In arguably his the most famous and undisputed letter; Paul has made his point in Chapters 1 through 8. Now in Chapter 11, we reach the conclusion of his question: What of the Jews?
In Romans 11, Paul is concerned with a very difficult issue. God has made an eternal promise to the Jews that they would remain the nation of Israel. And yet, it would seem, he has rejected them and broken his promise. In such a case, how could any Christian trust God to keep his promise – to them?
Chapter 10 is basically Paul's argument for salvation by faith. This is one of the cornerstones of Protestant-Lutherian theology, that people are saved by their faith. One of the main reasons he insists this is that even tjough the torah is righteous, he insists that it is not possible to keep it. So what he does in Chapter 10 is cite a prooftext; Deuteronomy Chapter 30. But his quote is an exegetical crime scene because if you study Deuteronmy 30, it is literally teahcing the exact oipposte of what paul is trying to assert. Paul's message is that we are saved by faith alone and not by any works we could possibly do. And Paul says this is what Deuteronomy 30 means. But if you read Deuteronomy 30 you get several points such as, the extreme importance of actually keeping the torah, and two, that it is actually possible (and quite easy enough) to keep the torah. What Paul does is take the verse out of context to make it say something it does not say; he eviscerates the text where he quotes “it is near to your heart and your mouth”, and then he interjects that this refers to faith. But he does not quote the next part (of the same verses) which say “…that you may do it”. So it is clear that this is one of the most unfortunate takes on the bible that you cna find in Paul's writings.
Paul's main concern here is, how is it possible for God to habge abandoned Israel?
Paul is bothered by how Israel has rejected Jesus, and therefore from Paul's perspective they will be rejected by God because of that. They rejected Jesus, and therefore they themselves will be rejected.
Paul is bothered by this because If God promised Israel that he would have a covenant with them forever, then if he's going to set them aside, how can God ever be trusted, then, to keep his unconditional promises? If he didn't keep his unconditional promises to Israel, then why would the Christians feel confident that God would keep his promises to them?
Paul's answer is that this isn't a problem. His solution is that we have to understand, fundamentally, who *is* Israel really? And what Paul developed in previous chapters he repeats again in this chapter. The true Israel he states, is not what we understand them to be as a tribe, a people, or a culture.
Paul says instead that those who are really Israel are those who are faithful – and by this he means of course faithful to Jesus, the Messiah. Those who believe in Jesus. Paul says since there are people who are Israelites (like himself) that have accepted the Messiah, and there ar eplenty of gentiles who have accepted the messiah, paul says these gentiles and these jews are the true israel – the real Israel.
So the argument is, since there are some Israelites who have accepted Jesus, then you see, God has not abandoned Israel – because there are still some Jews (Israelites) who are a part of his people. As he says later in this chapter it is only those Jews who do not accept Jesus who are like dead branches that are cut off of a tree.
The problem with this argument is that it is a bait and switch tactic. The unspoken implication of Paul's argument is that God has repudiated virtually all of Israel! The idea that a small number of Jews in the 1st century that came to believe in Jesus, plus thousands and thousands of Gentiles, has become the true Israel is in fact a statement that God has abrogated his covenant to redeem the Jewish people through the Law because most Jews did not accept Jesus.
Aside: Many Christian commentaries take the view that these cutting-offs Paul mentions is temporary, to escape the idea that God has abrogated an eternal covenant. But the fact that this has been going on for 2,000 years and counting makes it hard to see how this is 'temporary'; it is in fact the entire history of Christianity and we do not see any indication of how this is going to change.
In fact, for literally all of Christian history, the Church has been comprised of 95-99.9% gentiles, and a very tiny number of Jews. For basically 2,000 years, until the modern Messianic/Hebrew Christian movement, basically no one from Israel was part of the Church.
So if what Paul has says is true, then God has pruned away literally all of Israel from the Christian movement; and would have then completely abrogated his promise to the descendants of Abraham, Issac and Jacob.
Paul says that as in the days of Elijah, God will keep a remnnant. However, where are these Jews?
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