by David R. Wallace
Fortress Press, Minneapolis. 316 pages
This work of biblical theology unlike any other is focused on one of the most contested sections of Romans. According to Paul, the impartial God choose the Jew first. Why? Given the amount of continued arguments and confusion about the relationship between Christianity and Judaism in contemporary debates, this book is a valuable contribution to the discussion. What the author adds is a critical scholarly argument that Paul’s literary style and form is the key to a richer understanding of the character of God. The interest here is on the puzzling questions and apparent complications latent in Paul’s explanation that can only be fully understood by careful exposure to typical Jewish lament and midrash. According to the author, Paul is combining both into one lament-midrash style that is the key to understanding the character of God. Furthermore, he has located the theme of humility running through the entire letter and made apparent in God’s choosing of the lesser son. These exegetical elements – form, style, theme – are the tools that Wallace uses to locate chapters 9-11 in the whole theology of Paul in a coherent manner. When even the word “Israel” stirs debate and leads some to argue for its exclusion from hymnals and other liturgical forms, renewed biblical and theological exploration is necessary. The author provides an important starting point for that exploration.