; indeed, many Christians who could benefit are driven away by it. I wish these movements would see that there is no logical connection between their program for improving life on this planet and Replacement theology, and would repudiate the latter. For additional discussion of Replacement theology see notes at Mt 5:5, 24:34; Lk 21:24; Ac 1:6-7, 21:21; Ro 2:28-29; 11:1-32, 11-32,11-12,28-29; 2C 1:20; Ga 6:16; Ep 2:11-16.
In reaction to Replacement theology, the Jews, first the Rambam (Maimonides, 1135-1204), later Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929), and after him many Jewish and Christian thinkers seeking good relations between the two faith communities, came up with Two-Covenant theology. This says that Jews are saved by the covenants with Avraham and Moshe, while Christians are saved by the covenant with Jesus. Messianic Jews have no place in this picture, even though Yeshua's first followers were Jewish. Were this correct, Sha'ul would have to describe two separate olive trees, both cultivated, but cultivated differently, with no grafting of branches, and presumably no fallen branches. The main flaw in Two-Covenant theology is that it confuses Jewish national salvation with the personal salvation of individual Jews. The covenants with Avraham and Moshe guarantee Jewish national salvation, but only the covenant with Yeshua brings individual salvation, and it is needed today for national salvation as well (2C 1:2()&N). For further discussion, see Yn 14:6N, my Messianic Jewish Manifesto, pp. 256-259. and the journal Mishkan, No. 11 (1989), P. O. Box 116, Jerusalem 91000, Israel (the entire issue is devoted to this topic).
In the first half of the nineteenth century there was also a Christian reaction to Covenant theology which has come to be known as Dispensationalism. In this view, both the Jews and the Christians are peoples of God, but their promises differ. There are varieties of Dispensationalism. but in one form the Church's promises are heavenly and the Jews' earthly. Sha'ul would have to picture two different kinds of trees — an olive tree and, say, a pear. Messianic Jews leaving God's people of earthly promise and joining God's people of heavenly promise would, I suppose, be olive branches grafted into the pear tree — a horticultural and spiritual monstrosity and impossibility! This view arose from a well-meaning attempt to deal with the main problem created by Replacement theology, namely, that there are obviously promises in the Tanakh which God made to the Jewish people that were unconditional, not depending on the faithfulness of the Jewish people, promises which God intended to fulfill in the process of returning the Jewish people to faith (see Ezekiel 36 and Jeremiah 31:30-37). Replacement theology overlooks these or misconstrues them. But Dispensationalism, by separating the futures of the Jews and the Christians, falls short of saying what needs to be said.
To change the metaphor, let theology picture God as a juggler. Traditional Jewish theology sees God as throwing one ball into the air, the Jews. Christian Replacement theology sees him as having thrown the Jewish ball into the air in the past, but now he has let it fall and is juggling the Christian ball. Two-Covenant theology and Dispensationalism see God as somewhat more coordinated — he can juggle two balls at ;i time, both the Jews and the Christians. But only "olive tree theology" credits God with being able to juggle all three balls at once. Gentile Christians, Messianic Jews and non-Messianic Jews, without letting any of them drop to the ground.
At this point "olive tree theology" is relatively undeveloped. But it is in ferment: theologians are proposing solutions to the problem of who is God's people that include all three groups and allow for both universal personal salvation and Jewish national salvation only through Yeshua — although no one of these solutions is widely known and taught. Walter Kaiser's "promise theology" is one effort in this direction, while the Jewish believer Arnold Fruchtenbaum has done a monumental piece of research on the subject in his hraelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology (Ariel Ministries, P. O. Box 3723, Tustin^ California 92681, 1989, 1104 pages). Undoing the work of centuries of misunderstanding will require substantial efforts not only in theology but in the reeducation of the components of God's people (however denned!) to understand who they really are and how they relate to each other and to the Almighty.
25. For, brothers, I want you to understand this truth which God formerly concealed but has now revealed, so that you won’t imagine you know more than you actually do. It is that stoniness, to a degree, has come upon Isra’el, until the Gentile world enters in its fullness;
For. The word points forward to the reason, given immediately, why Sha'ul has presented the olive-tree metaphor (vv. 17-24).
Brothers. He emphasizes that he considers not only Messianic Jews but also Gentile Christians his brothers in faith, because some of them might have taken umbrage at the sharpness of his immediately preceding remarks (compare Ac 3:17&N).
Truth which God formerly concealed but has now revealed. This whole phrase translates the single Greek word "musterion," which does not mean "mystery" either in its modern sense of "riddle" or in its ancient Greek "mystery-religion" sense of a secret disclosed only to initiates.
