Romans 9–11 has long been an interpretive battleground. While many scholars understand it to be a treatise on election, Aaron Sherwood argues that Paul is primarily interested in defending God’s covenantal faithfulness. The first major passage of this section includes a long series of Old Testament citations, and Paul uses these texts to explain what God is doing with Jews who have rejected Jesus.
In The Word of God Has Not Failed, Sherwood presents a fresh reading of Romans 9:6–29, focusing on Paul’s use of Scripture. Since this passage contains such a high concentration of Old Testament quotations, it is vital to explore how Paul understood and interpreted those texts. Only then can we really understand the thrust of Paul’s message.
According to Sherwood, Paul sees the rejection of the gospel by unbelieving Jews as idolatry. He explains how God’s judgment on them is working to fulfill his covenantal promises. And he shows that the inclusion of believing Gentiles is a fulfillment of God’s promises to bless Israel and to make them a blessing to the nations.
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“The soundest interpretation, therefore, is that Paul defends God’s covenantal faithfulness by identifying present unbelieving Jews’ rejection of the gospel as idolatry, and then explaining how God is using his judgment upon them in fulfillment of his covenantal promises to his people Israel.” (Page 133)
“Accordingly, given the nature of idolatry in the biblical tradition, God is judging national Israel by hardening them in their idolatry—in order to use his judgment upon them in fulfillment of his covenantal purpose, just as he did Pharaoh in Exodus 4–14 (Rom 9:14–18).” (Pages 133–134)
“So, similar to Exodus 9:16 above, there are no indications in the episode of 33:12–19 or the context of chapters 32–34 that allow 33:19 to be read in terms of a discussion of God’s merciful character, the doctrine of election, the salvation of groups or individuals, or the like. Instead, the contextual meaning and function of Exodus 33:19 is to explicate God’s discretion in dispensing either judgment or mercy in response to idolatry in the case of Israel his people. Particularly, as a pivotal text within the narrative of chapters 32–34, Exodus 33:19 is crafted in the way that it is in order to highlight the precariousness of Israel’s future caused by their idolatry.” (Page 88)
“Paul defends God’s faithfulness by arguing that he has not rejected them; it is they who have rejected him by rejecting God’s Messiah and gospel.” (Page 134)
Aaron Sherwood is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Alliance Theological Seminary, Nyack College in Nyack, NY. He has a degrees in philosophy and in biblical studies, with research specializations in New Testament, Second Temple Judaism, and Hebrew Bible. In his current position and previously at the College of the Bahamas, Roanoke College and Durham University, Aaron has taught a variety of topics in religious studies, philosophy of religion, and biblical studies, primarily in Pauline writings and theology, the use of the OT in the NT, and biblical languages. Since completing his PhD, Aaron has published several times regarding Paul’s epistle to the Romans.