CHAPTER 11: FUTURE UNIFICATION OF THE COVENANT FAMILY

 

Yahweh, Faithful Father of Your Covenant People,

You called upon a Jewish girl to become the mother of the Messiah and from her womb You formed with her DNA and her blood the human body of Your Son'born of a Jewish girl to be fully human and fully Divine and fully Jewish'Yeshua [Jesus] of Nazareth, a physical descendant of Abraham through Your servant David, King of Israel.  Like Joseph of ancient times who was rejected by his brothers and yet was raised up by Your divine providence to be the Prime Minister of the great Pharaoh of Egypt and to rule a mighty world empire so too was Your Son Jesus, rejected by His brothers and yet by the power of the Holy Spirit He was raised up from the dead to rule as King of Kings from His heavenly throne over the world-wide empire of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth'the Catholic Church, from which His appointed Vicar, the Pope [father of fathers] reigns until His return.  We pray, Lord, for the full and complete reunification of Your Covenant people as one people and one universal Church serving the One True God.  Send Your Holy Spirit, Father to guide us in our study as we examine the question of the future of Your Chosen People, Israel.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

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This passage comes from the first of Moses' 3 last homilies to the Old Covenant Church, the children of Israel.  First he warns of sever judgment for apostasy; then he gives this promise: "If, however, from there you start searching once more for Yahweh your God, and if you search for him honestly and sincerely, you will find him.  You will suffer; everything I have said will befall you, but in the Final Days you will return to Yahweh your God and listen to his voice.  For Yahweh your God is a merciful God and will not desert or destroy you or forget the covenant which he made on oath with your ancestors."   Deuteronomy 4:29-31

 

The reunification of the nation of Israel by the prophet 8th century prophet Isaiah: "That day, the root of Jesse, standing as a signal for the peoples, will be sought out by the nations and its home will be glorious.  When that day comes, the Lord will raise his hand a second time to ransom the remnant of his people, those still left, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, Cush and Elam, from Shinar, Hamath and the islands of the Sea.  He will hoist a signal for the nations and assemble the outcasts of Israel; he will gather the scattered people of Judah from the four corners of the earth.  Then Ephraim's jealousy will cease and Judah's enemies be suppressed.   Ephraim will no longer be jealous of Judah nor Judah any longer hostile to Ephraim... [...].   Isaiah 11:10-13

 

"For I shall take you from among the nations and gather you back from all the countries, and bring you home to you own country.  I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your filth and of all your foul idols.  I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead.  I shall put my spirit in you, and make you keep my laws and respect and practice my judgments." Ezekiel 36:24-27

 

The prophecy of Israel and Judah being reunited as one kingdom by the 6th century Prophet Ezekiel: "David my servant is to be their prince for ever.  I shall make a covenant of peace with them, an eternal covenant with them.  I shall resettle them and make them grow; I shall set my sanctuary among them for ever.  I shall make my home above them; I shall be their God, and they will be my people.  And the nations will know that I am Yahweh the sanctifier of Israel, when my sanctuary is with them forever." Ezekiel 37:26-28

 

Catechism of the Catholic Church # 60: "The people descended from Abraham would be the trustees of the promise made to the patriarchs, the chosen people, called to prepare for that day when God would gather all his children into the unity of the Church.  They would be the root onto which the Gentiles would be grafted, once they came to believe."

 

 

 "The mystery, as it is now revealed in the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets, was unknown to humanity in previous generations: that the Gentiles now have the same inheritance and form the same Body and enjoy the same promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel." Ephesians 3:5-6

 

 

Romans Chapter 11 (complete Old Testament verses quoted partially by Paul:  New Jerusalem translation)

1.  Psalm 44:9: "Yet now you have abandoned and humiliated us, you no longer take the field with our armies..."

2.  1 Kings 19:10, 14: Prophet Elijah speaking to Yahweh: "I am full jealous zeal (envy) for Yahweh Sabaoth, because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant, have torn down your altars and put your prophets to the sword.  I am the only one left, and now they want to kill me."

3.  1 Kings 19:18: Yahweh to Elijah: "But I shall spare seven thousand in Israel; all the knees that have not bent before Baal, all the mouths that have not kissed him."

4.  Isaiah 29:10: "For Yahweh has infused your will a spirit of lethargy, he has closed your eyes, he has veiled your heads."

5.  Deuteronomy 29:3: "But until today Yahweh has not given you a heart to understand, eyes to see, or ears to hear."

6.  Psalm 69:22-23"May their own table prove a trap for them, and their abundance a snare; may their eyes grow so dim that they cannot see, all their muscles lose their strength."

7.  Proverbs 3:7"Do not congratulate yourself on your own wisdom, fear Yahweh and turn your back on evil..."

8.  Isaiah 59:20-21: "Then for Zion will come a redeemer, for those who stop rebelling in Jacob, declares Yahweh.  'For my part, this is my covenant with them, says Yahweh.  My spirit with which I endowed you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, will not leave your mouth, or the mouths of your children, or the mouths of your children's children, says Yahweh, henceforth and for ever.'"

9. Isaiah 27:9: "For that is how Jacob's guilt will be forgiven, such will be the result of renouncing his sin, when all the altar-stones have been smashed to pieces like lumps of chalk, when the sacred poles and incense-altars stand no longer."

10. Psalm 139:6, 17a: "Such amazing knowledge is beyond me, a height to which I cannot attain."  (17)  "How hard for me to grasp your thoughts, how many, God, there are!

11. Isaiah 40:13: "Who directed the spirit of Yahweh, what counselor could have instructed him?"

12. Job 35:7: "If you are upright, what do you give him, what benefit does he receive at your hands?"

* all Paul's Old Testament quotations will be found in bold print in the lesson

 

In chapter 11 Paul continues his discourse on the problem of Israel's failure to embrace the fulfillment of the prophetic message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Dispute this unfaithfulness, Paul assures the Roman Christians, God remains faithful to His covenant promises to the Chosen People.  Proof of this fidelity, Paul argues, is evident in the faithful remnant of Jewish Christians like those in this community and like himself.  Unbelieving Jews have been blinded and their hearts hardened, just as the Egyptian Pharaoh's heart was hardened in the Exodus experience, so that God could redeem Israel in might acts to show forth His glory.  So too have the hearts of Israelites been hardened so that God might work mighty acts of glory through the perfect sacrifice and Resurrection of His Son in His divine plan to bring the Gentile nations to redemption and back into covenant with Him; therefore, fulfilling the promise of the world-wide blessing made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3.  The Gentile Christians have now become "children of the promise" made to father Abraham [see Galatians 4:28].   The unbelief of the Jews has opened a path for the Gentile nations but God will not abandon Israel'the Gentiles will in turn be part of God's plan to bring Israel back into the covenant family of God through the Blood of Jesus Christ, the messianic Jewish Redeemer for all humanity. 

