Tuesday, October 18, 2016


At various times the biblical writers interacted directly with their ancient culture. This was true, for instance, when Paul quoted from the “Hymn to Zeus” (Ac. 17:28) “But you [Zeus] are not dead: you live and abide forever, for in you we live and move and have our being.” In the same passage, Paul also quoted a half-line from the Cretan poet Aratus, which says, “Let us begin with Zeus…for we are also his offspring.” It should be apparent, of course, that Paul does not do this because he is a worshipper of Zeus, but rather, because he wanted a point of contact with his audience, and because, however off the mark he believed Greco-Roman religion to be, it was not always wrong on every point. To paraphrase Cervantes, “All truth is God’s truth.”

This contact with the surrounding culture is perhaps even more thorough-going in the use of mythology in apocalyptic imagery. There were certain stock images in antiquity with which everyone was familiar. Using such imagery immediately employed a known concept which would have been instinctively understood by the earliest listeners. A good example is the imagery of the seven-headed dragon in the Book of Revelation, the creature with a wounded head (Rv. 13:1ff.). This imagery of Yahweh in conflict with a dragon-like creature appears in various places in the Old Testament (e.g., Job 9:13; 26:12-13; Ps. 74:13-14; 89:10; Is. 27:1), and it seems to have been a stock image, for it is found in the literature of Sumer, Babylon, Phoenicia, Canaan and Egypt. Indeed, a visual depiction of the seven-headed monster appears as early as 2600 BC from Sumer incised in a small piece of shell. In this small carving, as in the Book of Revelation, it is fascinating to observe that one of the seven heads of the beast is wounded. One finds this same imagery in ancient literature:

“Because you smote Leviathan, the twisting serpent, (and) made an end of the crooked serpent, the tyrant with seven heads, the skies will become hot (and) will shine.”

                                    Keilalphabetischen Texte aus Ugarit 1.5.I.1

“Surely I lifted up the dragon…[and] smote the crooked serpent, the tyrant with the seven heads.”

                                    Keilalphabetischen Texte aus Ugarit 1.3.III.40-42

In Mesopotamian literature, the defeat of this Leviathan is credited to Anat or Baal in the ancient past. In the Bible, of course, it is credited to Yahweh, not only in the past, but also in “that day”, which is to say, “the day of the LORD”. In the Bible, Leviathan, the threatening monster, seems to be an alternative way of describing Satan himself, the great opposer of God and the prosecutor of God’s people.

Familiarity with the use of such stock images enhances ones understanding and appreciation of the biblical writers and their messages. I suppose some might find it surprising that the Bible contains such references, but this should come as no great surprise. The biblical writers were interested in clear communication, and often, this meant moving from the known to the unknown using elements that already were part of the cultural “working vocabulary” of their audience.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Endtime Ingathering of the Gentiles

The inclusion of the Gentiles into the "people of God" at the end of time was not an afterthought or a response to Jewish particularism. Rather the ingathering of the nations had always been a common theme in the Hebrew prophetic understanding of God's future.

Even the election of  Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3) included the Gentile nations. God promised

To bless Abraham.
To make him a great nation.
To make his name great.
To give him innumerable descendants (like the sands of the sea).
To bless those that blessed Abraham and to curse those that cursed him.
To bless all nations through Abraham and his offspring.

Abraham and, in turn, his descendants Israel were the elect of God, chosen to receive the oracles of God and then to become a priesthood to all nations. The one true God was not the God of Israel alone, but the God of all. Israel was selected for a specific purpose: to act as God's agent in the world, bringing his law and glory to all nations.

This was also the message of Jesus and Paul. They both looked for the impending restoration of Israel and the ingathering of the nations. It was not accidental that Jesus stated emphatically that the end could not come until the gospel had been proclaimed in all nations. It is not accidental that Jesus' final and great commission was to "make disciples" in all of the world. It is not accidental that Peter appealed to the Hebrew prophet Joel in his Pentecostal sermon to explain that the great endtime outpouring of the Spirit on all peoples had already begun.

The inclusion of the Gentiles in the "people of God" is a Bible-wide message. Neither Jesus nor Paul were innovators here. Rather they shared the confidence of the Hebrew prophets that God's "age to come" would include the Gentiles. With the Hebrew prophets, they looked for the near--perhaps even present--(1) unveiling of God's identity and glory to all peoples, (2) eschatological pilgrimage of the nations to the mountain of God, (3) great messianic feast of table fellowship, and (4) bearing of gifts to Zion by the endtime Gentile pilgrims.


Listen to the expectations of the Hebrew prophets and hear them echo in Jesus' preaching of the kingdom of God and Paul's mission to the Gentile nations.

Unveiling of God's Identity and Glory to All Peoples

Joel 2: 28-29
And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

Isaiah 45:20-23
 Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you who have escaped from the nations. They have no knowledge, who carry the wood of their carved image, and pray to a god that cannot save. Tell and bring forth your case; Yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me. “Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath.

Isaiah 49:3 and 6
‘You are My servant, O Israel, In whom I will be glorified.’ . . . It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.

Zechariah 2:10-11
Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” says the Lord. “Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you.

Eschatological Pilgrimage of the Nations to the Mountain of God

Isaiah 2:2-4 (Micah 4:1-3)
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

Isaiah 55:5
Surely you shall call a nation you do not know, and nations who do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and the Holy One of Israel; for He has glorified you.

Isaiah 56:6-7
Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants—everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant—even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.

Jeremiah 3:17
At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts.

Zechariah 8:20-23
Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Peoples shall yet come, inhabitants of many cities;  The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, “Let us continue to go and pray before the Lord, and seek the Lord of hosts. I myself will go also.” Yes, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord.’ “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.

Great Messianic Feast of Table Fellowship

Isaiah 25:6-8
And in this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all people a feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of well-refined wines on the lees.  And He will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations.  He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people. He will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken.

