Romans 9:6: Concentric Circles, or a Venn Diagram

Discussion in 'Exegetical Forum' started by Panegyric, Nov 9, 2017.

  1. Concentric circles

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  2. Venn Diagram

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  1. Panegyric

    Panegyric Puritan Board Freshman

    Romans 9:6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel

    Well, if you were to visualize the bolded portion above, would it be:

    1. Two concentric circles, the outer consists of those who are 'descended from Israel', and the inner is 'Israel.'

    2. A Venn Diagram, where circle A is 'Israel,' and circle B consists of those who are 'descended from Israel,' with some overlap in the middle.

    If you need a visual, or an explanation of the logical foundations of the ambiguity, see the attached file, or you may view it as a Google doc.

    I will hold off giving a case for what I think. I just want to note that while it cannot be shown from the grammar alone that option 2 is intended, it also cannot be proven from the grammar alone that option 2 is not intended. I think this verse standing alone is a classic case of ambiguity. So lets see your arguments from the context.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Nov 15, 2017
  2. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    There's nothing essentially ambiguous about the statement.
    "They are not all [to be counted as] Israel, who are of [the name] Israel."

    Set up your diagram however you like, you will have to justify it. And in the context, Paul is referring largely (from 9:1) to outwardly incorporate persons in the OT people of God under the name "Israel." But he says that they all do not have spiritually verifiable allegiance to that name, but only a portion of them. A near-contextual reading would have you extract a portion of the whole "Israel" to identify them as "Israel-in-fact." Even as late in the extended discussion as 11:7, "Israel" is evidently used as a national-name, so it is a fairly consistent designation through the wider passage.

    This is beside the question of whether a spiritual apprehension of God's people in the present (NT) age deserves the name "Israel." It's my opinion that at 11:26, "all Israel," (following the illustration of the olive tree) focus having shifted to a combined perspective (Jew and Gentile in one) this effectively introduces an expanded definition for the term, so finally it refers to the whole NT church by an updated use of "Israel."

    I don't think it is legitimate to read 9:6 as if the expanded description is already live. If you must use diagrams, you might find the first one (concentric) helpful to describe 9:6. But at that point, there's no literary reason to infer either that there is or that there could be some other portion of the "true-Israel" circle standing outside the physically larger one--not that arises from the immediate context.

    Whether in your doctrinal exposition you wish to anticipate at this point the expanded definition is a pedagogic choice, but Paul at 9:6 doesn't authorize that move. Justification for your adjusted representation of the Apostle's point has to come from texts such as 11:11-26, Jn.15:1-8, Eph.2:11-22; Gal.6:16, etc.

    I'll just add: as a hermeneutical rule, it's bad practice to make an interpretive choice based on the idea that "it's not impossible," i.e. not ruled out by some exclusion principle.
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  3. Panegyric

    Panegyric Puritan Board Freshman

    Bruce, if it is valid to render the statement, "they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel" as, "Some who are descended from Israel are not 'Israel,'" then the statement is necessarily an ambiguity. That is, the statement some X are not Y must presuppose either 1) some Y are not X, or 2) All Y are X. Statement 1) is contradictory to statement 2). That is, one must be true, and one must be false. There is no way around this as an implication of the verse. However, it is impossible to determine which one is the case merely from the statement some X are not Y. This is a classical example of an ambiguity, that is a statement which offers up two mutually exclusive possible interpretive options. If you care to see the logical foundation of this, please see the paper attached in the first post.

    As to justifying one option or the other, that is the whole point of this thread. I'll post my justification of my particular interpretation and rebuttal of the opposite later tonight or tomorrow morning. I have a long drive tonight.

    I appreciate your engagement with me here, this is something I really want to test against the Scriptures.
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2017
  4. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    When I say "there's nothing essentially ambiguous" about Paul's claim, I'm reading him in context; I'm refusing to isolate the statement. Your opening comment speaks of "this verse standing alone." I indicated that it's your choice to run with that hypothetical and see where it takes you. But as to the verse in its context, there's no Pauline ambiguity to his intent.

    "Israelites" (v4) are those who have the name "of Israel" (v6). These are further identified as having ALL the following, vv4-5: adoption/glory/covenants/giving of the law/service of God/promises/of whom patriarchs/from whom Christ. That's a pretty "narrow" definition , to which we may add Paul's comment in v3, that these are his countrymen according to the flesh (he's a Benjamite, "of the stock of Israel" Php.3:5). It's abundantly clear that the "Israel" of Rom.9:1-6 has this restricted definition. No [one who cannot fit entirely the vv4-5 definition] is Israel for the purpose of this discussion.

