Christian and Jewish scholars: Why is the inclusion of Gentiles in God's plan of salvation such a mystery?

In Ephesians Paul speaks of a "great mystery" that he was given grace to preach among the Gentiles - that Gentiles should be fellow heirs and of the same body as the Jews in Christ Jesus. In Romans Paul devotes at least three chapters to God's plan of salvation in His election of the Jews and their role in the inclusion of the Gentiles. In the book of Acts there was much debate over circumcision and whether that practice should be continued among the Gentiles who were saved......but with all this, I feel there is something I haven't quite grasped.

Didn't the Mosaic law make provision for strangers and foreigners who joined themselves to Israel and to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? (Rahab is a great example)

And wasn't it promised to Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, and through him many nations would be blessed?

So my question is: Why was this mystery of Gentiles and Jews together in Christ seemingly so incomprehensible?

Thanks for your help!


I'm not expecting Jews to have insight on the writings of Paul or the doctrine of Christ, but I wanted your insight on the Abrahamic covenant and the Mosaic covenants as they pertained to Gentiles (if indeed there is any aspect that pertains to Gentiles). And I'm not expecting Christians to have all the answers concerning Judaism. But Paul's writing in the NT refer back to many OT prophecies and the writings of it seemed like a good opportunity to get insight from both sides of the fence.

Update 2:

Paperback Writer JPA (interesting avatar name)

I'm not a Messianic Christian, although I know many who are. I don't believe I'm Jewish because I'm Christian - I realize I would have to convert to Judaism. Paul writes this in the context of the two (Jew and Gentile) becoming one new man, since the enmity of the law of commandments has been abolished in the flesh of Christ. Of course you wouldn't know I was writing in that context because I didn't include those details. Hopefully this sheds some light on the direction my question was intended to go.....

Update 3:

Snow Globe - THANK YOU! You got the gist of my question and understood what I was seeking. I was beginning to wonder if I had communicated clearly, or just opened up a can of worms.

Update 4:

Lchaim JPA - While I do not share your faith, I certainly respect your conviction! (And I heartily agree that those covenants and ordinances were given by God through Abraham and Moses...that's what the terminology "Mosaic law and Abrahamic covenants" means) Thanks for your perspective.

10 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Best Answer

    A good question. A mystery of faith is a term used in theology to describe a doctrine which defies man’s ability to grasp fully. From our viewpoint, it doesn't seem like such a "mystery", because we are so inclusive in the Christian faith, but if you look at it from the Jewish perspective, it was somewhat contradictory to all the teachings of scripture. You've chosen some good examples of how outsiders were included in the plan for God's chosen people. However, these were always special examples of people who had dedicated themselves to help the Israelites. All along, God had included and blessed these people, as long as they left their former beliefs behind. There were still many Jews who could not fully accept people who were not culturally and racially Jews. Paul was carefully explaining to them that this had been God's plan all along and that these people were to be accepted fully and without any restriction. They were not to be second-class citizens among them. It took a real major mind-shift for many people to understand this. The metaphor of branches being grafted onto a tree was a good way for them to understand that these non-Jews were a living and integral part of God's people. It is also directed at Christian converts from non-Jewish backgrounds, to understand that they are now part of the plan of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They are not superior (thinking that they are followers of Jesus, and not expected to follow the teachings of the law and the prophets). <*)))><

  • 1 decade ago

    Judaism doesn't use the Christian Bible including Paul's work. So, we'd have no explanation for that mystery.

    In Judaism, we include gentiles in God's good graces & plans for "the world to come." We don't have a salvation plan since we are each responsible for our own actions & were given ways to repent. However, in Jewish law you don't have to join Israel to be okay.

    Keep in mind that Christianity was written with a whole feeling of competition with Judaism & has lots of opinons on Judiasm. Judaism existed long before Christianity & has NO opinions on Christianity...except that non-Jews can be righteous in God's eyes. And that other people can be of other religions & add value to the world.

    Check out for details on the Noahide laws which are the only thing in Judaism that has anything to say about non-Jews.


    Keep trying, maybe we'll figure it out. I think though what's confusing is that Judaism has an idea foreign to Christianity, so it's hard for Christians to recognize it as first pass. (Not to sound disrespectful.) Judaism literally doesn't spend time on Gentiles beyond the noahide concept -- & that comes up only because non-Jews ask us.

    M-J said it well with "When Christians make the claims that they had to be 'grafted in" that's a foreign concept to Torah." Judaism doesn't have such a concept & we don't read it that way from our Tanach. Hum, also do you know that our Tanach is not the same was the OT? The OT has changes that support Christian ideas that aren't & never were part of Judaism.

  • 1 decade ago

    Mosaic law? It is God's law given *through* Moses.

    Abrahamic covenant? It is a covenant between God and His people, Israel, given *through* Abraham.

    Mosaic covenants? Covenants between God and Israel given *through* Moses.