Zechariah 14:6
And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. 

Matthew 8:11-12
And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Revelation 19:7-9
Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” 

Bearing of Gifts by Gentile Pilgrims to Zion

Isaiah 60:11 (See entire chapter about gifts from Gentiles)
Therefore your gates [Jerusalem] shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day or night, that men may bring to you the wealth of the Gentiles, and their kings in procession.

Isaiah 66:18-21
For I know their works and their thoughts. It shall be that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory. . . And they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles. Then they shall bring all your brethren for an offering to the Lord out of all nations, on horses and in chariots and in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the Lord, “as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord. And I will also take some of them for priests and Levites,” says the Lord.

Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” . . . And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Romans 15:25-27
But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.

I Corinthians 16:1-4
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Audience of Paul's Letters

Pronouncing a definitive answer to the question of the audience of Paul's letters is difficult. At times, Paul seems to explicitly address Jewish Christians and, at other times, Gentile Christians. Many--if not all-- of Paul's churches were "mixed" congregations of both ethnic Jews and Gentiles (see especially Romans 16). This reality is the obvious by-product of Paul's "Jew-first" missionary principle in which the expansion of Christian followed the Jewish diaspora from urban center to urban center throughout the Roman empire.

Pauline Christians first met in diaspora "synagogues" - which were no more than houses where worshipers gathered. (There is no archaeological evidence for free-standing synagogue buildings or churches in Roman cities until long after Paul's time.) There is no reason to believe that the Christian "house" churches described in Paul's letters and the book of Acts patterned themselves around any other model than the Jewish synagogue.

Despite the fact that Paul's "churches" were populated by both ethnic Jews and Gentiles, his letters are always--first and foremost--informed by his mission as an "apostle to the Gentiles." Paul understood himself--and his prophetic call--as the harbinger of the great endtime ingathering of the Gentiles into the "people of God" that the Hebrew prophets had predicted.

Given this clear--and often stated--self-understanding, let me offer three simple rules for discerning Paul's audience in his letters:

(1) Unless otherwise noted, Paul writes to a Gentile audience.

(2) When Paul writes about "Jews," these references are most likely to Christ-believing Jews--including the Jerusalem church and other ethnic Jews--that were full participants in the various missions churches rather than to all Jews in general.

(3) Whenever Paul addresses his Jewish kinsmen (sometimes all ethnic Jews, more often Christ-believing Jews as determined by context), these statements are always the exception--and never the rule--to Paul's normal Gentile audience and these statements are always clearly delineated by direct statements or clear clues in the text itself.


Look at this example:

Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. (Galatians 5:2-4)

These words make absolutely no sense if Paul's audience was a Jewish community in which the males had already submitted to circumcision. These words are only meaningful if directed to the Gentile males who were considering Jewish proselyte conversion.

In Galatians 5, Paul is not denying the Jewish obligation of circumcision. Rather he is arguing against the imposition of Jewish circumcision on Christ-believing Gentiles. He is making no statement about the covenant obligations of Jews, rather he is affirming his mission to include Gentiles "as Gentiles"--without Jewish proselyte conversion--in the ingathering of the nations to God. Audience is everything when interpreting this passage.

When visiting Jerusalem on two separate occasions, Paul did not compel the Gentile Titus to be circumcised, but he did compel (and seems to have performed the act himself) the Jewish Timothy to be circumcised. Is Paul inconsistent? In no way. Circumcision was a covenant obligation for Jews that Paul continue to recognize as valid and God-directed, but was never an obligation for Gentiles. Given this, it is clear that passages like Galatians 5 are addressed to Gentile Christ-believers and should be interpreted accordingly.

Whatever Paul says about the Jewish Torah and its obligations--especially the cultural identity markers of circumcision, Sabbath observance, and food regulations (kashrut)--it is significant to note that he (unless otherwise stated) is speaking to a Gentile audience upon whom falls no Torah obligations.

The question in Paul about Jews and Gentiles together in "one body" is the question of whether the endtime ingathering of the Gentiles requires Jewish proselyte conversion (washing, circumcision, Torah observance). Paul answers an emphatic "NO!" to this question. For Paul, "Gentiles as Gentiles" are included in God's "age to come" without Torah observance that never applied to Gentiles in the first place.

Paul's "apparent" repudiation of the Mosaic law--in Galatians 5 and similar passages--means one thing if directed toward Torah-observant Jews like himself, but it means an entirely different thing if addressed to Gentile converts who as part of God's final, endtime action in Christ are now included into the "people of God"--without taking on the specific obligations of Torah observance.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Oneness Pentecostal Growth & Development - Part 4

The remainder of this dissertation will, therefore, further investigate Pentecostal uniqueness and growth—particularly that of Oneness Pentecostalism—by examining two aspects of the movement's internal dynamics. First, the growth of the Oneness movement will be traced by its institutional development through a period of undifferentiated expansion during the early revivalism and the earliest organizational efforts to a period of more diversified ministries in the movement's maturity. Second, gleaning from Peter Berger's notions of religion as "world construction" and "world maintenance" and Arthur Paris' study of the religious "worldview" of black Pentecostals, the unique ethos of Oneness Pentecostal life and practice will be discussed—that is, the centrality of the divine "epiphany" in ritual worship, the theoretical framework which rises from the act of worship and in turn reshapes the content and interpretation of this act, the role of the Oneness community (congregation) as an inclusive, independent social world, and the crisis of the Oneness community in the larger context of American society.21

The "undifferentiated growth"/"analytical proliferation" model of Pentecostal development—first applied in William Menzies' Anointed To Serve: The Story of the Assemblies of God—encapsulates the dynamics of changing policies and structures in the history of the Oneness movement.22 The early years of Oneness expansion were lived in institutional isolation apart from the struggles of the mainline American churches. In this time of revival efforts, Oneness Pentecostalism grew in a rather undifferentiated pattern, showing only a limited ministry strategy or organization. But with the emergence and development of the major Oneness, or Apostolic, organizations, the movement witnessed the formation of a clear-cut missions strategy, the specialization of organizational and administrative structures, the appearance of diversified service agencies, and the blooming of educational concerns. The appearance of the Pentecostal Church, Incorporated in 1932 and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ in 1931 (and their later merger into the United Pentecostal Church in 1945) and the return of most black Apostolics to the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World in 1937 marked the beginning of this maturation process as the Oneness bodies sought to harness the energies of the movement in concerted efforts to meet the changing needs of their constituencies.

