open letter to the apostle Paul from a concerned reader

open letter to the apostle Paul from a concerned reader April 1, 2015

Dear Paul,

First of all, thank you for writing so much of the New Testament. 

Thank you for also teaching inerrancy, not only of the Bible you have (the Old Testament) but of your own letters and those other parts of the New Testament that hadn’t even been written yet!

The actual reason for my letter is to ask you to clear up some confusion for me. I’m reading through Romans, and I see that you quote the Old Testament on pretty much every page.

[Which, by the way, is another thing I appreciate that about your work: you show that the entire Bible is exactly on the same page, that the Old Testament writers were already writing about the coming of Jesus. And you quote chapter and verse to prove it.] 

But, getting to my question–and if this is a minor point or I’m missing something, please feel free to ignore–I’m having some trouble with a few places where you quote the Old Testament.

Now, I know you believe, as we all do, that the Bible, being God’s word, is perfectly consistent all the way through, meaning it doesn’t mean one thing in the Old Testament and another thing when you quote it. You respect the Bible and the intention of the original author more than anyone, and you’d never mistreat the Bible like that.

But I’m reading along, a little more than halfway through (we call it Romans 9:25-26), where you are making your point about how God has called a people not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles.

Then you quote from Hosea 2:23 and 1:10 to show that this whole business of including the Gentiles was on God’s mind all along.

Those who are not my people I will call “my people,” and her who was not beloved I will call “beloved.”

And in the very place where it was said to them, “you are not my people,” there they shall be called children of the living God.

It looks like you’re saying “those who are not my people…not beloved” are the Gentiles who are now included because of Jesus. I’m happy for Gentile inclusion, being one myself, but I went back and read Hosea and I’m confused.

It seems pretty clear to me that the original meaning and intention of Hosea is that God is restoring disobedient Israel after a period of rejection and punishment. I’m not seeing anything there at all about Gentiles, and so I’m not sure why you would say “here are two verses about Gentile inclusion.”

I have some Christian friends who think that, because you’re Jewish, you might actually be engaging in a little creative Jewish midrash here, but I’ve told them that you would never play fast and loose with scripture! You understand that the very doctrine of inerrancy that you teach–maybe even the gospel that you preach–hangs in the balance.

I think you see my confusion, though.

So I’m asking you to help me defend you better. Perhaps point me to other places in your letters where you don’t do this sort of thing, which would really help in balance things out.

Or maybe slowly and clearly explain how your use of Hosea’s words is aligned with what God actually intended, and why it’s OK for God to intend something Hosea doesn’t when it’s not OK for us to do that.

I have to say, too, this lingering uneasy feeling has been growing since I began Romans. Please help me see better what I know you’re actually doing.


Your Fellow Soldier

P.S. If you have some time, could you also clear up why you’re not a strong supporter of the “eternal covenant” of circumcision God gave Abraham and why all of a sudden the list of clean and unclean foods God gave Moses on Mt. Sinai is optional. Only if you have time.

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  • Gary


  • The book that made all this really clear to me–Paul’s loosey goosey use of the OT–was Richard Hays’s Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul. Hays concludes his book by saying that we should follow Paul and allow ourselves as much creativity in hermeneutics as he allowed himself.

    That is to say, the problem isn’t with Paul but with modern readers of the Bible who put unPauline limits on hermeneutical creativity and innovation.

    • Jaco van Zyl

      Richard Hay you say? Well, that makes all the more sense. In that case an unstructured interpretive extravaganza would legitimise doctrine Richard Hay would scream “heresy” till he foams around the mouth.

      • Whoops. Typo. Richard Hays.

        • Jaco van Zyl

          My criticism of Hays stands.

        • newenglandsun

          It might be helpful to note that Jaco van Zyl is a biblical unitarian.

          Biblical unitarians generally feel that Trinitarians undermine their theology because the Trinity is more “acceptable”.

    • Gary

      I have one pastor friend who says, “sitz im leben, sitz im leben.” When I try to discuss these kinds of topics, he just kinda brushes off.

  • Dear Pete,

    Thank you for your questions. I had to use Google Translate to get them into koine, but I think I got the gist. I also used it to translate this letter, and I hope everything gets translated kangaroo banjo.

    What you need to understand is that the Old Testament is, essentially, very disorganized Reformed theology that was not organized until I wrote Romans. That’s the proper relationship of the Old Testament to that book. I wrote Romans to be a systematic theology book about individual salvation and justification by faith alone – basically a harder to understand version of Murray’s books.

    So, if you read Hosea and think he’s talking about Israel, this is really just a Jewish misreading of that text. If Jesus was clear about anything, it was that the Jews were wrong about everything, and now that I’m a convert, I totally see it. So, Hosea is -really- about the work of Christ and inclusion of the Gentiles.

    I suppose, to the untrained eye, it appears as though I use that passage because the redemption and restoration of disobedient Israel has a lot to teach us about the inclusion of Gentiles into promises they were disqualified from, but that would imply certain things about the holy scriptures I am writing and will write, later, that will be uncomfortable from a Scholastic standpoint.

    In actuality, Hosea was prophesying about Gentiles and had no idea, and nobody got it for centuries until the New Testament came along. I hope that clears things up.

    Have a blessed day,


    • peteenns

      Oh you ARE a troublemaker, aren’t you 🙂

      • Nah. Really just looking for an opportunity to use the phrase “kangaroo banjo.”