 

Paul continues to take Old Testament texts and to apply them, in the context, to his teaching concerning the future destiny of Israel.  This chapter falls naturally into 5 parts.  In Scripture "5" represents both power and grace [see the document, The Significance of Numbers in Scripture]:

  1. The Faithful Remnant of Israel Set Aside by Grace: verses 1-10
  2. The Future Restoration of all Israel: verses 11-15
  3. Israel is the Root of the New Covenant Church: verses 16-24
  4. The Revelation of the Mystery of Salvation: verses 25-32
  5. Hymn to God's Mercy and Wisdom: verses 33-36</li>

 

Please read Romans 11:1-10: The Faithful Remnant of Israel Set Aside by Grace

"1 What I am saying is this: is it possible that God abandoned his people? Out of the question!  I too am an Israelite, descended from Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God never abandoned his own people to whom, ages ago, he had given recognition.  Do you not remember what Scripture says about Elijah and how he made a complaint to God against Israel:  3 Lord, they have put your prophets to the sword, torn down your altars.  I am the only one left, and now they want to kill me?  4 And what was the prophetic answer given?  I have spared for myself seven thousand men that have not bent the knee to Baal.  5  In the same way, then, in our own time, there is a remnant, set aside by grace.  6 And since it is by grace, it cannot now be by good actions, or grace would not be grace at all!  7 What follows?  Israel failed to find what it was seeking; only those who were chosen found it and the rest had their minds hardened; 8 just as it says in Scripture: God has infused them with a spirit of lethargy; until today they have not eyes to see or ears to hear.  9 David too says: 10 May their own table prove a trap for them, a pitfall and a snare; let that be their retribution.  May their eyes grow so dim they cannot see, and their backs be bent for ever."

 

This is the third time Paul has used the phrase, "is it possible" to form a rhetorical question:

 

The first two times Paul used the phrase to introduce a denunciation of Israel but now he uses it as an announcement of Yahweh's faithfulness to His Covenant people and their promise of salvation.  With the exception of a faithful remnant Israel has reject her Messiah and therefore salvation but Israel remains God's Chosen People and the preservation of the faithful remnant is God's pledge of Israel's future restoration.

 

Question: Paul 3rd "is it possible" is the prelude to what rhetorical question?

Answer: "has God abandoned his people?" 

 

Paul is providing another Old Testament quote by citing Psalms 44 for a second time [see 44:9 in Romans 11:1]: Psalms 44:2"Yet now you have abandoned and humiliated us, you no longer take the field with our armies, you leave us to fall back before the enemy, those who hate us plunder us at will [verses 9-10]."  This Psalm contains a verse previously quoted by Paul in Romans 8:36 where he cited verse 22 when writing of the persecution and suffering.  The entire passage from Psalms 44 is a lament to Yahweh during a period of persecution and suffering for the covenant people as David struggled as God's anointed to lead the Chosen People:

The psalm ends with the anguished cry "Awake! Why do you sleep, O Lord?  Rise up!  Do not reject us forever!  Why do you hide your face; why forget our pain and misery?  We are bowed down to the ground; our bodies are pressed to the earth.  Rise up, help us!  Redeem us as your love demands." This has certainly been the cry of the Israel that has been cut off from the New Covenant in Christ down through the centuries'an Israel without a Temple and without a homeland until 1947.

 

Psalm 44 anticipates the lament of Judah after the destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon's Temple in 587/6BC as recorded in the Book of Lamentation.  In that great catastrophe Israel suffered defeat and exile, yet God had not abandoned His people.  Through His holy Prophet Jeremiah God promised restoration of His Chosen People in the great passage found in Jeremiah 31:31-34 which, after the prophecies of suffering, destruction, and continued exile, Yahweh promises the restoration of both Israel and Judah as well as the formation of a New Covenant. Then in Jeremiah 31:37 Yahweh promises: "Were the heavens above ever to be measured, the foundations of the earth below ever to be fathomed, then I too would reject the whole race of Israel for all that they have done, Yahweh declares." In this passage Yahweh affirms that no matter how unfaithful Israel becomes He will never abandoned them or His promises made to them.

[also see Deuteronomy 4:25-28 curse of dispersal; see Deuteronomy 4: 29-31 = promise of restoration].

 

It is from the assurance of such Biblical passages that Paul can answer his own rhetorical question in Romans 11:1 with an emphatic "Out of the question!"

Question: Despite Paul's role as a Christian Apostle how does he identify himself at the end of verse 1?

Answer: As an Israelite [a member of one of the 12 tribes of Israel], as a descendant of Abraham, and as a member of the tribe of Benjamin.  Paul is both an Israelite [from one of the 12 tribes of Israel] and a Jew [from the nation of Judah].  Paul can still boast of his heritage as one of the "Chosen People."

 

Question: Paul proudly mentions his patrimony in the Tribe of Benjamin.  What had been this tribe's role in the history of the Chosen People and in the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah?  See Numbers 1:36; Deuteronomy 33:12; 1 Samuel 9:14-16; 11:15; 1 Kings 12:21-23; 2 Chronicles 11:1

Answer: Benjamin was the least populous of the 12 Tribes. The first king to rule a united Israel was Saul of the tribe of Benjamin.  The Tribe of Benjamin remained loyal to the descendants of King David and was the only tribe to unite with Judah to form the Southern Kingdom of Judah.  In the blessings of the tribes by Moses before his death Moses speaks favorably of Benjamin: "Beloved of Yahweh, he rests trustfully near him.  The Most High protects him day after day and dwells between his hillsides."

 

Paul's point in his argument is that he intimately understands God's dealings with Israel because he is part of Israel through descent and training and he knows personally from his own faith journey that God is patient and merciful has not rejected the physical descendants of Abraham and Jacob/Israel.   The link to the physical descent of the "promise seed" will become crucial in his argument in this part of his letter.  He and other Jewish Christians are proof that God has not abandoned His people Israel who have been favored by His grace to establish the New Covenant Church of Jesus the Messiah.

 

In Romans 11:2-4 Paul will offer Scriptural proof of God's continuing faithfulness in times that may even seem hopeless to man's perception of events.  Paul answers his question with a quote from 1 Samuel 12:22: "Yahweh, for the sake of his great name, will not desert his people, for it has pleased Yahweh to make you His people." The New American translation renders this passage: "For the sake of his own great name the LORD will not abandon his people, since the LORD himself chose to make you his people." Then Paul offers in evidence to support his argument, God's revelation to the Prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 19:10, 14.

 

Please read 1 Kings 18:1-19:18. 