Before dealing directly with this institutional maturation process (in the next three chapters), the dynamics of this growth should be examined. Luther Gerlach and Virginia Hine of the University of Minnesota have observed five factors crucial in the growth and spread of American Pentecostalism. While these factors are not presented as the "necessary conditions" for the rise and advance of the movement, they are "operationally significant" and provide a sound, meaningful basis for describing the movement's growth dynamics. Although formulated from Gerlach and Hine's studies of Pentecostalism—both classical and neo-Pentecostal—in the 1960's, the five factors well describe the rapid growth of early classical, Oneness, and neo-Pentecostalism and the decline in these growth patterns as these groups became more institutionally and administratively complex. These five factors are

1. A segmented, usually polycephalous, cellular organization composed of units reticulated by various personal, structural, and ideological ties.

2. Face-to-face recruitment by committed individuals using their own pre-existing, significant social relationships.

3. Personal commitment generated by an act or an experience which separates a convert in some significant way from the established order (or his previous place in it), identifies him with a new set of values, and commits him to changed patterns of behavior.

4. An ideology which codifies values and goals, provides a conceptual framework by which all experiences or events relative to these goals may be interpreted, motivates and provides rationale for envisioned changes, defines the opposition, and forms the basis for conceptual unification of a segmented network of groups.

5. Real or perceived opposition from the society at large or from that segment of the established order within which the movement has risen.23

The essentially "headless" quality of Pentecostal organization is often obscured by the fact that most Pentecostals belong to established denominations practicing one of the traditional organizational polities. But the notion of individual access to the spiritual source of authority, when seriously considered, prevents true organizational solidarity and centralized control. The factional, schismatic tendencies of Pentecostals are especially apparent in the growth of new congregations and organizations through fission. The rise of a gifted leader more often results in a break from his parent church to establish an independent congregation than in the elevation of this new leader within the existing structure. The proliferation of congregations through fission, although decried by Pentecostal leaders, continues as the growing edge of the movement.24

But Pentecostal organization is not only "headless," it is also "segmented," that is, it demonstrates strong patterns of personal interrelationships and group linkages. Personal association, leadership exchanges, and networks of travelling evangelists create this "infrastructure" of the movement. Each individual Pentecostal has a personal network of fellow Pentecostals linked together in varying degrees of closeness. Likewise, many Pentecostals "crossover" to worship in churches other than their own. This creates fluctuating rather than static memberships in local Pentecostal groups. The association and friendship of ministers who frequently visit each other's churches also promotes this blending of congregations. Networks of traveling evangelists also unite mixed congregations in periodic revival meetings. Beyond these, several internal dynamics contribute to strengthen of the social networking within the Pentecostal movement. A "grapevine" communication system collects and distributes information of importance throughout the movement. The provision of prayer and financial support to individuals and congregations serves to link organizationally distinct groups. Most importantly, the shared ideological commitment to the experience of Spirit baptism and the authority of a non-human leader insures interaction within the diverse ranks. Joined by these central beliefs, Pentecostals quickly unite when faced with real or perceived opposition.25

Face-to-face recruitment along lines of pre- existing social relationships also facilitates the spread of Pentecostalism. Gerlach and Hine's studies reveal that fifty-two percent of Pentecostal converts were recruited by family members and twenty-nine percent by close friends. Other significant recruiting relationships include those between neighbors, business associates, fellow students, employer-employee, and teacher-student.26 The growth potential of any given congregation matches the number of available recruits among friends, relatives, and associates of the original core. This is especially evident when socio-economic distinctions are superimposed upon the differences in recruiting relationships. For those at the lower end of the economic scale, kinship ties are most significant in recruiting; whereas many non-kin associations are significant among those at the upper end. While experiences of economic deprivation and social dislocation might predispose people to embrace Pentecostalism, the committed witness of a "significant other" almost always leads to these conversions.27

A third crucial factor in the dynamics of Pentecostal growth is the act, or experience, of commitment. Such commitments result in cognitive restructuring, feelings of certitude, and effortless behavioral changes as the new movement and its value system are embraced.

Charisma, that quality traditionally ascribed by sociologists and anthropologists only to magnetic leaders of emergent movements, flows freely through the ranks of Pentecostalism. The fact [is] that less extraordinary individuals can be led through a social process into an experience of commitment, with all its personal and social ramifications, and can influence others in turn.28

Pentecostal commitments involve not only a highly motivating religious experience, but also an objectively observable act of "bridge-burning." This act which sets the believer apart from old behavior patterns and associations and identifies him within the new community of beliefs and behavior symbolizes effective participation in the movement. In Pentecostalism in general, glossolalia functions as this "bridge-burning" commitment experience. For Oneness Pentecostals this commitment extends to the act of baptism (or quite often rebaptism) in the name of Jesus.