    VV4-5 = "All X are Y." All Israelites are [adoption/glory/covenants/giving of the law/service of God/promises/of whom patriarchs/from whom Christ.] Paul's already set the (near-contextual) limit for the designation "Israel" in the general sense. He then goes on in v6 to restrict within the set of this "Israel." There is no textual reason to imagine Paul is inviting a redefined scope for "Israel" in v6 (by a studied ambiguity) than what has been so fully set down in vv4-5. None. "Israel" in v6 is not potentially "Some Israelites + Some Gentiles." Not if vv3-5 already restrict "Israel" to Israelites as defined.

    When introduced into the discourse, there is no reason to suppose that vv4-5 should be read as (1) Some Israel are [All adoption/glory/covenants/giving of the law/service of God/promises/of whom patriarchs/from whom Christ,] or (2) All Israel are [Some of adoption/glory/covenants/giving of the law/service of God/promises/of whom patriarchs/from whom Christ,] or (3) Some/Some. V6 introduces the possibility of a new definition toward the above restriction (1), which vv7ff then clarify comes about by an explication of one further qualification, viz. election.

    Isolate v6 from logically and textually prior conclusions, and a logic puzzle may be intellectually satisfying. But there's no spiritually didactic reason to do this. Psalm 14:1 says P1, "There is no God;" and if we borrow other isolated propositions from around the Bible, we can build an unhelpful atheology using pure Aristotelian deductions. Premise 1 is false, and Ps.14:1 with the prior proposition included witnesses it's falsehood.
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  5. Panegyric

    Panegyric Puritan Board Freshman

    You have too many Israels. In the above, you render Paul as referring to three different Israels. X=Descended from Israel, Y=Descended from Israel who are also elect, and Z=Elect. But Paul's argumentation throughout the book of Romans relies on a contrast between your X and your Z. Romans 2:25-29 presents this thesis: a Gentile with a circumcised heart is a true Jew. Romans 3:22-23, 30, the Jews & Gentiles both share in justification by faith, which is the blessing of Abraham (Rom. 4:9; cf. Gal. 3:9) upon his descendants by faith, in contrast to his descendants by the law, which is your group X. Romans 4:16 has already clearly established a class of descendants of Abraham that is Gentile inclusive. Romans 5-8 then take us down a detour of sorts from the Jew/Gentile issue to deal with justification by faith & the law of God (amongst other things). Paul returns back to the Jew/Gentile issue in Romans 9, and takes up right where he left off— a comparison of two groups: those justified by faith, and those who are Abraham's descendants. If your definition of Romans 9:6 is correct, than Romans 9:7 cannot be read in light of Romans 4:16. How is this so?

    Your parameters for defining terms fail. You insist that whatever the definitional content of Y ('Israel') is, it must minimally contain the same definitional content as X (descended from Israel). E.g. Any use of Israel in Romans 9:6 must understand the term to be describing people who have the qualities described in Romans 9:4-5. However, it must be acknowledged, that the definitional content of Y cannot be limited to the verses preceding it, because if the definition of Y can only be found in the preceding verses, then all X (descended from Israel) are Y ('Israel'). This is a contradictory statement to the one Paul actually makes. Which means all sides must acknowledge that the full definition of Y ('Israel') is not found in the verses preceding it. We must look to the verses following it to make sense of Paul's statement. It is impossible to determine the meaning of Paul's statement without reading further. You yourself draw your definition of Y ('Israel') from verses following verse 6, not preceding it. Romans 9:6 can only be understood in light of Romans 9:7-8.

    Children of God. Children in Romans 9:7-8 has already been defined in Romans 4:16, where 'all the descendants [of promise]' are drawn from both Gentiles and Jews. [Romans 5-8 are an elaboration of the blessings of the promise.] In this light, it can clearly be seen that Romans 9:7 is actually a re-statement of Romans 9:6: "Some of Abraham's descendants are not children [of God, of the promise, the promised descendants of Romans 4:17-18]." Your reading of this verse must necessarily represent a regression in the theological logic Paul has labored so diligently to establish in the preceding chapters, because you must limit the 'promised descendants' to the physical descendants of Abraham.

    This is due to a lack of typological interpretation. Paul argues from typology, or from the lesser to the greater, in Romans 9:7-13. He essentially argues that not even in the non-soteriological matter of becoming a patriarch of the Jews did physical descent matter. For God did not choose the patriarchs (Isaac, Jacob) because they were descended from Abraham, but because of his sovereign election. If this is so in the small matter of non-soteriological blessings, then in the greater matter of soteriological blessings, God surely does not privilege one for descent from Abraham.

