This is a rather peculiar subject matter for me. The Christian Zionist or Dispensationalist or many Futurist’s approaches to Old Testament can easily be reduced to three fundamental, salient arguments:
- A tool to combat racism against Jews
- Arguing a logical conclusion on Old Testament Prophecies spoken to Israel must still be valid
- Arguing for the literal fulfillment of prophecies concerning Jesus requiring literal fulfillment of Zionist proof texts
Not to say that these advocates don’t do exegesis, but their salient arguments are summarized above. I recall a debate with Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. Gary DeMar where Dr. Brown had insisted the above while disclaiming that he was not insinuating that Dr. DeMar was a racist against Jews. While doing so, Dr. Brown affirmed that historically there has been an incredible amount of anti-Semitism, correlated with a covenantal mindset.
Paul Enns aptly summarizes the pro-Israel ideal:
The important element of the Abrahamic Covenant, however, demands a future fulfillment with Messiah’s kingdom rule. (1) Israel as a nation will possess the land in the future. Numerous Old Testament passages anticipate the future blessing of Israel and her possession of the land as promised to Abraham. Ezekiel envisions a future day when Israel is restored to the land (Ezek. 20:33–37, 40–42; 36:1–37:28). (2) Israel as a nation will be converted, forgiven, and restored (Rom. 11:25–27). (3) Israel will repent and receive the forgiveness of God in the future (Zech. 12:10–14). The Abrahamic Covenant finds its ultimate fulfillment in connection with the return of Messiah to rescue and bless His people Israel. It is through the nation Israel that God promised in Genesis 12:1–3 to bless the nations of the world. That ultimate blessing will issue in the forgiveness of sins and Messiah’s glorious kingdom reign on earth.
— Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1989), 52.
J.C. Ryle, a giant of the Faith, has a peculiar diatribe in favor of a pro-Israel mindset. In his book, Are You Ready for the End Time? he puts forth several statements that imbibe the pro-Israel movement,
6. I believe that after our Lord Jesus Christ comes again, the earth shall be renewed, and the curse removed; the devil shall be bound, the godly shall be rewarded, the wicked shall be punished; and that before He comes, there shall be neither resurrection, judgment, nor millennium, and that not until after He comes, shall the earth be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord. (Acts 3: 21; Isaiah 25: 6–9; 1 Thessalonians 4: 14–18; Revelation 20: 1, etc.)
— Ryle, J. C. (2014–08–29). Are You Ready For The End Of Time (Kindle Locations 44–47). . Kindle Edition.
This is a capable summary of a Premillennial, pro-Israel movement, couched with presuppositions. Before Christ comes there won’t be a millennium, resurrection, judgment, etc. It still amazes me how much 2 Peter 3 is ignored or dismissed when it comes to eschatology. The reason why it is, of course, it because it explicitly sets forth a Post-Millennial eschatology. Why wouldn’t Ryle incorporate that here?
The facts of the Millennium affirming present realities and therefore demanding a present realization of the Millennium is treated at length here. The next point that Ryle makes is listed as follows:
7. I believe that the Jews shall ultimately be gathered again as a separate nation, restored to their own land, and converted to the faith of Christ, after going through great tribulation. (Jeremiah 30: 10, 11; 31: 10; Romans 11: 25, 26; Daniel 12: 1; Zech. 13. 8, 9.)
— Ryle, J. C. (2014–08–29). Are You Ready For The End Of Time (Kindle Locations 47–49). . Kindle Edition.
This starts the peculiarities for me on the pro-Israel mentality. We see so much detail in the New Testament upon Jesus and Paul correcting misconceptions about Christ’s kingdom and Israel’s identity. Currently, there are no distinctions between Jews and Gentiles (Galatians 3:28). As the passage goes with no men or women either, we understand that Paul’s point is not to indicate that race goes away. But that race is not a factor, neither is biological sex when it comes to Christ saving His elect. Why do we then have to believe that there will be a distinction between Jews and Gentiles in the end time?
It’s really bizarre to me that certain concepts can be explicitly denied in the New Testament yet affirmed in Futurism. Such as Christ saying that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36) but we must believe in the Premillennial scheme that at some point it will be, for a thousand years of this world. A rather insignificant period of time compared to how Christ views a thousand years. Why not an eternal kingdom?
