Pete Enns & The Bible for Normal People

Open Letter to the Apostle Paul from a Concerned Reader

romans

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works.Tweets at @peteenns.

Dear Paul,

First of all, thank you for writing so much of the New Testament.

Thank you for also teaching inerrancy, not only of the Bible you have (the Old Testament) but of your own letters and those other parts of the New Testament that hadn’t even been written yet, like the Gospels!

The actual reason for my letter is to ask you to clear up some confusion for me. I’m reading through Romans, and I see that you quote the Old Testament on pretty much every page.

[Which, by the way, is another thing I appreciate that about your work: you show that the Old Testament writers were already writing about the coming of Jesus, and you quote chapter and verse to prove it.]

But, getting to my question—and if this is a minor point or I’m missing something obvious, please feel free to ignore—I’m having some trouble in a few places where you quote the Old Testament.

Now, I know you believe, as we all do, that the Bible, being God’s word, is perfectly consistent all the way through, meaning it doesn’t mean one thing in the Old Testament and another thing when you quote it. It goes without saying that you respect the intention of the original author more than anyone, and you’d never mistreat the Bible like that.

But I’m reading along, a little more than halfway through (we call it Romans 9:25-26), where you are making your point about how God has called a people not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles.

Here you quote from Hosea 2:23 and 1:10 to show that this whole business of including the Gentiles was on God’s mind all along.

Those who are not my people I will call “my people,” and her who was not beloved I will call “beloved.”

And in the very place where it was said to them, “you are not my people,” there they shall be called children of the living God.

It looks like you’re saying “those who are not my people…not beloved” are the Gentiles who are now included because of Jesus. I’m happy for Gentile inclusion, being one myself, but I went back and read Hosea and I’m confused.

It seems pretty clear to me that the original meaning and intention of Hosea is that God is restoring disobedient Israel after a period of rejection and punishment. I’m not seeing anything there at all about Gentiles, and so I’m not sure why you would say “here are two verses about Gentile inclusion.”

I have some Christian friends who think that, because you’re Jewish, you might actually be engaging in a little creative Jewish midrash here, but I’ve told them that you are a Christian and would never play fast and loose with scripture! You understand that the very doctrine of inerrancy that you teach—maybe even the gospel that you preach—hangs in the balance.

I think you see my confusion, though.

So I’m asking you to help me defend you better. Perhaps point me to other places in your letters where you don’t do this sort of thing, which would really help to balance things out.

Or maybe slowly and clearly explain how your use of Hosea’s words is aligned with what God actually intended, and why it’s OK for God to intend something Hosea doesn’t when it’s not OK for us to do that.

I have to say, too, this lingering uneasy feeling has been growing since I began Romans. Please help me see better what I know you’re actually doing.

Sincerely,

Your Fellow Soldier

P.S. If you have some time, could you also clear up why you’re not a zealous supporter of the “eternal covenant” of circumcision God gave Abraham and why all of a sudden the list of clean and unclean foods God gave Moses on Mt. Sinai is optional. Only if you have time.

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