Why is what Sha'ul says here a secret truth that was not understood until he explained it? Because one would have expected Israel to be the first nation to be saved. Israel has had advantages enjoyed by no other people (3:1-2, 9:4-5), the Gospel itself is "to the Jew especially" (1:16&N), and God has promised Jewish national salvation (Ezekiel 36:24-36, Mt 23:37-39&N. Ac 1:6-7&N). Why, then, is he doing the unexpected, making the Gentiles "joint-heirs" (Ep 3:3-9) with the Jews? In order to give the fullest possible demonstration of his love for all humanity and not Jews only (vv. 30-32 below).
So that you won't imagine you know more than you actually do, literally, "lest you be wise in yourselves," conceited, so that you Gentiles might separate yourselves from Jews and imagine you are better than they are. "Do not be wise in your own eyes; but fear Adonai and depart from evil" (Proverbs 3:7). Stoniness. or "hardness" (Greek porosis). See v. 7N on "made stonelike."
To a degree, Greek apo merous, "from part." The literal sense could yield this rendering: "Stoniness has come upon Israel, stemming from part of it." Though close to Sha'ul's point, grammatical considerations exclude it; because in the four other places where the phrase is found in the New Testament, it has descriptive force. Therefore it should be understood here as modifying "stoniness"; so that translations which read, "Hardness has come upon part of Israel" (the part that rejects Yeshua) are wrong, even though the statement is true. Sha'ul is focussing not on parts but on wholes. "No man is an island, entire of itselfe" (John Donne) — all Israel, including the part that accepts Yeshua, is affected by this partial stoniness; for, as the next two clauses show, it delays Israel's national salvation.
The stoniness is not total, because there are and always have been Jews trusting Yeshua. It is wrong to see in the term "partial stoniness" a veiled approval of non-Messianic Judaism as superior to the "total stoniness" of paganism: that is the opposite of Sha'ul's point, which is that rejection of Yeshua by people with so many advantages (9:4-5) demonstrates utter stoniness. (This is no new problem for the Jewish people — in the Tanakh God frequently called us stubborn and stiffnecked.)
The passage does not say that God caused the stoniness, as he hardened Pharaoh's heart (9:17-18); but it does imply that God knew it would happen. Nevertheless, this does not provide an excuse for anyone to remain stone-hearted (see 10:13).
The Gentile world... in its fullness. Greek plerdma ("fullness") probably refers not to number (the full complement of Gentiles to be saved throughout history) but to breadth of representation. Sha'ul wrote when the Gospel mission to the Gentiles was just beginning; but already he foresaw what Yeshua had prophesied, that "this Good News about the Kingdom will be announced throughout the whole world as a witness to all nations [or: "to all Gentiles"]. It is then that the end will come" (Mt 24:14). Later Yochanan would see in his vision countless multitudes "from every nation and tribe and people and language" (Rv 7:9). The fullness of the Gentile world comes in when all components and subgroups of humanity are contributing people to the Kingdom.
The language here recalls Lk 21:24, where Yeshua prophesied distress in the Land and judgment on the people of Israel, with Jerusalem being "trampled down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles have been fulfilled." (Plerothosin, "have been fulfilled," is related to plerdma; see Lk 21:24N).
Enters, not "has come in." Greek eiselthe speaks simply of an event that will take place, not of the moment when it will have finished taking place. The latter interpretation would excuse laziness in evangelizing the Jewish people, for it implies that little can happen in Israel's salvation timetable until Gentiles have finished entering the Kingdom. But the entering of the Gentiles in their fullness, like any other major historical process, such as the Renaissance or the Industrial Revolution, is an event that necessarily must occupy a considerable period of time. Sha'ul's prophecy is being fulfilled at this very moment. The Gentiles are entering in their fullness right now. Evangelism has been worldwide for several centuries; parts of the Bible have been translated into some 2,000 languages; a quarter of the world's population count themselves part of Christendom; and although many unreached peoples remain, the breadth of representation has never been greater. So it is not surprising that with the rise of Messianic Judaism as a conscious worldwide movement within the Jewish people, we are starting to see all Israel saved. Also see Appendix, p. 933.
26. and that it is in this way that all Isra’el will be saved. As the Tanakh says, 'Out of Tziyon will come the Redeemer; he will turn away ungodliness from Ya‘akov
In this way. Greek outos means 'thus," not "then" (as in some versions) — the emphasis is on the manner in which all Israel will be saved, not the time when it will happen, for the time is "now" — see v. 25N (last three paragraphs) and v. 3 l&N (last paragraph). In what manner will Israel be saved (what kind of "thus")? Sha'ul says it four different ways in this chapter — vv. 11-15, 16-24, 25-29 and 30-32. The story is always the same: most of Israel rejects Yeshua, forcing the Gospel to be presented to the more responsive Gentiles. This goes on until their numbers and manifest godliness provoke more and more Jews to jealousy, whereupon the stoniness of their hearts breaks down, Israel receives Yeshua with a new "heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26), and God fulfills his promise of national salvation.
All Israel. Of whom is Sha'ul speaking when he uses the term, "all Israel"? Before addressing this question, we must examine the word "Israel."
