This post, in order to help provide context, includes Fr. Callan’s Summaries of verses 1-10, 11-24, and 25-32.
THE REJECTION OF ISRAEL IS AFTER ALL ONLY PARTIAL
A Summary of Romans 11:1-10~Having shown in the preceding chapter that the rejection of the Jews was due to their own persistent disobedience and obstinacy to the will of God and the divine overtures, St. Paul now is at pains to observe that God, notwithstanding, has by no means ceased to be merciful to His chosen people. For their rejection is not complete; a good number have been converted, although the others have been hardened.
1. I say then: Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
After all the Apostle has said about the culpability and responsibility of the Jews (9:30-10:21), one would be inclined to think that Israel had been entirely rejected and had ceased to be the people of God. But even before this, when speaking of the absolute right of God to choose or to reject whom He will (9:6-26), the Apostle had insinuated, in a passing way, that there was still, as in former times of apostasy, a faithful remnant in whom the mercy of God was manifest. Here, borrowing the words of Psalm 94:14, he asks the question plainly whether God hath cast away his people. The answer must be negative, first because the Apostle’s teaching cannot be contrary to the promise of the inspired Psalmist. In the second place, he refers to himself, who was an Israelite of the seed of Abraham, i.e., a carnal descendant of the father of the Jewish race, and a member of the tribe of Benjamin which, with the tribes of Juda and Levi, had, in the past, remained faithful to the Lord (2 Cor 11:22; Philip, 3:5). Finally, if God had entirely rejected the Jews, He would not have selected from among them “the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of his mysteries” (1 Cor 4:1), and sent them out to preach the faith to the Gentiles (1:5). So much for an indirect reply to the question proposed.
2. God hath not cast away his people, which he foreknew. Know you not what the scripture saith of Elias; how he calleth on God against Israel?
St. Paul now responds directly to the above question. It is impossible that God should reject entirely and definitely all the Jews, because God does not thus change His eternal decrees (see verses 28-29).
Which he foreknew, i.e., which he formerly recognized and willingly approved as His own people. There is no question here of those who God foreknew would be faithful to Him, or of the predestined (Cornely), but of the Jewish people as a whole, who would not be finally cast off by God.
Know you not, etc. The Apostle draws an example from the history of Elias (1 Kings 19:10) to illustrate the designs of God in the present instance. It seemed to Elias that the whole people had fallen into idolatry and had been rejected by God; but God revealed to the Prophet that a remnant had been preserved. So it is now. While it seems that all Israel has been rejected, there is no doubt that some will be saved.
The scripture, i.e., that section of the Old Testament which deals with Elias (cf. Mark 12:26; Luke 22:37).
Against Israel, i.e., accusing Israel.
THE REJECTION OF ISRAEL IS NOT FINAL, AND SERVES MEANWHILE FOR THE CONVERSION OF THE GENTILES
A Summary of Romans 11:11-24~The rejection of the majority of the Jews is a source of great mystery and profound sorrow. And yet there is reason for consolation, because, in the first place, a few have been saved already, and then, the rejection of the nation as a whole is only a temporary evil which, in the designs of God, is made to serve for the conversion of the Gentiles.
11. I say then, have they so stumbled, that they should fall? God forbid. But by their offence, salvation is come to the Gentiles, that they may be emulous of them.
Have they so stumbled, that, etc. Comely and others give to “that” (ινα) the sense of finality, as if St. Paul wished to ask if God, by justly withdrawing His graces from the Jews, blinded their greater number and permitted them to stumble for the purpose of making them fall without any hope of reparation. In this opinion, there is question here, not of the gravity, but of the purpose or end of the Jews’ fall. But St. Chrysostom, Lagrange, etc., hold that ινα has not a final meaning here, and that the sense is rather, whether the fall of the Jews is so great as to admit of no cure or remedy. At any rate, the stumbling of the Jews was not just that they might fall, nor that their fall should be irremediable, as the Apostle’s reply, vigorously negative, plainly shows, and as is clear from what follows in the verse. St. Paul then goes on to explain the designs of God in permitting the Jews to go astray.
