Friday, August 1, 2008

Changing the title, not the behavior.

"The difficulty of interpreting GAlations fairly is compounded by Paul's own extreme views on Judaism, both before and after his messianic conversion: both as a Jew and as a Jewish Christian, Paul was far from typical of Jewish belief and practice. In what he calls his "earlier life in Judaism" he was fanatical, to the point of "trying to destroy" the Jewish movement, people he perceived as enemies to the Torah. Now, despite having renounced his former fanaticism, he continues to believe that as a fanatic he was a model Jew. Once assiduously Torah-observant, he now takes his own past as the measure of what law-observant Judaism has to offer. Never does he consider that a less-strict version of observance might be acceptable to God. On the contrary, "Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey *all* the things written in the book of the law (Deut. 27:26 LXX). Any abrogation of any law brings God's curse. Ironically, the insistence on keeping "all" the laws appears only in the Greek tanslation of Deuteronomy; Paul's standard for legal observance actually exceeds that stated in the (Hebrew) Torah. Even leaders like James and Peter, who favored -- perhaps insisted on -- the full conversion of Gentiles, probably defined Jewishness in less rigid terms than Paul did. For Paul, the covenant was an all-or-nothing affair."

"The Reluctant Parting: How the New Testament's Jewish Writers Created a Christian Book," by Julie Galambush.

This paragraph seems to bring up a point I've only subconsciously considered. When most Christians picture Judaism, do they picture it in all the aspects in which it was taught? Or is taught? Or do they picture Paul's particular lens of Judaism only?

If it truly is an all or nothing affair for Paul, that would explain why I have a hard time meshing his viewpoint of the Torah with what I actually read in the Tanakh. I don't get the sense of the Torah provided to tell everyone how sinful they are, or that it's primary purpose is to show a need for a Savior. I don't get the sense that they dreaded being under it's power, or yearned to escape the burden of the Torah.

Perhaps if Paul held a less rigid view of the Torah and those who practice it ... would he still have proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah?

5 comments:

societyvs said...

"When most Christians picture Judaism, do they picture it in all the aspects in which it was taught? Or is taught? Or do they picture Paul's particular lens of Judaism only?" (OSS)

From my experience, which does include a 4 year term in an Alliance Bible College, Christians tend to view Paul as 'the most correct version of Judaism' - and this cannot be challenged - since they see Paul as writing scripture. From there on in, Paul is the sole rep for Judaism.

I have been studying Judaism for the past - almost 2 years and some now - and I can say with all honesty - Paul (as he is interpreted in Christianity) is not representative of many aspects of Judaism and even mis-represents it at times (for the purpose of the Gentiles).

I am not saying Paul was that bad of a dude - he actually wasn't - he seems like someone that had his life changed. But his views on Judaism seem rather 'weak' at times for some 'expert'. Just an observation.

I have actually quit interpreting through Paul - and have moved to Matthew as the book I use.

"would he still have proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah?" (Paul)

I think he would have - this was the path he (according to Luke) was led into. He was to meet with Peter and the others in Jerusalem - which he ended up doing. I think once he heard their message and what it is they were doing - he realized his error in 'hating this group'. He also felt he had some interaction with Jesus - which would of made it hard for him to ignore the messiah claims.

Luke said...

i LOVE this book! i think you'll read it in a week... it's SO good! you rawk and thanks for supporting my view that you're awesome.

societyvs said...

I must buy this book - it is getting good reviews - first Mystical, then OSS, and now Luke even...I must read it because of this group.

Heather W. Reichgott said...

Societyvs,

Sure, Paul is Scripture, but so is the Old Testament, right? Wouldn't the OT be the first place to go when wondering about Judaism?

OSS,

Romans is really interesting to read with the question in mind "what is Paul saying about the Jewish law?" Galatians, on the other hand, is written on one issue--against circumcision--so of course it's going to be rather anti-law. I don't know the book you're talking about, so I don't know whether she looks at books besides Galatians.

More good books on the issue of Paul and Jewish law, from the perspective that Paul is actually in continuity with more of Judaism than we like to think, are:
Eung-Chun Park, Either Jew or Gentile
Krister Stendhal, Paul among Jews and Gentiles
I think Luise Schottroff also has a good one but it might be in German.

OneSmallStep said...

Society,

**I am not saying Paul was that bad of a dude - he actually wasn't - he seems like someone that had his life changed.**

I get what you're saying here. It's the difference between viewing someone as a saint, and viewing someone as a person. When Paul is a saint, it's a lot harder to question his views on certain topics, such as Judaism. When he's a person, we might be freer to see his biases, and compare one version of Judaism to another.

**I think he would have - this was the path he (according to Luke) was led into. He was to meet with Peter and the others in Jerusalem - which he ended up doing. I think once he heard their message and what it is they were doing - he realized his error in 'hating this group'.

**He also felt he had some interaction with Jesus - which would of made it hard for him to ignore the messiah claims.**

It was this interaction I was thinking of specifically. If he had a less harsh view of the law, would he have still believed that vision of Jesus as a good thing? Or would he have thought it was a deception of some sort? The thing with meeting Peter and James is that I think a lot of his acceptence of them was predicated on the vision encounter with Jesus.

Luke,

I read it in three days. It was quite an interesting read.

Heather,

**Wouldn't the OT be the first place to go when wondering about Judaism?**

This, I'm not sure about. For a counterexample, let's take a hard core orthodox Christian belief: the Trinity. Based purely on reading the Bible itself, with no knowledge of Christianity in any way whatsoever, I think it would be a lot harder to come to the idea of the Trinity, in the terms of three people equaling one God. The outside doctrine is needed somewhat.

Same with what I see in Judaism. Time after time, what I'm seeing in Christian quarters is that they are so grateful they aren't held by the law, but that they're rather under grace. The law is a curse, the law is something that requires a rescue from. I never see it praised the way I do in the Psalms, such as Psalms 119. It's seen as a burden, and not a blessing.

The book itself did cover all of the New Testament. The author was an American Baptist (I think -- definietly Baptist with an adjective in front) who converted to Judaism. So she covers Romans as well.

But even with Romans, I find some areas problimatic, with Paul's idea of sin using the law for bad, that they are now under grace rather than the law, that the sin was enflamed by the law while they lived in the flesh and so forth. Yes, he does acknowledge the law as good, but almost as it's primary purpose to expose what sin is, and that doesn't mesh with how I see Judaism -- that the law was giving as a gift, and it is followed in thankfulness for that gift.

However, I will be sure to look into your book recommendations, because getting multiple perspectives is never a bad thing.

OSS,

Romans is really interesting to read with the question in mind "what is Paul saying about the Jewish law?" Galatians, on the other hand, is written on one issue--against circumcision--so of course it's going to be rather anti-law. I don't know the book you're talking about, so I don't know whether she looks at books besides Galatians.

More good books on the issue of Paul and Jewish law, from the perspective that Paul is actually in continuity with more of Judaism than we like to think, are:
Eung-Chun Park, Either Jew or Gentile
Krister Stendhal, Paul among Jews and Gentiles
I think Luise Schottroff also has a good one but it might be in German.