What is the secret of Israel

Israel and us -
Trapped in the mystery of God

(Paul's chapters in Israel in Romans 9-11)

Andreas Schmidt

As one can see in Deutero-Isaiah: God's invitation to the heathen peoples is nothing specifically New Testament; it was pronounced long before Jesus. However, it only became effective through him, through a message and a historical constellation that opened the hearts of the Gentiles to the God of Israel. But very early on, those invited had forgotten that they were invited and acted like the gentlemen in the house. The former "enemies of God" contested the "property people of God" for their place.

In this situation Paul writes the Israel chapter of his letter to the Romert, not as an apologist of pagan "lawlessness" (as often claimed), but as an apologist for Israel. For a long time, many arguments of Christian arrogance were drawn from these chapters, many passages were read as polemics against Judaism, at best as an adaptation (up to the postulated point of falsification (!)) Of the Christ doctrine for Jewish ears. But the approaches of ideological criticism in exegesis of the 20th century have revealed how much is read into a text by an unreflective pre-understanding shaped by the anti-Judaist tradition: One confirms what one already knows. So it happened on the Christian side, who used Paul as the Christian alib-Jew, and also on the Jewish side, where he was the apostate, the apostate par excellence, far more than Jesus, who is now generally accepted as a Jew.

We are therefore trying to read Paul differently here: as the Jewish apostle of the peoples, who was led out of an oppressively narrow world of faith (which should not be confused with Judaism as a whole!) By the message of Christ and who with great concern the animosities between Jews and Christians observed. And so we come to completely new insights here1which could also shed some light on the discussion about Pauline anti-Judaism (although this should not, of course, be regarded as resolved). And here we find many new approaches that are only being considered in the theologies of Christian-Jewish understanding. Let's go on a journey of discovery to Paul the Jew:

a. Paul as the son of Israel

9 1 As one of Christ I speak the truth and do not lie, and my conscience testifies to it in the Holy Spirit:

2 My grief is great and my heart burns incessantly; 3 yes, I myself wished to be cursed and separated from Christ for the sake of my brothers who are related to me by descent.

4 They are Israelites, their sonship, HIS indwelling, the covenants belong to them; they have been given the Torah, worship, and promises; 5 they have the fathers and from them comes Christ, who is above all.

God be praised forever. Amen.

Paul opens his remarks about Israel, which appear in the letter structure of Romans as the climax of his argument - not because Israel is necessarily the central question of Christian existence, but because the questioning that the Christian message experiences through the Jewish No is the hardest and most painful is what happened to Paul in the first place - with a deeply personal expression of pain.

And that is exactly what Paul wants to understand in the introductory lines: Israel's no tears his heart apart - not because it is the "lost souls" of an evangelist, but because the message of Christ, the central event in his life, is him separates from his brothers, his people and fellow believers. He is a thoroughly Jewish evangelist, but his message is only echoed in the world of nations. He would give anything if only there was a chance that this could break the tension, including the most important thing in his life. Like very few in the Church for whom he prepared the way, he loves the Jewish people and every Jew in them. And he loves them not only as people, but precisely in their theological special position as Israel, as those to whom God first and above all promised that they are his children. They are the place where God gives His glorious presence, to whom He has made a covenant, to whom He has given the Torah and from which Jesus the Jew comes. Such hymns of praise may seem strange to some Christian ears, but Paul unreservedly ascribes these attributes to each of his brothers, especially those who cause him so much pain because of their refusal.

b. Election

6 But it is by no means the case that God's word has become obsolete. For not all who come from Israel are Israel,

7 yes, not all who are Abraham's offspring also make up his seed. but: "What shall be called your seed shall be in Isaac" (Gen 21.12)8 This means that it is not the birth children that are the children of God, but those to whom the promise refers are considered to be the seed. 9 Because that's a promise: "At the appointed time I will come and Sarah will have a son." (Gen 18:14)

10 But it was not only like this with her, but also with Rebekah: She became pregnant once with Isaac, our father. 11 And when [the children] were not yet born and had done neither good nor bad (so that God's plan may remain a matter of free choice regardless of what they did, depending only on God making the calling) 12 it was said to her: "The elder will serve the younger"; 13 as it also says: "I loved Jacob, but hated Esau." (Times 1,2-3)

The twist in verse 6 then appears all the more strange. What was still unreservedly valid, what just ended in praise to God, now leads to a cool differentiation between a definition of Israel based on descent and one based on election (which Christian theology "spiritual Israel "is used to call). Why is Paul caught up in obvious contradictions in such a small space? We have to take a closer look: Paul counters the second statement to an objection that he probably hears in his ears: he is the typical (pagan) Christian voice that sees Israel's No as a threat to the credibility of God's word. Paul flees from these objections in a statement, the content of which no longer plays a role in the following, whereas the first is taken up again in the statement about the uncancelled covenant.

