O. Palmer Robertson on Romans 11

Discussion in 'NT Epistles' started by Peairtach, Jul 29, 2009.

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  1. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    This thread is a bit of a spin-off from this one


    I'll put a link there to this also.

    I have now looked at Palmer Robertson's careful treatment of Romans 11, and he hasn't persuaded me that - as well as speaking about an ongoing small part of the Jews believing until the end of time - that Paul isn't also speaking about a future reingrafting of the Jews as a nation.

    I'll explain why later, on this thread..........

    For a start,

    I would largely agree with him that Romans 11 has present concerns and that some of it is about the fact that there is an ongoing (small) proportion of Jews that believe. This in itself would encourage Jewish evangelism by the Roman church.

    vv. 1-11 I can largely agree with Robertson, though because of verse 12, I believe v.11 may have a future reference.

    v.12 There is a weakness in Robertson's interpretation here:-

    Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?

    Robertson believes that the fulness of the Jews is the full number of the Jews who will be saved incrementally to the end of time. But - although Jewish believers have contributed to the life of the church and the work of the Gospel - there is no sense in which this addition of Jewish believers has anything like exceeded or been commensurate with the riches that have been bestowed on the world by the fact that the Jews rejected Christ.

    Also, Robertson believes that when the fulness of the Jews - and Gentiles - come in, Christ will return and the world will end. Yet there is no explicit mention of the Parousia in this chapter, and when the Parousia happens, there will be such a great change to the order of things, that the blessings of a Jewish "fulness" in that context would be moot. It would not be the Jewish fulness that would be the riches of the Gentile (and Jewish) believers, but the return of Christ which Paul doesn't mention.

    More later...............
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2009
  2. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    The next verse where some of us wouldn't see eye to eye with Robertson's exegesis is v. 15

    For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?

    Robertson ascribes this to the ongoing addition of a relatively small number of Jews over the centuries until Christ's return. But this interpretation of "life from the dead" does not exceed or is not even commensurate with "the reconciling of the world". Paul is using a fortiori arguments in 11:12 and 11:15. Has the blessing to the Gentiles, and the church, of Jewish believers down through the centuries, been in the order of the blessing that was received through the apostasy of the Jewish nation? Hardly. Paul's arguments in 11:12 and 11:15 wouldn't hold water if Palmer was correct.

    I can't see if Robertson deals with the phrase "life from the dead". By ordinary grammatical rules it refers to life from the dead for the world. The life from the dead that the world has received from converted Jews down the years is appreciated by many Gentile Christians, but has not been commensurate with the reconciliation received from their collective casting away.

    Notice too that Robertson is toggling between collective Jews and individual Jews in one sentence:-

    For if the casting away of them (collectively) be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be (one by one or in a small proportion), but life from the dead?

    More later.........
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2009
  3. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

  4. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Verse 24 is another verse where Robertson is weak

    For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? (Romans 11:24)

    Robertson says, "Nothing in this figure of ingrafting communicates the idea of a distinctive and corporate inclusion of the Jews at some future date."

    This depends on what Paul means by how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?

    If he means (a) that it is more fitting that a Jew be reincorporated into the Olive Tree, that is one thing.

    But if he means (b) that the Jews will be easy to reach or more likely to become Christians that has not been the experience of Jewish missions down the years. Robertson doesn't try to explain what Paul means by this.

    If (b) is the case then it could only be such if Paul is talking about a future day of God's power upon the Jews when they will flock to Christ and it will be both "easy", natural and fitting for these branches to be re-ingrafted. Currently Jewish evangelism is hard; at some point in the future the Apostle is saying it won't be.

    -----Added 7/29/2009 at 04:49:36 EST-----

    Verse 25

    For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

    A mystery is something that was hidden from the ken (knowledge) of man but is now revealed by God. Something of a spiritual nature that would not have been worked out by man, without special revelation by an apostle or prophet.

    Robertson says that the mystery that Paul tells the Romans in 11:25 is that the Jews shall be partly/largely hardened/blinded until the Second Advent, when both the full number of the Jews and Gentiles will have come in.

    One weakness with this is that Paul doesn't mention the Parousia or the end of the world.

    Also it may be something that ordinary, even unsaved, people could work out by their own ken. It was even well known when the epistle to the Romans was written, without any revelation being given, that the vast majority of Jews were opposed to the Gospel. After centuries it is even more well-attested. No one expects a national conversion of the Jews. Without - and even with - a Word from God to say it is going to happen, to the natural man and the spiritual man it seems the most unlikely thing in the world. So I don't think that what Robertson says is a mystery, is a mystery. But a revelation that Israel would turn to Christ as a nation would be a mystery.

    Also, a reason Paul reveals this mystery is so that the Gentile Christians would not be wise in their own conceits. If they knew that the Jews were coondemned to having only a very small proportion of believers among them down through the centuries, it might leave the Gentile Christians still conceited against the Jews.

    On the other hand if they knew that the Jews were yet to play a major part in redemptive history, it might disabuse the Gentile believers of their conceits.

    -----Added 7/29/2009 at 05:11:39 EST-----

    For the above reasons, I take the view that there will be a future national conversion of the Jews.

    One of the weak points for those of us who believe this is as Don P ponts out at this thread


    is the diverse use of the word "fulness" in v.12 and v.25.

    In verse 12, according to the Jewish national conversion interpretation, a national conversion of the Jews (their fullness) will lead to greater progress of the Gospel among the Gentiles than there has been over the past 2,000 years.

    In verse 25, according to the Jewish national conversion interpretation, the fulness of the Gentiles is a widespread number of converts over 2,000 years from all nations, which fulness may be petering out and losing steam (see the end of v.15)

    I don't know how this is reconciled. Maybe it is just that you can get different types of fulness.

    Having looked at Palmer's interpretation, I am strengthened in my belief in a national conversion of the Jews.

    More later.............

    MICWARFIELD Puritan Board Freshman

  6. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    :lol: Being Scottish I'm (blissfully?) ignorant of that!
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2009
  7. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Verse 26

    Palmer Robertson believes that this refers to all the elect. He uses some strange and outlandish arguments against the idea of it meaning a national conversion.

    I believe the fact that Paul is not only talking about an ongoing salvation of a small number of Jews, but also a national conversion has been established by the previous verses. Whether, "And so all Israel will be saved" or, more accurately, "And in this manner all Israel will be saved" refers to the total number of the elect or to a national conversion of ethnic Israel from being partly saved to all being saved, doesn't affect the above interpretation.

    Throughout this chapter Robertson is reacting to premillennialism and dispensationalism, and seems oblivious to any other view, e.g. postmillennialism. This confirms that some, in their reaction to the errors of dispensationalism, are throwing the baby out with the bath water, and seeing no national conversion of the Jews in Romans 11.

    Maybe some also swing in reaction to dispensational excesses to amillennialism rather than postmillennialism/optimistic-amillennialism, or even heretical hyper-pretism.

    This ends a look at 0. Palmer Robertson's chapter on Romans 11 in his book, "The Israel of God: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow."
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