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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

Nazareth

“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,

“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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  • Ryan says

    Paul NEVER established any “churches.” The word “church” derives from the pagan shrine that was built to the Greek goddess Kirk, where the word church comes from. Paul established “Ekklessia” which were “communities of disciples” that followed Torah, and kept the testimony of Yahoshoa Mashyach. Churches (shrines to the goddess) were not “Christianized (also a pagan word) until Emperor Constantine.” Paul never preached “anti-Torah,” that was a false accusation against him by Jews and Gentiles alike, because of his preaching that “Torah doesn’t justify a person, the man that completed Torah is the one that has the power to justify,” which doesn’t negate Torah, in fact, “established Torah.” Christians, Messianics, and Jews alike have twisted Pauls words for millenia. All of Pauls letters preach Torah, and he States himself, “that the one that preaches Torah, must live by Torah, as Messiah is the result of Torah.” Messiah means “anointed one.” One is not “anointed, ” unless one keeps Torah. Paul said himself, “if I yet preach circumcision, why am I therefore condemned?” He taught the Thrust Circumcision, which was the “keeping of Torah” as found in all of his letters. But the “novices twist his words to their own destruction.”

    • John says

      Paul used to teach Torah or the Mosaic Law……when he was a Pharisee……once he became a Christian, he no longer taught or followed the Law, because he knew that the Law had been fulfilled by Jesus Christ……no other human could come near to fulfilling the Law because it was perfect, and all mankind is imperfect……..Jesus managed to do this because he was a perfect human. The last festival under the Law was Pentecost 33 CE………from then on, Christians were no longer under that Law.

    • John says

      Ryan says: “Paul never preached “anti-Torah,” that was a false accusation against him by Jews and Gentiles alike,………”
      At no time did any of the apostles demand Christians keep the sabbath, or for that matter, any other part of the Law that Jesus fulfilled at his death.
      At Philippians 3:5-10, Paul first says that when he was a Pharisee under the Law he persecuted Christians; but, on becoming a Christian, or follower of Christ, he felt the Law was refuse.and a loss.
      At Romans 10:4 Paul said that Christ was the END of the Law.
      At Ephesians 2:15 Paul said Christs death abolished the Law
      At Colossians 2:13,14, 16 says that Jesus death erased the Law
      Paul also pointed out at Galatians 3:19-25 that the Law was given to make sin or transgressions manifest and the Law was a tutor, or teacher, leading to Christ. and once he came and offered his life there was no longer a need for the Law.
      Galatians 4:4, 5 says that God sent his Son, who was under the Law, that by his death he would release those who were under the Law.
      The letter that Paul wrote to Hebrews is also very interesting where Paul points out that many of the sacrifices under the Law were done away with.
      It seems to me that Paul mentions theses point to nearly all the Christians in Asia Minor, Greece and Rome.
      May I be respectfully ask if you still carry out the sacrifices required under the Law?
      I was just wondering in light of your statement; ” He taught the Thrust Circumcision, which was the “keeping of Torah” as found in all of his letters. But the “novices twist his words to their own destruction.”
      Would you please direct to any scriptures that tell us where Christians were/are still making sacrifices under the Law………maybe Paul did……and maybe I missed it.
      My apologies, if I sounded a little facetious, I didn’t mean to be.

    • John says

      Ryan, would you please explain the meaning of what Paul said at 1 Corinthians 7:19
      where he says circumcision is is nothing and uncircumcision nothing, but being obedient to God’s commands was important……..and in the preceding verse he clearly stated that if a man had been called and he was not circumcised, he did not have to get circumcised.

  • Tererai says

    I am being helped

  • 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.

    • John says

      Paul was a Pharisee and an expert in Jewish Law, who trained under Gamaliel who was a member of the Sanhedrin, until his conversion to a Christian. Acts 9:3-8.
      From then on, Paul certainly did not promote anything to do with the Mosaic Law, he was well aware that Jesus death was the fulfillment of the Law and it was thus done away with.

  • 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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