This commentary was prepared for Kairos Publications in Buenos Aires. It was composed specifically for the Latin American church. In some cases I have retained the words “Latin America,” at other times I have substituted “the Americas.” The bibliography reflects what is available to the Spanish-speaking church. We will publish it a section at a time, and eventually as an entire pdf file. The reader will notice that its purpose is to explain and apply this wonderful epistle to the church of today. Blessings! Gary Shogren
To download the full commentary as a pdf, click here Shogren_Commentary on Romans
V. The Historical Problem of the New People of God and God’s Ancient People Israel (9:1-11:36)
A. The unbelief of Israel and the election of the Gentiles is in accordance with Scripture (9:1-10:4)
B. Israel can receive righteousness of Christ if only it believes (10:5-21)
C. Both the chosen Gentiles and the eschatological remnant of Israel will be saved (11:1-36)
V. The Historical Problem of the New People of God and God’s Ancient People Israel (9:1-11:36)
Romans 9-11 is a unit and must be read as such. Paul returns to the fellow Israelites about whom he spoke in chapters 2-3. Again there are frequent quotations of the Old Testament (see 3:10-18) and an “apostrophe” to address an imaginary opponent (compare 9:19-21 with 2:1-24). It is possible that in chapter 9 Paul is using previous material, perhaps a sermon he had used within a synagogue. Nevertheless, the whole section is well connected with the rest of the letter, especially God’s “call” to receive the gospel (see 1:5, 6, 7; 8:28-30). It is not something tacked on, interrupting the flow from chapters 8 to 12 with some random thoughts on salvation history.
Paul starts out in Romans 9, apparently in a black mood concerning Israel’s fate. Yet he finishes Romans 11 with joyful praise. Despite this surprising conclusion, “…one can hardly claim that Paul did not know at the outset how his discussion would end” (Käsemann, p. 257). The pivot of his argument lies in 10:1 – “my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” And his study of the Scripture plus a fresh revelation of a divine “mystery” intersect at the same conclusion, that one day, “all Israel will be saved” (11:26a).
The section offers solutions, but it is also necessary to reconstruct what were the questions that Paul was trying to solve. We propose the following:
- What is the relationship between God’s calling of the Christian (8:29-30) and his ancient call of Israel to be his chosen people (9:12; 11:29)?
- If the author of the gospel is the God of Israel, then why does only a small minority of Jews believe it?
- If the Jews fail to see Jesus Christ in the pages of their own Bible, then does that mean that the Old Testament is invalid for the Christian?
- Is this the end of Israel’s status as God’s ancient people?
His answers are:
- If even one single Israelite believes in the gospel, then God must still be calling Israelites to faith.
- The Old Testament Scriptures show that God’s chosen people Israel constantly rebelled and refused to believe.
- The same Scriptures, if properly interpreted, predicted this outbreak of unbelief among the Jews, the call of Gentiles to faith, and the ultimate bright future of Israel.
God will use the conversion of many Gentiles, in part through Paul’s mission, to provoke Israel to jealousy; in the end, all the survivors of the nation of Israel will be redeemed.
A. The unbelief of Israel and the election of the Gentiles is in accordance with Scripture (9:1-10:4)
In these chapters Paul uses “Israel” in three ways. First, Israel is the entire Jewish nation (9:3-5, 6), and on one level they still are God’s “people” (11:1-2). Second, there are those who have rejected Christ (11:7), who in effect are not true Israelites (9:6-7). Third, there is the more difficult reference to “all Israel” (11:26), which will be saved in the fullness of time.
In other passages Paul shows his willingness to suffer so that others will be saved and built up in Christ (see Col 1:24). Still, it is almost incredible that Paul would make such an enormous claim as he does now: he might even wish that he were cut off from Christ and forever damned (anathema, see 1 Cor 16:22) if only it could mean that the nation of Israel would receive the gospel. He is tormented by the knowledge that God’s ancient people not only reject Jesus but are hardened. This was despite all the privileges they have had from God (9:4-5a; compare 2:17-20; 3:1-2); in particular, they had received the promises of the Messiah. Their state is the heartbreak of, “They should have known better.”
In v. 5b Paul gives a blessing for all the benefits that Israel has enjoyed. They are descended from the “patriarchs”, and that genealogical “root” will play a central role in the olive tree allegory in 11:16-17. Even more, from the Jewish race came Jesus in his human nature.
Some versions render what comes next as praise to “Christ who is God”, for example: “the Messiah, who is God over all,” that is, that Jesus is God eternal (most English versions, but not CEV, GNB, NAB, NEB, REB). That Paul believed in Christ’s deity is no surprise, since he would apply verses that pertained to Yahweh to Jesus later in this section (see 10:13). The NIV footnote offers the alternate translation: “Messiah, who is over all. God be forever praised! Or Messiah. God who is over all be forever praised!” In the original, “Christ, who is God” is the more natural way to understand the grammar of v. 5b. Nevertheless, the context does not lead us to expect a statement about the divine nature of Christ, but a blessing of the God who gave all of these gifts to Israel.
The heading of the section is, “It is not as though God’s word had failed”. Paul now takes the reader on a long tour through key passages that Israelites should remember all too well: not only had the Scriptures predicted the coming of Christ, they had also foreseen his rejection by Israel and the reception of him by other nations.
His argument in this section is an echo of what he had taught (2:28-29), that physical descent from Israel means nothing if the individual does not have faith in Christ. Only the messianic Jew is a true Jew, and the rest are bound for death, and their vain observance of Torah only makes things worse (7:5, 7-12).
He starts with the patriarchs (see too v. 5). Abraham received God’s promise, but not all of his descendants did so: only Isaac and his descendants were the heirs of the promise (in v. 7 he quotes Gen 21:12; in v. 9, Gen 18:10), but not Ishmael or the other sons of Abraham by his second wife. This is the same type of logic that John the Baptist used in Matthew 3:9-10 – “And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” Traditionally, Israelites thought that unless they went apostate, they would be saved. But they should have known better, since in the Bible story, huge sections of the Israelite population rejected God, in every generation. In fact, many Jews in the first century had adopted pagan customs in order to fit into the broader culture.
