Foundational Theology: Theology of Promise

Text: Romans 9-11

James Strauss, Theology and Philosophy

Lincoln Christian Seminary


Theme: Israel As A Hermeneutical Problem

(Jews, Future and God’s Promise in Romans 9-11)



Hermeneutical Tools: History of Exegesis from the patristic era up to the present in Bruce Corley,  “The Significance of Romans 9-11: (THD Dissertation, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1975, esp. pp. 1-62; K. H. Schelkle, Paulus Lehrer der Vater: Die Altkircklicke Auslegung vom Rom 1-11, 2nd ed  (Dusseldorf:  Patmos Verlag, 1959),  pp. 316-21; Willibald Beyschlag,  Die paulinsche Theodicee, Romer IX-XI (Halle: 1868); Emil Weber,   Das Problem der Heilsgeschichte Nach Rom 9-11 (Leipzig, 19lf); Christian Muller, Gottes Gerechtigkeit und Gottes Volk (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck/Ruprecht  1964); Ulrich Lyz, Das Geschichtsverstandnis de’s Paulus  (Munich, 1968); J. D. Strauss, Exegesis and Theology of The Roman Epistle with extensive  bibliography - on  reserve.


(Important commentaries:  Cranfield, 2 volumes; Kaesemann, Bruce, Nygren, Sanday and Headlam, Michel,  Munck (Christ and  Israel),  M. J. Lagrange, Barrett, Godet, Lenski, Hendriksen,  Schlatter, Murrray, Calvin, Luther, and Ridderbos (Paul)  Zahn)


I.     Hermeneutical Context of Romans 9-11: (F. Siegert, Argumentation bei Paulus, gezeigt and Rom 9-11 Wunt, 34, Tubingen, 1985).


“From beginning to end, the divine glory rings 9-11; God is involved  in the tragedy  of Israel.    The God question, the future question, the Jewish question are the same question.” (K. L.  Schmidt, Die Judenfrage  HI Lichte der Kapitel  9-11 des Romerbriefes (Zollikon-Zurich,1912),   p. 37.


Paul’s reasoning proceeds from a standpoint within the historical context of Israel’s ‘hardened heart.’  Throughout their history God’s faithfulness is expressed by faithful preaching of the prophets and the Apostles. The future of the Israel’s is ruled by the prior question—of what God is now doing through the Gospel.


The central tragedy in the history of exegesis of Romans 9-11 is that it has been dominated too  long by external questions ranging from double predestination, full-fledged universalism, mixed with a hodgepodge of Zionism and Dispensationalism. Kaeseraann’s remarks are appropriate in  that  “Romans 9-11 plays a diacritical role in relation to the history of Pauline exegesis” an die Romer (Tubingen, 1973), p. 290- these three chapters are of crucial significance and clearly  represent a sustained, consistent argument.




II.  Contextualizing Dominant Hermeneutical/Exegetical Themes: Israel and The Promise:   

          James W. Aaeson,  “Scripture and Structure in the Development of the Argument in Romans 9-11.”  in CBQ 48 (1986):265-289.


What  is  the fundamental question that Paul engages? The history of exegesis reveals that Romans 9-11 has been approached  from four basic hermeneutical perspectives.  They are:


1.       Eternal Predestination-the question is how the eternal destiny of individuals is determined. This question is the over riding concern of the early Patristic, Medieval Scholastics, and the Reformers. The Augustinian view (cf. Infralapsarianism) wins out and informs the great commentaries of Aquinas and Calvin (cf. Sanday/Headlam, Romans, pp. 271-74) Post-Reformation scholars rally to four conflicting perspectives:


          a. “God is absolute Sovereign” (Predestinarian Calvinists)

          b.     Man is free to choose (indeterminate Armenians) - see my comparison of Calvin and

                   Arminius - on reserve)

          c.     Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom cannot be reconciled (mediating rationalists/

                   pietistic rationalists)

          d.     Historically, this impasse culminates with Barth’s Christological solution of 9-11 in CD

                   (II/2), written in 1912 - compare with Schmidt above who addressed the confessing church

                   at the height of Nazi terror (March 16,1942) on Romans 9-11).


