Category Archives: New Testament – Paul

TABLE OF CONTENTS

table-of-contents1

Note: this Table of Contents list contains a description of our most recent articles.  Please see to the right for a list of all posts.

  1. Sketches of Jewish Social Life at the Time of Messiah — Jews and Gentiles in Land — the first article in the series, shedding light on Jewish understanding of the Land and the fundamental differences between the Galilean Jews of the North and the Judean Jews of the South http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/sketches-of-jewish-social-life-at-the-time-of-messiah-jews-and-gentiles-in-the-land/
  2. Sketches of Jewish Social Life at the Time of Messiah – Introduction – an intro to a new, extended series of articles that places Jesus and His teachings within their Jewish context and sheds invaluable light on passages that could not be fully understood otherwise. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/sketches-of-jewish-social-life-at-the-time-of-messiah-introduction/
  3. The Company Dinner – another modern parable http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/company-dinner-another-modern-parable/
  4. The Talmud – now available in English, free and online – Now available to anyone for free and online, tools include the ability to click on a verse of Scripture, see where it’s quoted in the Talmud, and read it in full in with explanatory notes written in plain language. Most surprisingly, the very passages that today’s rabbis deny as being about Messiah, were understood by the Jewish sages to be about Messiah. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/talmud-now-available-english-free-online/
  5. New Years and the Parable of the Ten Virgins – The lighting of the oil lamps for the 8th day of Chanukah on New Years Eve brought to mind the Parable of the Ten Virgins and some thoughts for the Church. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/new-years-and-the-parable-of-the-ten-virgins/
  6. Boundaries of the Land of Israel – as set by God: Christians need to understand that the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2334 which was just passed declares that where David was first crowned king is not Israel, nor is Bethlehem of Judea, where Jesus was born (Matthew 2:1). Yes, the “little town of Bethlehem” that you sing about in Christmas carols as being the birth place of the King of the Jews is not in the land of the Jews. This is a battle for truth.  http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/boundaries-of-the-land-of-israel-as-set-by-god/
  7. Questions and Answers about Jews and Christmas: People often want to know what Jews do at Christmas time and some Christians want to know what Messianic Jews do. This article provides some background on “Jews” and some answers to the questions. Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask.
    http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/questions-and-answers-about-jews-and-christmas/
  8. Gehenna – Jewish Origins of Hell: Some think of “hell” as the one place God is not and to others, it is the place where God pours out His judgment on “those who do not believe”. Is this what the Scriptures teach? Where does this concept of Hell come from? That is the subject of this article. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jesus-teaching-on-hell/
  9. The New Perspective – second phase of the Reformation? The Reformation restored the Word of God to the ordinary people and called them out of an obligation of submission to the papacy to one of submission to Scripture.  But Was the Reformation all that was required to restore the Scriptures to their first century understanding?  http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-new-perspective-a-second-phase-of-the-reformation/
  10. The Last Day of the Great Feast –  Sukkot has two  ” last days” — Hoshanah Rabbah and Shiminei Atsaret. The “last day and greatest day of the Feast” mentioned in John 7:37 is Hashanah Rabbah. This article helps explain why Jesus said what He did that day. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/last-day-great-feast/
  11. Who is Abraham’s Seed – Understanding who “Abraham’s seed” is, is to understand God’s plan of redemption to ‘all nations of the earth’ since the book of Genesis! This article follows the previous 3 which covered the promises to the Gentiles in the Abrahamic Covenant, the promises to the Jews in the Abrahamic Covenant, as well as Paul’s use of the term “Israel” in Romans. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/who-is-abrahams-seed/
  12. God’s Promises to the Jews in the Abrahamic Covenant  – What were God’s promises to the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) and do they still apply?http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/gods-promises-to-the-jews-in-the-abrahamic-covenant/

  13. God’s Promises to the Gentiles in the Abrahamic Covenant; 

    There are those that say that Gentile Christians, along with Jewish believers in Messiah form what is now termed “true Israel” and replace the Jewish people (physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as God’s covenant people. In this article is part of a series of articles, taking a deeper look at God’s promises to the Jewish people and God’s promises to the Gentiles, through Messiah. This article focuses on God’s promises to the Gentiles in the Abrahamic Covenant. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/gods-promises-to-the-gentiles-in-the-abrahamic-covenant/


  14. Paul’s Use of the term “Israel” in the Book of Romans –   Some say that Jews who do not accept Jesus as Messiah are not “true Israel” — but rather Gentile Christians and Jewish believers in Messiah form what is termed “true Israel“.  Does the Scripture teach that “Israel” is part Jewish by descent and part Gentile by descent — and if not, what do the passages in question really mean? In this article, we will explore how Paul uses the term “Israel” everywhere else in Romans and then look at what he is saying in Romans 9:6-8. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/pauls-use-of-the-term-israel-in-the-book-of-romans/

  15. It’s Time We Had a Talk – another modern parable – It came to pass one day, that the older brother felt that it was a fitting time to share matters of the family with his younger brother. This is that story. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/time-talk-another-modern-parable/

  16. Shavuot – Counting of the Omer from Passover to Pentecost -Today, June 12, 2016 is Pentecost Sunday! Yes, we know that the Church celebrated it on May 15th this year but according to how God commanded the Jews to determine the date of Shavuot (Pentecost). it is today. The Church’s Pentecost falls on a different date than Biblical Pentecost. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/shavuot-counting-of-the-omer-from-passover-to-pentecost/

  17. Miquedem – Songs from Scripture; Listen free to a brand new album of Jewish music, with songs taken directly from Scripture. Complete lyrics posted in Hebrew, Hebrew-English transliterated phonetics & English. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/miqedem-songs-scripture/

  18. He Who Believes – Mi Shemaamim; This is a song written by Israeli Eyal Golan which you will probably catch yourself humming later.  It is very catchy!  The lyrics are beautiful, and appear in Hebrew, transliterated Hebrew-English phonetics and English;
    http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/he-who-believes-mi-shemaamin-song/


  19. What did Paul Mean by “May it never be!” ? – When Paul said in Scripture ‘may it never be” (me genoito / μένα genoito is the Greek equivalent) he was using a very common Hebrew expression as many other Jews of his day would have — not surprising considering Paul was Jew. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/paul-mean-may-never/

  20. Biblical Pentecost and the Church’s Pentecost – few Christians realize that the date that the Church celebrates as “Pentecost Sunday” is different than the day that God established in Scripture. This blog explains how the date of Pentecost (Shavuot) is determined from the date of Passover and how the giving of the Holy Spirit is tied to the day Jesus rose from the dead! http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/biblical-pentecost-and-the-churchs-pentecost/

  21. A Jewish Perspective on Counting Days of Lent and Easter Egg Hunts – As we’ve been working on the 3 upcoming posts (Part 2, 3 and 4) that follow Part 1: The Significance of Passover to the Church, we thought we’d take a bit of a divergence and look at two Gentile Christian customs related to the Church’s celebration of “Easter” that we thought our readers might find it interesting to look at through Jewish eyes. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/a-jewish-perspective-on-counting-days-lent-and-easter-egg-hunts/