        • newenglandsun

          does this count as a valid excuse for me to say banjo kazooie?

    • Gary


    • newenglandsun

      Dear Paul,

      I noticed that you said that you “had to use Google Translate to get them into koine, but I think I got the gist.” It must have been difficult having to learn Greek in a world filled with Greek people back then since KJV-English was your first language. Glad you persevered.


      • jrj1701

        Jesus would have to be a Time Traveler.

        • newenglandsun

          Nonsense. KJV-English was the language of the early Apostles. Every Bible scholar worth a grain of salt knows that. In fact, N.T. Wright even says in his new book, “Paul and the Faithfulness of God” on page 98-99, “it cannot be contested that the language of Paul’s writings is so unconventional in terms of the Greek language that it had to have been translated by a later Christian group from the early KJV-English it was written in using Google-Translate….the language is shaky and at times off by a mile–like what we would expect it to be after passing through a few layers of the BabelFish itself”.

    • R Vogel

      ‘What you need to understand is that the Old Testament is, essentially, very disorganized Reformed theology that was not organized until I wrote Romans. ‘

      This is, by far, the best thing I have read today. (apologies to Pete, but come on, this is brilliant!)

  • ajl

    Dear Soldier,

    Thanks for your great letter. However, I do this sort of thing all the time in my letters. I’m not really sure why though. You see, it isn’t me writing. God is writing through me – I just hold the pen. So, I suppose he knows what he’s doing.

    You’ll notice in Romans I say that because of Adam, all have sinned. But, in I Timothy, I say that Eve committed the first sin – go figure. Some have accused me of taking those stories from the Old Testament and using them as rhetorical devices for whatever argument I am trying to make. I’ve even heard people say “oh sure Paul, you’ll use that verse because it works for you there”.

    Speaking of Timothy, I told him about these two cats named Jannes and Jambres – to let you in on a little secret, the truth is, I don’t actually know who they are (please don’t tell anyone, ok). Some say that they were names that the Jewish people were kicking around for awhile and that I just used them to illustrate a point because all the people around me would have known what I was referring to. But again, that is putting motives into my mouth, or shall I say pen, that I just simply don’t have. As I sat there writing, the stuff just started to flow. Jimmy Page said the same thing about when he wrote Stairway to Heaven. Although, as you know, the devil helped him do that, and in my case it was God who helped me.

    If you have any more questions, please feel free to write back.

    your friend,


    • This is great. Pete, you should collect these if you get enough. I’m not sure what you’d do with them afterward, but you don’t want to lose any responses from the apostle.

      • Gary

        Known pseudepigrapha be no barrier.

    • Gary

      This piece just reminded me of the contrast between how Jesus asserts authority and how Paul does.

    • Stuart Blessman

      Dear Soldier,

      If you play my writings backwards…

      • J. Inglis

        read backwards. Which is especially appropriate since Paul didn’t put spaces between his words. Which made it particularly easy for him to include chiasms like ratsliveonnoevilstar.

  • newenglandsun

    Precisely! The early church especially (not just Paul!) was NOTORIOUS for adding their own understandings and readings into the Bible! I’ve even heard interpretations of the Song of Songs (or Solomon) where the woman has been interpreted as the Church and the man has been interpreted as the Bridegroom (Jesus). The Church hadn’t even come into existence back then!

    This, by the way, is how the VAST majority of Christians read the Bible. They put their own understandings onto the text.

    Another odd text I can think of is that one in Ruth that is used in some wedding services.

    • Gary

      What’s useful about people putting their own understandings into the text is that we can gain deep insight into the other person in ways they might not so directly and openly reveal themselves. If you want to know what a person thinks about X, you may get a more accurate answer if you ask them what they think God thinks about X than if you ask them what they think about it themselves. One of the characteristics of a holy book is that it serves as a Rorschach ink blot test. You, me, Paul, Hosea–no exceptions.

  • Rick

    Dear Soldier-
    Thanks for this. As I try to stress in my writings, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus were game-changers. The impact was bigger than expected, and now influences how we read the old stuff. Hope that helps.
    PS: Luke says “Hey”, and that he is picking The University of Corinth in the Final Four.

  • Very clever… good way to get across some good points… Wish I had time to answer as Paul, like a couple sharp responders.

    It was his radical style of reinterpretation in finding a way to get Gentiles fully “in” without giant barriers like adult circumcision (ouch!) that got him into major spats with James and the Jerusalem leaders. Not unlike prominent evangelists today, he was a mix of giant ego, ambition and well-meant inclusion and emotional connection. A genius who didn’t let logic stand in his way!

    • Stuart Blessman

      Because if God approved and called holy something once, and God never changes, that thing is still holy and approved, right?

      Maybe we should doubledown and become Torah Abiding Gentile Christians…just in case Jesus isn’t really enough…we can get double blessing/annointing…

  • Stuart Blessman

    This is excellent.

    FYI, I’m halfway through the ebook copy of The Bibles Tells Me So, and loving it quite a bit, although I’m sure I’ll have a thousand questions after I’m done.

  • Dear Pete –

    We have received your inquiry. We offer free one year support for the product you purchased, but your support period expired in August, 1962. We suggest that you review the faq page on our website,, for common questions posed by users of this product.

    Please do not reply to this message using the “reply” address. The information contained in this message is intended for the original recipient only.