The shared Pentecostal ideology, the fourth factor in Pentecostal growth, not only links the movement with a common value system, but also functions as a pattern for personal and social change. Gerlach and Hine find in the Pentecostal ideology a dogmatic quality, a call for serious involvement, and a "positive fatalism" of divine guidance. The dogmatism of the Pentecostal ideology, with its accompanying in-group/out-group understanding of opposition, offers a clear, simple focus for action and behavior. Dean Kelly, in his influential Why Conservative Churches Are Growing, argues that the growth of conservative, including Pentecostal, churches has outpaced that of more liberal churches due to the clear sense of life purpose offered in the conservative groups.30 Pentecostals reject the philosophical acceptance of the gap between social ideals and real behavioral norms which underlies the stability of the status quo. Rather these "true believers" accentuate the enabling power of the baptism of the Spirit which allows the realization of the otherwise impossible demands of the Christian ethic. The individual Pentecostal approaches his ideology with seriousness and spends many hours in study of its tenets and applications. This involvement, in turn, functions as a "mechanism for renewal of commitment" and increased involvement within the larger community. Above all, the Pentecostal ideology motivates believers to action, insuring them of divine guidance and ultimate triumph. Such "fatalism," rather than creating a passive retreat from hardships, encourages struggle and work to overcome obstacles. Even difficulties become perceived, not as failures, but as redirection given by God or times of temporary testing of devotion. Hence, the ability of the movement to persevere is almost limitless.31

The importance of real or perceived opposition from society at large is the final factor in Gerlach and Hine's evaluation of Pentecostal growth. Pentecostals possess a "psychology of persecution" often rising from real experiences of ridicule or rejection by mainline denominations in the case of both classical and neo-Pentecostalism. At other times, when no real external opposition is present, Pentecostals, nonetheless, spend much time and effort describing the outside threat and their need to isolate from it. (The Oneness Pentecostal rejection of the neo-Pentecostal movement exhibits notions of perceived rather than real opposition.) The fact remains, intense opposition, if less than total suppression, tends to unify local congregations provides a basis for identification between groups. Opposition builds and reinforces the links in the segmented network of the movement.32

While Gerlach and Hine's studies concern the whole of the Pentecostal movement, their conclusions are quite pertinent in the study of Oneness institutional development from undifferentiated growth to mature diversified ministries. These dynamic factors fuel the self- conscious Oneness effort to recapture the pristine fervor and immediacy of the Azusa revival and demonstrate the patterns of attendant Oneness growth. The shift toward administrative efficiency and multiplied service agencies, depicted in the following three chapters, reveals two seemingly contradictory levels of Oneness Pentecostal growth: the vertical growth of an increasingly complex centralized organization and the horizontal growth of factional, diffuse congregations linked most strongly by networks of personal associations and external opposition.

9Ibid., p. 235.

10Ibid., p. 185. Anderson bases this conclusion on the overall racial makeup of Oneness Pentecostalism with its higher percentage of "impoverished and socially ostracized" blacks. This fails to note the early racial separation (1924 in the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World) which divided Oneness believers along the "color line." White Oneness believers shared approximately the same economic and social standing as other white Pentecostals. More intense deprivation cannot explain the continued emphasis upon ecstasy in this group.

16Arthur E. Paris, Black Pentecostalism: Southern Religion in an Urban World (Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 1982), p. 83.

17Virginia H. Hine, "Non-Pathological Pentecostal Glossolalia: A Summary of Relevant Psychological Literature," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 8 (1969). Anderson discredits this study for rather oblique reasons, see Vision, p. 286.

21Part III of this dissertation will address the issue of the Oneness Pentecostal worldview and religious framework.

22See William W. Menzies, Anointed to Serve: The Story of the Assemblies of God (Springfield, Mo.: Gospel Publishing House, 1971).

23Gerlach and Hine, People, p. xvii.

24Gerlach and Hine, "Five Factors," pp. 26-30.

25Gerlach and Hine, People, pp. 33-78.

26Gerlach and Hine, "Five Factors," p. 30.

27Gerlach and Hine, People, pp. 79-97.

28Gerlach and Hine, "Five Factors," p. 32.

29See Virginia H. Hine, "Pentecostal Glossolalia: Toward a Functional Interpretation," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 8 (1968).

30Note the central thesis of Dean M. Kelley's Why Conservative Churches Are Growing (New York: Harper and Row, 1972).

31Gerlach and Hine, People, pp. 159-182 and "Five Factors," pp. 33-37.

32Gerlach and Hine, People, pp. 183-97 and "Five Factors," pp. 36-37.

Oneness Pentecostal Growth & Development - Part 3

In his weighty and persuasive examination of the dynamics of Pentecostal origins and growth, Anderson at times equivocates between religious and social factors, but always returns to his emphasis on deprivation and dislocation theories wed to Samarin's notion of glossolalia as regressive speech. In this, he is plagued by a reductionism common to functionalist sociological studies: the assumption that the function of a religious belief or practice is sufficient to explain the phenomenon and adequately assess its meaning. Arthur Paris, in his study of black Pentecostalism, shows that an error of circular reasoning often hides beneath such functionalist interpretations: the sociologist posits a set of needs in the adherents of a position and then defines the religious group as that which fulfills these posited needs. The intellectual component of religion is, therefore, largely ignored and the possibility of substantive religious experience is ultimately categorized as illusory rather than real.16 Only in his concessions to religious factors, specifically the unique "religious orientation" and history of the early Pentecostals and the biblical foundation of their ecstatic millenarianism, does Anderson approach a fully-orbed presentation of Pentecostal origins and take seriously the theoretical framework or worldview within which the early Pentecostals perceived and acted.