King Ahab of Israel [874-853BC] and his Queen, Jezebel, daughter of the King of Sidon, abandoned Yahweh to worshipped false gods.  When criticized by the prophets of Yahweh they set about to systemically exterminating Yahweh's covenant representatives.  Finally only the Prophet Elijah was left to stand against Israel immersed in the sins of idolatry and apostasy and to stand up for Yahweh as the One True God.  In a showdown with the priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel, Elijah emerges victorious but his victory has placed his life in jeopardy again and the prophet feels that all of Israel has abandoned the true faith while he stands alone on the side of God.  In despair he asks God to take his life [1 Kings 19:4].  In His mercy God takes Elijah on a journey of spiritual renewal to Mt. Sinai, the scene of the establishment of Israel's covenant with Yahweh, but Elijah cries out in despair:  "I am full of jealous zeal for Yahweh, God Sabaoth, because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant, have torn down your altars and put your prophets to the sword.  I am the only one left and now they want to kill me [1 Kings 19:14]." This is the passage Paul quotes in Romans 11:3.

 

Question: How does Elijah's cry compare to the deep emotions the Jewish Christians are feeling concerning their brothers "in the flesh" and their rejection by these "brothers"?

Answer: They also feel alone in their struggle to serve Christ in the New Covenant'abandoned by their "brothers" Israel.

 

Question: In Romans 11:4 Paul quotes Yahweh's prophetic answer to Elijah from 1 Kings 19:19.  How does the citing of this Old Testament text become a word of hope for Jewish Christians? 

Answer: Yahweh assures Elijah that he will bring judgment on the people of Israel for abandoning His covenant [1 Kings 19:15-17], and then God promises there will be a faithful remnant that will be preserved in the coming destruction: "But I shall spare seven thousand in Israel; all the knees that have not bent before Baal, all the mouths that have not kissed him." The Jewish Christians can take hope from God's words to Elijah.  Even though they cannot see why their brothers have failed to embrace the New Covenant in Christ they can be assured that God has a divine plan'just as in Elijah's time, God has permitted the present unbelief of Israel to work toward the mysterious fulfillment of His plan, which is in this case to bring the salvation of Jesus Christ to humanity. 

 

Note: The number 7 thousand is more significant spiritual than numerically.  7 is one of the "perfect" numbers in Scripture and it is the number of God the Holy Spirit.  In this passage the number 7 multiplied into an abundance [times 1000 which is an abundance of "perfection of order"] probably indicates the "perfect" number of the faithful according to God's divine plan [see the document "The Significance of Numbers in Scripture" in the Documents section].

 

Question: In Elijah's time God preserved a faithful remnant to serve Him.  Who is that faithful remnant in Paul's time and how are they called?  See Romans 11:5

Answer: The Jewish Christians are those "in our own time.... a remnant set aside by grace" [Romans 11:5] and the prophesized remnant of Zechariah 13:9. [Also see these passages for Scripture on the theme of the holy remnant: 2 Kings 19:4, 30-31;

Ezra 3:8; 9:8; Isaiah 10:20-22; 11:11, 16; 37:31-32; 46:3; Jeremiah 23:3; 31:7; 42:1-2; Ezekiel 14:22; Hosea 3:4-5; Micah 2:12; 4:7; 5:1-3; Zephaniah 2:7; 3:11-13; Haggai 1:12-15; Zechariah 8:6-8, 12-13; 13:7-9].

 

Question:  Will this faithful remnant of New Covenant believers have to endure suffering and hardship just as other faithful remnants of God's Covenant people down through Salvation History? 

Answer: Yes, first from their Jewish brethren and later from an organized persecution orchestrated by the Roman Empire that began in 64AD and ended in 313AD.  This persecution against God's people was first prophesized in Genesis 3:15 in the enmity between the "seed of the woman" and the "seed of the serpent", and is the persecution again prophesized by John in Revelation 12:17: "Then the dragon was enraged with the woman and went away to make war on the rest of her children, who obey God's commandments and have in themselves the witness of Jesus."

 

Question: In Romans 11:6 to what does Paul attribute this faithful remnant's call to obedience to Yahweh and His plan of salvation?

Answer: Their response to grace.  The fact that the Jewish Christian's position as the faithful remnant of Israel stemmed from their response to grace excludes any suggestion that they pursued righteousness through the Law of Moses thereby earning this special place. See CCC# 1997; 1999; 2011.

 

Question: In Romans 11:7 what is it that Israel was seeking?  See Romans 9:30-31

Answer: Israel sought righteousness'a condition of "rightness" with God which is the basis of salvation. 

 

Question: Who is it who found this right relationship with God? 

Answer: The faithful remnant of Israel who responded to God's grace as His chosen elect of the New Covenant in Christ Jesus.

 

Question: Why did the majority of Israel not respond to this grace?

Answer: God hardened their minds as He hardened the heart of Pharaoh in the first Exodus.  Jesus mission was to lead the second exodus'the exodus out of sin and death and into the Gates of Eternity in Heaven.

 

Romans 11:7-9  "7 What follows?  Israel failed to find what it was seeking; only those who were chosen found it and the rest had their minds hardened;

The "hardening" of Israel's minds recalls the prophecy of Isaiah 6:10-11 when Isaiah was commissioned to go to the Northern Kingdom of Israel to call the people to repentance but was also warned by Yahweh, "Go, and say to this people, 'Listen and listen, but never understand!  Look and look, but never perceive!'  Make this people's heart coarse, make their ears dull, shut their eyes tight, or they will use their eyes to see, use their ears to hear, use their heart to understand, and change their ways and be healed.'"  In Isaiah's day the people did not head Isaiah's call to repentance.  His preaching was met by disbelief and indifference.  God did not desire this response, but He foresaw it and incorporated it into His divine plan just as He foresaw Pharaoh's hard heart and incorporated that man's arrogance and stubborn nature into His divine plan for the deliverance of the children of Israel so too now does Israel's hardness of heart become part of the plan for the deliverance of the Gentiles.  This same Isaiah passage is quoted in the New Testament by Jesus in Matthew 13:13-15 when He explains why He teaches in parables, "The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding. So in their case what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah is being fulfilled: 'Listen and listen, but never understand!  Look and look, but never perceive! This people's heart has grown coarse, their ears dulled, they have shut their eyes tight."  Jesus' point was that the Jews who rejected Him exhibited a deliberate insensibility which was both the cause and the explanation of their stubbornness to resist the truth and which resulted in God's withdrawal of grace  [also see John 12:40; Acts 28:26-27].   

 

8 just as it says in Scripture: God has infused them with a spirit of lethargy; until today they have not eyes to see or ears to hear.  9 David too says: 10 May their own table prove a trap for them, a pitfall and a snare; let that be their retribution.  May their eyes grow so dim they cannot see, and their backs be bent for ever."

Paul links together three Old Testament passages from the Septuagint: Deuteronomy 29:3 with Isaiah 29:10 closely followed by a Psalm he attributes to David in Psalms69:23-24:

 

It is Paul's contention that just as the Northern Kingdom was in a self-inflicted stupor when Isaiah and the other prophets preached to them about coming to repentance or facing God's judgment so too was Israel/Judah in a self-inflicted stupor and did not see the miracles worked in the name of God the Son, nor hear the message of the Gospel of salvation.  And then he quotes a passage from David's lament to God for deliverance from personal betrayal and suffering with a plea for justice for his enemies. 