  • Stuart Blessman

    Dear Soldier,

    Unfortunately, you don’t have an original copy, which was truly inerrant. We may have changed some things in the version we sent you. Hold tight, I’m sure someone will figure it out in a few millennia. Until then, please make do with these scraps and fragments.

    Sincerely, Saul

  • Duncan Pugh

    I also have problems that he calls himself an apostle on a par with the original disciples. Furthermore his biography would seem to be an attempt to steal the limelight from Jesus at the same time as providing a particularly perverse, and sadly very influential, interpretation of his life and teachings?

    • Paul D.

      The way Paul uses phrases like “Christ in me”, you almost get the idea he thinks he is channeling Christ. He claims his teachings are visionary revelations to him from Christ himself, so why shouldn’t they trump (in Paul’s mind) whatever anyone else is preaching?

      • Andrew Dowling

        That’s actually a standard theological tent of conservative evangelicalism and Reformed theology. Jesus’s ministry/ the SOTM are not eternal teachings from God; they were simply articulated to show how humans can never meet God’s standards for moral behavior. Thus the need for the PSA/cross. Then Paul, with Jesus basically speaking in his right ear, “correctly” articulates the Gospel. This of course basically supercedes everything Jesus says in the 4 Gospels.

        The first time I heard the above I was horrified, to say the least, but its fairly common.

      • Duncan Pugh

        I think they do don’t they … in his own mind … he carried on in his role as ‘enforcer’ after the miraculous event that put him on a par with the original apostles. He is the anti-Christ as far as I and Nietzsche are concerned.

        Scorsese’s ‘Last Temptation of Christ’ is quite unequivocal on this point too!

  • AlanCK

    Dear Soldier,

    It’s at moments like these we just need to remember the words of our Lord himself, “The seventeenth-century you will always have with you.”

  • R Vogel

    Dear Fellow Soldier,

    I’m Zaphod Beeblebrox.

  • While you’ve got Paul on the line, ask him about the Trinity. Since it could be argued that he invented Christianity, he must know all about it.

    • Gary

      +1 on the Virgin Birth while we’re at it.

      • newenglandsun

        it always seems strange to me why paul hardly ever refers to the virgin birth. it was a classic doctrine in christian theology…probably the most ancient doctrine we have to date. even the apostles’ creed mentions the virgin birth.

        • The Gospels were written after Paul’s epistles. Maybe he wasn’t aware of it.

          • Gary

            The Jesus who Paul believed in was whoever or whatever said on the road to Damascus, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” How people authenticate these claims is beyond me. And with even greater complexity through a level of redirection, how people authenticate indirect claims of others is further something I don’t get how people have the skill. Sure, I could lucidly give a head nod but the whole scheme of revealed religion seems to be based upon this wager that someone is who they say they are and that their intentions are good and their end will be beautifully gracious and just.

          • newenglandsun

            idk…or didn’t emphasize it in his teachings. the church has historically maintained it as historical fact as preposterous as it seems (resurrection also quite preposterous). very odd…nevertheless. it’s possible, he was unaware of the historical event. there’s a lot of current events i’m not aware of.

          • Yeah. It all really depends on what Paul had heard about Jesus, because the only Jesus he actually knew was the resurrected one. I doubt people were making a big deal out of a virgin birth -except for- the fact that that the pertinent Isaiah passage is that Emmanuel’s birth will be a sign to Judea and the nations that God is about to act in that tried and true scheme of judging Israel -> judging the nations who persecuted Israel -> restoring Israel.

            Since this was the hope for those who believed Jesus was the Messiah, I could envision them making a big deal out of the virgin birth because of the connection with Isaiah, but we don’t really know they did or what Paul might have heard.

        • Andrew Dowling

          ? there’s no evidence of the virgin birth narratives existing before the late 1st century.

          The apostle’s creed in a primitive form comes from the late 2nd century at its earliest.

          • newenglandsun

            historically, the virgin birth precedes when the writings of the gospels were and come over 50 years before paul wrote a single epistle. only two gospels actually speak about the virgin birth though–matthew and luke. as to when exactly these gospels were written in comparison to paul’s, no one really knows. some would say as early as the mid-60’s ad which would mean they circulated at the same time, some say later. history is mostly guess-work.

            i know of very few christians who outright reject the virgin birth. it was ingrained early on into christianity prior to even the trinity. from a “history of dogma perspective” we have the resurrection, the incarnation, the virgin birth, the deity of christ, the trinity. this is all my comment was trying to say.

          • Andrew Dowling

            Your assuming historicity. The first Gospel Mark, which most scholars believe was written somewhere around 68-73AD, doesn’t have any virgin birth. Matthew was written in the 80s, and Luke’s virgin birth narrative was likely not composed until the 2nd century (and tacked onto an earlier Luke that became what we know as canonical Luke, but I digress). Thus, the virgin birth is mentioned in no 1st century Christian sources besides Matthew. And it’s not likely Paul knew of any virgin birth tradition; he would’ve clearly alluded to it in his many theological treastises of the meaning of Jesus

          • newenglandsun

            Of course I’m assuming the virgin birth is historical. Most Christians presume the virgin birth is historical. Next, you’re going to tell me how only inerrantist scholars believe in the virgin birth and then I’ll be able to ask if this makes Raymond Brown (and for that matter, the Catholic Church) an inerrantist. This is the official position of the church. There is no evidence whatsoever that provides us with the *exact date* for when the gospels were written. They’re just guesses. The major traditional view is that Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written much earlier than the dates provided by most modern Bible scholars.

