Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pluralistic Creep: Keeping an eye on those lectionary edits

Today's reading from Romans 11:1-2, 29-32
leaves out a lengthy explanation of how Paul comes to his final conclusion. Here is how the lectionary plays it,
I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? (Skip to verse 29)

...for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.
Paul's words "so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy" might be difficult to understand without having heard the lengthy arguments in verses 3-28.

I realize that many Sunday morning pewsitters might have a hard time following all of Romans 11 in one sitting, but the inclusion of a few more lines (such as 11-16 for instance) might have sufficed to help us figure out what Paul was trying to communicate,
Romans 11:11-16
"So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumbling* (Gk transgression) salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel* (Gk them) jealous. Now if their stumbling* means riches for the world, and if their defeat means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I glorify my ministry in order to make my own people* (my flesh) jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead! If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy."
Okay, for me, that helps, but when I read the missing lines, I get the message that Paul hopes to see some of them saved, because not all will accept the Gospel. Whereas, when I read the shortened lectionary selection, I am left with the impression that all Israel will be saved whether they accept Christ or not.

Is that also why verse 28 is omitted?
As regards the gospel they are enemies of God* (Gk lacks of God) for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors;
Note: this translation has added "of God" following enemies.

Maybe "they are enemies" crosses a line the church does not want to go over on a Sunday morning?

I think Paul is being very inclusive in this Chapter, but the edits in today's lectionary might be letting a little hint of post-modern pluralism creep into the message.

Sorry Sancho, there I go tilting at windmills again.


  1. The relationship of the Jewish Nation to the Church has vexed church fathers going back to the Counsel of Jerusalem. I think there are certain promises made to the Jewish people which God will not break, but, like all of us, we can willfully refuse to accept the benefits of those promises and gifts. I think the better way to understand it, is that God didn't reject the Jews. Rather, through Christ he allowed all of us to experience the special relationship and promises which were once reserved solely to them.


  2. "Some," but not all, people, Gentile or Jew, in Paul's argument will accept the Gospel. As a result they will open the door (Rev 3:20), let Jesus in, and be saved.

    Pluralism does not buy that argument.