The Readings: Deuteronomy 1:1-18; Romans 9:1-18; Matthew 23:27-39
Readers have long recognized Romans 9-11 as a unit. In recent decades many readers have recognized the ways the unit integrally relates to the rest of the book, rather than being a dispensable digression.
Prior to engaging the individual parts of the unit, it’s probably helpful to read Rom 9-11 in a single sitting to get a sense of where Paul is going with the argument. Paul sets himself an ambitious challenge: how to make sense of the large number of Jews who do not recognize Jesus as Messiah. As Byrne notes, the problem is theodicy: “If the divine ‘word’ spoken to Israel appears to have been so ineffective (9:6a), where does this leave God’s faithfulness?” After working through the chapters we may make our own judgments regarding Paul’s success.
Working through the chapters we may wonder what Paul would have written after twenty centuries of sorrow- and anguish-producing Jewish/Christian history.
“For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel” (v.6b). The claim is similar to that of 2:25-29. And as with that text, it is not clear what Paul gains with the claim.
“So then he has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses” (v.18). Here it’s probably important to let Paul’s description of God’s righteousness and love in chapters 1-8 scatter our theological nightmares (e.g., “double predestination”).