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Paul the Apostle, Romans 9-11


Previous attempts to account for Paul’s language of ζῆλος in Romans 9-11 focus too narrowly on the occurrence in 10:2 (Dane C. Ortlund [2012]), rely on a difficult distinction between παραζηλόω as “provoke to anger” in 10:19 and παραζηλόω as “emulate” in 11:11, 14 (Richard H. Bell [1994]), or wrongly insist that the meaning of παραζηλόω in 10:19-11:14 must be restricted to its semantic value in Deut 32:21 LXX (Robert Jewett [2007]). A way forward is to recognize—by harnessing insights recently formulated within the framework of relevance theory—that the ζηλ- word group in Paul’s usage is monosemic. Within this framework, all of the occurrences in Romans are viewed together, and attention is given to the way the term is “shaped” to serve Paul’s theological and rhetorical purposes. Then, rather than asking only what ζῆλος “means” in 10:2 (or “What is wrong with Israel’s ζῆλος?”), readers may ask, “What is it about ζῆλος that enhances the rhetorical thrust of Paul’s reflections on Israel in Romans 9-11?” This paper argues that viewing the occurrences together underscores the connection between Paul’s own experience (in the sense of the “paradigmatic ‘I’”) and the ζῆλος of Israel (understood in light of Deuteronomy 32). Paul’s discourse (especially in 7:13-20 and chs. 9-11) shows that Israel’s ζῆλος, just as in Paul’s own life (cf. Gal 1:14; Phil 3:6), is to be reinterpreted by the gospel. Therefore (1) “zeal without knowledge” in 10:2 is to be equated with “hardness” (11:7, 25) and involves a failure to recognize the restructuring of the categories of the world in light of the Christ event (particularly the boundaries that separate Jew and Gentile), and (2) Paul’s own ministry is bound up with moving Israel to rightly-directed ζῆλος (11:13-14).


Paper presented at the Annual Central States Regional Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature held in St. Louis, Missouri, March 22-23, 2015.