    These Covenants are passed from mother to child and sometimes leads others to believe that Jews belong to a separate race of people.

    It is not the law of Moses, nor Abraham's covenant, nor Moses' covenants. All of it is between God and Israel, not between God and the Assyrians, nor the Egyptians, nor the Christians, nor the Muslims, nor the Philistines! The Hebrew Bible was written BY Jews, FOR Jews, and ABOUT Jews.

    You may all write your own books, borrow from the Hebrew Bible, and prophesy about the afterlife, but NONE of it negates any of the several covenants between God and ISRAEL!

    There is NO mystery in Judaism! One can be a Jew without belief in ANYTHING supernatural!


  • 1 decade ago

    K. I'm not 100% sure i grasp what you are asking, but i'll give it a go.

    I'm sure is has something too do with the convergence of two different societies. Early Jewish Christ followers held the Mosaic law and a more Hellenistic Gentile church and the latter of which won.

    It is basically a clash of customs.. A Melting pot, that didn't melt.

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  • 1 decade ago

    You appear to be confusing the mystery religioins of the Hellenists with Judaism.

    From Genesis forward, Gentiles ( English word for goyim in Hebrew meaning nations ) have been shown to be able to directly connect to God, be blessed by God and not require being a part of the covenant of Israel to merit this.

    When Christians make the claims that they had to be 'grafted in" that's a foreign concept to Torah.

    We even have a mosiach ( anointed) in a Persian King that specifically is mentioned as not following the God of Israel, but he is called righteous and blessed for his deliverance of the Jewish people.

    Anyone who wishes to become a part of the eternal covenant of Israel has also always been able to convert to become one. Ruth is a great example of that.

    There is no MYSTERY to any Jew regarding the capacity of any person Jew or Gentile, to directly connect to God in prayer or be blessed by God.

    I've often prayed side by side to a Christian. I pray to God directly, they address their prayers through Jesus. I have faith that an Omnipotent God recognizes sincerity in anyone.

    Jews who would abandon Judaism for praying to or through a dead Jewish man would cease being of the eternal covenant of faith of Israel who can only pray directly to God. God was never exclusive to the Jew alone, but the Jew is exclusive to God alone..or he abandons his people.

    It is apparently only a mystery to you.


    EDIT Snow Globe has a misconception that Tanakh indicates that non Jews were considered inferior. That is false.

    Judaism teaches, (from Torah) that all humans are equal before God. God is no respector of persons..meaning no one is above another. (Leviticus ch19 and 2 Samuel ch 14 say this) So the premise of that answer is groundless, especially regarding the notion of "culture" and "race". They did not even possess the modern notion of race!

    Zipporah..Moses wife was a black woman, don't forget.

    As I noted, the Persian King Cyrus, called a Messiah directly IN the Jewish Bible gives evidence of do so many other instances ( the town of Nineveh repenting from doing evil being about Gentiles)

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    answer: I believe you're under a misconception about Judaism. They don't believe you have to be Jewish to reach G-d and heaven. They don't believe they have the only path to G-d. That's why conversion to Judaism isn't as easy as it is to become Christian.

    As for Jews and Christians coming together in Christ - that works as long as you realize that person is no longer a practicing Jew - they are now a Christian with other Christians.

    Jesus has no place in Judaism. He is not the messiah for the Jews so a practicing Jew does not believe in Jesus as divine or as a prophet.

  • 1 decade ago

    I'm not a scholar, just a Christian. You are correct about the Mosaic law including provisions for proselytes, but they had to essentially become Jews. With the Gospel, we are saved by Grace through faith in Christ and are adopted. Perhaps this mystery is the adoption of believers by grace.

    Yet, we can see, by looking backwards at God's Plan, that even the Jews were saved by faith. See Hebrews 11.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Allow me to explain, because there is a basic misunderstanding here:

    Jews don't believe that *anyone* needs to be 'saved'. Judaism teaches that the righteous of ALL faiths, reaches heaven.

    Now, in the Christian bible, correct me if I'm wrong, you are told that as a Christian, you are somehow 'grafted in' or adopted into the Jewish family?

    And that's the misunderstanding. Jews aren't bound by what the Christian bible says. You don't get to practise Christianity WHILE claiming to be 'jewish'.

    Anyone is more than welcome to convert and join the Jewish people. More than welcome. But just because your bible tells you that you are somehow entitled to *be* Jewish, does not mean that Jews are then obliged to act on this.

    You can't be Christian and call yourself 'jewish'. Just as you can't be a Muslim and call yourself a 'Christian'.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    it's only a mystery to those who follow saul/paul... and it doesn't require jesus for someone of the other nations to be joined to israel... go read the prophets again

  • 1 decade ago

    the bible is a mish mosh of earlier writings all lifted from earlier cultures...thats a fact!! anyone can call themself chosen..religion is all based on early myth sun-god worship, 12 apostles=12 zodiac signs...etc...get eduacted

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