2.       Heilsgeschichte, i.e. the question is how the divine purpose works out in history.  In reaction to predestinarian exegesis, this hermeneutic confines 9-1 1 to temporal history and corporate election. Without reference to eternal decrees and the fate of individuals Paul describes the corporate roles of Israel and the Goyim in Salvation History. In the mid 19th century, Beck and Von Hofmann define the heilsgeschichtlich interpretation of 9-11. Though serious modification has taken place in the works of Munck and Kaesemann, they reaffirm the insights of Salvation History (see Munck, Christ and Israel; Kaesemann’s Romans) .


3.       Israel’s Unbelief--the question is how the Church as the new people of God relates to Israel as the old people of God. Romans 9-11 becomes Paul’s normative explanation of why the Jews remain in unbelief (see L. Goppelt, “Israel and the Church in Today’s Discussion and in Paul” Lutheran World 10 (Oct. 1963): 352-72) . The Church and Israel stand in discontinuity concerning faith in Jesus Christ the Messiah, yet on the other hand, in continuity concerning the promise/election/covenant as the People of God. This hermeneutical perspective has generated a vast literature in response to the Nazi holocaust (“The Jewish Question”) resurgent Zionism (State of Israel-1948), and convocations at WCC Evanston-1954, the Berlin Kirchentag (1961), Vatican II, and Lausanne 1974.  (See esp. Luz, Ceschichtsverstandnis p. 23; and E. Gaugler, Per Roroerbrief  I - I (Zurich, 1952), esp. 2


4.  Cod’s Faithfulness --the question is how the Gospel, having been rejected by the Jews, upholds the faithfulness of God to His Promise (see my Foundational Theology and Man ‘s Faith and God’s Faithfulness). The fact of Jewish unbelief occasions a question, not about Israel’s fate, but about God (cf. Barrett, Romans, p. 180). Regardless of Israel’s faithlessness, God’s promise still retains its force (0. Michel, Per Brief au die Romer, 1966), pp. 221-22); compare with Cranfield).


III. Faithfulness to The Promise: Hermeneutical Paradigms in Conflict:


Without denying the importance of the first three themes, the fourth one carries the greatest amount of exegetical weight in 9-11, “But it is not as though the word of God has failed” (9.6a).  Paul also disclaims that Israel’s lapse of faith modifies the purpose of God (9:1-5; cf. Jewish opposition to Paul’s Gospel) Is the Promise to Israel revoked? Does Israel’s unbelief nullify the Covenant faithfulness of God? -Does Jewish unbelief signify a failure of God’s word? This question is the “crucial question”, the one that structures the problem developed in all three chapters.


1.       From this perspective the hermeneutical viewpoint of  9-11 is the ‘Reconciliation’ of the Gospel laid down in chapters 1-8 to a pressing difficulty arising from Jewish unbelief (see English commentary tradition, Houle, Denney, Sanday and Headlam, Bruce, Barrett, et. al.).


2.       The key concept in 9-11 is God’s mercy, which again focuses on the question of Divine Faithfulness to The Promise. The noun eleos (mercy) and cognate verb eleein (to show mercy) occurs eight times in 9-11 and elsewhere in Romans only twice (compare TDNT/ DNTT articles). “It is striking that Paul speaks of God’s eleos only in the passages in Romans 9; 11; 15 which are concerned with the history of salvation” (Bultmann, TDNT, p. 181; see eleein 9.15,6,18; 11.30-32; 12.8 and eleos 9.23; 11.31; 15.9 where divine mercy is parallel to 9-11; N. Glueck’s Hesed, 1967 where eleos/charis and Hesed as translated “steadfast love/covenant” see my forthcoming Grace In An Achievement Culture on these Lexical Domains).


IV. Four Hermeneutical Paradigms and Exegesis: Exegesis and Systematic Theology

            (Keep in mind the four interpretative schema mentioned above)


1.     Paul’s fundamental thesis - 9.6a


2.     God’s consistent activity - 9-11


3.     Not all biological/national descendants of Abraham are spiritual heirs of Promise - 9.8.


4.    God’s purpose - based on Election - 9.11 as theological foundation of entire - argument (Michel, p. 235; Barrett, p.182; Kaesemann, pp. 251-52 - see Cranfield; and J. Dupont, “Le probleme de la structure litteraire de 1’epitre aux Remains,” Revue Biblique 62 (July 1955): esp. p. 383, n.3). For divergence on 9.6a - Dupont claims 9.1 provides central Question.


