Paul within Judaism: Articles, Book Reviews & More

paul judaism

This article was originally part of The Paul Page, a site dedicated to academic study of the apostle, with special focus on the work of N.T. Wright.

As explained elsewhere on The Paul Page, the new perspective on Paul pioneered by scholars like E. P. Sanders, James D. G. Dunn, and N. T. Wright is predicated on the recent Protestant Christian recognition that Judaism was never a religion of legalism. While seeking new interpretations of Paul against the background of this reevaluation of Judaism, however, those working out of this perspective nevertheless continue to set Paul in contrast to the Judaism of his day. A smaller but increasingly vocal group of scholars within this movement have gone even further, arguing that Paul never ceased to be a Torah observant Jew.

These scholars—including Lloyd Gaston, John Gager, Stanley Stowers, Neil Elliott, Mark Nanos, and Pamela Eisenbaum, among others—are increasingly distinguishing between their approach and the more familiar new perspective on Paul. Some have suggested describing their perspective as “the radical new perspective on Paul.” However they can best be described, these Jewish and Christian interpreters of Paul argue that the new perspective on Paul has simply replaced one negative stereotype of Judaism—that of legalism—with a different negative stereotype, that of exclusivism or ethnocentrism. Their alternative argument is that Paul’s negative rhetoric about the Torah was intended only for Gentiles, not for Jews.

Articles

A Rejoinder to Robert A.J. Gagnon’s “Why the ‘Weak’ at Rome Cannot Be Non-Christian Jews” by Mark D. Nanos responds to criticisms of his book, The Mystery of Romans. Available in PDF format. (Link updated 9/11/10)

“A Remedy for Having Been Born of Woman:” Jesus, Gender, and Genealogy in Romans by Palema Eisenbaum. This article explores the relationship between the sacrificial death of Jesus and the inclusion of the Gentiles in Paul’s thought. Available in Microsoft Word format. (Link added 2/20/02) A substantially revised and annotated version appears as ‘A Remedy for Having Been Born of Woman: Jesus, Gentiles, and Genealogy in Romans” in the Winter 2004 edition of the Journal of Biblical Literature. Available in PDF format. (Link added 6/1/05)

Abraham and the Righteousness of God by Lloyd Gaston reconsiders the Pauline understanding of Genesis 15:6. (Link added 3/12/03)

‘Broken Branches’: A Pauline Metaphor Gone Awry? (Romans 11:11-24) by Mark D. Nanos is a revision of a paper presented in Göttingen, Germany. Available in PDF format. (Link added 9/19/10).

‘Callused,’ Not ‘Hardened’: Paul’s Revelation of Temporary Protection Until All Israel Can Be Healed by Mark D. Nanos is a paper delivered at the Central States SBL in St. Louis. Available in PDF format. (Link added 9/19/10).

Have Paul and His Communities Left Judaism for Christianity?: A Review of the Paul-Related Chapters in ‘Jewish Believers in Jesus and Jewish Christianity Revisited’ by Mark D. Nanos is an extended review. Available in PDF format. (Link added 9/19/10)

Interview with the scholar who writes: “Paul Was Not a Christian” is an interview of Pamela Eisenbaum about her new book. (Link added 11/2/09)

Judaizing the Nations: The Ritual Demands of Paul’s Gospel by Paula Fredriksen is an article published in New Testament Studies 56 (2010) 232-52. Available in PDF format. (Link added 2/17/15)

Paul and Judaism by Mark D. Nanos is a lecture delivered at the Central States Regional SBL in March 2004. Available in PDF format. (Link updated 9/11/10) A later and more complete version is Rethinking the ‘Paul and Judaism’ Paradigm: Why Not ‘Paul’s Judaism’? presented at McMaster University, March 12; University of Toronto, March 13; Lund University, Sweden, May 7; Linköping University, Sweden, May 8. (Link added 9/11/10)

Paul and the Jewish Tradition: The Ideology of the Shema by Mark D. Nanos was presented at Villanova University, Philadelphia, Penn., Thurs., Oct. 23, 2008, in the Jubilee Year of the Apostle St. Paul seminar series. Available in PDF format as well as on YouTube. (Link added 9/19/10)

Paul’s Contradictions — Can They Be Resolved? by John G. Gager. This article articulates the “two-covenant” approach to Judaism and Christianity. (Link updated 1/16/12)