            I don’t know if Paul knew about it. If Paul did know about it though (which seems reasonable), then it just seems odd why he doesn’t mention it. The event was defended probably an equal amount to the resurrection in early Christianity. Even combated were heresies concerning the virgin birth such as that Mary did not remain a virgin afterwards, or that Mary was raped by some Roman soldier, or that the Christians stole it from the pagans. If you look at post-NT Christianity, the two doctrines early Christians defend the most are the virgin birth and the resurrection. The Apostles’ Creed which gives us the first definition of what Christians believe even declares that Jesus was born of a virgin.

          • Andrew Dowling

            Brown doesn’t even claim the virgin birth stories are historical.

            Historical scholarship is not just “guesses” . .it’s informed probabilities based on existing evidence and analysis of that evidence.

            Your claim that the Apostles Creed is the earliest declaration of Christian faith or that the Virgin birth was probably defended as much as the Resurrection” in the 1st century has no evidence.

          • newenglandsun

            “Some liberal critics contested that I was unscientific and unconsciously (or even consciously) dishonest in introducing a theological factor such as church teaching…I had submitted the book for a nihil obstat and imprimatur” (The Birth of the Messiah, updated ed., 701)

            The VAST majority of historical scholarship are guesses. Albeit informed guesses. Do we actually know if Jesus existed? No. Do we actually know how ancient minds thought? No. Most of the stuff we can do is guesswork. Most historians will admit that most of the stuff they have concluded is guesswork.

            Remember that charity (accurately presenting your opponent’s position no matter how much you may disagree with them) is VERY important in discussion. I never claimed that the virgin birth was as much defended as the resurrection in the FIRST century. I said in EARLY Christianity (second century Christianity up through fourth century Christianity) defended the virgin birth as much as the resurrection. Unless you can find some other statement of Christian belief prior to the Apostles’ Creed, my position on that shall stand for now.

          • Andrew Dowling

            You made claims about both the VB stories and the AC being some of the oldest confessional materials in Christianity. Thus we are talking about the 1st century/early 2nd . . .what someone argued in the 3rd or 4th century is fairly irrelevant from a historical standpoint.

            If you want to call the entire enterprise of historical scholarship a bunch of educated guesses, so be it. But some are much more educated/informed/probable than others.

          • newenglandsun

            there is no more probable evidence against the traditional view than there is for the traditional view. i am not attacking the enterprise of historical scholarship as i myself will be earning a b.a. in history soon. however, i have learned throughout the course of my studies in the liberal arts that there really, all honesty, is only so much we can be certain of.

            when it comes to defining early christianity is where we also meet problems. some scholars would state that there wasn’t even christianity until second century. even if we presume biblical christianity gives creeds/confessions, we still encounter problems as we can’t strictly use biblical evidence alone to tell us what the bible writers believed. so we are left with the projections that have been put on to the biblical authors by people who came late second century and into the fourth century.

            i personally don’t see a problem dividing periods of christianity into biblical christianity, early christianity, medieval christianity, reformation christianity, modern and post-modern christianity. when we look at the period i reference as early christianity, i would say it is undeniable they spend more time defending the virgin birth and resurrection than they do anything else.

          • newenglandsun

            yes, the apostles’ creed is generally said to be written in the late second century. the apostles’ creed emphasizes the virgin birth, the trial under pontius pilate, jesus’s death, resurrection, etc.

          • newenglandsun

            “the Apostles’ Creed…is the oldest and simplest creed of the church” (Alister E. McGrath, “I Believe: Exploring the Apostles’ Creed”, 14)

          • Andrew Dowling

            Simply putting this quote down is not telling me anything (McGrath is not a biblical scholar, he’s an apologist). Again,
            i) There is no evidence of even a primitive version of the Apostle’s Creed before the late 2nd/early 3rd century, and even then that is giving its existence the benefit of the doubt based on Patristic quotes that “perhaps” allude to pieces of the Creed but none which directly quote or affirm it.

            ii) To say the AC is earlier than 1 Corinthians 15 is simply absurd.

          • newenglandsun

            mcgrath is an historical theologian and was formerly the head of the department of theology at oxford university. i don’t know where you got the idea he was an apologist. he’s done some apologetic work but he is definitely a quality scholar in the field of historical theology and a recognized authority within the given field.

      • What’s hard to understand? Isaiah 7 has a 3-verse section that talks about a boy who would be named Immanuel, born in the ordinary way, whose youth was to be used to measure time.

        Matthew and Luke talk about a boy prophesied to be named Immanuel (but who wasn’t) born to a virgin who came to save the world.

        How it’s not obvious that these are the same kid, I can’t imagine.

        • Gary

          Nor El & YHWH being the same God, nor a snake and haSatan and an Isaiah’s fallen being the same Devil. Hosea had a project. Paul had a project. Lots of people. Lots of projects. A Sola Scriptura should retain all this delightfulness. Systematizing is Tradition but more a tradition layered onto the texts than revealed within the texts. When someone says they have a high view of Scripture it’s often code for having a high view of one’s own camp’s view of Scripture. Also, if someone would fix my pastor’s preaching about these things, it would make church-going better and in ways I think more consistent with the Bible itself as well as fear-of-God over fear-of-man [and social stability and income]. Are any readers here teachers at seminaries or folks who get pulpit time themselves? If you could help us out please.