The next patriarch is Isaac. His wife Rebecca had two sons, but only the younger Jacob/Israel was the child of promise. Significantly, Paul does not say that the good son was chosen by God and the bad son no – in the Bible story both Jacob and Esau have their dark side. Rather, God chose Jacob and rejected Esau before they were even born, before they had faith or unbelief, before they obeyed or disobeyed. In v. 11b Paul touches on themes from chapter 8 – if someone is part of God’s people it’s because of God’s choice and calling (see 8:28 – “who have been called according to his purpose.”). Genesis 25:23 (see v. 12) shows that God had already promised that Jacob would be the chosen one.
Paul is not speaking in this passage of, for example, a “call” to special ministry, but the call to be God’s people: “in Christ we, though many, form one body” (12:5). First, he quotes, not from Genesis, but from Malachi 1:2-3 – “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” As in other passages, Paul quotes from the Greek version of the Bible – the Septuagint – taking it as the authoritative word of God. The quotation would not have worked as a proof text if he had translated the Hebrew directly (see our comments on 16:22). “Paul may be combating a contemporary Jewish line of interpretation which (naturally) understood Mal[achi] 1:2-3 in the sense ‘God loved Jacob, but he hated Esau because of his deeds’ (Ps. Philo 32.5, emphasis added).” (Dunn, p. 2.544, quoting Pseudo-Philo, whose work is probably from the 1st century AD). Paul’s understanding of Malachi ran directly contrary to that of the synagogue, since for him it is an election purely of grace.
God’s hatred of Esau is a difficult concept to grasp; it must be defined in terms of his merciful choice of Israel. God loved (the Pauline term would be “foreknew”, 8:29) Israel, that is, he decided to select Israel as his people. He also decided not to love Esau’s descendants in that way. “If God’s love of Jacob consists in his choosing Jacob to be the ‘seed’ who would inherit the blessings promised to Abraham, then God’s hatred of Esau is best understood to refer to God’s decision not to bestow this privilege on Esau. It might best be translated as ‘reject.’” (Moo, p. 587). The Israelites of Paul’s day had to swallow the hard fact that if God now has chosen to save Gentile Christians from many nations, then that is his business. They should not reproach him for that any more than they would reproach him for loving Israel over Esau.
Paul takes us to another example of how God chose Israel, from Exodus 33:19. In the account where Moses saw the divine glory, God declares that “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” In v. 16 the choice of Israel depended on not “human desire or effort” on their part, but because of God’s plan: Paul has already shown (7:14-25) that apart from Christ, even monumental human effort will leave the Israelite a failure before the Torah.
Now Paul turns a corner, although to a modern Gentile reader it may not be obvious. Whereas Paul has already spoken about mercy being shown to Israel, he now uses the Pharaoh of the Exodus as a symbol of unbelieving Jews in Paul’s day. This is nothing short of a slap in the face to those who were appealing to God’s election of Israel for their salvation. Over the course of the well-known passage in which Pharaoh resists Moses and Aaron, it is repeatedly stated that he hardened his heart. But even that sinfulness served God’s purposes, since he wanted to use the king as a foil for his own mercy to Israel. Some have difficulty with v. 19, since it attributes the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart to God’s doing, not to the king’s decision to be stubborn. Paul is not interested in explaining how that can be, but in showing that God can and does make people resistant to his will. Only this interpretation can explain the rest of Romans 9-11, where it is said that God hardened Israel and that he would turn and soften them at the end of the age (11:26). This is not Fate, the false philosophy that states that humans cannot alter their actions; it is not Stoicism, which taught people to adopt a submissive attitude toward what the universe holds for them. Rather this is a relationship with a personal God who plans to show mercy to many people.
Our interpretation of the text so far is born out in v. 19, in which Paul enlists an imaginary opponent; this figure of speech is called “diatribe” or “apostrophe”. The fictional challenger objects that God should not blame anyone, if he is the one who hardened the human agent. Now, in other passages of the Scriptures, we read that punishment is due to the sin of the individual before God; where there is no human decision, there is no culpability before God. But here he simply appeals to God’s sovereignty: “Who are you, a human being, to talk back to God?” This response in vv. 19b-20 mirrors the book of Job, who had demanded an explanation from God for his trials. The message there is that God owes him nothing of the sort; and even if he did unpack the problem of suffering, Job would never be able to understand it. Paul uses an image that was commonly seen in city and village, the potter who shapes a pot on a wheel (see Isa 29:16). God may make one vessel for ordinary use (storage, kitchen utensils, water) and others for more exalted use (v. 21). In 2 Timothy the Christian must strive to be more useful to God by being cleansed (2:20-21); there the metaphor is different from Romans 9, where the two grades of vessel are those chosen for salvation and those not.
He refers to those who are now on their way to God’s wrath. Paul touches on a Scriptural truth (see Jonah 4:2): God does not punish the wicked immediately, nor does he reward the righteous all at once. Among the theologians of the Second Temple period, this principle was recast in order to favor the Jews, so that God would punish sinful Gentiles, but merely chastise sinful Israel: “…in order that he may not take vengeance on us afterward when our sins have reached their height. Therefore he never withdraws his mercy from us. Although he disciplines us with calamities, he does not forsake his own people” (2 Macc 6:15-16 NRSV). In the end, Israel would surely enter the glory of the age to come.
The gospel cannot permit this racial distinction. “…physical descent from Abraham not only does not guarantee inclusion in the true people of God; it is not even necessary” (Moo, p. 610). Jews and Gentiles apart from Christ will be lost (3:23); those whom God has called (8:29-30) will be shown mercy and in the end, glorified (8:30). Since this new paradigm was a shock for some Jews and Jewish Christians, Paul does here as he often does: he takes his imaginary opponent to view some well-known texts from the Jewish Scriptures (Hos 2:23/1:10; Isa 10:22-23; Isa 1:9; and later in v. 33, Isa 8:14/Isa 28:16).
Hosea 2:23 and 1:10 in their original context refer to the redemption and reunification of Judah and Israel. Once again, they become God’s people. But Paul wants to show that they equally apply to Gentile believers in Christ (vv. 25-26). And if someone wants to complain that Gentiles should not be God’s people, then the Hosea text reminds them that neither was Israel deserving of anything, until God showed them his mercy. What God can do to Israelites he can do for Gentiles who are led by the Spirit and are thus children of God (8:14).
