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REVISTA FACULTĂŢILOR DE TEOLOGIE DIN PATRIARHIA ROMÂNĂ



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Romani 9-11 în interpretarea biblică românească: Stadiul cercetării şi perspective



Autor(i): Alexandru IONIŢĂ


Summary: Romans 9-11 in the Romanian biblical Interpretation: State of Research and Perspectives
The second half of the 20th century rediscovered the importance of Rom 9-11 to Christian theology and especially ecclesiology. Traditionally the exegetes of the Epistle to the Romans evinced a marked preference for the first eight chapters (1-8), constituting the theological part, and/or the final five chapters (12-16), perceived as the parenetic part. Almost every chapter of these two great sections of the epistle contains both theological themes and practical advice essential to Christian doctrine and life, which is why key excerpts are recurrently quoted in theological texts as well as the pericopes selected for reading during the public religious services, so that they are familiar to any churchgoer.
Rom 9-11, however, is less known especially among the Orthodox, as they de-rive their Scriptural knowledge mainly from liturgical biblical readings, which include only Rom 10,1-10 as a Sunday pericope. Consequently the Pauline message con-veyed by these three chapters is not adequately understood by the faithful.
The main difficulty posed by Rom 9-11 lies in recognizing these chapters’ uni-ty, not merely as a fragment dwelling on a single topic but as the New Testament text that provides the most extensive theological argument on the relation of Israel with the new community of faith that was to become the Church. Once the unity and the logical connection of these chapters is acknowledged, the next step is to ascertain the Apostle’s message opening with the impassioned verses in 9,1-5 and concluding with the exuberant doxology in 11,33-36. It is a complex, arduous undertaking – this is the only topic to be developed by a biblical author over three full chapters – making it difficult to identify the focus or the climax of the Pauline argument. Hence the difficulties, hesitations, ambiguities and misinterpretations occasioned by this much-neglected fragment.
The present paper aims to provide an overview of Romanian research in Bibli-cal scholarship centered on Rom 9-11. It is not concerned with occasional literary texts or homiletic interpretations, despite their possible relevance for a history of text perception among the larger readership. The literature investigated here begins with the first Romanian commentaries on the Epistle to the Romans, issued in early 20th century by the University of Cernăuţi where their authors were educated and then taught.
A former commentary was authored by Iosif Olariu in 1908, and the latter one was published by prof. Vasile Gheorghiu in a collective volume, thirty years later. Both commentaries are intended for biblical research carried out in theology schools and aim to meet the times’ academic standards. Today’s Romanian New Testament professors acknowledge, on the one hand, the immense importance and influence of authors such as V. Gheorghiu in the development of New Testament studies in our country (Prof. Vasile Mihoc), but on the other hand they deplore the fact that inter-war commentaries have never been updated (Prof. Stelian Tofană) and that generally their authors’ theology heavily relies on the contemporary Catholic and Protestant thinking (V. Mihoc).
A general-to-specific analysis reveals how the titles which the two authors assign to these three chapters (9-11) of the epistle, as well as each chapter’s subtitles, provide the reader with clear guidelines for understanding the text; subsequently each exegete provides detailed commentaries. Both these titles and the exegesis proper clearly evince a preference of Romanian authors – in keeping with Western commentaries – for chapter 10 and the prophetic criticism addressed by the Apostle to Israel through a profusion of Old Testament quotations included in the three chapters; on the other hand, the reader recognizes the difficulty posed to exegetes by the following verses in chapter 11, that seem to overthrow the situation described by Apostle Paul in chapter 10 in favor of eventual salvation (11,26) and the irrevocable choice of Israel as God’s people (11,29), then going on to emphasize divine love for all people alike (11,32).
Commentators’ harsh criticism is compounded by their attitude towards Juda-ism, peculiar to their historical context. V. Gheorghiu for instance asserts that unless Israel converts, the „mean nature of Jews” will prevent the Church’s „triumph” in the fullness of moral life. Our authors seem unable to fully grasp the positive Pauline message concerning the future of Israel in chapter 11. The very translation of Rom 11,26 is questionable, and equating the πᾶς Ἰσραήλ in this verse with the remnant of Israel’s faithful, whom the Apostle mentions at the beginning of chapter 9 or even in chapter 11, demonstrates that they failed to comprehend the gradual unfolding of the Pauline argument.
This unperceptiveness towards Ap. Paul’s optimism regarding the future of Is-rael dominated Romanian biblical scholarship for nearly 70 years. During the com-munist times, virtually nothing was written on this topic, except for an introductory text providing elements of New Testament Studies (21977), that oversimplified the stance of V. Gheorghiu, and an article authored by rev. PhDc. Ioan Bude, who confi-ned himself to quoting key verses of Rom 11, without any in-depth analysis.
It was only in 2009 that brought about a major change in this respect, with several studies published both by the Orthodox Church and the Protestant or Ro-man-Catholic milieu. In this year was published a bok by rev. Ilie Melniciuc-Puică („Răbdarea şi mângâierea care vin din Scripturi. Argumentaţia veterotestamentară în Epistola către Romani” [The patience and confort brought about by the Scriptu-res. Old Testament argumentation in the Epistle to the Romans]), the first Orthodox to reach the correct conclusion – while insisting on the Old Testament quotations included in the entire epistle. Contrary to earlier commentaries, he concludes that Rom 9-11 speaks of unfaithful Israel and that the Apostle’s intention in his argument is to convey to Christians both the mystery of Israel’s calousness and its eventual salvation.
The article written by Ciprian Terinte („Raportul dintre Israel şi Biserică în calitate de popor al lui Dumnezeu în Romani 9-11” [The relationship between Isra-el and Church as people of God in Romans 9-11]), his first paper dwelling exclusive-ly on Rom 9-11 published in Romanian, disproved the so-called „Supersessionist” or „Replacement” theology positing Israel’s replacement by the Church. It thus marks one of the most important points in an adequate reception of the Pauline text. The work of these two authors is taken further by other scholars, such as Corneliu Con-stantineanu who grounds his writings in St. Paul’s theology of reconciliation, or sister Éliane Poirot, with her challenging article on Byzantine liturgical hymns with anti-Judaic undertones.
The existing commentaries on Rom 9-11 show that the development of Ro-manian biblical scholarship imitated the Western one by employing the literature available in Western Europe, from the earliest exegetes to the latest writings of bibli-cists educated in Western universities. Acknowledging the importance of this text within the corpus of Pauline theology, awareness of the necessity to renounce the triumphalist theology of Israel’s replacement and accept the apostolic message of the mystery of Israel’s salvation in the divine economy, challenges the Orthodox church to rethinking its ecclesiology. The present paper concludes that an Orthodox res-ponse requires an enormous undertaking to reconsider Tradition, that is, both Patris-tic commentaries and liturgical texts. A small but exemplary step was taken in this direction by rev. prof. V. Mihoc („Saint Paul and the Jews according to Saint John Chrysostom’s Commentary on Romans 9–11”); however, this undertaking so relevant to the entire Christian ecclesiology is only at its beginning.

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Studiu
Pagini: 89-107