We are, we must remember, pursuing the genesis of Christian writings. What, then, for a start, lies behind such a passage as Rom. ix-xi, St. Paul's extended defense of the Christian Gospel in the face of its rejection by the bulk of Judaism? Here we are immediately reminded of a persistent argument against Christianity. If the Gospel is really God's word, how comes it, its antagonists were continually asking, that God's own Israel have rejected it? According to the traditions, Jesus himself met the problem of unresponsiveness by the recognition that, as a matter of fact, this always had been the pattern in Israel. Was not the prophet warned that his message would be rejected? (Isa. vi); was it not the expert builders who rejected the most vital stone? (Ps. cxviii); is there not a famous passage about a stone that would cause downfall in Israel? (Isa. viii). And equally, the scriptural conviction of God's ineluctable purpose affirmed their ultimate vindication: the vital corner-stone did, in the end, come into its true position; the stone for stumbling over turned out, after all, to be a sure foundation (Isa. xxviii); the stone hewn by no human hands eventually came to shatter the fragile empires of the godless (Dan. ii); the despised and the rejected human figure was vindicated (Dan. vii). And it was along these lines that debate developed in the apostolic age. Its results, pro and con, are expressed in almost lyrical terms, in I Cor. i.22-25:


from page 71, The Birth of the New Testament