I am having trouble following the logic of Rom 11:11-24 altogether. I would be in a better position if I could get a handle on two verses that seem to be using the same sort of logic.

Romans 11, vv. 12, 15 (NA28 | ESV):

(12) εἰ δὲ τὸ παράπτωμα αὐτῶν πλοῦτος κόσμου
Now if their* trespass means** riches for the world

καὶ τὸ ἥττημα αὐτῶν πλοῦτος ἐθνῶν,
and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles,

πόσῳ μᾶλλον τὸ πλήρωμα αὐτῶν.
how much more will their full inclusion mean!

(15) εἰ γὰρ ἡ ἀποβολὴ αὐτῶν καταλλαγὴ κόσμου,
For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world,

τίς ἡ πρόσλημψις εἰ μὴ ζωὴ ἐκ νεκρῶν;
what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?

  *The proximate antecedent is “Israel” in v. 7. Also "[God’s] people" in v. 1.
  **There are no verbs anywhere. "(Will) mean(s)" x5 was added in conformance with English syntax.

I understand (sort of) the argument a minori ad majus, but I don’t understand the shared premise that is being extended here. In both cases, the premise of the protasis(es) seems to be opposite the apodosis (trespass/failure vs. inclusion (fullness) | rejection vs. acceptance).

The πόσῳ μᾶλλον (how much more...!) language also seems to echo Rom. 5 (vv. 9, 10, 15, 17), but the argument there was basically [one man’s sins → death for all] ∴ [one man’s righteousness → life for all]. These share the premise [one → all]. In Rom 11, the shared premise is...Israel has some (fickle) relationship with the fate of the world?

  • Does this application of a minori ad majus make sense, or am I incorrect about the sort of reasoning being employed here?

In v. 12, the final result is left unstated ("how much more...!"). In v. 15, it is stated: "life from the dead". This is apparently the "greater" version of "the reconciliation of the world".

  • Is this meant literally (i.e. the general resurrection upon the return of Christ, cf. 1 Cor 15:12ff.) or figuratively (i.e. new life after death to sin, cf. Rom 6)?
  • a minori ad majus fits verse 12 but it is not so clear that it is repeated in verse 15. I would suggest exploring alternatives for verse 15. Jun 29, 2015 at 21:17
  • I think this just clashes with our way of thinking. We're generally used to thinking linearly and causally. If this then that. If not this then that. I don't think Paul understood the Jews failure to be on one side and the Gentile acceptance on the other. I think its more of a progressive spectrum. If the Gentiles are being accepted while Jews are rejected, how much more (sliding both sides up the scale) will the world be blessed with their acceptance. Instead of being opposed values, they are tied. So yes in a way, the logical argument fits, but maybe not how we might think at first.
    – Joshua
    Jun 30, 2015 at 17:18

4 Answers 4


NRSV Rom. 11:11   So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumbling salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their stumbling means riches for the world, and if their defeat means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

NRSV Rom. 11:13   Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I glorify my ministry 14 in order to make my own people jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead!

NA27 Rom. 11:11 Λέγω οὖν, μὴ ἔπταισαν ἵνα πέσωσιν; μὴ γένοιτο· ἀλλὰ τῷ αὐτῶν παραπτώματι ἡ σωτηρία τοῖς ἔθνεσιν εἰς τὸ παραζηλῶσαι αὐτούς. 12 εἰ δὲ τὸ παράπτωμα αὐτῶν πλοῦτος κόσμου καὶ τὸ ἥττημα αὐτῶν πλοῦτος ἐθνῶν, πόσῳ μᾶλλον τὸ πλήρωμα αὐτῶν. 13 Ὑμῖν δὲ λέγω τοῖς ἔθνεσιν· ἐφ᾿ ὅσον μὲν οὖν εἰμι ἐγὼ ἐθνῶν ἀπόστολος, τὴν διακονίαν μου δοξάζω, 14 εἴ πως παραζηλώσω μου τὴν σάρκα καὶ σώσω τινὰς ἐξ αὐτῶν. 15 εἰ γὰρ ἡ ἀποβολὴ αὐτῶν καταλλαγὴ κόσμου, τίς ἡ πρόσλημψις εἰ μὴ ζωὴ ἐκ νεκρῶν;

It has been suggested in the secondary literature that the rhetorical and/or logical structure of v.15 follows that of v.12 with some suggesting that Paul employed a form of parallelism between v.12 and v.15 and this parallel structure is interrupted with a parenthetical v13-v14.