The name "Israel" was given to the third Patriarch, Ya'akov, after he wrestled with "a man" who was "Elohim" (God) (Genesis 32:25,31). This is a fact of utmost importance in interpreting the New Testament. God, who knows everything before it happens, gave Ya'akov this name at this time to symbolize the Jewish people's future wrestling match with him, as recorded in the Tanakh and culminating in two thousand years of wrestling with Yeshua the Messiah. Read the entire passage (Genesis 32:25-33) with the understanding that this mysterious "man" who was God may have been Yeshua in a pre-incarnation appearance (see Yn 1:14N for a discussion of this and other such appearances). Think of him as still waiting to hear the Jewish people say to him, as did Ya'akov, "I will not let you go unless you bless me" (compare Mt 23:37-39&N), and, "I have seen God face to face, yet my life is preserved." Just as Ya'akov feared death at the hands of his enemy-brother Esav but grew confident that because he had seen God his life would be preserved, so those who have seen God in the face of Yeshua the Messiah know that they have eternal life despite anything the Adversary may do; also Messianic Jews no longer approach their Gentile brothers in fear as enemies.
Likewise, it is significant for the Church — especially in the light of the current Middle East situation — to note that when God gave the name Israel to Ya'akov a second time, he reaffirmed promises previously made to Avraham and Yitzchak, particularly the promise that the Land would belong to Ya'akov and his descendants the Jewish people (Genesis 35:9-13). Also in this passage is a remez ("hint"; see Mt 2:15N) of what Sha'ul in vv. 17-24 above calls the grafting-in of Gentiles: God says to Ya'akov, 'There shall come from you a nation," the Jewish people, the root, "and a company of nations," Hebrew kahal goyim, which can also be rendered "a congregation of Gentiles," the branches (Genesis 35:11).
Thus throughout the rest of the Tanakh. Ya'akov's descendants are called the "house of Israel"; this means that the Jewish people are the people of God. As "God's chosen people" they are the object of his special concern and affection; they are called his "firstborn," his "son," his "beloved." But at the same time they are obligated by covenants to obey him in a unique way not required of other nations. The vicissitudes of God's people Israel, as recorded in the Tanakh, demonstrate over and over that when God's people refuse to obey him, punishment inevitably follows. In his mercy God provides two mitigations: (11 delaying the deserved punishment, thus providing an opportunity for his rebellious and stiffnecked people to repent, and (2) allowing a "righteous remnant" to escape the corporate penalty altogether. These ideas pervade the writings of the Prophets; see, for example, Amos 3:2,11; 9:7-9; Jeremiah 29:7; Isaiah 10:5-14,20-23; 43:14-25.
The election of Israel by God raises the question of particularism versus univer-salism. Despite the particularism implied in the election of Israel, a strain of univer-salism runs through the Tanakh, showing that God has not neglected the other nations (see, for example, Isaiah 2:1-4 and the books of Ruth and Jonah). However, once Israel is chosen, God's universalism is never divorced from Israel; from Genesis 12 onwards it is through Avraham and his seed that the other nations of the world will be blessed, thai is. through the Jews. The Gentiles of Nineveh trusted the Jewish prophet Jonah that the God of the Jews was offering them one last chance to repent; Ruth joined herself to the Jewish woman Naomi and her Jewish people and God. Likewise, today Gentiles must trust in a Jewish Messiah in order to be saved. If they insist on a separate blessing, there is no blessing; but if they will join themselves to the Jews, saying with Ruth, "Your people shall be my people," then blessings are theirs in abundance.
A variant of insisting on separate blessing is to claim that Israel is some other people than the one God says it is — to ask, "Which people is actually God's chosen?" and give an answer other than the Jews. This issue first arose at the time of the Samaritan schism (2 Kings 17:24-41), and it was still current seven hundred years later, when the Samaritan woman at the well spoke with Yeshua (Yn 4:20-24). In terms of that incident, we may rephrase the question, 'To which people — the Samaritans or the Jews — flows the living water from the spiritual well of Ya'akov, who is also named Israel?"
It is inevitable that people without faith in the whole of God's revealed Word — Samaritans then, all kinds of unbelievers today — will dispute the election of the Jewish people or even the concept of election itself. The idea that God should choose some over others is intolerably offensive unless understood within the framework of God's overall plan as set forth in the Tanakh and the New Testament. But as soon as a person puts his trust in Gods Word, the concept of Israel's election loses its offensiveness and becomes instead the means of blessing everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, according to the promise of Genesis 12:3.
It is the Church's fault that the question of who is God's people became a point of contention and separation between Judaism and Christianity. For the Church began claiming, over against the Jews, to be the "New Israel," the "true Israel," the "Israel of God," and regarded the Jewish people as merely the "Old Israel," no longer eligible to receive God's promises because of having rejected Yeshua. How ironic lhat the Church claimed to supplant the Jewish people as Israel when it behaved instead like Israel's old name, Ya'akov, which means "supplanter"! This perverted understanding of election, ignoring everything Sha' ul writes in Chapters 9-11, raised between Jews and Christians an unnecessary barrier — which I hope the Jewish New Testament and this commentary can help to eliminate.
