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“Paul the Jew”: New Book

November 29, 2016

I’m pleased to have my contributor’s copy of Paul the Jew:  Rereading the Apostle as a Figure of Second Temple Judaism,  ed. Gabriele Boccaccini & Carlos A. Segovia (Fortress Press, 2016, the publisher’s online catalogue entry here).  This volume presents edited versions of twelve papers given in an invitational conference held in Rome in 2014.  My paper included in the volume:  “Paul’s Messianic Christology,” which I summarized in a previous posting after that conference here.

The effort to take the Apostle Paul’s affirmations of his own Jewishness seriously has been decades long now, reaching back to such important earlier works as W. D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism (New York: Harper & Row, 1948); Johannes Munck, Paul and the Salvation of Mankind (German original:  Aarhus/Copenhagen: Universitetsforlaget/Ejnar Munksgaard, 1954; ET, Richmond: John Knox Press, 1959), and, of course (to cite a work now more familiar to younger scholars), E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977).  Also, among more recent German works (often overlooked by English-speaking scholars), I note Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr, Heidenapostel aus Israel: Die jüdische Identität des Paulus nach ihrer Darstellung in seinen Briefen (WUNT 62; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1992).

For various historical reasons, Paul has often been depicted as a radical “Hellenizer”, even a Platonist, and in some Jewish thought as a renegade and apostate.  In some historic Christian tradition, Paul is depicted as having renounced his Jewish identity and everything that went with it in a “conversion” on the Damascus Road.  But all of these claims founder on the evidence of Paul’s own statements in his letters that form part of the NT.

The remaining problem for interpreters is often how to respect Paul’s firm retention of his membership in his ancestral people (for example, reflected in his readiness to undergo repeated synagogue floggings, 2 Cor 11:24), while also taking account of the significant “mutation” in his beliefs and devotional practice attested in his letters.  In my essay, I propose that Paul’s Jesus-devotion should be seen as initially a distinctive and novel development in second-temple Jewish messianic traditions.

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