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Paul within Judaism

Paul within Judaism: Restoring the First-Century Context to the Apostle

Mark D. Nanos
Magnus Zetterholm
Copyright Date: 2015
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  • Book Info
    Paul within Judaism
    Book Description:

    In these chapters, a group of renowned international scholars seek to describe Paul and his work from “within Judaism,” rather than on the assumption, still current after thirty years of the “New Perspective,” that in practice Paul left behind aspects of Jewish living after his discovery of Jesus as Christ (Messiah). After an introduction that surveys recent study of Paul and highlights the centrality of questions about Paul’s Judaism, chapters explore the implications of reading Paul’s instructions as aimed at Christ-following non-Jews, teaching them how to live in ways consistent with Judaism while remaining non-Jews. The contributors take different methodological points of departure: historical, ideological-critical, gender-critical, and empire-critical, and examine issues of terminology and of interfaith relations. Surprising common ground among the contributors presents a coherent alternative to the “New Perspective.” The volume concludes with a critical evaluation of the Paul within Judaism perspective by Terence L. Donaldson, a well-known voice representative of the best insights of the New Perspective.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-9428-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-30)
    Mark D. Nanos

    A new perspective in Pauline scholarship is represented in this volume. This perspective is readily distinguishable from other interpretations of the apostle, including the collection of views now formally recognized as “the(!) New Perspective on Paul” and, all the more, the views mounted in opposition to it because of the New Perspective’s challenge to major tenets of traditional Christian interpretation. In these chapters, an international group of scholars takes up major questions that arise from this alternative approach, for which the phrase the “Paul within Judaism” perspective seems most appropriate. While these scholars stand at the forefront of this...

  5. 1 Paul within Judaism: The State of the Questions
    (pp. 31-52)
    Magnus Zetterholm

    I may not be inclined to agree with the late Christopher Hitchens that religion poisonseverything,¹ but in the case of Pauline studies it could, however, easily be argued that this research discipline has indeed been negatively affected by Christian normative theology.

    The study of the New Testament in general is, and has always been, a predominantly Christian affair.Christiansstudy the New Testament, often within theological departments of seminaries and universities. Indeed, many scholarly commentary series are forChristians: The New International Greek Testament Commentary specifically states in the foreword that “the supreme aim of this series is to...

  6. 2 The Question of Terminology: The Architecture of Contemporary Discussions on Paul
    (pp. 53-78)
    Anders Runesson

    Over the last decade or so, more and more scholars of the New Testament have pointed to the need to re-think the terminology we use in our analyses as well as in our teaching. Several terms have been asked to retire, as Paula Fredriksen has phrased it,¹ and leave room for new words and expressions that may help us to better grasp what was going on in the first-century Mediterranean world, a time and culture very distant from our own. The terminological question is a key problem for historical studies generally, but it receives an additional level of urgency as...

  7. 3 The Question of Assumptions: Torah Observance in the First Century
    (pp. 79-104)
    Karin Hedner Zetterholm

    Much of the debate about whether Paul was a representative of first-century Judaism has centered on the question of his relationship to Jewish “law,” that is, Torah. Although a majority of proponents of the traditional view presume that following his “conversion” Paul no longer attributed an intrinsic value to Jewish identity and no longer considered Torah to be binding, adherents of the Paul within Judaism perspective generally maintain that Paul remained a Torah observant Jew throughout his life.¹ Both these positions run the risk of assuming that Torah observance is a rather static and unproblematic phenomenon, and, moreover, that our...

  8. 4 The Question of Conceptualization: Qualifying Paul’s Position on Circumcision in Dialogue with Josephus’s Advisors to King Izates
    (pp. 105-152)
    Mark D. Nanos

    Jews practicing Judaism in the first century observed the rite of circumcision,¹ so it may seem natural enough to conclude that Paul’s arguments depreciating,² when not opposing, circumcision undermine the very idea that Paul should be interpreted as a representative of Judaism.³ But Paul’s position is much more nuanced than the readings on which the interpretive tradition’s conclusions depend; so too is the practice of the rite within Judaism. I will argue that when Paul’s statements on circumcision are qualified contextually and examined alongside similarly qualified statements made by other Jews, they reveal a Jew who opposed the circumcision of...

  9. 5 The Question of Identity: Gentiles as Gentiles—but also Not—in Pauline Communities
    (pp. 153-174)
    Caroline Johnson Hodge

    I have long puzzled over how to understand the gentiles in Paul, both from his perspective and their own perspective.¹ I operate under the assumption that he is writing primarily to them and his goal is to articulate and manage just how they are connected to Israel through Christ. In the process, as I have discussed elsewhere, both he and they undergo various transformations in identity, changes that, I maintain, never separate him from Judaism and that affiliate gentiles with Israel but not as full members.² They are not Jews and, in my view, they are not Christians; and they...

  10. 6 The Question of Worship: Gods, Pagans, and the Redemption of Israel
    (pp. 175-202)
    Paula Fredriksen

    Paul’s convictions about the impending dawn of God’s kingdom place him securely within the world of late Second Temple Jewish apocalyptic hope. But Paul’s biblical tradition was Greek, not Aramaic or Hebrew. His audience—unlike that of Jesus and of the earliest disciples—was pagan, not Jewish.¹ And he stretched his time-driven gospel over the spatial frame provided by antiquity’s map of the cosmos. Paul’s universe, in brief, was much larger—ethnically, geographically, celestially, theologically—and much more populated than was that of the earliest movement, and of Jesus himself. Jesus of Nazareth seems to have battled chiefly low, local,...

  11. 7 The Question of Politics: Paul as a Diaspora Jew under Roman Rule
    (pp. 203-244)
    Neil Elliott

    The measure of Paul’s Jewish identity remains a matter of considerable controversy in current scholarship.¹ As Pamela Eisenbaum observes, the question has provoked anxiety among some scholars, and not surprisingly, since the study of Paul “continues to be the arena of discourse where Christians (and recently some Jews) work out their religious identity.”² It is an indication of that anxiety that today, some thirty years since the announcement of a New Perspective on Paul,³ it remains profoundly difficult for many interpreters to escape the constraining categories of an older, “Christianizing” view of the apostle.⁴ This may surprise us, given the...

  12. 8 The Question(s) of Gender: Relocating Paul in Relation to Judaism
    (pp. 245-276)
    Kathy Ehrensperger

    Paul and gender are an uneasy pair.¹ When Paul’s Judaism is included in the combination it is considered often even more problematic. No doubt, Paul lived in a context of elite male domination at structural level, the level of perception, as well as in social practice. The views about women he explicitly formulates reflect to some extent this general perception, although his actual practice seems to indicate a different stance in that women are among those whom Paul explicitly considers to be playing a decisive and leading role in the work of the gospel. Concerning his role as a leading...

  13. 9 Paul within Judaism: A Critical Evaluation from a “New Perspective” Perspective
    (pp. 277-302)
    Terence L. Donaldson

    My assigned role in this project is to engage in a critical evaluation of the main chapters, as someone who is identified with the (now no longer quite so) New Perspective on Paul. I need to reserve most of the space that has been allotted to me for the task of critical engagement, rather than that of mapping the New Perspective or of promoting my own reading of Paul. Nevertheless, to provide a framework for my discussion of the preceding chapters, it seems appropriate to begin with a few comments about the New Perspective and my own approach.

    As a...

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 303-328)
  15. Index of Modern Authors
    (pp. 329-334)
  16. Index of Biblical and Ancient References
    (pp. 335-350)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 351-351)