Interdisciplinary Academic Seminar: New Perspectives on Paul and the Jews

In September of 2009, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven hosted an interdisciplinary academic seminar on Paul and Judaism. What follows is a report of the seminar by Thomas A. Vollmer, a doctoral student of the new perspective on Paul at K.U. Leuven:

The Seminar took place on 14-15 September 2009 at the Faculty of Theology, K.U.Leuven, in the Conference Room of the Pope Adrian VI College. Prof. Lieven Boeve, Dean of the Faculty, welcomed the participants and guests. Prof. Reimund Bieringer, convenor of the Seminar, chaired the morning session.

Daniel Langton, Lecturer at the University of Manchester, had offered a paper entitled Some Historical Observations Regarding the Emergence of a Jewish Interest in the Apostle Paul and its Relation to Christian Pauline Authorship. Due to last minute conflicts in schedule, Langton was unable to personally attend so Emmanuel Nathan, doctoral researcher and co-organizer of the Seminar, read out the paper. The paper provided a historical overview of Jewish interest in Pauline scholarship.

The second paper was by Michael Bird, NT Tutor at Highland Theological College, entitled Salvation in Paul’s Judaism. Bird concentrated on Paul’s identity and whether or not Paul considered himself within or without Judaism. He considered the topic of salvation in Paul and how it relates to Paul’s Judaism.

Mark Nanos, Lecturer at Rockhurst University and the University of Kansas read the paper, Paul’s Relationship to the Torah in Light of His Strategy ‘to become Everything to Everyone’ (1 Corinthians 9:19-22). In it he argued that Paul needs to be read outside of traditional understandings and more in line with Paul’s Jewish background. He posited a method of rhetorical adaptability against a traditional understanding of lifestyle adaptability in the exegesis of 1 Cor 9,19-22.

 The afternoon session was chaired by Didier Pollefeyt, co-convenor of the Seminar. Philip Cunningham, Professor of Catholic-Jewish Relations at Saint Joseph’s University, read the paper Paul’s Letters and the Relationship between the People of Israel and the Church Today. He set forth the Catholic position on Jewish-Christian dialogue in relation to Nostra Aetate and its use of Romans 9-11. He advanced a hermeneutical approach to dealing with problematic texts that should consider the texts in the perspective of Paul’s Jewishness.

Hans-Joachim Sander, Professor of Dogmatics at Universität Salzburg, read the paper Sharing God with Others or Dividing God from Powerlessness – A Late-Modern Challenge by the Heterotopian Experience in the New Paul. He discussed the relation of the New Perspective on Paul with the new philosophies on Paul. He discussed power relations and powerlessness and advanced a proposal to consider Paul in heterotopian perspective.

John Pawlikoski, Professor of Ethics at the Catholic Theological Union, entitled his paper A Christian-Jewish Dialogical Model in Light of New Research on Paul’s Relationship to Judaism. In it he proposed a paradigm to adequately describe the relationship between Christianity and Judaism. He surveyed current attempts at single and double covenant understandings and showed the limitations therein and he posited a sort of “path” approach to dialogue.

 David Bolton, doctoral researcher and co-organizer of the Seminar, chaired the morning session of the second day.

Anne-Marie Reijnen, Professor of Dogmatic and Systematic Theology at the Faculteit voor Protestantse Godgeleerdheid te Brussel, presented a paper entitled Cosmos and Creation in Paul’s Letter to the Romans, in the Company of Some Contemporary Authors. She examined cosmic language in Paul and while concentration was on the ecological consciousness of Rom 8,19-22, she pulled the ecological motif into the binary scansion of ‘Jew first and also the Greek’.

Thomas Blanton IV, Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion at Luther College, read the paper Paul’s Covenantal Language in 2 Cor 2:14-7:4. He focused on the question of covenant in Paul and how it interacts with Paul’s new creation language. He sees Paul in continuity with his Jewish tradition and any opposition in the text was directed toward opponents and not Judaism.

Michael Bachmann, NT Professor at Universität Siegen, read the paper Paul, Israel, and the Gentiles: Hermeneutical and Exegetical Notes. He discussed various points of view on the contentious issue of erga nomou (“works of the law”) and concluded that Paul was not speaking in discontinuous terms of the phrase, but rather in the deeds of the law.

 The afternoon session, chaired by Emmanuel Nathan, offered two papers. The first read by William Campbell, Reader in Biblical Studies at University of Wales Lampeter, was entitled Covenant, Creation and Transformation in Paul. The paper centered on the methodological approach of comparison rather than contrast and argued that covenantal language should be read in light of Judaism. For Paul, Jews who accept Jesus are still in covenant different from Gentiles who accept Jesus.

Hans Hermann Henrix, Director emeritus of the Catholic Academy of the Diocese of Aachen, presented the paper Paul at the Point of Intersection Between Continuity and Discontinuity – On Paul’s Place in Early Judaism and Christianity as well as in Christian-Jewish Dialogue Today. He provided a synthesis of the papers presented and the showed the major issues confronting Pauline exegesis and its relation to contemporary Christian-Jewish dialogue.

The Seminar closed with short reflections by the speakers on their impressions of the two days’ proceedings. Reimund Bieringer ended the Seminar with closing remarks and reflections for future research trajectories. The proceedings of the Seminar will be published.

K.U. Leuven
Thomas A. Vollmer

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