But even in these concessions, Anderson's argument appears weak. When positing that a "religious orientation" toward an emotional "religion of the Spirit" distinguished the early Pentecostals from the mass of the working poor, Anderson seems to avoid the obvious probability that all in this marginal conglomerate of dispossessed white farmers, blacks, and eastern European immigrants shared this same "religious orientation." This distinction stands unsubstantiated and possibly unwarranted. A similar breakdown occurs in Anderson's second concession: those experiencing some traumatic personal crisis were the most susceptible for Pentecostal recruitment. It is difficult to believe that "personal crisis" did not extend to all the disinherited rather than just the group converting to Pentecostalism. Anderson also ignores the studies of Virginia Hine which show that less than twenty percent of Pentecostal converts she examined experienced any personal crisis leading to their conversions.17

 Beyond this failure to explain the uniqueness of the Pentecostal converts among the marginal working class, Anderson's social analysis falters at several other points. His evaluation of the Gilded and Progressive eras of American history seems to rest almost entirely on Richard Hoftstader's notion of the "psychic crisis of the 1890's" and influential books, The Age of Reform: From Bryan to F.D.R. and Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. This reliance is especially clear in his examination of evangelical Christianity's "revolt against modernity." A notable lack of later and differing scholarship in Anderson's notes and bibliography undermines the quality of this work. Anderson also consistently links the history of Pentecostalism and Fundamentalism. He sees Pentecostalism as merely an emotional extreme within the larger Fundamentalist context. Thus, the Pentecostal rejection of the status quo is identified with the Fundamentalist rejection of the accommodation of the church to modern culture, especially biblical criticism, Darwinism, and the Social Gospel. He makes this identification in spite of repeated Fundamentalist repudiation of Pentecostalism and his own admission of the differing class constituencies of the movements.18 Neither does he distinguish revivalist evangelicalism from doctrinaire Fundamentalism. Although as conservative Christians, classical Pentecostals certainly affirm the "Fundamentals," their evangelical emphasis on "crisis experience" conversion—in the case of some Pentecostals as many as three "crisis experiences" in the normal Christian life—overrides any assertion of propositional doctrine as the central Christian reality.

Furthermore, Anderson's categorical leap from economic to "respect and prestige" deprivation in explaining neo-Pentecostal ecstasy leaves his scientific methodology lost somewhere in the shuffle. If anything, the inarticulate "emptiness" experienced by classical and neo-Pentecostals alike demonstrates that the spiritual crisis of modernity knows no class barriers. Moreover, the studies of Luther Gerlach and Virginia Hine have shown that the Pentecostal movement—at least in its present appeal— does not attract only certain socio-economic groups, but rather draws from all ages, all educational backgrounds, all income brackets, and all occupational groups.19 Such observations signal the need to move beyond deprivation and dislocation theories of Pentecostal origins, with their implicit evaluations of maladjustment, to a broader, more complex assessment of the attraction of Pentecostalism which can explain both the appeal to the working poor of classical Pentecostalism and the appeal to the middle and upper class Protestants and Catholics of neo-Pentecostalism. Also, Anderson's use of Troeltsch's "church/sect" model, while adequately explaining the institutionalization and middle class growth of Pentecostalism, is somewhat weakened by the explosion of American religious pluralism in the 1960's. This plethora of diversity wipes away the clear distinction between church and sect.

Despite these weaknesses, Anderson's work remains the springboard for future studies of Pentecostal origins and developments. His work shows that Pentecostalism arose as a mass social movement and as such should be studied with the best sociological technique. Anderson forever links the successes and pitfalls of early Pentecostalism with other contemporary poor people's movements. Beyond this, the recounting of the story of classical Pentecostalism's move from disinherited poverty in industrializing America through the depression years and into middle class respectability following World War II places this often ignored "fringe" group squarely in the middle of the not-so-unique experience of American class development. Anderson's strengths, and failures, demonstrate the need for a cautious blending of detailed sociological analysis and serious consideration of religious ideology and experience. Most significantly, Vision of the Disinherited frees scholars to focus on the uniqueness of Pentecostalism without ever losing footing in the greater American social experience.

While no social phenomenon is self-explanatory, explanations for the growth and survival of a social movement must be sought in the structure and dynamics of the movement itself as well as in external conditions leading to the movement's existence. Although such factors as deprivation, disorganization, and even psychological maladjustment may have "facilitated" or "enabled" the emergence of Pentecostalism, these factors are inadequate analytical tools if used without reference to the internal structure and processes of the movement.20

18Anderson, Vision, p. 230.

19Luther Gerlach and Virginia H. Hine, People, Power, Change: Movements of Social Transformation (Indiana polis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1970), pp. 2-3.

20Luther Gerlach and Virginia H. Hine, "Five Factors Crucial to the Growth and Spread of a Modern Religious Movement," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 7 (1968): 38.

Oneness Pentecostal Growth & Development - Part 2

Anderson continues this rather strained psychological analysis in discussing the "social basis" for tongue speaking among Pentecostals. He asserts that the limited verbal skills, the handicap of racial, ethnic, regional, and foreign accents, and the minimal access to education of the working poor symbolized their social marginality. The early Pentecostals were virtually "speechless" and, therefore, "powerless" in modern society.

Glossolalia offered an alternative, albeit illusory, speech and power. Following the studies of William Samarin, Anderson holds glossolalia to be regressive speech—the regression to infantile speech patterns produced by great stress. "The powerless, voiceless position of the Pentecostals and the anxieties arising from that position provided a social basis for speaking in tongues."9

The early ecstatic and eschatological vitality of Pentecostalism diminished shortly after the Azusa revival. Divisive, racist, parochial, and even reactionary elements depleted the young movement's strength. The movement, according to Anderson, reached its peak by 1914, after which the emerging Pentecostal denominations developed into self-perpetuating institutions rather than centers of religious and ideological ferment. With the stabilization of Pentecostal denominations and adequate social improvement, early ecstatic zeal subsided. Only newer, less stable groups, such as the Oneness Pentecostals, composed of the "most impoverished and socially ostracized Pentecostals" maintained a higher degree of ecstasy.10 For Anderson, the amount of ecstatic activity directly correlates with the depth of economic and social deprivation.11

The maturing Pentecostal bodies also experienced a loss of intensity of the founders' millenarian emphasis. No longer driven to extremes of evangelistic action by expectations of Christ's imminent return, the Pentecostals, nevertheless, retained their founders' aversion to political activism. According to Anderson, this lack of civic responsibility has made modern Pentecostalism just another "bulwark of the status quo." The doctrinal emphasis on Spirit baptism as the great sign of the impending return of Christ has, in turn, shifted to speaking with tongues as a "psychic escape."