    'Us' in Romans 9:24. Paul having established that God does not choose any man on the basis of descent from Abraham for salvation in Romans 9:7-13, he establishes God's right as God to have mercy on whom he will, and harden whom he will in Romans 9:14-21. And now the fun part, having concluded his demonstration that no man can make a claim to soteriological blessings on the basis of descent from Abraham, he states that God has actually made the unbelieving descendants of Abraham to be vessels of wrath to make known the riches of of his glory upon the vessels of mercy, Romans 9:22-23. And the vessels of mercy, Paul says, are 'Israel', 'us', drawn from Gentiles and Jews. As I said in the beginning, you have too many Israels. Paul is consistent about working out a comparison between the 'Children of God' [which he never defines in a way that doesn't include Gentiles], and the descendants of Abraham after the flesh. He begins his comparison in Romans 1:16-17, and does not abandon it at any point in Romans 9. He continues to utilize it throughout the chapter. Paul knows only two Israels, and neither are an Israel solely contained within the other. The remainder of Romans 9 after verse 24 simply clarifies the point that Paul is comparing those who are 'physical descendants from Abraham' with the 'children of God drawn from all nations (Rom. 4:16-18).'

    Conclusion. More broadly, how can the concentric circles view actually serve Paul's purpose? People love to appeal to it to 'prove' there is an external and internal covenant, but it must be admitted that Paul's argument is lost in the process. Paul is not at all trying to prove that there is an internal/external covenant construct. Paul is trying to reassure believers in light of the Jews apparent loss of elect status that they are not at risk for losing their election. An internal/external covenant construct would actually undermine Paul's goal. Paul is emphatic: the Word of God has not failed. The Jews were never promised salvation on account of their being Jews, and so God would not have been a liar even if every single Jew had been an unbeliever (Romans 3:3-4). Salvation is promised to the church, the children of God, the children of promise, the descendants of Abraham from many nations. If the internal/external covenant view is presupposed, then Paul is actually denying my previous sentence. Thanks for the interaction Bruce, looking forward to your response.
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2017
  6. Cymro

    Cymro Puritan Board Junior

    By changing one word, would that throw any light on it? They are not all Jews which are of the Jews, which sends us back to Romans 2.28-29
  7. Panegyric

    Panegyric Puritan Board Freshman

    Hello Jeff, I think that the change helps illustrate that Paul is continuing his argument from Romans 1-4 when he gets to Romans 9. He has already laid out two different types of Jew which relate to each other in the form of a Venn diagram. He is not suddenly switching to a concentric circles model, even if that would be super helpful in grinding our various theological axes.
  8. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Romans is a piece of rhetoric. It's not literature with rigidly logical use of terms across the whole work. That's why context and nuance is important. Some interpreters have made similar attempts with the word "law" (nomos) and tried to make Paul use that word in a single sense--not only in one letter, but across his whole corpus. In a word: That's not how people regularly communicate.

    "I" don't have too many "Israels." Paul uses "Israel" in more than one sense. He uses it in two different senses in ONE verse, v6, where he makes an assertion that could--on the surface--appear to contradict his terms in vv3-5. Except he fleshes out his meaning in vv7ff, where he explains that Israel as pertains to the definition he offered in vv4-5 lacks the element of election.

    As far as I'm concerned, you have created a false "framework" for Paul's argument when you write: "But Paul's argumentation throughout the book of Romans relies on a contrast between your X and your Z." Sorry, I don't agree; nor am I aware of respected exegetes who would concur. Doesn't mean I'm right, or that I'm sufficiently well informed.

    Rom.2:28-29 (I think this is your intend) is not a thesis; doesn't mean it's not a significant declaration, but it's part of a much longer major section of the letter 1:18-3:20, and the end of shorter 2:17-29; and it's refuting a particular claim by a certain population (there are three distinct "populations" in chs.1-2). There's no detour at chs.5-8. Rom.9-11 handles one objection (or a collection of related objections) brought on by Paul's lengthy argument; in fact, objections and their treatment are arguably the tandem "engine" to the gospel-proclamation engine that is driving the whole letter forward.

    Rom.4:16 is 5chs removed from the immediate discussion in 9:6. Context makes a difference.

    I'm interpreting the text in a linear-literary fashion. That means, at minimum, if a term is defined (and who can doubt it is?) in the immediate preceding sentence, that definition is prioritized over others. "Israel" is a term that is susceptible of multiple definitions. Thence, it follows responsible exegetes have to determine how a word is being used in one or another context.

    Moreover, in v7, he makes a parallel statement for clarification, even using the language of 4:16, seed of Abraham, saying, "they are not all his children just because they are the seed of Abraham!" He uses the term "seed of Abraham" there in a way that reverts to a mode of speech after the flesh. The proof is in the text to which he appeals, Gen.21:12: Isaac to the exclusion of Ishmael. From two natural sons, he limits the whole to one meaningful descendant. This limit imposes definite limitation on what Paul might mean in v6.

    When I reckon with the uncertainty v6 introduces by qualifying "Israel" in some sense, I appeal to Paul himself setting forth a new element (election, unfolding his own meaning in the vvff), while he does not take away from the prior definition. He adds to it, which means a narrowing from the whole.