Alford1 claims that clause initial εἰ γὰρ “For if” subordinates verse 15 to the immediate preceding verses with the consequence that verses 13-14 should not be considered parenthetical. Not everyone agrees with Alford. From the perspective of information structure (discourse analysis) it is unusual for elements in a parallel construction to be on different levels of the discourse structure. For that reason alone εἰ γὰρ “For if” at the beginning of verse 15 creates a problem since γὰρ typically introduces material that is supportive to the next higher level of the discourse. This would place verse 15 in the background2 with verse 12 one or more levels above it, depending on how one reads verses 13-14.

Setting that aside, what about semantic parallelism? In verse 12 we see a very explicit πόσῳ μᾶλλον “how much more” marking this as an argument from the lesser to the greater. It is common in parallelism to omit certain elements from the first pattern in following parallel patterns. So the lack of an equivalent “how much more” expression in v. 15 isn’t conclusive. On the other hand the lesser to greater semantic structure isn’t particularly obvious from the analysis of the meaning (semantics) of v.15. One of the critical issues is the reference of final phrase ζωὴ ἐκ νεκρῶν “life from the dead.” This expression appears to be intentionally polysemantic with one referent being the restoration of national Israel as depicted in the dry bones vision of Ezekiel 37:1-14. The second referent would be the resurrection the of the dead. This is an over simplification since what Paul may have in mind is some other idea that includes both of these elements and perhaps others. The contrast would be between the καταλλαγὴ κόσμου the “reconciliation of the world” which probably means the gentiles but perhaps not. So the lesser to greater contrast would be reconciliation of the gentiles(?) compared to restoration of Israel and/or the resurrection of the dead. Perhaps we could find a lesser to greater pattern here.

However, It seems that the semantic lesser to greater pattern is not perfectly plain and the interruption of the supposed parallelism with two “parenthetical” verses followed by the final element introduced with εἰ γὰρ “For if” … none of this makes one overly confident about the parallelism between verse 12 and 15.

  1. H. Alford, Greek Testament (1877), v.2, p. 429:

    15.] For [γὰρ] (a reason for my anxiety for the salvation of Israel: not merely for the sake of mine own kinsmen, but because their recovery will bring about the blessed consummation of all believers. Vv. 13, 14 should not then be in a parenthesis) ...

  2. Robert E. Longacre, The Grammar of Discourse, 2nd Ed., 1996

  • Thanks! Can you please include citation for “Alford claims...”? Interesting that NRSV fills out the verbless clauses in v. 12 with forms of “to mean” but v. 15 with “to be”.
    – Susan
    Jul 1, 2015 at 13:19

On this occasion I would like to use the NAB translation for its simpler English, adding context verses to help understanding. Overall, Paul is hoping that he will encourage his fellow-Jews to become Christians, so we should read it in that context:

Romans 11:10: [...] let their eyes grow dim so that they may not see, and keep their backs bent forever."

11 Hence I ask, did they stumble so as to fall? Of course not! But through their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make them jealous.

12 Now if their transgression is enrichment for the world, and if their diminished number is enrichment for the Gentiles, how much more their full number.

13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I glory in my ministry

14 in order to make my race jealous and thus save some of them.

15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

Forgive me if in going through my understanding of the text, I am teaching granny to suck eggs, but I am not sure from your question whether it is purely one of semantics or whether you are looking to the semantics as a means to an end, being a better understanding of Paul's reasoning.

A metaphor in v10, where Paul speaks of the Jews becoming unable to see, is explained in v11 because they have not become Christians. He says that good has come of that because salvation has come to the Gentiles who are adopting the gospel message. This will make the Jews jealous.

v12 repeats that the failure of the Jews to become Christians is enrichment for the world [salvation for the Gentiles]. v12b is obscure but Paul seems to mean that if only a few of the Jews (such as himself) have achieved so much for the Gentiles, how much more could be achieved if all Jews became Christians.

In v13-14, Paul tells his Gentile audience that the great reward he hopes to gain from being apostle to the Gentiles is that the Jews become jealous and he can save some of them.

V15 reiterates that if by the Jews' rejection of the gospel the rest of the world is reconciled to Jesus, then their acceptance of the gospel will be like life from the dead.

Argumentum a minore ad maius says that what is true on the smaller scale is even more true on the greater. I think this is the case here. Even with just a few Jewish believers, Christianity has made great strides; it would be incredibly successful ("but life from the dead") if more Jews were believers.

