The faithfulness of God. Paul's prophetic response to Israel: An exegesis of Romans 11:1-36

Judith M Ryan, Fordham University


The content of the Apostle's disclosure in the Israel section concerning the question of Jewish unbelief and the fate of Israel with respect to salvation is unique to Paul's Letter to the Romans. Originally considered an appendix or excursus separate from the letter's main instructional material, Romans 9-11 has been shown to be essential in demonstrating the truth of the gospel's forecast of the fulfillment of God's promise to Israel (1:2), and in providing both the final unfolding of the letter's programmatic statement (1:16-17), and the concrete application and full explication of its central thesis, justification by faith (3:21-26). Paul's final response to the Jewish objection to his gospel (3:1-8) comes also in Romans 11, where he targets the specific tension within the Roman congregation of the Gentiles' boastful attitude toward the Jews that necessitated the discussion of Israel's priority in salvation history and thus conclusively explains what was meant by the thematic refrain "to the Jew first" (1:16). In the mysterion (11:25-32) which sums up the whole sweep of God's plan in salvation history, Paul discloses that Israel's temporary "hardening" was ordered to the salvation of "all Israel," and the fulfillment of God's promise to the chosen people. Not only has Israel's enmity toward the gospel opened up the possibility of salvation for the Gentiles, but it also serves God's purpose in bringing Israel to that final experience of God's mercy which is salvation for all peoples, the justification of the ungodly which Paul summarizes in his amazing conclusion (11:32). For according to the divine plan articulated in verse 32, all people must experience "disobedience," even the elect, so as to make the triumph of God's mercy fully universal. Even as Paul maintains his thesis that one is justified through faith in Jesus Christ, he insists that Israel's salvation will come to pass, not by any Christian mission to the Jews but by God alone, through the prophecied Deliverer who will usher in the final eschatological event that will impact upon all creation (11:25-26; cf.11:15). Indeed, of the entire Christian tradition, only here is Israel's continuing role in God's plan of salvation history conclusively stated. The recovery of the truth of the Apostle's disclosure of the connection between Jews and Christians in God's saving plan provides an unshakable basis for continuing dialogue and deepening relations between both groups.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Ryan, Judith M, "The faithfulness of God. Paul's prophetic response to Israel: An exegesis of Romans 11:1-36" (1995). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9530041.