  22. A Jewish Roots Update – More than 11,000 visitors from 212 countries or territories in just 10 months.  Who would have thought.  http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/a-jewish-roots-update/

  23. UNESCO Resolution Erases Jews Connection to Temple Mount – The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has passed a resolution erasing the Jews connection to the Temple Mount. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/unesco-resolution-erases-jews-connection-to-temple-mount/

  24. Passover – Significance to the Church – Most people know “the Last Supper” occurred during Passover, but have never had just two of the Passover elements — the “bread” and the “cup”, explained in that context.  When Jesus took “the bread”, what did the disciples understand it to signify before He spoke? What prior meaning did the cup(s) of wine have to them?  Given it was Passover, what might the Disciples have understood Jesus to be saying? http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/passovers-significance-to-the-church/

  25. INTRO: Passover, Pentecost and Booths – significance to the Church : God set apart 3 specific times of commemoration for the Jewish people where they were required to appear before Him in Jerusalem.  These 3 days also coincide to significant days to the Church — namely (1) the day of the “Last Supper” of Jesus and His disciples, where He instituted the New Covenant, (2) the day the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost and (3) the date that many Biblical scholars believe to be the date of Jesus’ birth. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/intro-passover-pentecost-and-booths-significance-to-the-church/

  26. Canadian Prime Minister Ignores Mention of Jews in Holocaust Statement – on January 27 2016,  Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Most notable was the Canadian Prime Minister’s blatant omission of any reference to the Jewish people or to the anti-Jewish ideology which fueled the Nazi’s systematic extermination of 6 million Jews.
    http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/canadian-prime-minister-ignores-mention-of-jews-in-holocaust-statement/


  27. Understanding Matthew’s Genealogy – an Old Testament Overview – The genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew starts with Abraham and culminates with the birth of Jesus; which is a uniquely Jewish perspective.  To understand who some of the individuals are that are named in this genealogy requires some understanding of the Old Testament and so in this article, we provide an overview of the Old Testament to lay the framework for our next study. This article is a summary of the first study in a series called the “Gospels from a First Century Jewish Perspective” from our Jewish Roots of Christianity LifeGroup. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/understanding-matthews-genealogy-old-testament-overview/

  28. Jewish Sects of the Second Temple Period – introduction to the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots and Nazarenes during the Second Temple Period (introduction to Christianity and Judaism – siblings, not parent and child); http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jewish-sects-second-temple-period/

  29. Christianity and Judaism – siblings, not parent and child – We’ve often heard it said that Christianity is an offshoot of Judaism; as if Judaism is the parent and Christianity, the child. A more accurate analogy is to see Judaism and Christianity as siblings, twins in fact, born out of the same event. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/christianity-and-judaism-as-siblings-not-parent-and-child/

  30. Christmas and the Coming of the Messiah – Growing up in the Jewish areas we lived in, the expectation of Messiah was all around us. Christmas, however was a “Gentile holiday” which we had no connection to. Jesus, as portrayed by most Christians has no connection to most Jews, as the Jewish Messiah either. The Jesus of Scripture tells a very different story.  Jesus of the Gospels is Jewish. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/christmas-and-the-coming-of-messiah/

  31. Holy Days of Israel – with Scriptural References: Jewish Holy Days are observances set out by God in Scripture — more than celebrations. This article describes our main Holy Days and what they commemorate.  http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jewish-holy-days-with-scriptural-references/

  32. Holiday Observance from a Jewish Perspective: The Jewish concept of ‘observance’ of a holiday is quite different than the idea of ‘celebrating’ one and this difference becomes quite apparent to us at Christmas.  It is not as though there is a ‘right’ way and a ‘wrong’ way, but we thought it might be helpful for our readers to understand how we as Jewish believers regard holidays, in particular Christmas. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/holiday-observance-from-a-jewish-perspective/

  33. The Abrahamic Covenant and the 12 Tribes of Israel – In this article, we outline from Scripture who are the people and where is the land belonging to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) and whether the covenant God made with Abraham also applies to the descendants of Ishmael. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-abrahamic-covenant-and-the-12-tribes-of-israel/

  34. The 12 Tribes Ishmael and Their Land – We’ve heard people say that since the land of Israel belongs to both the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael and that the solution to the tension in the region is to divide the land between them.  But few people realize that the land of the 12 Tribes of Ishmael is northern Saudi Arabia and the south-eastern part of Assyria (Iraq) — far from the 12 Tribes of Israel! In this article we outline from Scripture who are the people and where is the land belonging to the descendants of Ishmael (with maps). http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-12-tribes-of-ishmael-and-their-land/

  35. Objections to a Religious Ideology or Doctrine is not Xenophobia – We hear a lot these days about xenophobia — with people being accused of being xenophobic or being a xenophobe when they object to a religious ideology or to the doctrine of another’s religion or belief system. That is not Xenophobia.  Xenophobia is to show fear or contempt towards a person because they hold to a specific ideology or holds to a given religious doctrine. There is a difference.  http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/objection-to-a-religious-ideology-or-doctrine-is-not-xenophobia/

  36. How Israel Came to Possess the Land it Currently Occupies – Israel is often portrayed in the media as ‘land-grabbing’, so we want to clear up where the land that Israel currently occupies came from. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/how-israel-came-to-possess-the-land-it-currently-occupies/

  37. Where is Ancient Palestine and Who are the Palestinian People? Does the idea of an ancient Palestinian homeland belonging to the Palestinian people have any basis in history? There were 3 such places with that name, none of them belonging to Arabs; one belonging to the Romans, one a province of the Byzantine Empire and one under British administration.  So what is “Palestine” and who are the “Palestinian” people? http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/where-is-ancient-palestine-who-are-the-palestinians/

  38.  1948 – The Fullfillment of the Second Gathering of the Jews to the Land of Israel – When God promised the land of Israel to the Jewish people, was it conditional on their obedience? If so, how would we explain that the Jews have been returned to the land not once, but twice — and the most recent time was in 1948? What do the Scriptures have to say about God’s covenant with the Jewish people with regard to obedience to His commands and how that related specifically to the Land? http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/fullfullment-of-the-second-gathering-of-the-jews-to-the-land-of-israel/

  39. Montreal Bagel and Smoked Meat – [a break from our usual articles]. Sometimes, the world is all too serious and what we need is a little distraction — such as food or music.  For Jews, both food and music are integral to who we are.  There is the food and music of home; not our ancestral home, but the Jewish community in which we grew up and for us, as Montreal Jews that food is epitomized by bagel and smoked meat. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/montreal-bagel-and-smoked-meat-the-real-deal/

  40. Jesus born at Sukkot / Festival of Booths / Feast of Tabernacles – People have asked us why we believe that Jesus was born at Sukkot (the Festival of Booths / the Feast of Tabernacles) and this article is about how theologians have arrived at this conclusion.  It is also about how Sukkot has already been set apart by God to be the only Feast of Israel that all the nations of the world will one day celebrate. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jesus-born-at-sukkot-festival-of-booths/

