One glance at the cover of Paula Fredriksen’s Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle signals to its readers something important about what they are going to find within its pages. The cover evokes an earlier book on the apostle Paul, E. P. Sanders’s Paul and Palestinian Judaism, published just over forty years ago. It serves, therefore, as Fredriksen’s homage to what remains for many of us the most important work written on the apostle Paul. But it is no mere homage, for a closer examination of both books reveals that The Pagans’ Apostle isn’t a dead ringer for Paul and Palestinian Judaism.
These two pictures frame this forum more powerfully than anything I could write. In the words of the greatest father of all time, Mike Brady (in 1995 film The Brady Bunch Movie), “I couldn’t have put it better myself, Jan. But I’ll try anyway.”
Like Sanders’s work, this is a book about a Jewish Paul, not a Paul who stands against Judaism. This is a book, then, that rejects the anti-legalistic Paul of the pre-Sanders era, which continues in many circles today. It also rejects the anti-ethnocentric Paul that co-opted Sanders’s many insights and threatened to lead the study of Paul into another dead end. Beyond Sanders, though, The Pagans’ Apostle emphasizes the intended Gentile audience of Paul’s letters and situates Paul’s thinking within the larger Greco-Roman world (Jewish and non-Jewish) which was populated by numerous ethnic gods.
Fredriksen begins The Pagans’ Apostle by reminding modern historians that “Paul lived his life—as we all must live our lives—innocent of the future” (xii). Paul simply did not know how it all would turn out. He could not foresee that his individual letters would be collected and canonized, read by people the world over for two thousand years. How, then, should we read Paul? Fredriksen puts it this way: “As historians, we conjure that innocence as a disciplined act of imagination, through appeals to our ancient evidence” (xii). The Pagans’ Apostle imaginatively constructs a Paul from his few letters. All reconstructions of Paul, from the longest Pauline Theology to the briefest of articles, imaginatively construct a Paul, no matter how self-aware their various writers are of this process. Margaret Mitchell has put this fact beautifully:
Pauline interpretation is fundamentally an artistic exercise in conjuring up and depicting a dead man from his ghostly images in the ancient text, as projected on a background composed from a selection of existing sources. All these portraits are based upon a new configuration of the surviving evidence, set into a particular, chosen, framework.1
What evidence does Fredriksen bring to her construction of the apostle Paul? Her career-long research on the world of Late Antiquity. So when it comes to apocalyptic, a word that has considerable currency in Pauline studies, Fredriksen uses it to mean what it actually meant in the ancient world: Paul truly thought the end was imminent, that the Messiah was going to return in his lifetime, and that he and many of his readers/hearers were going to experience it. He was wrong about all this, as we now know; but Paul did not know this, and scholars who purport to do historical work should not evade Paul’s miscalculation. We need to conjure Paul’s innocence of the fact that God’s cosmic redemption did not happen according to Paul’s expectations.
And, like most people in the ancient Mediterranean world, ethnicity and religion were not two distinct fields in Paul’s mind, but intertwined so completely that to mention one was to mention the other. Ethnicity mattered to Paul because, to use a modern term, Paul was himself ethnocentric. If one, following proponents of the so-called “New Perspective,” still insists upon denigrating ancient Judaism as an ethnocentric religion, one needs to be intellectually honest and include Paul within that denigration. Anything else is apologetics masquerading as history. We need to conjure Paul’s innocence (and the larger innocence of the Greco-Roman world) in relation to their thinking about ethnicity and religion, without passing easy judgment.
And when she speaks of Paul being a monotheist, Fredriksen uses the term monotheism as ancients, Jews and non-Jews, would have: to signify that there were many gods, but only one supreme god at power’s pinnacle. Again, the monotheism of modern Judaism and Christianity (and Islam) would differ. But modern historians should conjure that innocence of later developments in monotheistic thinking and allow ancient peoples, and texts, to speak within their own times.
And, most of all, when Paul claims to be a Jew, he actually was a Jew, not merely, and conveniently, a Protestant in disguise. The law mattered to Paul because it was a good gift from God to Israel. Circumcision and food laws mattered because they were integral parts of the law. We need to conjure that innocence of the first Christ followers who did not know that what they were doing would contribute to the rise of something distinct from first-century Judaism, something now called Christianity.
