For the last couple days, I have been sharing quotes on my social media from a book I have just finished called Jew and Gentile Reconciled: An Exploration of the Ten Northern Tribes in Pauline literature. I have appreciated the various writings I have come across by Bible teacher and academic, Mr. Bryan E. Lewis. This book was full of scholarly notations, provided great historical and textual context, and highlighted a topic often confused in theological studies. Mr. Lewis brings us through details regarding the terms of “Jew” and “Gentile” (some of which I detail in this blog), he highlights how the terms are used throughout Biblical literature, and of great importance in my studies, he highlights the confusion many have brought to the study, specifically noting the distorted views that have been offered through Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology.
WHO ARE THE GENTILES
Mr. Lewis wrote, “Paul’s quotation of Hosea has largely been understood as only applicable to first – century Gentiles, even though the original meaning was directed to the northern tribes of Israel.” It’s all to easy for contemporary Bible teachers to assert that the mention of Gentiles spoke to nations outside of Israel. Not so fast. This lends to recent studies I have been engaging. To add a witness to the great insights offered by Mr. Lewis, I would recommend the sermon by Pastor David Curtis, of Berean Bible Church, called “Who Are The Gentiles?”.
SWALLOWED AMONG THE GENTILES
Mr. Lewis went into detail regarding the prophecy that was uttered in Hosea, ultimately that the northern tribes would be swallowed up by the Gentiles (Hosea 8:8) and would become not His people (Hosea 1:8). He writes, “…the northern tribes would become an eclectic mix of people with no discrete national identity, scattered to the Gentile nations, and thus, outside the covenant community of YHWH – effectively becoming Gentiles”. Looking at 2 Kings chapter 17, Mr. Lewis also shares historical mention of those details from 1st century historian Josephus, who in Antiquities writes;
“But now the Cutheans, who removed into Samaria, [for that is the name they have been called by to this time, because they were brought out of the country called Cuthah, which is a country of Persia, and there is a river of the same name in it,] each of them, according to their nations, which were in number five, brought their own gods into Samaria, and by worshipping them, as was the custom of their own countries, they provoked Almighty God to be angry and displeased at them, for a plague seized upon them, by which they were destroyed; and when they found no cure for their miseries, they learned by the oracle that they ought to worship Almighty God, as the method for their deliverance. So they sent ambassadors to the king of Assyria, and desired him to send them some of those priests of the Israelites whom he had taken captive. And when he thereupon sent them, and the people were by them taught the laws, and the holy worship of God, they worshipped him in a respectful manner, and the plague ceased immediately; and indeed they continue to make use of the very same customs to this very time, and are called in the Hebrew tongue Cutlans, but in the Greek tongue Samaritans.”
Furthermore, Mr. Lewis notes that, “…much speculation – both historical and theological in nature – has evolved over the past two millennia about the precise identity and location of the “ten lost tribes”. Where and who are the descendants of the formerly deported Israelites? In my opinion, based on the date available to us, the answer is: they assimilated into the Gentile nations via the Assyrian conquest and became regarded as Gentiles because of their various losses of distinctive identity”.
The point he continues to lead into is that due to the “Assyrianization” of the northern tribes, in the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel, “…the Gentile nations come to salvation concurrently with the restoration and ingathering of Israel (all twelve tribes). Mr. Lewis quotes Christian theologian and philosopher, Jack Cottrell, “The consensus seems to be that the ten “lost” tribes’ permanent exile has so intermingled them with the Gentiles that the evangelization of the group will necessarily involve the evangelization of the other”.
THE PROPHETIC HOPE OF ISRAEL
In my studies I have come to demand interpretation of the Gospel as the fulfillment of the “hope of Israel” that was made known through the Law and the Prophets (cf. Acts 24:14). I readily note that the fulfillment would also be done in a rather mysterious way (cf.1 Peter 1:10-12), however, that should not allow for all the development of historically detached views of the Gospel. The method through which Mr. Lewis consistently applies the details of the Biblical narrative was so refreshing to read. In talking about Pauline literature, he notes, “Paul’s motive was to create a “theological narrative”, which had immediate significance for his own contemporaries as an exemplary catalyst for eliciting faith in Israel’s Messiah”. In working out the details of how the Apostle Paul would have understood the details of the fulfillment of the Hope of Israel, Mr. Lewis makes the following insightful statements:
“Paul was well aware that all of Israel’s restoration promises encompassed the return of both houses of Israel”.
