A Problem of Theodicy

June 13, 2006

In New Testament Theology, Marshall comments on Paul's "all Israel will be saved" in a footnote (pg. 336):

"Paul may be thinking of a change in the same people because he has a limited time horizon, whereas we tend to think of a change in future generations of the Jews. Equally, paul does not seem to take into account the problem that we have of why for long years God ignored the Gentiles and allowed people to die without having heard the gospel or enjoyed its benefits. This is a real problem of theodicy."

This is something I have often pondered. If it is true that God placed Israel strategically in the "crossroads" of the world, and their observance of the law was to make other nations realize that that their God was truly among them as the latter part of Deuteronomy attests, then I suppose we can "blame them" for the non-evangelization of the other nations. But if they themselves, the light of the world, could not control their sinful natures and the evil within them, which their law helped to bring out more and more, can we truly blame them? We are then left with a world largely ignorant of the God of Israel, besides what they can discern from creation, a knowledge that can only damn them, not save them.

And if God judges negatively those whom Israel failed to help bring to the knowledge of YHWH, then this has strong and dangerous implications for us Christians today – God will judge people justly regardless of whether we share with them the knowledge of the cross and the resurrection. Of course, if Christ truly did preach to those already dead after he died on the cross, then this changes things in a sense.

The only thing I don't understand in Marshall's statement is why he used the word "gospel." The gospel was certainly taken the Gentiles after the resurrection. In the long years where God, as Marshall says, (mostly) ignored the Gentiles, there was no gospel to share or benefits from it to enjoy.

Thoughts, comments, snide remarks?

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One Response to “A Problem of Theodicy”

  1. Kyle Says:

    Indeed. The OT category might be closer to something like, “the knowledge of Yahweh.” And I think that somehow all of it’s a little more holistic than punishing pagans for being naughty, and that judgment is about fixing things. Not that you implied it, I’m just sayin.’


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