Thursday, February 26, 2009
Paul the Jewish Evangelist
I am currently working on an essay about "Paul's Judaism" (partly inspired by a Mark Nanos stirring paper). I hope to one day return to the subject of Paul as a missionary among the Gentiles and not just too them (see Rom. 1.5 and 1 Cor. 9.20). That I think opens up the possiblity of Paul seeing himself as having some kind of role as an evangelist to Diaspora communities as well even if only in a limited sense with his main role oriented towards non-Jews. But the subject of Jewish evangelism is often rejected in favour of a Sonderweg (special way) of salvation for Jews under the Torah and Mosaic covenant. It's also argued that Israel's "misstep" was its refusal to accept that, with the resurrection of Jesus, God had now opened up a way for Gentiles to enter the Abrahamic family through faith in Christ. The biggest problem I have is that apart from not making sense of Romans 9-11 it implies that the existence of Jewish Christianity was simply a necessary transitional phase or, even worse, a grave mistake. On Jewish evangelism in relation to Romans (esp. 10.14-21!) note the following quotations from Richard Bell and N.T. Wright:
Richard H. Bell (Provoked to Jealousy: The Origin and Purpose of the Jealousy Motif in Romans 9–11 [WUNT 2.63; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1994], 354-55): ‘Paul’s theology demands a mission to the Jewish people. Provoking Israel to jealousy is no replacement for mission. It is just one possible precursor for mission. The gospel must be preached for it is only the gospel, God’s reconciling word, which can make someone a Christian (Rom. 10.17) … I would maintain that evangelism to Jews is not antisemitism; rather to renounce preaching the liberating gospel to Jewish people is antisemitism’.
N.T. Wright (‘Romans,’ in NIB, ed. Leander E. Keck [12 vols.; Nashville: Abingdon, 2002], 10.697): ‘to imagine that Jews can no longer be welcomed into the family of the Messiah … [that] for Paul, would be the very height of anti-Judaism’.
See further The Berlin Declaration on the Uniqueness of Christ and Jewish Evangelism in Europe Today and the book To the Jew First: The Case for Jewish Evangelism in Scripture and History edited by Darrell Bock and Mitch Glaser.