Paul’s Ethnic Discourse on “Faith”: Christʼs Faithfulness and Gentile Access to the Judean God in Romans 3:21–5:1 by Stephen L.  Young argues for a subjective genitive reading of pistis in Romans 5:1 and reads it as an encapsulation of Paul’s “fundamentally ethnic rhetoric” in Romans 3:21-4:25. Available in PDF format. (Link added 3/21/15)

Paul’s Non-Jews Do Not Become “Jews,” But Do They Become “Jewish”?: Reading Romans 2:25-29 Within Judaism, Alongside Josephus by Mark D. Nanos, is an article published in Journal of the Jesus Movement in its Jewish Setting (JJMJS). 1 (2014): 26-53 (www.jjmjs.org). (Link updated 2/18/15)

Paul’s Relationship to Torah in Light of His Strategy “to Become Everything to Everyone” (1 Corinthians 9:19-22) by Mark D. Nanos. Paper presented for New Perspectives on Paul and the Jews: Interdisciplinary Academic Seminar, Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven, Belgium, Sept 14-15, 2009.  Available in PDF format. (Link added 2/11/15)

Paul’s Reversal of Jews Calling Gentiles ‘Dogs’ (Philipplians 3:2): 1600 Years of an Ideological Tale Wagging an Exegetical Dog? by Mark D. Nanos argues that Paul’s denunciation was aimed at pagans. Available in PDF format. (Link added 5/26/08)

Rethinking the “Paul and Judaism” Paradigm: Why Not “Paul’s Judaism”? by Mark D. Nanos argues that Paul did not abandon the principle of Torah-observance for Christ-believing Jews. Available in PDF format. (Link added 5/26/08)

Review of ‘The Jesus Movement: A Social History of Its First Century’ by Mark D. Nanos is an extended review. Available in PDF format. (Link added 9/19/10)

Romans 9-11 from a Jewish Perspective on Christian-Jewish Relations is a paper by Mark D. Nanos. Available in PDF format. (Link added 9/19/10)

Romans: To the Churches of the Synagogues of Rome by Mark D. Nanos argues that the social context into which Paul wrote his letter was developing among Christ-following subgroups of the Jewish communities, not “churches” independent of them.  Available in PDF format. (Link added 9/19/10)

Saint Paul and the Jews by Krister Stendahl. This article considers Romans 9-11 with a view to interfaith dialogue. (Link updated 3/12/03)

The Local Contexts of the Galatians: Toward Resolving A Catch-22 by Mark D. Nanos is an updated version of a paper presented to the Paul and Politics Group of the Society of Biblical Literature in 2001. Available in PDF format. (Link updated 9/11/10)

The Myth of the ‘Law-Free’ Paul Standing Between Christians and Jews by Mark D. Nanos was published in Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations [SCJR] 4.1 (2009): 1-21. Available in PDF format. (Link added 9/19/10)

The Polytheist Identity of the ‘Weak,’ And Paul’s Strategy to ‘Gain’ Them: A New Reading of 1 Corinthians 8:1-11:1 by Mark D. Nanos is a revision of the Paper presented in Corinth, Sept., 2007. Available in PDF format. (Link added 9/19/10)

The Social Context and Message of Galatians in View of Paul’s Evil Eye Warning (Gal. 3:1) by Mark D. Nanos explores Paul’s meaning in light of evil eye beliefs. Available in PDF format. (Link updated 9/11/10)

Bibliography

Ambrose, Kimberly, Paul Among Jews: Rehabilitating Paul (Wipf and Stock), 2015, presents a more consistent and credible Paul as a first-century Diaspora Jew organizing a mission to Gentiles.

Eisenbaum, Pamela, Paul Was Not a Christian: The Original Message of a Misunderstood Apostle (Harper One), 2009, demonstrates the full Jewishness of Paul.

Elliott, Neil, Liberating Paul: The Justice of God and the Politics of the Apostle (Fortress Press), 2005, argues for a liberationist reading of Paul.

Fredriksen, Paula, Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle (Yale University Press), 2017, develops a solid and sustained argument for the historical reconstruction of Paul within Judaism.

Gager, John G., Reinventing Paul (Oxford University Press), 2000, rejects an anti-Jewish reading of Paul.

Gaston, Lloyd, Paul and the Torah (Vancouver: Univ. of British Columbia Press), reprint 1991, argues that Paul’s criticism of the Law was limited to its relationship to Gentiles.

Given, Mark D., ed., Paul Unbound: Other Perspectives on the Apostle (Baker Academic), 2010, includes a wide variety of essays.

Nanos, Mark D., Reading Corinthians and Philippians within Judaism: Collected Essays of Mark D. Nanos, vol. 4 (Cascade Books), 2017, provides new light on key Pauline texts.

