Paul and Palestinian Judaism compares Judaism—understood on its own terms, with Paul—understood on his own terms. Sanders aims to:
This landmark volume makes a contribution not only to the understanding of Paul and his relationship to Judaism, but also to the study of Judaism itself.
“Thus one can see already in Paul how it is that Christianity is going to become a new form of covenantal nomism, a covenantal religion which one enters by baptism, membership in which provides salvation, which has a specific set of commandments, obedience to which (or repentance for the transgression of which) keeps one in the covenantal relationship, while repeated or heinous transgression removes one from membership.” (Page 513)
“Despite this attempt to base the depiction of the Judaism which is placed in antithesis to Paul on an investigation of Jewish literature, one cannot avoid the suspicion that, in fact, Paul’s own polemic against Judaism serves to define the Judaism which is then contrasted with Paul’s thought.” (Page 4)
“In short, this is what Paul finds wrong in Judaism: it is not Christianity.” (Page 552)
“The pattern is this: God has chosen Israel and Israel has accepted the election. In his role as King, God gave Israel commandments which they are to obey as best they can. Obedience is rewarded and disobedience punished. In case of failure to obey, however, man has recourse to divinely ordained means of atonement, in all of which repentance is required. As long as he maintains his desire to stay in the covenant, he has a share in God’s covenantal promises, including life in the world to come. The intention and effort to be obedient constitute the condition for remaining in the covenant, but they do not earn it.” (Page 180)
“On the basis of his comparison of central Pauline motifs with Rabbinic statements, Davies came to a substantial conclusion: Paul’s thought can be understood as that of a Rabbi who believed that the Messiah had come,27 the latter belief accounting for all divergences of Paul from Rabbinic Judaism.” (Page 8)
In the past three decades reasons have accumulated for a transformation of our whole picture of Judaism in the first-century Palestine. Sanders has listened to those reasons; he has done his homework; and he undertakes here to shift the question about Paul's relation to that Judaism into a fundamentally different perspective. For New Testament students still trapped in Billerbeck-and-Kittel scholarship, the book will be revolutionary. For everyone who tries to understand early Judaism or the Christian movement that emerged from it, Sanders' work requires a thorough re-thinking of our assumptions.
—Wayne A. Meeks, Yale University
Professor Ed Sanders is dissatisfied with the two prevalent modes of explaining Paul: one, to pit the supposedly essential elements of his preaching against supposedly comparable ones in traditional Judaism; the other, to inspect as many particular motifs as possible with a view to establishing dependence or independence. His method is holistic, i.e., he focuses on the basic functioning of religions, on patterns which, he holds, are revealed chiefly in how you become and continue a member of the community. His profound, novel analysis of a vast material makes this one of the few truly creative, exciting works on the subject.
—David Daube, University of California, Berkeley