  • Dave Smith

    This isn’t correct. In the sentence before the Hosea quote, you’ll notice Paul refers to himself and his people—the Jews. He is referring to Jews in this part of Romans 9 AND when he quotes Hosea. The Hosea quote says that God promises that in the future there will be people (Jews) among the group who rejected God and subsequently brought on the exile (Jews) who will once again be called ‘his people’ in the same land where they rejected him and were deemed ‘not his people.’ This is Paul’s same point. Jews, after Christ, were rejecting God’s way to be made right with God. Paul says now it’s done by Christ and faith (the stumbling block), not by works of the Law. So Paul’s point is that in the same way all was not lost for the Jews in Hosea’s day, Paul states that there will be Jews who WILL eventually ‘get on board’ with God’s plan and the whole faith (not works of the Law) thing. The context of Paul in the Romans 9, and the subsequent Hosea reference, is about Jews, not Gentiles. Am I correct here?

    • peteenns

      Dave, Are you being satirical or is this an argument? I ask because the immediately preceding verse says “24 including us whom he has called, NOT FROM THE JEWS ONLY but also FROM THE GENTILES? 25 AS INDEED IT SAYS in Hosea….” Then you have the larger context of Romans where this is found, not to mention Paul’s plan of attack throughout re: Gentile inclusion. So if you are presenting a counterpoint, pardon the irony, but your interpretation is midrashic.

      • Dave Smith

        Hi Pete and Phil. I enjoy this discussion.
        I like what both of you have said. Yes, Pete, I’m not trying to be satirical, I’m discussing this very seriously. This is my understanding of this at the moment: At the beginning of chapter 9, Paul is lamenting the fact that the larger collective body of Israelites (Jews) are not understanding God’s plan of being included in God’s family by ‘faith’ (and the work that Jesus did) instead of by their own efforts towards the works of the Law.

        It seems to me the Hosea and Isaiah quotes refer to the ‘EVEN US’ part of vs. 24..meaning, “even us Jews who are not seen as Law of Moses abiding Jews, or what the larger Jewish population would consider ‘good Jews’.

        (More evidence of this is in vs 27 (NIV), which states, “Isaiah cries out concerning ISRAEL–”)

        It seems to me in this particular section Paul is saying to the larger collective of Jews/Israelites that there will be Jews who are (unexpectedly) included in God’s family who are not ‘good’
        Law of Moses abiding Jews–they are in God’s family by ‘faith,’ because following the works of the Law of Moses is not sufficient (vs 32).

        So I think in vs. 24-30, Paul is talking about Jews such as himself—ethnically Jewish, but seen as an ‘outsider’ because
        he is choosing ‘faith’ in what God has done, over human (or his own) works of the Law. And he is ‘outside’ along with Gentiles, vs. 30, who are also in God’s family by faith, much to the chagrin of the larger Jewish/Israelite population.

        I think this part of chapt. 9 is discussing Jews because from chapter 9:6 and following, Paul explains from the OT that ‘faith’ (God’s efforts and decisions matter, not human effort) is what God had in mind all along, even in the OT.

        I agree Phil, that chapter 9 can seem a bit difficult, but in all humility I ask, does what I’ve put forth sound reasonable?

        • It sounds reasonable, but I don’t find it as likely. The “even us” you’re hanging a lot on is the “even us who He has called , not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles,” clearly the vessels destined for glory. Now, the suggestion that Paul, faithful Israel, and the Gentiles all describe people that unfaithful Israel would have considered vessels of wrath – I’m warm to that and that’s probably likely, but that group has to include the Gentiles and not just Israel. Or at least, that seems likely to me since Paul specifically says these vessels are called from the Jews and the Gentiles.

          It also might be of note that v. 27 says specifically that the Isaiah passage is about Israel. That could imply that the Hosea quote is meant to include Gentiles.

          And then in v. 30, Paul begins to explain how the Gentiles could obtain righteousness apart from the Law. Paul himself had obtained righteousness by the Law (Phil. 3:4-6) and was a Jew in good standing by all accounts. He considered that worthless, though.

          I’m pretty sure that at least the Hosea quote, Paul means to include Gentiles in that, and this is why v. 30 exists.

          • Dave Smith

            Phil– Very interesting stuff. Your points are duly noted. Thanks for the great discussion. I’ve enjoyed it. I am such a theology nerd, it’s disgusting (ha!). My friends and family often shun me for how deep I go into this stuff–so I find my outlets here, on blogs like this, and it’s great to find those willing to discuss these things in a civil and profitable manner. Thanks again for the replies, man! cheers–all the best

          • Likewise!

      • Dave Smith

        Phil, I would say that Paul says “even us” in verse 24 because he is lumping himself in with those who are seen by the greater Israelite congregation as being ‘objects of wrath,’ IE, people (in this case Jews, as in Paul’s case) who seemingly reject God, or have rejected God, by rejecting following the Mosaic Law, therefore being no ‘better’ than the Gentiles. So he is referring to Jews like himself in vs. 24-29, but in vs. 30 reiterating that he does lump himself in with Gentiles who also are ‘saved’, or made righteous by God, by faith and not the Law.

      • Dave Smith

        In other words, Paul seems to be saying, “Ok, let’s say I (and other Jews who have ‘dropped out’ of the system) are objects of wrath, as you (the larger Israelite congregation) view us. Even the OT says that God can, will, and has redeemed these kinds of people (those who seemingly reject God and his wlll) for his glory.” And he cites the verses in Hosea and Isaiah of unfaithful remnants of Jews being redeemed, and then in vs. 30 reiterates his solidarity in this ‘faith and not works’ thing with the Gentiles

        • J. Inglis

          Very interesting. Thought provoking. Thanks for contributing your point of view.

