Let’s face the hostility head on.
What advantage has the Jew?… Much, in every way! What if some of them were unfaithful?” Thus Saul of Tarsus, better known to history as Paul, who styled himself “a Hebrew of the Hebrews” (Phil. 3:5) expressed the attitude of one early Christian towards the Jews (Rom. 3:1–2). “I ask then, has God rejected his people? God forbid!” (Rom. 11:1).
Paul did not hesitate to criticize his ancestral people, even while attesting the zeal for God of unconverted Jews (Rom. 10:2). Paul’s prayer that Israel, which God had hardened against Jesus the Messiah, might yet be saved (Rom. 10:1) is cited by the contemporary German theologian, the late Paul Althaus, as an indication of the fact that “hardening” or “passing over” by God is not definitive, in the sense of double predestination. The relationship of believing Christians, Jews but especially Gentiles, to unbelieving Jews has always been a complex one. The special place of the Jewish people in God’s plan is acknowledged; God’s faithfulness to his covenant with them, despite their stubbornness, becomes a source of assurance to Gentile Christians as well, who also know themselves to be “chosen in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). The knowledge that God has a blessed future for the Jewish people despite their resistance to the claims of Christ encourages Gentiles to hope for their own unbelieving relatives, on the basis of the promise of Acts 16:31, even though they may see scant evidence of faith in members of their household. Yet, at the same time, as the Gentile disciple of Jesus acknowledges a certain primacy of God’s ...1
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