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In the doxology of Romans, Paul writes:

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27 ESV)

The gospel is here spoken of as a mystery, which has been "kept secret for long ages, but has now been disclosed." This statement seems to imply that it was previously hidden, and only now made known through Christ.

At the same time, however, overlapping is the statement that this mystery "through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations," which seems to imply that the mystery was already revealed back at the time of the prophets.

Even setting aside commitments to scriptural authority and biblical inerrancy, the mere fact that Paul adjoined these two statements gives one reason to think that this apparent contradiction is both intentional and non-contradictory. How does one reconcile these two statements?

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The mere fact that Paul adjoined these two statements gives one reason to think that this apparent contradiction is both intentional and non-contradictory. How does one reconcile these two statements?

The straightforward reading of the text makes sense if the "now" in "has been disclosed" is applied to both clauses. I.e., read it as if it were

according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has now been made known to all nations

If he meant that it had been made known through the prophets when they had written, he would have changed the aspect of the verb and the translation should read, with a pluperfect sense, that it had been made known to all nations. By saying it has been made known, he is tying it to the current context, not to a previous time.

Thus, re:

the statement that this mystery "through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations," [...] seems to imply that the mystery was already revealed back at the time of the prophets.

It is not so much that the prophets revealed the mystery, but that the people preaching the gospel are using the prophetic writings to make known or explain the mystery of what has just happened in and following the life of Christ.

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  • 2
    If something is simply hidden, it is not a mystery. It becomes a mystery when the fact that something is hidden is made known. It is revealed when they know what is hidden. So we should be able to look back at the OT now and see Christ hidden in it. That is the premise of sensus plenior. The prophets spoke of Christ when they themselves didn't know they were doing it. Eph 3:9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: – Bob Jones May 14 '12 at 13:21
  • Also read Isaiah 29:9-12 in YLT. – Jack Oct 2 '18 at 17:29
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This is a bookend to the the beginning of Romans:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ...—Romans 1:1-6 ESV)

So Paul tethers his teaching to the Jewish prophets, which is significant given his own mission to extend the church to Gentiles. It's important to Paul that his readers know the church's origin in the Hebrew Scriptures and religion. At the same time, Paul must explain to the Romans why the messiah was not recognized by the majority of Jews if the prophesies are truly fulfilled in Jesus.

Paul seems to be following Jesus' use of Isaiah 6:9-10:

And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that

“they may indeed see but not perceive,
    and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.”

And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?—Mark 4:10-13 (ESV)

Paul's exposition of this idea is quite detailed and is woven throughout Romans, but especially in chapters 9-11. Paul quotes related passages, Isaiah 29:10 and Deuteronomy 29:4, to make the point that God did not allow everyone to understand the prophets:

What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written,

“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
    eyes that would not see
    and ears that would not hear,
down to this very day.”

—Romans 11:7-8 (ESV)

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The Idea in Brief

The New Covenant is the Gospel promised by the Prophets of the Hebrew Bible. What is different in the current age is that this New Covenant fuses (or baptizes) converts into the mystical Body of the Christ. That is, the blood of Jesus Christ is the New Covenant (Luke 22:20). In this respect, the New Covenant promised in the Hebrew Bible is not an extension of the Old Covenant but of both the Davidic Covenant and the Abrahamic Covenant, by which the "nations of the world were to be blessed through the seed of Abraham" (Gen 18:18; Gen 22:18; and Gen 26:4). So the twist is that in the current age, the New Covenant is available to everyone, Jew and Gentile.

Discussion

Background

The New Covenant mentioned in the Prophets of the Hebrew Bible was about the placement and writing of the Laws of the Lord on the mind and heart, respectively (Jer 31:33); the indwelling presence of the Spirit of the Lord (Ez 11:19-21 and Joel 2:28-29) whose power will enable continued and faithful obedience (Ez 36:25-27); the re-gathering of all Israelites into the Promised Land (Jer 16:15 and Ez 34:13-16), which will include resurrection from the dead (Ez 37:12); the forgiveness of sins (Jer 31:34); and the universal knowledge of the Lord throughout the earth (Hab 2:14; Is 11:9; Jer 31:34). Finally, the removal of the curse from the ground appears to be another aspect of the New Covenant (Hosea 2:18, Is 11:6-9 and Ez 34:23).

The Apostle Paul indicates in Ephesians 2:11-22 that Gentiles have access to this New Covenant through the blood of Christ.

