In recent years, scholars from both Christian and Jewish backgrounds have tried to rethink the relationship between earliest Christianity and its Jewish milieu. Paul has emerged as a central figure in this debate. The present book contributes to this scholarly discussion by seeing Paul and his Jewish contemporaries as, above all, readers of scripture. However different the conclusions they draw, they all endeavor to make sense of the same normative scriptural texts — in the belief that, as they interpret the scriptural texts, the texts will themselves interpret and illuminate the world of contemporary experience. In that sense, Paul and his contemporaries are standing on common ground. Far from relativizing their differences, however, it is this common ground that makes such differences possible.
This book seeks to show how three distinct bodies of literature in fact constitute a single intertextual field. It is therefore necessary to dismantle artificial scholarly boundaries between the Pauline letters, other extant Jewish writings of the period, and the scriptural texts themselves. The method adopted is to set a Pauline and a non-Pauline reading of a scriptural text alongside one another, to compare the ways in which the different readings seek to realize the semantic potential of the scriptural text, and to construct communal identity on that basis. Contrary to the view that these early readers merely impose their own pre-existing viewpoints on the scriptural texts, it becomes clear that they are profoundly engaged in fundamental hermeneutical issues.