    If that's not persuasive, my main point isn't to get you to change your mind. It is to help others reject the idea that 9:6 contains a studied ambiguity from the author. The name "Israel' has not been introduced at any time in the whole letter, prior to 9:4. Whatever inference you draw about "Abraham's children" from earlier portions, you are not free to assign (for the purpose of rendering Paul's thought) a wider definition to "Israel" until Paul does that himself. And he does not get there until 11:26; and even then there are wise exegetes who do not agree with me! They doubt very much that Paul does so shift his definition, despite the "ingrafting" discussion just prior.

    You move to "children" in 9:7-8, as if Paul had some other language he might have used to describe a natural child, so as not to "contradict" himself from back in 4:16. This kind of appeal to artificial fixity of words is irresponsible exegesis. Words have "semantic domain," they cover an area of meaning, which is contextually determined. The near context is more significant than a sentence or paragraph many pages back; particularly when no definition is given elsewhere, nor even the use of some term.

    I'm going to skip entirely treating the section on "typological interpretation." All other considerations beside, discussion of "non-soteriological blessings" (assuming there is any such thing) is entirely foreign to the text.

    9:24 is an explicit statement. Notice, he doesn't employ the term "Israel" in that context; he hasn't used it since 9:6. Unless you've already decided on some other basis that "Israel" is not defined by vv3-5, then further qualified by vv7-11, the inclusive designation of Israel isn't even part of the discussion. He uses "us," then says "Jews and Gentiles." This is a step (I would argue) toward a new and expansive definition of "Israel," but not one that he has explicitly argued for, nor set up by employment of a studied ambiguity at 9:6.

    The following vv use OT passages to argue for 1) a supernatural call of (some) Gentiles into the designation "My people" (still no explication or use of the name, Israel); 2) Remnant-theology (that's another limiting term) as opposed to national-theology for the salvation of those previously named "Israel," i.e. Isaiah plainly teaches election within the chosen People. Again, unless one is already in possession of something Paul has yet to express, there's no reason to presume a reinterpretation of "Israel," v27, in Isaiah's text or intention at Is.10:22-23. It is the nation, but a remnant not the whole; Paul is being quite faithful to authorial (Isaiah's) intent.

    You are arguing against a reading that takes seriously Paul's employment of an actual definition of a term, and reading a preferred definition into expressions and vv where the term itself is not used. You are doing so on the basis of a theological a priori. Theological a prioris are not illegitimate for the purpose of theological expression and systematization. However, you are using this one as an interpretive shoehorn into this text.

    It is following the grafting-discussion in 11:15-24 that I suppose Paul gives "Israel" a new and wider definition. In other words, it is a conclusion--really an inference or byproduct--of a sustained argument about how divine election cuts off presumption of inclusion. Elect Gentiles become members in true-Israel (as they always had) by ingrafting/adoption; and in the future, Jewish-elect will be regrafted into that Vine by the same rule; "And so ALL Israel will be saved." On my reading, Paul has set up his reader/hearer by use of preexisting horticultural imagery (see Is.5 and Jn.15) to now accept a trans-national-elect definition of "Israel." A Jew-Gentile definition for Israel all along is not an assumption or axiom (or ambiguity) built into a different argument.

    I guess, at the end of this look-through, we discover a bias (?) against an internal/external distinction for "covenant" by means of denying the designation "Israel" is ever so explicitly divided by Paul. A divided sense seems to me like the logical follow-through of this passage, especially as combined with the "Jew inwardly, not outwardly true" declaration of 2:29. Personally, I'm not familiar with the use of Rom.9 as a major prooftext for covenant-theology. v4 uses the word "covenant," but in an historical, not strictly theological sense; it comes in again at 11:27; so the terminology "bookends," as it were, the passage; but these vv do not give the passage special utility for the exposition of an explicitly covenant-theology.

    Your presentation may be your polemic against such an appeal. But to this observer, it seems like beating the air. Who are you arguing against? And perhaps more germane: who (of Baptist worthies) argues for the meaning of 9:6 as you do?
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  9. Panegyric

    Panegyric Puritan Board Freshman

    Bruce, I appreciate your interaction, though I think you are putting way too much weight on a concept you yourself admit you don't derive from Romans 9:1-5. As you say, we must turn to Romans 9:7ff to define Romans 9:6. Any attempt to declare what 'Israel' (Y) must include in Romans 9:6 on the basis of the definition of 'Israelite' in Romans 9:4-5 must be subject to correction by Romans 9:7ff. Seeing as you define 'Israel' (Y) as an elect remnant of the 'descendants of Israel' (X), we must turn to Romans 9:7ff to see if this is what we find.

