Monday, November 03, 2008

Paul, Jewish Tradition, Shema

Thanks to Mark Nanos for calling my attention to his recently posted "Paul and the Jewish Tradition", arguing for a very Jewish apostle steeped in the ideology of the Shema. It's vintage Nanos, portraying a different Paul from the one seen on this blog -- a faithful Jewish reformer alongside the other apostles, whose only rub with wider Judaism was the apocalyptic timetable which allowed for the early admission of uncircumcised Gentiles. (My big difference with Nanos comes at the point of 49 CE, where I see the other apostles beginning to insist otherwise, pushing Paul in more sectarian direction.) Mark presented the paper at Villanova, and it will eventually be revised and published in a Festschrift for Murphy-O'Connor and Fitzmyer. From the paper:
"I submit that the Shema of Israel is the central conviction of Paul's theology. He often refers to God's oneness in critical points in arguments. It functions theologically and polemically. But he does not really explain the Shema as much as appeal to it, suggesting that for Paul the concept of God's oneness functions at the ideological level. Its explanatory power is assumed to be self-evident... That would not work for those unfamiliar with its propositional bases, or importance in Jewish communal life and liturgy... While most interpreters of Paul and most discussions of a topic like 'Paul and the Jewish tradition' would be concerned to show how Paul emerged from the Judaism of his time, they would do so from a conceptual framework in which Paul is no longer a representative of Judaism, but of a new religion, Christianity. Instead I suggest that Paul practiced Judaism, and his groups represented a Jewish coalition upholding that the end of the age had dawned... He was a reformer, involved in the restoration of Israel, and the gathering of the nations initiated thereby." (pp 4-5)


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