The imagery in Romans 11 is mostly about grafting but Paul pulls in a figure about sourdough:

ISV Rom 11:16 If the first part of the dough is holy, so is the whole batch. If the root is holy, so are the branches.

Is he alluding to something? What is his point? Is he using some well understood principle? And is he saying that since the root of the tree (Abraham and his faith) is holy then every branch grafted into the tree becomes holy?

If so, is it on the authority of this principle that he says that "all Israel will be saved"?:

ISV Rom 11:26 In this way, all Israel will be saved, as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion; he will remove ungodliness from Jacob.



1 Answer 1


Paul emphasize on the primacy in inheritance of the Jews, arguing that they are the naturally, primary and most deserving people of God. The Jewish believers represent the primary believing community; and they will always exist to support the now accepted Gentiles. The phrase "All Israel will be saved" refers to eventual full conversion of Jews in faith. "A partial hardening has happened to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in." And as the fullness of Gentiles comes to faith so too the Jews will eventually convert in full or in vast-majority, contrasted from Paul's present day's very small minority. The example of dough and roots is only an analogy, not a principle.

https://www.studylight.org/commentary/rom/11-16.html Commentaries easily explain this:

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(16) And we have the strongest reason for believing in this reconversion of the Jews. Their forefathers were the first recipients of the promise, and what they were it is only natural to hope that their descendants will be. When a piece of dough is taken from the lump to make a consecrated cake, the consecration of the part extends over the whole; and the character which is inherent in the root of a tree shows itself also in the branches. So we may believe that the latter end of Israel will be like its beginning. The consecration that was imparted to it in the founders of the race we may expect to see resumed by their descendants, even though it is for a time interrupted.

The firstfruit . . . the lump.—The allusion here is to the custom, described in Numbers 15:19-21, of dedicating a portion of the dough to God. The portion thus taken was to be a “heave-offering”—i.e., it was to be “waved,” or “heaved,” before the Lord, and was then given to the priest.


The Bible Study New Testament (Ice, Rhoderick D)

If the first piece of bread. The symbolism is taken from Numbers 15:17-21. A portion of the grain-harvest was baked into two loaves (Leviticus 23:17) which were presented to God as a sacrifice. This "first-portion" or first piece made the whole loaf holy, including the produce of the entire land. Two thoughts are presented by this symbolism. (1) MacKnight says: "By this similitude [symbolism] the apostle teaches, that as the first converts from among the Jews were most acceptable to God, and became members of his newly-erected visible church, Song of Solomon, when the whole mass or body of the nation is converted, they, in like manner, will be most acceptable to God, and will become members of his visible church. Other holiness is not competent to a whole nation." (2) The "first piece of bread" is Abraham himself, and the whole loaf is "God's Chosen People." This seems to best fit in with Paul's line of reasoning here. See also Galatians 3:17-18; Galatians 3:29. Romans 11:16 is also further proof of Paul's claim in Romans 11:1-2. National Israel and God's Chosen People are not identically the same; and in rejecting most of National Israel, God has not rejected his Chosen People. If the roots. The root is Abraham, and the branches are God's Chosen People. The symbolism is taken from Jeremiah 11:16-17.

This site is temporarily in read-only mode and not accepting new answers.