Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Schooley's thoughts on Romans 9

I came across a series of posts a couple of years ago that I had meant to link to. JC_Freak reminded me of them when he mentioned them in a comment here late last year. So here is Keith Schooley's series "The New Perspective and Romans 9" from 2006
  1. Introduction
  2. Isaac and Jacob
  3. Pharaoh
  4. The Potter and the Clay
  5. Conclusion
It includes such gems as
In verse 7, Paul quotes Genesis 21:12 to explain that, even before Isaac was born, God had determined that Abraham’s offspring would be “reckoned” through Isaac—in other words, that the covenant people would pass through the line of Isaac rather than that of Ishmael. The original context of this passage, incidentally, makes it clear not only that Isaac is to be chosen, but that Ishmael is to be rejected in favor of Isaac. Yet God makes it clear that Ishmael is to be rejected by Abraham, so that the covenant line is clearly through Isaac; nevertheless, He reassures Abraham in the very next verse (Gen. 21:13) that “I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring.” In the following verses we read that “God heard the boy [Ishmael] crying …. ‘I will make him into a great nation’ …. God was with the boy as he grew up” (Gen. 21:17-18, 20). In other words, God has a positive plan for Ishmael and his descendants as well as for Isaac and his descendants; it is only as a member of the covenant nation that Ishmael is rejected.

Paul, significantly, interprets the quotation by stating that “it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring” (v. 8). He is subtly doing here what he does clearly in Galatians 4:21-31: he identifies ethnic Israel with the children of Hagar, as opposed to those of Sarah. Since ethnic Israel is depending on natural descent from Abraham, they are analogous to Ishmael, who was Abraham’s descendant (not to mention the firstborn) by purely natural means. The Christians, trusting that “those who believe are children of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7), are analogous to Isaac, the child of promise. In Romans 9:8, Paul quotes Genesis 18:10, 14 to establish that the promise had indeed occurred before Isaac’s conception.

Paul’s use of Isaac and Ishmael, then, is primarily intended neither to be a statement of their individual eternal election, nor to be typical of the elect and reprobate. It rather establishes that the Jewish people have no reason to trust in their descent from Abraham to guarantee their inclusion in the covenant. If they could, the descendants of Ishmael would have just as much right to claim God’s promises as could the descendants of Isaac.

4 comments:

  1. So then all the references to Israel in the New Testament... do you take these to mean the church rather than the Nation of Israel?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Not at all. I take many of the references to Israel being ethnic (or national) Israel. But there are times that Paul identifies true Israel as being those who have faith in God. His argument being that ethnic Israel cannot identify as being God's chosen by virtue of birth. God intended for Israel to be his people by faith. So those who have faith but not the genealogy are part of the true Israel if we consider "Israel" meaning the redeemed, not those who have Jacob as their ancestor.

    I guess it is similar to the circumcision argument. Circumcision is a sign of a covenant. But those who identify with the sign are mistaking it for the covenant. Thus Paul says those who do not have the sign but who do join the covenant are circumcised in their heart, those who do not identify with the covenant but have the sign are missing what God intends, and in ways it is as if they do not have the sign because they do not have what the sign represents.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey Bethyada, thanks for the links, the quote, and the kind words. Incidentally, I agree with everything you've said in your above comment to tmyu.

    If you haven't read it yet, you may be interested in what I've written regarding The New Perspective and Ephesians. God wasn't writing Ephesians 1 and 2 to declare that some people were elect and some not, from all eternity; he was writing about joining Jewish and Gentile believers together into one people of God. Seems to fit with your interests here. God bless.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks Keith. I had a read of the 3 posts. I enjoyed what you said about the Old Testament and how the Jews were elected corporately, yet still need to be included by choosing God individually (I have always held that later point). It makes Paul's claims interesting, though I will have to reread Ephesians in the near future.

    It is quite ironic that Calvin recognised corporate election in the OT yet still switched to individual election in the New.

    Blessings

    ReplyDelete

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