Ephesians 2:12-13 (NASB)
12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

The "blood of Christ" is the New Covenant (Luke 22:20), so we know that Paul is talking about the New Covenant, for which the Gentiles are no longer excluded. That is, at the beginning, the faithful Jewish remnant at Pentecost, comprised of the disciples of Jesus, had received the New Covenant from heaven. (The day of Pentecost was the same day that the nation of Israel at Sinai had received the Old Covenant from heaven through Moses.) Subsequent to Pentecost, the New Covenant was then extended to non-Jews through fusion (baptism) into the mystical Body of Christ -- Cornelius and his household were the first in this regard (Acts 9-11). So non-Jews participate in the Jewish promises through union or "grafting" (Romans 11:17-24) into the mystical Body of Christ.

Some graphs will help to explain, which are only conceptual for the purposes of illustration. First, this graph (please click here) portrays the arrangement of the Old Covenant in the Hebrew Bible. (Please note that there is ALWAYS a faithful remnant of believers somewhere; for example, please see 1 Kings 19:18.) According to the Christian New Testament, when the nation of Israel had rejected its king (Jesus called the Christ), the faithful Jewish remnant remained and became the Jewish cadre to receive the New Covenant at Pentecost. Please click here.

The Relationship between Jews and Gentiles in the New Covenant

Please click here, and please note how the promise in the Book of Genesis regarding the Seed of Abraham (and also David) was to bless the world. At the current time, the appearance of Gentiles into the New Covenant occurs through Jesus Christ, whose blood as already noted is the New Covenant (Luke 22:20). Thus Jews and Gentiles become one as the following verse indicates -

Colossians 3:10-11 (NASB)
10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

In this respect, the definition of Jew in the Christian New Testament is not "one who is circumcised with hands" but one whose "circumcision is of the heart" (Col 2:11). For such a person the "Promised Land" is centered in the citizenship of heaven (Phil 3:20), the place of the "Jerusalem above" (Gal 4:26), which is also called the "Zion above, the heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb 12:22).

One may ask why the Hebrew Bible points to the exclusive promise of the New Covenant for Israelites (that is, the biological descendants of Abraham and proselytes, who are ethnic Jews). Even the New Testament reiterates this exclusivity of the New Covenant with "the House of Israel and the House of Judah" (Hebrews 8:8). The answer is that the narrative of the Christian New Testament indicates that the Gentiles were "grafted" as wild olive branches into the root, who is Jesus Christ (Rom 11:11-24). This "grafting" was the so-called mystery revealed to the Apostle Paul.

In several passages of the Christian New Testament the Apostle Paul speaks about the mystery, concerning which he had received direct and special revelation from heaven. The verses here indicate that this mystery was not revealed in the Hebrew Bible; that is, the New Covenant would unite Jews and Gentiles into "one" body, and therefore establish peace between Gentiles and Jews through mystical union into the Body of Christ (Eph 2:13-16).

Paul also indicated that the inclusion of Gentiles into the Body of Christ would continue until the "fullness of the Gentiles" was complete.

Romans 11:25-27 (NASB)
25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,

 “The Deliverer will come from Zion,   
  He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.”   
  27 “This is My covenant with them,   
  When I take away their sins.”

Based on my own limited understanding of the Hebrew Bible (both language and narrative), the graph depiction here portrays the general eschatological outlook from the perspective of the Hebrew Bible, which the Apostle Peter had assumed at the time of Pentecost. That is, the Apostle Peter had expected the imminent Day of the Lord (Acts 2:17-20), when the Messiah would come and save ("Hosanna" = save us) the people of Israel from Gentile world power. (According to Acts 1:6, there was imminent expectation of the establishment of the visible theocratic kingdom on earth.) Not surprisingly, in the same chapter of Acts, the Jewish believers at that time and at that place divested themselves of all their worldly possessions (Acts 2:43-47). The appearance of Gentiles into Christianity then came by complete surprise (Acts 9-11), for which Jewish believers were caught unawares (Acts 11:1-3).

In Galatians 2:1-2, the Apostle Paul appears to have disclosed this mystery to the Jewish believers in Jerusalem sometime after Paul's first missionary journey. After the Apostle Paul disclosed the mystery, the graph depiction here portrays the eschatological expectation understood in light of the mystery -- that is, in concert with the Book of Revelation, the mystery appears to be an "intercalation" of time splitting the "70 Weeks" of Daniel. In this regard, the Day of the Lord does not appear to have occurred during the First Century, since Gentile Christians (non-Jews) living in Thessalonica (mainland Greece) were worried the Day of the Lord had begun (2 Thess 2:2). In other words, the Day of the Lord is a time when the not only Israel will be affected, but also the entire world (to include places like mainland Greece), and such is the general genre of the Book of Revelation.