 

It is interesting that Psalm 69:22-23 is immediately followed by the significant verses 24-25'verse 25 is quoted by St. Peter in Acts 1:20 when he applied this verse to Judas the betrayer after which Peter leads the Apostles in choosing a successor for Judas.  Peter advises the Apostles, "Now in the Book of Psalm it says: 'Reduce his encampment to ruin and leave his tent unoccupied." It is significant that two Judas' were chosen to be Apostles'both named after Judah, physical father of the tribe of Judah: Judas son of James and Judas Iscariot the traitor.  Both men can represent Judah as a whole'one man following Jesus with sincerity and love recognizing and accepting Him as Messiah and Savior and the other Judah rejected Jesus and sought his own path.  In quoting this passage Paul seems to be calling for judgment on those who have rejected the Messiah but as in the case of the Northern Kingdom Paul wants a judgment that leads to redemption of the whole people. 

 

Several years earlier writing on this very subject of the closed minds of the Jews Paul had written to the Church in Corinth, "With a hope like this, we can speak with complete fearlessness; not like Moses who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites should not watch the end of what was transitory.  But their minds were closed; indeed, until this very day, the same veil remains over the reading of the Old Testament: it is not lifted, for only in Christ is it done away with.  As it is, to this day, whenever Moses is read, their hearts are covered with a veil, and this veil will not be taken away till they turn to the Lord.  Now this Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.  And all of us, with our unveiled faces like mirrors reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the image that we reflect in brighter and brighter glory; this is the working of the Lord who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:12-18

 

In this Corinthians passage Paul is referring to an event in Exodus 34:30 when Moses' face, after being in the presence of Yahweh, reflected the glory of God.  The children of Israel were awed by the phenomenon of God's glory being reflected on the face of Moses and this reflected glory added to his stature among the people.  But God's reflected glory on Moses was transitory and to hide the fact that it faded when he was not in God's presence Moses covered his face with a veil.  This transitory character of the glory of God upon His covenant mediator shows, according to St. Paul, the imperfect transitory nature of the Old Covenant as compared to the infused divine image of Christ in the New Covenant believer in whom God's glory is no longer transitory but which comes from the indwelling light of the Holy Spirit and reveals the Christian as an increasingly faithful image of God in the person of the Son.  For those who continue in the Old Covenant their minds are darkened and the light of the Gospel is not revealed to them so long as their minds remain closed.  But for the Christian, their hearts and minds have been opened.  As Paul continues in 2 Corinthians 4:6, "It is God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' that has shone into our hearts to enlighten them with the knowledge of God's glory, the glory on the face of Christ." [also see 2 Corinthians 2:12-18].

 

Please read Romans 11:11-15: The Future Restoration of Israel

"11 What I am saying is this: Was this stumbling to lead to their final downfall?  Out of the question!  On the contrary, their failure has brought salvation for the Gentiles, in order to stir them to envy12 And if their fall has proved a great gain to the world, and their loss has proved a great gain to the Gentiles'how much greater a gain will come when all is restored to them!  13 Let me say then to you Gentiles that, as far as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in this work of service; 14 and I want  it to be the means of rousing to envy the people who are my own blood-relations and so of saving some of them.  15 Since their rejection meant the reconciliation of the world, do you know what their acceptance will mean?  Nothing less than life from the dead!"

 

Question: In verse 11 Paul is asking was it God's intention when He allowed Israel to stumble over the "stumbling stone" that is Christ [see Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17-18; Romans 9:32-33; Acts 4:11; 1 Corinthians 1:23; Ephesians 2:20;1 Peter 2:2-8; Isaiah 8:14; 28:16Daniel 2:35, 44-45; Zechariah 3:1-10], that their fall should be irredeemable?  How does Paul answer his own rhetorical question? 

Answer: His answer is that their "stumbling" has brought salvation to the Gentiles!

Question: And what is the desired effect of Yahweh's salvation being given to the Gentiles?

Answer: It is interesting that Paul will repeat the word envy or jealously [arouse to jealousy/ envy = parazeloo] 3 times in Romans 10:19; 11:12; and 11:14 as a key to understanding God's plan that at first veiled the minds of the Israelites and will later bring them to salvation. The Gospel of salvation will stir them to envy the riches of the blessings of the New Covenant people and that they too will be stirred to accept through grace the salvation of Jesus Christ,  the "stone" that was prophesied by Daniel: "In those days the God of heaven  will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not pass into the hands of another race; it will shatter and absorb all the previous kingdoms and itself last for ever'just as you saw a stone, untouched by hand, break away from the mountain [Old Covenant /Temple] and reduce iron, bronze, earthenware, silver and gold to powder."  Through God's design Israel has stumbled, and yet the Israelites are still the Chosen People through the holy 'remnant" who functions in God's plan the as Israel's representative, as the nucleus of the universal Church, and as the pledge of God's promise of the future restoration of all Israel [see Isaiah's promise in 4:3-6].

 

Question: In Romans 11:12 Paul writes that Israel's loss is:

  1. a great gain to the world
  2. a great gain for the Gentiles
  3. a great gain for Israelites when they are restored [literal = "the fullness of them"]

Why?

Answer:

  1. Israel's renunciation of the Messiah forces the faithful remnant to carry the Gospel message of salvation to the world'thereby fulfilling the world-wide blessing promised to Abraham beginning in Genesis 12:3
  2. The gain of the Gentiles is the wealth of their inheritance'the rich inheritance in which they have come to share in what was formerly solely the inheritance of Israel'knowledge of the One True God and the hope of salvation.  Carrying the Gospel message to the world brings the Gentile nations back into covenant with God as children of His holy universal family, the Catholic Church. 
  3. The 10 tribes who were scattered among the Gentile nations'the lost Israel, are now to be fully restored to their place of destiny as children of God in the universal Church!  This is what the prophets promised from the time of the exile of the 10 Northern tribes beginning with the first of the exiles out of the Galilee with the tribes of Zebulum and Naphtali taken into captivity in 732 BC.  It was for this reason that Jesus began His ministry to restore Israel in this very area where the loss of Israel began [see Matthew 4:12-16; Isaiah 8:23-9:1].

 

It is Paul's belief in the promises of God made through His holy prophets that gives him the confidence to make this claim!  The prophet Isaiah prophesized the fulfillment of the world-wide blessing and the ingathering of the nations in Isaiah 66:18, "I am coming to gather every nation and every language.  They will come to witness my glory."

 

Question: What are some of the other prophecies that promise reunification of both the Northern Kingdom of Israel [also referred to as Ephraim] and the Southern Kingdom of Judah?  Hint: see Isaiah 11:10-16; 66:18-24; Ezekiel 34:11-16; 36:24-27; 37:26-28; Hosea 2:21-25; Amos 9:11-15; Micah 5:1-4 (Incarnation & Pentecost linked to Revelation 12:17).