As Pentecostalism became more institutionalized and modified its extremes, it came to attract higher social classes. Only after World War II did the larger, more stable Pentecostal denominations move beyond the patterns of socially deprived sects and begin to demonstrate "churchly characteristics." Neo-Pentecostalism, or the Charismatic Renewal movement of the 1960's, further confirmed this movement from sect to church. But the appearance of tongue speaking and other charismatic phenomena among middle and even upper class Protestants and Catholics—an appearance independent from any classical Pentecostal activities—calls into question the deprivation and dislocation theories of Pentecostal origins. Here Anderson modifies his position: while the neo-Pentecostals do not share the economic deprivation of their predecessors, they do "suffer a real or imagined deprivation of respect or prestige." Anderson hypothesizes that "status deprivation and an anti-rationalist, anti-bureaucratic— i.e., anti-modern—temper has combined to predispose most of the recruits to the neo-Pentecostal movement."12 Both classical and neo-Pentecostals demonstrate an inarticulate "emptiness" prior to their conversions.

Although in his lengthy discussion of Pentecostal social origins and development Anderson remains thoroughly convinced of the formative forces of social dislocation and economic deprivation, he willingly concedes three areas explained only in religious, rather than sociological or psychological, terms. First, Anderson is well aware that only a minority of those uprooted by industrialization were drawn into Pentecostalism. Thus, he concedes that a "different religious orientation" distinguished the early Pentecostals from the majority of the working poor. Despite the divergent former religious affiliations of those converting to Pentecostalism, they all held to "a religion of the Spirit," that is, to these, religion was a "matter of the heart in which miracle and wonder held a central place."13 Such recruits almost uniformly came from backgrounds in the Holiness movement, more emotional, revivalist Protestant roots, or more "crudely superstitious" forms of Catholicism. Second, based on case studies of Pentecostal leaders, Anderson argues that among the socially alienated, those suffering some personal crisis—illness, career failure, death of a family member—were particularly susceptible to Pentecostal conversion.

In a final concession to the religious explanation of Pentecostal survival and growth, Anderson admits that the structure of Pentecostal millenarianism and ecstasy, although functioning to meet social needs, arises from the biblical traditions of ecstatic millenarianism expounded most clearly in the Acts of the Apostles, Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians, the Revelation, and to a lesser extent Daniel.14 With a crudely naive, literalistic understanding of the Bible, the Pentecostals sought to consciously duplicate these aspects of the life of the New Testament church. Anderson also embarks on a discussion paralleling the social experience of the first century Christians and the early Pentecostals to explain their common emphasis on millenarianism and ecstasy.15 Anderson concedes that the form of ecstatic millenarianism of early Pentecostals arose from their biblicism, not their social condition, although their social marginality linked them with this biblical tradition.

11Ibid., p. 231.

12Ibid., p. 229.

13Ibid., p. 228.

14Ibid., pp. 231-2.

15These conclusions are reached on rather shaky biblical exegesis. This thinking breaks down in that the pneumatics of the first Corinthian epistle, while engaging in excessive ecstasy, rejected millenarian notions. Compare the ecstasy of chapter fourteen with the denial of future bodily resurrection in chapter fifteen.

Oneness Pentecostal Growth & Development - Part 1

[In the next several posts, I will share a chapter from my dissertation, The People of the Name: Oneness Pentecostalism in the United States (Florida State University, 1985).  Each subsequent post will offer a lengthy exposition of the “deprivation theory” of Pentecostal origins found in Robert Mapes Anderson’s influential work The Vision of the Disinherited and a much shorter look at William Samarin’s analysis of glossolalia as “regressive speech” which is related to such a deprivation theory. My work offers a meaningful critique of this deprivation theory drawn from the studies of Gerlach and Hine, but does not offer any meaningful alternative.

This analysis is very dated, but is still useful in light of the continued influence of deprivation theories. Further research is needed in this area – especially providing positive alternatives to the deprivation theory of classical Pentecostal origins.]

Oneness Growth and Development

Multitudes of investigators—both sociological and psychological—have sought to uncover the social roots of Pentecostalism and the reasons for its phenomenal growth and development. Sociologists theorize that Pentecostalism spreads where there is mass social disorganization and dislocation among socially and economically deprived groups. Psychologists debate whether the Pentecostal experience replicates a psychological state of schizophrenia or hysteria, results from an enhanced state of suggestibility and a predisposition to hypnosis, or merely demonstrates regressive speech patterns and learned behavior. Only in Robert Mapes Anderson's excellent Vision of the Disinherited: The Making of American Pentecostalism, have these theories been incorporated in a social history of the movement's origin and advance.1 This work surveys the genesis of the Pentecostal movement against the background of the crises of the 1890's and early twentieth-century social change. Any adequate study of Pentecostal growth and development—including that of Oneness Pentecostalism—must address Anderson's conclusions before offering any new theories and interpretations.

Anderson perceives a convergence of social and religious undercurrents in the 1890's which produced a fertile setting for the Pentecostal revivals. Various dispossessed populations—rural, racial, and immigrant—bewildered by the forces of change and complexity in the burgeoning industrial world rejected those trends and their own insecurities by identifying with mass movements of protest. Many of these alienated people were drawn to the emotionalism and millenarian teachings of the Holiness churches. Despairing of present realities, these believers retreated into a "vision" of the imminent return of Christ. Rather than purely escapist and world-denying, these religious communities came to anticipate a worldwide revival preceding this climactic event. The Pentecostal phenomenon—the imparting of the Holy Spirit baptism evidenced by enthusiastic worship and charismatic gifts— became recognized as the divine token of this revival. The Los Angeles area, inhabited by an uprooted population struggling to adapt to new circumstances in the nation's fastest growing city, was particularly susceptible to this revival. Following reports of similar revivals meetings in Wales and the startling headlines of the San Francisco earthquake of April 18, 1906, the Pentecostal preaching of William Seymour exploded into a religious awakening of national and international proportions.

