“Everything,” Tom Wright says in his intro to Romans 9–11, “about Romans 9-11 is controversial…. CH Dodd, notoriously, regarded it as an old sermon that Paul happened to have by him” (620). Many today, including Wright, think these three chps are the climax of the letter. Could it be that the New Perspective’s focus on the Israel-Gentile dynamic uncovers a more significant role for Romans 9–11 that was largely squashed by the more traditional view?
I know I was largely trained with Romans 9–11 as an interlude between Romans 1–8 and 12–16. I’m keen on seeing what Wright makes of these chps, though I suspect we’ve already seen much of it.
What has God been doing with Israel? is the question of these chps.
Paul was not, Wright argues, wrestling either with the pope at Luther’s time nor Hitler now more than sixty years ago. Nor is Paul writing a treatise on pluralism: he grieves over the state of his fellow Jews. Nor is he writing something about “two covenants.”
Two questions are found in Romans 9–11: the question of unbelieving Israel and the question of God’s faithfulness. Israel’s refusal to believe the gospel challenges God’s faithfulness to Israel. Thus, Wright is back to his favorite theme in Romans: the righteousness of God as God’s covenant faithfulness. And the question of Israel has been central to chps. 1–8.
To respond, Paul tells Israel’s story from Abraham to Paul’s present day. And God, Paul says, still intends to save ethnic Jews (623). And this story Paul tells undercuts the pretensions of Rome.