The same is true with the emphasis on a separate economy for Jews in the future. It’s like this really convenient scapegoat to perpetuate first-century error, just repackage it and put it in the future, then you can maintain a particular error without it being considered an egregious error. Who could charge Ryle with such a claim? It’s all based upon his hermeneutical authority and futuristic expediency. Furthermore, Ryle appeals to the decency in humanity for the purpose of coating his rhetoric with honey to make it more palatable. That decency is appealing to the humanity of the reader on the basis of avoiding racism. Who wants to be a racist and yet maintain a solid profession of faith? Those are counterintuitive to each other and thus you have a convincing rhetoric for a pro-Judaic argument.
And to his seventh point again, no doubt that the Jews would have to go through tribulation before being restored, even referencing Zechariah 13:8, “In the whole land, declares the LORD, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive.”
Two-thirds of the Jews must perish before being restored again to a separate nation. But I thought all Israel is supposed to be saved?
It’s striking that Ryle discusses the issues of Hermeneutics as it relates to anti-Semitism in Coming Events and Present Duties and yet in the above citations violates the context of Zechariah 13. That restoration isn’t thousands of years removed from the first coming of Christ, it’s literally in the exact same timeframe,
“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,” declares the LORD of hosts. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones.”
— (Zechariah 13:7 ESV)
This is literally cited by Christ as a fulfillment in His first advent,
“Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’”
— (Matthew 26:31 ESV)
The suffering and passion of Christ is what Jesus defines as “the striking of the Shepherd” and incorporates a specific scattering of the disciples to be regathered by Christ. This is even more ironic for Ryle because of the fact that in his book — Coming Events and Present Duties — he disingenuously charges the church for focusing too much on the first coming of Christ, when he just cited a passage that belongs to the first coming of Christ yet emphasized it as a second coming text,
If the Jew could see nothing in Old Testament prophecy but Christ’s exaltation and final power — has not the Gentile often seen nothing but Christ’s humiliation and the preaching of the Gospel? If the Jew dwelt too much on Christ’s second advent — has not the Gentile dwelt too exclusively on the first? If the Jew ignored the cross — has not the Gentile ignored the crown?
— Ryle, J. C. (2012–07–17). Coming Events and Present Duties (J. C. Ryle Collection Book 5) (Kindle Locations 2183–2188). Prisbrary Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Ryle just committed the very fallacy he espoused as a Jewish error, focusing too much on the Parousia, ignoring the cross form Zechariah 13 a prophecy about the cross, not the Parousia. Basically, we’ve just had it established by Ryle that when it comes to his tradition on pro-Judaism that we must adopt his proof-texting married with his tradition, rather than his exegesis. Elsewhere, he wouldn’t do this. He wouldn’t do this with the Holiness of God.
Who is Ryle even talking about, though? Even if he had a particular group of Gentiles in mind committing Ryle’s self-proclaiming error of focusing too much on the cross, the response then isn’t to affirm a pro-Judaic mentality. And just to clarify, by pro-Judaic I am not insinuating that we shouldn’t be pro-Judaic, but that by pro-Judaic I mean the over-insistence upon Israel as a future, separate, nationally restored state in the mindset of Dispensationalists and Zionists.
Returning back to Ryle’s creeds,
8. I believe that the literal sense of Old Testament prophecies has been far too much neglected by the Churches, and is far too much neglected at the present day, and that under the mistaken system of spiritualizing and accommodating Bible language, Christians have too often completely missed its meaning. (Luke 24: 25, 26.)
— Ryle, J. C. (2014–08–29). Are You Ready For The End Of Time (Kindle Locations 49–51). . Kindle Edition.
This is where we have to take serious disagreement with Ryle and those who hold to similar rhetoric. This argument makes one’s hermeneutical methods and personal use of said methods the final authority. Rather than focusing on purely grammatical or contextual reasoning, Ryle has already set a standard that he intends to apply before even coming to a text of Scripture. Basically, “Interpret it this way and you will interpret it correctly”. This is juxtaposed to the Protestant way of interpreting Scriptures through Sola Scriptura. Letting the Scriptures interpret themselves and letting the Scriptures be their own best interpreter and final, infallible authority.
If the pro-Israel mentality was so convincing from the Scriptures, especially with just plain, straightforward readings, why must they attempt to convince others to first adopt their hermeneutic before even approaching the text?
