Sunday, February 18, 2007
Pauline Myths: Judaisms and Judaizers
In the course of Pauline studies there are two terms that float around with great frequency, and yet they are little more than semantic myths, words with near technical meaning and near universal assent, but they do not match up to the reality which the word puportedly represents. What are these words?
1. Judaisms. It is often touted that second-temple was so diverse that it is more accurate to speak of Judaisms rather than a singular Judaism. What's the problem here? Well, that there was diversity in second-temple Judaism is a no-brainer, one only has to compare Philo and the Dead Sea Scrolls to figure that one out. Nonetheless, despite the penchant for diversity in second-temple Judaism, authors of this period (like Paul) who were fully aware of the diversity of belief and practice among their co-religionionists always refer to Judaism (Ioudaismos) in the singular! See e.g. 2 Macc. 2.21; 8.1; 14.38; 4 Macc. 4.26; Gal. 1.13-14 (and at least one inscripton from CIJ which I cannot track down).
2. Judaizers. It is common to refer to Paul's opponents as Judaizers and where this term designates Paul's Jewish Christians opponents it is a misleading designation. Why? Well, to begin with only Gentiles can Judaize. One who judaizes is a Gentile and it means to take on, in whole or in part, Jewish customs. In Galatians 2, Paul reprimands Peter (not for judaizing himself) but for forcing Gentiles to judaize. Similarly, Josephus (Wars 2.463) points out that the Syrians in Antioch sought to attack the Jewish populace but had to be wary of the judaizers and this clearly refers to Gentile adherents/sympathizers to Judaism. Where this term designates Gentiles who follow or propagate a Jewish lifestyle (and it could arguably be used to describe certain Gentiles in Romans) it is indeed appropriate - but not for Paul's Jewish Christian adversaies in Antioch and arguably Galatia. I got this insight while reading Mark Nanos' The Irony of Galatians and wish I had applied it in my recent Paul book where I did use the term judaizers. Oh well, all the more reason for a second edition one day - Lord and Paternoster willing.