According to Isaiah 10:22-23, only a small remnant of Israel will repent and be forgiven (vv. 27-28). This is parallel to Romans 9:6, where “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.” So the Bible shows, and Paul’s experience has born this out, that a respectable number of Gentiles will become God’s people, while most Jews will not. The point is strengthened in v. 29, where the quotation of Isaiah 1:9 shows that it is a miracle that any Israelites escape God’s fiery wrath.
Paul now extends the theme further. In language reminiscent of Romans 2, Gentiles may be saved through faith in Christ, which leads them to righteousness (see 1:17); but Jews who were aiming for Torah righteousness fail in their quest. They ran after “the law as the way of righteousness” (v. 31; see also 10:2, 4); a better translation might be “the Torah that defines God’s righteous demands.” But what value that quest, if its goal was not faith in Christ (vv. 32-33)?
Paul uses a messianic motif from Isaiah (see also Luke 20:17-18; 1 Pet 2:4-8; then too, 1 Cor 1:23). God lays a stone in Zion, and people should trust in it/him (see Isa 8:14; 28:16). The Jews used the word “stumbling” to mean a catastrophic spiritual failure. Not only did Israel reject the gospel; those who heard it found it positively offensive. If one encounters the stone in unbelief, it is a cause for disaster. But come in faith, and the stone is trustworthy and brings salvation. Paul started his epistle saying that he was not ashamed of the gospel. It was not a cause of dishonor or disgrace, because he had seen it at work among Jews and Gentiles (1:16; again in 10:12).
In 10:1, Paul returns to the theme of 9:1-5 – he is not anti-Semitic, nor anti-Israel. He wants all to be saved and he prays fervently to that end. We can compare this verse with the start of the section, where he wishes to be damned if it would do any good, and imagine the ferocity of Paul’s prayers. He even affirms the fire of Israel’s zeal for Torah righteousness (v. 2), but their zeal is misdirected because their knowledge is without faith – not faith as a general virtue, but faith specifically in the gospel (see Rom 2). Of course, the Torah was God’s revelation, but Israel believed that the law could make them righteous, whereas it was always powerless to do so (8:2; also 4:16; also Phil 3:6). Righteousness is always a gift of God, as Paul had shown from the life of Abraham and David (Rom 4), and Israel in its zeal had rejected that gift (see also the presence of zealous Jewish Christians in Acts 21:20; Gal 4:17-18; and from the century before Christ this statement from T. Asher 4.5b [Charlesworth] – “They live by zeal for the Lord, abstaining from what God hates and has forbidden through his commandments, staving off evil by the good.”)
By Christ’s intervention in history, the relationship of humanity to Torah is completely altered. V. 4a is not easy to interpret, given that the Greek telos (NIV “the culmination”) is capable of several shades of meaning. First, it might mean the “cessation” of Torah; or its “conclusion” or “goal” or “fulfillment”. The GNB makes it that “Christ has brought the law to an end”; but that only with great difficulty can be reconciled with Jesus’ statements (“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them,” Matt 5:17) or Paul’s own in this epistle (3:31 – “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law”). The Torah is eternal, but Paul’s point is that it doesn’t make people right with God (see Stott, pp. 281-282), but it does point people to Christ.
But not everyone is convinced that faith, not Torah, is the way to salvation. For example, the Código Real is a supposed “messianic” of the New Testament into Spanish, but it is a dangerous mixture of poor scholarship with tendentious theology. That explains its strange paraphrase of 10:4 and other texts: “because the purpose of the divine law is to take us to the Messiah for righteousness to everyone who believes obediently” (our translation; the Spanish states: “porque el propósito de la ley divina es llevarnos a Mashiaj para justicia de todo el que cree obedientemente”). But the word “obediently/obedientemente” is added to the original text; to simply “believe” would be an accurate and literal translation. While faith must produce the fruit of obedience, this does not mean that we are saved by that same obedience.
Practical Thought: The person of today must beware of the ways our culture dulls our gospel witness. The first to consider is rationalism, the idea that if a person possesses all the facts and takes the time to work through them, than he will certainly be able to come to the truth. The scientific method, for all the good it has accomplished, might give someone the idea that finding the truth about God is as logical as adding 2 + 2, where there is only one right answer. There are brilliant physicists and astrophysicists who look at the data of their area of study and announce that there is no God; this, even though science can by definition neither prove nor disprove his existence. This New Atheism, which lately has already been withering away, is based on the premise that a scientist who is brilliant in one field can determine whether or not God exists and should feel ethically driven to dissuade others from believing. What Paul shows us in Romans is that people’s minds are clouded when it comes to surrendering to God, and that even a powerful brain can be darkened. Sin is not limited to the traditional vices – the intellect too can sin, for example, in the sin of unbelief (see also 1:21).
The postmodern approach has as its premise that what might be true – for ancient Israel, or first-century Christians, or today’s church – is not absolute truth. Rather postmodernism concentrates on what is felt to be true for an individual or group as they experience and interpret their environment. The Christian today often hears that, “Well, the gospel message might bring you comfort, but that cannot be taken to mean that it is true for all people in all times and places.” A postmodernist would approach Paul’s teaching in Romans 9 with a very different set of tools than does the rationalist – he would stumble over the statement that “God’s word has not failed” (9:6; likewise 9:15), since after all the question of whether a so-called word from God has failed or not failed depends exclusively on the experience of the individual. For the postmodernist, the polar opposites of save/unsaved, darkened/illuminated, hardened/softened can make no sense and must not be taken seriously. Of course, very few postmodernists can consistently apply their paradigm to all cases, and eventually they concede that some truths are comparatively darker and lighter than other. For example, further along in the commentary we will speak of anti-Semitism; most will label that as evil, but even if some do not, or deny the Holocaust, those individuals are still opposed to mass murder in principle. Thus through their common moral sense, their postmodernism flickers out.
