Priority of Jewishness

In his letter to the Romans, Paul described his anguish over the disbelief of many fellow Jews: I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” (Romans 9:2,3)

The Book of Romans was written to gentile, as well as Jewish, believers in Jesus. In this book Paul expressed his deep identification with the Jewish people, to the point of willingness to sacrifice his own relationship with God for the sake of his fellow Jews. He also made a point of emphasizing the value of Jewish heritage and identity: “Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.” (Romans 9:4-5)

Two chapters later, Paul warns gentile believers in Jesus not to be conceited or arrogant toward the Jewish people. As for God’s attitude toward the people of Israel, Paul asks and answers the question: “I say then, has God cast away his people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” (Romans 11:1)

We can also see how crucial Jewishness was to Paul, inasmuch as he circumcised Timothy, his apprentice, before allowing him along on a preaching tour. Timothy’s mother was Jewish, and his father was Greek. While Paul spoke against forced gentile circumcision, he felt it was important for Timothy to be circumcised. Paul wanted to be certain that the Jewish people they encountered realized that though Timothy’s father was Greek, Timothy had chosen to identify with his mother’s people.1


Endnotes

  1. See Acts 16:1-4

This article originally appeared in The Yeshua Challenge booklet.

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