“To the Jew first”: The first time this is used in Romans, it’s good news for Jews, because Paul says that the gospel is the power of God to salvation to the Jew first (1:18). The next time he uses the phrase, things are a bit different. He has been exploring and explaining the judgment of God against those who practice evil, and says there will be “tribulation and distress” for evil-doers, “to the Jew first.” With privilege comes heightened responsibility, and the Jews were the recipients of all the privileges that Paul enumerates in 3:1-2 and in 9:1ff. The two uses of the phrase are related in another way as well. Salvation is announced to the Jew first because the Jews are the ones who MOST NEED to hear the gospel, being as they are the ones under greatest threat of the divine judgment. Gentiles could wait a bit; but Jews needed to hear the gospel because the hosts of Yahweh were massed outside Jerusalem, ready to avenge the blood of every prophet spilled on the earth from Abel to Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple.

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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