Monday, January 22, 2007

Paul the Jew

Myself and Preston Sprinkle (blogger name Exegetical Fallacy) are currently working on an article on "Jewish Interpretation of Paul in the Last 30 years" which has been good to do. I've been reading over Hyam Maccoby and Mark Nanos. But in the course of my research I've come across a few provocative articles that are available on-line. I mention two:

The first is by Helmut Koester on Strugnell and Supersessionism: Historic Mistakes Haunt the Relationship of Christianity and Judaism (BAR) and includes this quote:
"Almost 30 years ago, a conference about Judaism and Christianity was held at Harvard University, with very high-powered participation from theologians and scholars from the USA and from abroad. But one of the key addresses was a complete disaster and caused great embarrassment. It was a lecture by the well-known German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg, who insisted that the Hebrew Bible (which he called the Old Testament) can be understood properly by both Jews and Christians only if it is acknowledged that its ultimate meaning is seen as a prophecy for the fulfillment in Jesus the Christ. I still remember that my hands froze when I wanted to join in the polite applause at the end of the lecture. On this basis, Christians can no longer claim that they are interested in a dialogue. Of course, from a perspective of traditional Christian theology, Wolfhart Pannenberg did nothing wrong. From that perspective it is also difficult to criticize those readers’ responses, which you printed, who wondered why there was anything wrong with agreeing with John Strugnell’s wish that all Jews should be converted to Christianity. However, there is neither a historical nor a theological justification for such claims."
The second is by Pamela Eisenbaum on Is Paul the Father of Misogyny and Antisemitism? (Crosscurrents) and on Gal. 3.28 she writes:

"Although I generally position myself with liberal commentators and am profoundly influenced by the new perspective in my reading of Paul, I am troubled by the inclusive reading of Gal. 3:28. At the turn of the twenty-first century, I imagine that most Americans would agree that the elimination of slavery and the obliteration of all master-slave distinctions between people is a social good, such that we feel no ambiguity about proclaiming "no longer slave or free" and meaning it literally. But how about "no longer male and female"? Do we feel the same unambiguous enthusiasm for collapsing those distinctions? Can such a claim function as part of the utopian vision for modern Americans, even those of liberal leanings? If by "no longer male and female" we mean equal political, social, and vocational opportunity for all women and men, then perhaps we might find it easy to subscribe to the dictum. But Paul does not use the language of equality; rather, he issues a call for erasing the distinguishing marks between people (if one accepts the liberal reading). Some liberal intellectuals, many who identify themselves as feminist, believe there are essential differences between men and women, differences which may or may not be complementary but which in any case cannot be transcended. In other words, erasing the distinction between women and men is neither attainable nor desirable."


exegetical fallacy said...

Interesting stuff. So does Koester think that true dialogue can only begin when Christian (superficially) renounce their Christological beliefs regarding the Hebrew Scriptures? Didn't the term 'Old Testament' begin with Paul (2 Cor 3)? I think a dialogue that is more rich and honest can only come when we acknowledge each others presups. Of course Christians (including Jesus and Paul) believe that Christ is the centre of the OT and that the OT is an OT. To assume anything else would not be 'Christian'; hence, it would not be Jewish Christian dialogue--it would just be dialogue!
ef (ps)

Anonymous said...

On Gal. 3:28, notice that the actual Greek shifts in a way that few translations catch: from neither/nor to "there is not male and female." I think Paul is deliberately referring to Gen. 1, "Male and Female Created He Them," and reminding his readers that gender inequalities are not part of the created order. Gal. 3:28 doesn't ban all distinctions--we don't lose our cultural, ethnic, or sex distinctives when baptized and "put on Christ." But that faith/baptism event does RELATIVIZE all such distinctions and keeps them from becoming sources of discriminating treatment, sources of pride, barriers between Christians, etc. My African-American friends don't want liberal whites who "don't see color." They WANT to be seen and valued as black! Thus, there are male/female distinctions that should be noticed and celebrated--but they do not translate into fixed roles of subordination, etc.