5.     Three Successive Rebuttals to Objections:


          a.     Is God unjust? 9.11

          b.     Freedom of God’s mercy apart from human merit - 9-11-23

          c.     Revealed goal of God’s electing purpose - 9 .2’!-29

          d.     Second objection - ‘What shall we say?’9-30

          e.     Why has Israel failed to attain righteousness of God? 9-32-33 adduces the Christological

                    aspect of God’s purpose, which is developed in 10.1-21 as righteousness to all who believe

                   in Christ.

          f.      The Guilt of Israel is sealed by its defiant; of God’s love (Corley, “Significance of Romans

                   9-11,” pp. 166-82)

          g.     Argument reverts to the Divine Perspective “Has God rejected his people?” -11.1.  The

                  answer is clear. The election of God has not displaced Israel. Its rejection is partial, 11.1-10, and temporary, 11.11-27. Chapter 11 represents a transition from the theme of chapter 10 and a renewal of theme in chapter 9 (Munck, Christ and Israel , pp. 105-6; Note, 11.1 returns to theme in 9.6-29; 9-30 - 10.21)

                   1.    God has not revoked- His promise - 9-6-29

                   2.    Israel has not believed the Gospel - 9-30-10.21

                   3.    God has not rejected His people - 11.1-32


V.  Crucial Theological Themes:


1.     Hardening of Israel (11.7 - apo raerous)

          a.     adverbially - “harden to some extent”

          b.     adjectively - “part of Israel hardened”

          c.     Aorist Subjunctive (archris ou eiselthe) “until the time which” The condition will remain

                   until a crucial event in Salvation History; “until the full number of the Gentiles come in.”

          d.     Fullness of The Gentiles (“entering the Kingdom of God”) The phrase fullness of the

                  Gentiles means the full complement of converts from the Gentile world  (11.12 - pleroma - TOUT VI,  pp. 299, 305; Sanday/Headlam, Romans,  p. 335. The Gospel will remove result of the Gospel strategy already at work in 11.11-15, the veil of spiritual blindness.  Note the significance for Global Christianity and World Christians.

          e.     ‘Salvation of All Israel’ (Kai houtos - “and so” 11.26a). The adverbial particle ‘houtos’ is

                   the syntactical key because it governs the primary force of the clause “all Israel shall be

                   saved.” Three possible grammatical requirements:

                   1.    above

                   2.    houtos - kathos -  ‘so - as’  would predicate the salvation of  Israel upon the event

                             described in the scriptural quotation 11.26b-27

                   3.    The temporal view understands houtos in the sense “when that has happened” (NEB),

                              making the fullness of the Gentiles a chronological and necessary prerequisite  to Israel’s salvation. Temporal houtos is a well-attested classical idiom (H. S. Jones, Lexicon: A Supplement (Oxford,  1968)  p. 112;  P.  Stuhlmacher’s criticism of the  temporal  view should-be reappraised in light of this evidence (“Zur Interpretation von  Romer VI. 25-32”- in Probleme biblischer theologie, G. von Had zuni 70 Geburtstag,  ed.  H. W. Wolff, Munich, 1971,  p. 559.  The temporal view is held by Michel,   Romer, pp. 280-81; Bruce, Romans,  p. 222; compare with Acts 17.33; 20.11).

                   4.    ...Pas “Every Jew” - “All Israel”

                             a.     Numerical pas

                             b.     Restrictive pas - “The sum total of elect Jews who believe Christ during the Gospel


                             c.     Israel of God (Gal  6.16)

                             d.     The “remnant” will be saved

                   5.    Redeemer from Zion: Isa 59.20,21; 27.9; I Thess 1.10; Gal 4.26; Rom 11.26,27. The

                            Deliverer’s saving work extends from the Incarnation to the parousia - I Thess  1.10.

