Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion

Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion

Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion

Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion

Excerpt

The phrase ‘Paul and Judaism’ starts more questions than can be dealt with in one book, and perhaps more than we can conveniently list here. Even the phrase itself introduces a problem: should one not say, ‘Paul and the rest of Judaism’, since Paul himself was surely Jewish? He explicitly contrasts himself and Peter with the Gentile sinners (Gal. 2.15). Whatever his perception of his own identity, however, the traditional terminology would seem to be justified by his being engaged in a mission which went beyond the bounds of Judaism. He must himself discuss the fact that the Jews have not accepted his gospel, and he has to redefine ‘Israel’ so that not all who are descended from Israel belong (Rom. 9.6–8). In any case, the question of Paul’s self-identity is not the question before us, and we shall retain the convenient phrase ‘Paul and Judaism’.

Far hotter issues are raised by the phrase than whether or not Paul should be called Jew or Christian. There are, to begin with, the polemics of Paul’s letters against Jews and Judaizers (‘Look out for the dogs …, look out for those who mutilate the flesh’, Phil. 3.2). Almost as vitriolic have been the scholarly debates of the last several decades on how Paul does or does not relate to Judaism. Is he to be primarily understood as a Jewish apocalypticist, a Hellenistic mystic, a Rabbi who accepted Jesus as the Messiah, a Hellenistic Jew? Or as none of these or as some combination of them? Paul’s relationship with the contemporary world has been and remains one of the three or four main preoccupations of New Testament scholarship.

In order to give some immediate focus to the present work, but without yet defining the precise question which is to be raised, it should be said that we shall be dealing with the basic relationship between Paul’s religion and the various forms of Palestinian Judaism as revealed in Palestinian Jewish literature from around 200 b.c.e. to around 200 c.e. This restriction does not presuppose that Palestinian Judaism and Hellenistic Judaism have nothing in common, nor does it prejudge the question of whether Paul is closer to Palestinian Judaism, or some form of it, than to Hellenistic Judaism or to Hellenism proper. We do not intend to sort out and weigh ‘parallels’ and ‘influences’ in order to determine what part of the ancient world most . . .

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