Paul And Judaism The Jewish Matrix Of Early Christianity: Issues In The Current Debate -- By: Donald A. Hagner

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 03:1 (NA 1993)
Article: Paul And Judaism The Jewish Matrix Of Early Christianity: Issues In The Current Debate
Author: Donald A. Hagner


Paul And Judaism
The Jewish Matrix Of Early Christianity: Issues In The Current Debate

Donald A. Hagner

Fuller Theological Seminary

A paper first delivered at the annual meeting of The Institute for Biblical Research, San Francisco, November, 1992.

0. Fifteen years ago, E. P. Sanders published his book Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977) and began what might well be called a Copernican revolution in Pauline studies.1 One of the leading advocates of the newer knowledge has dubbed it “The New Perspective on Paul.”2 The revolution, however, is not yet complete. Some of us, moreover, continue to believe that the evidence still points to a geocentric universe—at least so far as Paul’s theology is concerned. In this brief paper I can hardly do justice to the subject, but I nevertheless propose to analyze the recent discussion of Paul and Judaism and also at the same time to offer some critique.

1. The fundamental point of the new perspective on Paul has to do not with Paul himself, but with the nature of first century Judaism: contrary to the widespread view held even in leading reference works, Judaism was not and is not a religion where acceptance with God is earned through the merit of righteousness based on works. In the same way that Copernicus had his predecessors, this main insight of the new perspective on Paul was adumbrated long before Sanders’ book

(as Sanders himself readily admits). Moises Silva, in a recent article, expresses his surprise—and I share that surprise—at the flurry caused by Sanders’ book, since its primary thrust “had been demonstrated in not a few books and was readily accessible in standard works of reference.”3 Silva mentions George Foot Moore’s three volume Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era (1927-30).4 To that we may add Moore’s earlier and well-known article entitled “Christian Writers on Judaism,” where like Sanders he criticizes the work of Ferdinand Weber, as well as Schürer and Bousset, lamenting that legalism “for the last fifty years has become the very definition and the all-sufficient condemnation of Judaism.”5 Further to be mentioned is the work of such scholars as Solomon Schechter,6 R. Travers Herford,7 A. Marmorstein,

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