Answer: Please read Ezekiel 37:1-28

Some other key prophecies of reunification:

 

 

 

In Romans 11:13-15 Paul speaks of his pride in being an Apostle to the Gentiles.

Question: If Paul is only the Apostle to the Gentiles why should be feel so strongly about the fulfillment of these prophecies?  How do they relate to him personally?  Hint: see Acts 9:10-15.

Answer: The reunification of Israel as a Covenant people is Paul's mission.  When Paul suffered in blindness and repentance in Damascus after his conversion experience, God told Ananias concerning Paul: "Go, for this man is my chosen instrument to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel."  God didn't say "Judah"'Paul's mission is to bring the lost tribes of Israel back into the covenant family by bring them in from the Gentile peoples in whom their blood has been mixed down through the centuries. 

 

Question: How is it that Paul hopes to stir his Israelite brothers to envy [Romans 11:14-15]?  What comparison is he making with this stirring to envy and acceptance of the Messiah?

Answer: He is comparing the ingathering of the lost tribes into the New Covenant with the resurrection from the dead.  But what he means by this comparison is not so clear.  He may be comparing the resurrection of the spiritually dead Israel to their rebirth in baptism of new life in Christ for those who carry the blood of Abraham even unknowingly in Gentile nations with Jesus' first resurrection [see Romans 6:4], or he may be saying that the conversion of Israel will be such a miracle that it can only be compared with the Final Resurrection at the end of time.

 

Please read Romans 11:16-24: Israel is the Root from which flourishes the New Covenant Church

"16 When the firstfruits are made holy, so is the whole batch; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17  Now suppose that some branches were broken off, and you are wild olive, grafted among the rest to share with the others the rich sap of the olive tree; 18 then is it not for you to consider yourself superior to the other branches; and if you start feeling proud, think: it is not you that sustain the root, but the root that sustains you.       19 You will say, 'Branches were broken off on purpose for me to be grafted in.'   True;        20 they through their unbelief were broken off, and you are established through your faith.  So it is not pride that you should have, but fear: 21 if God did not spare the natural branches, he might not spare you either.  22 Remember God's severity as well as his goodness: his severity to those who fell, and his goodness to you as long as you persevere in it; if not, you to will be cut off.  23 And they, if they do not persevere in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for it is within the power of God to graft them back again. 24 After all, if you, cut off from what was by nature a wild olive, could then be grafted unnaturally on to a cultivated olive, how much easier will it be for them, the branches that naturally belong there to be grafted on to the olive tree which is their own."

 

Romans 11:16"When the firstfruits are made holy, so is the whole batch" 

God's people were to be holy in all aspects of their lives'including what they ate.  The very first gain of the barley harvest and the wheat harvest was to be brought to the Temple and blessed by the Priests in order for the whole harvest to be holy and also the grain that would be ground to make their dough for bread. 

 

Question: Consult the chart on the Seven Sacred Feasts of the Old Covenant in the Charts section of Agape Bible Study.  What are the two Holy Days of obligation of the Old Covenant in which the barley and wheat harvests are first blessed?

Answer: The Feast of Firstfruits during the Holy Week of Passover and Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Weeks, also called Pentecost came 50 days later.

 

Question: What significant New Covenant event occurred during the Feast of Firstfruits during Jesus' final Passover week and what significant event occurred 50 days later?   See the chart on the Seven Sacred Feasts of the Old Covenant.

Answer: Jesus arose from the dead on the morning of the Feast of Firstfruits and God the Holy Spirit filled and indwelled the New Covenant Church on the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost 50 days later.

 

Through the spiritual fulfillment of these two Old Covenant holy days, Jesus became the firstfruits of the resurrection to new life and thereafter all who followed Him to resurrection through baptism would be made holy because He is holy.  In the same way, the sanctification of the Church at Pentecost by the Holy Spirit assured the sanctification of the rest of the "harvest" of souls and the Holy Spirit's sanctification of the "bread" of the Eucharist from which these resurrected children of God would receive nourishment on their journey of faith.

 

This verse also points toward the future conversion of Israel [see Romans 11:11-15].  In this sense the "holy batch" or firstfruits is the firstfruits of Israel'the holy remnant upon whom God the Holy Spirit descended on the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost'the wheat harvest.  These "firstfruits" of holiness are a reliable sign that the whole of the Old Covenant people will be made holy in the harvest of believers.   The unbelieving part of Israel still retains a solidarity with this holy firstfruits of Christianity who was wholly Israel.  The faithful remnant causes the rest to share to some extent in its holiness just as a handful of yeast dough expands the whole batch.  This spiritual unity is foreshadowed in the requirements of the firstfruits of the bread under the Old Covenant requirement in Numbers 15:17-21: "Yahweh spoke to Moses and said, 'Speak to the Israelites and say: 'When you have entered the country to which I am bringing you, you will set a portion aside for Yahweh when you eat that country's bread.  You will set one cake aside as the first fruits of your dough; you will set this offering aside like the one set aside from your threshing.  For all future generations you will set a portion of your dough aside for Yahweh." The portion set aside from the threshing was the portion presented at the Temple for the 2 feast days that foreshadowed the Resurrection and the Second Great Pentecost, but the cake set aside is also the "firstfruits" of the holy remnant of Jewish Christians.

 

Romans 11:16-17:"16 and if the root is holy, so are the branches." 17  Now suppose that some branches were broken off, and you are wild olive, grafted among the rest to share with the others the rich sap of the olive tree;

The prophets of Israel often compared the nation in full communion with Yahweh to a fruitful olive or fig tree or a fruitful vineyard but the when the Covenant people fall away from God the nation becomes a barren tree only yielding diseased fruit and only good for the trash heap.  Read Isaiah 5:1-2; 27:2-5; Psalm 80:8-11, 14-16; Jeremiah 2:21; 11:16-19; 6:9 (remnant); 8:13; Ezekiel 15:1-8; 17:1-10; 19:10-14; Hosea 9:16-10:1; 14:6; Matthew 21:18-19; Mark 11:12-14; 20-24; Luke 13:6-9

Question: In this imagery, if Israel is the tree/vine then what are the "roots" of the Old Covenant nation of Israel?

Answer: The fathers/patriarchs. 

The individual Israelites in this imagery are represented by the branches that are nourished by the sap from the healthy roots which God Himself has sanctified by divine election through the Covenant bond.

 

But now in the New Covenant our nourishment comes from what was prophesied to flourish from the stump that was Jesse: 'A shoot will spring from the stock of Jesse, a new shoot [netzer = branch] will grow from his roots.  On him will rest the spirit of Yahweh..."Isaiah 11:1-2a

Question: Who is the Branch from the stock of Jesse?  Hint: see 1 Samuel 16:1; Matthew 1:1-16.