Nanos, Mark D., The Irony of Galatians: Paul’s Letter in First-Century Context (Augsburg Fortress), 2001, is a follow-up to his book, The Mystery of Romans.

Nanos, Mark D., The Mystery of Romans: The Jewish Context of Paul’s Letter (Fortress Press), 1996, was awarded the 1996 National Jewish Book Award in the category of Jewish-Christian relations.

Nanos, Mark D., and Zetterholm, Magnus, eds., Paul Within Judaism: Restoring the First-Century Context to the Apostle (Fortress Press), 2015, is the latest anthology exploring this latest trend in Pauline studies.

Stowers, Stanley K., A Rereading of Romans: Justice, Jews, and Gentiles (Yale University Press), 1997, interprets Romans in light of rhetorical conventions available in Paul’s time.

Tucker, J. Brian, Reading 1 Corinthians (Cascade Books), 2017, reads Paul’s letter through the lens of social identity theory, a leading social scientific method for understanding the New Testament.

Young, Brad H., Paul the Jewish Theologian: A Pharisee Among Christians, Jews, and Gentiles (Peabody, Massachussetts: Hendrickson Publisers, Inc.), 1998, explores Paul’s thought in his Jewish context.

Zetterholm, Magnus, Approaches to Paul: A Student’s Guide to Recent Scholarship (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press), 2009, focuses on Paul’s relationship to Judaism but describes postcolonial and feminist approaches to Paul as well.

Book Reviews

Approaches to Paul: A Student’s Guide to Recent Scholarship by Magnus Zetterholm as reviewed by Nijay Gupta in the Review of Biblical Literature. Available in PDF format. (Link added 5/25/10)

Approaches to Paul: A Student’s Guide to Recent Scholarship by Magnus Zetterholm as reviewed by David G. Horrell in the Review of Biblical Literature. Available in PDF format. (Link added 5/25/10)

Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle by Paula Fredriksen as reviewed by Mark M. Mattison. (Added 12/9/17)

Paul Was Not a Christian: The Original Message of a Misunderstood Apostle by Pamela Eisenbaum as reviewed by Mark M. Mattison. (Added 11/2/09)

Paul within Judaism: Restoring the First-Century Context to the Apostle, ed. by Mark D. Nanos and Magnus Zetterholm, as reviewed by Mark M. Mattison in the Review of Biblical Literature. Available in PDF format. (Link added 9/15/14)

Reinventing Paul by John G. Gager as reviewed by Robert Egolf. (Added 6/5/01)

Reinventing Paul by John G. Gager as reviewed by Jeffrey Krantz. (Added 8/16/01)

Reinventing Paul by John G. Gager as reviewed by Robert Orlando. (Added 7/13/02)

The Irony of Galatians: Paul’s Letter in First-Century Context by Mark D. Nanos as reviewed by Steven D. Burton in Jewish Book World. Available in PDF format. (Link added 8/27/03)

The Irony of Galatians: Paul’s Letter in First-Century Context by Mark D. Nanos as reviewed by Erik M. Heen in the Journal of Biblical Literature. (Link added 8/27/03)

The Irony of Galatians: Paul’s Letter in First-Century Context by Mark D. Nanos as reviewed by Russell L. Resnik in Kesher: A Journal of Messianic Judaism. Available in PDF format. (Link added 8/27/03)

The Irony of Galatians: Paul’s Letter in First-Century Context by Mark D. Nanos as reviewed by George M. Smiga in Catholic Biblical Quarterly. Available in PDF format. (Link added 8/27/03)

The Mystery of Romans: The Jewish Context of Paul’s Letter by Mark D. Nanos as reviewed by Neil Elliott in Journal of Beliefs and Values. Available in PDF format. (Link added 8/27/03)

The Mystery of Romans: The Jewish Context of Paul’s Letter by Mark D. Nanos as reviewed by Pamela Eisenbaum in Jewish Book World. Available in PDF format. (Link added 8/27/03)

Jewish-Christian Relations Offers resources for Jewish-Christian dialogue. (Link added 1/25/05)

Paula Fredriksen Web site contains many good Pauline articles. (Link added 3/7/06)

Website of Mark D. Nanos Lists Nanos’ latest projects. (Link updated 10/19/05)

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Written by
Mark M. Mattison

Mark M. Mattison is an independent scholar of early Christianity and Christian origins, with particular interests in the historical Jesus, Paul, extracanonical Gospels, feminist-liberationist theology, Christian mysticism, and Kabbalah.

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Written by Mark M. Mattison
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