Barry Horner attempting to placate my recent argument here in his book, Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged states,
I have encountered numerous Christians who simply do not want to face this unsavory historic record. Certainly they have offered token acknowledgment of the problem while at the same time retaining a firm commitment to Augustinian eschatology in this regard. Further they have frequently retreated to the claim that Scripture alone is the basis of their eschatology, and as a consequence they have strenuously asserted a willingness to contend strictly according to the biblical text. (My emphasis)
— Horner, Barry E. (2007–10–15). Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged: 3 (New American Commentary Studies in Bible and Theology) (Kindle Locations 577–580). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Horner further acknowledged the necessity of following Sola Scriptura but he does so after his aforementioned pejorative way of characterizing those on the other side of the aisle. How is it “retreating” to affirm that the Scriptures alone are the final, infallible authority on the matter of eschatology or the future of Israel? Clearly, Horner is nothing more than peeved by the notion that the Sola Scriptura is used against him and straining at a response.
Horner, however, follows the same exegetical fallacy of demanding hermeneutics as the cause of a Reformed anti-Semitism and hermeneutics on his side of the aisle as the solution,
I maintain that Augustine was grievously wrong in his exegesis at this point, and in so doing he bequeathed a hermeneutical legacy that has proved to result in dire consequences for the people of Israel. Furthermore, I suggest that the traditional Reformed exegesis at this point is likewise in error since it is grounded on the same Augustinian root and has resulted in similar Augustinian fruit.
— Horner, Barry E. (2007–10–15). Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged: 3 (New American Commentary Studies in Bible and Theology) (Kindle Locations 4072–4075). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Those on the Augustinian side are not the only ones in the cross-hairs of Horner. Prominent Premillinnarian, George Ladd, is also criticized for focusing on Old Testament prophecy towards Gentiles,
For example, Ladd cites Rom 9: 24– 26 where Paul employs Hos 2: 23; 1: 10 to describe God’s call to the Gentiles. Yet the context of Hosea 1– 2 deals with the nation of Israel and the promised land. It is here that Ladd’s Gentile logic, rather than a Hebrew perspective represented by Paul, concludes that Hosea’s prophecy finds a broader, more inclusive fulfillment which nullifies a more narrow, national, eschatological interpretation of the prophet.
— Ibid, (Kindle Locations 4095–4099).
Further, in Horner’s take on Ladd, he signifies Ladd as believing in the Church as true Israel. Horner asserts that the context of Hosea 1–2 deals with the nation of Israel and even concludes that Ladd is purely using “Gentile logic”. Who can take Horner seriously on this? Ladd isn’t using “Gentile logic”, that’s an absolute straw man of this, prominent Premillennial scholar. Horner also gave zero substantiation for his assertion that Ladd was using Gentile logic or that Hosea 1–2 deals with the nation of Israel. Horner posited his own presupposition about the text whereas Ladd was doing exegesis. Horner’s problem, therefore, has nothing to do with Ladd specifically but with the Apostle Paul. Paul is the one who is employing Hosea. Paul is the one who applies Hosea to Gentiles,
…even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were 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 will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”
— (Romans 9:24–26 ESV)
I’m surprised Horner thought he could get away with this bare, baseless assertion that Hosea 1–2 is about Israel, rather than taking Apostolic, infallible interpretation from Paul that Hosea is, “not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles”. Paul said, “As indeed…” as in what? As in the calling of God’s people, “not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles”. Not to mention the quote from Hosea 2:23, “Those who were not my people….” How much clearer does it need to get to refer specifically to a group of people that are not God’s people as actually being God’s people i.e. those whom God calls?
Horner would have a point if his point was that Hosea has Israel in view within the context,
And the LORD said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”
— (Hosea 1:4–5 ESV)
Not to mention,
Hos. 1:6 ¶ She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the LORD said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all.
Constantly in the context of Hosea, the Jews are specifically referred to as “Not God’s people” and that He is “not their God”.
Of course, Hosea 2:14 picks up a theme of restoration. But it picks up the theme of restoration in what sense?