Anderson correctly recognized Pentecostalism as "one small part of a widespread, long-term protest against the whole thrust of modern urban-industrial capitalistic society," a part of "a many-sided reaction against modernity."2 This, and other voices of protest, rose amidst the social dislocation of the American masses caused by rapid industrialization and urbanization. Revolutions in technology and the means of production facilitated the appearance of large-scale, impersonal industries and created an employment vacuum into which rural workers were drawn to the cities. This shift caused a crisis of material sustenance, but also a spiritual crisis of modernity—alienation and despair, manifest in both intellectual malaise and the rise of mass movements of dissent. Economic factors divided the voices of protest: the skilled working classes formed labor unions which in turn helped these workers to adjust to industrial life, while the unskilled and semi-skilled classes, barred from labor organizations by their racial and ethnic status as well as lack of skill, were pushed to more extreme, even exotic forms of protest—among these, the religious rejection of modernity and the withdrawal from political and economic spheres found in the Adventist, Fundamentalist, and Holiness groups.3

More specifically, Anderson shows that Pentecostalism arose among poorer classes—black, immigrant, and dispossessed white—during the shift from the competitive, entrepreneurial phase of American capitalism to its more monopolistic, bureaucratic phase from 1890 to 1925. The "psychic crisis of the 1890's," precipitated by the economic depression of 1893-96, increased labor-capital conflicts and launched unprecedented farmer militancy. It also created a crisis of religious faith with mainline bodies embracing modernity in the form of biblical criticism, evolutionary science, and social activism and with sectarian bodies emerging to loudly protest this move.4

In contrast to the more "realistic" reform movements of Populism and Progressivism (both ill-defined and elusive terms in this presentation), Anderson sees the Holiness and Pentecostal movements as wholly religious and reactionary, out of step with any secular solution. Not surprisingly, Pentecostalism flourished in times of great economic trauma: following the "panic" of 1907,5 during the recession of 1913-14, and during the economic dislocation following World War II. These economic crises accentuated the emergence of a stable pool of working poor, the sporadically or seldom employed urban and rural proletariat of industrial capitalism which form the lowest base of the nation's work force and a free-floating labor reserve. This group resulted from the influx of rural Americans— black and white—and eastern and southern European immigrants into urban industrial centers. Although these groups came from divergent ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds, all shared two characteristics: the experience of culture shock, both spiritual and material, arising from their transplantation from rural to urban-industrial settings and their almost irreversible social marginality. These working poor were barely educated, held a limited command of the English language, and had only minimal access to social institutions and technology. Unlike skilled labor, these marginal workers received little real aid from the progressive reforms of the period.

Unable to ameliorate their marginal conditions, these working poor, according to Anderson, responded to their situations by anti-social, unrealistic, and escapist means. These efforts served a dual function by protesting their impoverished, alienated social position and temporarily easing its painful effects. Anderson places the otherworldly religion of some of these marginal workers, expressed in the escapism of millenarianism and ecstasy, as the functional equivalent of crime, violence, alcohol and drug abuse, gambling, prostitution, and sexual promiscuity of the larger whole.

Anderson argues that the Pentecostal response to the malaise of urban-industrialization and the growing secularity of the churches mixed millenarianism and ecstatic worship in an "almost wholly otherworldly, symbolic and psychotherapeutic" solution. Against the reality of the worker's world in the 1890's, Pentecostals, along with Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the emerging Keswick movement, asserted the imminent destruction of the present world and the creation of a new utopian world of social reversals. This "oblique expression of social protest" answered the psychological needs of those whose worlds were indeed collapsing and worthy of destruction. Only the ecstatic emphasis set Pentecostalism apart from these other religious responses.6 While Anderson admits that ecstasy has been a prominent part of all American revivalism and is potential in every evangelical group emphasizing a "crisis experience" of salvation, he nevertheless explains the full-flowering of ecstasy in the Pentecostal revival in terms of the socio- economic deprivation of its adherents.

The poorer, more dislocated and despised, the more marginal and highly mobile such people are in the social order, the more extreme will be their ecstatic response. For early Pentecostals, ecstasy acted as an agency for adjustment for the marginal, uncontrollable social deprivation. Unable to find adjustment through reason or action, Pentecostals fell back upon the inner world of desire and imagination.7

In the disassociated state of the baptism of the Spirit, the Pentecostals "symbolically expressed their disorganized, chaotic social circumstances and were thus better able to accommodate to them."8

1Robert M. Anderson, Vision of the Disinherited: The Making of American Pentecostalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979).

2Ibid., p. 223.

3Ibid., p. 224.

4Ibid., p. 225. In his conclusions, Anderson links the "come-outism" of the Holiness and Dispensationalist movements with the economic crises of the 1890's even though he had already demonstrated that this process was well under way during the 1870's and 1880's. Only the final physical separation of these believers occurred in the 1890's.

5Here Anderson mishandles the Azusa information to prove his thesis. The Azusa revival peaked in late 1906 and early 1907 and faded (as a national phenomenon) shortly thereafter. The fading of this revival, rather than its inception, coincided with the actions of the New York banks in the 1907 "panic." Obviously, Anderson's economic thesis clouds rather than clarifies at this point.

6Anderson, Vision, p. 230. Anderson argues that ecstasy waned in the Holiness movement at this time. But apparently, Holiness ecstasy subsided in response to, rather than prior to, Pentecostal extremes. Note especially the case of the Christian and Missionary Alliance as portrayed in John Thomas Nichol's, The Pentecostals (Plain field, N. J.: Logos Books, 1966), p. 38-9.