Answer: Jesus of Nazareth, descendant of King David, son of Jesse of Bethlehem, born in the Jesse's town of Bethlehem but raised in Nazareth, which is entomologically lined to the Hebrew word netzer = branch or shoot.

Question:   How do the branches of the New Covenant "tree" remain healthy?  Hint: John 15:1-8.  What is the "sap" that gives nourishment to the New Covenant?

Answer: Christians must "remain" in Christ who is the True Vine. The Holy Spirit is the sap that feeds the branches that bear good fruit = 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit [Isaiah 11:1-2]; the 12 fruits of the Spirit [Galatians 5:22-23]; and the Most Holy Eucharist.

 

In Romans 11:17 Paul writes of broken off branches and grafted branches.

Question: Who are the broken branches, who are the branches that remain in place, and who are the grafted in wild olive branches?

Answer: Individual Jews who have not accepted the Gospel of salvation are the broken branches while Jewish Christians are the branches that remain in tact.  The wild olive branches grafted in are the Gentile Christians.

 

The grafting that Paul is writing about involves a practice of grafting a branch of a wild olive tree on to an old stump which seems contrary to normal horticulture where the branch of a fruitful old tree is grafted on to the trunk of a vigorous new tree.  However, we have the testimony of Columella, a 1st century AD contemporary of St. Paul, that " a green slip taken from a wild olive tree", was fit tightly into a cut made into the trunk of an old olive tree [see Anchor Bible Commentary, Romans, page 615].  This is an important distinction because Paul clearly intends us to understand that the original stump is still standing therefore "the rest to share with the others the rich sap of the olive tree..." In other words, Gentile Christians now draw their strength from the vitality of the Jewish Christians who have become the bearers of the sap of the New Covenant in Christ!  The Old is not destroyed'it forms the continued rooted foundation for the New.  Israel is still at the heart of the Covenant because the Church becomes the New Israel.  This is why Paul told the mixed congregation that they are all Jews in Romans chapter 2.

 

Catechism of the Catholic Church # 60: "The people descended from Abraham would be the trustees of the promise made to the patriarchs, the chosen people, called to prepare for that day when God would gather all his children into the unity of the Church.  They would be the root onto which the Gentiles would be grafted, once they came to believe."

 

Question: In Romans 11:18 & 21 Paul gives what warning to the Gentile Christians?

Answer: He warns them not to be smug because they have been "grafted in" to the Covenant at the expense of the Jews who have not come to faith in Jesus, because judgment can also fall upon them if they stray from the covenant and they too can be "cut off."  What has happened to the unbelieving Jews needs to be a warning to Gentile Christians and their response should be compassion and a zeal to restore to God's covenant family the older brothers and sisters.  He reminds the Gentile Christians that they do not support the "root", the root/ Jewish Christians, supports them! 

 

In quoting from Romans 11:12-26 the Catechism of the Catholic Church records in # 674: "The glorious Messiah's coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by 'all Israel,' for 'a hardening has come upon part of Israel' in their 'unbelief' toward Jesus.  St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: 'Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.'  St. Paul echoes him: 'For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?'  The 'full inclusion' of the Jews in the Messiah's salvation, in the wake of the 'full number of the Gentiles', will enable the People of God to achieve 'the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ', in which God may be all in all."

 

Please read Romans 11:25-32: The Revelation of the Mystery of Salvation

"25 I want you to be quite certain, brothers, of this mystery, to save you from congratulating yourselves on your own good sense: part of Israel had its mind hardened, but only until the Gentiles have wholly come in;26  and this is how all Israel will be saved.  As Scripture says: 'From Zion will come the Redeemer, he will remove godlessness from Jacob.  27 And this will be my covenant with them, when I take their sins away.' 28 As regards the Gospel, they are enemies, but for your sake; but as regards those who are God's choice, they are still well loved for the sake of their ancestors.

 29 There is no change of mind on God's part about the gifts he has made or of his choice.  30 Just as you were in the past disobedient to God but now you have been shown mercy, through their disobedience; 31 so in the same way they are disobedient now, so that through the mercy shown to you they too will receive mercy. 32  God has imprisoned all human beings in their own disobedience only to show mercy to them all."

 

Question: What is the mystery Paul alludes to in this passage?  Hint: read Ephesians 2:11-3:13

Answer: The Mystery of the Reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles with each other and with God: "The mystery, as it is now revealed in the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets, was unknown to humanity in previous generations: that the Gentiles now have the same inheritance and form the same Body and enjoy the same promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel." Ephesians 3:5-6

 

In Romans 11:25 Paul quotes Proverbs 3:7, "Do not congratulate yourself on your own wisdom, fear Yahweh and turn your back on evil..." This is another warning against the sins of pride and arrogance for the Gentile Christians.

 

Paul returns to the subject of a "hardening" of part of Israel just as God allowed the Egyptian Pharaoh's heart/mind to be hardened as part of God's divine plan: "part of Israel had its mind hardened, but only until the Gentiles have wholly come in;26  and this is how all Israel will be saved.  As Scripture says: 'From Zion will come the Redeemer, he will remove godlessness from Jacob.  27 And this will be my covenant with them, when I take their sins away.' Paul is quoting from Isaiah 59:20-21: "Then for Zion will come a redeemer, for those who stop rebelling in Jacob, declares Yahweh.  'For my part, this is my covenant with them, says Yahweh.  My spirit with which I endowed you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, will not leave your mouth, or the mouths of your children, or the mouths of your children's children, says Yahweh, henceforth and for ever.'"

 

Today "Zion" is identified as a national symbol of modern Israel but in sacred Scripture "Zion" is a symbol of Israel as a redeemed Covenant people in communion with God.  Zion is united symbolically with the Garden of Eden, which according to the sacred Oral Tradition of the Jews, was located on a mountain. As a redeemed people God had created the Old Covenant Church to bring His people back to Eden and to restored communion with Him.  But when Israel/Judah rejected the Messiah, it was no longer a "holy mountain" but had become "a mountain of destruction" against whom God's wrath had turned just as He had in 587/6BC, Jeremiah 51:25 "I am setting myself against you, mountain of destruction, Yahweh declares, destroyer of the whole world! I shall reach out my hand for you and send you tumbling from the crags and make you a burnt-out-mountain."  However, holy Zion lived on.  Through the faithful remnant of Israel embodied in the Apostles and disciples of Jesus the Messiah, Mt. Zion has become the New Covenant Israel'the universal Church'the holy mountain to whom the whole earth would come for the Gospel message of salvation.  This is John's vision of the Church in Revelation chapter 14 and it is what the inspired writer of the Book of Hebrews wrote about in Hebrews 12:22-28.

 

Question: According to the Isaiah 59:20-21 passage quoted by Paul, for whom does the Redeemer come and what is Zion in Isaiah's passage?  With what does Paul identify Zion?

