The northern Gentiles?

Posted: 25th June 2008 by ElShaddai Edwards in Uncategorized

For a fascinating comparison of Paul’s use of “Gentile” and “Israel” in Romans 11 with the OT language of the northern and southern tribes of Israel, be sure to check out Michael Barber’s new post: How “All” Israel Will Be Saved on his excellent Singing in the Reign blog.

The northern Israelites were sent into exile but they were not forgotten. Though they were dissolved into the nations through intermarriage God did not forget about them–he still knew where they were, much like God told Elijah he knew where the faithful remnant of his people was in his day (cf. Rom 11:2-6).

Paul thus sees his Gentile mission in terms of the pan-Israelite hope. The northern tribes must be restored to fulfill the promises made by the Lord through the prophets. Where are they? Among the Gentiles. To bring Israel home means to bring in the Gentiles. This is the mystery. God allowed Israel to be exiled so that he could use them to eventually bring the nations home as well–as their relatives.

  1. tc robinson says:

    Yes, quite fascinating! But where in Scripture is the lost tribes of the Northern kingdom called “Gentiles”? Aren’t the Samaritans the closest to this theory?

    I need Scripture.

  2. TC – you’re reading too much into my headline. The Gentiles are Paul’s allusion to the northern tribes of the OT. I simply combined them into a single phrase to get your attention…

  3. tc robinson says:

    El, you certainly got my attention. Still I don’t see clearly from Scripture that the Gentiles are Paul allusion to the NT of the OT.

    Do I need to learn a new language to understand these kind of allusions in Paul?

  4. Do I need to learn a new language to understand these kind of allusions in Paul?

    Don’t know – it seemed pretty clear when reading Barber’s article what he was getting at. I’m just the voice in the wilderness, pointing the way… but let me try to summarize as I understand it:

    When Paul uses the phrase “all of Israel”, Barber is suggesting that he is using a Jewish eschatological expression that looked forward to the restoration of northern and southern tribes into a united kingdom at the end of the age. The northern tribes had been dispersed among the Gentiles through the diaspora. When Paul carries the gospel message to the Gentiles, he is, in effect, preaching to the northern tribes. So when the Gentiles and the remnant of Israel (southern) are saved at the end of the age, the Jewish tribes (north and south) will be reunited, fulfilling Jewish eschatology.

    This is what Barber is positing that Paul means by “all of Israel will be saved” (Rom 11:26). He sees a very Jewish Paul, which is consistent with a book by Mark Nanos, The Mystery of Romans, that I’ve been slogging through and hope to blog about some day.

  5. (It’s consistent with my view, too! 😉 )

  6. tc robinson says:

    Am I to believe then that the New Covenant between the house of Jacob and the House of Israel, is really between the Gentiles and the Jews (the remnant of the Southern tribes)?

    The only Southern and Northern tension in Paul is whether he wrote to Northern Galatia or Southern Galatia…

    I’m having a hard time seeing and accepting this “new” idea.

  7. tc robinson says:

    I just read the original article and left a comment. While Michael provided Scripture for his other conclusions, there are none for his conclusion about Paul understanding the Gentiles as the lost Northern tribes.

    Furthermore, such notion as Gentiles being the lost Northern tribes is conspicuously missing from his Second Temple Judaism quotes. Such a position is not based on Scripture.

  8. I just read the original article and left a comment.

    Good, that’s probably the best way to get answers on this stuff. I’ll look forward to seeing a response on Barber’s blog.

  9. James Pate says:

    That’s an interesting way to look at it. I hadn’t heard that view before.