What’s coming up Saturday? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
There is an old saying that says “How odd of God to choose the Jews.” The response was “But odder still are those who reject whom God chose.” The Jews are often said to be the chosen people, but what does it mean to be the chosen people? When the Bible talks about the elect of God, what exactly is it talking about? Are we who are Christians today part of the chosen people and if so, does that mean that we have replaced Jews?
These are questions that can be debated and are debated and that have a history behind them. In Second Temple Judaism, there was often debate about who the chosen people were and what it takes to be recognized as one of them. In order to discuss a question like this, I figured it would be good to bring on a scholar who has written on this topic well. I figured the author of the book The Chosen People would suffice.
Dr. A. Chadwick Thornhill is the Chair of Theological Studies and an Assistant Professor of Apologetics and Biblical Studies for the Liberty University School of Divinity. He completed his BS from Liberty University, and his MAR, MDiv, and PhD from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of “The Chosen People: Election, Paul and Second Temple Judaism” (IVP, 2015) and “Greek for Everyone: Introductory Greek for Bible Study and Application” (Baker, September 2016), as well as a number of articles and essays.
Dr. Thornhill and I will be discussing the data from the time period of Second Temple Judaism that talk about the chosen people. We will look at how Jews saw themselves and how some groups of Jews saw other groups of Jews. We will also see how this relates to various views on salvation and covenant today. How did Jews view being in the covenant? How did they know that they were part of the covenant? Does this have any impact on ideas like the New Perspective on Paul?
What does it mean then when Jesus shows up on the scene? How did Jesus interact with ideas of the chosen people? We know that in the Olivet Discourse he did speak about days being shortened for the days of the elect. What would this mean when we get to the Apostle Paul? Can this shed any light on what he was talking about when we get to Romans 11? How does the life of Jesus and the writing of Paul fit into the idea of a covenant in the thought of Second Temple Judaism?
I’m looking forward to this show. I’ve had some interactions with Thornhill and he’s a very interesting fellow and I think you’re going to enjoy hearing him speak on this topic. It will also be good to see how this understanding of this topic deepens our Biblical understand and improves our apologetic witness. Be listening to the show when it comes and do consider going to ITunes and writing a positive review.
What do I think of Chadwick Thornhill’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
As an IVP reviewer who has a passion for the NT and thinks that our modern individualism so often misreads the text, I took notice when I saw a book come out about election in Second Temple Judaism. I try to avoid the Calvinism/Arminianism debate with everything I have and have surprised a lot of friends by not jumping onto the middle ground of molinism. Thornhill’s book then sounded like something right up my alley.
Thornhill writes to help us see what election would mean for Paul and what would it mean to be a Jew and how would you be included within the spectrum of Judaism. It’s often been said that it was not Judaism that existed at the time of Paul but rather Judaisms. We could compare it to many Christian denominations today. There are some who will have an incredibly wide umbrella and accept most anyone in. There are some who will make incredibly small. I’ve heard the joke many times about Saint Peter welcoming someone to heaven and having them go by a room where they’re told to be quiet and when asked why is told “Those are the (Southern Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, etc.) and they’re somber because they think they’re the only ones here.
This is why Thornhill goes to the Jewish writings of the time to look and see how the Jews identified themselves. What were negotiables? What were non-negotiables? What did it mean to be elect and how did one maintain one’s role in the covenant with YHWH? Many times we have in the past thought that the law was this system put on Jews that they slaved under and struggled to follow and were just hoping that they were in the grace of God, but this really isn’t the case. Jews had quite different views and while no one would really say being born a Jew was a free pass, most were not trying to find a new way of salvation. Paul himself definitely wasn’t. After all, in Philippians, he writes that with regards to the Law, he was blameless.
Thornhill’s main thesis in all of this is that election is not about individuals but about rather a group and whether one is in the group or not. Today, we could say that there is only one who is truly elect in Christianity and that is Jesus and those who are elect are those who are in Jesus. For the Jews, it would have been recognizing who is truly in Israel and who isn’t. Our debates on free will and soteriology might in fact be a surprise to Jews if they were here today. Could it be that many of them would say “God is sovereign and man has free will and we just don’t know how that works out but that’s for God to do.”?
Thornhill does not speak on the Calvinism/Arminianism issue directly, but he does give food for thought. Could it be that perhaps we will move past this debate by realizing that our focus on individualism is something that we are reading into the text itself and try to approach it more the way the ancient reader would have read it, or dare I say it, more the way the apostle Paul would have been thinking when he wrote it?