“Paul likely under that many of the northern tribes of Israel were not, in fact, completely destroyed by the Assyrians in the eight century BCE and lost to time, but instead had acculturated with heathen non-Israelites, thereby losing their identity and effectively becoming “not my people”, or Gentiles”.
“…Paul’s appropriation of Hosea 1:9-10 and 2:23 in Romans 9:24-26 is likely employed intentionally to evoke the promise of Israel’s restoration as a robust metanarrative in Paul’s efforts toward Jewish and Gentile reconciliation”.
“Paul did not view both Gentiles and northern tribes as two distinct unconnected ethnic groups, but instead, as uniformly homogeneous”.
“In other words, Paul’s mission to the Gentiles was the vehicle whereby the northern tribes would be gathered from exile, reconciled, and restored with the southern kingdom of Judah in the land. By extension, those who had always been outside the covenant would also be reconciled to the Lord. In this way, Israel, as God’s special heralds, was the nucleus of the Lord’s plan to save all humanity”.
Mr. Lewis quotes, renowned British New Testament scholar, C.E.B. Cranfield, in that “Paul takes this (Hosea’s) promise as a proof of God’s purpose to include the Gentiles in His salvation”. Mr. Lewis couples this thought with a thought of his own, “…the gathering of the outcasts of Israel and the dispersed of Judah is coterminous with the Gentiles putting their hope in “the root of Jesse”. I hope you catch the significance of the point being made here. In God’s demonstration of His faithfulness to the promises He gave to Israel (all twelve tribes), we find the necessary extension of God’s promises to those outside those tribes. Mr. Lewis notes various passages such as Isaiah chapter 11 wherein after the restoration “the nations shall inquire” (v.10) or the “nations shall never again…” which we read of in Ezekiel 37:22, which speak to realities after the restoration. Not only does this highlight that, “…the Gentiles are converted as Israel is restored from exile (Ezekiel 39:21-29)”, but also that there would be a continuance after the restoration. Glory to God!
RESTORATION OF ALL
The conclusive thought I would like to end with is that the faithfulness, the love, and the sovereign wisdom of God are demonstrated by understanding the points Mr. Lewis brings out in his book. In noting the historical details of God’s judgement upon the northern tribes and their being swallowed up among the Gentiles, we come to know that “The Gentiles consisting of eclectic mix of people with no discrete national identity (i.e., the covenantally divorced northern tribes and those who were never a part of the commonwealth of Israel) – would be renewed to the worship of YHWH through Paul’s mission; and as a result, they would ALL flow unto Jerusalem (i.e., the land (cf. Isaiah 2:2)”. The term Gentile therefore “… is a term that both expresses and is inclusive of the ultimate restoration and ingathering of the northern tribes of Israel. Subsequently, it is inclusive of the restoration of all humanity”. Furthermore, noting the Apostle Paul’s nostalgia for Israel’s redemptive narrative as made known through the Law and the Prophets, his “…appropriation of Hosea 1:9-10 and 2:23 in Romans 9:25-26 was neither a radical misreading nor an attempt to change the meaning away from the original context – i.e., the northern tribes. Moreover, nor was it a methodical attempt to appropriate the verses toward a detached group called Gentiles – i.e., they were not detached in Paul’s mind. Instead, it was a deliberate hermeneutical scheme designed to show that the ingathering of the Gentile nations also meant the ingathering of the northern tribes, and thus the end of Israel’s exile. It was the time of universal restoration of all”.
A NECESSARY PARTICULARISM
I appreciated that Mr. Lewis asserted that “Paul continually advances a corporate-community election over an individual election”. I often get frustrated when I read Christian writers completely abusing the textual context of that which the Apostle Paul is speaking to. Corporate salvation not individual salvation. That is not to say that we cannot understand individual election by studying out the concept of corporate election, however that’s a study for another time. I did follow up in discussion with Mr. Lewis regarding the mention of “ultimate restoration of all humanity” and “universal restoration of all”. Too be quite honest, I had a preconceived idea that Mr. Lewis would repudiate any understanding of Universalism, and sure enough he did. He remarked, “It is common among Pauline scholars to understand that Paul was talking about particularism not universalism”. Simply put, “all” doesn’t necessarily mean all, and requires a contextually study of the text it is being used in.
Overall this was an excellent read. If you have questions about the “Jews and Gentiles”, or if you want to get a better grasp on how the Apostle Paul used Old Testament texts in explaining the Gospel, this book is necessary. Here is a link to get a copy for yourself, https://www.glossahouse.com/product-page/jew-and-gentile-reconciled
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Michael Miano