    Isaac a remnant?
    You declare that just as Y is 'everything that defines X+election', so Isaac is 'everything that defines Ishmael+election.' Then we are to understand Isaac as a remnant, as if there was some sort of corporate promises to Abraham's two immediate children which were then narrowed down to Isaac. But this is demonstrably false. The promises made to Abraham about his descendants were never made to both of his immediate children. They were always made solely to Isaac (Gen. 12:2-3, understood by all of Christ, and thus necessarily cannot be a promise to multiple immediate male sons of Abraham); Gen. 15:4 (note it says one will be his heir, there is no sense of corporate promise to the class of Abraham's children); Gen. 17:15-19). This was true prior to Isaac or Ishmael even being conceived, and thus Gen. 22:12 is not a proclamation of who will be a remnant of a corporately-granted set of blessings, but rather a re-statement of what has been said from the beginning: Isaac is the heir. In like manner, Ishmael (from conception!) received his own set of distinct promises which Isaac was never entitled to (Gen. 16:10ff; Gen. 17:20; Gen. 21:17-21). The immediate children of Abraham never share any promises. From the beginning, each one is given a distinct promise. They are not a corporate class. Same goes for Jacob and Esau. From conception, God promises one one thing and the other another (Gen. 25:23, notice that the children are two nations, not one nation from which a subset will be selected). Further statements of promise to each one simply elaborate on this already made distinction (Jacob: Gen. 27:27-29; Esau: Gen. 27:39-40). If Isaac is a remnant, he is a remnant of a class of 1, same goes for Jacob. Paul's point here is not that God has always chosen remnants of corporate classes, but that God has always assigned blessings without respect to persons or their works. In other words, he is establishing God' prerogative to create one circle of the Venn diagram without any regards to the other circle.

    Pharaoh externally in Covenant?
    If Paul is elaborating a concept of God choosing a remnant from a corporate body to be vessels of mercy (Romans 9:6-13, 23), and choosing the remainder of the outer circle to be a vessel of wrath (Romans 9:22), one must wonder why Paul chooses Pharaoh to elaborate this point (Romans 9:14-18), seeing as he is in neither of the concentric circles. Surely a more consistent example of the principle of God reprobating the outer circle could be found in some Jewish figure who fell from grace? But instead, according to your argument, Paul spends some time elaborating the prerogative to elect a remnant from a corporate group (Romans 9:6-13), and then completely abandons this remnant concept to speak of a general example of reprobation that has nothing to do with the external/internal model he has spent the last couple verses proving (Romans 9:14-18), before presumably returning again to his remnant model, and then suddenly switching to a Venn diagram (Romans 9:24), much to everyone's surprise. By contrast, I will simply argue that Paul has been proving the prerogative of God to bless one circle on the Venn diagram without respect to persons (Romans 9:7-13), and now is demonstrating God's prerogative to reprobate the other circle on the Venn diagram as the sovereign potter (Romans 9:14-24). Paul is being consistent throughout the passage, as I said before, you are making this passage too complicated by insisting that 'Israel' must be restricted to a specific class of 'descendants from Israel.'

    Your putting Paul's cart before his horse.
    You are repeatedly stating that I cannot read the term 'Israel' in Venn diagram form because Paul hasn't established that yet, but that instead I must read it as remnant because Paul has established that concept. But there is a fatal flaw in this argument. Paul doesn't establish the concept of a remnant until Romans 9:24ff. By contrast, Paul has already established a Venn diagram for the terms circumcision & Jew (Romans 2:25-29), child of Abraham (Romans 4:11-12), and descendant of Abraham (Romans 4:16-18). He has also labored to establish Gentiles being co-beneficiaries with Jews in the Gospel (Romans 1:16), and justification (Romans 3:29-30). All of this must inform a reading of Romans 9:6, and cannot be waved off as irrelevant to Paul's argument. He has already told us how to view the relationship of those 'descended from Israel' to the 'spiritual circumcision, the true Jew, the true child of Abraham, and his promised descendants, the heirs,' several of which terms conspicuously appear in Romans 9:7-8. Paul has established a Venn diagram. His remnant theology is derived from his Venn diagram. He only begins discussing the remnant of Jews as a class distinct from the broader group of 'true Children of Abraham, true Jews, spiritual circumcision, promised descendants, the heirs" in Romans 9:24ff. He never once refers to this distinct class, the remnant, as 'Israel.' Paul only knows two Israels, just as he knows two descendants of Abraham, two circumcisions, and two Jews. Thus there is no warrant to assume that 'Israel' in Romans 9:6 is restricted to the class of remnant, rather than fully inclusive of Gentiles and Jews. Certainly one could insist that 'Israel' is not the focus of Romans 9:6, rather the reprobation of the 'descendants of Israel' by their exclusion from 'Israel' is, but that doesn't necessitate us restricting 'Israel' to the Jewish elect to understand this focus.

