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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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  • Sara says

    God’s Law is Universal Law. It took me awhile to figure out, but I would be very interested to get your take on Paul’s life, all his transformations as he became more wise in the Holy Spirit.

  • Larry says

    So, did any of you “experts” actually read the 27 books that make up the “old testament” or the 4 “gospels”? Then read Paul. Then read Peter. Then do it again. Quit bickering and get out and proclaim the Good News!

  • Antonio says

    Come fare per scaricare l’E-Book in italiano?

  • Armand says

    I’m with David; I just don’t see Jesus (or James, for that matter) including the Gentiles in his message. Furthermore, a comparison of the messages between Paul & James demonstrates that Paul clearly made up his own message, his own Christ, and his own religion. He made himself an Apostle, (Apostle by birth, no less) and had the temerity to challenge Peter & James on what HE thought the true message of Jesus was. Unmitigated gall in my opinion. He perverted Jesus’ message so much that the Jerusalem church sent out members to stay with Paul & make sure he stayed on message which, of course, he did not. Try Hyam Maccoby’s “Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity,” or James Tabors’ “Jesus & Paul.” Both are awesome accounts of Paul mission and his “creative license” in creating his own “Christianity.” Or, start with the Letter of James in the NT and compare James’ path to salvation (works) to Paul’s (faith alone) and to Jesus’ as well (works.) If you want to be a follower of Jesus, you must embrace Judaism, pure & simple. Jesus was born a Jew, lived his life as a Jew right to the moment of his death, and even may have considered himself Messiah which clearly he could not have assumed that title while relinquishing his Jewish heritage. He would never have abrogated Talmudic Law (“For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Matt 5:18)

  • EDWARD J says

    Rick, I’m sure you’re looking at it from a Christian perspective; from a Jewish perspective, worshipping Jesus as a god is definitely a foreign god; likewise, Trinity, original sin, baptism, and many other things are not native to Judaism and therefore foreign. That’s why I say Paul created his own religion, since Jesus, as far as I know, preached none of those things.
    Unless your point is that Judaism and Christianity are identical, it’s a new religion and Deut 13 stands.

    • Steve says

      I completely agree with your thoughts on the trinity, however, to say that original sin & immersions are not native to Judaism is simply not accurate. There are differing opinions on the topic of original sin within Judaism but it is most definitely there. Look it up in the Jewish Encyclopedia. Paul, not as seen by Christianity but as seen by the scriptures, was completely Torah observant and taught this everywhere he went. Christianity has destroyed his image and reputation but the true Paul would never teach anything but Torah and Judaism.

      • John says

        “……differing opinions on the topic of original sin ……”
        Pure and simply, the original sin was disobedience to God. Adam and Eve were told not to eat fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden ‘the tree of knowledge, of good and bad’……….but, what did they do……..they ate from it……bringing death to all mankind. If you have a different thought on that, I would certainly like to hear it. Provided, of course, you use the Bible in your explanation.
        ” ……….but the true Paul would never teach anything but Torah and Judaism.”
        This is not true, whilst Paul was a Pharisee, he hated Christians……….then came his conversion to Christianity…….he certainly did not teach the Law after that……..Paul is the one, who clearly pointed out that the Law had been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and that Christians were no longer under that Law. Romans 7:6;
        Ephesians 2:13-15; Colossians 2:13, 14; Colossians 2:16; Galatians 4:10, 11.

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