Important Books: Encore
It’s sad that significant books can get forgotten, along with the ideas and points that they made. Here are a few more classics that deserve to be kept in mind.
First, Johannes Munck, Christ and Israel (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967). Munck was an incisive exegete who died too young, but not before he had produced two major works, of which this is one. The other likewise deserves continuing attention among serious students of the NT: Johannes Munck, Paul and the Salvation of Mankind (Aarhus/Copenhagen: Universitetsforlaget/Ejnar Munksgaard, 1954; reprint, Richmond: John Knox Press, 1959).
Christ and Israel is an important exgesis of Romans 9–11, in which Munck shows that for Paul “Israel” remained an ethnic entity, and retained also for him a salvation-historical significance and future. Indeed, Munck shows that Paul saw his gentile-mission as vital because its success was the pre-condition for the eschatological salvation of Israel as well. In Paul and the Salvation of Mankind, Munck made similar points, exploding the idea that Paul and Jerusalem were at serious odds and that Paul had abandoned his people.
Along with these, I’d also recommend Peter Richardson, Israel in the Apostolic Church, SNTSMS, no. 10 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969). Richardson makes a strong case that in the NT (esp. in Paul) “Israel” always retains an ethnic connotation, and that there is no basis in the NT for the “new Israel” view of the church that became prominent from the second century CE onward.
Paul didn’t think of his gentile converts as spiritual Jews, or the church as the new “Israel”. Instead, he thought of gentile believers as a distinguishable new body of children of Abraham, united with Jewish believers through faith in Jesus, who formed for him the new circle of salvation (thereby making Torah superseded in this role, though retaining a validity for Jewish believers as indicative of their identity as Jews so long as Torah was not used as an obstacle to acceptance of gentile believers as brothers/sisters in Christ).