2010-01-10

Taking Eddy & Boyd seriously (5)

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by Neil Godfrey

Eddy and Boyd’s fifth and final point in “the case for the authenticity of 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16” is to address the theological contradiction that exists between it and Romans 9-11.

Here is the evidence.

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. (Rom 10:1)

I magnify my ministry if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. (Rom 11:13-14)

And they [Israel, the Jews] also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. (Rom 11:23)

And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And he will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
For this is my covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.
(Rom 11:26-27)

These thoughts in Romans do not sit easily with a passage (Thess 2:14-16) that blames the Jews for the death of Jesus and for filling up daily the full quota of all their sins, and proclaims that, for these reasons, God has poured out upon them his wrath with utter finality.

the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us . . . so as always to be filling up the measure of their sins, but wrath as come upon them to the uttermost/utter finality.

As Steven Carr has been pointing out in a comment here and on at least one other forum (FRDB), to describe the sin of crucifying and otherwise murdering Jesus and all the prophets as a condition of “continuing in unbelief” really just does not compute.

The difference between the Romans and 1 Thessalonians passages is as stark as day and night. So how to E&B handle this question?

It makes no difference whether or not it contradicts Paul elsewhere

This is quite an amusing little section. Eddy and Boyd (p. 214) are not going to leave any room for any nonbiblical point of view to gain the upper hand.

Finally, even IF the theology of this passage SEEMS inconsistent with the theology of Romans 11, this does not mean Paul did not write both.

And even IF we grant that the theology of 1 Thessalonians 2 is in fact INCONSISTENT with the theology of Romans 11, one could still argue that this does not constitute grounds for denying that Paul wrote both.

There is, however, LITTLE REASON TO SUPPOSE these two passages stand in CONTRADICTION to each other.

(My emphasis.)

E&B deny a contradiction should be taken as evidence of an interpolation. Rather, it should be seen as evidence that the author’s point of view evolved over time.

Is it not possible that Paul’s theology evolved between the time he wrote his epistle to the Thessalonians and the time he wrote his epistle to the Romans?

Yes, of course. It is possible. This possibility is discussed in the literature. Perhaps Paul, in a context of being personally persecuted himself, let his negative emotions unwisely dominate the way he expressed himself in the earlier passage. Later, in calmer circumstances, he had the presence of mind to express the fullness of his Christian heart in Romans 11. Is it probable? For that we need to look at the range of other anomalies and uncertainties surrounding the 1 Thess 2 passage.

But all this is a game. E&B are only tossing out a fall-back argument in case you don’t accept what they really believe: that there is no contradiction. They are defending the consistency and inerrancy of the Bible, of course.

No contradiction anyway?

How so? E&B explain the “consistency”:

Paul’s language in Romans 11 seems just as severe toward Israel as the language of 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16.

The evidence E&B give in support:

  1. Romans 11:7-10 — that in Romans Paul says God was already judging Israel (just like he says in 1 Thess 2),
  2. Romans 11:2-10 — that Paul is merely citing a common Q theme that Israel always kills their prophets (just like he says in 1 Thess 2).

The evidence of Romans 11:7-10

7What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, 8as it is written:
“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
eyes so that they could not see
and ears so that they could not hear,
to this very day.”

9And David says:
“May their table become a snare and a trap,
a stumbling block and a retribution for them.
10May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
and their backs be bent forever.”

Paul then interprets these quotations from Isaiah and the Psalms, and this E&B miss:

I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not!

. . . . And so all Israel shall be saved . . . . Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.

One has to stretch one’s interpretative framework to vanishing point to equate the thought in these verses with those which pronounce God’s wrath upon Jews with utter finality and completion for their continuing to fill up daily the fullness of all their sins.

The evidence of Romans 11:2-10 (and Q)

2God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: 3“Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? 4And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 6And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

7What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, 8as it is written:
“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
eyes so that they could not see
and ears so that they could not hear,
to this very day.” 9And David says:
“May their table become a snare and a trap,
a stumbling block and a retribution for them.
10May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
and their backs be bent forever.”

One might add verse 1 for even sharper clarity:

O say then, has God cast away is people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, . . . .

The whole passage of Romans 11 is about God loving his people, momentarily giving them a spirit of slumber, but with an intent to save them all.

Romans 11 is a chapter of love and hope for Jews. Judgment today on Israel is but for a time and for a good purpose, to bring salvation to gentiles. But the Jews are still beloved and will be saved.

1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 is a passage of declaring utter sinfulness and utter punishment — with finality.

E & B can only make vain pleas to the contrary hoping to be heard above the plain evidence we can all see and hear.

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Neil Godfrey

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  • rey
    2010-01-11 03:35:36 GMT+0000 - 03:35 | Permalink

    Personally I think most of Romans 9 is an interpolation also, so I wouldn’t go with this argument.

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