  • Thanks, Dick. I am trying to understand his reasoning. You addressed what I’m wondering about in that last sentence, but the weird part is that the text doesn’t say, “even with just a few Jewish believers” but rather “[because of] [the Jews’] trespass|failure|rejection”. Part of our difference in understanding is that your translation calls ἥττημα “diminished number” and πλήρωμα “full number”. The latter is clearly a valid debate (even mentioned in the lexicon); the former is an obscure word, but I’d be interested in seeing that interpretation defended.
    – Susan
    Jun 29, 2015 at 12:23
  • @Susan I leave nuances of Greek to those better qualified than I. But, in case of translation from Greek to Eng., "if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean" lacks logic, whereas "if their diminished number is enrichment for the Gentiles, how much more their full number" seems logical in any language. Of course, seeming logical does not make it an accurate translation, but is worth considering. Jun 29, 2015 at 21:59
  • @Susan The KJV, which I did not reference here because I wanted a translation in straight-forward (but not over-simplified) English, often disagrees with NAB, but agrees here: "12 Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?" Jun 29, 2015 at 22:02

Rhetorician Revised Version--RRV

Since Paul’s use of argumentum a minore ad maius in Romans 11 is a more complicated variation on the theme, we might do well to consider a much simpler example from Jesus’ teaching and then graduate to Paul. In Matthew 6, Jesus lays out the cure for anxiety:

”Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? . . . And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow: they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you?” (vv.26-29 NASB Updated).

Jesus’ use of minore ad maius in this instance is straightforward:

Birds need to eat, and humans need to eat. If God provides food for the less valuable species (viz., birds), then will he not also provide food for the more valuable species (viz., his children)?

In other words, what is true on a smaller scale will be even truer on a larger scale, provided both scales include the same analogs (or points of comparison).

Another teaching of Jesus which involves the smaller-to-the-greater reasoning, except in a slightly more complicated way, occurred when the crowd that witnessed Jesus' healing of the man at the Pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath (see John 5:1 ff.) had the temerity to accuse Jesus of being demon possessed! Looking into their hearts, Jesus recognized the crowd's hatred of him and his methods. He knew they wanted to kill him.

Jesus then attempted to use reasoning as a way of getting his critics to see both the error in their ideology and his rightness in doing what he did. Jesus argued the following:

  1. Moses and the fathers gave to the Jews the rite of circumcision in the Law.

  2. The Law is actually from God, and the highest law is love, love for God and love for neighbor. The entire Law hinges on these two loves (see Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18).

  3. In fulfillment of the Law of Moses, male babies are circumcised on the eighth day after birth, even if that day happens to be the Sabbath. This "injuring" of the baby, though slight, makes him temporarily unwell; that is, until his wound heals.

  4. I didn't injure a man; rather, I healed his entire body on the Sabbath. Why, then, are you criticizing me? If it's OK to injure a baby on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses is not broken, how can you criticize me for demonstrating the higher law of love by not injuring a part of a baby but healing an entire man?

In other words, Jesus was asking the aggressive crowd, “If a baby's penis is cut in obedience to the Law, and that's OK, how can the healing of a man who has lived with an affliction for 38 years by an act of love, which is at the very heart of the Law,not be OK? That doesn't make any sense."

The reason I compare Jesus' thinking to Pauls' thinking in Romans 11 is that their reasoning is quite similar.

Jesus: If it's OK to inflict a small injury on a baby in deference to the Law of Moses, which is the lesser (and also a negative thing for the baby!), then why should it not be OK to perform a miracle of healing of a fully grown man on the Sabbath, which is the greater (and also a very positive thing for the man!?

Notice the similarities in Paul’s argument:

Paul: If the majority of the Jews transgressed, which is the negative and lesser thing, and their transgression led to the salvation of the Gentiles (i.e., the "world" at large), which is the positive and the greater thing, how much greater will be the restoration of Israel when the righteous remnant fulfills their God-given destiny and becomes a nation under God again.

As for Paul's argument and logic in Romans 11, they can be a bit slippery, and the moment you think you've got a handle on them, they slither right through your brain. (At least that's been my experience.) While his logic does not follow exactly the argumentum a minore ad maius format, there are certainly elements of that locution in the Gospels and in Romans 11.

Furthermore, the logic of "how much more" is certainly part and parcel of Paul's train of thought here. Some of the key words of his argument would include the words transgression, jealousy, fulfillment, and of course how much more.

Step By Step

A remnant is by nature "just a few." Paul is therefore contrasting the larger (i.e., "the world" of Gentiles) with the smaller (the remnant of a believing, Christian subculture within the larger culture of Judaism). Paul and a majority of Christ followers at that point in history were part of a remnant; namely, Jews who had believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as their Messiah.

