Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Israel's Leadership of the Gentiles

I know this is off-topic, but this question has been bugging me for some time, and I just came across it again while reading N.T. Wright's Romans commentary. As many of you know, Wright insists quite strongly that much of Paul's indictment of Israel focuses not so much on how Israel is sinful like all the Gentile nations, but rather, that they who were destined to be God's solution have, because of their idolatry and rebellion, become part of the problem. He writes on Romans 2:17-29:

[Paul's] point now is not so much to bring out into the open a charge that [Israel is] sinful like the rest.... The point here is that Israel should have been--had been called to be--the divine answer to the world's problem; and that, instead, Israel is itself fatally compromised with the very same problem. Israel's sinfulness is at the heart of the charge, but the charge itself is that the doctor, instead of healing the sick, has become infected with the disease.
A few questions: (1) If Israel had "become infected with the disease" from which the rest of the world suffers, when did this infection occur? (2) If it occurred at the fall of Adam, then in what meaningful sense could Israel have been ordained to be God's solution to the sin problem? Were they themselves not sinful from the outset? (3) But if this infection occurred at some later date (like at the time just preceding the exile for example), then is not Wright's insistence that Israel, at least up until this apostasy, could have been a physician to the Gentile nations an example of a gross underestimation of original sin? And lastly, (4) If Wright is faithfully representing Paul's claim that Israel was to be "a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness" (Rom. 2:19), then is it possible that Paul shared Wright's high hopes for Israel, despite the fall? And if he didn't, what did he mean by his rebuke?