In working on a related question I realized that there it was unclear to me who was the subject and who was the object in this verse:

Rom 11:15 KJV - 15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?

GNT Romans 11:15 εἰ γὰρ ἡ ἀποβολὴ αὐτῶν καταλλαγὴ κόσμου τίς ἡ πρόσλημψις εἰ μὴ ζωὴ ἐκ νεκρῶν

The words translated "the casting away of them" seem like they could be read in at least two ways:

"For if their refusal/loss serves to bring about the reconciling of the KOSMOS..."


"For if by their being rejected reconciliation came to the KOSMOS..."

The same ambiguity is seen in the second clause:

The words translated "the casting away of them" seem like they could be read in at least two ways:

"...what will it mean if they are later received other than life from the dead?"


"...what will it mean if they later receive other than life from the dead?"

Since these are noun forms "refusal" and "reception" we don't have the benefit of the inflection of the verbs.

Possibly related:

Psa 94:14 KJV - 14 For the LORD will not cast off his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance.

I've always read it as the Jews being "cast off" but perhaps the point is that the LORD would not cut off his people but they were quick to cast off God and his Messiah.

Alternatively, might he be speaking of the "loss" of these unholy branches. That is how the same word is used here:

Act 27:22 KJV - 22 And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss[G580] of any man's life among you, but of the ship.

Was Paul saying "Their loss is our gain"? IE: "If their loss serves to bring about the reconciliation of the world, won't their reception be as much of a boon as life from the dead (which it is in fact)"? IE: Two boons from one loss? The boon to the gentiles because the non-elect Jews and the repentant non-elect Jews (when the hardening is lifted) and they "turn to the Lord":

Luke 15:24 KJV - 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

2 Corinthians 3:14-16 NLT - 14 But the people's minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. 15 Yes, even today when they read Moses' writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand. 16 But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.


I'm adding the relevant section from a commentary. It examines the issue and takes a position. I'm posting it as part of the question to facilitate exposition, regardless of the position reached:

  1. if their rejection has meant. After vv 13–14, which were a sort of parenthetical remark, Paul turns now to repeat in different language what he said in v 12.

Some commentators (e.g., Black, Romans, 155; Cranfield, Romans, 562; Murray, Romans, 2. 81; Nygren, Romans, 397; Wilckens, Römer, 245) understand apobolē autōn, “their rejection,” as an objective gen., God’s (temporary) “rejection of them,” even comparing the gloss in Sir 10:20: “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of acceptance, but the beginning of rejection is obstinacy and arrogance.” But it is better taken as a subjective gen., i.e., the Jews’ rejection (of the gospel), in view of what Paul has exclaimed in 11:1, where he rejects the idea that God has rejected his own people. To introduce the idea of a temporary rejection of Israel by God is to read something into the text that is not there; it is nonetheless a very common interpretation of this phrase.

the reconciliation of the world. Although Paul does not explain this phrase here, he has already used a similar expression in 2 Cor 5:19, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself,” i.e., setting it at one with himself. See Introduction, section IX.B. The providential aspect of Israel’s “rejection” has been the extension of reconciliation with God to all other human beings, and even a cosmic extension of that effect to the whole universe. Such a reconciliation will have the effect of making the ethnic Israel jealous and thus of drawing it closer to God’s new mode of salvation.

what will their acceptance mean? I.e., their acceptance or welcoming of the gospel, as the counterpart of their “rejection” of it (v 15a). Many commentators, however, think that “acceptance” means “acceptance by God,” appealing to 14:3 and 15:7; so Black (Romans, 155), BAGD, 717.