Some Christians adopt what is in effect a postmodern stance, without realizing that it cannot be integrated with an evangelical belief set. They reason on the one hand that Christ absolutely is real, and is the crucified and resurrected Savior; but at the same time they affirm that that might not be a true message for people in different cultures. What they might then experience is what the sociologist calls cognitive dissonance, that state of mental tension that arises when the person says, “I cannot believe in both sets of truth, therefore something has to give.”
The apostle was never “ashamed” of the gospel – no nagging feeling of dissonance for Paul! – and did not refrain from sharing it with people from all sorts of backgrounds, because he knew that there is no other saving message (1:15-16); neither Greek philosophy, nor folk religion, nor Pharisaic Judaism, nor the atheism of the Roman thinker Lucretius offers a valid alternative to Jesus Christ. That is why he was so audacious as an evangelist. In the Americas of an earlier generation, a bold evangelist might be identified by how loud his voice and how hard he pounds the pulpit. But a better expression of boldness is, that the more a person is convinced that there is only one path to salvation, in Christ, the more that believer is likely to be passionate about sharing that faith with family, acquaintances, and people not yet met. This does not mean that we be overbearing, but it does mean that we are determined not to reduce Christ to our own personal god.
Study Questions: At the end of Romans 11 we will deal specifically with Christian-Jewish relations; for now we ask –
- Paul felt so passionately for the gospel that he would risk everything to win others for Christ; see 9:1-4a. To what lengths would you go to win another to salvation?
- Do you consciously avoid sharing the gospel with specific individuals or groups? What are your reasons for this, your rational?
- As a Christian, you are supposed to seek righteousness through faith in Christ. Are there any mechanisms by which you are now trying to please God through your own efforts? (see 9:30-33).
B. Israel can receive righteousness of Christ if only it believes (10:5-21)
And how exactly does the Torah point us to Christ? Paul lets Moses himself speak, from Leviticus and Deuteronomy. First is a theme that he has mentioned in Galatians 4:21, 5:2-6, where he rebukes Gentile Christians as “you who want to be under the law”. The danger lies in this: “every man who lets himself be circumcised…is obligated to obey the whole law” (that is, the Torah; Gal 5:3). With this idea the synagogue would agree with Paul – when it comes to circumcision and Torah observance it is a matter of all or nothing, you are either in or out; this unlike some branches of modern Messianism, in which people adopt Hebrew names and perhaps observe the Sabbath and the Feasts, but excuse themselves from the more bothersome rules. Paul in Romans 2 has emphasized that it is not good intentions that matter, but actual works. With this Moses is in accord: “the person who does these things will live by them” (10:5, taken from Lev 18:5, emphasis added). The problem? No Israelite ever obeyed all the statutes and precepts of Torah; the Gentile would of course fare even worse.
The Torah instead foreshadows Christ; this time Paul uses three verses from Deuteronomy that might not seem immediately relevant. But 1st-century Jews would have been very familiar with Deuteronomy 30 and further along chapter 32. The point of Deuteronomy (the text Paul uses is not identical to the Hebrew) is that Israel does not have to traverse heaven and earth to find God’s word. Paul modifies it so that he is speaking about the gospel. “To bring Christ down” means that it isn’t hard to hear the message about Christ. Nor does one have to go into the depths of the earth to find him, to dig up Christ from the dead.
According to the apostle, the Torah really should be interpreted to mean that it is the Messiah who is within easy reach (v. 8): “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart” (Deut 30:14; see Acts 17:27 – God “he is not far from any one of us”). In the original context, the Lord was telling Israel that Torah was not some foreign or unreachable set of words – rather, the word was in their own mouths and hearts, so long as they recited the Law with their mouth and cherished the Law in their heart. But the text takes on a new application for Paul: the word becomes the platform for faith in Christ and the confession of his name: confess that Jesus is Lord; believe that God raised him from the dead. Of course, there is more to the gospel than the resurrection, but this is Paul’s response to the word from Moses in 10:7b, in effect: “I believe that all they tell me about Christ is real, because I know he is risen.” “Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord” (ESV) encodes what was originally a creed of just two words – Kurios Iēsous. Paul is probably thinking of baptism, when the new believer would confess his faith. But saying the two words – or receiving baptism – is no magic formula; sadly, we hear evangelicals utter statements such as, “I know Joe is saved. He hasn’t walked with the Lord for years, but when he was young he raised his hand at a meeting.” No, Paul is not speaking of “mere” confession, but a true disclosure that someone has believed in Christ; it is that person who will be saved.
No believer in Christ will be ashamed to appear before God on Judgment Day (v. 11 quotes Isa 28:16; see too the importance of shame in Rom 1:16). In v. 12 once again, those who will be saved, will be saved through faith. Jewish believers may continue their Torah observance, so long as they do not try to gain or maintain God’s approval by it, and Gentiles can and must live without Torah observance: otherwise they would cease to be Gentile believers and become Jewish-proselyte believers. And since the Lord is one, then all the nations may invoke his name. In v. 13, Paul’s proof is from another key text, Joel 2:32. Peter too had announced on Pentecost that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21). Whereas some Israelites would have taken a narrow reading of “everyone, all” as “all Israelites”, Paul insists that all means all. Peter himself had earlier reported that God “did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9).
In the Hebrew of Joel 2, the divine name was used: “And all who call upon the name of Yahweh [lit. Shem Yahweh] will be saved.” Why is this significant? Because Paul quotes a verse about invoking the name of Jehovah God and applies it to Jesus: to confess Jesus as Lord is to confess that he is Yahweh. This is one of the key passages that show the deity of Jesus. There is no room for doubt about Paul’s intention here, since “the Lord” is Jesus in what follows: the “good news” that we proclaim, that our God reigns (Isa 52:7), is the same as proclaiming that “Jesus Christ is Lord”. The message about the Lord (Isa 53:1) is the gospel of Christ (10:17), since he “was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 1:4).