The Pagans’ Apostle, then, lives up to the story that its cover tells, taking its place within a lineage of Pauline interpretation that includes such luminous ancestors as Albert Schweitzer, Krister Stendahl, and E. P. Sanders. Much that it contains can be contested and discussed, and this forum hopes to serve as a catalyst for that conversation. Our forum opens with Jennifer Eyl’s “Putting the End Back into the Beginning.” Eyl expresses an appreciation for Fredriksen’s insistence on foregrounding Paul’s apocalypticism, a frustration with and uncertainty about how best to translate Paul’s ethnē— “pagan,” “Gentile,” or something else—and a concern over whether The Pagans’ Apostle emphasizes Paul’s Jewishness to such an extent that it recreates the Judaism/Hellenism divide that other scholars have shown to be ahistorical.
In “To See Paul as Paul Saw Himself,” Brent Nongbri reflects on the task and the methodology of historians. What, he asks, constitutes good historical work? Given Fredriksen’s opening call to wield “a disciplined act of imagination,” Nongbri wonders how one can know whether one’s imagination has been properly disciplined, especially given the 24,000 or so words we have from Paul? How can modern scholars of Paul ensure that their readings of him are not dictated by their own moral, ideological, or theological sensibilities?
In a wide-ranging and thorough interaction, Troels Engberg-Pedersen begins with high praise for The Pagans’ Apostle, noting numerous points of agreement with the Paul depicted therein. But he wonders whether Paul does not also envisage theoretical consequences for Jewish believers that parallel the consequences of the “Christ event” (by which he means, specifically, Christ’s resurrection) for Gentiles. In other words, while Paul is the pagans’ apostle, what consequences did Paul envisage for his fellow Jews?
Finally, Eric Barreto explores some of the implications of the historical reconstruction of The Pagans’ Apostle for contemporary theological and historical interpretation. Just as ethnicity is a construct, yet no less real because of it, so too our historical Pauls. These Pauls do something for and to us and for and to others. Like Nongbri, Barreto highlights how necessarily tenuous efforts at reconstructing Paul’s thought must be, given how few, and how occasional, his extant letters are. Our modern efforts necessitate our filling in gaps and making connections that are not explicit within Paul’s letters. What, he asks, do these particular efforts tell us about ourselves, our own ethnic discourses, and our own conceptualizations of the divine?
Mitchell, The Heavenly Trumpet: John Chrysostom and the Art of Pauline Interpretation (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2002), 428.↩
“To See Paul as Paul Saw Himself”
The Pagans’ Apostle and the Task of the Historian
The Pagan’s Apostle is a joy to read. Written with equal parts authority, coherence, and eloquence, it presents a picture of the Apostle Paul that is completely sensible given what the best scholarship now tells us about the humans and gods that populated the ancient Mediterranean world. We’ve been seeing flashes of someone like this apostle for decades—at Aarhus in the work of Johannes Munck, at Harvard with Krister Stendahl, at Vancouver through the writings of Lloyd Gaston, and elsewhere.1 We’ve gotten a closer look at him more recently, lurking in New England in some of Paula Fredriksen’s own earlier articles2 and in Stanley Stowers’s classic A Rereading of Romans.3 It feels somehow appropriate that this apostle has now made his fullest appearance to date with Fredriksen in Jerusalem.
But exactly what kind of apostle are we seeing? The Pagans’ Apostle opens and closes with two references to the imagination. The first comes at the end of the preface to the book. It’s one of those paragraphs, so frequent in Fredriksen’s work, that can make the rest of us feel pretty pedestrian about our own writing abilities:
But Paul lived his life—as we all must live our lives—innocent of the future. As historians, we conjure that innocence as a disciplined act of imagination, through appeals to our ancient evidence. Only in so doing can we begin to see Paul as Paul saw himself: as God’s prophetic messenger, formed in the womb to carry the good news of impending salvation to the nations, racing on the edge of the End of time. (xii)
Similarly, the final paragraph of the postscript invokes the imagination as the means of access to the Paul described in the preceding pages:
If we can move aside the veils of later ecclesiastical tradition, if we can see past their images of Paul the ex-Jew and of Paul the anti-Jew, if we can imagine ourselves back into the full-hearted eschatological conviction of the movement’s founding generation—which thought that it was history’s final generation—it is this other Paul whom we will more clearly see. (173–74)
For me, these passages raise a question as much for my own work as for Fredriksen’s. We are asked to engage in disciplined acts of imagination “to see” Paul and to see him in a certain way. But what exactly does it mean to “begin to see Paul as Paul saw himself?” How will we know if our imaginative acts come close to hitting the target?