7Ibid., p. 231.


Monday, October 3, 2016

Some Thoughts on the Context of Romans 9-11 (Part 4 of 4)

Paul’s Conclusion

          In the end, Paul reaches an astounding conclusion, what he calls a “mystery”, that is, the unveiling of God’s long range plan concerning Jews and Gentiles. This plan should take the wind out of any tendency for arrogance, especially on the part of Gentile Christians who might be tempted to dismiss Jewish Christians out of hand (11:25a). True, most Jews had rejected the messiahship of Jesus, and their unbelief had been judged by God who hardened their hearts. Still, it was only a part of the Jewish community that was so hardened. Other Jews had accepted Christ and belonged to the believing remnant. This hardening of unbelieving Jews was God’s way of making it possible for the Gentiles—at least all those who would believe (i.e., the full number)—to come into God’s family (11:25b). It was precisely through this hardening of unbelieving Jews and the consequent opening of the gospel to non-Jews that “all Israel will be saved.” The opening words of 11:26 “and so” mean that the statement “all Israel will be saved” is critically dependent upon everything he has just said. “All Israel” describes the same thing Paul has said earlier in his letter, when he spoke of Abraham being the father of “all who believe but have not been circumcised” as well as the father of “the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that Abraham had before he was circumcised” (cf. 4:11-12). “All Israel”, then, means all God’s children of faith, whether Jewish or non-Jewish. The true Israel, the true remnant, the true seed of Abraham, and the true chosen people of God must be defined by faith in Jesus Christ. No other definition is possible. Even to those directly descended from the patriarchs, Paul assertion is: Not all who are descended from Israel are Israel (cf. 9:6)! But all who believe in Jesus Christ, Jew or non-Jew, are now included in God’s people. This is the true Israel, or as Paul puts it, this is “all Israel.” This hope of salvation is what had been promised long ago in Isaiah 59:20-21 and 27:9.

          In the end, the Jewish community at large might seem to be the enemy of Christians, and indeed, proved so to be in much of Paul’s missionary work (11:28a). Nonetheless, the people of Israel had been chosen for service as the descendents of the patriarchs, and this calling for service had not ended. In spite of their rejection of Jesus as the messiah, they still were serving God’s larger purpose, and God still extended to them his love (11:28)! Paul’s use of the term “election” as applicable to the unbelieving community of Israel should put to rest entirely the notion that Israel’s election was to be defined strictly in terms of salvation as opposed to damnation. Rather, Israel was chosen by God to serve his divine and mysterious purpose. His calling to Israel in this strange role had not been rescinded (11:29)! The exchange was equal. The non-Jews, once in defiant rebellion against God, had now received the merciful call to become part of God’s family (11:30). The Jews, even though in general rejection of the claims of Christ Jesus, could also receive God’s merciful grace as they see his blessing upon Gentile Christians (11:31). All humans, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, have been “bound over” or “shut up” in the jail of disobedience (cf. 3:9, 23), and to all, both Jewish and non-Jewish alike, is proclaimed the gospel of God’s grace and mercy (11:32)!

Some Thoughts on the Context of Romans 9-11 (Part 3 of 4)

An Inclusive Israel

          Near the end of chapter 11, Paul reaches the climax of his discussion of Israel and what truly defines the chosen people of God. For the last time in his letter, he asks a question to be immediately followed by, “May it never be!” Israel has stumbled over the stumbling stone, Jesus the messiah. Is this a fall beyond recovery? Absolutely not! Instead, this stumbling has become the means by which salvation has come to non-Jews. At the same time, the gift of salvation to non-Jews causes the Jews to be envious of God’s blessing, giving them a strong incentive also to turn to God’s messiah in faith (11:11; cf. 10:19). The general failure of the Jews to accept Jesus as their messiah is the express means by which non-Jews could find salvation (11:12). This idea goes back to what Paul stated in the beginning of the letter—that the gospel of Jesus Christ is “first for the Jew; then for the Gentile” (cf. 1:16). Since the people of Israel were the chosen means by which God would bring to the world the Savior, it was only right that they should be the ones first exposed to the gospel. Their rejection of the message, however, meant that the missionaries were free to turn to non-Jews with the message. This is exactly how Paul conducted his missionary tours in Asia and Greece. His “custom” was always first to go to the synagogue (Ac. 14:1; 17:2), but if/when the synagogue Jews rejected his words about Jesus, he turned to the non-Jews (cf. Ac. 13:44-46; 18:4-6; 19:8-10; 28:24-28). Still, this means of reaching out to Gentiles did not close the door to Jewish salvation, and in fact, Paul anticipates a “fullness” for the Jewish community as well. By fullness Paul probably intends the full number of the Jews who would turn to Christ Jesus for salvation, since he later will use the very same expression to refer to the full number of Gentiles who turn to Christ for salvation (cf. 11:25).

          Paul especially targets his words to his non-Jewish readers, since his calling as an apostle was specifically to reach Gentiles (11:13; cf. Ac. 9:15; 15:12-18; 22:21; 26:17-20; Ga.2:7-9). He wants them to understand that God’s eternal purposes are not to exclude Jews from salvation. Hence, Gentiles must not suppose that they now have some sort of priority. Instead, the extension of the gospel to the non-Jews works as an incentive for Jews to accept Jesus as the messiah, too (11:14). That God has turned away from the Jewish nation as a whole has been the means for inviting the whole world to become part of his intimate family, and by the same token, when Jewish folk realize what has happened and turn to God’s messiah, it will be like they were raised from the dead (11:15)!

          If Paul’s discussion has anything at all to do with the tension between Jews returning to Rome after the death of Claudius Caesar to a Roman church that was now largely Gentile, it may well have been the case that some Gentile believers resented the return of these Jewish Christians. Paul anticipates this resentment, and he urges his Gentile readers not to throw over their Jewish brothers and sisters.