On the other hand, the answer of some non-Messianic Jews, as reported in the New Testament (for example, at Mt 3:9), that merely being a physical descendant of Ya'akov suffices to guarantee membership in God's elect, is equally a perversion of God's revealed truth (see 9:6 above). From theology we turn to a linguistic question relevant to understanding the meaning of the term "all Israel": how was the term "Israel" used in Sha'ul's day? Who used it, and for what? Examination of Jewish and Greek literature shows that Jews used the word "Israel," rather than "Jews," to refer to themselves as a nation, and especially when speaking of themselves as God's people.
Gentiles, on the other hand, never used the term "Israel" at all, since the concept of a people elected by God was foreign to them. They used the term "loudaior ("Jews" or "Judeans," see Yn I:19N), which for them signified primarily the country of origin, Judea; they took for granted that each country had its own religion, the Jews too; but apart from that the word had no more religious significance than "Italians" or "Americans." Diaspora Jews used the term "Jews" more than did Jews in ihe Land of Israel in referring to themselves, since they lived among Gentiles who used only that term (compare 2 Maccabees, a Diaspora book, with 1 Maccabees, written in Israel).
Most of the 71 instances of the word "Israel" in the New Testament clearly refer to the Jewish people. Besides this verse, problems arise only in Ro9:6,1С 10:18, Ga 6:16, and Rv 7:4; see the notes to those verses.
Sha'ul used the term "Jew" eleven times in Chapters 1-8 of Romans, always in contrast with "Gentiles" or "Greeks." He uses the term "Israel" only in Chapters 9-11, where it appears twelve times. Why did Sha'ul switch? Because in Chapters 1-8 he wanted to emphasize that through trust in Yeshua, Gentile individuals are equal with Jewish individuals before God (he also uses "Jews" for that purpose at 9:24 and 10:12); but in Chapters 9-11 his purpose is to bring out that the Jews as a nation remain God's people — that is, they remain Israel — even if some of them disobey, and God's promises to Israel, the Jewish nation, remain valid (9:1-11:36N). In conclusion, "Israel" means the Jewish people, but with attention called to their being God's chosen people, his "firstborn," his "beloved," his "son," and as such, the recipients of the advantages enumerated in 9:4-5.
Now we are ready to ask who all Israel is. This term has the same four possible meanings as "loaf and "branches" in v. 16: (1) every single Jew, past, present and future; (2) every single Messianic Jew, past, present and future; (3) the Jewish people, as a nation, but not necessarily including every individual Jew; and (4) all believers, both Jewish and Gentile, past, present and future. As we will see, the third is correct.
Many Christians are unaware of how peculiar it sounds to a Jew to hear the term "Israel" used to refer to Gentiles; such an idea would never enter his mind. Yet meaning (4) is the most important of the mistaken views, because, as noted above, the Gentile-dominated Church has claimed throughout most of its history that she is the "New Israel" and the "True Israel," and that the Jews are only the "Old Israel," excluded from God's promises. But none of these terms can be found in Scripture; they are an antisemitic effort, though sometimes not intentionally so, to go beyond what Scripture says and remove the Jewish people from the place which God has given them.
And in fact, meaning (4) is impossible in the present context, for several reasons. First, "Israel" has clearly meant only Jews throughout Romans 9-11. right up to the preceding verse. Second, Sha'ul uses the word "Jews," not "Israel" when he wants to emphasize Gentile participation in God's promises, as noted above. Third, the subject of Chapters 9-11 is how God will make good his promises to the Jewish people, not to a combined Jewish-and-Gentile people (9:1-11:36N). Fourth and last, the story of how God will in fact do this is told four times in 11:11-32 (see First paragraph of this note), and in the other three tellings there is no question that Sha'ul is speaking about Jews only(vv. 15,24,31).
Nevertheless, some branches of Christianity attempt to impose this sense, applying reasoning which can perhaps bear up better at Ga 6:16, where the term "God's Israel" appears — but see my comments there. The effect of such an understanding is to deny that God will fulfill his specific promises to the Jewish people and thus to contradict Sha'ul's whole purpose in writing Chapters 9-11. Proponents of this view answer that objection by saying that all God's promises are fulfilled "in Yeshua" (line in a sense) and that he stands for the whole Jewish people (also true in a sense; see Mt 2:15N). To show what wrong conclusions this reasoning can lead to, an application of it would be that the Land of Israel belongs to Yeshua; therefore, since he represents Israel and now owns the Land, so that the promise that the Land will be Israel's forever is fulfilled "in him," no further return of the Jews to the Land should be expected. But the promises in the Tanakh to the Jewish people are directly to them, not to the Messiah. If the Messiah receives what was promised to the Jewish people and then prevents the Jewish people from receiving it, the promise has been effectively cancelled; God has reneged on it. We must rule out the interpretation which says that all Israel includes Gentiles.