But the thoughts that he then develops about election become really significant: he picks out two of the election stories of Genesis - that of the election of Isaac and Jacob. He thus emphasizes a structural feature of Genesis, where the coming of Israel is told as a story of the recurring breaking through of the principle of the firstborn through divine acts of election: God prefers Abel to Cain. The fratricide then lets the line continue through Set. Abraham's son Isaac is the son of promise, and not the firstborn Ishmael. Jacob realizes the divine destiny by sneaking into the blessing of the father, which prefers him to Esau. It is similar with Joseph (instead of Reuben) and Ephraim (instead of Manasseh). It is, however, a common misunderstanding that is based on a misunderstanding of the biblical language (Mal 1, 2–3): For when we speak of hate, it is only an exaggeration of "less loving". This is also not the case with the unselected, as if they were dealing with a human unselected: God protects Cain with a sign, HE saves Hagar with her Ishmael in the desert, Jacob only finds peace when he has reconciled himself with Esau, all of them Joseph's brothers belong to the Twelve Tribes and their injustice against Joseph is considered God's plan and will not be rewarded, and Manasseh too, like Ephraim, becomes one of the tribes of Israel.2

So what do we learn from this? The structural element of election is part of Israel's becoming, and it breaks through the natural prerogative of birth. But non-election is nothing more than a postponement.

c. Is God Unjust?

14 Does that mean that God is acting unjustly? Heaven forbid that!

15 Because HE said to Moses: "I have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I have pity on whom I have mercy." (Ex 33.19)16So it is not up to the willing or striving man, but to the pardoning God.

17 In the scriptures it is said to Pharaoh: "This is exactly what I have appointed you to do: that I show you my power and that my name may be proclaimed all over the world." (Ex 9.16)

18 So: HE pardons whoever HE wants to favor, and HE stubborns whom HE wants to stubborn.

With this certainty in his back, Paul can then also counter the reproach that a choosing God is an unjust God. We often imagine that God is a perfect person who makes no distinction and treats everyone absolutely equally. But that is precisely how Paul does not characterize the God in whom he believes. Paul characterizes him through a self-revelation of God: "I have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I have pity on whom I have mercy." If God could no longer choose, then he would no longer be God, just a wishful imagination, a human phantom. God's freedom is choosing that remains unaffected by human actions. But this also means in particular that it is not to be blamed for not being elected!

But Paul is not just about being chosen. His aim is to explain what Israel is all about. Here he brings up the concept of a stubborn stubbornness expressly effected by God, which not only plays a role in the Pharaoh passage, but also, for example, in Isaiah, when he is told that God will fat the ears of Israel so that they can receive the message of salvation not hear in the threats of calamity. But this obsession is not malice: salvation is decided and is kept in the disciples until Deutero-Isaiah can proclaim it. Stubbornness is not only God-made, it can also have an important purpose.3

d. God's freedom

19 Now you will object: How can God then still rebuke? Who has already resisted his will? "

20 Yes, who are you, oh man, that you want to argue with God? Does the creature say to its creator: "Why did you make me like this?"
21Or does the potter not have the power over the clay to make a vessel for what is clean and another for what is impure from the same lump?

22 And what if God, although He wanted to show his anger and show his power, endured the vessels of anger that are destined for destruction with great long-suffering? 23 And what if He did this to show the riches of His glory in the vessels of mercy that He has designated for glory?

The contradiction wells up against Paul: If we do not fall into fatalism with this kind of argumentation: It is all fate anyway, what should we do then? But Paul has no understanding for such a question: he rejects everything that could restrict God's freedom in the most harsh manner. The Creator can determine his creatures as he pleases. That does not negate man's responsibility. And in fact: Paul does not say that God everythingworks and everything is predetermined. In what small part of our daily lives does God's act of election interfere with our responsibilities? Freedom and responsibility are definitely possible and required, even if we may not know exactly whether we will have to answer for everything or just a little less.

Perhaps one can even go further: Nowhere is Paul closer to the dark side of God: if God works the good, feels it - not: thinks - Paul here, then he must also work the evil, which he endures with long-suffering anyway.