This is a question of historiography, but I can’t entirely decide if it’s more a question of evidence or a question of method. You can’t have one without the other, but I’ll try to separate them for the purposes of this discussion. First, let me address the evidence. Fredriksen sensibly limits herself to the seven letters of Paul almost universally agreed to have been authored by the apostle himself (notwithstanding the fact that five of these seven letters are coauthored), along with the occasional and cautious use of portions of the Acts of the Apostles. But what kind of evidence is this collection of seven letters of Paul? It is frequently noted that they are occasional letters written to specific addressees to deal with specific problems. It is less commonly noted that the letters as we encounter them are the result of multiple layers of editing and interpretation. Fredriksen is more forthright than most about this issue:
The antiquity of Paul’s letters also affects their material status. Paul would have dictated them to a scribe sometime in the middle decades of the first century. We have no manuscript copies that go back to Paul’s lifetime. Originally, Paul’s Greek would have been written with no breaks between words and no punctuation: those are both conventions from later orthography. Simply reading Paul’s sentences now, how we break up his clauses and connect his ideas, already depends upon many interpretive decisions before we can even deal with the problem of how we translate him. Compounding this problem was how widely his letters were copied and circulated: changes both accidental and occasionally deliberate were introduced during the long centuries of manuscript transmission, every time a scribe did his job. The result was numerous variants and, accordingly, some uncertainty about how Paul originally said what he said. Last, the transmission of the letters themselves seems to have occasionally gotten garbled: most scholars see at least two letters edited together in our current text of Philippians; and the redaction of 2 Corinthians—two letters? Three?—remains problematic. In sum, the letters as we now have them reflect only imperfectly what Paul’s scribe almost twenty centuries ago, would have written. (63)
The text of the letters is unstable. This instability occurs mostly at the “micro” level—differences in spelling, word order, prepositions, and the like—but it also occasionally occurs at the “macro” level (just where does Rom 16:25–27 actually belong?). Two observations are in order. First, even those “micro” differences (a singular here, a plural there; an ek here, a dia there) are exactly the kinds of things scholars argue about, as in Fredriksen’s completely convincing discussion of the opening verses of Romans (141–45). Second, even if we grant (as all of us effectively do) that the textual critics have been basically successful at obtaining the earliest recoverable text of Paul’s letters, it bears recalling that this is essentially the text of Paul’s letters as it existed in the fourth century (the date usually assigned to the manuscripts containing our earliest complete copies of Paul’s letters). That text is occasionally emended with reference to other manuscripts, but the much-vaunted “early papyri” play little role in the critical text (I’m unaware of any reading in the current critical text that is supported only by a papyrus without additional support from later manuscripts). The bottom line is that we have no good way of knowing what the text of Paul’s letters looked like in the second century, never mind the middle of the first century. Quotations of Paul’s letters in second-century Christian authors are few, and they are subject to the same vicissitudes of manuscript transmission as Paul’s letters themselves.
So, that is the evidence. Seven occasional letters (five of which are coauthored) containing about twenty-four thousand words (less than two and a half JBL articles’ worth), with a somewhat unstable text that is at best a couple centuries distant from the time of Paul and which has been edited by at least one figure into the form(s) of the letters that we find in our surviving manuscripts.
What kind of portraits do we paint with such a palette? A comparison with one of Fredriksen’s other subjects might be helpful. The surviving works of Augustine are usually said to be comprised of some five million words. These words of course also reach us through a process of transmission, but substantial parts of the corpus are preserved in surviving manuscripts that reputable scholars judge to have been copied in the fifth and sixth centuries (one, containing books 11–16 of the City of God, perhaps copied during the lifetime of Augustine). So, in terms of evidence, does the exercise of “seeing Augustine as Augustine saw himself” differ in kind, or merely in scale from the exercise of “seeing Paul as Paul saw himself”? I would be interested to hear an experienced interpreter like Fredriksen reflect on what’s the same and what’s different about handling these two bodies of evidence.
Moving more explicitly toward issues of method, I’ll stay with Augustine and turn to the epigraph of The Pagan’s Apostle: “The past is gone; and the truth of what is past lies in our own judgment, not in the past event itself” (Augustine, Contra Faustum 26.5). The quotation hits home for me because I’ve been pressed on this issue in response to some of my own work. If we agree that the past is gone, how do we adjudicate between better and worse historical accounts of the past? Augustine’s answer seems straightforward: “our own judgment” (nostra sententia).
