Lectionary Year A
August 4, 2002
Romans 9:1-5

Step IV: Context

A. Primitive Christianity

(JFC) Truth-telling gets mentioned regularly in the New Testament, especially see John 8:32, where it declares that "the truth will make you free". Also, Pilate questioned Jesus asking, "What is truth?" in John 18:38. Then, Ephesians 4:15 calls for "speaking the truth in love", which might be what Paul is trying to remember to do in our passage at hand this week. Then, too, II Timothy 2:15 seems to indicate there is a "right way to handle the truth". Then, perhaps more like what Paul is addressing in today's text gets resounded in II Peter 2:2, where we read, "the way of truth might get maligned". As for the sorrow Paul expresses in verse 2, lu,ph, Bultmann in TDNT writes, it "is used generally for sorrow, pain (II Cor. 7:10; Heb. 12:11; I Pt. 2:19), esp. sorrow of the soul he disciples in Gethsemane in Lk. 22:45, their sorrow at the departing of Jesus in John 16:6, 20, 22 . . ." Paul also warns against causing anyone else any such sorrow, in Romans 14:15. Then, Bultmann concludes, as conclusively as Bultmann ever concludes, that Christians are spared the sorrow of leaving the world in that they find more joy in following Jesus than they suffer sorrow by leaving the world's leading. And, Hauck's article on odu,nh in TDNT says, ". . . Paul's deep distress that his fellow-countrymen are shut off from salvation . . . is found also in I Tm. 6:10 for the severe and piercing (peripei'rw) self-accusations and pangs of conscience which will smite those who have defected out of love of money." These early believers knew about being adopted (ui`oqesi,a) by God for Paul uses the image emphasizing that it is God's act rather than humans' doing or deserving, as in Romans 9:4, 8:15 and 23, Galatians 4:5 and also in Ephesians 1:5. Then, Paul is certain God will keep the promises (evpaggeli,ai) he cites at the end of verse 4, see Romans 15:8 and they supercede the Law, as Galatians 3:16, 21 and much of Galatians 4 say. These promises bring "Messianic salvation", according to Romans 9:4; 15:8; II Corinthians 1:20 and 7:1.

B. Old Testament and Judaism

(JFC) Of course, the Covenant(s), the Law, etc., Romans 9:4 lists appear frequently in the Old Testament, e.g., Psalm 50:5ff and 81, on which Mowinckel based his argument that the Law and the Covenant(s) were annually celebrated theophonically. Alt cited Deuteronomy 31:10-13 as a part of using the Law and the Covenant(s) to celebrate the Feast of the Tabernacles. Then, Van Rad found references throughout Deuteronomy to recitations of the history of Israel's getting the Covenant(s) and the Law (at Sinai), if not annually celebrated, at least every seven years. The Covenant was first mentioned in Genesis 6:18, Noah's assurance of God's accompanying him in the ark through the flood. Then in Genesis 17:19 God establishes a/the covenant with Abraham and Isaac. Next, Deuteronomy 7:9 records Moses' relying on God's Covenant with him. If we have to enumerate the Covenants, they might be: the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:1-3), the Mosaic covenant (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5), the Davidic covenant (2 Samuel 7), and the New covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Then, in Jeremiah 31:31-33 God claims to own "their people and they shall be my people. . ", which might be the Old Testament's closest hint at what Paul means here in Romans 9:4. Then, too, Fourth Ezra's sixth vision (chapter 13) pictures and interprets a similar portrayal as Paul might elucidate from his emotions expressed in Romans 9:2!

C. Hellenistic World

(JFC) Again referring to Bultmann's article in TDNT on lu,ph, we read that "the Christian life begins with a turning from the world, a break with it, and it involves a constant maintaining of this attitude to the world . . . This concept finds its first expression in a Christian modification of the ancient Hellenistic idea of the salutary pangs of remorse." These philosophers would tend to be less critical than Paul seems to be of his fellow-countrymen refusing to believe in Christ-salvation, but would certainly appreciate Paul's affection for those who do not (yet?) believe in Christ-salvation. God's sovereignty in Romans 9:5 could, surely, appeal to these thinking Greeks and stimulate their discussions off the rest of the gifts God gives, as listed in the preceding verse(s).

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