Many commentators believe that it is a matter of course that Paul, by contrasting the vessels of anger with the vessels of mercy, means the contrasting Israel and the Church, but we hear of the wrath of God against the godlessness of the Gentiles already at the beginning of the Romans , and we hear that he confirms the holiness of Israel, and especially of the rejecting Israel, and we can only wonder about such a simple ideological interpretation.

e. The calling of the Gentiles and a remnant from Israel

24 It is precisely for this that HE has called us not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles.

25 He also speaks to Hosea: “Those who were not my people I will call my people; she who was not loved I will call lovers; 26 and in the same place where they were told, 'You are not my people', there they will be called sons of the living God! " (Hos 2.25; 2.1)

27Isaiah exclaims about Israel: “Even if the number of people in Israel were as great as the number of grains of sand by the sea, only a remnant will be saved. 28Because HE will fulfill his word on earth with certainty and without delay. " (Isa 10: 22-23)
29 And at an earlier point: "If the Lord of the heavenly hosts had not left us an offspring, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah." (Isa 1,9)

Here we can already see that Paul is not concerned with looking at rejection, annihilation or the wrath of God in any way. He is always concerned with election, calling and the mercy of God. And that is why Paul must now consequently explain how it is in this thought scheme of God's act of election to the calling of the Heathen has come. Because for Paul - in contrast to Christian thought - the election of Israel is self-evident, the election from the Gentiles, on the other hand, requires explanation.

And here we come across a peculiarity of Paul, which will be of importance in the following paragraphs of Paul: Paul uses the Hosea passage to say: thus the Gentiles were called like a non-people, as reviled and reviled by God declared to be sons of God. Certainly Paul also knows that the Hosea passage related to Israel, which was accepted again as sons of God after a period of apparent rejection, whereby it follows from the context that the acceptance was already in the name of the children (Jezreel - "whom God sows") before the rejection (Lo-ruchama - "You will not have mercy" and Lo-ammi - "Not my people") was decided and proclaimed - which certainly confirms and substantiates the irrevocability of the election of Israel. We recognize an interpretation that is contrary to context in such an approach, but that is a post-critical, post-Enlightenment view. We try to understand what is there in order to then transfer it to other facts. Paul, on the other hand, looks for linguistically expressed thought patterns and inserts them into new contexts, where this results in a completely different meaning. This leads to an important conclusion that is sorely missed by most interpreters: if we want to understand Paul's train of thought, we must not assume that Paul wants to prove something from Scripture, but rather we have to look for the linguistic thought patterns that Paul implanted in his argument - and ignore the linguistic rough edges that remain.

In a similar way to how Paul tries to explain the calling of the Gentiles, he also tries to make the phenomenon of Jewish Christianity understandable: with the idea of ​​the "remainder", which he draws from Isaiah's prophecy. According to Paul, Jewish Christianity is that part of Israel to which God has currently shifted the focus of his actions and from which he expects the impulses for the future. But Paul does not know that around two centuries later Jewish Christianity would be expelled from the church and die out (mind you: Jewish Christianity as a Jewish greatness in Christianity, non-assimilated Jews in Gentile Christianity).

f. To justice

30 So what should we say? This: that pagans, although they did not seek community justice, have received community justice - but community justice that comes from trust.

31 However, even though Israel followed a Torah that offered community righteousness, it did not achieve the Torah.

32 Why? Because they did not follow community justice as if it were based on trust, but as if it were based on the doing of the law. They stumbled on the stone that made people stumble 33As the Scriptures say: “Look, I am laying a stone in Zion that will stumble people, a rock that will make them fall. But whoever puts his trust in HIM will not be humiliated. " (Isa 28:16)

What does Paul have to reproach the naying Israel? As Christians, we have certainly been waiting for an answer to this question for a long time.Here he goes into it, and the reproach to Israel has to do with a concept that is central to Paul, which must first be considered more closely: righteousness (as it is mostly translated), better: community righteousness (as it is used in the following becomes). When Paul speaks of righteousness, it is easy to see that this has little to do with judicial-neutral weighing or incorruptibility. In this he is entirely a Jew: with God, it is not about an abstract principle, an immovable, an incorruptible, but rather an acting counterpart who enters into a relationship with the human being. It is therefore fair to assume that Paul only uses the Greek word for righteousness to express the Hebrew concept behind it. This is based on the basic requirement of a federal government (therefore could the Gentiles do not strive for community righteousness) and thinks that one partner gives the other partner what is due to him in this covenant.

