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Review of “The Jewish Lives of the Apostle Paul”

On the subject of Paul, here is a review I wrote for H-Net Reviews (H-Judaic) of John G. Gager, Who Made Early Christianity?: The Jewish Lives of the Apostle Paul (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015). I find the idea that Paul remained a Torah-observant Jew and that his belief that the eschatological pilgrimage of the nations had begun could account for why he is adamant that non-Jewish followers of the Messiah do not have to become proselytes to Judaism to be an attractive option. However, several texts in the Pauline Epistles still seem to me to resist a Sonderweg (special path) reading that Paul thought that only non-Jews were in need of Jesus’ vicarious death and resurrection. I recognize that not all of the representatives of the “Paul within Judaism” paradigm embrace the particular Sonderweg approach and scholars such as Mark Nanos have offered alternative readings of the verses I highlight in the review as possibly implying that Paul no longer felt obligated to practice the Torah. The chief value of Gager’s study is its demonstration that there was a lengthy history of Jewish interpreters who did not view Paul as an apostate from the Torah and its extensive review of the varied interactions of Jews and Christians with each other and the wider society in the antique and Medieval periods.

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