Paul begins to nudge his readers back to thinking of the gospel mission; after all, he is leading up to the point where he will ask Rome to sponsor his new chapter in his work, that is, in Spain. How can anyone preach unless they are sent? [from the verb apostellō] is a way of connecting the gospel to his own work: Paul is one of the “sent ones” (apostolos, v. 15), which in Greek is the noun form of the verb. He quotes Isaiah 52:7 to remind the readers that gospel is the very best of good news. The Textus receptus has “word of God” in v. 17, but the critical text, correctly, has “the word of Christ”. It is not the Bible as such that is meant, since after all, the Jews heard the Bible every week. Rather, it is the message about Christ. In an aside Paul defends the gospel against the fact that people, and notably, Israelites, have rejected the message. But Isaiah had also foreseen, Paul answers, that Israel would not believe (quoting Isa 53:1). As he does in other passages, notably 3:10-18, Paul mines the Jewish Scripture itself for proof of Israel’s unbelief.
Practical Thought: When we hear “proclaim the gospel” we might picture a person on a platform, preaching into a microphone to dozens or hundreds or even thousands of people. That image, while a part of the truth, is far too narrow. First, most of the Bible language of evangelism applies just as easily to speaking to an individual, a small group, a large group, or a crowd. It may take the form of a testimony, sharing, a conversation, an argument, a dialogue, a Bible study, a sermon – even a video or a blog. Much of the evangelism I do is with individuals, through a website or face to face. So long as Christ is proclaimed to an unbeliever, in clear terms and in the Spirit’s power, that is where the gospel is preached. And whoever does any sharing of the gospel can claim the blessing of Scripture: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Rom 10:15).
He now raises a question, “Did they not hear?” What about the Jews who have not heard the message? Paul agrees that it is an imperative: Didn’t I tell you that the gospel proclamation it was urgent? But on another level, the Jews have already heard the gospel in other ways. Unspoken is the truth that they have the Scriptures, and the Scriptures also foretell Christ. But the Jews, like all human beings (Rom 1:19-20) also have creation as evidence of God’s power; Paul now quotes Psalm 19:4, one of the great declarations of the evidence of God in his creation. If Gentiles are “without excuse”, then even more is this true of Israel.
In. v. 19, Paul’s next question is “Did Israel not understand?” Here the answer is less positive. Yet the fact that they didn’t understand and receive was another prediction from the Hebrew Scriptures! First, Deuteronomy 32:21 shows that God will use a pagan nation to provoke disobedient Israel. Paul later mentions that his gospel work is a fulfillment of that verse (see 11:13-14). But what fine irony! The pagans who irritate unbelieving Jews in Paul’s day are not invading Philistines or marauding Amorites – they are Yahweh’s own people, which includes a high percentage of Gentiles. “Not my people” has become a nation through God’s call (see 9:23-25).
Paul’s next Bible quote is – to say the least – creative, since he separates two verses in Isaiah 65:1-2 that in the original look like they belong together; he then applies them to two different people groups:
First, he quotes a section and makes it speak of Gentile (and some Jewish) believers:
“I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me (see 9:30 – “the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it”).
But then he applies what comes next to disobedient Israel:
“All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and stubborn people.”
For a people that, in Paul’s opinion, prided itself in knowing and applying the Scriptures and teaching the Gentiles (Rom 2:17-24), this sort of exegesis must had proven particularly galling.
C. Both the chosen Gentiles and the eschatological remnant of Israel will be saved (11:1-36)
Paul’s next question is, “Did God reject his people?” that is, the nation of Israel? Paul is emphatic; the answer is no. One must study and understand 8:29-30 in order to appreciate his point here: if someone is justified in Christ, it means that he has been foreknown, predestined and called, and that “by grace”. The Jewish man Paul himself is a believer (11:1), and from that he may deduce: if even one Israelite believes in Christ, that must mean that God wants Israelites to be saved; otherwise, there would be absolutely no Jewish Christians. The Messianic Jews in Paul’s day were “foreknown.” They are parallel to the experience of Elijah, who bitterly complained that only he was faithful to Jehovah. Not so, said God. There were 7000 faithful Israelites (vv. 2b-4). The idea of a “remnant” of faithful Israelites is a common one in Judaism (Jer 23:3; Ezek 9:8; Ezra 9:8; Micah 5:7-8). Often it looks forward to an eschatological salvation of a tiny portion of Israel; this belief was key to the self-awareness of the Qumran community.
The vital point for Paul is that there are not two ways of salvation, one by faith in Christ and another by adherence to Torah. The authentic versions of Messianic Judaism today correctly affirm that a Jewish believer is free to live with an appreciation for his heritage and culture. This is fine so long as the Jewish remnant, like all of God’s people, are fully convinced that their salvation if by grace, and cannot be based on works of Torah (v. 6). As Paul has repeated already, even if a person diligently studies and teaches Torah (2:17-24), and tries hard to obey it, all will end in total frustration (7:14-25), both for those who are apart from Christ, and for the believer who serves God “in the flesh”, in his own human “zeal” (10:2), with a focus on fidelity to Torah.
Paul again turns to the hardening of Israel (see also 9:17-18); from his viewpoint “the others” (in some versions, “the rest”) was the great majority of the nation, the fact that grieved Paul so deeply. Ironically, the synagogue had no trouble in believing that God had hardened the sinful nations of the world (they probably would have agreed with Paul’s point in 1:24, 26, 28), but protested when that same principle might apply to Jewish people! Paul does not delve into the difficult question of how or why God hardens their hearts; certainly, the Lord was not forcing them to reject the gospel, since they had already inclined themselves to do so. In v. 8 he again quotes the same section of Scripture as proof, Deuteronomy 29:4. The Israelites were disobedient because God had not given them a discerning mind, “to this very day” – and Paul understands that “day” to include Israel up through the first century AD. In vv. 9-10 he goes on to quote Psalm 69:22-23 (see the quote of Psalm 69:9 later on in 15:3). What should have been a life of prosperity and wellbeing turns out to be one of disappointment, blindness and bondage; without Christ, life is joyless (contrast the Christian’s life in Rom 12:12; 14:17; 15:13; 15:32).
Paul now adds a qualification to the last phrase of Psalm 69 – “and their backs be bent forever”. Very well then, most of Israelites are lost through unbelief, but God has chosen a remnant. Will this “forever” remain the status quo? No – “Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all!” This is the most difficult of his questions so far. While the others have to do with events already taking place, the answer now is prophetic, and presumes a knowledge of the future. Paul will conclude by sharing a mystery, a heavenly secret: “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved” (11:25b-26a).