                   6.    We are constrained  to exclude all  post-historical thinking, particularly millennialism

from chps 9-11 because an imminent expectation, an eschatological “now” (nun 11.3 pervades   the entire formulation (Munck, p. 124; Baur, Lexicon, ‘nun’). “It  cannot be stated with precision whether this episode culminates in the parousia or merely precedes it in time; however, the time period for the fulfillment of the prophecy has its modus operandi in Gospel proclamation  (preaching) and its terminus ad quern at  the return of Christ.” (see Corley’s excellent thesis)

                             a.     Life from the dead - 11.15,

                             b.     All Israel -  11.26

                             c.     Each infers a revolutionary turnabout: Is it “the last act of salvation history? The

parousia (Kaesemaann) or the resurrection (Sanday/Headlam, Lagrange, Calvin, Moule,  Murray,  Michel, Barrett), or is it spiritual renewal and worldwide revival  preceding the  parousia? Of necessity, the event lies at  the boundary of history (Ridderbos, Paul,  p. 359).


VI. Israel as a Hermeneutical Crux in The Interpretation of Prophecy:

[W. A. Van Gemeren, “Israel as Hermeneutical Crux” - I/II WTJ, 15 (1983):132-33; ...; Moises Silva, Has The Church Misread The Bible? (Zondervan, 1987); Poythress, Vern. Understanding Dispensationalists (Zondervan, 1987); also Science and Hermencutics (Zondervan, 1988) applies to T. Kuhn’s Theory of Paradigm to the history of conflicting hermeneutical systems); E. D. Radmaacher, “Current Status of Dispensationalism and Its Eschatology”, in Perspectives of Evangelical Theology, Kantzer and Gundry editors (Baker,1 1979), pp.163-76; and” esp. S. E. Fish, Is There a Text in This Class? (Cambridge: Harvard University Press) 1980, pp. 268-92 (It discusses the role of World View and Interpretative standards in the determination of meaning)].

The existence of the State of Israel as well as its prominence in the Middle East has provoked mixed reaction from the Christian community. Some consider the re-emergence of Israel and its subsequent life in the Middle East only as a political issue.  However, for the Christian community, Israel is also a theological issue. The theological issues are several: (1) Who are the Jews? (2) What is the relationship of Church and Synagogue? (3)  Does the existence of the State of Israel mark the return of our Lord?


VII.  Contextualization of Hermeneutical Alternatives:



The classical reformers crystallized their views of the Old Testament by a two-fold confrontation with the Roman Catholic Church and the Anabaptists.  First, in the confrontation with RCC Calvin thought that the relationship of the OT and NT is one of shadow and reality, promise and fulfillment. The OT system of law, as it relates to Israel as a nation, and its ceremonial regulations have been abrogated since the coming of Christ. Hence, the reformers emphasized “completion” and “fulfillment.” The Reformation witnessed a radical break from the OT.  The Lutherans juxtaposed law and Gospel. The Anabaptists were even more extreme in that they had little use for the OT. They judged it inferior to the Gospel. Calvin’s doctrine of the ‘Unity’ of the covenant is the result of a distinctive hermeneutic (J. Calvin, Institutes, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, Westminster, 1960):2.9-11; 3.Iff; Hans H. Wolf, Die Einhert des Bundes. Das Verhaltnis von Altem und Heuem Testament bei Calvin (Neukirken, 1958). 


Classical systematic theologians emphasized the static approach to the unity of the covenant.  Reasoning that since God is unchangeable, His actions in Old and New were expressions of His eternal decree. The differences are merely temporal.  The practical outcome of this hermeneutical stance was a theologically oriented preaching in which a text of the OT could equally well teach what is found in the N.T.  Therefore theology obscured the historical and epochal differences.  Reformed theology has polarized because eternity and history have not been held in tension. The tension between the ‘static’ and ‘dynamic’ is best illustrated in Calvin’s attempt to relate the OT/NT as law and Gospel.  The results derived largely from polemics rather than exegesis (for impact on Puritans see, Puritans, The Millennium and The Future of Israel:  Puritan Eschatology 1600-1660, edited by Peter Toon (Cambridge: James Clark, 1970, esp. pp. 137-53).


Although Calvin assumed no systematic stance with regard to the future of the Jews, his theological and hermeneutical position, emphasizing the unity of the covenant, lays a foundation for the resultant appreciation of the OT. (cf. R. H. Healey, “The Jews in Seventeenth Century Protestant Thought” CH 16 O977):esp. p. 76). Both the larger catechism and the directory connect the fullness of the Gentiles to the conversion of the Jews and agree that these events precede the second coming of Christ. (cf. E. D. Morris, Theology of The Westminster Symbols  (Columbus: The Champlin  Press, 1900); Charles Holge, Systematic Theology (Grand  Rapids:     Eerdmans, 3.805-12);  James. P. Martin, The Last Judgment in Protestant Theology from Orthodox to Ritschl  (Eerdmans, 1963); and Eerkouwer,  The Return of Christ (Eerdmans,   1972).