By their offence, etc., i.e., through the blindness of the Jews in not recognizing the Messiah and their unwillingness to accept the Apostle’s preaching (Acts 13:45-48) the Gospel was carried to the Gentiles, and the error of the Jews became the occasion of the salvation of the pagans. This is the first and immediate result of the fall of the Jews. The second result is the salvation of the Jews themselves; for the salvation given to the Gentiles will finally rouse Israel to competition and emulation (παραζηλωσαι αυτους). The Jews will at length understand that their God has become the God of the Gentiles, that the Scriptures given to them have passed to others, and that God has withdrawn His blessings from His chosen people and bestowed them upon their pagan neighbors. When this takes place, the anger and jealousy of the Jews will have reached their climax and will be the occasion of a reaction against past errors, and a consequent return to the God of their forefathers. Thus, the hardening of Israel permitted by God was ordained to the salvation of the Gentiles, and the salvation of the Gentiles is ordained in turn to that of the Jews themselves (cf.
Lagrange, h. 1.).
12. Now if the offence of them be the riches of the world, and the
diminution of them, the riches of the Gentiles; how much more the fulness of them?
If the failure of Israel has brought such great benefits to the world, how enormous will be the benefit of the final conversion of all the Jews!
If the offence (παραπτωμα) of them (αυτων), i.e., of those hardened, be the riches of the world, i.e., be the occasion of the conversion of the Gentiles to the faith, and the diminution (ηττημα) of them (αυτων), i.e., the defeat, the loss of those hardened, be the means of inestimable blessings to the pagans, how much more the fulness (πληρωμα) of them(αυτων), i.e., how much greater blessings will come to the world from the total conversion to the faith of all the Jews!
In this interpretation, following Lagrange, we have given to the first and second αυτων (“them”) the meaning of those hardened, and to the third, the meaning of all the Jews. We have understood ηττημα (“diminution”) here to mean, not the remnant, a small number; but defeat, loss. πληρωμα (“fulness”) means the completing of Israel, i.e., the adding of the hardened (who will cease to be such) to the faithful Jews.
THE CONVERSION OF THE GENTILES WILL BE FOLLOWED BY THAT OF THE JEWS
A Summary of Romans 11:25-32~God’s final purpose is to save both Gentiles and Jews. They both have sinned and have been made to feel the wrath of God (1:18-2:29), but infinite mercy outstretches man’s wickedness and in the end will triumph over all; God’s designs do not change, nor does His will go unfulfilled. The salvation of all Israel is closely connected with the conversion of the Gentiles, as was foretold by the Prophets. It is according to the divine plan that Israel and the pagans should mutually help each other, and that both in the end should be objects of the divine mercy.
25. For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, of this mystery (lest you should be wise in your own conceits), that blindness in part has happened in Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles should come in.
I would not have you ignorant, brethren. This is a favorite phrase of St. Paul’s when he wishes to speak confidentially and announce some matter of great importance (Rom 1:13; 1 Cor 10:1; 12:1; 2 Cor 1:8; 1 Thess 4:13). He is speaking to the Gentile Christians, and he wishes to remind them of doctrines already familiar to the Church in general, namely, that the Jews were to be hardened (Matt 12:38-48; 13:11-16; 23:29-36), that the failure of Israel would bring in the Gentiles (Matt 20:1-16; 24:14), and that the Jews themselves would at last turn to Christ (Matt 23:39; Luke 13:35).
This mystery, i.e., the final conversion of Israel to Christianity, which will take place after the conversion of the Gentiles, but before the end of the world. St. Paul calls this great truth a mystery, because it could not be known short of revelation, and was in fact revealed to him by God along with the other truths of the Gospel of Christ (Gal 1:12, 16; Eph 2:11-22; 3:1-13).
Lest you be wise, etc. The quotation is from Prov 3:7. The Apostle is admonishing the Gentiles to guard against self-conceit, as if they had merited their call to the faith, and also against despising the rejected Jews.
Blindness in part, etc. While the Jews as a people had failed to accept the Gospel, a number of them had been converted. And the blindness or obduracy of the majority is not to last forever; but until the fulness of the Gentiles shall come in, i.e., until the other nations of the world have accepted the Gospel and entered the Church of Christ. It is to be noted that this fulness of the Gentiles relates to peoples, not to individuals: all the nations or peoples of the earth will be converted to Christ before the end of the world, but not all the individuals of each nation (St. Thomas, Cornely, Lagrange, etc.).