Fitzmyer, J. A., S. J. (2008). Romans: a new translation with introduction and commentary (Vol. 33, pp. 612–613). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

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  • I double-posted this question on B-Greek (where Big Greeks are wont to hone their considerable Koine linguistic skills and make themselves available to newbes) and so far have received a response suggesting, as I had surmised, that the Koine is ambiguous: ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=4748 – Ruminator Mar 10 '19 at 15:21
  • In addition I received the suggestion that the context suggests that it is the refusal BY the Jews rather than the refusal OF the Jews, however, this is based on context rather than the Koine so it puts us all on the same footing. I actually still find the passage ambiguous, even given the context. – Ruminator Mar 10 '19 at 15:21
  • This is the same question about the eternal ambiguity in the genitive case - nominative or objective? Therefore, I think the question would be better posed as who is doing the rejecting and who is doing the losing? – user25930 Mar 10 '19 at 22:28
  • It is, but with more twists. I rephrased the question. Thanks. – Ruminator Mar 10 '19 at 23:21

I would translate (overly literally) Rom 11:15 as: "For if the casting-away of them reconciliation of the world, what the acceptance if not life from dead?"

This is quintessentially (overly) terse Paul. In more idiomatic English I would render this, "For if the casting-away of them [brings] reconciliation of the world, what [will mean] the[ir] acceptance if not life from the dead?"

Notice immediately that there is only one actual genitive here, "of them" (bolded above), but a second is strongly implied in "the acceptance" which could be arguably better rendered "their acceptance" - this is the second implied genitive. Now, since this second is implied, it will almost certainly be nominative or objective genitive as the first (actual) genitive is. But which is it? There is no grammatical reason to choose either here.

If we have a nominative genitive, then the above text might be rendered: "For if the Jews' rejection of Jesus brings reconciliation of the world, then their later acceptance of Jesus will be like a resurrection of the dead."

If we have an objective genitive, then the text could be rendered, "For if God rejected the Jews to reconcile the world, then when God later accepts the Jews, it will like a resurrection of the dead."

So, which is it? either is equally grammatically possible. Therefore, we must decide on this on the basis of other material. As witness I call the following references:

  • Matt 23:37 - Jesus wanted to save the Jews but (officially) they rejected Jesus and he wept over Jerusalem. Only a little while later, the Jewish authorities shouted, "We have no king but Caesar …" (John 19:15)
  • 1 Tim 2:4 - "[Jesus] wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."
  • 1 Tim 2:6, “[Jesus Christ] gave Himself as a ransom for all people.”
  • John 12:32, “I [Jesus] … will draw all people to myself.”
  • Acts 17:30, “God … commands all people everywhere to repent.”
  • Rom 11:11 - "have they [the Jews] stumbled so as to fall? By no means!"

Note that Rom 11:15 is almost an exact parallel to Rom 11:11, 12 where it is clear that it is the Jews who "stumble" and reject Jesus rather than Jesus rejecting the Jews. The above texts explain that Jesus rejects no one - only people reject Jesus.

Therefore, I believe that Rom 11:15 (and v11, 12) is simply saying that because the Jews rejected Jesus as Messiah, God then commissioned the Christian community to do what the Jews (at least officially as a nation) refused to do. However, the same people will some day accept Jesus as Messiah and it will be like a resurrection from the dead.

Paul makes one his characteristic elliptical points - The Jews rejection of Jesus was an opportunity for the Gentiles. (Not that this unavailable previously as some examples make clear like Ruth, Rahab, the Gittites, etc, but that is another discussion.) The rejection of the Jesus by the Jews made the commissioning of the Christian community more urgent.

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  • You may be right (I'm not sure yet) but I think that given the density of Romans 9-11 it doesn't seem compelling without showing how the verse fits into the immediate context (Romans 9-11). Yes, the Jewish leadership rejected the Jews but we also have Paul arguing that their rejection was by divine hardening: Rom 9:18-19 KJV - 18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. 19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? – Ruminator Mar 11 '19 at 11:36
  • You are obviously correct. But this needs to be seen in the light of the texts I also quoted - just as God hardened Pharaoh's heart, and sent an evil spirit to trouble Saul - God is sometimes said to cause that which He does not prevent. – user25930 Mar 11 '19 at 20:58

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