God chooses Israel (salvation “first to the Jew and then the gentile”), but without showing favoritism? Paul genuinely grieves for Israel as one speaking “in” Christ, yet prays to be cursed, cut off from Christ? Romans 9–11 remains one of the most difficult and contested biblical texts in scholarship today. Theological discussions often limit the focus of this passage to God’s sovereignty, emphasizing that God’s mind is not known, or to Paul’s defense of God’s faithfulness, insisting that Israel has failed. Less attention has been devoted to Paul’s unique form and style, which, rightly understood, resolve significant issues, revealing the merciful and wise character of God in his choice of Jacob, the lesser son.
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Looking for more on Romans 9? Check out Christ Is God Over All: Romans 9:5 in the Context of Romans 9–11 and Paul’s Use of the Old Testament in Romans 9:1-18: An Intertextual and Theological Exegesis (2 vols.).
The strengths of Election of the Lesser Son are its careful attention to the larger structures of Paul’s argument and to the way Paul weaves Old Testament allusions into his argument about Israel.
—Douglas J. Moo, Kenneth T. Wessner Professo of New Testament, Wheaton College
Here’s a fresh, inviting approach to the meaning of election in Romans 9–11, famously called the ‘Gordian knot’ by John Calvin. Wallace drives home a major point: in terms of pragmatics, God’s election of Israel, the ‘lesser son,’ teaches the church humility, a notion seldom mentioned in treatments of the subject.
—Bruce Corley, senior fellow and professor of New Testament and Greek, B. H. Carroll Theological Institute
With a deft weaving of Paul's psalmic lament over Israel with his doxological praises of God’s gracious intent for all humanity in Romans 9–11, Wallace shows how God’s election of ‘Israel’ already proves God’s merciful compassion for the lesser, the weaker Jacob, such that God’s grace to save through the rejection and raising of Israel’s Messiah becomes a powerful demonstration of the righteousness/justice of God through weakness so that all—strong and humble alike—might be shown mercy. A new, illuminating impulse for comprehending Romans 9–11!
—David P. Moessner, Bradford Chair of Religion, Texas Christian University
David R. Wallace is a pastor-scholar residing in Tyler, Texas. He is the author of The Gospel of God: Romans as Paul’s Aeneid and a contributor to Devotions on the Greek New Testament.