All Israel Will Be Saved

All Israel Will Be Saved August 20, 2020

I appreciated Jason Staples’ recent guest posts on Bart Ehrman’s blog. In them he discusses one of the many challenging issues of interpretation in Paul’s letters. What did Paul mean when he wrote in his letter to the church in Rome that “all Israel will be saved”? It took me far longer than it ought to have to rethink that text in light of Paul’s expectation that the end of history and dawn of the kingdom of God would come about in his lifetime with the triumphant appearance of Christ. His words make a lot more sense when viewed in that context. Paul expected that his own proclamation to Gentiles which was in the present meeting with a response of rejection from his fellow Jews would eventually provoke them to jealousy and they would have a change of heart, once the full number of Gentiles destined to respond positively had done so. This was not a statement about something that would happen in some distant final generation, or automatically to all generations, but to his generation, the last generation. Paul was talking about what he expected those living in his time would do.

While interpreting Paul’s statement in that way eliminates many of the theological puzzles, it also has an implication that is probably the reason so few embrace it. It means that Paul was wrong. But as Jason Staples points out in one of his two guest posts, this is closely connected to a matter about which Jesus also appears to have been wrong in what he expected and what he predicted as a result. If Paul is wrong in the same manner that Jesus was, it is scarcely going to cause any more significant consternation than Jesus being wrong would on its own. And so hopefully what I’ve suggested here about Paul won’t trouble you that much…

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