In summary, the New Covenant is in partial fulfillment at the current time and includes Gentiles, but only through direct fusion, or union into the mystical Body of Christ. After an unknown point of time, the "wild olive branch" will be broken off (Rom 11:22) because the "Fullness of the Times of the Gentiles" will be completed, and the original olive branch will continue and proclaim the New Covenant during the Day of the Lord (i.e., the last "week" of Daniel's 70 weeks).

What is the Eschatological Outlook for Jews and Israel?

The Apostle Paul is very clear about his reaffirmation of Israel, which had received the gifts and promises of the Lord in the Hebrew Bible.

Romans 11:25-28 (NASB)
25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery —so that you will not be wise in your own estimation— that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,

  “The Deliverer will come from Zion,   
  He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.”   
  27 “This is My covenant with them,   
  When I take away their sins.”

28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (emphasis added)

The Book of Acts in addition to various other New Testament epistles (to include many written by Paul) indicate that many Jews in the First Century rejected Jesus as the Christ. However, this "hardening of heart" was "partial" because some Jews (such as Paul) became converts to Christianity so not all Jews rejected Jesus as the Christ -- these Jews appear in Galatians 6:16 to be the "Israel of God" (Faithful Israeli Remnant during the mystery era). Notwithstanding that many Jews oppose Christianity (in the sense of rejecting Jesus as their Messiah), this opposition never can nullify the gifts and promises made to Israel through the lens and perspective of the Christian New Testament. Thus the mystery is only temporary until such time as the "Fullness of the Gentiles" occurs, and Israel continues the eschatological trajectory (Day of the Lord) as was understood by Peter when the New Covenant began.

Conclusion

In summary, the New Covenant forged with Israel will receive its complete fulfillemnt in the future. This fulfillment will include the placement and writing of the Laws of the Lord on the mind and heart, respectively (Jer 31:33); the indwelling presence of the Spirit of the Lord (Ez 11:19-21 and Joel 2:28-29) whose power will enable continued and faithful obedience (Ez 36:25-27); the re-gathering of all Israelites into the Promised Land (Jer 16:15 and Ez 34:13-16), which will include resurrection from the dead (Ez 37:12); the forgiveness of sins (Jer 31:34); and the universal knowledge of the Lord throughout the earth (Hab 2:14; Is 11:9; Jer 31:34). Finally, the removal of the curse from the ground appears to be another aspect of the New Covenant (Hosea 2:18, Is 11:6-9 and Ez 34:23).

The current time however in the current era is only an intercalation of time, in which Gentiles and Jews have joint access to partial fulfillment of the New Covenant through direct fusion, or union, with the mystical Body of Christ. This union was not revealed in the Hebrew Bible, and therefore appears as the mystery within the Christian New Testament.

For the conclusion of this discussion of the New Covenant, please see this post.

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  • Your post rises and falls on whether or not the new covenant now includes gentiles. It doesn't. Jeremiah 31 is extremely clear about that as is "To the Hebrews". Once a covenant is ratified (as it was in Jesus' death) it can't be modified. It was to deal with the transgressions of the Jews against the Torah: biblegateway.com/passage/… – Ruminator Oct 4 '18 at 15:43
  • Along with other things related only to Israel, specifically related to the last days of the temple-centric age. – Ruminator Oct 4 '18 at 15:50
  • @Ruminator - Paul mentions the New Covenant to the Corinthians in First Corinthians Chapter 3. Would you say that that the Corinthian Christians (who ate meat sacrificed to idols) were Jews? – Joseph Oct 4 '18 at 22:08
  • First of all, it takes a LOT of weight to upend something explicitly written "in blood" with something that one infers from something implicit. But second of all, yes, I do infer that the Paul was addressing the Jews of Corinth, both because of his subject matter (the Seder). – Ruminator Oct 4 '18 at 23:35
  • And because in the same breath he says: 1Co 5:1 "It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife." and later 1Co 10:20 "But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils." – Ruminator Oct 4 '18 at 23:35
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The word μυστήριον means "secret," not "mystery." Paul's gospel, that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15.1-4) was unknown until Paul received it from the risen Christ (Galatians 1.11-12). Peter did not know this gospel nor did any of the Twelve. They had absolutely no understanding of the significance of Christ's death on the cross and His resurrection as it pertained to sin. Peter proclaimed to the Jews that Jesus had risen from the dead and because of this, if they repented, He would return and establish His kingdom. See Acts 2.36-38, 3.13-20.

He did not tell them Christ died for their sins and arose and if they believed this they would be saved. He did not tell them this because he did not know it. Peter and the Twelve proclaimed "the gospel of the kingdom." In this gospel, the focus of faith was upon the identity of Christ, who He was, the Messiah, the Son of God. The focus of faith in Paul's gospel is on the work of Christ, He died for our sins and rose from the dead. With regard to Romans 16.25-27, we have a parallel verse which makes the fact that Paul's gospel was a secret in Ephesians 6.19:

And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the secret of the gospel.

