Review of Jacqueline C. R. de Roo, “God’s Covenant with the Forefathers”

Jacqueline C. R. de Roo, “God’s Covenant with the Forefathers,” in The Concept of the Covenant in the Second Temple Period, edited by Stanley E. Porter and Jacqueline C. R. de Roo, 191-202.  Supplement to the Journal for the Study of Judaism 71.  Atlanta: SBL, 2003. [Israel/Covenant/Theology]

The main question examined in this paper is “In the minds of the Jews, what role did the obedience of the patriarchs play in God’s decision to grant mercy and bestow blessing upon his people with whom he had made a covenant?”  De Roo who is apparently an evangelical Protestant, denies that the Old Testament makes any connection between Abraham’s obedience and the covenant.  She shows how early Jewish literature does contain the concept of grace, though as she says, the link was not made in the Old Testament.  The “merits of the fathers” which is a strong thread in this literature, is a strange mixture of the concept of grace and of works.  The works of the patriarchs curried God’s favor and in the Jewish mind their “merits” were extended to chosen Israel.  The majority of the paper details various bodies of Jewish literature of the Second Temple Period to show that the Abrahamic blessing was “redefined” or “expanded,” or “extended,” from what it was originally in the Old Testament.  Many sources see the covenant as based on the patriarch’s obedience, particularly in the Akedah.  She deduces that, although the Jews understood that God’s grace played a central role in Jewish concept of salvation, that “good deeds” were a crucial element as well.  She concludes, “In Second Temple Judaism, there was an important relationship between good deeds, grace and the covenant.  Grace played a crucial role in merit theology, because God graciously the good deeds of some to be salvific for others due to their membership in the same covenant.” (p. 202)

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