  41. Remembering and Preparing to Remember – Jews are a people called to remember and with that remembering comes preparation. This article elaborates on the the Jewish concept of preparing to remember which has been passed down to the Church in the observance of The Lord’s Table. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/remembering-and-preparing-to-remember/

  42. The High Holy Days and the Ten Days of Awe – The ten days starting with Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and ending with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) are commonly known as the Days of Awe or the Days of Repentance. These are the holiest days on the Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur, and the requirements of God in observing this day have important significance to New Testament believers today, both Jews and Gentiles. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-high-holy-days-and-the-ten-days-of-awe/

  43. God’s Calling on Gentiles, His Calling on Jews – We have pondered writing this article for a while and the reason is simple. How can the (predominantly Gentile) Church fulfill God’s specific calling on them mentioned in both the Old Testament and the New Testament if they don’t know and understand what it is? http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/God’s_calling_on_Gentiles/

  44. ‘The Parable of the Vineyard Workers’ in Matthew 20 is part of Jesus’ reply to Peter’s question given Matthew 19:27 but without understanding the reference Jesus is making to Old Testament concepts that would have been very well known to the disciples, one can easily miss what Jesus is saying.  This article elaborates on those concepts so that the meaning of the parable becomes clear. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-parable-of-the-vineyard-workers/

  45. New Testament Dietary Laws – Different for Jews and Gentiles’ – Most have heard of Jewish dietary laws but not what made foods ‘unclean’ or what role these laws served but few are aware of the dietary laws set out for Gentile Christians in the New Testament. How did these differing food laws impact social interaction between Jewish believers and Gentile Christians in the first century? What about today?http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/new-testament-dietary-laws-different-for-jews-and-gentiles/

  46. ‘A Visit from the Mormons’ – It’s not every day that the Mormons come knocking and find a mother and son engaged in Scripture study in their living room; with a four volume Hebrew-English Interlinear and Strong’s Concordance at the ready. Talk about catching a couple of Mormon missionaries off guard! Daniel answered the door and invited our visitors in.http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/a-visit-from-the-mormons/

  47. What does Paul mean that he became “as a Jew to the Jews and to the Gentiles, a Gentile”: In this article we look at what Paul meant by being “under” the Law, “outside” the Law and “within” the Law and what that meant in terms of the call to be “all things to all people” (1 Corinthians 9). http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/as-a-jew-to-the-jews-and-to-the-gentiles-a-gentile/

  48. Status quo  in the First Century Church vs Today – There was no need for the Gospel writers or Paul to explain Jewish practice because the vast majority of believers at the time were Jews and Jewish practice was understood.  But two thousand years later, most Gentile readers of the New Testament have little understanding of these Jewish practices. In this article we discuss the implications of this. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/status-quo-in-the-first-century-church-vs-today/

  49. Historic Perspective Affects New Testament Interpretation – This article looks at how the historical perspective of the Church after the death of the Apostles has shaped understanding of Israel and the Jewish people. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/historical-perspective-affects-new-testament-interpretation/

  50. Jesus – a Prophet like Moses – what does it mean for Jesus to be ‘a prophet like Moses’? What would the implications be for Jesus to have taught something different than what the Law of Moses taught?    http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jesus-a-prophet-like-moses/

  51. Creation of a Palestinian State – the “Two State” Solution – the idea of a “two state” solution is often proposed as a means to resolve the ongoing tensions between Israel and the ‘Palestinians’, but few realize there have already been two “two state” solutions. This article documents those. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/creation-of-a-palestinian-state-the-two-state-solution/

  52. Different Sects of Jews – from the Pharisees and Sadducees to the Sects of Today – to understand what Jesus was saying to the Jewish leadership and why, one needs to understand who the Jewish leadership was and what they believed. What are the Jewish sects of today and how are they related to those of the first century?    http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/different-sects-of-jews-from-the-pharisees-and-sadducees-to-the-sects-of-today/

  53. The Keymaker’s Sons – A Modern Parable – This story was written with the desire to help Gentile Christians understand how Jewish believers perceive our relationship with Gentile Christians within the Church. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-key-makers-sons-a-modern-parable/

  54. Is there a Difference between Jewish Believers and Gentile Christians – and if so, what is it?  This article seeks explores the ways in which Jewish believers look at their faith and the Scriptures from a slightly different perspective than Gentile Christians. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jewish_believers_and_gentile_christian_is_there_a_difference/

  55. Shavuot (Pentecost) and Jesus being the “firstfruits from the dead” – this article explains from Scripture the timing of the events related to the crucifixion of Jesus and the Jewish holiday of Passover and how the timing of the Feast of Pentecost (Shavuot) is tied to the timing of Passover. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/shavuot-pentecost-and-jesus-being-the-firstfruits-from-the-dead/


  56. “A partial hardening has come to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in” – the Apostle Paul has much to say about whether God has rejected the Jews and in Romans 11:14–25 he speaks directly to Gentiles about the unbelief of much of physical Israel. Paul exhorts the Gentiles not to brag (:18), not to be arrogant (:20), not to be conceited (:25) and not to be unaware (:25) of God’s plans of redemption of physical Israel. Why Paul said this and what the Scriptures say with regards to the future salvation of the Jews is elaborated on in this article. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/a-partial-hardening-has-come-to-israel-until-the-full-number-of-the-gentiles-has-come-in/

  57. The Early Church [including Polycarp] continued to celebrate Passover – few Gentile Christians realize that both Jewish believers and Gentile Christians in the early Church at Jerusalem and Antioch including Polycarp, a Church Father (80-167 CE) continued to celebrate the Passover according to the Biblical requirement (on the 14th of Nisan) and did so for the first two centuries, possibly until the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.  This article is fully referenced for the more scholarly and skeptical reader. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/early-church-including-polycarp-continued-to-celebrate-passover/

  58. The Temple and Synagogue in the Early Church – is an article about the role of the Temple and the synagogue in the life of Jesus and the early Jewish believers at the beginning of the Church as we know it. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-temple-synagogue-in-the-early-church/

The New Perspective – second phase of the Reformation?

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, nailed his ninety-five theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. His theses were copied and distributed throughout Europe and the debate which followed culminated  in what we now call the Protestant Reformation.

The Reformation restored the Word of God to the ordinary people and called them out of an obligation of submission to the papacy to one of submission to Scripture.  But was the Reformation all that was required to restore the Scriptures to their first century understanding? This is the topic of this article.


Martin Luther taught that justification (God’s declaration that we are forgiven of sin and righteous in His sight ) comes only through our faith in the ‘completed work and the ‘perfect righteousness of Christ’,  which the Father imputes, or reckons to our account through faith.

Romans 1:16-17 was central to Martin Luther’s theology and lies at the heart of Reformation theology;

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.”

Romans 1:16-17

Luther initially had disdain for the phrase, “the righteousness of God” because he understood it to be speaking of God’s standard of righteousness by which He would judge unrighteous sinners;

I was seized with the conviction that I must understand [Paul’s] letter to the Romans … but to that moment one phrase in Chapter 1 stood in my way. I hated the idea, “in it the righteousness of God is revealed”.  I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners .

—Martin Luther

In time, Luther said he began to understand that the “righteousness of God” is given as a “gift of God” given to sinners by faith and by which the righteous live;

“At last, meditating day and night and by the mercy of God, I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith. Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through gates that had been flung open.

—Martin Luther

James D.G. Dunn, Peter J. Tomson and other proponents of the “New Perspective on Paul” are restoring an understanding of the teachings of Paul to one set in its first century Jewish context, and in doing so, have set in motion what may be viewed as a second stage of Reformation of the Church.

Two foundational books by New Perspective theologians are "Paul and the Jewish Law - Halakha in the Letters of the Apostles to the Gentiles" by Peter J. Tomson (1990) and "The New Perspective on Paul" by James D.G. Dunn (1993)

According to Dunn, Paul’s theology of justification necessarily must be viewed as integral to the commission to preach the gospel to non-Jews.  This after all, is the context of Paul speaking of “the righteousness of God” in Romans 1:16-17;

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Gentile.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.”

Romans 1:16-17

Viewed in context, “the righteousness of God” is not as Luther first thought as “God’s standard of righteousness by which He would judge unrighteous sinners” nor as he later thought, ‘as as a gift of God given to sinners by faith’ — but rather “is a relational term that refers to the fulfillment of one’s obligation to another in the context of a relationship”, specifically;

“God’s fulfillment of the obligations that He took upon Himself in creating humankind and particularly, in the calling of Abraham and the choosing of Israel to be His people.

– James D.G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul, pp 340-346

To Dunn and other proponents of the New Perspective, the ‘righteousness of God’ involves God’s reckoning of covenant membership with respect to Gentiles.  We have referred to this in previous articles as God’s fulfillment of His promise that He gave in the “all nations clause” of Genesis 12:2-3 of the Abrahamic Covenant.

God promised Abraham that he will be (1) the father of "a great nation" -- that is a specific nation (Hebrew: לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל) though Isaac and Jacob (the Jews), and He also promised (Genesis 12:3) that through a physical descendant of Abraham, a Jew, "all the peoples  (nations) of the earth will be blessed".  This is the so-called "all-nations clause".

According to Dunn and other proponents of the New Perspective, the term ‘the righteousness of God’ is not a term indicating transfer, but status recognition;

God’s justification is not His act in first making His covenant with Israel, or in initially accepting someone into His covenant people. God’s justification is rather God’s acknowledgment that someone is in the covenant — whether that is an initial acknowledgment, or a repeated action of God (God’s saving acts) or His final vindication of His people”.

– James D.G. Dunn, “The New Perspective on Paul”, p 97

The ‘righteousness of God‘ refers to God’s fulfillment of the obligations that God took upon Himself;

(1) in the calling of Abraham when He chose Israel to be His people (the “great nation”) and made His “everlasting covenant” with them, giving them as an “eternal possession” all the land of Canaan (Genesis 17:1-8).

and a fulfillment of the obligations that He took upon Himself;

(2) in the “all nations clause” (Genesis 12:3), that through a physical descendant of Abraham, a Jew, “all the nations of the earth will be blessed”.

The New Perspective as a second phase of the Reformation?

The Reformation restored the common people’s access and accountability to the Word of God, but is it helpful to view “reform” as having occurred at one point in history and complete? Perhaps what began in 1517 was the first phase in restoring a correct understanding to Scripture?

Reformation theology failed to understand that the ‘righteousness of God‘ was God’s reckoning of covenant membership to Gentiles and they also erroneously viewed ‘justification’ and the ‘righteousness of God’ as one of transfer, rather than of status recognition.

New Perspective theologians situate the teachings of Paul in their first century Jewish context, and in doing so may form the beginning of a second phase of the Reformation – one which restores the teachings of Paul and of Jesus to their first century Jewish context.

Understanding that ‘justification’ and the ‘righteousness of God’ describe status recognition of either being “in the covenant” or “not in the covenant” does not distinguish whether the one “in the covenant” came from the “great nation” through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Jews),  or as a result of God fulfilling His promise to “all the nations of the earth” (the Gentiles).

New Perspective theologians understand that the ‘righteousness of God‘ was God’s reckoning of covenant membership to Gentiles in addition to Jews, which leaves room for a correct reading of Romans 1:16-17; “to the Jew first and also to the Gentile“.

Furthermore, God fulfilling His promises in the “all-nations clause” of the Abrahamic Covenant necessitates that God will also  fulfill the promises He made to the “great nation” (the Jews), the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob under the same “everlasting covenant, including the “eternal possession” of the land (Genesis 17:1-8).

Final thoughts…

The ‘New Perspective on Paul’ is a much a restoration of the Scriptures to the Church as the Reformation of 1517, and may be rightfully viewed as the beginning of the second phase of Reformation.

What is surely needed next is for Gentile Christian theologians to situate the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, in their first century Jewish context — a so-called ‘New Perspective on Jesus‘.

If the esteemed theologians of the Church would work together the well credentialed theologians of Messianic Judaism, perhaps this second phase of the Reformation might take place in our day – a first century Jewish understanding of the Scriptures restored to the Church.

cover photo: "Sola Scriptura" - Scripture alone, "Sola Gratia" - grace alone, "Sola Christus" - through Christ alone, which represents the heart of Martin Luther's teachings

God’s Promises to the Gentiles in the Abrahamic Covenant

Introduction – There are those that say that Gentile Christians, along with Jewish believers in Messiah form what is now termed “true Israel” and replace the Jewish people (physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as God’s covenant people.

This article is Part 2 of 3 in a series of articles, taking a deeper look at God’s promises to the Jewish people and God’s promises to the Gentiles.

The first article in the series can be found here: http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/pauls-use-of-the-term-israel-in-the-book-of-romans/


Beginning at the Beginning

The first two chapters of Genesis recount the creation of the earth and man and the beginning of Chapter 3 recounts the fall.  In response, God doesn’t waste time,  He does not leave the situation hopeless but immediately after the man and woman eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God speaks of the solution that He will someday bring and in speaking to the serpent, God says:

“I will put hostility (enmity) between you and the woman,
and between your seed and her seed.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

Genesis 3:15

Immediately, God speaks of His solution; that someday, He will put an end to the hatred and hostility that Satan (the serpent) has for man by sending “the seed of the woman” who will strike the serpent’s head.  He promises here that He will send the Messiah, the “seed of the woman” who will incapacitate the enemy — signified by striking his head, even though it will not be without a minor wounding to God’s Messiah — signified by the enemy striking His heel.

Paul, in the New Testament, relates back to this promise of “the seed of the woman” in Galatians 3:16 when he speaks of “the seed” in the singular and that “seed” being Messiah;

“Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to seeds,” as though referring to many, but referring to one, and to your seed, who is Christ”

Galatians 3:16

Paul makes the differentiation because readers of his letter (who were predominately Gentiles) would know that he was referring to the singular form of the word “seed” in Greek, because”seed” in Greek as well as Hebrew, could be used in two ways; in the singular and in the plural.