So what does Paul say about community righteousness? 1. It has been given to the Gentiles; God has received it into a covenant. 2. Israel strove to give God community righteousness, to give him what was due to him. 3. The Torah as a covenant book offers community justice. 4. But Israel did not reach the Torah (even if earlier biblical texts read here that Israel did not achieve community righteousness, we have to endure the asymmetry of this argument and make sense of it). That is not yet the reproach to Israel that they did not get to the core of the Torah, the reproach only follows in verse 32: it is not because the Jews wanted to bypass God that they did not reach the Torah, but rather because they saw God's community righteousness as a merit that can be earned through achievement. So Paul denounces Israel nothing less than the phenomenon that all book religions know (Christianity, Judaism, Islam): legalism. If faith no longer represents trust in a relationship, but achievement, then God's communal righteousness is misunderstood.

G. Getting out of the tightness

101 Brothers, I wish with all my heart and pray to God that they will be led out of the tight spot, 2 for I can testify that they are jealous for God, but without really understanding.

3 And since they did not understand the righteousness of God in community and thus tried to establish their own [conception], they did not submit to the righteousness of God in community.

4For Christ embodies the summary of what the Torah aims at, and whoever trusts in him receives community righteousness.

Paul now prays precisely that Israel will find its way out of this spiritual situation, just as we should also pray for those today who no longer find a place for the living God in the confines of their own (Christian) religious edifice. It does not make sense here to translate that Paul is praying for the "salvation" of Israel when in chapter 11 he reports on the salvation of Israel with rare certainty and unconditionality. In fact, it is worthwhile to look again at the basic Hebrew meaning: "Salvation" means first of all "to lead out of a tight spot"4. For some this meaning may be too weak, but we should also realize how fundamental the state of tightness is for unfreedom, for being unredeemed: it is not without reason that the word "angst" comes from "narrow" in German.

Paul accuses his contemporary Judaism (and certainly not all Judaism, past and future) of a narrowness of the world of faith, which does not allow them to see that God's communal righteousness the same ways that it has gone and goes with Israel, now also with those who are called goes out of the heathen. Instead, they persist in their basic legal attitude and thus fail the will of God. And as verse 4 shows, Paul clearly understands what may have led to this basic legal attitude, which now also stands in the way of the acceptance of the heathen peoples in the community of God: the civil war against Hellenism was only won by adhering to the Torah, and now the message of Christ is merged with a message of freedom from the law (which, of course, should only concern the Gentiles). How should one not be suspicious as a devout Jew? But Paul - he can only say this as a Jew - assures: the Christ message is not something completely different from the Torah and also not a dilution of it, but the summary. It is to the great merit of Karl Barth that he pointed out at this point that the Greek telos here it is not just the common "end" of the law, and not simply the theologically inflated "fulfillment", but much more: the summary, the general, the principle, the totality, the sum. But of course these aspects of meaning can only be seen if one no longer assumes a priori a divergence between the Torah and the Christ message.

H. "Articulated unity": righteousness of the Torah and Christ

Deuteronomy says of the community righteousness imparted by the Torah:
"The person who does these things will live through them." (Lev 18,5)

6 And the community righteousness that instills trust says:
"Do not speak in your heart:
Who wants to go up to heaven? "
- that is: to bring down Christ -

7 or:
"Who wants to go down into the depths?"
- that is: to bring Christ up from the dead -

8 but:
"The word is close to you, in your mouth and in your heart."
And that's the word of trust that we speak of

9 that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and trust in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be led out of the narrowness.

10 For with the heart one trusts and thus participates in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses and is thus released. 11 Just as the Scriptures say: "Anyone who trusts in him will not be put to shame."

This Christian "Midrash" on the classic Torah passage in Deuteronomy 30: 11-14, which is the original (according to Buber-Rosenzweig), shows that Paul's aim is not to show that the Torah and Christ beliefs are incompatible :

Because this commandment that I command you this day
It is not removed from you, it is not far away.
It is not in heaven that you say:
Who goes to heaven for us and fetches us
and does it give us to hear that we are doing it?
It is not above the sea that you say:
Who will drive us across the sea and get us?
and does it give us to hear that we are doing it?
No, the word is very close to you
in your mouth and in your heart
to do it.

As we have already seen before, we must not approach Pauline quotations from the Scriptures with our analytical mind, which wants to understand the individual components, but must see synthetically the structure that Paul formed from the individual components. Anyone who approaches this analytically here can only recognize font falsification or the grossest polemics. No: the object of our contemplation is what Paul is creating here. And it is in the truest sense of the word an interweaving of faith in Christ and faith in the Torah. As in an elaborate poem, as in a fictional exchange speech, he lets the Deuteronomy passage talk to the faith in Christ and thus explains to the Gentiles (i.e. us! - the explanatory insertions are addressed to Christians) that what the Jews mean when they refer to the Torah say, could actually be called Christ in another language. For Paul recognizes here what generations of Christian theologians have missed, namely that a Torah belief that has degenerated into legality is not in the sense of the Torah and that the message of trust and inner instead of outer piety is not a Christian but a deeply Jewish message. Just as it is easy for the Gentiles to profess Christ, so the life according to the Torah is nothing impossible: "No, the word is very close to you". The positive judgments about, which are found between all the criticism of legality, reach their climax here.