Once again he takes the reader back to the Torah: the Gentile believers provoke unbelieving Israel to jealousy; Israel’s fall, in a sense, opened up space in the people of God for outsiders. Yet, as in Deuteronomy 32:21 (quoted in Rom 10:19), this is not the end of the matter. God’s covenant is that afterward, he would once again show mercy on the nation of Israel: “The Lord will vindicate his people and relent concerning his servants” (Deut 32:36). His plan will not, can not, end with failure. There will come a time of enrichment, “full inclusion”. What that means will be developed through this chapter.
In vv. 13-16 Paul invites the reader to understand his ministry as he himself does, as a fulfillment of the Deuteronomic covenant – to call a people that was not a nation to be the people of God; to provoke Israel to jealousy; and finally, to witness God’s mercy to Israel once again. He uses bread dough and an olive tree to show that, what is true of the small beginning is true of the larger end; where God makes holy the beginning, the root, the rest will be holy.
The olive tree section is, for Paul, a long allegory; one of similar length and breadth is found in the “slave” section of Galatians 4-5.
First, it is vital to determine, What does Paul mean by the olive tree, its root and its branches? The olive tree was a constant sight in the orchards of the Mediterranean world. Israel is compared to it in Jeremiah 11:16; but it was also symbolized by other trees, plants and other things in different passages. The tree is not “the church,” which has been the traditional rendering. Rather, we will find help in v. 17, where Paul speaks of the root and then the branches. In Jewish terms, the root is typically the forefather, ancestor or patriarch of a race of people; see Ezekiel 16:3 – “Thy root, and thy nativity is of the land of [Canaan]” (D-R); Daniel 11:7 – “But from a branch of her roots one shall arise in his place” (NKJV); Romans 15:12 – “The Root of Jesse will spring up,” that is, Jesse the father of David. Here the “root” of God’s people is the patriarch Abraham, “our forefather” (4:1). He had already announced that “it was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith” (4:13). Abraham is the father of many nations, the root and patriarch of Jews and Gentiles who are justified by faith (4:16), who confess Christ and believe that God had resurrected him (4:24; also 10:9-10).
What has happened to the physical descendants of Abraham, in particular, the people of Israel? Unbelieving Jews are not to be considered as Abraham’s spiritual children so long as they reject Christ (9:8, also 2:28-29). Yes, Paul is a descendant of Abraham, and can even trace his tribal lineage to Benjamin, but he is Abraham’s true child only because he is in Christ (11:1). But “some [in fact, many] of the branches have been broken off” (v. 17), they did not believe. Meanwhile, the Deuteronomic covenant permits Gentiles, not heirs of Abraham by nature, to be branches grafted in from other nations, the “wild olive”. They now can claim Abraham as their father and inherit eternal life.
But wait! Paul addresses what will turn out to be an important theme in Romans 14 – Gentile Christians might in turn become overconfident in their status and look down upon unbelieving Jews or even Jewish Christians who observe Torah (Rom 14). Paul tells them, “Look to Christ, attend to your own salvation! Persist in faith, otherwise you can be snapped off the tree as well.” This accords with what we have seen in 8:28-30, that while God’s call is certain and will lead people to eternal glory, we can never be sure that a person is elect; to some extent, we can get an idea of who are God’s elect by their fruit, but that is never a perfect gauge.
But in these verses, there is another theme, which strikes the reader as not purely hypothetical: “And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in” (v. 23). And in fact, it is more natural for Jews to turn from unbelief to belief than it was for you Gentiles! (v. 24).
Now comes the shock, the revelation of a “mystery” (see the detailed description in Wilckens, pp. 308-310). This word has its origin in Jewish eschatology, especially from Daniel: when the king needed to understand a baffling dream, Daniel responded that “there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries” (Dan 2:28). Paul uses the term 21 times. Usually he refers to the gospel now revealed in this age (Rom 16:25-26; Eph 3:4, 6:19; Col 1:26-27). That is why Cranfield says that this mystery is probably a fresh interpretation of the Old Testament (pp. 2.573-574). But Paul almost certainly refers to some new revelation from God, given prophetically. Paul will go on to speak of the charismatic gift of prophecy in 12:6; he had apparently received prophetic words about the Second Coming: “This we declare to you by a word from the Lord” (1 Thess 4:15 ESV is to be preferred to “what we are teaching you now is the Lord’s teaching”, GNB); also, “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed” (1Cor 15:51). The fact that most Israelites have rejected Christ was hardly a secret mystery; nor that they are hardened; nor that a part of Israel was hardened – there is a believing remnant, including Paul and the many Jewish Christians in Rome. All of these data are visible to the observer. The mystery, the new datum, is that their hardened state is temporary, “until” something happens.
Although God had hardened their hearts, he can soften them and call them to him unto justification; one remembers that the disciples were hardhearted before Christ’s resurrection (see Mark 6:52; 8:17-18), but later came to full belief. God’s grace can overcome any human rigidity.
What then is this prediction that “all Israel will be saved”? Much ink has been spilled on this phrase (see especially Hendriksen, pp. 377-382). It cannot, not in this context, mean the church as “spiritual Israel” which will be saved (Calvin); after all, how could such a truism be a “mystery”, that all the saved will be saved? And besides, Israel has throughout the epistle meant “those of my own race, the people of Israel” (9:3b-4a); John Murray wrote that, “It is exegetically impossible to give to ‘Israel’ in this verse any other denotation than that which belongs to the term throughout this chapter” (quoted in Stott, p. 303). Nor does it fit well with “all Israelites who happen to believe” – that too would be a lame mystery indeed, since of course all believing Jews will be saved. The most common interpretation is that “all Israel” means “Israel as a whole, but not necessarily every individual member” (so Cranfield, p. 2.576; Stott, p. 303; Cevallos y Zorzoli, p. 197). For an example from the time before Christ, we have T. Benjamin 10.11 [Charlesworth, emphasis added] – “Therefore, my children, if you live in holiness, in accord with the Lord’s commands, you shall again dwell with me in hope; all Israel will be gathered to the Lord.” The rabbinic statement in the Mishnah, m. Sanhedrin 10.1 [Neusner] is often cited as well: “All Israelites have a share in the world to come…And these are the ones who have no portion in the world to come: (1) He who says, the resurrection of the dead is a teaching which does not derive from the Torah, (2) and the Torah does not come from Heaven, etc.” But this is to misunderstand the point of the Mishnaic reference: the rabbis are not saying that “most of Israel will be saved, with the exception of the following.” Rather they mean, “All Israel will be saved; people in the following categories will not, because by their apostasy they are no longer truly of Israel.” No, we are meant to take Paul literally when he says all Israel – the entire nation in the end of the age. And they will be saved not through obeying Torah, but through trust in the Redeemer Christ (v. 26).
