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KJV Rom 1:16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

I am looking for a very specific, reasonable answer, not a general one, presumably one or more of the following:

  • an explicit assertion made by Paul
  • a reason why that is reasonable, purposeful, appropriate
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    It seems obvious. I mean, the gospel was preached to the Jews first (chronologically). The apostles were Jews. But I suspect I am missing something and that this doesn't fully answer your question... – Pascal's Wager Jun 7 '18 at 5:05
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    5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. – collen ndhlovu Jun 7 '18 at 5:52
  • David writes much about the Salvation of the LORD that belongs to Jewish heritage. The Greeks were new to the experience of His salvation. – enegue Jun 7 '18 at 6:54
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Since you've used the KJV, all the quotations and links in this answer also reference the KJV.

We can trace God's dealings with Israel back to Abraham in the famous passage Gen 12:1-3, where it is through Abraham that "all families of the earth be blessed".

After Solomon, just as Rehoboam was ascending the throne, the nation of Israel split into (1) the Northern kingdom, which consisted of the bulk of Solomon's kingdom and kept the name Israel, and (2) the Southern kingdom, which took on the name Judah even though it included people from other tribes. The term "Jews" refers to the people in the Southern kingdom, which survived as a sovereign nation longer than the Norther kingdom. (It can be argued that the term applied to all descendents of Abraham through Isaac who remained faithful to God. My point here is simply to point out the historical roots of the word "Jew".)

When Jesus conducted His earthly ministry, He identified His own ministry as to "the lost sheep of Israel" (Mt 15:22 onwards). When Jesus commissioned the disciples in Acts 1:8, the order specified was "in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth". In each case, it was to the Jew first.

Paul's view of the Jews was a people "to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises" (Rom 9:4).

So given the path through which the gospel came, it was appropriate for Paul to deliver the message "to the Jew first".

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  • Welcome to the forum, Lawrence. Thank you for your first posted answer. Just some tips--I think most people here are familiar with the history of the word, Jew, so I'd say that explanation isn't really necessary. Your supporting scriptures were chosen well, but I'm not sure why Paul's heritage enters in--are you saying that Paul's elevation of the Jewish people was due to his own heritage as a Jew? – Dieter Jun 8 '18 at 23:14
  • Hi Dieter, thanks for the tips and the welcome :) . Yes, that was part of the case I was trying to present. Rom 9 tells us Paul’s passion for his own people. It’s tied up with the historical spiritual heritage of the Jews, but Paul certainly included his own heritage in Rom 9 as part of his reason for his pattern of outreach. On your other point: I traced the development of those called “Jew” to establish the link with the Abrahamic covenant. I think that’s the root of the answer to the OP’s question of why the gospel was to go to the Jew first. – Lawrence Jun 9 '18 at 0:38
  • Lawrence, it doesn't make sense to me. If Paul's heritage was the motivation in his message "to the Jew first," why bring up the Abrahamic covenant at all? Paul's message would be, "to the Jew first because they're my ethnicity" rather than "to the Jew first because it's a fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant." If you want to explain this more clearly, you can edit your post. Best wishes, – Dieter Jun 9 '18 at 1:44
  • Thanks @Dieter. Paul mentioned it himself in Rom 9, and we can imagine that it would lend impetus to him reaching out to his own. But the covenantal reason is primary, so I’ve edited my answer to remove the distracting reference to Paul’s own Jewish heritage. – Lawrence Jun 9 '18 at 16:36
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    Looks good, Lawrence. – Dieter Jun 10 '18 at 5:09
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A big theme in Romans is the (mostly?) Gentile church being written to and their treatment/mindset concerning the Jewish people (whether non Christian or Christian) we have chapter 2 with a discourse between Jews and Gentiles, and then chapters 9-11 extending this theme. It seems Paul, on his way to Jerusalem with a gift from gentile Christians in Asia who are rightly concerned with the well-being of their Jewish brothers, wants to encourage the Gentiles in Rome to consider their Jewish brothers in how they conduct themselves, pray and generally live as a congregation. They should like Paul lament that the original people of God are perishing and losing the opportunity for salvation. The gentile Romans have been grafted in by Gods mercy (almost) due to the rebellion of the Jews, and should be humble in their position and desirous to see the originals restored. I think Mark 7 with the syrophoenician gentile lady's attitude is what Paul is getting it. She recognizes the gospel is for the Jew first then the Gentile.

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Paul honoured the Jewish Christians as being the originators of the movement, and the first to suffer persecution at the hands of fellow Jews (1 Thessalonians 2:14) but was adamant that their theology was deficient. He was content if they believed in Jesus and kept practising a form of Judaism, as long as they did not attempt to proselytise Gentiles. Paul’s letter to the Galatians informs us about the theological battle lines. At the Jerusalem conference which is recorded in Galatians an agreement was reached to divide the missionary territory between Jews and non-Jews. (2:9) For more on this see chapter 8 of my book, Jesus of the Books: A Pragmatic History of the Early Church. The first form of early Christianity was Jewish-Christianity, as a party called Nazarenes and also Ebionites, characterised by their adherence to Jewish laws, and faith in Jesus. Paul and Gentile Christianity came later.

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  • Can you provide any scholarly support for this answer? Wouldn't it be more accurate to say "the first Christians were Jews"? – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Jun 7 '18 at 15:21
  • See my edited answer above. – Paul George Jun 9 '18 at 11:44

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