Another observation is worth mentioning: if we look closely, Paul consistently suppressed all formulations about action in his quotes and instead read in confession and proclamation. But this must not be misunderstood to mean that action does not play a role with Paul: that it does that, he shows in other places abundantly. But in this situation Paul knows with whom he is talking: he knows that he is speaking into a situation that is already polarizing into works or trust, doing or faith. And in order not to generate controversy, he ignores what does not belong in his argument, but is in the text - legitimate in Paul's time, suspicious today.

i. Jews and Gentiles united (?)

12 Because there is no difference between Jew and Greek, because he is the master of all who call on him: 13 "For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Joel 3.5)

So salvation is the same for Israel, only that part of them is hardened.

And Paul doesn't stop there yet. Before he descends into harsh reality, he climbs once more into utopia: a world in which there is no difference between Gentiles (Christians) and Jews, because they believe in the same God and only that makes the difference. Here he is probably closer to rabbinic theology than to Christian theology, which has expanded this idea even further into the concept of the Noachidic Torah, where a believing Jew is just as entitled to the world to come as a pagan who only has a minimal ethic (namely, Noah given). So now Paul can say the same thing from a Christian perspective: salvation is for Israel, even the temporary hardening of a part does not change that.

j. Failure of the mission to the Jews

14 How are you going to call the one you didn't trust?
How will you trust the one you haven't heard from?
How will they hear without a preacher?
15 How will they preach when they are not sent?
as it is said: "How lovely are the feet of those
who preach the message of peace,
who proclaim the good news of liberation " (Isa 52,7)

16 But not everyone listened to the gospel
just as Isaiah says, "Lord, who trusted our preaching?" (Isa 53,1)
17 So trust comes from the preaching, the preaching through the word of God.

18 But I say: Didn't you hear? Very well.
“Their sound has gone out to the whole earth
and their speech on the boundaries of the world. " (Ps 19,5)

19 But I say: Has Israel not recognized it?
"I want to make you jealous of a non-people,
I will embitter you over a disgraceful tribe. " (Dt 32.21)

20 And Isaiah dares to speak:
“I was found by those who did not look for me
I became apparent to those who did not ask about me. " (Isa 65,1)

21 And of Israel he said:
“I've held out my hands all day
to a disobedient and contradicting people. " (Isa 65,2)

On the way to reality, Paul now addresses a phenomenon that has always preoccupied Christianity and Christian mission in the most intense way: it is about the blatant failure of mission to the Jews in all its forms5. But Paul does not go the way of mission here: he does not argue that one has not preached enough, one has to intensify efforts or the like, one could almost think that he has come to terms with it. He soberly states that everything has been done: it is not because they did not get the message of Christ preached. Paul does not understand it, but he suspects it: the failure of the mission to the Jews is willed by God, it must be. It must be that Israel is put back in the second row. God has hardened, so He wants the consequences of hardening too. Here Paul struggles with strange thought patterns for the inevitable consequence of what he has said up to now.

k. But that does not mean the rejection

111 So now I ask: "Has God rejected his people?" - Heaven forbid that!
2 For I myself am a son of Israel, from the seed of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin: 3 God did not cast out his people whom he once chose.

Or do you not know what the scriptures say about Elijah? He stands before God against Israel: "Lord, they have killed your prophets and destroyed your altars, and I am the only one who is left, and now they are trying to kill me too." (1 Kings 19:10, 14)
4 But what does God reply to him? "I will leave seven thousand men for me who have not bowed their knees to Baal."

5 It is similar in the present: there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 (And if it happens through grace, then it does not happen because of achievements, because otherwise grace would no longer be grace).

7 It follows from this that Israel did not achieve what it sought, but the elect did; the rest were hardened: 8 "God has given them a mind of numbness, eyes that cannot see and ears that cannot hear, to this day." (Isa 29:10). 9 And David said, “May their table become a snare and a trap for them, a trap and a punishment. 10 May their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and their backs bowed at all times. " (Ps 69: 23-24)

And again there is that pagan voice in his ear that says: "If God has closed his people to the Christ message, then they must be rejected!" If Paul only knew how widespread this view is today, two millennia later. It can only be described as pagan myopia, a narrowness in faith that is in no way inferior to the narrowness of the Jews of that time. One does not trust God that there can be other ways than the one we go with him, one does not trust him that community justice can also be shown in completely different ways. But Paul does not know this narrowness, he can say unconditionally and unequivocally: "God has not cast off his people".