But all Israel is also not every single Jew (meaning (1)). Not only do Chapters 9-11, with their emphasis on the Jewish people as a corporate whole being the recipient of God's promises, not require that, but such an interpretation conflicts with the "remnant" notions brought in at 9:6,27 and 11:1-6. With even more certainty, all Israel is not merely all Messianic Jews (meaning (2)), even though 9:6 implies that only the Messianic Jewish subset of Israel is truly Israel. For this would make the "truth which God formerly concealed but has now revealed" (v. 25), and which Sha'ul has spent three chapters leading up to, an anticlimactic tautology — it is obvious that all saved Jews will be saved.
Rather, the word "all" is used here figuratively, not literally. In the Tanakh, that is to say, in Hebrew thinking, the word "kol" ("all") in reference to a collective does not mean every single individual of which it is composed, but rather the majority, or the essential part, or even a significant or highly visible component possibly much smaller than a majority. New Testament examples include Mt 2:3 (KJV: "When Herod... heard..., he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him") and Mt 3:5 (KJV: "Then went out to him... all Judea and all the region round about Jordan"). Clearly the writer does not mean that every single person in Jerusalem was troubled, or that Judea and the Jordan regions were emptied of their populations; his words do not even imply that a majority were so affected.
All Israel, then, is the Jewish nation as a corporate whole (meaning (3)), including every Messianic Jew (by tautological necessity) but not necessarily every individual Jew. Whether the proportion of Jews saved will be a majority, or ten percent or ninety, is a matter of pointless speculation; however, I do expect that when this prophecy is fulfilled, the "establishment" of the Jewish people will consist mostly of Messianic Jews, and Messianic Jews will not be at the periphery of the nation but at its center, leading, setting the tone and providing the vision for the Jewish public — "the head and not the tail" (Deuteronomy 28:13).
This interpretation of all Israel as the Jewish nation taken corporately accords with vv. 17-24 on the grafting in of broken-off non-Messianic Jewish branches (but not necessarily all of them), with v. 12 on Israel "in its fullness" (the same word, pleroma, as used in v.25 for the Gentiles; see note there) and with the idea thai only a remnant (less than the totality) will be saved (v. 5,9:6&N, 9:27).
Moreover, oddly enough, it also accords with one of the most famous paragraphs in the Mishna, although the letter's emphasis is very different: "All Israel have a portion in the world to come, as it is said, 'Your people, all of them righteous, will inherit the Land forever— the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, in whom I glorify myself' (Isaiah 60:21). But these have no share in the world to come: he who says that resurrection from the dead cannot be proved from the Torah, he who says the Torah is not from Heaven [i.e., not inspired by God but merely a human product], and a heretic [of which there are many categories]. Rabbi Akiva says: also one who reads the heretical books...." (condensed from Sanhedrin 10:1)
In this mishna the phrase, "all Israel," similarly does not mean every individual, since the Jews to be excluded from the world to come are named immediately (Rabbi Akiva's remark apparently refers to believers in Yeshua, among others).
Will be saved or "delivered," both spiritually — saved from the eternal consequence of sin, and also, in the end, from sinning at all — and physically or nationally — restored to possession of the Land of Israel under the kingship of the Messiah himself (Ac 1:6-7&N). For more on what being "saved" means, see Lk 2:1 IN on "savior."
AU Israel will be saved. How can a Jew read these words and not realize that the New Testament holds out the same exalted hope for the Jewish people as does the Tanakhi How can a Gentile Christian not see in them a command from God to love the Jewish people and pray for their spiritual and physical well-being? A Messianic Jew experiencing the poignancy of rejection by his own Jewish people, perhaps even by his own family, makes these glorious words his expectation and refuge and prayer. For him it isajoy to contemplate God'sanswer to the plea of the Kaddish, "May he [Godjestab-lish his Kingdom during your life and during your days and during the life of all the house of Israel, speedily and at a near time; and say ye. Amen." For he has God's irrevocable promise (v. 29) that all Israel, the nation of which God has made him an inseparable part, will turn to Yeshua the Messiah and be saved.
27. and this will be my covenant with them,.. when I take away their sins' (Isaiah 59:20–21, 27:9).
Sha'ul combines two passages of Isaiah that speak of Israel in the Acharit-HaYamim ("End of Days"), that is, in Messianic times. The Hebrew of Isaiah 59:20-2 la reads: "'And there will come to Zion a Redeemer, to those who turn from transgression in Ya'akov, says Adonai. And as for me, this is my covenant with them, says Adonai." Sha'ul quotes the Septuagint version, which, instead of having Jews themselves turning from transgression, has the Redeemer turning away ungodliness from Ya'akov. Despite the textual difference there is no conceptual difficulty, for biblical understanding makes the two go hand in hand: "Turn us, and we shall be turned" (Lamentations 5:21).
