Interview with Dr. Igal German

“Sharing Paul ‘s Prophetic Burden Then and Now” (Romans 9:1-5)

Today I have the privilege of interviewing Dr. Igal German on a talk he gave at the Shalom Student Fellowship at my seminary (TEDS) this past Fall. Dr. German is currently a visiting professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at the Fire School of Ministry in Chicago, along with teaching courses for the Spertus Jewish Institute and Israel Institute of Biblical Studies. He has a PhD in Hebrew Bible from the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto and is a passionate Jewish follower of Jesus as the Messiah. For more information about the talk, feel free to email me as listed in the “About” section of this blog.

1) What is the thesis of your talk on “Sharing Paul’s Prophetic Burden Then and Now” (Rom. 9:1-5)?

In this paper, I submit that Paul understands himself with Moses, the archetype of biblical prophecy and Israel’s intercessor at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 32–34). In keeping with Moses’ prophetic role, Paul makes his case for Israel’s salvation in a midrashic fashion, trusting God’s steadfast love and relying upon His covenantal promises (Romans 9:3 cf. Exodus 32:31–32). In my opinion, the midrashic exposition in Romans 9:1–5 emerges out of Paul’s self-identification with Moses as Israel’s advocate before God.

2) It seems that you are marking a differentiation between the identity of Israel and the Church. Why the two groups distinct compared to one as understood in covenant theology? 

The New Testament maintains a sharp distinction between “Israel” and “the Church“. Both groups are chosen by God and play unique roles in God’s Kingdom. The differentiation between Israel and the church is showcased in Romans 9–11. In these chapters, Paul responds to anti-Jewish sentiments which have emerged in the Roman church among some Gentile believers. Paul reacts to it as to a theological crisis in the church’s understanding of Israel’s covenantal status. Hence, the apostle shares his prophetic burden with the recipients of his letter in Romans 9:1–5 where he passionately argues in favor of Israel’s privileged status against the backdrop of ancient canonical traditions. This apostolic lament showcases the kerygmatic message of Israel’s covenantal benefits aligned with a high Jewish Christology.

3) What kind of actions should Christians take in regards to the items you discussed?

This discussion should help Christian understand Paul’s prophetic theology of Israel and our calling to stand for God’s people (Isaiah 62:1). With what is going on in the world today, such as our President declaring that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, we need to stand with the people of Israel more than ever before. We need to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6) and work for the hope that all Israel may be saved one day (Rom. 11:26), and that is good for the whole world (Gen. 12:1–3).