Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church is part of Ad Fontes: Early Christian Sources, a series designed to present ancient Christian texts essential to an understanding of Christian theology, ecclesiology, and practice. The books in the series will make the wealth of early Christian thought available to new generations of students of theology and provide a valuable resource for the Church. This volume focuses on how Scripture was interpreted and used for teaching by early Christian scholars and church leaders.
Developed in light of recent Patristic scholarship, Ad Fontes volumes will provide a representative sampling of theological contributions from both East and West. The series aims to provide volumes that are relevant for a variety of courses: from introduction to theology to classes on doctrine and the development of Christian thought. The goal of each volume is not to be exhaustive, but rather representative enough to denote for a non-specialist audience the multivalent character of early Christian thought, allowing readers to see how and why early Christian doctrine and practice developed the way it did.
In these chapters, a group of renowned international scholars seek to describe Paul and his work from “within Judaism,” rather than on the assumption, still current after thirty years of the “New Perspective,” that in practice Paul left behind aspects of Jewish living after his discovery of Jesus as Christ (Messiah). After an introduction that surveys recent study of Paul and highlights the centrality of questions about Paul’s Judaism, chapters explore the implications of reading Paul’s instructions as aimed at Christ-following non-Jews, teaching them how to live in ways consistent with Judaism while remaining non-Jews. The contributors take different methodological points of departure: historical, ideological-critical, gender-critical, and empire-critical, and examine issues of terminology and of interfaith relations. Surprising common ground among the contributors presents a coherent alternative to the “New Perspective.” The volume concludes with a critical evaluation of the Paul within Judaism perspective by Terence L. Donaldson, a well-known voice representative of the best insights of the New Perspective.
Apparently, the message with this title attached was intended for a different reviewer. But, since I hadn’t yet gotten a copy of this text, I was most grateful to have one, and Fortress was amenable to my keeping the copy in exchange for mentioning it here.
Decades ago, Werner G. Kümmel described the historical problem of Romans as its “double character”: concerned with issues of Torah and the destiny of Israel, the letter is explicitly addressed not to Jews but to Gentiles. At stake in the numerous answers given to that question is nothing less than the purpose of Paul’s most important letter. In The So-Called Jew in Paul’s Letter to the Romans, nine Pauline scholars focus their attention on the rhetoric of diatribe and characterization in the opening chapters of the letter, asking what Paul means by the “so-called Jew” in Romans 2 and where else in the letter’s argumentation that figure appears or is implied. Each component of Paul’s argument is closely examined with particular attention to the theological problems that arise in each.
I recently also had the privilege of reviewing Rafael’s prior If You Call Yourself a Jew: Reappraising Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Wipf & Stock, 2014). I very much appreciate the argument that Rafael brings out in that volume. Rafael has very kindly received the review, though he rightly notes some lingering questions that tend to make me lean in a bit different direction. But, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what in the new Fortress volume may speak to those or other related matters. As H.-G. Gadamer reflects,
We say we “conduct” a conversation, but the more genuine a conversation is, the less its conduct lies within the will of either partner. Thus a genuine conversation is never the one that we wanted to conduct. Rather, it is generally more correct to say that we fall into conversation, or even that we become involved in it. The way one word follows another, with the conversation taking its own twists and reaching its own conclusion, may well be conducted in some way, but the partners conversing are far less leaders of it than the led. (Truth and Method, 401; underlining added)
The decades-long effort to understand the apostle Paul within his Jewish context is now firmly established in scholarship on early Judaism, as well as on Paul. The latest fruit of sustained analysis appears in the essays gathered here, from leading international scholars who take account of the latest investigations into the scope and variety present in Second Temple Judaism. Contributors address broad historical and theological questions—Paul’s thought and practice in relationship with early Jewish apocalypticism, messianism, attitudes toward life under the Roman Empire, appeal to Scripture, the Law, inclusion of Gentiles, the nature of salvation, and the rise of Gentile-Christian supersessionism—as well as questions about interpretation itself, including the extent and direction of a “paradigm shift” in Pauline studies and the evaluation of the Pauline legacy. Paul the Jew goes as far as any effort has gone to restore the apostle to his own historical, cultural, and theological context, and with persuasive results.