Bringing Augustine’s words into our own context, I think of sententia in terms of adherence to the rules historians use, rules that are frequently unstated. Our rhetoric can tend to make ancient evidence the reference point, the arbiter of establishing that one historical reading is superior to another. We emphasize getting back to the sources. But the evidence and sources don’t really do anything. They don’t even get to count as evidence or sources until we make them do so in the framework of our arguments. And we’re taught to make those arguments in ways that follow rules from the theoretical (e.g., “anachronism in historical accounts is bad”) to the literary (we learn what “good history writing” looks like as a genre). These rules are grounded in our present, contemporary concerns and not in the past itself. But within the game that historians play, within the sets of rules that historians continuously establish, debate, and revise, I do think we can still talk about the past and decide between better and worse historical accounts. But we do so by reference to these rules to which we all (at least tacitly) agree when we sign up to be historians.
But here’s the rub: It seems to me that many (most?) people who identify as Pauline scholars simply don’t play by those rules, opting instead to, say, “wrap theology in the rhetoric of historical investigation.” I borrow the phrase from Fredriksen’s withering 2015 Catholic Biblical Quarterly review of N. T. Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God,4 but it could be justifiably applied to many proponents of the “radical New Perspective,” whose zeal for pluralist theology at times rivals Wright’s enthusiasm for orthodoxy. So I suppose the more troublesome word in Augustine’s formulation is nostra—who is included in this enterprise? The question could be phrased in another way: Both Fredriksen and authors like Wright compose books about Paul, but given their differing relationships to the rules of historiography, are they really even engaging in the same activity? And if they’re not, does that tell us something about the guild of Pauline studies?
The Pagan’s Apostle is not intended to be a historiographical treatise, but some of the quotations I’ve highlighted lead me to believe that Fredriksen might have more to say about these issues. I so thoroughly enjoyed reading and learning from The Pagan’s Apostle. Now I would like to learn just a bit more about some of the mechanics behind Fredriksen’s “quest for the historical apostle” (62) and effort “to see Paul as Paul saw himself.”
Johannes Munck, Paul and the Salvation of Mankind, trans. Frank Clarke (Richmond, VA: John Knox, 1959), Krister Stendahl, Paul among the Jews and Gentiles, and Other Essays (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976), and Lloyd Gaston, Paul and the Torah (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1987).↩
E.g., Paula Fredriksen, “Judaism, the Circumcision of Gentiles, and Apocalyptic Hope: Another Look at Galatians 1–2,” JTS 42 (1991) 532–64, and “Judaizing the Nations: The Ritual Demands of Paul’s Gospel,” NTS 56 (2010) 232–52.↩
Stanley K. Stowers, A Rereading of Romans: Justice, Jews, and Gentiles (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994).↩
N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, 2 vols. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2013).↩
Does Ethnicity Matter?
Paula Fredriksen’s Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle1 “mobilizes conclusions reached in work spanning from 1986 . . . to [forthcoming in] 2018” (178), that is, more than thirty years. It is a masterly work that displays all of Fredriksen’s unique qualities. First, it addresses a burning issue, namely, how to understand the message to Gentiles of Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ, in relation to Judaism and his fellow Jews. Has he left them behind? Or does he belong among them? Fredriksen argues intensely for the latter position in agreement with “those associated with interpreting ‘Paul within Judaism’ . . .” (165n83).2 Second, it is based on a deep familiarity with Judaism contemporary with Paul and the latest research on that. That is in itself a major help for all Pauline scholars. Third, it also puts Fredriksen’s considerable knowledge of the later Christian tradition up to and including Augustine into use by showing how Paul came to be understood in that tradition—differently, as Fredriksen shows, from the way he should actually, historically be understood. Fourth, it draws on a deep knowledge of Paul himself and of much relevant Pauline scholarship since Albert Schweitzer.3 Finally, it is so well structured and delightfully written that it is a constant joy to follow Fredriksen’s arguments. Readers should be prepared, however, to study carefully the endnotes, too (seventy-three closely written pages: 181–253). They are a mine of information that from time to time address even more pithily issues that have already been raised in the main text—or even raise new questions that may also have occurred in the reader’s mind.
In this essay, I will note our agreements on some of the basic issues (they are many), present an alternative reading that fits those agreements, and then raise a number of questions about Fredriksen’s arguments that seem to point in the direction of the alternative reading.