How can he say that? By showing that God is a merciful God, a God who does not follow human emotions, who does not increase Elijah's anger over a tangible Jewish misconduct into the divine, but rather softens it: he wants to continue with this people. And what at that time meant annihilation for the rest of them is now only stubbornness, not rejection. The punch line is not so much the rest to which none of this applies, but rather the disparity between human ruthlessness and divine mercy. Even between the last two quotations, one in Isaiah, the context of which we have already discussed above - the salvation to be constricted in apprentices - and the other in David. While in Isaiah the divine stubbornness is only a closing of ears and eyes, in the human desire for stubbornness it becomes a painful anger that longs for vengeance. Not that these human feelings are illegitimate - that is how man is, he cannot accept every pain unimpressed and always be merciful - but we must not ascribe these feelings to God. God is not the extended arm of man.

l. But that doesn't mean waste

11 And now I ask: "Have you stumbled so that they fall?" Heaven forbid that too!

On the contrary: through their stumbling, redemption came to the heathen peoples in order to make them jealous themselves. 12 And besides: if you stumble the world already riches, if the diminution [of its importance] already brings wealth to the Gentiles, how many greater riches will Israel bring in its abundance.

13 I say this to you heathen: As I myself am a messenger for the heathen, I hereby tell you how important my work is, 14 so that I might make some of my people jealous and lead some out of the narrowness. 15 For if your no [to the Jesus message] brought reconciliation to the world of nations, what will happen if they accept it? - The raising of the dead!

But even with this the pagan suspicion of Israel does not die down: it may well be that God did not reject them, he endures even the most godless people with long-suffering and good-naturedness. But isn't Israel down, humiliated and meaningless?

Here, too, such thinking finds Paul's most decided contradiction. Israel may stumble and thus temporarily lose its orientation and steadfastness, but Israel does not fall into insignificance.

The stumbling of Israel is tied into a much more complex web of meaning: while the center of God's event temporarily shifted away from Israel, the place in the community of God was created for the Gentiles: Israel temporarily lost its importance there because it was not at the top has been of himself, wealth has come to the nations of the heathen. So every pagan condemnation of Israel's stumbling is sawing off the branch on which the pagans are sitting.

But this "diminution of meaning" has another reciprocal effect: the acceptance of the Gentiles into the community of God is supposed to stimulate Israel to jealousy, Paul in fact understands his mission to the nations as stimulating Israel to become jealous. We only know jealousy in its negative effects: as a particularly aggressive form of envy. But Paul cannot mean that: who wants to provoke the envy of another? But jealousy can also incite jealousy: the pagan non-peoples should be a challenge for Israel that leads Israel out of the narrowness of its own legalism (and in fact it brings about the confrontation of its own beliefs with the other, whom God also loves and with God also has a way to go, also in our circles and in our times a healing widening of the horizon).

But why does Paul see the real importance of his mission in this (and not in winning pagan "souls")? Because he hopes for the coming. And according to widespread Jewish belief, the coming of the Messiah depends on whether we have prepared the earth for God for his entry, whether we also bring the crown to him.

To some ears this way of thinking, which we ascribe to Paul, may sound a little too Jewish and too unchristian. But we seem to forget that early Christianity did not proclaim Jesus as the Messiah who had come, but as the Messiah to come (which the Greek Parousia means arrival). "Believing in Jesus" thus meant: "I believe that Jesus will be the one to come". The fact that this distinction was not always made as cleanly in practice as we are doing here is due to the fact that one was convinced of the imminent arrival of the Messiah and did not consider a delay of almost two millennia: what does it matter for the present Generation because for a difference whether Jesus will be the Messiah or has been or is present.

For us today it makes a difference. Because if Judaism says: redemption is still pending, we have to agree with it. Yes, the world is unsaved. So Jesus cannot have been the Messiah. But both of our (Jewish and Christian) faith is inspired by the certainty: the Messiah will come, redemption will come - with the difference that we are convinced that we already know him: Jesus of Nazareth.

