Friday, April 03, 2009

Salvation and "Paul's Judaism"

When I say "Paul's Judaism" do you think of (a) the Judaism known to Paul, or (b) Paul's own beliefs and practices as an expression within Judaism? It is an interesting question and it was Mark Nanos who inspired the thought in me and I've been musing on this subject for a while now. Along with Mark and several others, I'm down to speak at a conference in Leuven, Belgium on New Perspectives on Paul and the Jews and I've finally completed my paper for that event. I've attached a draft here. Comments welcomed below.


Paul Ikonen said...

I would assume you mean (b) as it is the Judaism Paul has his roots in and interacts with. I think that (a) has a home in (b) but the broader picture lies in the religion in which Paul is immersed.

Looking forward to reading your paper!

Steve T. said...

My comment has nothing to do with your entry. Did you know there was a review of your conversations with Crossley(sp?) in The Bible Today latest edition? It's published by Liturgical Press.

Even mentions you are Dr. Bird.

Steve,Your Faithful Catholic Reader

John Anderson said...

I think of both. I think (a) gives rise to (b)--similar to the post above--or perhaps (b) as a reaction against (a), if you take, for instance, a Sanders approach.

I certainly think the caveat "within Judaism" to (b) is necessary for more reasons than may be implied here. Fairly recent insights by Boccacini, Segal, and Boyarin successfully point to the multiplicity of Judaisms (plural), and also highlight the 'twin birth' of Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity post-70.

I recently did some preparation for my upcoming Ph.D. comps on the issue of the "key" to Paul's theology, surveying scholars such as Baur, Schweitzer, James Stewart, Bultmann, Sanders, Witherington, and Dunn. In working through that question, I was most appreciative of approaches by Sanders, Dunn, and Witherington in their desire to situate Paul within Judaism of the time. Now, whether he was reacting against 'covenantal nomism' (Sanders) or was a covenantal nomist himself (Dunn) I do not know. It does seem to me, though, that any seeking for a "center" of Paul's theology must ultimately have multiple centers (for instance, my teacher Douglas Campbell's PPME model, which is, as you know, technically 4 'centers'); in this way the highly situational aspect of Paul's letters if realized.

I wish you well in your paper! Also, please pass on my greetings to Dr. Willitts; I have not seen him on the site in a while. He and I both presented papers (with some similar aspects, although we disagreed) in the Matthew section at SBL in Boston.

All the best!

dshumaker said...

Thanks for the essay. I am thinking about making it required reading for a new class I will be teaching on the Prison Epistles this coming fall.

Since you haven't given the paper yet, one grammatical issue. Perhaps Brittish English is different than American English, but I think Page 12 should read "God has made him and others," not "he and others." Forgive me if this is an American English/Brittish English issue.

Thanks again for the helpful article.


Marc Possoff said...


First we have to define Judaism in it's 1st century context.

Is Judaism the 'religion' of the TeNaK and New Covenant. I'm referring to 'true Judaism'.

Paul said;

Acts 26:22
"Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:"

So again the question is in 1st century context did Paul by revelation of the Holy Spirit in reality go against the 'true Judaism' of scripture and God's revelation in Jesus Christ?

And what Paul said in Acts 26:22 was the main debate with the sects of Judaism of that day, primarily the inclusion of the Gentiles which Paul was the Apostle too.



Tony Stiff said...

Michael your insights are refreshing as always. I hope your paper and your summaries get the attention they deserve. I believe this was the first time I saw someone summarize how scholars define Paul and the Judaism of his day. You helped me appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of each proposal.

Thanks again.