A first major agreement concerns the importance of apocalypticism for Paul. This is brought out well in many places and respects (5–6, 9 et passim), and Fredriksen is surely right.4 Everything else one will want to say about Paul must fit into his belief that he was living at a point in time when the End events had already begun (through the resurrection of Jesus Christ) and were very soon to be concluded (with the return of Christ). It is this fact that acutely raises Fredriksen’s question: how did Paul see the relationship between Christ-believing Gentiles and (Christ-believing) Jews, that is, Judaism, during this interim period and at its consummation with the return of Christ.
A second major agreement concerns Paul’s relationship with the Jewish law and, by implication, Judaism. Paul did not abrogate the law, neither for Jews (including Christ-believing Jews, who might certainly continue living under the law, by circumcising their male offspring, following food laws, etc.), nor for Christ-believing non-Jews. In fact, the latter—as Paul argues intensely in Galatians 5 (5:13–26) and Romans 7–8 (esp. 8:4)—would now precisely fulfill the law. We completely agree here: Paul was a Jew and he remained a Jew. What he argued for with regard to Christ-believing non-Jews was meant to fit them—in one way or another (there’s the rub!)—into Judaism.
A third major agreement concerns the emphasis Fredriksen rightly places on the reception of the pneuma in Paul’s conception of the consequences of the Christ event (Christ’s resurrection). What is particularly noteworthy here is that Fredriksen fully recognizes the importance of reception of the pneuma for Christ-believing Jews, too, not just for Gentiles.5 In other words, in the interim period (and even more at the final consummation) both Christ-believing Jews and non-Jews were (and would be) in possession of God’s and Christ’s pneuma, as neither had been before that.
A fourth agreement concerns the meanings of pistis (as “steadfastness” and “fidelity toward,” 36, 120) and dikaiosynē (as “being righteoused,” 121). I believe that Fredriksen would also agree that only Christ-believers—whether Jews or non-Jews—have the proper pistis in God and only Christ-believers are—as a result of that and by the reception of the pneuma—“righteoused.”
An Alternative Picture
My questions for Fredriksen spring from the basic opposition (an either-or) with which she operates throughout the book: either (a) Paul speaks for “an undifferentiated humankind united ‘in Christ’” (150) that implies an erasure of ethnic diversity (110n28, 114); or else (b) he speaks for maintaining ethnic diversity “in Christ” between Jews and non-Jews. On the latter picture, which is Fredriksen’s own, Christ-believing Gentiles remain (“ex-pagan”) pagans—and Christ-believing Jews remain what Fredriksen with much warmth calls “ethnic, genealogical, fleshly Israel” (150). We shall return to Fredriksen’s ex-pagan pagans, but her understanding of the Christ-believing Jews is at least clear enough.
However, I am convinced that Fredriksen’s opposition is not adequate to Paul’s thought. It is, as it were, only horizontal: either you are a Gentile, or you are a Jew. However, in between A and B, there is a different kind of position, which is vertical. We may call it this: A+BX.6 It consists of non-Jews and Jews who are both (and if you will, together) directed towards (evidently, the Jewish) God and what he has done in the Christ event. And the point is that in this conception there is no erasure of ethnic diversity; on the contrary, one may well maintain ethnic diversity even “in Christ.” Still, whether a Christ-believer is a Jew or not a Jew, but a Gentile, does not matter in relation to the only thing that matters, namely, the directedness towards God and Christ (call it pistis) that makes the Jew or non-Jew righteous and gives him (or indeed, her!) salvation.7 It is precisely this conception (which, I repeat, does not erase ethnic diversity) that Paul articulates in, for instance, Gal 5:6, Gal 6:15, and 1 Cor 7:19, where he makes use of an originally Stoic way of thinking.8 The differences are there and are allowed to be there; but they are “indifferent” in relation to the only thing that matters.
Indeed, I will go one step further. It is not just that Paul allows those differences to be there. They also should be so by the very pistis-directedness towards God. In Gal 5:6 Paul spells out this pistis as consisting in energeia di’ agapēs (“work through love”). And in Phil 2:4—in what I call Paul’s maxim—he spells out this agapē as consisting in not looking after one’s own interests (including those of one’s ethnicity), but instead, and precisely, those of the others. So, in the A+BX position Christ-believing Gentiles will positively allow Jews to follow their traditional ethnic practices, and Christ-believing Jews on their side will allow Christ-believing Gentiles to follow their traditional ethnic practices (apart, as Fredriksen rightly insists, from that of participating in traditional rituals to Gentile gods). Both things follow from their shared directedness to the only thing that matters: the Christ event.