From this point of view it is therefore completely absurd to want to convert Jews. Paul also gets there, because he connects the acceptance of Jesus by Israel with the general raising of the dead (we must not only understand this phrase as a rhetorical figure, but take it very literally), which is associated with the coming of the Messiah as an eschatological event becomes. But then it will no longer be a problem to recognize the Messiah because everything will obviously lie. And Jews can assure: "If the Messiah comes and then turns out to be Jesus of Nazareth, then I would say that I don't know any Jew in this world who would object." (Pinchas Lapide)

m. The parable of the olive tree

16 If the firstfruits of the dough are holy, the whole dough is holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

17 But if some of the branches have been broken off and you - a wild olive branch - have been grafted on and now partake of the roots and the sap of the olive tree, 18 then do not boast as if you are better than the branches! For when you boast, remember that it is not you who carry the root, but the root you.

19 Now you will say: "The branches were broken off so that I could be grafted on." 20 Yes, that's right, they were broken out for not trusting enough, but you only keep your place if you trust. So don't be haughty, on the contrary: be afraid! 21 Because if God did not spare the natural branches, he certainly will not spare you! 22 So now take a close look at God's goodness and his severity: Severity towards those who have fallen away, the goodness towards you provided that you remain in this goodness! Otherwise you too will be broken out. 23 Moreover, if the others do not persist in their lack of trust, they will be grafted on again; for God can graft it up again. 24 For if you have been cut out of something that is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted against nature on a noble olive tree, how many more that naturally belong to it will be grafted back onto their own olive tree!

We now come to the most famous passage in Paul's chapter in Israel: the parable of the olive tree. Before we consider its content, we should note two things: first, it is a parable, and parables should not be treated like allegories. One parable always has a point at which it wants to compare, the other is mere decoration and usually has no symbolic meaning. On the other hand, it is important to note who this parable is addressed to, i.e. what the purpose of the statement is. This parable is the third part in a chain of pagan objections that Paul addresses, so it must show defensive tendencies like the passages before it.

Paul's intention to make a statement is already clear in the first verses: it wants to warn the Gentile Christians against an arrogance that sees Judaism only as a negative film of one's own existence: do not boast! For insofar as the Gentiles are holy, they are only so because they are allowed to grow on the holy Jewish root. The Jewish root also carries pagan Christianity. And here, "root" again means, referring to the Hebrew, not only the "rhizome", but also the "trunk" or "root sprout", even the "strength that is necessary to produce a sapling"6. The Jewish root keeps us alive, gives us the strength to grow.

Paul transfers the argument that salvation came to the Gentiles only by diminishing the meaning, through the stumbling of Israel, to the parable: branches have been broken off in order to graft the heathen in. And already he hears the pagan misunderstanding, who see in this state of affairs a reason for feeling better: broken out = rejected. Instead of getting to the heart of the parable, this pagan objection is attached to something secondary, the core problem of which Paul will discuss later. Therefore Paul now admonishes more urgently: instead of being haughty, instead of rejoicing maliciously about the broken-off of the other branches, one should rather fear whether one will keep the place oneself. God can replant the natural branches of the olive tree at any time, God can restore Israel to its old meaning at any time, but will he also do the same with the wild branches that he has removed from the olive tree - "for lack of trust"? The punch line is: instead of pagan Christians worrying about the salvation of Israel and gaining a false superiority from it, they should rather worry about their own salvation. Yes, we still encounter this pattern of thought in our day: one ponders whether Jews "will go to heaven or hell", but at the same time forgets that God may have to control himself very much in order not to break out of these Christians.

In this parable, Paul is not concerned with the fate of Israel, but with the situation of the Gentiles, who owe everything to the Jews and have no reason to boast about them, even if God goes a different way with them. Paul is silent about how this path looks from inside or outside. That is decided for him in the great mystery of God with which he will close the Israel chapter.

n. End-time salvation

25 For brothers, I want you to understand this truth that God previously hid but has now revealed, so that you don't imagine you know more than you actually know. To a certain extent, hardening has come over Israel, until the world of nations dies in its full number. 26 And then all Israel will also be saved:

“The Redeemer will come from Zion; he will take away the wrong from Jacob, 27 and that will be my covenant with them ... when I take away their sins. " (Isa 59: 20-21; Isa 27: 9)

28 For the sake of you, they are enemies for the good of the good news, but for the sake of election they are beloved for the fathers' sake.

29 Because God's gifts and HIS choosing are irrevocable. 30 Just as you yourself disobeyed God before, but have now received mercy because of Israel's disobedience, 31 Israel, too, has now disobeyed, so that by showing him the same mercy that God showed you, it may now also receive the mercy of God. 32 For God has shut up all humanity in disobedience so that he may have mercy on all!