“And in that day I will answer, declares the LORD, I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth,and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel,
and I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’”
— (Hosea 2:21–23 ESV)
And it’s in these verses that Paul cites from Romans 9 after explicitly describing the calling of God upon Jews and Gentiles. That’s the theme of Hosea then. That’s the idea that Paul infallibly interprets is the fact that the specific restoration of “Not My People” is a restoration that incorporates Gentiles. Another way of putting is the fact that Jews on their own do not consistent the restoration of God’s people in Hosea. Again, as employing Sola Scriptura, allowing the Scriptures to interpret themselves, we are bound by Romans 9 to interpret Hosea as the uniting of those who are not God’s people with the remnant of those who are. Paul literally says this quoting from Isaiah 20:22, 23,
Rom. 9:27 ¶ And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved,
This very concept of Isaiah is precisely the same context as Hosea,
Hos. 1:10 ¶ Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”
Furthermore Hosea 1:10, 11 indicates the concept of the children of Israel being saved. This is absolutely crucial in terms of fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, because the concept of gathering the children of Israel is picked up by Jesus,
Matt. 23:37 ¶ “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
Matt. 23:38 See, your house is left to you desolate.
The leaders of Israel were unwilling to gather the children of Israel which Hosea describes as the restoration of Israel. Israel’s house is already left desolate as described in Matthew 23:38, the same terminology as what the Abomination of Desolation of the Olivet Discourse was supposed to do. Thus you have two specific themes, the gathering of the Children of Israel and the desolation of the House of Israel that are mentioned in Matthew 23:37, 38 and these events were prophesied by Christ in the Olivet Discourse as taking place within the lifetime of His generation (Matthew 23:34). Which means the gathering of God’s elect in Matthew 24:29–31 isn’t the rapture, but a first century fulfillment of the restoration of the children of Israel into being the people of God. The Abomination of Desolation isn’t a future, world-wide Antichrist but a first century Antichrist to officially cut of the two thirds of Israel as prophesied by Zechariah 13:8. Which corresponds to Daniel 9:24 which puts an end to Israel’s transgression of constant apostasy. Horner has clearly missed this reality, insisting upon a fulfillment in Israel contra-New Testament interpretation. That particular remnant is view irrespective a future, national restoration. Horner attempts to unite the concept of a remnant with that future, national restoration of Israel,
Nevertheless, an area in which I would agree with Robertson concerns his statement that “this new covenant people would be formed around the core of twelve Israelites who were chosen to constitute the ongoing Israel of God.” However, I would also maintain that those twelve apostles, in retaining their historic Jewishness, constituted “a [Jewish] remnant chosen by grace” (Rom 11: 5) that passionately anticipated the restoration and regeneration of national Israel.
— Horner, Barry E. (2007–10–15). Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged: 3 (New American Commentary Studies in Bible and Theology) (Kindle Locations 1444–1447). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
One of the immediate and specific issues that Horner attempts to raise in response to Robertson’s assertion is the land issue,
However, the promise of the land was according to the unconditional, everlasting terms of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen 15: 1– 21) that were revealed 430 years before the giving of the law, and thus cannot be annulled. (Gal 3: 17).
— Horner, Barry E. (2007–10–15). Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged: 3 (New American Commentary Studies in Bible and Theology) (Kindle Locations 1469–1471). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Horner attempts also to deal specifically with the issues that people on my side of the aisle would raise. That is, that Abraham and many of the Patriarchs were focused on the heavenly city, that city that has foundations whose builder is God. In so doing, Horner violates his and Ryle’s Hermeneutical principle. That is, don’t spiritualize or over-spiritualize the text, but take a literal, straightforward reading. My biggest complained among Futurists and Premillennialists and especially Zionists and Dispensationalists are the cherry picking of this method with cherry-picked Scriptures. Notice the extreme lengths that Horner must go through — especially citing Delitzch who does exactly the same — to justify the the Patriarchs weren’t looking for a heavenly city,
It must be confessed that we nowhere read of the patriarchs, that they expressed a conscious desire for a home in heaven. The nearest approach to anything of the kind is in Jacob’s vision of the angel-ladder, and his wondering exclamation, “this is the gate of heaven” (Gen. 28: 17), but even there no desire is expressed for an entrance into the heavenly land, but the promise renewed of future possession of the earthly Canaan; “The land whereon thou sleepest will I give to thee.” 61 Then Delitzsch adds concerning Heb 11: 10, Here the heavenly Jerusalem is not contrasted with the earthly city, but with the frail and moveable dwellings of the patriarchs in their nomad life. 62
— Ibid, (Kindle Locations 5495–5501).