Answer: For those who are not in rebellion against God.  Zion was identified with the Old Covenant Church but with the coming of Christ, Zion is identified with the New Covenant Church.

 

Question: What are the "words" placed in their mouths and the mouths of their descendants? 

Answer: The Holy Spirit, entrusted with the "words" of Christ which are the teachings of the Church will be living and active for all generations.

 

And then quoting from Isaiah 27:9 Paul writes, 27 And this will be my covenant with them, when I take their sins away.'  Isaiah 27:9: "For that is how Jacob's guilt will be forgiven, such will be the result of renouncing his sin, when all the altar-stones have been smashed to pieces like lumps of chalk, when the sacred poles and incense-altars stand no longer."

Question: What is meant by "Jacob"? 

Answer: Israel

 

Once again Paul is used the context of the Old Testament passage to support his teaching.  Isaiah 27:2-5 speaks symbolically of Israel as Yahweh's beloved vineyard which He has protected and nourished.  Verses 6-11 speak of both pardon and punishment for the Covenant people: "Now, this is a people that does not understand, and so its Maker will not take pity on it, he who formed it will not show it any mercy." [Isaiah 27:11].  And then in verses 12-13 God promises forgiveness and restoration for Israel: "When that day comes, Yahweh will start his threshing from the course of the River to the Torrent of Egypt, and you will be gathered one by one, Israelites!  When that day comes, the great ram's horn will be sounded, and those lost in Assyria will come, and those banished to Egypt, and they will worship Yahweh on the holy mountain in Jerusalem." The "threshing" refers to the "harvest of souls" and Paul uses this passage to support his teaching that Israel, scattered among the Gentile nations, will be harvested into God's threshing floor of the New Covenant universal Church.  In the Old Testament "threshing floor" was a code word for the harvest of soul for judgment and for the Temple in Jerusalem which was built upon a threshing floor [see 2 Chronicles 2:1-3]

 

 Romans 11:28-29 pulls in two opposite directions: the enemies and the beloved; the Gospel and the ancestors [or the present and the past].  In this present age of the Gospel of Jesus Christ some of the Jews, who have rejected the salvation offered to them in the Gospel, have become enemies of God and of the Christians.  God has permitted this reversal while the Gentiles are being harvested into His great threshing floor, the universal Church, but the gifts and the covenants with God are irrevocable and He is still faithful to the promises He made to their ancestors: "There is no change of mind on Gods part about the gifts he has made or his choice.  Here we have the tension between the two great stages of Salvation History: Election and Gospel.

 

Then Paul writes in verses 30-32: 30 Just as you were in the past disobedient to God but now you have been shown mercy, through their disobedience; 31 so in the same way they are disobedient now, so that through the mercy shown to you they too will receive mercy. 32 God has imprisoned all human beings in their own disobedience only to show mercy to them all."

Question: Who is Paul addressing in this passage?

Answer: The Gentile Christians. 

Paul is admonishing the Christians to remember that they sin just as the Jews sin'they are equal in that regard. But just as God has shown mercy to the Gentiles to bring them to salvation through Israel's rejection so too He will show mercy to the Jews.  This verse is similar to what Paul taught in Galatians 3:21-22: Is the Law contrary, then, to God's promises?  Out of the question!  If the Law that was given had been capable of giving life, then certainly saving justice would have come from the Law. As it is, Scripture makes no exception when it says that sin is master everywhere; so the promise can be given only by faith in Jesus Christ to those who have this faith."  Just as God's love and mercy was extended to the Gentiles who were outside the Covenant so too must the Christians'Jews and Gentiles as one Covenant people'extend this mercy and love to exiled Israel because Christ is their only means of salvation and because we, as the younger brothers  are bound to our Father's promise to Israel, the elder son of the covenant: "For Yahweh your God is a merciful God and will not desert or destroy you or forget the covenant which he made on oath with your ancestors."   Deuteronomy 4:31

 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses the understanding of our commitment in # 674: "The glorious Messiah's coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by 'all Israel,' for 'a hardening has come upon part of Israel' in their 'unbelief' toward Jesus.  St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost:  'Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must received until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.'  St. Paul echoes him: 'For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?'  The 'full inclusion' of the Jews in the Messiah's salvation, in wake of 'the full number of the Gentiles,' will enable the People of God to achieve 'the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,' in which 'God may be all in all."

 

Please read the conclusion of Paul's address concerning the destiny of Israel in Romans 11:33-36: Hymn to God's Mercy and Wisdom

"33 How rich and deep are the wisdom and the knowledge of God!  We cannot reach to the root of his decisions or his ways.  Who has ever known the mind of the Lord?  Who has ever been his adviser?  Who has given anything to him, so that his presents come only as a debt returned?  Everything there is comes from him and is caused by him and exists for him.  To him be glory for ever! Amen."

 

After the 4 times repetition of "mercy" of Romans 11:30-32, Paul breaks into a hymn extolling God's mercy and wisdom.  This moving hymn of praise to God's mercy and wisdom forms a conclusion to this section of Paul's letter concerning the salvation of all Israel.  The hymn falls into a 3 part division:

  1. Opening exclamation of praise: verse 33
  2. Scriptural rhetorical questions: verses 34-35
  3. Concluding doxology: verse 36

 

Paul begins with acknowledging that God's "wisdom and knowledge" are beyond the grasp of human understanding by combining Psalms 139:6 and 17a into one line.  Paul may be reflecting on the mysterious plan in which God's election of Israel as His Chosen People has worked to bring the estranged Gentiles within the scope of God plan of eternal salvation.  In the second part of the hymn Paul quotes from the Septuagint Isaiah 40:13 and perhaps from Job 35:7 in a set of 3 rhetorical questions:  Who has ever known the mind of the Lord?  Who has ever been his adviser?  Who has given anything to him, so that his presents come only as a debt returned?  The Isaiah passage in the New Jerusalem reads: "Who directed the spirit of Yahweh, what counselor could have instructed him?" In 1 Corinthians 2:16 Paul quotes the same passage and provides the answer: "For: who has ever known the mind of the Lord?  Who has ever been his adviser?  But we are those who have the mind of Christ."

 

The second is a reference to Job 35:7: "If you are upright, what do you give him, what benefit does he receive at your hands?" In other words, no one can anticipate God's acts of mercy and grace.  He does not depend on humanity to dispense these gifts but He does invite humanity to partake of the richness of His favor through our response to faith but not as a payment for services or "a debt returned."

Romans 11:36: Everything there is comes from him and is caused by him and exists for him.  To him be glory for ever! Amen."

Question: In the final doxology of the prayer Paul acknowledges God in what 3 ways?

Answer: He acknowledges God as the Creator, the Sustainer, and the Goal of everything that exists.  All creation is absolutely dependent on God. Everything comes from Him'Israel's prerogatives as the Chosen People, Israel's hardening of mind concerning the Messiah and the election of the Gentile nations to the New Covenant graces.  All peoples'in fact all the earth and the cosmos are destined to glorify Him.