The "secret of the gospel" is a genitive of apposition, "the secret, which is the gospel," or "the secret, namely, the gospel." Paul proclaimed a different gospel from Peter and the Twelve which was the reason the Council of Jerusalem convened. At that Council, Paul had to explain (ἀνατίθημι, cf. Acts 25.14) his gospel to them. The reason he had to explain it was because they did not know it. However, at the end of the meeting, only Paul's gospel remained. Peter declared that from then on Jews had to be saved like Paul's Gentiles (Acts 15.11).

See https://doctrine.org/pauls-mystery and https://doctrine.org/the-great-hinge for additional insight.

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  • Hi Don and welcome to the site. Can you please use the "edit" button and the toolbar that will appear when you do to provide some formatting for your answer? Some have a hard time reading an unformatted post as our eyes glaze over from one huge paragraph. – Ruminator Oct 5 '18 at 17:31
  • Hello Don. Please try to use some references such as a respected lexicon for word meanings, especially contentious one. Most lexicons will not agree with your assertions about the meaning of the word "musterion". – user25930 Nov 5 '18 at 8:19
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Personal note: The single most lifesaving insight I've ever learned other than my initial conversion is the distinction between the prophets and the revelation of the mysteries of the faith thru Paul. Confusion between the prophets and the mystery had "beaten me up" to the point of complete exasperation with the faith and it was the understanding of the mysteries revealed by Paul that gave me a new lease on Life.

Moses told the Israelites that God kept secrets from them but that the things he revealed were for them throughout their generations:

KJV Deut 29:29 The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.

So what Moses was saying is that what had been revealed to them in the law and the prophets were "searchable". That is, they were not beyond their ability to find out because they were there in the law and the prophets:

KJV John 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

Paul says that some of the riches of Messiah, however, are so deep in the earth or so high in the heavens that they cannot be reached by human understanding and must be revealed by his spirit:

KJV Romans 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

KJV Eph 3:8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;

KJV 1Co 2:10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, [even] the deep things of God.

It was prophesied that Jesus would utter secret things, which he did, in parables:

KJV Matthew 13:35 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world [κόσμος = Israel].

However, the Jewish leadership was blinded, as the prophets said:

KJV John 12:40 He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

And the disciples, to whom it was given to know the mysteries could not bear them yet:

KJV John 16:

12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. 13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. 15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

The "guiding into all truth" is recorded in the first half of Acts. However, in the second half of Acts is described how Paul was given a dispensation of the secret, specifically to the gentiles:

KJV 1Co 9:17 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.

KJV Eph 1:10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

KJV Eph 3:2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:

KJV Col 1:25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil ["fill out"] the word ["message"] of God;

So Jesus uttered the parable of the sower and the seed and revealed that some would receive him as messiah but others would be hardened. However, there were deeper mysteries NOT revealed that were only later revealed through Paul. To see what they are one can do a search for the word "mystery" in the KJV in your favorite tool and you'll get something like this.

For example, Paul repeats the secret of the partial hardening of the Jews and the election but through him is revealed that the partial hardening was in order to make a way for the gentiles to come in:

KJV Rom 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery (IE: secret), lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

That last part is entirely undisclosed in the law or the prophets.

Also undisclosed are "the new man" ("the body of Christ"), and faith without works, etc.

So to Paul were revealed several key mysteries and to Paul was given the role of dispensing these secrets to the gentiles in a "hidden wisdom" that "none of the rulers knew".

I haven't read this article but it appears to give an overview of the "secret" of the faith:

https://www.blueletterbible.org/study/larkin/dt/27.cfm

In 1 Timothy 3:9 Paul wrote that to qualify as a deacon one must "hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience":

KJV 1 Timothy 3:9 They must hold the mystery [IE: "secret"] of the faith with a clear conscience.

This suggests that it is considered by Paul to be fundamental information that every believer should be well knowledgeable of. I have found it to be of first importance in my own life. The subject, once it is discovered is an endless fountain of insight into the scriptures.

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See https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3466&t=KJV. All scholarly lexicons recognize μυστήριον means a secret, something hidden, something unrevealed. One may think this “contentious” due to its implications but μυστήριον always means a secret in the NT. This is a fact. And this is true not only in Paul but when Jesus used the word in Matthew 13 for the “secrets” of the kingdom. Jesus spoke in parables to hide the truths of the kingdom from those rejecting Him. He explained the parables, i.e., revealed their secret interpretation to His disciples.

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