God and Israel

Providence and Purpose in Romans 9-11

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Todd D. Still
  • Waco, TX: 
    Baylor University Press
    , July
     198 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


God and Israel, edited by Todd D. Still, is a collection of essays written by six Pauline scholars. The six essays of this volume treat matters pertaining to the relationship between God and Israel as it deals with the topic of providence and purpose found in Romans 9-11. The six contributors to this volume—L. Ann Jervis, Michael Wolter, Davina C. Lopez, J. Ross Wagner, Simon Gathercole, and Jonathan A. Linebaugh—carefully address the topic from six different angles resulting in a holistic view of God and Israel in the context of providence and purpose in Romans 9-11.

In the first chapter, L. Ann Jervis investigates Paul’s view of time and how it affects the understanding of promise and purpose in Romans 9:1-13. She begins by introducing two common scholarly views on Paul’s concept of time: the salvation historical view (a linear view of time) and the apocalyptic view (a multi-dimensional view of time). Jervis does an excellent job of showing readers the full range of this topic by meticulously explaining different modes of time (temporal v. eternal) with adequate examples, and how this affects the human experience of God’s promise and purpose. At the end of her essay, Jervis notes that what she is proposing here about Paul’s concept of time is neither salvation historical nor apocalyptic, but rather both.  

In the second chapter, Michael Wolter zooms in on the theme of God’s faithfulness and free sovereignty in Romans 9:6-29. He deals with this theme by splitting his work into five sections. In the first section Wolter draws the attention of his readers to Paul’s ultimate concern regarding God’s actions and the fate of Israel. More specifically he asks the question: “Has his activity in the Christ-event made his election of Israel invalid, or can both actions be theologically associated with each other?” (30). In sections two through four, Wolter deals with the question by examining the linguistic details of the passage and Paul’s use of the Old Testament. Finally, in the last section, he gives a conclusive answer to the question raised in section one. Whether one agrees with Wolter’s conclusion or not, his work is praiseworthy, for it is well organized, with ample exegetical details to support his argument.

In the third chapter, Davina C. Lopez focuses on the methodological aspect of studying Romans 11. She moves beyond what we can know about Pauline intentions to what and how we might know about what she calls the “Pauline imagination.” She masterfully accomplishes this task by investigating the mytho-historical dimension of the Roman Empire—the Ara Pracix—to better understand the mytho-historical dimension of Romans 11 seen in the olive tree: an “allegory about the historical and contemporary relationship of Jews and Gentiles in Romans 11:11-24” (50). Her work is commendable for moving beyond the typical grammatical-historical approach of Pauline scholars to paying more attention to the historical, political, and ideological context of of the Roman empire, in which Paul acted.

In the fourth chapter, J. Ross Wagner narrows in on Romans 11:28-29 to investigate the theme of election and the love of God. Ross divides Romans 11:28-29 into three main statements: “with respect to the gospel, they are enemies for your sake”; “with respect to the election, they are beloved for the sake of ancestors”; and “the gifts and calling of God are bestowed without regrets.” Wagner eloquently defines and explicates the tension between the first two phrases that are seemingly contradicting each other (Jews as both beloved and enemies of God). After much clarification of the first two phrases, he moves unto the third phrase, ultimately highlighting the love of God as the centerpiece for understanding the Jews as both enemies of God for the sake of the gentiles and God’s beloved for the sake of their ancestors. The clarity and depth of Wagner’s work of this complex passage is remarkable as it gives a proper answer to the complex question.

In the fifth chapter, Simon Gathercole challenges those Pauline interpreters who see Romans chapters 9-11(especially chapters 10-11) as “unchristological.” These scholars typically understand the salvation of the Jews in Romans 9-11not as conversion to Christianity through Christ, but rather conversion through the Sinai covenant to Judaism. To repudiate this argument, Gathercole takes a systematic approach where he investigates the text passage by passage to locate Christ in Romans 9-11 and highlight his role in relationship to the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles, pointing to Paul’s high christology in these three chapters of Romans.

In the final chapter, Jonathan Linebaugh examines Romans 9-11 through a lens of time: past, present, and future. He works through the scriptural words of the history of Israel and God’s covenant, Paul’s christological understanding of the present, and the future that is a direct result of the past of Israel and the christological present. Linebaugh shows how the past of Israel and the future of God’s people (both gentiles and Israel) are linked by the christological understanding of the present. Just as the gentiles were once disobedient but now found mercy through Christ, Israel is disobedient now, but will find mercy through Christ.

All six essays in this volume are written with clarity, much attention to details, and careful observation of the passages. However, although all six contributors have collectively shown some new insights to the topic of God’s providence and purpose in Romans 9-11, these essays felt very loosely connected. It is hard to trace the connection between each of these essays other than the broad theme of God’s providence and purpose in Romans 9-11.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Ben Kim is an Independent Scholar.

Date of Review: 
February 26, 2018
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Todd D. Still is Charles J. and Eleanor McLerran DeLancey Dean and William M. Hinson Professor of Christian Scriptures in the George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University.



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