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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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  • George says

    Paul does not contradict himself. He hates Judaism and declare himself an Israelite (one who struggles with God). There is no Judaism in his message of “Justification.” He shows the separation between the Law of God and the bogus “laws of oral tradition.” The one who has the gift of faith to believe that Jesus Christ is the only righteous son of God will please God in Law keeping not for salvation in the life after physical death but to stay alive to proclaim the Gospel in this life. Paul’s message is clear to the believer: the fulfillment of the Law of God is in Christ alone and put to our account, not infused, when we believe.

  • George says

    Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote as though our Lord was speaking, and particularly in defense of the Gospel. The Gospel presupposes the “righteousness of Christ alone plus nothing.” This must be our interpretive principle for the entire Bible, all 66 books. This being stated, there will be no confusion between Justification and sanctification. Any form of our sanctification in life will never justify, or become a basis for justification. This is what Paul’s message, as has been the message of all believers since the time of Adam. Confusion on this issue arises when our flesh is trying to establish our own “justification” before God.

  • Troy says

    Interesting. Most of these comments concerning the Apostle and his extensive knowledge of the law, omits the most essential aspect of Paul’s revelations… The law is spiritual, and this is the only “Way,” in “Truth,” that it could be “kept.” Indeed, the natural aspect of the law, as it pertains to human existence, has already slayed its subjects (let the dead bury their dead). All of these great swelling words of vanity used to explain biblical factsvfrom a theological perspective amounts to nothing more than the vanity of the fleshly mind. (Rom. 7-9; 1 Cor. 2)

    Amazingly obvious is the lack of spiritual discernment people calling themselves “Christians and Jews”….

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