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Paul: Jewish Law and Early Christianity

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This free eBook provides the cultural contexts for the theology of Paul, the apostle who shaped the beginning of Christianity

Learn how Jewish traditions and law extended into early Christianity through Paul’s dual roles as a Christian missionary and a Pharisee.

In this publication from BAS, top Biblical scholars examine the controversial role of Jewish law and tradition in early Christianity. While Christianity was open to both Jews and Gentiles, some contended that converts had to first become Jews in order to become Christians. Others considered the outward signs of Judaism to be unnecessary for Christian life.

Paul, the apostle who wrote much of the New Testament, discussed the role of Judaism among Jesus’ followers in a number of his letters. Although Paul preached justification on the basis of faith in Christ, he was himself a Pharisee and addressed the role of Jewish traditions and the status of Israel in the new covenant.

This eBook considers the relevant writings of Paul and brings to light some of the difficult theological issues for Jews and Christians that persist to this day. The three-article collection drawn from Biblical Archaeology Review and Bible Review consists of the following:

Chapter One

Pauls Contradictions

“Paul’s Contradictions: Can They Be Resolved?” by Princeton professor John G. Gager looks at how Paul seems to be at war with himself on the subject of Israel. Is there a way out of his contradictions? Yes, the author argues, but only if we first get past misconceptions about Paul that date to the earliest stages of Christianity—even to Paul’s own times.

Chapter Two


“Laying Down the Law: A response to John Gager” by Ben Witherington, III, professor at Asbury Theological Seminary, explores whether Paul preached the gospel of Jesus Christ for Christians alone—as John G. Gager proposed in Bible Review—or whether his message was intended for both Jews and Christians.

Chapter Three


“Paul, ‘Works of the Law’ and MMT,” by Martin Abegg, professor and codirector of the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute at Trinity Western University, Canada, examines how the Dead Sea Scroll known as MMT is valuable in helping us to understand the theology of Paul. Abegg suggests MMT may represent—for the first time—the “works of the Law” decried by Paul in his letters to the Romans and Galatians.

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  • John says

    Paul at Romans 9:3 was very upset with respect to his fellow Israelites who had not accepted Jesus Christ, he even said that would swap his position as a Christian, for their belief in the Law, just to save them, even at the risk of his own life…………….he really exemplified what Christian love was all about.

  • John says

    BAR says; “…… he was himself a Pharisee and addressed the role of Jewish traditions and the status of Israel in the new covenant.”
    True, Saul (Paul) was a pharisee, he trained under Gamaliel, (Acts 22:3), and he had a real hatred for Christians, (Acts 7:57 – 8:1; Acts 9:1; Acts 8:3; Acts 26:10), but, he converted to Christianity, (Acts 9:9-19).
    Once Paul became a Christian he put his heart and soul into teaching others and contributing, in no small way, to the the spread of Christianity during the 1st century……this was to both Jews and to the nations.(Acts 9:15; Galatians 1:15, 16; Galatians 2:7, 8; Romans 1:5; 1 Timothy 2:7)
    Paul taught that Christians were no longer under the Mosaic Law, he even considered that old Law as refuse. (Philippians 3:4-8, 15; Romans 10:4; Romans 7:6; Ephesians 2:13-15; Colossians 2:13, 14; Colossians 2:16; Galatians 4:10, 11; Acts 15:28, 29; Galatians 3:19-25; Galatians 4:4, 5). This is probably sufficient to enable one to see that as Christians we are no longer under that Law………..but, a study of that Law is very interesting and we can find value in the underlying principles of that Law and they were a trustworthy guide to the Israelites who were under that Law, until Jesus fulfilled the Law.

  • John says

    At Romans 11:13 Paul said that he was an apostle to the nations, although he also taught the Jews in the nations that he went to.
    Although Paul (Saul) was a Pharisee, taught by Gamaliel before his conversion to Christianity, he only then taught the Christian way of life, he had no conflict in that regard…….in his letter to the Hebrews or Jews, he explains in detail how Jesus fulfilled the law and that they were no longer under it……..as we are no longer under that law either………because Jesus sacrifice was a perfect sacrifice…….Romans 10:4 tells us that Jesus put an end to the law (Mosaic Law)…..see Romans 7:6; Colossians 2:16; Acts 15:28, 29; ……and Ephesians 2:13-15 tells us that the law was abolished, and at Galatians 4:10, 11 he strongly counselled some who had failed to grasp, what being a Christian meant, as they were still trying to follow the old law.

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