    • Dave,

      Well, Romans 9 isn’t a walk in the park for any interpreter, but I’d say the inclusion of the Gentiles is at least part of the argument and, in fact, is what lends the force to it.

      If you were to talk to a congregation of first century Jews about vessels destined for wrath and vessels destined for glory, those categories should be pretty well defined, right? The Jews are destined for glory, and the nations are destined for wrath.

      But Paul puts the edge on it by saying the vessels destined for wrath are unfaithful Israel, and the vessels destined for glory are faithful Israel and the faithful Gentiles (v. 24). This is why he goes on to explain how the Gentiles could attain righteousness in v. 30 when they didn’t have the Law, and probably why Peter can use this language to describe his congregation in 1 Peter 2:10.

      But I do agree that this chapter and most of Romans really needs to be read against Israel’s historical experience now confronted with all these Gentiles showing up as opposed to an abstract treatise on salvation.

  • Derek

    You know what I would really like to see? Have our friend Peter Enns and someone like Don Carson sit down and have a friendly discussion on matters such as he raises here. It would be a totally friendly, open, and honest discussion from differing perspectives and positions. I would really love to see that and think it would be helpful and edifying for the church at large.

    How bout’ it Pete?

    • peteenns

      Derek, bless your heart if you think sitting down and clearing up some misunderstandings would solve our problems. Remember, the issues I am raising here (as you put it) are longstanding and par for the course, not new and novel things to hash out. Carson (or whoever) has formed opinions on these matters, as I and others have. We know what the other thinks.

      • Derek

        Oh yes I am aware, I just always find it helpful for the two sides, when they are both well-read on a subject – such as yourself and Carson – to come together and dialogue in such a way as to highlight the reasons why they do not accept the other’s views. It would be helpful to many people out there, I imagine.

        Do it pleeeeeease!

        • gingoro

          I think that Tim Keller would be a better choice than Carson. DaveW

          • newenglandsun

            carson is a trained nt scholar (unlike keller–who is more of a systematic theologian) and also has the advantage of having received his doctorate from a way more prestigious school (cambridge)

          • gingoro

            From having read Carson years ago, I doubt he would listen, whereas Keller would at least try to understand the Pete’s position although I expect he would strongly disagree. DaveW

      • Gary

        What I didn’t know though was that I was supposed to care what Carson thinks.

    • newenglandsun

      or you could just watch dr. james white go back and forth with john dominic crossan…

      • Derek

        Oh yeah that was a good discussion, thanks for the reminder!

  • Norman

    Hosea 2:And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety.

    Do we simply ignore the Jewish use of allegory as if we have never studied their symbols? Israel and Judah are to lie down in peace just like Isaiah 11 also presents the animal covenant metaphor. Paul knew exactly how to read messianic literature,

    • Andrew Dowling

      ? That still says nothing about Gentiles . . .

      • Norman

        Yes it does, Andrew I respect you but midrash wasn’t invented by 1st century Christians. Have you studied thoroughly 2nd T animal symbolism. Are you familiar with Enoch’s animal apocalypse? You can start there. These writings like Hosea are not to be read literaly. Who do you think the clean and unclean animals represent in Isaiah 11? Surely it’s not about David’s branch bringing peace to the animals. Or do you still think Genesis 2 &3 is about a literal garden.

        • Enoch’s Animal Apocalypse is a great band name.

        • Andrew Dowling

          There’s a difference between Jewish midrash, and Christianized midrash of Jewish material. There’s a reason the wide majority of Jews didn’t hear the fanciful biblical interpretations like those found in the Barnabas epistle and go “ah ha, of course, the prophets were all just using midrash!”

          • Norman

            Yes, you are correct, the Jews as a whole did not understand messianic prophetic literature, they were literalist just like many fundamentalist Christians are today. They didn’t understand Jesus when he said they would eat His flesh, so several abandoned Him at that point. They wanted a physical king David and could not make the switch to Jesus hermeneutic. I guess one still has to pick what is the correct hermenutic today. Pick Paul and the Apostles or go with the Jews who rejected him.
            Same problem with many theologians today, they can’t wrap their minds around a hermenutic that is built on types and symbols even though OT And 2nd T literature is replete with this type of inferences. Barnabas gives one a picture of the difference that drove the establishment of early Christianity. One doesn’t have to accept Paul’s, Barnabas and the NT writers hermenutic but one would be rejecting what drove the establishment of the first Christians theology.
            By the way I don’t buy into the idea that the prophetic writers were ignorant of their veiled message. The evidence is too over whelming to think they were ignorant to the degree you appear to be painting them.
            I’m not sure whether Pete agrees with you are not since he seems to be peninng his letter to Paul from an ignorant modern Christian perspective. I would think he might have a more sophisticated and nuanced perspective than his pseudo writer is presenting.

          • Norman, when you write about the Jews as a whole, you’re being satiric, right?

          • Norman

            No, I’m reflecting Paul’s remnant definition that he presents as those that heard the call and those that rejected it in his writings. Why would you think I was being satirical? The satire is pointed toward modern literalist readers if that was your inference.