What precisely does Paul think will happen to “all Israel” in the future? He provides many clues:
10:1 – Paul prays for the Israelites “that they may be saved”
11:12 – “full inclusion” or “restoration” – this might mean “their full number”, in contrast to the few people in the believing remnant in Paul’s day
14 – “save” must be given its normal sense of salvation (1:16 – “salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile”)
15 – “acceptance” means acceptance into a covenant, and is parallel to the “reconciliation” of the world
15 – “life from the dead”. While Paul could mean the new life in Christ (6:10), his point here is probably stronger, the future resurrection of the believers
16 – holy – there is only one way to holiness, through Christ
23 – “they do not persist in unbelief” is, clearly, faith in the gospel
23 – “graft them in (again)”, like “acceptance”, means they will once more be true children of Abraham through imitating his faith
25-26 – “all Israel will be saved” is, as in v. 14, language of salvation
26 – “deliverer” is salvation language, as is “turn godlessness away from Jacob”
26 – covenant to pardon their sins is language of the New Covenant in Christ
28-29 – “election, loved, call” is language of salvation, see 8:28-30
31-32 – “receive mercy” – again, in this epistle the mercy of salvation
What could he mean if not that all Israelites will find salvation through Christ by faith, the goal expressed throughout this letter, a fitting answer to his prayer in 10:1-3?
Paul is not entirely clear as to when all Israel will be saved – the key word in v. 25 NIV, with most versions, is correctly translated as logical (in this way), not chronological (at that time). He links it to other eschatological events: when the full number of Gentiles will have been saved (11:25). Quite possibly, this is at the resurrection of the saints (11:15). And in addition, he connects it with the coming of Christ and the final establishment of the New Covenant. Some believe that redeemed Israelites are represented by the 144,000 of Revelation 7:3-8, although that relatively tiny number could hardly represent “all Israel”, either in Paul’s day or ours. The verses he quotes are from Isaiah 59:20-21. He has already quoted 59:7-8 in Romans 3:15-17 to prove that Israel is swift to shed blood. Now there is good news, that when he, Yahweh, comes, he will redeem Israel. Paul’s use of Isaiah is instructive: first, as usual, he employs the Septuagint, not the Hebrew text. Second, he purposely alters the LXX “come for Zion’s sake” into “the deliverer will come from Zion”, to make it follow the Hebrew. Third, the redeemer in Romans “he will turn away godliness from Jacob”, that is, he causes them to repent; this differs from the Hebrew of Isaiah, in which he redeems people who have previously repented of sin. Fourth, in the original of Isaiah, it is Yahweh who comes as a redeemer; in Romans 11, this seems to have been changed to the coming of Christ; note its similarity with 1 Thessalonians 1:10 – “to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us [literally, “the redeemer”] from the coming wrath.” And fifth, Paul adds on a phrase from Isaiah 27:9 – “when I take away their sins”, which is probably eschatological.
Paul reveals why he has taken the long route through the difficult terrain of election. He had already anticipated that Gentile Christians might complain: Why does God retain unbelieving Israelites in his plan? How can this be fair that they receive special treatment? How come they can receive Christ in faith at the very last moment, when he comes a second time? (if our reading of 11:26 is correct). This is why the reader must begin at 8:28 and read through chapters 9-11. We were all unbelievers when God showed us mercy! We were all in sin! And if you want to find fault when God shows mercy to his ancient people, then you should feel the same about how God loved you while you were yet a sinner (5:8). In fact, nobody deserves God’s mercy (11:32). Besides, in the present time, anyone who fails to believe in Christ is still an enemy of God, no matter his race (11:28).
To summarize: God’s plan is mysterious, but it becomes clearer if one reads the Scriptures closely, in humility and gratitude. During its present chapter, a remnant of Israel, the true Israelites, continue as authentic children of Abraham through their faith in Jesus. Gentiles who believe are likewise Abraham’s children, receiving blessings that few dreamed were for them. Unbelieving Israelites are cut off from God and damned, and Paul prays and works so that they might be saved. Yet there will come a time, at that point when the last foreknown and predestined Gentile will have been saved when “all Israel” – the entire nation – will be saved by coming to Christ; it is an eschatological event that is best pegged to the Second Coming (Dunn; Cranfield; Wilckens; Moo; but not according to John Wesley, who said that the future awakening of the Jews would be such a great miracle that it would even be “a means of swiftly propagating the gospel among Mahometans [sic] and Pagans…”; Wesley, p. 507). At Jesus’ coming, God’s chosen people will be broader than Abraham’s physical descendants and will include his spiritual descendants; but his people will include no less than all Israelites of the end time.
Paul began this section with a sense of deep gloom: “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” (9:2). But in the face of God’s loving plan for the human race, he can turn to joyful worship. “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” All people need his mercy, since “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” He blends verses from the Psalms, Job, and Isaiah, and inserts praise in a known Pauline style, using a chain of prepositions: “For from him and through him and for him are all things” (v. 36; compare with 1 Cor 8:6-7; Col 1:16). Paul, for one, has found his proper place in the universe: all his work, his effort, his arguments, his prayers, his travels, his plans, his study, his teaching – all are overshadowed by a God of grace. Paul’s truest self-definition is that he is one who loves God (8:28), and one who delights in “the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:39).
Practical Thought: Christians, be we from a Jewish or Gentile background, need to wrestle with how we should relate to the Jewish people. To begin, the Christian must remember that an unbelieving Jew is spiritually in no worse or better condition than any unbeliever; and the Jew who believes in Christ is no better or worse than other believers.