The Hebrew of Isaiah 27:9a says, "Therefore by this shall the iniquity of Ya'akov be atoned for" (y'khupar, "covered"), "and this is all the fruit of taking away his sin." The Septuagint reads, "Therefore shall the iniquity of Ya'akov be taken away, and this is his blessing when I take away his sin."
Both passages call attention to God's role in taking away sin from Ya'akov, a sin Sha'ul identifies as "stoniness" toward the Messiah. The passages are appropriate, since Sha'ul's object in Chapters 9-11 is to show that despite appearances to the contrary, God's promises will not fail of fulfillment. Thus we are led to the summing-up of vv. 28-29.
28. With respect to the Good News they are hated for your sake. But with respect to being chosen they are loved for the Patriarchs’ sake,
29. for God’s free gifts and his calling are irrevocable.
-29 With respect to the Good News they, Israel (v. 26), are hated (or: "they are enemies"). Hated by whom? Enemies of whom? Clearly, God — by whom also they are loved. Lance Lambert, a Messianic Jewish writer living in Jerusalem, points out that Replacement theologians, who say that "Israel" today means the Church, do not apply their theology to the first clause in this verse! If they did they would have to conclude that God hates the Church!
Clearly it is the Jews who, with respect to the Good News... are temporarily hated by God for your sake, for the sake of you Gentiles, so that the Good News can come to you (vv. 11-12&N. 15, 17). But with respect to being permanently chosen as God's people (v. 26aN), they are permanently loved by God. Moreover, if v. 28 speaks of the Jews, then also v. 29 speaks of the Jews: God's free gifts and his calling to the Jews are irrevocable, no matter how much Replacement theologians sputter over it.
Why is God's people permanently loved? Without thinking, a Christian might answer, "Because God is love (1 Yn 4:8), it simply flows out of God's essential nature to love his people." Sha'ul's answer may come as a surprise and seem "unspiritual": for the patriarchs' sake. God made promises to the Patriarchs, Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov, which he is honor-bound to keep. Protecting his honor is also an essential attribute of God.
The Patriarchs still have a "sake," because they are still alive (Mt 22:32). But the phrase, "for the patriarchs' sake," does not express the rabbinic notion of z'khut-avot, the "merit of the Fathers." The rabbinic idea is that the good deeds of the ancestors add to the welfare of their descendants. The expression, "zokher chasdei-avoi" ("You remember the good deeds of the Patriarchs") appears in the first blessing of the Amidah. The concept draws on the fact that the Torah, in the second of the Ten Commandments, indicates that the benefits of a person's good deeds extend into the indefinite future.
While it is true that good deeds yield ongoing good consequences, nevertheless, Sha'ul is not saying that the Patriarchs earned God's favor by their meritorious actions, neither for themselves nor for their descendants. Rather, he is speaking of the Patriarchs not as doers of meritorious works but as receivers of God's gracious promises. God made wonderful promises to them concerning their descendants (he people of Israel; and he must keep those promises in order to vindicate his own righteousness (3:25-26) and faithfulness (3:3). For, given that God is forever righteous and faithful, God's free gifts, those promises and indeed all the gifts mentioned at 9:4-5, and his calling the Jews to be a people dedicated to God, a holy nation (Exodus 19:6), a light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:6,49:6), are irrevocable; because God cannot deny his own eternal nature as a faithful fulfiller of promises.
In the light of Chapters 9-11 in general and these verses in particular, any Christian theology which teaches that God no longer loves the lews, or that the Jewish people will not receive all the good things God has promised them, contradicts the express teaching of the New Testament (see 9:1-11:36N).
Furthermore, such teaching necessarily portrays God as unfaithful and thus less than God, unworthy of being trusted by anyone, Jew, Christian or "other."
30. Just as you yourselves were disobedient to God before but have received mercy now because of Isra’el’s disobedience;
31. so also Isra’el has been disobedient now, so that by your showing them the same mercy that God has shown you, they too may now receive God’s mercy.
By your (you Gentiles') showing them (Israel, the Jews) the same mercy that God has shown you. These twelve English words render the Greek phrase, "to umetero eleei," literally, "by your mercy." Grammatically there are three possible ways of understanding these three simple words:
(1) Objective genitive ("by the mercy that has been shown to you Gentiles"),
(2) Subjective genitive ("by the mercy you Gentiles show toward Israel"),
(3) Possessive genitive ("by the mercy you Gentiles have in your possession").
See 3:22N for a discussion of subjective and objective genitive in Greek grammar.