Abraham’s hope was eschatological, but not in the sense of heaven’s superiority to the earth, of the spiritual as superior to the material. Rather, his hope was of the future messianic age, the millennial kingdom in which heaven would be manifest on earth and residence there would be gloriously holy, permanent.
— Ibid (Kindle Locations 5502–5504).
But is this really the issue of Hebrews 11:16?
“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”
— (Hebrews 11:16 ESV)
Why not take this passage literally? The Patriarchs were desiring a κρείττων (better) country. The BDAG defines,
① pert[aining] to being of high status, more prominent, higher in rank, preferable, better
— William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 566.
This better country is better, not because it’s still on earth, but because it’s a “heavenly country”. The BDAG continues,
① pert[aining] to being in the sky or heavens as an astronomical phenomenon, celestial, heavenly
② pert. to being associated with a locale for transcendent things and beings, heavenly, in heaven
The Greek refutes Horner’s understanding exclusively. It’s not a “spiritually better” concept as opposed to comparing spirituality with materialness. But I hope the reader can see the very fact that Horner spiritualized and dismissed Hebrews 11, not following the clear, grammatical and contextual interpretation. It’s obvious that Horner needed to have departed from his and Ryle’s Hermeneutical demands on the literalness of an interpretation because to do so in Hebrews 11 undermines the entirety of his pro-Judaic tradition.
What about the issue that Horner raised on the permanency of the land being a possession to Israel? The immediate response is the fact the Horner, as cited above, believes that that refers to the Millennial kingdom when Israel will be restored to the promised land in a state of permanent holiness. But that eliminates a forever dwelling place because that current land will be destroyed and the heavens and the earth recreated. Then the actual heavenly city, the New Jerusalem comes down out of heaven. Why wouldn’t the permanent dwelling place of God’s people be the actual permanent dwelling place, the new heavens, and the new earth? Clearly, the heavenly city that Abraham and the Patriarchs were looking for was the actual heavenly city, the New Jerusalem. Furthermore, if we’re talking about the promised land,
“By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.”
— (Hebrews 11:9 ESV)
Here, Abraham lived in the land of promise as in a foreign land. All those who died in faith died in the reality of being strangers and exiles, not in a foreign land, but strangers and exiles on the earth.
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
(Hebrews 11:13 ESV)
We can absolutely affirm the fact that the promised land was of an eternal, unchangeable nature. However, that requires an exegesis of what that land is. The Old Testament certainly did have the land as a type or shadow of the better and more superior country, the heavenly one, in which in far grander scale is pictured than that of Horner’s physical location.
Another huge problem with Horner’s interpretive scheme is that it ends up proving too much. The big issue is that God literally promised to literal Israel a literal restoration in Horner’s view. The reason why this proves too much is that it’s both a broad assertion about how to interpret Old Testament prophecy that is made to physical Israel as well as a lack of information presented on how or when to specifically do that? What are the hermeneutical guidelines for distinguishing between Old Testament prophecies that either has an ultimate fulfillment or an exclusive fulfillment in the future, national restoration of Israel? And what do you do then with the Gentiles with respect to ultimate fulfillment?
Doesn’t an insistence upon the Old Testament’s literal promises given to Israel nullify Gentile inclusion? I’m sure the response would be “no” but that clearly creates an inconsistency in the argument, that we must interpret the Old Testament promises of Israel for Israel as an exclusion.
But clearly the New Testament has a greater emphasis upon two specific things:
Gal. 3:8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”
Here are the two specific issues that nullify a pro-Judaic approach to the Old Testament:
- It was always the plan of God through the Gospel to justify the “Gentiles” by faith.
- It was always the promise of God to bless all nations through Abraham.
This comes across in a way explicit death nail for the pro-Judaic approach. The word translated “Gentiles” is the same word translated “nations”. Furthermore, it was the Gospel, that we Gentiles share in full privileges in, that was preached to Abraham. If the Gospel is now, the promises given to Abraham must therefore also be now.
Thus Galatians 3:8 flows as is: “And the Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the Nations by faith, preached the Gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all Nations be blessed”. Or, “God would justify the Gentiles… ‘In you shall all Gentiles be blessed’”.