          • peteenns

            I think lbehrendt, who is Jewish, is understandably reacting to your assertion that “Jews as a whole” did not understand their own prophetic literature (but Paul did)–and I might add your further assertion that “many theologians today” are in the same state of ignorance. Those claims seem a bit over the top.

          • Norman

            Pete, NT literature is out there in the open for all to see. I’m not asserting my personal view but am talking about the early Christian mindset that Paul and the Apostles are reflecting. If we want to step back and look at their moral demesions then that is another sidebar discussion altogether.
            Also like you I like to prod occasionally to stimulate discussion. Sometimes there is nothing more boring than a PC debate with no passion. My over generalizing is simply reflecting my frustration with biblical scholarship problems that is similar to your own frustrations that you often reflect on in your own style. 😉

          • peteenns

            Hmm. I don’t know Norm. You make good and thought-provoking contributions here, but I’m going to call you out on this. I don’t think you’re exaggerating for effect. I think you actually believe what you are saying in this thread.

            I seems clear to me that you feel that you really do understand how messianic prophecy works and “Jews as a whole” don’t, and neither do “many theologians today,” not to mention that brood of clueless biblical scholars you tend to allude to that are too beholden to useless academic models to see what you see so clearly by the benefit of your own private study.

            My own rhetoric against SOME biblical scholars isn’t that they are beholden to academic models, but that they are beholden to biblicistic/inerrantists academic models. You are more casual about dismissing scholarly models as a whole, especially since they would challenge some of your reconstructions.

            If there is any mischaracterization here by me, please say so. But then, getting back to the point, maybe you could explain how you think your take on Hosea 2 explains Romans 9 in ways that most everyone else seems to miss. That might help with the pushback you are getting from Andrews and lebehrendt.

          • Norman

            Pete, what’s the difference between “some” and “many” scholars?
            Let’s cut to the chase; do you really think Paul was playing fast and loose with his Jewish form of interpretation or is there any possibility that because of Christ the Messiah he could see prophetic allusions where he and others hadn’t before? Also do you completely discount the possibility that biblical OT writers had no intention of inserting messianic ideas into their writings that could be viewed as propheticly fulfilled?
            So would any concept of messianic fulfilment by the first Christians have been an overreach by all of the original authors?
            Also see my earlier post in regards to Hosea as a starter.

          • peteenns

            Uh, uh, sparky. I’ve already put a question on the table that you’d need to answer first. Common debate tactic, Norm: deflect from answering questions by asking more of your own. My students try that too 🙂 (Your question also equivocates on what “messiah” meant to the various OT writers.)

          • Norman

            Pete, I answered the Hosea question in my response above to Ibehrendt. Do you want me to further expound? A good question about my point would perhaps help me focus on what you take issue with.
            And of course I could point out that in a good debate one needs to define their terms, your “some” and my “many” may not be that different when one nails it down and so deflection may be mutual. 🙂
            When I said let’s cut to the chase, I was trying to refocus on some of the core questions that are getting lost in our tit for tat. And I take responsibility for getting off tangent.

          • peteenns

            You’re a bit of a moving target, Norm. Could you summarize in a sentence or two (1) What your point is here–(things got off track in your first comment where you cite Hos 2), and (2) what relevance that comment has to the point of my post.

          • Norman

            Pete, I’m simply interested in how you believe Paul came to understand how Hosea could be interpreted in the manner that he does. You have presented psudeo Petes view but the more interesting question is how do you think he worked his hermenutic. I think that would round out your post and be very helpful to us that look to you for your skills.

          • peteenns

            No secret there. I write about that a lot.

          • Norman

            Ok, Thanks for the time.

          • Norman, why did I think you were being satirical? Because you strike me as a smart guy, sensitive to nuance. Yet you wrote “Yes, you are correct, the Jews as a whole did not understand messianic prophetic literature, they were literalist just like many fundamentalist Christians are today.” You write this knowing that “the Jews on the whole” included Jesus, and his disciples, and the Marys, and all of his initial followers, Paul included. Depending on who we read, these Jews either wrote some of the NT, or most of it, or practically all of it.

            Your potential satire puts forward the idea that the Jews as a whole were too literalist. The potentially satiric argument in support of this proposition? That the Jews as a whole read scripture differently from your potential satirist. It’s a literalist argument: if anyone reads scripture differently from the reading of your satirist, they do not “understand” scripture … yet the only possible way to argue for a single understanding of scripture is to argue for a “literal” meaning. (Even this doesn’t work … there IS no literalism so literal that it avoids the need for interpretation … but we’re talking satire here, not hermeneutics.)

            You later wrote that “the satire is pointed toward modern literalist readers.” This is the kind of satire I thought you intended, to argue against present-day literalism by using an age-old Christian complaint about literalist Jewish reading of scripture to “complain” how we “literally” don’t all read scripture the same way.

            Also, what Pete said. I enjoy your comments here.

          • Norman

            The point is that Pete’s letter to Paul reflects an insinuation that Paul is working outside accepted Jewish interpretive methods. My point is that no he’s not. The Jews of Paul’s day read the scriptures literaly IMO including Paul before he switched gears. It’s really not a problem exclusive to Jews as the same issues IMO trip people up today. There are different ways to attack the problem of over literalizing scripture and Petes conclusion seems to be that Paul used a creative midrash to arrive at his conclusions. I tend to believe that OT and 2nd T literature is inherently designed to be read creatively by the authors to point toward messianic fulfillment and is why messianic Jews could interpret it that way. When Hosea says they will be my people who are not my people he IMHO is saying that God will create a people who have been outside Judaism. It’s a more inclusive statement and makes perfect sense for Paul to interpret it in that manner. Especially since the OT narrative as a whole fosters the idea of God expanding His people to include the Gentiles. Paul was reading the scriptures with new eyes because of the reality of Christ the Messiah.
            Thanks for your reply

          • peteenns

            In your first sentence you completely, 180 degrees, misconstrue the point of my satirical letter, Norm.

