Vol. 22 New Series April, 1960 No. 2
THE ROMAN JEWS
The discussion about the apostles in these pages during 1957 has brought to notice a question which has always been a puzzle: Why was it necessary for Paul to have the dealings with the Roman Jews recorded in Acts 28 when there already was, and had been for several years, the flourishing church there, as indicated in Romans 16?

The only likely answer I can think of is this: It was obligatory on Paul to go " to the Jew first," and this he did; but it was not, and is not, obligatory on the others who proclaim the Evangel of the uncircumcision to do so. Thus, even Paul's relatives, though of Israel according to flesh, did not receive any commission to proclaim the Evangel to Jews as such. Indeed, it is quite likely, almost certain, that the agreement recorded in Gal. 2:6-10 was obligatory on them. Thus, Andronicus and Junia, being apostles like Paul, had to evangelize all men alike as sinners of the Gentiles. Consequently they would be ignored by the Jews, as such evangelists still are. That their mission was successful among Gentiles in Rome is plain from the epistle; that it had made and was making no impact at all on the Jews in Rome is plain from Acts 28.

No apology is needed for this suggestion. Although in a sense it is no more than a deduction from Scripture, there is nothing in it that is out of harmony, or clashes in any way, with the Greek Scriptures. As it furnishes an adequate explanation of an important matter, it is permissible to hold it as a strong opinion, but not as a dogma.

The Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans referred to his unwillingness to build on another's foundation (15:20); and in the light of this we can understand how it is that Acts 28 makes no mention of any ministry by him to the Gentiles at Rome. It is outside its scope. Indeed, the fact that so much is made of his ministry to the Jews at Rome, taken together with Rom. 15:20, suggests strongly that nobody had as yet attempted to evangelize them, and that the Christians there were Gentile converts, as the opening words of Romans indicate.

This contention is not in any way affected by what is stated in Acts 28:21, 22. These Jews wanted to interview Paul, who plainly had become a person of note, because they evidently felt some curiosity as to what "this sect" was. If they had known all about it already, they would have had no need to waste their time, and Paul's, in an all-day interview with him.

There is nothing strange or, indeed, outside ordinary experience in all this. In fact, ignorance and indifference in connection with ourselves is so ordinary as to be common place. People who really do believe the Evangel soon get used to being misunderstood and misrepresented. Not long ago there came to my notice a paper read before a learned society about the errors of "Fundamentalism." It was kind in tone, but also very patronising, which is not surprising in view of the author's grotesque ignorance of what he was talking about and almost frightening inability to distinguish between genuine acceptance of the Sacred Scriptures as God's Word, on the one hand, and the most superstitious treatment of the English A.V., on the other.

When Ramsay discovered that the atomic weight of nitrogen derived from air differed considerably and consistently from that of nitrogen derived from nitrates, he did not throw his experiments on the scrap-heap, decide that the physical universe was arbitrary, and laugh at other scientists as "Fundamentalists." He patiently examined the facts and presently discovered the reason for them and, with it, the existence and properties of the noble gases Helium, Neon, Argon, Krypton and Xenon. So with the Sacred Scriptures. There are surface discrepancies. There are statements in many versions which do not appear to be reconcilable with other knowledge. It is so easy to throw it all aside and depart behind a smoke-screen of argument. But the truly scientific mind cannot dismiss facts so readily. It is forced to investigate them until firm ground is reached. The easy line is to talk patronisingly about such investigations and to turn away from them as the majority of the Roman Jews evidently did from Paul; but this avoidance brings its own penalty, as it did to them. After Paul's word their meeting dissolved, and the last we hear of them is that they had much disputation among themselves. So it is with all the churches that are infected with "Modern Thought." In the Report of almost any of their conferences the story is the same: "How much or how little can we believe?" They have no peace in their ranks, for there is no certainty, no firm anchorage.

We must not blame the Christians at Rome for their apparent neglect to evangelize the Jews. From the narrative it is pretty clear that this would have proved an impossible task. They gave Paul a polite hearing only because he was, from their point of view, notorious. And, he being Paul, some did hear and believe. Certainly what he gave them in return was very far indeed from what they had expected. Thus must it ever be. Those who consider they have nothing to learn from others actually have nothing to learn, that is, nothing they are capable of learning. The Roman Jews, and the Athenians earlier, wanted to hear what Paul had to say in the same way as a judge or magistrate wants to hear what the accused standing before him has to say: not that he may learn thereby, but that he may judge what he hears, whether to assent, to dissent or to condemn. But with these, and all others recorded in the Greek Scriptures who sat in judgment on the Lord Jesus or His Apostles, it is the judges themselves who actually are being judged as we read the accounts. If those Roman Jews had wanted to hear the Evangel, they could have listened to the Christians at Rome, and they had had several years in which to do it. No doubt when they did come across these Christians they looked on them in much the same way as a highly-placed English bishop looked on the despised believers whom he lumped together as "Fundamentalists" when he described them as "the Protestant underworld." Yes, the unbelievers and the half-believers are "top dog" now; but it is an uneasy eminence. As they have no fixed standard, no norm, to measure themselves and their creeds against, their "modern thought" of to-day is old-fashioned to-morrow and forgotten next year. That pattern repeats itself time after time, even in this dark eon. But we have no cause for fear or even uneasiness; for we measure our selves, our thoughts and our actions, against standards laid down once and for all by the Lord Jesus and His Apostles, and therefore unchangeable.

R.B.W. Last updated 9.11.2007