The issue of how the promises given to Abraham are fulfilled in the New Testament is because of the righteous by law that Israel failed to obtain, demonstrating the fact that no one could be justified by law. Everyone who is God’s elect must be justified by faith. The Gospel is preached to Israel, they reject it, it goes out to the Nations, they receive it with joy, provoking true Israel, the elect remnant, to receive the Gospel also by faith.
Therefore, of course, the crux of the debate inevitably hinges on Romans 9–11. Horner devotes an entire chapter in his book to this controversial passage. Horner even starts his chapter by stating,
Romans 11 is, by common confession, the crucial passage with regard to the NT teaching concerning the present nature and destiny of national Israel.
—Ibid, (Kindle Locations 5649–5650).
Horner, who isn’t immune to caricature, begins to set forth a straw man in Romans 11,
If ever an opportunity presented itself for Paul to renounce unbelieving Israel once and for all, it would be here where the argument of chapter 10 has so conclusively demonstrated the accountability of the Jews for their blatant rebellion against the light of the gospel.
— Ibid, (Kindle Locations 5689–5691).
No clue who Horner is specifically bucking against, but that’s certainly not the reality among those on my side of the aisle in Covenantal thinking. But certainly there’s an immediate problem, Paul definitely paints a bleak picture for current Jews even in Horner’s estimation. But Horner certainly ignores much of Romans 11, even the immediate context prior. Horner states,
So at the commencement of Romans 11 we find another passionate endorsement of the national descendents of Abraham.
Ibid, (Kindle Locations 5695–5696).
I don’t mind stating that Paul has a passion for his kinsmen. But to state a passionate endorsement of the national descendants after stating,
“But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”
(Romans 10:18–20 ESV)
Is a far cry from a long stretch. Not to mention the specific reason why Paul concludes, from the Old Testament, that God has not forsaken His people whom He foreknew. Romans 11:4, answer the specifics of how God has not forsaken, nor ever forsaken, His people. It’s on the basis of the remnant that God saved in Elijah’s day. 7,000 Jews were all the Biblical proof needed by Paul to justify God not forsaking His people. Romans 11:5 declares that at the present time, it’s the remnant of God still that are the focus of God’s salvation in Israel.
Before continuing through Romans 11, Horner’s exegesis of said chapter begs the question, were the Jews who were saved in the beginning chapters of Acts — who formed the majority almost exclusively the New Testament Church — fulfillments of Old Testament prophecy concerning Israel? If you say, “no” then you separate Jews from Jews, creating two classes of Israel and convolute the Old Testament prophecies concerning ethnic Jews. There are then prophecies concerning ethnic Jews of the first century and ethnic Jews of a later time. And somehow these Jews are distinct from another to the point where you really would have to classify first century Jews as parenthetical or even Gentile. If you say, “yes” then the whole pro-Judaic framework comes crashing down because it indicates that there is an already fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies within the Church which makes up Jews and Gentiles.
Romans 11:7 is another crucial passage that specifically defines the context. The elect obtained what Israel was seeking. And those who didn’t obtain it were hardened. And thus the “partial hardening” that happened on Israel is the difference between the remnant elect and those who fail to obtain what Israel was seeking. Romans 11:11 introduces the purpose of Israel’s rejection. It was for the Gentiles to be brought in. But remember Galatians 3:8? This was the plan all along, to bless all Nations within Abraham.
Furthermore, there are absolutely important considerations introduced in Romans 9. The first five verses demonstrate Paul’s ethnic concern and the privilege that the nation of Israel had down through the ages. This is a harsh consideration, however, because it demonstrates that even with all that genealogical and divine advantages plenty of them still rejected God, killed His prophets and ultimately put the sinless Son of God to death. That is the ultimate form of apostasy is to have the Son of God physically present in your midst, put Him to death, know that He rose from the dead and still persecute His Church. And still, reject Him.
Verse 6 of Romans 9 explains the specifics of why Israel could fail. It’s because not all are actually Israel who are from Israel. Even if one is a physical descendant of Israel one could still be not an Israelite. Even Romans 9:7 demonstrates that one could be Abraham’s offspring, as Horner would describe such a person as one who the Apostle Paul had a passionate endorsement of. Here in Romans 9, Paul does not endorse all the national descendants of Abraham. And Paul must prove that not everyone from Israel is Israel because there’s plenty of evidence demonstrating Israelite rejection of God. But God’s Word went out to Israel, so why are some Israelites not saved and eternally doomed already? It’s because not everyone who is descendant of Abraham is heirs of the promise.
