One of the lingering questions I have about Wellum & Gentry’s (W&G) remarkable book Kingdom through Covenant has to do with their view of Rom 9–11. They argue that Rom 9–11 promises the future salvation of a lot of ethnic Jews (see 501; also their response to Darrell Bock here). On this point, among many others, I entirely agree. What I’m not quite sure about, however, is why W&G think Paul holds out this promise for his kinsmen according to the flesh. After all, in W&G’s metanarrative Israel (comprised of ethnic Jews) is simply a type which Jesus fulfills, just like David, Abraham, Noah and Adam were. Why then does Paul show so much interest in Rom 9–11 in the future of an already-fulfilled type? It would be like Paul maintaining a place for Levitical sacrifices after Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice. (Let this one slide TD brothers!) I’ve tried to probe around for an answer—even chasing down a few progressive-covenantal friends at ETS a few weeks back—and, as yet, I’ve not found an answer. I think one is possible, but, before I propose it, let me offer one that is not.
A Wrong Turn. Perhaps W&G would argue that Paul holds out hope for ethnic Jews based on the fact that their typological role plays such a fundamental part in the Bible’s story. Israel was, after all, the family through whom the antitype’s lineage was traced (Rom 9:4–5). What this explanation fails to take on board, however, is the “mustness” of Jewish salvation in Rom 9–11. It’s not simply that God has decided to be merciful to ethnic Jews, even though their typological role has expired. Rather, Paul seems to suggest that if God didn’t save Jews—a lot of them—then his word, his promise, would fail. There is for Paul, in other words, a Scriptural obligation that requires Jewish inclusion in God’s new covenant people. What else are we to make of Rom 9:6, 11:28–29 and, especially, of Paul’s citation of Isaiah (Isa 59:20–21; 27:9) and Jeremiah (Jer 31:33) in Rom 11:26? In this case, the future salvation of a large number of Jews—which W&G acknowledge—is said to be according to Scripture. “All Israel will be saved,” Paul says, “just as it is written.” If all God’s promises are “yes” in Christ in the way W&G could be read to suggest (see, e.g., 690), then Paul has misread his Bible and is wasting his energy.
A Way Forward? A more plausible solution would be to say that Israel’s mediatorial role—her role as God’s son (Exod 4:22–23) and priest (Exod 19:5–6)—was typological and, therefore, fulfilled by Jesus, but that her promised experience of restoration—her experience of salvation—was not. And, it is these promises that underlie Paul’s argument in Rom 9–11. (For possible hints in this direction, see, e.g., 604 and 707). Perhaps W&G could even appeal to Isa 49:1–6 where the Servant takes on/over Israel’s mediatorial role and mediates blessing to the world, while also bringing Israel back from exile. I think this may be their most plausible option. But, we’ll have to wait and see to know for sure.