    What is Paul denying in Romans 9:24?
    In Romans 9:6, Paul states that God never had elected all of the 'descendants from Israel,' and thus "it is not as though the word of God has failed," even though the vast majority are condemned. Paul is denying that the Jews were ever corporately elected to salvation. He then proceeds to establish God's prerogative to make vessels of wrath to the end that he might make known the riches of his glory upon the vessels of mercy, 'Israel.' To cap off his argument, in Romans 9:24, he repeats the denial of Romans 9:6, that the 'descendants of Israel' were ever corporately elected to salvation, by denying that the vessels of mercy, 'Israel,' are composed solely of Jews, with the intention of proving that God did not create 'Israel' with any regard whatsoever to the 'descendants of Israel.' To affirm that Paul has been teaching a doctrine of God choosing remnants from a corporately elect class this whole time (Romans 9:1-24), is to say that the 'descendants of Israel' were right to believe that 'Israel' was made with respect to them as 'descendants of Israel,' which utterly disarms Paul's argument, and frankly, suggests that the word of God indeed has failed. Paul actually doesn't turn to discuss the remnant as such (Romans 9:27-29) until he has already discussed the called Gentiles (Romans 9:25-26). That is to say, as I've already stated, Paul's remnant theology is derived from his Venn diagram. He doesn't begin thinking about the remnant of the Jews (Romans 9:27-33), the overlap, until he has well established the two circles (Romans 9:6-26; see prior citations of preceding chapters in Romans).

    Remnants: distinctly a Mosaic issue.
    Part of the problem here is seeing remnants where there are none. The idea of a remnant necessitates some sort of corporate body from which only a limited number are selected. As we saw above, this is really inappropriate as a way to think of the relationships between Isaac & Ishmael, or Jacob & Esau. In fact, the incorporation of a body of descendants from Abraham really only occurs in the Mosaic Covenant (even Jacob's sons have distinct privileges, though it could be conceded that as his 12 sons give birth to the 12 tribes, they are a corporate body, see Gen. 35:1-17; Gen. 48:15ff; Gen. 49). From this group, remnants may be drawn. One of course can invent a class, for instance, Reformed Baptists, and then derive a remnant of elect from there logically speaking, but Paul only talks about a remnant in regards to the people constituted as such by the Mosaic covenant.

    Concentric Circles: A recipe for abuse
    More pertinently, Westminster Larger Catechism Question 61 uses Romans 9:6 as a way of understanding the invisible / visible church distinction. The problem is that Romans 9:6 has nothing to do with whether the elect are visible or not. It has everything to do with the fact that not all of the Jews were in the church, something quite obvious to the naked eye. Paul was confronting an incredibly visible issue to his readers: that most Jews were not in the church, and loads of Gentiles were. Even on your definition of Romans 9:6, it must be granted that Paul is stating that most of his kinsmen aren't part of the church. He is not lamenting the fact that so many Jews are visibly in the church but won't be saved. And frankly, the same is easily affirmable about the rest of the examples: Isaac was always visibly the heir, and Ishmael always visibly was not. Same goes for Jacob and Esau. Same goes for Pharaoh. Why does the WLC see this as a proof for the visible/invisible church distinction? Because the WLC falsely builds the visible/invisible church distinction not on the difference between God and man's perspectives of a singular church, but rather on the idea that there is an external / internal covenant founding the church which will have only a remnant be saved from within it, a church within a church as it were. So much for removing "ungodliness from Jacob" (Romans 11:26). This mishap would not even be thinkable on a Venn diagram model of the verse. And while those holding to a concentric circles model may avoid stumbling into it, they do so only by multiplying Israels until they have 3, 4, or possibly more.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2017
  10. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    There is an ambiguity, but it is a deliberate one using equivocation on "Israel". Paul is a master at word-play and this kind of double-entendre is striking and effective.

    Orwell's "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others" is similar. If one tried to parse the sentence with strict logic, he would conclude it to be nonsense.

    But it's not.
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  11. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    When I was a seminary student, I wanted v6 to read as you've construed it (though not for the same reasons as you seem to have). I clearly recall Dr. Morton H. Smith, my Systematics professor, over 5 decades of teaching behind him, hearing me out, pausing, and then quietly and graciously remarking, "Well, I've never heard it explained that way before; but perhaps you have a point."

    Maybe... that's just what I should have said here, too.
  12. Panegyric

    Panegyric Puritan Board Freshman

    Agreed. As I hoped to show in the paper attached to the initial post, Paul's equivocation of the term 'Israel' produces two contradictory interpretive options. However, we can and should determine which option is the correct interpretation by examining the rest of the passage.