The arrogance of the Gentile Christians, which was already emerging at that time, is the only reason why Paul goes to the edge of the comprehensible in his argumentation. A part of Israel has become hardened, that is, God has closed their eyes and ears until the heathen world has been accepted into the community of God and the coming of the Messiah is thus prepared. And then all of Israel will be saved.7Here Paul exposes the haughty speculations about the salvation of Israel as hostile to God. With no ifs or buts, Israel will be saved, without any preconditions. This is precisely the privilege of a chosen people, God's property people, over the rest of the world. No other people of the world can claim this certainty of salvation for themselves. "For God's gifts and HIS election are irrevocable," the covenant has not been terminated.

And what are the Gentile Christians urged to do: to show mercy to Israel, just as God showed mercy to the Gentile peoples. The heathen peoples should see themselves as mediators of God's mercy to Israel. We should imitate God in our behavior towards Israel. And because we know that we do not have to proselytize the Jews, because we know that salvation will come to Israel, because we know that we live from the strength of our Jewish roots, because we know that the covenant and election of Israel are not terminated because we know that Israel's No is God-wrought and willed by God, and because we know that we actually believe in the same God in the same way - where our faith is not caught in a false narrow - only in different world-historical ways, can we, no, we must seek fellowship with Israel, just as God sought fellowship with us. We should imitate God: but that also means from our Christian understanding (which incidentally finds its equivalent in Jewish) that we do not meet Israel from above, but just as God met us in Jesus: from below. Some complacency, some pagan bad habit, some cherished arrogance will fall by the wayside, some narrowness will have to be overcome, but are there more important things? We must also learn, as Paul's last verse teaches us, not to measure by different standards. Usually the balance sheet in a comparison between Christianity and Judaism is such that we compare the highlights of Christianity with the failures of Judaism, but Paul says: we are both "locked in disobedience" and hope for the mercy of God. Neither is better than the other, and both depend on the God who unites them.

o. Of the mystery of God

33 O depth of the riches and the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unfathomable is his judgment, how inexplicable are his ways! 34 For “who has known the mind of the Lord? Who has been HIS counselor? " (Isa 40:13)35 Or "who gave HIM something to pay HIM back." (Job 41,3).

36 For out of HIM and through HIM and to HIM are all things. HIM be glory forever! Amen.

And this dependence on God is expressed in nothing more succinctly than in the mystery of God that emerges again and again: we do not know God's plan (even if some very zealous Christians think), we did not advise him, he owes us nothing. In the relationship between Judaism and Christianity, the mystery of God will always remain: we do not know exactly what God intends to do with Israel, and we must always reckon that God will mediate something to us through Israel, if we through Israel we salvation sent at all. Yes, we have to reckon with the mystery of God again, with the unfathomable, we have to learn again humility before this mystery of God, so that we can again recognize God in his greatness. And we have to learn that all our theological statements (including these!) Only receive their truth when they are verified by HIM:

For out of HIM and through HIM and to HIM are all things. HIM be glory forever! Amen.

The Israel Chapter of Paul

Paul confirms and confirms all statements about Israel's special position. He uncompromisingly adheres to the election of Israel and the uncancelled covenant. He declares Israel's current no with a stubborn stubbornness caused by God alone, which no mission can overcome, but which at no time questions the end-time salvation of Israel. In contemporary Judaism he sees a wrong development at work that challenges all (book) religions from time to time: the narrowness that does not want to recognize the new in the approach of the heathen world to Israel's God, although in Paul’s opinion the message of Christ is only a different expression represents the message of the (still valid!) Torah. He directs the urgent warning to the Gentile Christians, who were already becoming arrogant, not to feel better about Israel, since Israel is the origin and source of life of the Christian community. Instead of hostility to Israel, we should cultivate fellowship with Israel.


1) I owe many thoughts and arguments here to the excellent interpretation of the Romans by Friedrich-Wilhelm Marquardt in his book The Christian confession to Jesus the Jew, Vol. I, Munich 1989.
2) see the corresponding section in the above book by F.-W. Marquardt.
3) see Martin Buber, The faith of the prophets, Section The mystery
see F-W. Marquadt, op. Cit.
Anyone who points to individual "successes" (especially in recent times) should also mention the voluntary conversion of Christians to Judaism (which practically does not conduct any mission), which have existed at all times and which have sometimes assumed threatening proportions for church authorities (e.g. in the Frankish Empire in the 8th and 9th centuries).
6) see Franz Mußner, Treatise on the Jews
see Franz Mußner, Treatise on the Jews: The "so" in verse 26 should not be understood as an introduction to the Isaiah quotation.

© Andreas Schmidt 1996-97
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