Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A new post at Larry Hurtado's blog on N.T. Wright's reading of Romans 9-11, especially 11:25-26:

"So that you may not claim to be wiser than you are, brothers and sisters, I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, "Out of Zion will come the Deliverer; he will banish ungodliness from Jacob" (Rom. 11:25-26).

Wright, according to Hurtado, with reference to both a May 2012 Expository Times article, previous writing of Wright and personal exchanges, does not accept that in these verses Paul envisages salvation for the Jewish people outside of the Church. In Hurtado's words,

It is remarkable that, per his {Wright's} view, in Romans 11:25a the “Israel” upon whom a “hardening” (against the Gospel) has come = the Jewish people, but (within only a few words) the “all Israel” who shall be saved in 11:25b = the church (composed, to be sure, as Wright emphasizes, of gentiles and those Jews who, like Paul, accept the Gospel). Shifting the meaning of “Israel” within one verse, that’s going some!
 Hurtado responds later in his piece, saying,

I don’t see how one can read 11:25-32 as envisioning anything other than Paul’s surprising declaration that God will ultimately triumph over the present Jewish unbelief in Jesus and secure the redemption of all. Just as Paul asserts that in God’s secret plan (“mystery”) the large-scale Jewish unbelief actually is serving (in Paul’s time) to promote the “fullness” of Gentile salvation (11:25), so Paul seems to me to say that God will double back and bring also the corresponding “fullness” of Israel (11:12) into salvation. Just as all people (including Israel) have been disobedient, so God will scoop all nations (including also Israel) into eschatological salvation (11:32). And for Paul that means salvation through the Gospel of God’s Son.
I think Hurtado is correct on all counts and would refer readers to an excellent piece by the late Ben F. Meyer, "Election-Historical Thinking in Romans 9 -11, and Ourselves," which originally appeared in Ex Auditu (1988), 1-7, and republished in Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 7 (4), Fall 2004, 150-170, including an introduction to Meyer's work which I wrote. Meyer wrote of these verses in Romans:

Now, having barely evoked the salvation of the "full number" of Israel, Paul breaks off to address the Gentiles among the Christians of Rome. Their own "full number" (Rom. 11:25) would be the divinely appointed harvest of the world mission, but the temptation to presumption on the part of the Gentile Christians called for a pregnant warning. If Israel could turn away from the call of God as in fact it had, how much more easily could these newly saved Gentiles do the same?
This said, Paul returns to the theme of the full number of Israel, disclosing an eschatological secret (musterion): once the Gentiles in "full number" have come in," then - at the Parousia - God will save "all Israel" (Rom. 11:26):
"The Deliverer will come from Zion; he will banish ungodliness from Jacob. And this will be my covenant with them, when I take away their sins."
The call of God and the blessings of God are irrevocable (Rom. 11:29). More: when the infinitely resourceful Lord of history sends his exalted Son to bring time and history to completion, he will win the long-withheld assent of Israel: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."
Such is Paul's prophetic vindication of the righteousness of God in the fullness of its meaning and the full scope of its reference. (Logos version, 179-80).
For some reason, Wright misses the very point of this passage, which Meyer gets to the heart of quickly: "Paul's prophetic vindication of the righteousness of God." God will not forget Israel.  Read Meyer's article and do make certain to read the whole of Hurtado's blog.

John W. Martens

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