    Bruce, I want to say first that I respect your time, and that you may not want to spend hours of your weekend debating this verse with a stranger on the internet. If that is the intent of your post, or something akin to it, we can shake hands, and I must thank you for the interaction. It has refined my understanding of Romans 9 considerably. But I must say, I don't quite know what to make of Mr. Smith's remark, and, consequently, neither do I know what to make of yours.
  13. Panegyric

    Panegyric Puritan Board Freshman

    Isaac a child of the flesh?
    While it is obvious that Isaac is physically descended from Abraham, it is rather helpful to see that 'child of the flesh' (Romans 9:8) does not merely mean biologically descended from Abraham. Rather, child of the flesh & child of promise (Romans 9:8) are parallel terms, both referring to the will that gives birth to the child. One is the will of God, and thus those children are the children of God, and the other is the will of man, and those are children of the flesh. The children of promise are not a remnant of the children of the flesh. Rather, they are children born according to a different will than the children of the flesh. This is clear for several reasons:

    1. Isaac isn't called a child of the flesh. He simply isn't. Therefore, it cannot be assumed that he is. Rather, it must be shown that child of the flesh applies to him.

    2. Ishmael was conceived by an act of utter faithlessness on Abraham's part (Gen. 16:2; cf. Romans 4:20). The point of calling Ishmael a child of the flesh is not that he is merely descended from Abraham, but that Ishmael was a product of Abraham's carnal act of presumption against the promises of God.

    3. Isaac is conceived by an act of faith, and by the power of God. In Romans 4:19-21 (cf. Heb. 11:11) it is made clear that Isaac is miraculously born against nature by the working of God through Abraham's faith. There is in this not merely a qualification, or addition in Isaac's birth to that which was in Ishmael's. Rather there is a contrast.

    4. Isaac is a type of Christ. See Hebrews 11:17-19, where Genesis 21:12 is quoted just like in Romans 9:7. Notice in Hebrews 11:17, the NASB renders it, "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son…" Of course, Abraham has other children, but the point is that Isaac always was in a different class. He isn't a 'child of the flesh+election.' In fact, Isaac is a type of Christ, who is not merely another descendant born after the sinful will of Adam, that is, after the flesh. He is not conceived in iniquity (Psalm 51:5), and neither was Isaac, in that he was conceived by faith. But Ishmael was very much conceived in sin. There is meant to be a contrast here that just isn’t able to happen if child of the flesh merely denotes biological descendant of Abraham.

    5. Given the above, Isaac is used in Romans 9:7-9 as a type of the church, that is, those mystically & legally joined to Christ. The church is not a refinement of the category of Jews, neither is it a refinement of the category visible church. Such a conclusion cannot be drawn from Romans 9:7-9 because Isaac isn’t a refinement of children of the flesh. Rather, the church and Isaac are always opposed and contrasted with the children of the flesh, be they Ishmael, faithless Jews, or Adam’s sinful posterity generally considered. The church is not merely a refinement of Adam's sinful posterity, rather it is composed of those who are translated out of the Old Man and into the New (Eph. 4:22-24). The church is not merely composed of a refinement of Israel (the Jewish nation), rather it is composed of those translated out of Israel (the Jewish nation) into Israel (the church, the true children of Abraham).
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2017
  14. ArminianOnceWas

    ArminianOnceWas Puritan Board Freshman

    I'll say that I am enjoying reading and considering this thread, even though I don't have the time to give full attention and response to it.
  15. Panegyric

    Panegyric Puritan Board Freshman

    Some time has passed, and it seems this thread has run its course. So if I may, I will offer what I suppose are some concluding remarks.

    Distinguishing the knowledge(s) of the Author and the Reader

    Perhaps I could have brought this out better at the beginning. Paul's statement that some X are not Y (presuming also that some X are Y), carries with it logical freight, that requires us to understand the relationship between the two terms as either that of a Venn diagram, or that of concentric circles. In a word, Paul is presupposing one of these two relationships when he writes Romans 9:6.

    However, that is not to state that we can know which one it is from Romans 9:6 alone. Everyone agrees on the definition of X ('descended from Israel'), but Y must be defined by what follows (in practice, everyone draws their definition of Y from the verses succeeding from Romans 9:6). The reader is unable to deduce the relationship between the two terms from the verse alone. Both models are fully compatible with the statements some X are not Y and some X are Y. Neither model can be disqualified on the basis of those two statement alone. Rather, we either need some sort of including statement to demonstrate some Y are not X, an excluding statement to deny some Y are not X, or silence with regards to any non-X existing within Y to forego the possibility that some Y are not X. We then go along reading Romans 9:7ff searching for one of the three above possibilities to determine the relationship.

    This gets down to the difference between Paul's knowledge & the reader's. Paul already knows which model he is using when he writes Romans 9:6. Paul doesn't have to read along and find out which one he is using. When the reader reads along, Romans 9:6 is clarified and the terms may appear to expand or grow in definitional content. Indeed, that is exactly what should appear to happen to the reader, since the reader cannot know the full definitional content of Romans 9:6 (whether there is a Venn diagram or concentric circles relationship between the terms) from that statement alone (or the preceding ones, no one has argued that they define Y without reference to the succeeding verses). But for Paul it is not so. He already is presupposing a model when he writes Romans 9:6.