Most translations opt for the first; but by itself this could lead a Gentile reader to conclude that his own role in Israel's saJvation is passive. He might conclude, "Somehow, by the mercy God has shown to me, God will show mercy to Israel. I wonder how; I'll wait and see." Or he might remember vv. 11-12 and say, "The mercy God has shown me wiU make Israel jealous. There isn't much I can do to speed up the process, but I'll be really happy when it happens" — without realizing it will never happen so long as ihat is his attitude. I do not believe Sha'ul in this verse is promoting Gentile Christian inaction and passivity with regard to the Jews.
On the other hand, the second by itself might cause a Gentile to busy himself with what he considers mercy, so that he does not really communicate God's mercy. He may decide that it is "mercy" not to "offend" Jews by presenting the Gospel to them. But God's mercy centers on what Yeshua the Messiah has done, is doing, and will do; so that showing God's mercy to Israel cannot exclude communicating the Good News of Yeshua to them by word as well as by deed. The third by itself is too abstract and static — one wonders if it means anything at all.
The normal rules of interpretation require choosing between the grammatical alternatives, because people don't usually mean more than one thing at a lime, puns and double-entendres excepted. However, in this case, the nature of God's mercy itself leads me to a rendering which does combine all three senses, because all three are relevant to what Sha'ul is saying.
I am taking here an organic, systemic or holistic approach to grammar, rather than an analytic one, reflecting my conclusion that Sha'ul at this point did the same. Instead of choosing one of the three genitive structures named above, I think he spoke or wrote without analyzing which one would best express his meaning. If you could ask him, I think he would say that all three genitives contribute to and intensify his intended message. And here is why.
A key fact about God's mercy is that it contains within itself a moral imperative not to hold it back. God himself does not withhold his mercy; and anyone who has truly received God's mercy cannot but let himself be a channel for communicating that mercy from God to others. Therefore, the import of what Sha'ul is telling Gentiles is this: "Everything you have from God — your salvation, your righteousness, your hope — comes from God's having shown you his mercy by grafting you into Israel, through your trusting Israel's Messiah. You have that mercy in your possession, and it is wrong for you to hold it back. Therefore, both because you owe it to the people of Israel to display God's mercy toward them, and because God's mercy is in its essence not something that can be hoarded, you are always to be showing them (Israel) the same mercy that God has shown you.
"But more than that, God has given you Gentiles a unique blessing. The means whereby mercy came to you was "Israel's disobedience' (v. 30). This implies that non-Messianic Jews played no conscious and intentional part in your coming to trust in Yeshua the Messiah; rather, God used their disobedience for his own purposes. But, in contrast with that, you have the opportunity to be yourselves the conscious and intentional means of blessing Israel. The word 'by' implies this means. Indeed the very reason that Israel has been disobedient now is so that by means of your showing them the same mercy that God has shown you, they too may now receive God's mercy. God has blessed you Gentiles by choosing you as his instrument for willingly blessing the Jews."
Sha'ul specifically exhorts Gentiles along these lines at 15:27, and indeed most of the rest of this letter is devoted to instructions about how to express God's mercy to others. And the operative word is "now"; used twice in this verse, it gives urgency to the exhortation: Gentiles should show mercy now so that unbelieving Jews, now disobedient (and therefore headed toward a bad destiny), may now. through you, receive God's mercy (and be headed toward a good destiny). Israel's salvation does not depend on some future event for which Christians must passively wait. All that is needed is for Gentile Christians (and Messianic Jews) to show God's mercy to the unsaved of Israel. They can and should do it now. Then, as well as thus, "all Israel will be saved" (first paragraph of v. 26aN).
32. For God has shut up all mankind together in disobedience, in order that he might show mercy to all.
This verse epitomizes simultaneously Chapters 1-8, Chapters 9-11 and the preceding two verses. That God has shut up all mankind together in disobedience (compare 3:23) was detailed in regard to Gentile individuals in 1:18-2:16, in regard to Jewish individuals in 2:17-3:20,5:12-21 and 7:1-24, and in regard to the Jewish people as a nation chosen by God for obedience in most of 9:30-11:29. God's mercy to all through Yeshua the Messiah is the topic of most of the rest of Chapters 1-11; in the preceding verse Sha'ul explains that that mercy is transmitted through the Messiah's people, through his Body, through the saved.
God has not caused people to disobey. Rather, once they have disobeyed, God has limited their privileges, "imprisoned" them (Ga 3:21-29&NN), made them subject to punishment (as required by his attribute of perfect justice).
The verse centers on the words, "so that," which tell us that the central purpose of all human history is for those who love God to be a vehicle for God's mercy. In the context of vv. 30-31 what this verse says is that while God sovereignly chooses to show mercy to all, he does not act alone but uses means. His preferred means in this present age is to use saved people to convey his mercy to the unsaved.
Thus the expository section of Chapters 9-11 closes by relating God's fulfillment of his promises in history (the raison d'etre for these chapters; see 9:1-11:36N) to his purpose in having history at all, which is so that God can manifest his mercy to his creatures. The delay in the fulfillment of the promises to the Jews is so that God can be merciful to Gentiles too.