 

It seems fitting to close Paul's discourse on the salvation of all Israel with a section from Pope Benedict XVI's homily on Mark 3:13-16 from March 15th, 2006:

 "I now reread the central passage: "He went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him. He appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons: He appointed the twelve " (Mark 3:13-16; cf. Matthew 10:1-4; Luke 6:12-16).  In the place of the revelation, 'the mountain,' with an initiative that manifests absolute awareness and determination, Jesus constitutes the twelve so that they might be witnesses and heralds with him of the arrival of the Kingdom of God. There is no room for doubt concerning the historical character of this call, not only because of the antiquity and multiplicity of testimonies but also because of the simple fact that the name of the apostle Judas, the traitor, appears despite the difficulties that including his name could imply for the incipient community. The number 12, which evidently refers to the 12 tribes of Israel, reveals the meaning of the prophetic-symbolic action implied in the new initiative of founding the holy people again. After the downfall of the system of the 12 tribes, Israel awaited the reconstruction of this system as a sign of the arrival of the eschatological time (this can be read in the conclusion of the Book of Ezekiel 37:15-19; 39:23-29; 40-48).
By choosing the twelve, introducing them into a communion of life with him and making them sharers in the same mission of announcing the Kingdom with words and deeds (cf. Mark 6:7-13; Matthew 10:5-8; Luke 9:1-6; 6:13), Jesus wants to say that the definitive time has arrived; the time for rebuilding God's people, the people of the 12 tribes, which is now converted into a universal people, his Church."

The Vatican, March 15th, 2006: Pope Benedict XVI's Wednesday homily on the Gospel reading from Mark 3:13-16:

 

The Old Covenant of Sinai was transformed and fulfilled into the New Covenant in the blood of Jesus Christ, but it is still the same corporate family bond that makes a certain unified people the chosen Covenant people of the One True God.  There are not two covenants nor are there two covenant peoples.  There is one Covenant and one Covenant people who are descendants of Abraham but now that descent is both physical and spiritual and the blood tie that binds these people to Yahweh is not just the blood of Abraham and Sarah nor is it the sacrifice of the bull at Sinai when the blood was sprinkled on the people and on the altar of Yahweh with a hyssop branch, but it is the blood of the Lamb of God that binds this family bond and it is the hyssop branch of the Cross that closed the Old Covenant Passover and opened the side of the Savior to cover all of mankind with the abundant blood of the Eucharist and the water of baptism.  Just as the covenant with Abraham was renewed and carried forward by Isaac and later through Jacob so now the Christians of the new covenant are heirs of the promise of the old covenant in the New Covenant in the blood of Jesus of Nazareth'the true Davidic King of the New Kingdom of Israel'the universal Kingdom of Heaven on earth'the Catholic Church.

 

 

PETITION OF POPE BENEDICT XVI TO A JEWISH MOTHER:

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

You have given the world its true light,

Jesus, your son, the Son of God.

You abandoned yourself completely to God's call

And thus became a wellspring of the goodness

Which flows forth from Him.

Show us Jesus; lead us to Him.

Teach us to know and love him, so that we too

Can become capable of true love,

And be fountains of living water in the midst

Of this thirsting world!

 

Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 2006

 

Question for group discussion:

Compare and contrast the Old Sinai Covenant and the New Covenant in Christ using Hebrews 9:1-28

Answer:

THE OLD (SINAI) COVENANT

(Hebrews 9:1-10)

THE NEW COVENANT

(Hebrews 9:11-28)

Obsolete now that Christ has come

Romans 10:4; Hebrews 8:13

CCC# 1963-64

A perfect covenant brought about by Christ

Hebrews 7:19; 8:6-7; CCC# 1965; 1967

Originated at Mt. Sinai

Galatians 4:24-25

Originated from the heavenly Jerusalem

Galatians 4:26-27

Blessings and punishments were temporal: brought judgment, death, condemnation

2 Corinthians 3:7-9

Blessings and punishments are eternal: brings eternal life

Ephesians 2:1-13: Revelation 20:11-21:4

Impossible to obey perfectly because of human weakness and slavery to sin

Romans 8:3; Galatians 3:23-24

Fulfilled perfectly by Christ

Romans 10:4; 1 Corinthians 11:25; Galatians 3:25-27; CCC# 580-81

Established in the blood of sacrifice: In animal sacrifice the blood of the animal was separated from the body and both are offered in sacrifice. Required continual daily atonement for unintentional sins.  There was no remedy for intentional sin because no animal was perfect enough to forgive mortal sin.  With the exception of the whole burnt offerings other sacrifices are eaten:

Exodus 2:7; 24:5-11; 29:10-18; Leviticus 1:1-13; 6:17-22; 19:17; 7:6-7; Numbers 15:27-31; Hebrews 9:7; 10:1-4;

Established in the blood of sacrifice: In the celebration of the first Eucharist Jesus separated His Body from His Blood [Lk.22:19-20]'the sacrifice must be eaten [John 6:53-56]. Christ atoned for all sin once for all time and all humanity and cleanses the conscience.  The application of His sacrifice is on-going as He stands before the Father as both our High Priest and the perfect Lamb of Sacrifice

Hebrews 9:12; 10:2, 22; Revelation 5:5-6; CCC# 580; 1364-68

Restricted access to God

Exodus 30:10; Hebrews 9:7-8

Christ opened access to God for all humanity

.

Matthew 27:51;Hebrews 9:15-16; CCC# 536; 1026

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2002 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

 

Catechism references for Romans chapter 11 [*indicates Scripture quoted in citation]

11:12

674

11:25

591; 674

11:13-26

755*

11:26

674

11:15

674

11:28

60*

11:17-18

60*

11:29

839

11:20

591; 674

11:31

674*

11:24

60*

11:32

1870

 

Resources used in Romans chapter 11:

The Interlinear Bible Greek-English, volume IV

The Teachings of the Church Fathers, Ignatius Press

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Dogmatic Canons and Decrees: The Council of Trent; Vatican Council I; etc.

The Sixteen Documents of Vatican II

Jerome's Commentary on Romans

Chrysostom's Commentary on Paul's Epistle to the Romans

Romans, Joseph Fitzmyer

Romans, Brendan Byrne

Navarre Commentary'Romans

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture'Romans

Strong's Concordance

Modern Catholic Dictionary

Many Religions, One Covenant: Israel, the Church and the World, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Ignatius Press, 1999

Ancient Israel, edited by Hershel Shanks, Biblical Archaeology Society, 1999

Sinai and Zion: An Entry Into the Jewish Bible, Jon Levenson

The Temple: Its Ministry and Services As They Were at the Time of Jesus Christ, Alfred Edersheim

The Jewish Publishing Society Guide to Jewish Traditions, Ronald L. Eisenberg

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.