Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Pauline "Mystery"

Last week, during my stay in Marburg, I had the opportunity to meet with Friedrich Avemarie, who is Professor of NT at Philipps-Universität Marburg. (Marburg, by the way, seemed to me to be a wonderful place to do research or graduate work in NT. I did some work of my own in their library and had the chance to meet with a few of their doctoral students, who were all very friendly and hard at work on interesting projects). Professor Avemarie is, of course, the author of important works such as Tora und Leben. Untersuchungen zur Heilsbedeutung der Tora in der frühen rabbinischen Literatur, for which he is perhaps most widely known. He is also a very generous host; and I say this not just because he paid for my coffee and gave me some books.

Professor Avemarie is currently one of the editors (along with J. Frey, M. Bockmuehl, and H.-J. Klauck) of the WUNT II series. One of the books he gave me is from this series: Pablo T. Gadenz’s Called from the Jews and from the Gentiles: Pauline Ecclesiology in Romans 9-11. The dissertation on which this monograph is based was completed at the Pontifical Gregorian University (Rome) and directed by Prof. Jean-Noël Aletti.

The book is a fascinating study of Rom 9-11 in many respects, but I wanted to offer one extended quotation that I found especially provocative. This comes from the chapter on Rom 11. The specific issue under discussion is the mystery in 11:25 and the function of this verse in the larger argumentative context. I won’t waste space with further explanations. I’ll just give you the quotation.

“It thus appears that there are no scriptural passages which reveal this information. The reason is that it is something new, belonging to Christian revelation; Paul himself is the one that reveals this mystery (vv. 25b-26a), explaining that the hardening that has come upon a part of Israel will last until the incoming fullness of the nations, and so all Israel will be saved…Since it is something new, the mystery in 11,25b-26a is not contained as such in the (OT) Scriptures. The mystery itself goes beyond the Scriptures (but not against them), and indeed, the Scriptures can be re-read in light of the revealed mystery. As a result of the mystery, therefore, the proofs in Paul’s argument necessarily have to change…The proofs are no longer based on Scripture, nor can then be. This shift is often misunderstood by scholars…It is helpful to emphasize this point because it shows a limit in how Paul uses the Scriptures. We see here that Paul does not automatically cite Scripture to prove whatever point he wants to make, but rather that he respects the content of what is revealed in the Scriptures and realizes that in this case the issue at stake goes beyond them” (209-13).


Oh, and stay in touch; in the coming days I'll post a few pics of me and Bultmann in Marburg. We celebrated his birthday together.


  1. Show us Bultmann!

  2. It is helpful to note that the context for the quotation is a discussion of the absence of scriptural citations in Rom 11:11-24. Often, this absence is not duly explained by commentators.