Part III of Chapters 9-11 (see outline of these chapters in 9:1-11:36N) shows how God will fulfill his promises to the nation of Israel. Although Replacement theology wrongly claims the contrary. Jewish "disobedience" (v. 30) does not annul God's promises to Israel, because "God's free gifts and his calling are irrevocable" (v. 29). Sha'ul therefore cautions Gentile believers in Yeshua against antisemitism and false pride (vv. 13-26), while showing them what should be their active role in hastening the salvation of the Jewish people (vv. 30-36&NN).
But to those of you who are Gentiles (literally, "But to you the Gentiles"). Sha'ul is writing to the Messianic Community in Rome, a body of Messianic Jews and Gentile Christians (in Chapter 16 he sends greetings to both believing Roman Jews and believing Roman Gentiles), and he calls the Gentile Christians "Gentiles." Thus he refutes the theology which claims that when a Gentile becomes a Christian he is no longer a Gentile. Similarly Ga 2:13&N show that a Jewish believer in Yeshua remains a Jew. The passages which say that in the Messiah "there is neither Jew nor Gentile" (Ga 3:28&N, Co 3:11) refer to equality of status in the Body of the Messiah and not to the obliteration of all distinctions.
I say this. Everything up through v. 32 is directed to Gentile believers specifically. Sha'ul shifts his remarks from one audience to another, as he did at 2:17. Since 10:14 he has been addressing an imaginary non-Messianic Jew whose first three objections (10:14-15, 18, 19) would not have interested Gentiles much, but whose last two (vv. 1, 11) might well provoke in some of them a prideful antisemitic response: "Yes indeed, God has repudiated his people the Jews and replaced them with us the Christians. Yes indeed, the Jews have stumbled so as to fall away permanently from ever receiving what God has promised, and we Christians will get those blessings instead." Curiously, much of the Christian Church through the centuries (and not excluding today) has managed to believe this Replacement theology lie of their own invention instead of what Sha'ul says to refute it. The irony of this is dwarfed by the tragedy of what its consequences have been for the Jews.
For this very reason it is especially important for both Jews and Gentiles — Messianic and otherwise — to understand these twenty verses well. They demonstrate to Gentiles that Christianity and antisemitism are absolutely incompatible. More than that, they prove that God is not — as some think — "finished with the Jews." More than that, they prove that any Christian teaching that speaks of the Church as the "New Israel" (a phrase found nowhere in the New Testament but invented by the theologians) which has replaced the "Old Israel" (by which they mean the Jews) is vastly oversimplified and liable to abuse (see vv. 23-24N, Ga 6:16N). More than that, these verses demonstrate again that Sha'ul himself was not an antisemite and did not teach that the Church had supplanted Israel; instead, he had a deep and concerned love for his own Jewish people, warned very severely against antisemitism, and confirmed the promises God made in the Tanakh with his light-bearing words of hope, "All Israel will be saved" (v. 26).
Sha'ul makes a final restatement of his theme, Israel's salvation in history, this time in terms of God's mercy. These three verses look back to 9:15-18, where God's mercy was presented as an aspect of his sovereignty, and forward to 12:1, where his mercies (plural, to Jews and to Gentiles, as seen in these verses) are made the basis and motivation for right action, as prescribed in the next four chapters.
33. O the depth of the riches and the wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments! How unsearchable are his ways!
34. For Who has known the mind of the Lord? Who has been his counselor? (Isaiah 40:13)
35. Or, Who has given him anything and made him pay it back? (Job 41:3(11))
In v. 34 Isaiah 40:13 is quoted in the Septuagint version (it is also cited at 1С 2:16). Verse 35 cites Job 41:3(11) to the effect that no one can put God in his debt. In Job 38-41 God not only displays his omnipotence to Job but also intimates that God alone can deal with the forces of evil that would otherwise overwhelm humanity; therefore Job should trust God's inscrutable judgments and unsearchable ways (see 8:3-4N, 9:19-2I&N). Indeed, the main point of Chapters 9-11 has been that those who have had doubts about God should set them aside.
36. For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
The three chief areas in which God manifests his nature and his power are alluded to here: creation (from him), revelation (through him) and redemption (to him). Orthodox Judaism has observed that these same themes pervade the whole Bible and find expression in the traditional ways of celebrating Shabbat and the other Jewish holidays (see Ac 2:IN).
Amen. As explained in 9:5N (paragraph on "Praised be Adonai forever. Amen."), this word instructs the congregation hearing the letter read aloud to say, "Amen" in response to and agreement with Sha'ul's praise of God.
- chapter 1
- chapter 2
- chapter 3
- chapter 4
- chapter 5
- chapter 6
- chapter 7
- chapter 8
- chapter 9
- chapter 10
- chapter 11
- chapter 12
- chapter 13
- chapter 14
- chapter 15
- chapter 16