Anti-Semitism. As a child I knew what this was in theory, but I encountered examples of it only later in life – like all racism, it is a collection of wide-ranging negative judgments about a racial group. And so I have found myself defending Jews when people say they are all arrogant, or money-hungry, or hateful. “I grew up with Jewish friends in school,” I have countered, “and I’ve met people throughout my life. They didn’t fit your stereotype!” Of course, a racist might counter that Sure, there are a few good individuals, but the race itself is evil. A person who makes such concessions for a few good exceptions is still a racist.
The premier example of anti-Semitism is the Nazi movement. Hitler was born in the Catholic church, but at heart he was a neo-pagan whose goal was to restore a primeval Aryan race, purged from genetic contamination. His message found fetile ground in the popular anti-Semitism that had existed in Christian Europe for centuries. It can be found today, in various forms: some claim that Jews invented the Holocaust; or that a Jewish elite form a secret society to run the world’s governments and banks; or that the spurious Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion really is a hidden Jewish plan to run the world.
Replacement Theology (or Supersessionism) takes various forms. In general it is the doctrine that the church replaced God’s ancient people and is properly called “Israel”. Although Paul possibly did so in Galatians 6:16, this is doubtful. Justin Martyr in c. AD 135 did clearly believe that Jews could be saved in Christ, but he was the first to explicitly identify the Gentile church as Israel:
 For the true spiritual Israel, and descendants of Judah, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham (who in uncircumcision was approved of and blessed by God on account of his faith, and called the father of many nations), are we who have been led to God through this crucified Christ, as shall be demonstrated while we proceed… those who were selected out of every nation have obeyed His will through Christ, – whom He calls also Jacob, and names Israel, – and these, then, as I mentioned fully previously, must be Jacob and Israel…” (Justin Martyr, Dial. 11; 130 [ANF 1])
Supersessionism is the idea that the Israelite race is no longer the people of God in any sense. But this falls far short of what Paul states in Romans 9-11: first, that Jewish Christians are the “true Israel”; second, that if there are Jewish Christians, then this means that God is still choosing Israelites to be his people; third, that Gentile believers are spiritually children of Abraham, but are not called Israelites; fourth, that all Christians, regardless of race, are heirs to Abraham; fifth, that Christians should focus on the salvation of individuals, not on the general failure of the Jews to believe; sixth, that Israelites still have a place in God’s plan for the ages.
Two Houses of Israel. Some say that any Gentiles who believe must be the lineal descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. After the Jewish diaspora, those of the Northern Kingdom went to other nations and forgot about their Israelite heritage. And so when people who self-identify as Gentiles come to Christ today, it is because they are actually descendants of Ephraim or Naphtali or Gad, and God has saved them on the basis of their long-forgotten racial heritage. Similar is the legend of Los Conversos. This idea is based on that fact that when many Jews were persecuted in Spain and Portugal, they became Catholics, but only to escape the Inquisition. Since many of them fled to the New World, that means that many Latins Americans are, supposedly, really Jews (the term they use is “B’nai Anushim”).
Dispensationalism, which has various forms. Across most of North America, and due to the influence of missionaries to Latin America, many in the Americas today are dispensationalists, insisting on a sharp theological separation between Israel and the church (one unintended consequence of this doctrine was that it left the door open for false Messianic Judaism to enter, decades later). But according to Romans 9-11, this division between Israel and the church is too neat, since believing Israelites are part of the church, and the whole church will inherit all the blessings of Abraham. End Times teaching: God will supposedly rapture the church before the Great Tribulation and once again deal with Israel as a nation. Or Israel will worship in a temple with priests and sacrifices for the millennium. Christian Zionism: there exists a drive in some circles for supporting the modern state of Israel, no matter its policies or morality; to fight against a long-term treaty with the Palestinians or permit the formation of a Palestinian state; to show a fascination for the building of a Third Temple. There is nothing in Romans that hint that Paul would have supported modern Israel in that sense.
Dual Covenant or Two-Covenant Doctrine. This has taken root since the Holocaust, and it too has various forms (see the description in Stott, p. 304). An extreme formula implies that the church should not evangelize Jews, since they have their own ancient covenant with God. Some dispensationalists say that there is a gospel of grace for the church age, but a gospel of repentance and good works will be in effect during the Tribulation (Rev 14:6). The truth found in Romans is that, in God’s kingdom, Jews and Gentiles do not ride in separate cars.
Evangelism. Paul states that Israel will be offended by the fact that Gentiles receive Christ. That cannot be completely avoided, nor should it be – after all, Deuteronomy 30-32 shows that that sense of irritation is part of God’s plan for his people. Nevertheless, there are plenty of ways to annoy Jewish people unnecessarily: when we insist that they hear the gospel in a Gentile fashion; worship God as Gentiles do; keep Gentile Christian customs; and that they not “make a fuss” about cultural differences that they wish to celebrate. This is not love, as Paul will show in Romans 14. Even if we don’t know any Jews, we can take the lessons of this section of Romans to help us deal with any people group: we must identify and insist upon the truth of the gospel, but not on the cultural trappings in our own, empowered, group. We must seek out the excluded, the alienated, and invite them to come to Christ in repentance, just as we needed to do.
To conclude, then: Paul is certain, There is hope for Israel! I will pray. And the Spirit will help me when I don’t know what to say. And Jesus stands at God’s right hand, telling the Father what I yearn for. Perhaps the Lord will allow us to bring in the last Gentile believer. And perhaps God will call my fellow-Israelites to faith. And I know better than anyone, that the most hardened, hateful, crusading person can be saved. It is true: if Paul can come to Christ; if idolatrous Gentiles can; then the gospel truly is God’s power to save everyone (1:16). If we follow the apostle’s example, we will be evangelists to all peoples: passionate of heart, fervent in prayer, and loving in spirit.
- What stereotypes or harmful generalizations have you heard about the Jewish people How should one respond in the face of these ideas?
- If it is true that “all Israel will be saved” in the end, then is it even worthwhile to pray for Jews today, that they receive Christ?
“Romans Commentary, Romans 9:1-11:36,” by Gary S. Shogren, Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica