Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Kinsman-Redeemer Revisited

Saint Paul Writing His Epistles (1620)
Speculating on the Kinsman-Redeemer in Romans 11:26?
(Image from Wikipedia)

In the context of some research that I pursued about a year ago on William Langland's Medieval poem Piers Plowman, I inquired as to whether or not the concept of the kinsman-redeemer exists in the New Testament. At the time of my research, I couldn't verify this, but I've recently discovered the possibility that it does.

To remind readers of what "kinsman-redeemer" refers to, let me borrow from an earlier blog entry (August 23, 2005) and quote from it my "Excursus: The Biblical Tradition of the Kinsman-Redeemer":


In the Old Testament scriptures, from which Langland quotes liberally, we find the concept of the kinsman with the duty to redeem (Hebrew: ga'al) and therefore called a kinsman-redeemer (Hebrew: go'el). In Israelite custom, a kinsman-redeemer was a prominent male relative with responsibility for an extended family:

The Hebrew term designates a male relative who delivers or rescues (Gen 48:16; Exod 6:6); redeems property (Lev 27:9-25) or person (Lev 25:47-55); avenges the murder of a relative as a guiltless executioner (Num 35:9-34); and receives restitution for wrong done to a relative who has since died (Num 5:8). The unique emphasis of the redemption/salvation/vindication associated with the kinsman-redeemer is the fact that this action is carried out by a kinsman on behalf of a near relative in need. (Bramer 1996)

Leviticus 25:47-48 sets out the law for a kinsman-redeemer to follow in redeeming an enslaved kinsman:

Now, if an alien or temporary resident among you becomes rich and one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells himself to the alien residing among you or to a member of the alien's clan, redemption (g'ullah) remains (possible) for him after he has sold himself. One of his kinsmen may redeem (g'ale) him. (translation mine, Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. Edited by Rudolf Kittel, Wilhelm Rudolph, and Hans Peter Ruger. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1984)
The concept of the kinsman-redeemer also has a theological aspect, for God is often portrayed as Israel's go'el, (e.g., BHS: Job 19:25; Ps. 19:15; 103:4; Jer. 31:11) a father who will redeem them (ga'al) from the consequences of their sin (Bramer 1996; Hubbard 1991).


So much for my excursus. Since then -- actually just three days ago -- I have discovered that in Romans 11:26, Paul loosely quotes part of Isaiah 59:20, which in its original Hebrew has the word go'el. First, let's quote Paul, highlighting the crucial term in English (Deliverer) and Greek (hruomenos):
Romans 11:26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: (KJV)

Romans 11:26 και ουτως πας ισραηλ σωθησεται καθως γεγραπται ηξει εκ σιων ο ρυομενος (hruomenos) αποστρεψει ασεβειας απο ιακωβ (Wescott-Hort New Testament, 1881)
Now, let's look at Isaiah 59:20, again highlighting the term not only in English (Redeemer) and Greek (hruomenos) but also in Hebrew (go'el):
Isaiah 59:20 And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD. (KJV)

Isaiah 59:20 και ηξει ενεκεν σιων ο ρυομενος (hruomenos) και αποστρεψει ασεβειας απο Ιακωβ (LXX)

Isaiah 59:20 (MT: highlighted word go'el):

ובא לציון גואל ולשבי פשע ביעקב נאם יהוה׃
Clearly, the terminology for the kinsman-redeemer occurs here in Paul. Less clear is whether or not Paul is drawing upon the concept itself. Paul doesn't take the trouble to explicate the term hruomenos for us. Romans 11:26 in its context says this:
Romans 11:18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. 19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. 20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: 21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. 22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. 23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? 25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, 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. 26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer (hruomenos = go'el) and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their
sins. (KJV)
In this passage, Paul is cautioning the Gentile Christians not to arrogantly consider themselves superior to Jews who have not accepted Jesus as the Messiah, for even if these Gentile Christians have been grafted onto Israel to replace the natural, Jewish non-Christians who have been broken off, God has the power to graft the Jewish non-Christians back onto Israel -- and indeed will do so when the Deliverer (hruomenos = go'el) comes.

Without going into the arguments on this point, let me simply note that most commentators agree that the Deliverer here in Paul's use of Isaiah 59:20 refers to Christ. James Dunn takes the term hruomenos to refer to Christ in his parousia, the second coming. He acknowledges that in its Isaiah context, hruomenos would have been understood to refer to Yahweh, though Dunn notes in passing that the rabbinic reference in the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 98a (H. Strack and P. Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch [Four Volumes, 1926-1928], 4.981) applies the term go'el (= hruomenos) to the Messiah (James D. G. Dunn, Romans 9-16, Word Biblical Commentary, 1988, Volume 38, page 682).

Such being the case, and given Paul's emphasis upon the Jews as belonging naturally to Israel (as descendents of Jacob-Israel), then might Paul be subtly drawing upon the concept of the kinsman-redeemer, specifically, that Christ -- being a Jew -- will act as a kinsman-redeemer to redeem the Jews?

Maybe, maybe not. If any biblical scholars happening to read this post have some ideas, please post them in the comments section.


At 3:20 AM, Blogger Anders Branderud said...

Regarding "grafted in":

I want to comment on that.
A logical analysis (found in ( is the website of the only legitimate Netzarim-group)) (including the logical implications of the research by Ben-Gurion Univ. Prof. of Linguistics Elisha Qimron of Dead Sea Scroll 4Q MMT) of all extant source documents of “the gospel of Matthew” and archeology proves that the historical Ribi Yehosuha ha-Mashiakh (the Messiah) from Nazareth and his talmidim (apprentice-students), called the Netzarim, taught and lived Torah all of their lives; and that Netzarim and Christianity were always antithetical.

The origins of the “Noakhide laws” are the Netzarim Jews. It was the beit din ha-Netzarim that decided about these. But those mitzwot (directives or military-style orders) were only a starting point not the end. The end point was non-selectively Torah-observance. Read more in the “Benei Noakh”-section in the “History Museum” in the above Netzarim-website.

Thos whom believed that Ribi Yehoshua was the Mashiakh, and whom wanted to be grafted in to Israel was in the first century required to first practise some of the basic mitzwot (outlined in the above section I referred to), then come before the beit din ha-Netzarim and obligate themselves to do their utmost to learn and to keep all of the mitzwot for geirim (see “Glossaries” in the website I referred to) non-selectively; and the beit din ha-Netzarim would grant the title geir toshav. This was and still is the Halakhah established by the beit-din ha-Netzarim.

Anders Branderud

At 8:39 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Mr. Branderud, for the comment. It doesn't answer my central question, but I'm content to have your point of view expressed here on the issue of "grafted in."

Jeffery Hodges

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