    The first question is, "Does Paul clarify all the implications of Romans 9:6?" No one has denied that he does in this thread, but I suppose it could be argued that he never explains the relationship between the terms. We would be forced to admit that there is one, but that it is unknowable.

    Granting that he does clarify the implications, then we must all agree that Paul already knows full well what Romans 9:6 means, and goes on to provide a clear explanation of it in the verses following (those holding to a concentric circles model in this thread argue that, in addition to an explanatory elaboration following Romans 9:6 that defines the terms, Paul provides a re-definition that follows the aforementioned elaboration). At this point our debate begins over what is found in the verses succeeding, and I have attempted to provide a sustained case for why those verses clarify that Romans 9:6 presupposes a Venn diagram relationship, as opposed to a concentric circles one.

    An important insight from the distinction between Paul's knowledge and ours is that there is a difference between our subjectively increasing understanding of the definitions of the terms in Romans 9:6, and Paul objectively changing the definitions of the terms found in Romans 9:6. It has been argued that Romans 9:24 and Romans 11:26 constitute a redefinition by Paul of the terms found in Romans 9:6. But this gets at my point. Rather than being a change in the objective definition, it may simply be a clarification in our subjective understanding. As has been said over and over again, both models are perfectly able to accommodate Paul's statement in Romans 9:6. If both sides grant that the relationship between the 'descendants of Israel' and 'Israel' sustain a Venn diagram relationship by Romans 11:26, then there is considerable pressure placed on those arguing Romans 9:6 presupposes a concentric circles model to demonstrate that Paul is re-defining the terms in Romans 11:26 (or elsewhere), rather than simply speaking in a way that makes his presuppositions more clear. This is why I have raised the issue of too many Israels. Granting that Paul redefines Y such that it may be affirmed that some Y are not X in Romans 11:26, then one must provide proof that there is a Y and a Y'. That is, we end up with an 'Israel' (Romans 9:6) and a 'Israel (2)' (Romans 11:26), not to mention the Israel which is X, 'descended from Israel' generally considered (Romans 10:19). Can it really be demonstrated that Paul is explicitly changing definitions here, rather then simply clarifying his presuppositions? That is, can it be shown Paul presupposes one thing in stating Romans 9:6, and another in Romans 11:26? Or is the reader simply growing in his subjective understanding of the implications of Paul's objective statement in Romans 9:6? Such proof presumably would need to consist of a statement excluding non-x from Y, since arguing that the silence between Romans 9:6 and Romans 11:26 (or Romans 9:24) is such that it requires us to consider those statements as re-definitions rather than clarifications is practically-speaking a circular argument (e.g., Romans 9:24 must be considered a re-definition of Romans 9:6 because we aren't allowed to include Romans 9:24 in the definition of Romans 9:6).

    In closing, since all sides admit that Romans 9:24 and Romans 11:26 state that some Y are not X, and since no evidence has been brought forth to demonstrate that the intervening verses teach that all Y are X (that is, that non-x are excluded from Y), it can clearly be seen that the argument for the concentric circles model is fallacious, relying on special pleading to exclude Romans 9:24 and Romans 11:26 from the definitional content of Romans 9:6. 1st) All sides admit there are statements affirming some Y are not X, and therefore it cannot be stated that there is silence on the presence of non-x in Y. 2nd) No proof has been offered for the exclusion of non-x from Y prior to the aforementioned statements in 1. Therefore, there is no proof for a Y and a Y'. There is no proof for an Israel and a Israel'. You cannot simply delete the verses that disagree with you from consideration. The concentric circles model will require you to demonstrate that Paul makes a statement excluding the existence of non-x from Y prior to Romans 9:24 (or as I have argued, Romans 9:7-8). You have too many Israels. Paul knows two. Notice how the argument for the concentric circles model fails given the admissions of its proponents alone.

    Perhaps this last statement will make clear what I am saying, if it still isn't. Obviously in Romans 9:6 we cannot see the part of 'Israel' in the Venn diagram that exists beyond the overlap with those 'descended from Israel.' But that doesn't mean Paul isn't presupposing it. As we read along, what Paul already knows becomes clear to us—that all Israel (the church) will be saved, and all that will be saved are Israel (the church), and that not all are Israel (the church) who are descended from Israel (Jews).

    Well, these were the issues I hoped to hash out in this thread. Whatever side you land on, I hope you can praise the wisdom of our awesome God in revealing to us the mysteries (especially pertinent term, see Ephesians 3:1-7) of salvation.
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2017
  16. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    Well, I've never heard it explained that way before; but perhaps you have a point.
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