Saturday, October 25, 2008

Israel in the NT- Part 2

Thanks to Michael for the notice below about Voorwinde's article on Israel in the New Testament. While I have yet to read it, I agree that his three point summary is useful. Generally, however, I find scholarly discussions of the meaning of Israel do not adequately take into account the multivalent nature of the term. 

So my question is what "Israel" is he referring to or we for that matter when we speak of "Israel" in the NT. Can we really take for granted what that term means. In a particular context is the term "Israel" denoting: the patriarch, the twelve tribe league, the northern tribal alliance before the kingdom, the northern and southern tribal alliances under the united kingdom of David and Solomon, the northern kingdom in contrast to the southern kingdom, the Judean returnees? 

When Paul states "all Israel will be saved"? To what is he referring? 


Michael F. Bird said...

Since Romans 11 deals with the future of ethnic Israel (as opposd to their past ch. 9 and present state ch. 10), I think vv. 25-26 has to mean "ethnic Israel" or at least a majority of ethnic Israel. I don't go for Wright and Fitzmyer's take on "all Israel" as Jews and Gentiles together.

Joel Willitts said...

The descendants of Jacob? What about the possibility of understanding this as "the entire kingdom of Israel"?

Matthew D. Montonini said...


I am in agreement with Mike, that it refers to ethnic Israel. More, specifically, "all Israel" refers to the salvation of the end-time generation of the Jewish people in the future. Finally, "all Israel" is used in many cases to refer to some Israelites as representing the whole nation (cf. Num 16.34; Josh 7.25; 1 Sam 7.5,25; etc.)

Joel Willitts said...

I don't disagree with Michael's interpretation of Romans 9-11, but I am inclined to think that "ethnic Israel" is too narrow a category but not for the reasons Wright and perhaps Fitzmyer do. Paul's Davidic aspirations might suggest that "Israel" can contain all the segments of the kingdom of Israel: circumcised (Israel and Judah) and uncircumcised (2 Sam 24:4-9; 1 Kings 4:1, 7, 21, 24; 8:65).

I'm not sure you can make the blanket statement "Israel is used in many cases to refer to some Israelites as representing the whole nation (cf. Num 16.34; Josh 7.25; 1 Sam 7.5,25; etc.)" Looking at those texts you listed the only one that perhaps fits what you are asserting is Josh 7:25. Num 16:34 contains a preposition "around them" which delimits the phrase "all Israel" and 1 Sam 7:5 (there is no 7:25) seems to assert that all Israel met Samuel. Now it is probably true that that did not include women and children, but there is no reason to limit it further from the context.

When Paul states he is an Israelite (Rm 11:1), by that is he only asserting that he is ethnically Jewish?

Matthew D. Montonini said...


I should have clarified that "some" contexts demonstrate this corporate dimension. My typo notwithstanding (1 Sam 25.1, not 7.25), I believe there are also other places that demonstrate that some, probably a vast majority, represent "all Israel" (e.g. 2 Chron 12.1; Dan 9.11).

Regarding Rom 11.1, I do think based on the qualifications listed here ("a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin")that Paul is indeed referring to ethnicity. Moreover, the use of the term "Israelite" brings to mind Israel's elect status before God(Rom 9.3-5). I grant that this latter point may in fact bring your point out forcefully, namely, that Paul's status as an Israeltite may bring more to mind than ethnic connotations. Although Paul refers to his fellow Israelites as "my kinsman according to the flesh" (9.3), a clear reference to shared ethnicity.

Thanks for your dialogue. There is much to ponder concerning your suggestions.

J. B. Hood said...


Are you saying that "Kingdom of Israel" might be in view here? I.e., David ruling over Israel + proselytes + (say) sojourners, resident aliens? That's intriguing, given the emphasis on Davidic kingship in Romans, and that as something of a key to inclusion of Gentiles (Rom 15).

How does your interp tie into "Israel is not Israel" (if at all).

Finally, since Paul thinks the dimensions of the territorial promise to Abraham is "the cosmos" (Rom 4:13), are you trying to provide an interp that will account for that, or would you insist on national restoration in Canaan/Palestine/"ideal Israel"?

Joel Willitts said...


Yes that is exactly what I am saying and what I think is under appreciated as an interpretive possibility for the reasons you have suggested--"under appreciated" is British understatement meaning not at all considered! Furthermore, I do think this would imply national restoration of territorial Israel.

As for "not all Israel descends from Israel" I don't think refers to the kingdom. I think each time one needs to consider what is denoted by the term Israel. I think it is pretty clear that the Israel here is a reference to the patriarch "Jacob". So not all who descend from Jacob are really Jacob's descendants, which is not an unusual statement within variegated second temple judaism.

By the way, J.B. didn't you email me a while back about my dissertation. Did I ever respond? I am sorry if I didn't. Could I still be of help?

Marc said...


The fullness of the Gentiles is the period in which the Gentiles become faithfull to Christ. In this 'waiting period' Israel's partial hardening of heart prepares the Gentile nations for mercy and their inclusion in God's Kingdom.

Important(emphasis added) when the Gentiles become faithful they will provoke Israel back to their own God through their jealousy of the Gentiles worship of the God of Abraham, God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.

"In the days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will blossom and sprout; they will fill the whole world with fruit"

These future prophecies and the World to Come CANNOT and will NOT happen unless Israel is restored and turns to their own God.

Israel's salvation through God's Messiah is salvation of the whole world. It might not seem like it now but it can't happen and will not happen until Israel's salvation.