Understanding the word “seed”

The word “seed” in Hebrew (Strong’s H2233) and in Greek (Strong’s 4690) is a collective singular noun and can be used in two ways;  to  refer to (a) one person or (b) numerous, related people.

In Genesis 3:15, (“I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed.”), the collective singular noun “seed” (Hebrew זֶרַע ), refers to one person, the Messiah.

In Gen 12:7, the collective singular noun “seed” (same Strong’s word H2233) is used to refer to the land that God promised to Abraham’s “seed” and applies to numerous, related descendants, the physical descendants of Abraham, the Jews.

What were God’s promises to the Gentiles?

Speaking to Abraham of His promises, God says;

“I will make you into a great nation,
I will bless you,
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
I will curse those who curse you,
and all the peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”

Genesis 12:2-3

As we’ll develop in the next article, God lays out in detail who this “great nation” is and His “everlasting covenant” with them as a people, and the land He promises to give them as an “eternal possession”. He leaves no doubt that He is speaking of the physical descendants of Abraham, because He later repeats the same promises He gave Abraham to his son, Isaac and then repeats the same promises He gave Abraham to Abraham’s grandson, Jacob (whose God later changes his name to Israel — and from whom the 12 tribes of Israel, the Jews, come).

But before God goes into all that detail, He speaks of His promise of the inclusion of the Gentiles!

The “all nations clause”

The book of Genesis from Chapter 12 to Chapter 50 pertains to the physical nation of Israel, the Jews — yet from the first time God begins to speak His promise to Abraham’s physical descendants, God speaks of His promise to the Gentiles!

The inclusion of the Gentiles is no afterthought – but is spoken of from Genesis Chapter 12, in the “all nations clause” ;

“…and all the peoples (nations) on earth
will be blessed through you.”

Genesis 12:3

From the very first time that God promises Abraham that he will be the father of “a great nation” — a specific nation (Hebrew: לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל) though Isaac and Jacob, He promises (Genesis 12:3) that through a physical descendant of Abraham, a Jew, “all the peoples (nations) of the earth will be blessed“!

The word for “peoples” (sometimes translated “nations”) in Hebrew is the word “families” (Hebrew מִשְׁפְּחֹת) — so there is a contrast being made between (1) the promises being made to this “great nation” (singular) and (2) the promises begin made to “all the families of the earth” (plural) (Hebrew: מִשְׁפְּחֹת הָאֲדָמָה).

Paraphrasing, God is saying;

‘while there is the great nation that I will bless, and I make Abraham’s name great as a result of this nation, and that this nation will be a blessing, and I will bless the nations that blesses them and curse the nation that curse them — everybody, all the families of the earth will be blessed through a physical descendant of Abraham — a Jew, the Messiah.

This is how the “blessings of Abraham” come to the Gentiles in Jesus (Galatians 3:14)!

That One is the “seed of the woman” that God also spoke of in Genesis 3:15 — the One that will crush Satan’s head. He is the “seed” that all nations of the world are blessed though — the “great nation” and “all nations“.

Paul speaks of the inclusion of the Gentiles in Galatians 3:6-9, when he says;

“Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, then understand that those who have faith are Abraham’s sons. Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and told the good news ahead of time to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed through you. So those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith.”

…and Paul continues with the theme of the inclusion of the Gentiles in Galatians 3:14-16, when he refers to the “seed” singular, meaning the Messiah — in contrast to “the seeds” (plural) which are the Jews.

The purpose was that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles by Christ Jesus, so that we could receive the promised Spirit through faith.  Brothers, I’m using a human illustration. No one sets aside or makes additions to even a human covenant that has been ratified. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to seeds,” as though referring to many, but referring to one, and to your seed, who is Christ.

Galatians 3:16

Since “seed” can be used to refer to a single person or a group of related people, Paul in this passage is quite specific that he is suing the singular of “seed”, because he is referring back to the promise given to Abraham regarding the inclusion of the Gentiles — the “all nations clause” in Genesis 12:2-3; “…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” which points to the original promise of the “seed of the woman” in Genesis 3:15 (“I will put hostility between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel”).

Paul specifies that he is using the singular form of the term “seed” because he is referring to the “seed of the woman” (Genesis 3:15)  — which is One person, the Messiah. In Galatians 3:16, Paul is saying “this is that“!

This Jesus is that “seed”.

He is the descendant of Abraham, through which all the nations of the world are blessed!

Inclusions of the Gentiles is anything but an afterthought to God. He spoke of His promises to “all the families of the earth” (Genesis 12:3) when He first spoke about His promises to the “great nation” (Genesis 12:1-2). He then repeats the exact same promises to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob i.e. the “great nation” in Genesis 25:16-7 and to “all the families of the earth” in Genesis 25:18!


It should not be missed, that just before Paul refers to Jesus being that one “seed“, in Galatians 3:15, he emphasizes in Galatians 3:15 that he is using a human illustration and that “No one sets aside or makes additions to even a human covenant that has been ratified“.

What Paul is saying here is that even when people make a covenant with other people, no one sets aside or makes addition to a covenant after it has been ratified. The implication is ‘how much more will God not set aside or make addition to a covenant He makes, after it had been ratified?

Paul is saying is that inclusion of the Gentiles in no way alters God’s covenant with the physical descendants of Abraham (the Jews) and that likewise, God’s promise to the Gentiles, in no way supersedes God’s promises to the Jews.

God made promises to both the Jews and the Gentiles and He will keep His promises to both;

“Is God a man who lies, or a son of man who changes His mind? Does He speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill?”

Numbers 23:19

God said to Moses (Deuteronomy 32:16-21) that because the Jews made Him jealous and angered Him by serving worthless idols, that He would make them envious and angry by choosing the Gentiles. (Deuteronomy 32:16-21, esp. verse 21)

“They made Me jealous by what is no god

and angered Me with their worthless idols.

I will make them envious by those who are not a people;

I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding.”

Deuteronomy 32:21

God did exactly as He said He would by calling those from the Gentiles;

And what if He did this to make known the riches of His glory on objects of mercy that He prepared beforehand for glory—on us, the ones He also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?  As He also says in Hosea:

I will call Not My People, My People,
and she who is Unloved, Beloved.
And it will be in the place where they were told,
you are not My people,
there they will be called sons of the living God.

Romans 9:23-25


Note: There are other related in articles in this current series, including;

God’s Promises to the Jews in the Abrahamic Covenant 

and

Paul’s Use of the term “Israel” in the Book of Romans

 

Paul’s Use of the term “Israel” in the Book of Romans

Introduction:  There are those who will say that Jews who do not accept Jesus as Messiah are not “true Israel” — but rather Gentile Christians and Jewish believers in Messiah form what is termed “true Israel“.  Does the Scripture teach that “Israel” is part Jewish by descent and part Gentile by descent — and if not, what do the passages in question really mean?

In this article, which is Part 1 of 3, we explore how Paul uses the term “Israel” in the book of Romans and then consider what he is saying in Romans 9:6-8.

What Does Paul Say in Romans 9: 1-8?

Those that claim that Gentile Christians, along with Jewish believers in Messiah are part of something termed “true Israel” point to two verses in Romans 9 as a major “proof text”;

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants.”

Romans 9:6-7

…so before examining these two verses, let’s look at the term “Israel” and how it is used to elsewhere in Scripture to refer to the ethnic nation / national covenant people of the Old Testament (the Jews).

“Israel” is used more than 2500 times in all of Scripture (both Old and New Testaments) and more than 70 times in the New Testament, alone.

Paul uses the term “Israel” 12 times in ten verses of Romans — as well as once in 1 Corinthians, twice in 2 Corinthians, once each in Galatians, Ephesians and Philippians and 3 times in Hebrews, so before considering what Paul is saying in Romans 9:6-7, let’s look at how he uses this term in the other 10 verses of Romans.

1. Romans 9:27, Paul says that “Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved”.

2. Romans 9:30-31: Paul says What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law.

3. Romans 10:1: Paul says “Brothers my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.

4. Romans 10:19: Paul referring how the Gentiles would make Israel jealous says “But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”

…and continuing along in his thought, Paul says;

5. Romans 10:21: “But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

6. Romans 11:2: “I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel?

…and continuing along Paul says;

7. Romans 11:7-8: “What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.”

8. Romans 11:25 “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

…and the next verse;

9. Romans 11:26 “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob”.

In the above 9 verses of Romans, Paul uses the term “Israel” as it is used elsewhere in the New Testament — to refer to the national covenant people of the Old Testament.

Does Paul suddenly redefine who Israel is in Romans 9:6-7?


What is Paul saying in Romans 9:6-7?

The entire discussion of Romans 9 up until verse 6 is only about physical Israel. There isn’t anything mentioning or alluding to Gentiles.

Paul introduces the chapter by sharing his heart-felt desire for “my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh”, who he defines as Israelites;

“I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience is testifying to me with the Holy Spirit that I have intense sorrow and continual anguish in my heart. For I could almost wish to be cursed and cut off from the Messiah for the benefit of my brothers, my own flesh and blood. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple service, and the promises. The ancestors are theirs, and from them, by physical descent, came the Messiah, who is God over all, praised forever. Amen.”

Romans 9:1-5

It is clear here that Paul is speaking about the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Jews.

If there is any doubt, Paul says that;

to them [the people of Israel] belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ (Messiah).

Romans 9:4-5

Clearly, Paul is not talking about Gentiles here, because he is speaking of specific things that only belong to the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Jews:

Paul says that the adoption belongs to the Jews — that is, God having chosen the Jewish people as His own possession (Deuteronomy 7:6: For you are a holy people belonging to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be His own possession out of all the peoples on the face of the earth” and in Exodus 19:5 Now if you will listen to Me and carefully keep My covenant, you will be My own possession out of all the peoples, although all the earth is Mine”). The adoption of the physical descendants of Abraham refers to the Abraham Covenant where God chose the descendants of Abraham, and through Isaac and Jacob and as we’ll elaborate on below, the Abrahamic Covenant was ratified by God alone and the penalty for it being broken rested on Him.  As a result, The Abrahamic Covenant is an “everlasting covenant” and the Land which He promised the Jewish people is theirs as an “everlasting (or eternal) possession” (Genesis 17:7-8). 

While the nation as a whole did break God’s Law — and as a result, broke the Mosaic Covenant, God promised the New Covenant to the “House of Israel” and the “House of Judah” in Jeremiah 31:31-34. As well, God’s dealings with the nation of Israel was always in light of the “faithful remnant” that He said would always exist.  Even in the midst of exile from the Land for our sins, God promises that He would always leave a remnant;

“Yet I will leave a remnant when you are scattered among the nations, for throughout the countries there will be some of you who will escape the sword.

~Ezekiel 6: 8

Even though we broke the covenant (the Mosaic Covenant) that He gave us when He lead us out of Egypt, God promised the Jewish people a New Covenant to the people of Israel — to the Jews. As shocking as it may seem to those who have not heard it before, the New Covenant, ratified at the cross, was promised to the Jews;

“Look, the days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant they broke even though I had married them”—the Lord’s declaration. “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”—the Lord’s declaration. “I will put My teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them”—this is the Lord’s declaration. “For I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sin.”

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Paul continues in Romans 9 to list things that only pertain to the people of Israel.

He says that the [Shekinah] glory belongs to the Jews and that the “covenants” (plural) belong to the Jews.  Here, Paul is referring to the Abrahamic Covenant (which we will discuss below) and the Mosaic Covenant.   Paul says that God gave the Law to the Jewish people as well as the specifics on how He was to be worshiped.  He speaks of the promises (plural) — so many promises!  God promised that we’d always be a people, that the Land was ours as an everlasting possession (even when we were exiled from it for our sin!), that we were to be a light to the Gentiles and that the One whom would ultimately redeem both the Gentiles and the Jews, and that the Light of the World, the Messiah, would be born a Jew. God gave promises about the future salvation of the nation of Israel beyond the “faithful remnant” that we see now (i.e. “when the “times of the Gentiles are fulfilled”) and of the “faithful remnant” itself!  He promised us the New Covenant by which He would redeem us from our disobedience. So many promises! The  Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — from whom the whole nation of Israel comes are the Jewish people’s and as we covered in Part One of this article, the Messiah Himself would be born to a physical descendant of the Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Jews (Genesis 12:3).

There is no doubt that In verses 1-5 of Romans 9, Paul is speaking about the physical nation of Israel — so this is context of verse 6. In fact, it is not until verse 22 of Chapter 9 that Paul even mentions Gentiles!

What is Paul saying in Romans 9:6?

Paul has just itemized the blessings that belong only to the people of Israel; the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises, the patriarchs, and according to the flesh, the Messiah and in verse 6, Paul is reflecting that he could not imagine ‘Israelites’ who do not belong to physical Israel. 

The point that Paul is making in Romans 9:6 is that while the promises of God to Israel may have appeared to have ‘failed’ — in that Israel is predominantly unbelievers, there is still “the faithful remnant” within Israel – the ‘Israel’ within ethnic Israel.

“But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants. On the contrary, your offspring will be traced through Isaac. That is, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but the children of the promise are considered to be the offspring.”

Romans 9:6-8

Paul is NOT distinguishing here between something supersessionists* call “spiritual Israel” (the Church, both believing Jews and Gentile Christians) and “physical Israel” — but is saying that the promises made to physical Israel are fulfilled through the faithful remnant — even though some of Israel’s descendants are not included.

*Note: Supersessionists are those that hold to what is commonly called  "Replacement Theology"; believing that the Church is the "new Israel".

So who are “Abraham’s children” and the “children of promise”?

What Paul is saying in Romans 9:7-8 needs to be understood in the context of what Paul is saying in verse 6.  He has just said that the promises made to physical Israel are fulfilled through the faithful remnant, even though some of Israel’s descendants are not included — and then makes a distinction between “Abraham’s natural children” and the “children of promise”;

“But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants. On the contrary, your offspring will be traced through Isaac. That is, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but the children of the promise are considered to be the offspring.”

Romans 9:6-8

Paul is saying in this passage that while the promises of God to Israel may appear to have ‘failed’, in that Israel is predominantly unbelievers — there is still the faithful remnant. This is supported by the fact that just a few verses down in verse 27, Paul refers to the faithful remnant; “

“Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved”.

Romans 9:27

Paul uses the term “Abraham’s children” and “children of promise” to refer to both Gentile Christians and Jewish believers. For example, in Romans 4:9-17, Paul refers to Gentiles as having Abraham as their “father” (i.e. Gentiles are also “Abraham’s children”) and as “children of promise”.

In Romans 9:1-5, Paul is only talking about physical Israel so based on the context, Paul is speaking only about physical Israel in verses 6-8, as well.

Paul does not redefine “Israel” as being “part Gentile” as supersessionist assert. In Romans 9:6-8, Paul is referring to the Israel within ethnic Israel — the faithful remnant (Jewish believers), who are a subset of physical Israel.

In conclusion, Paul used term “Israel” used in Romans 9:6-8 no differently than the way he uses “Israel” in the other 9 verses of the book of Romans — and no differently than it is used throughout the New Testament.

“Israel”, whether in the Old Testament or the New Testament refers to the ethnic nation / national covenant people of the Old Testament, the Jews.

Some thoughts…

It should be noted that in Romans 9, where Paul lists the blessings that belong to the physical nation of Israel (the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, the promises, the patriarchs, and the coming of Messiah as a Jew) that the verb tense used by Paul is the present tense. That is, these blessings belonged to physical Israel when Paul wrote his letter to the Romans — and still belong to Israel, as there is nothing in Scripture which indicates any change has since Paul penned those words.

In the list of blessings, Paul refers to the Abrahamic covenant (which God said was an “everlasting covenant” in Genesis 17:7-8) in the present tense, signifying that the Abrahamic Covenant belonged to physical Israel in the first century — and still belongs to them today. 

Part 2 of this series of 3 articles can be found here: http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/gods-promises-to-the-gentiles-in-the-abrahamic-covenant/

“A partial hardening has come to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in”

Jericho_synagogue_mosaic,_tb051106788sr

The question is often asked “has God rejected the Jews (the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) because they have rejected Jesus as the Messiah?” In this Note, I will look at Romans 11, especially the phrase “A partial hardening has come to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in”.

The Apostle Paul has much to say about whether God has rejected the Jews and speaks directly to Gentiles specifically in this regard in Romans 11:14–25. Speaking about the unbelief of much of physical Israel Paul exhorts the Gentile Christians not to brag (:18), not to be arrogant (:20), not to be conceited (:25) and not to be unaware (:25) of God’s plans of redemption.

Those are pretty powerful words – words that often get overlooked today. Paul elaborates what he means:

Speaking to Gentiles he tells them not to brag that the Jews “were broken off and you Gentiles, even though a wild olive branch, were grafted in among them and have come to share in the rich root of the cultivated olive tree”.  The cultivated olive tree is Israel and is referred to again in Mark 12 in the Parable of the Tenants (Israel is the vineyard and God is the Vineyard-keeper). While the Gentiles have salvation while much of physical Israel does not, Paul reminds them that they are not “better” than the Jews for it. He exhorts them not to brag and reminds them that they “do not sustain the root, but the root sustains you”.

Paul exhorts the Gentiles “do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches [the Jews], He will not spare you either” and exhorts them to “remain in His kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.”

Paul then goes on to say “if they [the Jews] do not remain in unbelief, will be grafted in, because God has the power to graft them in again. For if you [Gentiles] were cut off from your native wild olive and against nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree [Jews], how much more will these—the natural branches [unbelieving Jews]—be grafted into their own olive tree [Israel]?”

He then exhorts the Gentiles to “not be conceited” and that they should “not be unaware of this mystery: A partial hardening has come to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.

“Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. In view of the fact that I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if I can somehow make my own people [the Jews] jealous and save some of them.  For if their rejection brings reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?

Now if the firstfruits offered up are holy, so is the whole batch. And if the root is holy, so are the branches.

Now if some of the branches were broken off [the Jews] and you [Gentiles], though a wild olive branch, were grafted in among them and have come to share in the rich root of the cultivated olive tree [i.e. the commonwealth of Israel], do not brag that you are better than those [Jewish] branches. But if you do brag—you do not sustain the root, but the root sustains you.

Then you will say, “Branches [Jewish] were broken off so that I, [a Gentile] might be grafted in.”  True enough; they were broken off by unbelief, but you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches [the Jews], He will not spare you either.

Therefore, consider God’s kindness and severity: severity toward those who have fallen but God’s kindness toward you [as Gentiles] —if you remain in His kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.

And even if they [the Jews], do not remain in unbelief, will be grafted in, because God has the power to graft them in again.

For if you [Gentiles] were cut off from your native wild olive and against nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree [Jews], how much more will these—the natural branches [unbelieving Jews]—be grafted into their own olive tree [Israel]?

So that you will not be conceited, brothers, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery:

partial hardening has come to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.

~ Romans 11:14–25

partial hardening has come to Israel for a time and for a purpose; and that is, “until the full number of the Gentiles has come in”.

It should be humbling, not reason for bragging or arrogance that the Jews partial hardening is for the Gentile’s salvation.

Another question that often comes up is “what does the Old Testament have to say about the Jews eventual recognition of their Messiah?” Zechariah 12 speaks of this quite clearly!

“Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the house of David [the Jews] and the residents of Jerusalem and they will look upon Me whom they pierced. They will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child and weep bitterly for Him as one weeps for a firstborn.”

~ Zechariah 12:10

Literally; they will look upon Me, Elohim their God whom they have pierced and mourn for Him, my Son.

The Jews will have their eyes opened and they will look upon Jesus whom we have pierced and mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child.

People will often say “oh, the Jews broke the Covenant with God therefore God is no longer obligated to them”.  Yes, we broke the Covenant but two things ought not to be overlooked.  The Covenant God made with the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob in which He promised them to be a people and to have a very specific land is described as an everlasting covenant and the land as their eternal possession (Genesis 17:7-8).


“I will keep My covenant between Me and you, and your future offspring throughout their generations, as an everlasting covenant to be your God and the God of your offspring after you.   And to you and your future offspring I will give the land where you are residing—all the land of Canaan—as an eternal possession, and I will be their God.”

~ Genesis 17:7-8


While the covenant God made with the Jews is an everlasting covenant and the land eternally belongs to the Jews, God was also very clear what would happen if the Jews did not obey His commands and broke the covenant.  He would scatter them from the land;

“I will reject you. I will reduce your cities to ruins and devastate your sanctuaries. I will not smell the pleasing aroma of your sacrifices. I also will devastate the land, so that your enemies who come to live there will be appalled by it. But I will scatter you among the nations, and I will draw a sword to chase after you. So your land will become desolate, and your cities will become ruins.”

~Leviticus 26: 30-33

The Jews breaking their covenant with God would result in God scattering them from the land in exile and true to His Word, He exiled the Jews from the Land twice.

While God did say He would scatter us for our disobedience, He also said He would gather us again.

When all these things happen to you—the blessings and curses I have set before you—and you come to your senses while you are in all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, and you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and all your soul by doing everything I am giving you today,  then He will restore your fortunes,[b] have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. Even if your exiles are at the ends of the earth, He will gather you and bring you back from there. The Lord your God will bring you into the land your fathers possessed, and you will take possession of it. He will cause you to prosper and multiply you more than He did your fathers.

~ Deuteronomy 30:1-5

God has always acted on behalf of the “faithful remnant”; even when the Jewish people as a nation were in apostasy.  That is still the case; but that is a topic for a future blog.


[For more on God scattering the Jews twice for their disobedience please read: www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/return-of-the-jews-to-the-land-of-israel-both-times/]


When two people make a covenant, usually both parties ‘sign’ the agreement.  In Old Testament times, when a covenant was made between two people, both parties would split animals in half and walk between the cut halves and by doing so saying ‘if I break this covenant then what happens to these animals happen to me”.  This is where the term ‘cutting an agreement’ comes from.  Of importance, when God ratified the Covenant with Abraham He was the only One to pass between the two halves of the sacrifice, meaning He alone will pay the penalty if it is broken.

Furthermore, knowing that we would break the Covenant, God promises in the Old Testament that He will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah not like the covenant which He made with our fathers in the day He took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of EgyptHis covenant which they broke, although He was a husband to them, declared the LORD.” (Jeremiah 33:31-33)

The New Covenant is made with the Jewish people in the Old Testament!!

Listen to the words of Jeremiah;

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of EgyptMy covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.

But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people”

~ Jeremiah 31: 31-33

Hebrews 8 clearly states that Jesus is the mediator of this New Covenant.

Bringing this full circle back to Paul, has God rejected the Jews because they have rejected the Messiah? No. In the same manner as the covenant God ‘cut’ with Abraham by along passing between the halves of cut animals, Jesus alone ratified the New Covenant.

Speaking to Gentile Christians in Romans 11: 1-7

“I ask, then, has God rejected His people?Absolutely not*!

The term in Greek is “me genoito” the strongest negative in the Greek, however as a Jew and a Pharisee, Paul may have been alluding to an equivalent term in Judaism “ha lilla!”, which you can read about here: http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/paul-mean-may-never/

For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin

[i.e. a Jew and proof God has not rejected the Jews!]

God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew.

Or don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he pleads with God against Israel?

Lord, they have killed Your prophets

and torn down Your altars.

I am the only one left,

and they are trying to take my life!

But what was God’s reply to him?

I have left 7,000 men for Myself who have not bowed down to Baal.

In the same way, then, there is also at the present time a remnant chosen by grace.

Now if by grace, then it is not by works; otherwise grace ceases to be grace.

What then?

Israel did not find what it was looking for, but the elect did find it. The rest were hardened, as it is written

[Deut 29:4, Is 29:10, Ps 69:22-23].

Yes, the Jewish people’s partial hardening was spoken of beforehand and specifically noted to be temporary “until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in”.

“Has God done away with the Old Testament?”

We know from Hebrews 8:13 that the Old Covenant is “old and aging and about to disappear”(:13) but not yet. For Jesus says in Matthew 5:17-19 that “none of the Law would pass away until it is all fulfilled” which it has not happened yet, for He still has to bring His ancient people back as He said He would.  My people have yet “to look on Him whom we have pierced and mourn from Him as one mourns for an only son” (Zechariah 12:10).

Soon and very soon…

Why did God allow this partial hardening to happen to the Jews?  Romans 9:23 says specifically that it was to allow the Gentiles to come to faith (i.e. until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled). God has done as He said He would;

“to make known the riches of His glory on objects of mercy that He prepared beforehand for glory on us, the ones He also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles.

~Romans 9:23

…which He spoke of beforehand in Hosea when He said He would call Not My People, My People [the Gentiles] and she who is Unloved, Beloved [see Hos 2:23, Hos 1:10].

Our partial hardening is so that “those who were not a people [Gentiles] could become His people”.

He is still gathering the Gentiles, but there will come a day “when the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” and the eyes of my people will be opened and “they will look on Me who they have pierced and mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son”.

That day will come because God is faithful to His word, to accomplish everything He speaks.

God spoke of beforehand in Deut 32:21 and affirmed it again through Paul in Romans 10:19, that He would make the Jews jealous “by those who are not a nation” (i.e. the Gentiles, a people who are “Not My People” cf Romans 9:23);

 “I will make you jealous

of those who are not a nation;

I will make you angry by a nation

that lacks understanding”

~Romans 10:19

Paul says in Romans 10:20, it was prophesied beforehand (Isaiah 65:1) that He would be found by those not looking for Him [the Gentiles].

“And Isaiah says boldly:

I was found

by those who were not looking for Me;

I revealed Myself

to those who were not asking for Me”.

~Romans 10:20

Bringing this back to the very beginning, it is in this context, that Paul addresses the future salvation of Israel in Romans 11:1-25;

I ask, then, has God rejected His people? Absolutely not!.

For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.

God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew.

Or don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he pleads with God against Israel?

Lord, they have killed Your prophets

and torn down Your altars.

I am the only one left,

and they are trying to take my life!

But what was God’s reply to him?

I have left 7,000 men for Myself who have not bowed down to Baal.

In the same way, then, there is also at the present time a remnant chosen by grace. Now if by grace, then it is not by works; otherwise grace ceases to be grace.

What then?

Israel did not find what it was looking for, but the elect did find it. The rest were hardened, as it is written.

Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. In view of the fact that I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if I can somehow make my own people [the Jews] jealous and save some of them.

For if their rejection brings reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?

Now if the firstfruits offered up are holy, so is the whole batch. And if the root is holy, so are the branches.

Now if some of the branches were broken off [the Jews] and you [Gentiles], though a wild olive branch, were grafted in among them and have come to share in the rich root of the cultivated olive tree, do not brag that you are better than those [Jewish] branches. But if you do brag—you do not sustain the root, but the root sustains you.

Then you will say, “Branches [Jewish] were broken off so that I, [a Gentile] might be grafted in.”  True enough; they were broken off by unbelief, but you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches [the Jews], He will not spare you either.

Therefore, consider God’s kindness and severity: severity toward those who have fallen but God’s kindness toward you [as Gentiles] —if you remain in His kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.

And even they, if they do not remain in unbelief, will be grafted in, because God has the power to graft them in again.

For if you [Gentiles] were cut off from your native wild olive and against nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree [Jews], how much more will these—the natural branches [unbelieving Jews]—be grafted into their own olive tree [Israel]?

So that you will not be conceited, brothers, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery:

partial hardening has come to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.