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Romans 9-11 & the temple's destruction

Posted: Fri May 10, 2019 11:11 am
by Irish1975
In the past I have accepted the conventional opinion that Paul did not live long enough to comment on the temple's destruction in 70. Now I am not so sure.

(I assume here that Acts is historically worthless regarding Paul's chronology, but that the reference to king Aretas in 2 Corinthians dates Paul as a young man no later than to the year 40.)

The subject in Romans 9-11 is Paul's "great sorrow" and "unceasing anguish" over the people of Israel, his kinsmen according to the flesh. What is he so sad about? Some large number of them have been rejected and punished by God. In 11:16-24, he speaks of a number of "natural branches" of the orginal vine, the people of Israel, being broken off, because of their unbelief.

The conventional (i.e. Christian) view is that Paul is referring to the events of salvation history as he has always understood and proclaimed them as God's apostle: that (a) a new covenant has been made by God with all people, Jewish and gentile, through faith in Christ; (b) this new covenant surpasses the old covenant (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:6-18)); and (c) many Jews (aka Israelites according to the flesh) have refused to believe in Christ, and so enter the new covenant and be saved. Essentially, Paul is sad for the Jews who reject Christ, because they reject Christ and are therefore condemned by God (damned in the afterlife, per Christianity).

But how do we know that Paul is not alluding to the events of 70?

It might be said that Paul refers to the temple worship in Jerusalem in 9:4, as though referring to an ongoing state of affairs--
They are Israelites, and to them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.
But these are God's "once and for all" gifts to Israel, through the written Torah. The latreia (worship) does not have a definite reference here.

Perhaps a stronger argument can be made from Paul's silence. If he knew about the events of 70, you say, surely he would have much to say about them. But this argument fails because Romans 9-11 can be read exactly as that: Paul's lament for the sufferings of Judea (although he's no Jeremiah), and his theology of the extinction of 2nd temple Judaism. There may be an element of caution in not referring overtly to Roman emperors, armies, conquests, policy, etc. It is, moreover, typical for Paul to be vague about historical reference points.

The old branches were broken off "so that" (11:19) new branches (the gentiles) might be grafted in. And, "as regards the gospel, [unbelieving Israelites/Jews] are enemies because of you" (echthroi di' humas) (11:28). In these and many other passages, there is a strong suggestion that something momentous has recently occurred to "Israel according to the flesh." Their suffering has become part of salvation history in a new, unexpected way.

Do these passages really have nothing to do with the Romans, the destroyers of the temple, whose captive Paul is at the end of his life, and to whom (gentile believers in Rome) he is writing his magnum opus? And why else would he write so many dark passages about the wrath of God (1:18ff, 9:22, etc.), a theme that, although not absent from earlier epistles such as 1 Thess, is much more dominant here?

Re: Romans 9-11 & the temple's destruction

Posted: Fri May 10, 2019 12:17 pm
by andrewcriddle
According to Romans 15 Paul is planning to visit Jerusalem and provide financial aid to the Christians at Jerusalem. This seems unlikely in the post 70 CE period.

Andrew Criddle

Re: Romans 9-11 & the temple's destruction

Posted: Fri May 10, 2019 1:46 pm
by Irish1975
Thanks for pointing that out Andrew. Since, as most scholars seem to believe, the editors of the canonical edition of the NT cut and spliced the Corinthian correspondence, and since Romans 16 too is often considered a separate letter, I think that reasoning applies to chapter 15 as well. Paul could very well have written that part at an earlier time. The repetition of "nuni de" at the beginning of 15:23 and of 15:25 is very awkward, since Paul is announcing in those verses that he is about to set out (from Corinth?) now West towards Rome and now East towards Jerusalem. Which is it Paul??

Similarly, it is awkward that he repeats in 15:22 his regrets about not visiting Rome sooner, which he had already expressed in 1:13. On the whole there is a breeziness in the last chapters of Romans that sits awkwardly with the cascade of theological earthquakes that occur in the main body of the letter.

Re: Romans 9-11 & the temple's destruction

Posted: Mon May 13, 2019 6:52 am
by Irish1975
If Paul had in fact died a martyr's death, would the author of Acts have chosen not to tell us the story?

The first-person narrative at the end of Acts was intended to have the reader believe that the author was alive and contemporary with Paul during his last years under house arrest in Rome. The author would have died before Paul, or at the same time.

But how does a modern reader of Acts, given the evidence that it was written in the time of Marcion, make sense of the author's silence concerning Paul's death?

Re: Romans 9-11 & the temple's destruction

Posted: Mon May 13, 2019 7:28 am
by Giuseppe
Irish1975 wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 6:52 am

But how does a modern reader of Acts, given the evidence that it was written in the time of Marcion, make sense of the author's silence concerning Paul's death?
I think that the (quasi) final episode of Acts about Paul in Malta:

28 Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2 The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. 3 Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4 When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. 6 The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.
7 There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. 8 His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. 9 When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. 10 They honored us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.

...had to serve as the final story of the entire Christian Bible, since the book of Genesis also starts with a story about a serpent. Only, in this case, the serpent doesn't realize his goal. Paul is not killed by him, but he kills the serpent.
So the sense is that Paul wins the power of the death.

Re: Romans 9-11 & the temple's destruction

Posted: Mon May 13, 2019 8:20 am
by Irish1975
That's a fascinating exegesis. "Death, where is thy sting?" However, I don't see the NT's Paul as another Enoch or Elijah, who never dies an earthly death. Both in the imaginary space of Acts, and in our modern view of the "historical Paul" (if we accept that there was one), we have to ask "how, why, or when did Paul die?" The only solid suggestion we have to go on is that he died in Rome.

Re: Romans 9-11 & the temple's destruction

Posted: Mon May 13, 2019 8:27 am
by Giuseppe
μάρτυς means "witness". So Paul was only "witnessing" the Christ in Rome. Only later the death by persecution was connected with the idea of "witness". For apologetical reasons.

Re: Romans 9-11 & the temple's destruction

Posted: Mon May 13, 2019 8:31 am
by Giuseppe

It is clear that we have here no reference to the persecution of the Christians under Nero. It is not even stated that the apostles named met with a violent death on account of their faith, as the word “martyresas” (“after rendering his testimony”) need not by any means be understood to mean a testimony of blood, because the word “martyr” originally means only a witness to the truth of the Christian faith in the general sense, and is equivalent to “confessor,” and was only later applied to those who sealed their faith by a violent death

(Arthur Drews)

Re: Romans 9-11 & the temple's destruction

Posted: Mon May 13, 2019 8:52 am
by Giuseppe

Then they said, "What further need do we have of testimony (μαρτυρίας) ? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth."

(Luke 22:71)

Re: Romans 9-11 & the temple's destruction

Posted: Mon May 13, 2019 8:55 am
by Giuseppe

You are witnesses (μάρτυρες) of these things.

(Luke 24:48)