There’s an absolutely important and essential concept presented in Romans 9:29. Remember earlier that I described the remnant of Israel in terms that were synonymous with the Children of Israel? Romans 9:29 describes Isaiah’s prophecy,
And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.”
— (Romans 9:29 ESV)
Paul then asserts on the basis of this passage,
Rom. 9:30 ¶ What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith;
Pauls question is in effect a response to the passage from Isaiah. This basically incorporates what we already understood from Hosea, that the Children of Israel are those from every tribe, nation, tongue, and people. It is the all-inclusive designation of Israelites and Nations.
We’ve already documented the issues of Romans 10. Israel demonstrably rejected the Gospel throughout the ages. “But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for ‘Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.’”(Romans 10:18 ESV) Thus far, in Romans 9 and 10 we’ve recognized some serious issues that Horner discounts or dismisses outright. Those issues are as follows:
- Israel rejected God’s Gospel
- The Word of God didn’t fail, because those who rejected it were not really Abraham’s descendants.
- Abraham’s descendants are those who have the same faith as Abraham (c.f. Romans 4:16, Galatians 3:7)
- Descendancy depends on God’s choice and purpose of election.
Therefore, by the time we arrive at Romans 11, we have to have Paul’s theology of Israel fresh on our minds. He certainly is broken over his own kinsmen, but he hardly has a passionate endorsement of all of Abraham’s physical descendants.
When Paul starts Romans 11 his question is primarily concerned with the previous and preceding contexts that have to do with the elect. This is how God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Has he abandoned all ethnic national Jews? No. Why? Because there’s a remnant.
His question is a double-edged sword. It’s understood that the Jews were the people of God, so naturally, in recounting Israel’s failure throughout history, which was because they weren’t actually God’s people, anyone could ask if God was finally done with the Jews. But Paul’s response is to illustrate how the whole time Israel was being obstinate and disobedient there was always a remnant that constituted the actual people of God. Therefore, within the nation of Israel, there are still elect whom God has not abandoned. There are still, even in our day, Jews who are supposed to be saved through the exact same means as us Gentiles.
Horner tries to dodge the remnant issue of Romans 11 by indicating,
According to Num 15: 17– 21, the first loaf resulting from a lump of dough was to be an offering of firstfruits or a consecrated offering to the Lord (cp. Lev. 6: 14– 18). So the holiness of the first part extends to the full lump of dough. Hence the salvation blessing of the Jewish “remnant” (v. 5) extends to the salvation blessing of the “full number” (v. 12) of all Israel (v. 26). The next analogy will clarify this point.
— Ibid, (Kindle Locations 5743–5745).
The problem is the fact that Horner doesn’t recognize from the context of Romans 11 that the “rest of the dough” is the rest of the remnant, not the rest of Israel.
Horner commits several other exegetical fallacies. Primary of which is the lack of consideration for how Paul has defined Israel. As Horner attempts to indicate from the πλήρωμα of Romans 11:12, he assumes that this means the inclusion of more than the remnant who are Israel. There can’t be an inclusion of those who are not Israel into the natural branches.
What Horner misses is aptly defined in Mounce’s definition of πλήρωμα,
complete attainment of entire belief, full acceptance, Rom. 11:12;
— Mounce’s Greek Dictionary
Thus, Mounce defines πλήρωμα not as the full inclusion of a number in Romans 11:12 but the full acceptance or the complete attainment of an entire belief. It’s the full salvation of the remnant, as each member of the remnant of Israel from Israel believes the Gospel. Which contextually makes sense as those who don’t continue in unbelief are grafting in.
Even if we accepted the concept of a “full number” it still has to be defined by the context. The “full number” isn’t the “full number” of every ethnic Jew. There are tons who are perishing right now who eliminate that possibility right now. The full number is the full number of the remnant. God counted off 7,000 in Elijah’s day.
And the salvation of this remnant is not a distant futuristic fulfillment but was started in the 1st century and on-going.
Horner continues on to the assertions regarding the “partial-hardening”
The present hardening of Israel will be “until” the mystery of the inclusion of the Gentiles within God’s saving purpose has run its course and attained its “full number” (see also Luke 21: 24).
— Ibid, (Kindle Locations 5771–5772).
