Hodge: Most of the Early Reformers Did Not
Believe in a Future Mass Conversion of the Jews
Most so-called Reformed churches today teach that according to Romans 11 there will be a mass conversion of the Jews sometime in the future before the coming of Christ, but in the following quote Presbyterian minister Charles Hodge (1797-1878), in his commentary on Romans, says that “the great body of the authors who lived about the time of the Reformation” held the first of the two views he describes, and that view is “not predicting any remarkable future conversion of the Jewish nation.” Hodge, who did hold to the futurist interpretation, characterizes the non-futurist interpretation held by most of the Reformers as an overreaction to “the extravagancies of the Millenarians,” but there is no reason to believe this truly was the case.
Hodge also quotes Luther in German saying of the Jews “it is not possible to convert these children of Satan, like the many such illusions that are drawn from the Epistle to the Romans.” Most likely one of the “illusions” Luther referred to is the futurist interpretation about mass conversion of the Jews. Hodge, being the typical Reformed Jew-lover of the 1800’s, would not translate Luther’s condemnation of them into English, but this now has been translated for our readers, and it is in brackets below the German quote.
The following is from Hodge’s commentary:
Verse 25. “For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits, that blindness in part has happened unto Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”
“Although the interpretations given of this and the following verses are very numerous, they are all modifications of one or the other of the two following general views of the passage. 1. Many understand the apostle as not predicting any remarkable future conversion of the Jewish nation, but merely declaring that the hardening or blinding of the nation, was not such as to prevent many Jews entering the Christian church, as long as the Gentiles continued to come in. Thus all the true Israel, embracing Jews as well as Gentiles, should ultimately be saved. 2. The second general view supposes the apostle, on the contrary, to predict a great and general conversion of the Jewish people, which should take place when the fulness of the Gentiles had been brought in, and that then, and not till then, those prophecies should be fully accomplished which speak of the salvation of Israel.
The former of these views was presented, in different forms, by the great body of the authors who lived about the time of the Reformation; who were led by the extravagancies of the Millenarians, who built much on this passage, to explain away its prophetic character almost entirely.
Olshausen, in order to show the hostile feeling entertained by the Reformers towards the Jews, quotes a passage from Luther, which does not admit of translation: “Ein judisch Herz ist so stoch-stein-eisen-teufelhart, das mit keiner Weise zu bewegen ist; — es sind junge Teufel zur Holle verdammt, diese Teufelskinder zu bekehren ist unmoglich, wie etliche solchen Wahn schopfen aus der Epistel an die Romer.” [English translation: A Jewish heart is so stock-rock-iron-devilishly hard that it cannot be swayed by any means — they are little devils damned to hell. It is not possible to convert these children of Satan, like the many such illusions that are drawn from the Epistle to the Romans.]
— Charles Hodge, Commentary on Romans (1873), pages 584-585