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Saturday, April 05, 2008

All Israel will be saved

Several posts recently by Loren here, here and here and Iyov, have drawn attention to differing interpretations of Romans 11:25-26,
    25 So that you may not claim to be wiser than you are, brothers and sisters, I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.

    And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written,
    ‘Out of Zion will come the Deliverer;
    he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.’ NRSV
I was brought up a dispensationalist and I was specifically taught that God was the sun around which two planets revolved - Israel and the church. I don't recall how this tension was mediated in detail. I do know that I was rather shocked when I realized that not all Christians held this belief. I have no idea if other dispensationalists hold this belief. It is all "wheels within wheels" for me.

Deborah Goodwin writing on Herbert of Bosham describes his hermeneutic on the eschatological hopes of the Jews in her central chapter. Herbert of Bosham, living in the 12th century, is the first Christian exegete to comment on the Latin Psalter which Jerome translated from the Hebrew. The church had exclusively used Jerome's Psalter as translated from the Greek Septuagint up until this time. Herbert learned Hebrew from working with a Jewish scholar and brought Rashi's ideas into the Christian tradition.

Goodwin discusses the cultural and linguistic climate of the 12th century, as well as Herbert's own dialogue with and reception of Jewish exegesis and a literal interpretation of the Psalms. In one particular passage, Goodwin writes about Herbert's commentary on Psalm 80, especially the last verse,
    Turn again, O God of hosts;
    look down from heaven, and see;
    have regard for this vine,
    the stock that your right hand planted.
    They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down;
    may they perish at the rebuke of your countenance.
    But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand,
    the one whom you made strong for yourself.
    Then we will never turn back from you;
    give us life, and we will call on your name.

    Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Goodwin cites Herbert's commentary on the final verse,
    Because this captivity [is] worse than the others, the names of God [increase] in intensity; the change [conversio] of Israel, dispersed until the twilight of the world, is prayed for.
Goodwin then explains,
    The "twilight of the world" (vespera mundi) is usually named by Christians as the time when the conversion of the Jews to Christianity might be expected. It signifies the 'end of days,' when the mysterious prediction of Romans 11:25 will be resolved; "the fullness of the Gentiles will come in, and so all Israel will be saved."

    But Herbert's characterization of the Jews' "conversion" in verse 20 (19) suggests he understood the term differently. The conversio or change as he describes it is prayed by the Jews, who are presently experiencing their worst 'captivity.' They pray to be re-gathered from their dispersion. The return from scattered Exile to the land of Israel is a feature of Jewish eschatalogical expectation. (Goodwin pages 193-194)
Goodwin maintains that Herbert believes that the messianic hopes of both Christians and Jews will be fulfilled. It is sometimes hard to tell if this is what Herbert really believed or if this is how Goodwin chooses to see it. However, she has ample evidence that Herbert worked with a Jewish interlocutor to read Hebrew, used Rashi's notes, and promoted the literal sense of the Psalms. One cannot help but wonder if Goodwin is not specifically using this book to comment on the Prayer for the Jews. This would not be a detraction for me. It is, in any case, an excellent treatment of the issue.

The citation which inspired the title of the book is Zech. 8:22-23
    Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to entreat the favor of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, 'Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.' RSV
Goodwin shows how Herbert's understanding of this verse colours his interpretation of the Psalms.


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