God, therefore, in His all-wise designs has called a few of the Jews to the faith already. He has made the incredulity of the majority the occasion of the conversion of the Gentiles, and this latter He will make in turn the occasion for the final call to the faith of all the Jews. We have no sign, however, that this general conversion of the world will be soon. Here it may be useful to recall what Origen said on this subject: “God only knows, and His Only-begotten Son, and any friends that may be privy to His secrets, what is all Israel that is to be saved, and what is the fulness of the Gentiles that is to come in.”
26. And so all Israel should be saved, as it is written: There shall come out of Sion, he that shall deliver, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.
All Israel does not mean the predestined (St. Augustine), nor all the Jews taken individually (St. Thomas), but the mass of the people, as opposed to individuals who are converted during the time that intervenes before the last days come. Israel then as a nation, like the other nations of the world, will finally embrace the faith; but it will not be until after all those others have been gathered in that she shall enter the fold of Christ. What fate has overtaken or awaits those Jews who have been hardened meanwhile, St. Paul does not anywhere tell us.
As it is written. The Apostle has been speaking of a mystery which he has learned through revelation, and he confirms the truth of it by showing that it was already more or less clearly foretold in the Old Test. (Isa 59:20). The citation is fairly literal from the LXX, which faithfully follows the Hebrew with the exception that where the latter has “out of Sion,” the LXX has “for Sion’s sake.” In the best MSS. the quotation is read as follows: “There shall come out of Sion the deliverer: he shall turn away impieties from Jacob.” St. Paul seems to make the citation refer in a general way to the Second Coming of Christ, although the conversion of the Jews will just precede that Second Coming, and will be a consequence of the first advent of the Saviour.
27. And this is to them my covenant: when I shall take away their sins.
The first part of this verse is from chapter 59:21, and the second from chapter 27:9 of the Prophet Isaias. God promises to make a new alliance with the people of Israel, when He will take away their sins and confer upon them forever His spirit and His doctrine.
In verses 25-27 we have the following unfulfilled prophecies: (a) Before the end of the world all Gentile nations shall be converted to Christianity, that is, the greater part of all nations, not all the individuals of each nation (St. Thomas); (b) after the conversion of the Gentiles, but before the end of the world, the Jews as a people will embrace Christianity. The fulfillment of these prophecies, and therefore the end of all things seem yet far off.
28. As concerning the gospel, indeed, they are enemies for your sake: but as touching the election, they are most dear for the sake of the fathers.
The present incredulity of the Jews will not hinder the final realization of God’s promises to them. God still loves them in their faithful ancestors.
As concerning the gospel, i.e., inasmuch as they have wilfully rejected the Gospel, the only means of salvation, they are enemies (εχθροι, odiosi), i.e., hateful to God (St. Thomas, Lagrange, etc.), and so have been excluded by God from their Messianic inheritance. This has happened to them, in the designs of God, for your sake, i.e., for the benefit of you Gentiles, because their unfaithfulness has been the occasion of your call to the Gospel (verses 11, 12, 15).
But as touching the election, i.e., as regards their election from among all other peoples, by which they were made God’s chosen people and the depositories and custodians of God’s special revelation and divine promises, they are most dear to God for the sake of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob— God’s special friends and faithful servants.
29. For the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance.
God will not forsake His people forever, because His special gifts and calling are without repentance, and are consequently not subject to change (cf. 2 Cor 7:10). The Apostle is not speaking here of an invariable rule of Providence as regards creatures, but only of the great designs of God, such as respected the gifts and privileges of Israel and the latter’s call to be the adopted people of the Most High. As regards these privileges God will never change, or repent of having conceded them, because He pledged them to the Patriarchs with an oath
(Deut 7:6-11). Despite, therefore, the unfaithfulness of the Jews, God will be true to His promises and will one day convert them as a whole to the faith. The call still holds if Israel will hear.
We read in 1 Kings 15:11 that God repented that He had chosen Saul; but the rejection of this king was only an episode, comparable to the temporary hardening of the Jews (Lagrange).