The English version of my conference paper, entitled in English, New Fruit from a Familiar Olive Tree? Problems and Prospects for Post-Shoah Appeals to New Insights from Romans 11, is now available as a pdf herein, by permission of the publisher, under essays in journals and books (or click HERE).
This essay is being translated into German by Carla Weitensteiner and Hermut Löhr, with the title, “Neue Früchte von einem vertrauten Ölbaum? Probleme und Perspektiven neuer Einsichten aus Röm 11 nach der Shoah”). The conference volume will be published in 2021, in German (information will be updated when available).
The conference—originally to be held in October in Bonn, but canceled due to Covid—was entitled: 40 Jahre Rheinischer Synodalbeschluss ‘Zur Erneuerung des Verhältnisses von Christen und Juden = 40 years After the Synod of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland Decision ‘To renew the relationship between Christians and Jews.’
In this essay, I review the 1980 Rhineland Evangelical Church Synod’s appeal to phrases and ideas in Romans 11—explicitly citing v. 18b in Paul’s olive tree allegory (“Thou bearest not the root, but the root thee”)—to repudiate the traditional Christian dismissal of the Jewish people as the people of God replaced by “the Church,” and to affirm instead their eternal relationship.
I argue that, as welcome and helpful as this appeal is, today’s translations and interpretations (in English as well as German) of this allegorical text and those throughout chapters 9–11, nevertheless undermine the Synod’s declarations. For example, Jews are presented as “branches broken ‘off’” for “unbelief,” replaced by new branches representing the Christian Gentiles, although Jews could be “grafted in again”—when no longer “hardened,” “enemies,” and “disobedient”—by becoming Christians too.
I discuss the imprint Calvin used on the Title Page of his 1563 Catechism, which is telling. His replacement theological reasoning in English reads: “I shall be inserted as a branch.” “They are broken off.”
This essay examines some problems that arise from the fact that the traditional (“old”) pre-Shoah translation and interpretive choices, which Calvin’s image reflect (which do not depict what the text of the allegory describes, or its rhetorical goal, even in his own translation) remain the familiar ones even though they undermine the Synod’s aims.
I then present a summary of exegetically based newer insights for Rom 11, the allegory in particular, that would help promote the kind of goodwill aims of Christian-Jewish relations reasoning that the Synod hoped to advance. Hopefully, the next generation of translations will re-consider how to best represent Paul’s language, so that those who cannot access the original languages or study the exegetical options can see the much more promising aspects of Paul’s argument in his time, and for ours.
The exegetical arguments and translation suggestions draw from a number of research essays now available in Reading Romans within Judaism: The Collected Essays of Mark D. Nanos, Vol. 2, and newer essays, one from the previous blog and one just published in April, 2021: “All Israel Will Be Saved‘ or ‘Kept Safe‘? (Rom 11:26): Israel’s Conversion or Irrevocable Calling to Gospel the Nations?” Pages 243–69 in Israel and Nations: Paul’s Gospel in the Context of Jewish Expectation. Ed. František Ábel. Lanham, et al: Lexington Books/ Fortress Academic, 2021.