The issue with the pro-Judaic understanding of the hardening is context. Romans 11:7 defines the hardening. There’s the present salvation of the remnant, the past tense failing to obtain what Israel was seeking. They were seeking a righteousness that they thought was obtainable by works. They failed to obtain it. But as Romans 11:7 indicated the elect obtained it and then the rest were hardened. A partial hardening is hardening the non-elect. This was specifically defined in Romans 9:18.
But what of Romans 11:25? Would this then prove that there is currently a mixture of non-elect with the remnant in Israel and that at a future time it will simply be a full elect? No. The partial hardening happens to Israel, again as defined in the context, as the elect obtaining salvation and the rest are hardened. This happens until the πλήρωμα of the Gentiles. The full acceptance of the remnant of the Jews corresponds and in synchronous to the full acceptance of the nations.
ὅτι πώρωσις ἀπὸ μέρους τῷ Ἰσραὴλ γέγονεν ἄχρι οὗ τὸ πλήρωμα τῶν ἐθνῶν εἰσέλθῃ
Or literally, “That a hardening ἀπὸ — away from — the whole of Israel has happened until that which is of the full acceptance of the nations comes in.”
But this passage is connected to the next verse,
καὶ οὕτως πᾶς Ἰσραὴλ σωθήσεται
“And in this manner, all Israel will be saved.”
In what manner will all Israel be saved? Pauls focus has been on the present salvation of the elect, the hardening of the nonelect, and the full acceptance of both Jew and Gentile of the Gospel i.e. the full number of the elect which is made up of both Jew and Gentile.
The manner in which all Israel will be saved is by the full acceptance of the righteousness by faith by the remnant and by the elect from all nations. The thing that I must point out is how inconsistent people like Horner handle the πλήρωμα. The πλήρωμα of the Jews means all Jews but the πλήρωμα of the Gentiles doesn’t mean all Gentiles, that would be universalism. Regardless, the hardening is upon the non-elect as defined by Romans 9. The πλήρωμα of the Jews is the remnant, the elect of the Jews and the πλήρωμα of the Gentiles is the elect of the Gentiles. A huge point of Romans 11 is the very fact the Gospel goes out from the Jews to save the Gentiles and synchronously with the Gospel going out it makes the Jews, the remnant, jealous and provokes them to salvation so that the people of God are all united and gathered into one people, one bride.
The issue of the partial hardening is even more intensified and confirms the fact the πλήρωμα is a word of understanding and acceptance not of corporate number in the context. πώρωσις is the word that is used to refer to “hardening”. The idea of “partial” is ἀπὸ μέρους. μέρους refers that which is a part out of a whole. The discontinuity of Horner is seen in the fact that he calls the partial hardening a temporary hardening, “Israel’s Temporary Hardening in Unbelief, vv. 25– 32” which is the heading designation on location 5763 in the Kindle edition. The idea of the temporary nature isn’t a hardening that is at some point lifted as Horner indicates. It’s a hardening that at some point ceases because all of God’s people of all time have been saved. There’s no point to continue the hardening when “all Israel is saved”.
This is the reason Paul cites Isaiah 59:20, 21. The Redeemer has come to Zion just like his people have come to Mount Zion,
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”
— (Hebrews 12:22–24 ESV)
Of course the word, “assembly” is ἐκκλησία, normally translated as “church” but a primary word in the LXX for the assembly of Israel.
We have come to the city of the living God, mount Zion, heavenly Jerusalem. You don’t have to wait for some fable, distant future, physical reign of Jesus Christ in a political earthly kingdom — the same error that the first century Jews thought about Jesus first coming — in order to be a citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem, the kingdom of God, or a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9). God already has a chosen race a holy nation, a people for His own possession that He is currently in the process of gathering all God’s people into one. And once He finalizes the full number of those whom He has chosen to be saved, He ends this creation and initiates the new one (2 Peter 3).
This is the Biblical teaching. I’m certainly sorry that people like Barry Horner feel the need to compare that to historical racism, which is just as bad as saying that Trinitarianism is wrong because people put anti-Trinitarians to death in the 16th century. The historical racism of people who hate the image of God is the reason why there was historical anti-Semitism. If you really have a heart for the ethnic Jew, then let’s join in together to go preach the Gospel to them, their only hope of salvation.e
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