            I am most certainly not insinuating that Paul is working outside of “accepted Jewish interpretive methods.”( In fact, everything I have ever written on the topic has made the opposite point.) I am playing off of inerrantist expectations that Paul reads the Bible as they do.

          • Norman

            Pete, I clearly stated that your “pseudo letter” inferred that idea and I assumed that was your intention which I made this exact point in one of my prior comments. However you have not made the point that you are presenting here that you distance yourself from the literalist perspective which I was hoping you would confirm. Reading scripture literaly is not just an evangelical practice but even liberal scholars sometimes tend to read literaly and without Jewish nuance. So one never knows where a person is coming from unless they clarify it.

          • Norman, you seem like a bright and sensitive guy. so I’ll tread carefully. So far you haven’t demonstrated much knowledge that there were a wide range of “accepted Jewish interpretive methods.” 1 and 2 Chronicles does not read Joshua, Judges, the Samuels and the Kings literally. Dead Sea Scrolls “Pesher” does not read Torah literally. Midrash is about the least literalist approach one can imagine, and many scholars date varieties of Midrash to the Second Temple period.

            The entire Jewish notion of “messianic fulfillment” is itself non-literal, no matter what one might expect this fulfillment to look like. The only “literal” messianism in Tanakh is the anointing of kings, judges and others with oil. The expectation of a messianic king that would restore Israel to political independence is in no sense “literal.” Neither were the expectations of some Jews that the Messiah would be a leper, or that there would be two Messiahs.

          • Norman

            Larry, and you too seem like a thoughtful blogger. However I’m going to repeat my supposition that the issues I’m addressing are reflected from NT literature and represents the status quo position of the early first century Christian Church and specifically Paul.
            And yes I study 2 nd T literature to determine what influence it had on the first Christians. I’m primarily focused on why these Christians understood the way they did. In my studies I see patterns that are reflected in OT concerning messiah. Sure there are Jewish variations but that’s not the scope of my particular inquiry.

          • Norman, when you wrote above that “the Jews as a whole did not understand messianic prophetic literature, they were literalist just like many fundamentalist Christians are today,” what you meant to say was that “early Christian literature portrayed the Jews as a whole as not understanding messianic prophetic literature and reading this literature too literally”?

          • Norman

            Larry, I missed your post yesterday as I was traveling. Yes I can accept your interpretation of what I stated. I tried to make it clear that it’s common for the average person to read the bible too literaly Jew or Gentile. I think if you look at Petes post today you can get a glimpse of a very good way to understand prophetic literature. I think Pete hits the nail on the head in his Easter evaluation. One of his best post IMO. Pete threw me off some what with his post here as you could interpret it from different points of context. I’ve encountered enough scholars to know that some would be comfortable with Petes satirical pen pal with Paul.
            By the way Larry I read some of your previous postings and I’m comfortable with a lot of your thoughts. Perhaps we will have to interface some time in the future.

          • newenglandsun

            Maybe he has not read Josephus’s “The Jewish Wars”?

          • newenglandsun

            Many Christians don’t understand what Jesus means when he commands them to “eat his flesh” either. That’s why we have several different views on eucharistic theology–transubstantiation, consubstantiation, spiritual presence (whatever the spiritual presence view means), etc. Even the Eastern Orthodox (who share a much more similar theology to that of the Catholics on the eucharist) still would probably hesitate to call it transubstantiation as while their liturgy (the Byzantine liturgy) indicates the Holy Spirit changes the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus, this might either be a bad translation or a bad interpretation of what that means. Since the Eastern Orthodox have a largely panentheistic theology, the bread and wine are more revealed to be what they truly are by the Holy Spirit as opposed to actually transubstantiating.

      • Surely you know that Esau was a beast? He had the hair to prove it.

        • Norman

          Yep, and hasn’t anyone noticed all the birds of the air nesting in Jesus garden tree. Feathers every where. 😉

  • Clarke Morledge

    Pete: Would you mind naming the best “go to” sources/commentaries that you think try to address this Romans/Hosea issue?… you can just list the “inerrant” ones if you want to keep the list shorter 😉

  • Paul D.

    I’m currently reading Heikki Räisänen’s book Paul and the Law, in which he shows on page after page how Paul’s logic and use of the Old Testament are incoherent and self-contradictory throughout. Quite an eye-opener.

    • Dave Smith

      This sounds very interesting. It’s a very hard book to find, however. Could you give a few examples from the book that you find most interesting or convincing? Would appreciate it.

    • David L. Ricci

      Hmm. I have not read this book, but I wonder from whose perspective Paul’s use of the OT is incoherent? DLR

  • ►►└ ░╒┌╘╕┬├┤

    This letter was very touching to me. I was asking myself the same question. While reading through this, I was overcome by the strong urge to write a song based on it, and here it is:

    Please let me know what you think of it. I know the microphone isn’t very good. Just see it as a first draft. Or an open rehearsal if you like.


  • Just wondering why my comments were not accepted. Why?