Ultimately, the  fixation of systematic positions and schools of thought, e.g. ‘historical pre-millennialism’, ‘dispensational premillennialism’, ‘amillennialism’, and  ‘postmillennialism’   discourage open discussion on the future of Israel, the restoration of the Jewish people in  their land, and the glorious kingdom composed of  Jews and Gentiles. The writings of  Patrick Fairbairn  (1805-1874)  give us a glimpse of the tensions which had arisen in prophetic interpretation during the middle of the 19th century (cf. The Interpretation of Prophecy,  Banner of Truth reprint, 1964; and Typology of  Scripture, 1900, often reprinted; compare Froora’s four volume The  Fathers on  Prophecy  (Seventh Day Adventist work;  alsp compare with the latter works of Vos, Bavinck, and Allis).


The  rise  of amillennialism has been related  to the fall of postmillennialism during the  beginning of  the twentieth century and especially after World War I (see Contemporary Options  in Eschatology (Baker, 1977); Murray’s commentary on Romans (esp. 9-11) which favors  postmillennialism; Henry E. Walter,  The Restoration of Israel  (2nd ed. Worthing: H. E. Walte,  and J. Barton Payne,  Encyclopedia of Biblical  Prophecy, 1971 (NY: Harper, 1973).


The  Reformed exegete approaches the prophets from the perspective of the unity of the covenant. Although God has entered into several administrations of grace (Abrahamic, Mosaic,  Davidic, Jeremiah: New Covenant), there is but one covenant of Grace (cf. Calvin, Institutes.  2.9-11; P. H. Verhoef, “The  Relationship Between  the Old and  New Testament”  New  Perspectives on The Old Testament  (ed. J.B. Payne (Waco, Texas:Word,1970), pp. 280-303; 0.   Palmer Robertson,  The Christ of The Covenants (Baker, 1980); also his The Covenants of Promise; Paul Helm, “Calvin and The Covenant: Unity and Continuity,” Evangelical Quarterly 55 (1983): 65-8l; P. Richardson, Israel in The Apostolic Church (Cambridge: University  Press,   1969); my People of God: Israel, Church, Kingdom , and World - on reserve in library). The  NT  witness is united in its affirmation that (1) Jesus is the  Messiah, (2) The Messiah had to suffer,   (3) Universal proclamation follows from the crucifixion and resurrection of the Messiah, and (4)   Jesus is the focus of The Promises contained in the OT, as the legitimate heir of all promises (II  Cor 1.19; Hebrews, Galatians, and Romans).


There are two basic reasons why the NT says so little about  the restoration of  the Jewish people:  (1) NT  books written before 70 A.D.; (2) Apostolic concern is for the conversion of the  Jewish people (Jacob Neusner, First Century Judaism in Crisis (NY: Abingdon, 1975); Jas.   Parkes, Whose ...(Penguin Books, 1970);  L. Finkelstein (ed.) The  Jews;  M. Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism, 2  vols. (Fortress Press, 1971);  Safrai/Stern, eds., The Jewish People in The  First Century,  2  vols, (Fortress, 1974); 0. Betez,  “Israel  bei  Jesus und  in Neuen  Testament”   Abhandlungen zur Christlich in judischen  Dialog 3 (1970): 175-289, esp. 287-89; G. Alon, The  Jews and Their Land in the Talmudic Age, 70-640 CE  (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1980); W. Grytter, “Two Faiths - One Covenant”  The Reformed Journal 29 (Feb, 1979): 20-24. Reading  the New Testament in the light of the Old Testament should produce in Christians at least four  responses: (1) Joy in Christ  for salvation in Jesus; (2) Sorrow for Israel’s  present ‘Hardness of Heart’; (3) Hope in fulfillment of God’s prophetic Word; (4) Whoever comes to Jesus as Lord  and Savior will come on the same basis - both Jew and Gentile.