The nation of Israel, on the other hand, had transgressed (vv.11-12), was hardened (v.7), and became that branch of the cultivated olive tree which was broken off (v.17 ff.), so as to allow the branch from the wild olive tree, the Gentiles, to be grafted in to the cultivated tree, Israel.

Consequently, Israel, with her former, favored nation status before God, was “put on hold,” so to speak, because she, as a small but proud nation, had become hardened spiritually. Her on-hold status, however, will one day, according to Paul, be lifted, and her ultimate destiny be fulfilled (v.13). John’s Revelation of Jesus Christ clarifies how Israel will once again in God’s economy loom large in world affairs and become once again one nation under God.

Now, if Israel’s transgression of unbelief and her subsequent hardening can make the Gentile world rich (which is clearly a wonderful thing, since God's forgiveness, grace, and mercy are bringing multitudes of believers into the family of God), how much more will her restoration enrich the entire family of God, both Jew and Gentile. Israel's temporary hardening surprised God not a whit. Furthermore, in his covenant with Abraham centuries before the Apostle Paul came on the scene, God told Abraham that through his seed, all the nations of the world would be blessed (see Genesis 12:3, and the repetition of the covenant to Jacob, Genesis 28:14).

This, then, is the essence of what Paul is saying in verse 12:

Something good came out of something bad. If at some time in the future, with the bad having become good once again, then logically the end result will be even more glorious. In other words, if Israel’s unbelief meant riches for the world at large, the fulfillment of her restoration to belief will mean even greater riches for the world and for Israel.

In conclusion, the argumentum minore ad maius figures prominently in Scripture, and I suppose an entire book could be written about its rhetorical uses in the pages of holy writ. Perhaps the OP could consider taking on such a project!?


The relationship Israel has with the fate of the world.

Salvation from sin was first offered to the Jew. And if the Jews would have accomplished this then only the Jews would have been saved from sin.

Their failure to accomplish this meant that the message on "how to accomplish this" was given also to the Gentiles.

So at first the Gentiles where excluded from salvation. Then salvation was offered to the Gentile. Salvation meaning "very valuable" this made the Gentiles rich.

For if the Jew did not fail then the Gentile would not have the message of salvation meaning to listen, to stop talking (the sacrifice of the son of man), and to sell all of the thoughts absorbing the fullness of the message both right and wrong told to them by the speaker.

Therefore through the trespass of the Jews, salvation was given to the world, and their failure meant the inclusion of salvation for the Gentiles.

At that time salvation was working through the Gentiles, and the Jews did not understand the salvation. So even though salvation was first presented to the Jews, the Jews did not reap the benefits of that salvation. This weighed heavy on Paul's mind (being a Jew himself) and he had hoped that salvation (working through the gentiles) would eventually reveal itself to the Jews (then also including the Jews into the salvation) as he states: how much more will their full inclusion mean!.

Comparing the Metaphors
Then he states For if their rejection, we can look to the earlier expression "trespass" let us see the similarity here. We look to the metaphor the chief corner stone and how its been said the stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. This points to the rejection of Jesus who is so the Word.

Then Let us consider a trespass meaning to enter the owner's land or property without permission. The Owner meaning God and the trespass meaning entering God's property without permission. Then we can consider well then God owns all things so how do we trespass? Well to answer this we look to another metaphor the bread. Here Jesus variables Bread meaning the Word.

He tells the disciples, "He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me", and he also explains why by quoting Psalm 41:9.

Then Directly After

I tell you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives any one whom I send receives me; and he who receives me receives him who sent me. (John 13:19-20 RSVCE)

What was the sign?
He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me.

Was Judas listening?
Let us think logically if a man be close enough to dip his bread into the same dish as Jesus, then he is so also close enough to hear what was said.

Did Judas receive Jesus?
Jesus just said, "He who receives any one whom I send receives me" then said, "He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me".

Now while Jesus was responding to the other disciples ask if they where the betrayer, Judas "trespasses" (aka speaks over him / cuts in to say) asking, "Is it I, Master?" and Jesus responds, "[You have said so]".

At another time Jesus points out, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters".

Return to comparing the Metaphors
The rejection the word and the trespass of the word, the not listening and the speaking over the speaker.

Lets do a substitution

For if their not listening to the word means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?

Here we can finally define "acceptance"
That originally though they did not listen and rejected the word, that by their "listening" means life from the dead.

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