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In Romans 10:17, Paul says that hearing comes through the word of Christ. Then in verse 18, he quotes the Psalmist in response to the question, "But I ask, have they [the Israelites] not heard?"

Indeed they have for,
"Their voice has gone out to all the earth
and their words to the ends of the world."

These lines come in the context of Psalm 19, a psalm which reflects on the work of God's hand in creation. How is Paul using this quotation? Does he mean for his readers to infer the context of his quotation and conclude that not only do the skies proclaim the work of God's hands, but also they amount to "the word of Christ"? Or is he merely borrowing the lines of the psalmist to make the point that the gospel had already been preached extensively among the Israelites? These are a couple of the options I've considered; maybe there are others.

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Paul is a quintessential Jew in his understanding of the Gospel is rooted in the Jewish system. Therefore to understand his state here and anywhere towards the Jews concerning the Gospel this must be kept in mind.

I say this to say that Paul's theology was a fulfillment of a Jewish expectation concerning the messiah. He wasn't making it up as he went. It was a development but strictly within the confines of the Jewish mindset. Going over other teachings of Paul will demonstrate if or how he applying psalms 19:4 in Romans 10:19.

In Colossians 1:15,16 we see the cosmological connection between the lord Jesus Christ and the Jewish messianic expectation. It says that Jesus is the Imago Dei. Something Paul Jewish contemporaries would readily understand. Then it says that all things were created by Him and for Him. Another Jewish expectation for messiah. Now all things include all things but I want to just point out this also refers to the things in psalms 19:4. Created things like stars and so forth.

In Hebrews chapter 1:3c it says that all things are upheld by the word of his power. The word of His power is basically His authority and majesty. Taking this back to psalms 19 the fact that celestial bodies in the heavenly realms display submission and obedience to the authority of His majesty gives unassailable witness, evidence, speech that there is a majesty reigning supreme.

Paul being the quintessential Jew would not make a statement that wouldn't be applicable to the Israelites and their understanding as it regards their expectations concerning the messiah. So in this statement by Paul in Romans 10:18 he is indicting them based on there own expectation and basis of understanding as it concerns the messiah.

Now we have touched on the physicality of the submission of the celestial bodies to the word of the authority of Christ the Image Of God. These give complete evidence and witness to Gods majesty. Let us take this further by introducing the fact the the things that are created by and through and for Jesus are not just stars but principalities and powers. These to are part of the heavenlies. These also bare witness to The Glory of God by their submission to Christ and are in the same framework of Jewish understanding and messianic expectation. That's how Paul can go from Psalms to Moses to Isaiah etc. Some Jews, and the nation of Israel in general, have rejected clear testimony of the stars, the prophets of old, and finally the Lord Jesus Christ their expected messiah.

Paul is appealing to the psalms here as a clear indictment of the Jews. The psalms do fit into a larger framework of Jewish understanding and in that the Jews have no excuse. They have heard the word of the majesty of the Lord as it concerns the messiah. Paul's outline of the office and powers of the Lord Jesus Christ is built on a Jewish understanding expectation that they still have on a Greta level. They just refuse to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as its fulfillment. This is the only thing information that separates Paul from them knowledge wise. They know what he knows. He accepts the testimony of all things pointing to the Lord Jesus Christ. They are still waiting for their expectations of messiah based on same information of Paul to be fulfilled. So yes the Gospel has been and is still being preached in various forms and fashions within creation. And at the time of Paul's statement the Jews have heard this preaching in all its various forms through and through. Paul just uses Psalms 19 to demonstrat its thoroughness as regards them thoroughly hearing it as a nation and in psalms it speaks of the heavenlies but doesn't limit it to just the heavenlies

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  • Thank you so much for this helpful response in the context of Paul being the “quintessential Jew”!
    – Gremosa
    Feb 16 at 14:42
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I'm not sure that Paul is referring to Israelites in this verse. If he is referring to gentiles here, the quote from Psalms makes more sense to me. He definitely refers to Jews in vs 19:

Romans 10:19 But I say, surely Israel did not know, did they? First Moses says, "I WILL MAKE YOU JEALOUS BY THAT WHICH IS NOT A NATION, BY A NATION WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING WILL I ANGER YOU." [NAU]

However, in 18 he just says "they" and previously has not specified Jews before hand except to say that there is no distinction in God between them and gentiles. Previously, "they" has been part of "whoever."

Romans 10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED."

14 ¶ How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!" 16 However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?" 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

18 ¶ But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have; "THEIR VOICE HAS GONE OUT INTO ALL THE EARTH, AND THEIR WORDS TO THE ENDS OF THE WORLD." 19 But I say, surely Israel did not know, did they? First Moses says, "I WILL MAKE YOU JEALOUS BY THAT WHICH IS NOT A NATION, BY A NATION WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING WILL I ANGER YOU." 20 And Isaiah is very bold and says, "I WAS FOUND BY THOSE WHO DID NOT SEEK ME, I BECAME MANIFEST TO THOSE WHO DID NOT ASK FOR ME."

21 ¶ But as for Israel He says, "ALL THE DAY LONG I HAVE STRETCHED OUT MY HANDS TO A DISOBEDIENT AND OBSTINATE PEOPLE." [NASU]

In 20 he refers to gentiles as those "who did not seek [Him]." Then in 21, he contrasts them with Israel. A case could be made that the same kind of contrast is going on in 18 and 19. 18 refers to gentiles and 19 to Jews.

The quote from Psalm reminds me of a rabbinic discussion on how God would judge the gentiles. Surely He would not hold them accountable to the entire law of 613 commands. They concluded that there were Seven Laws of Noah for the gentiles to obey. First and foremost among those laws is "Avoid idolatry." It was believed that no matter what else, creation testified to the oneness of God (like Paul says in Rom 1:20) and that righteous gentiles would understand that.

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These lines come in the context of Psalm 19, a psalm which reflects on the work of God's hand in creation. How is Paul using this quotation? Does he mean for his readers to infer the context of his quotation and conclude that

Midrash

It is may be confusing to call that "quotation", since it may denote to drawing attention to the original context or meaning. It is an application or an allusion of a text for a particular point or argument. It is definitely out of context. They are not eisegesis, since they don't purport to violate the original sense or immediate context meaning of those texts. The approach of application/allusion falls under derash and remez. From the fundamental 4 ways or level of Biblical hermeneutics, Pardes, see Chabad site:

Pardes: (lit. “orchard”); the metaphorical term used to refer to the four levels of Torah interpretation: pshat (the literal meaning of the text), remez (its allusions), derush (the homilies that can be derived from it), and sod (its mystical secrets).

Basically the 4 levels are: Plain literal, allusions/application, homiletical, mystical. We can conclude the allusion to the Psalms verse is used for a homiletical argument by Paul. The focus is not the original context of Psalms, obviously, but merely using a short phrase or saying from it. In a sense, understand that he is using bits and pieces from another jigsaw piece to build up a different picture. He is using bits of the Torah to strengthen his argument. The whole NT naturally employs such hermeneutics methods.

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