In the light of this possible way of reading Paul, let me list a number of questions for Fredriksen. They all derive from claims she makes and are intended to show that—as I see it—Paul draws consequences from his understanding of the Christ event that Paula is not prepared to follow.
(1) Fredriksen rightly stresses the importance for Paul of the apocalyptic now. She also rightly recognizes (against Sonderweg scholars) that Jesus Christ is centrally relevant to Jews, too (see 127n64). If the apocalyptic now is crucially relevant to Gentiles to such an extent that it turns their status into something that by Fredriksen’s own understanding makes them a complete anomaly in relation to normal ethnic structures (they must give up their traditional gods in favor of the Jewish god, but must not become Jews), then may it not also be in some way similarly relevant to Jews?9 I recognize the superficial weakness of this question. But as I see it, this claim—of the radical consequences for Jews, too, of Paul’s apocalypticism—is the key point at issue.
(2) Along the same lines, Fredriksen stresses (rightly, I believe) that the status of Christ-believing Gentiles (her ex-pagan pagans) is a theoretical construct (presumably developed in the light of the apocalyptic now, which nobody had hitherto experienced).10 Why, then, should this construct not also be relevant to Jews, to whom it, to begin with, most straightforwardly belonged? (It is Paul, the Jew, who is an apocalypticist.) Will the Christ event not have any theoretical consequences for Jews, at all?
(3) In a wonderful endnote (153n49), Fredriksen first describes her doubt that Paul would have imagined eschatological Gentiles as still segregated from the inner courts of the temple in Jerusalem once the Kingdom came. On the contrary, “I imagine Paul walking with the gentile-in-Christ into Jerusalem’s inner temple area in anticipation of the Kingdom.” Next she asks: “But was Paul envisaging a terrestrial Kingdom at all?” Personally, I am convinced that Fredriksen is right on both counts, not least that Paul envisaged a heavenly kingdom. But then: will such a radical overall conception have no consequences for Jews, too?
(4) Fredriksen also (entirely rightly, to my mind) stresses the importance of reception of the pneuma among Christ-believers. They receive it in the present as a first installment in baptism, only to receive it in full in the (very soon to come) future: at their resurrection. Moreover, its reception has immediate consequences for Christ-believers, who are here and now righteoused by it and so made to possess complete self-mastery or (as I would rather say) moral perfection.11 That is why they, now, fulfill the Jewish law. Two questions here for Fredriksen: (a) Are Christ-believing Jews also baptized and so equipped with the pneuma? (b) If reception of the pneuma has the suggested radical consequences for Christ-believing Gentiles, will it not have the same consequences for Jews?
(5) Back to Fredriksen’s ex-pagan pagans: Fredriksen constructs a very rigid (even essentialist) understanding of ethnicity for the ancient world, which clearly underlies her claim that Christ-believing Jews will remain “ethnic Jews.”12 This overall understanding makes her see the case of a Gentile becoming a Jew (as a proselyte) as an “oddity.”13 Fortunately, she does recognize it as also a fact. Her construal of Paul’s Christ-believing Gentiles (the ex-pagan pagans) represents even more of an anomaly. They are and remain pagans, but have given up their traditional gods. If ethnicity consists of shared blood, language, sanctuaries and sacrifices, and customs (35, according to Herodotus, with whom Fredriksen agrees), then surely this does constitute an anomaly. They are neither pagans (but ex-pagans) nor Jews (but pagans). At the same time, their status according to Fredriksen (and I think she is right) constitutes a “radical form of Judaizing” (111, 112). They are not Jews, but behaving, even radically, as if they were Jews.14 How does that cohere logically?15
(6) Throughout the book, Fredriksen distances herself from the idea of “true Jewishness” (e.g., 156n60). One can understand why. If there is one thing that stands carved in stone in the book, it is the notion of “ethnic, genealogical, fleshly Israel” (150); and the idea of true Jewishness begins to query that. However, all the questions I have asked up to now point in the direction of understanding Christ-believing Judaism (that is, the form of “good, ethnic Judaism” that puts all-important emphasis on the Christ event) as the true Jewishness. Fredriksen—entirely rightly, to my mind—sees earliest Christianity as “in its own generation . . . a sect of Judaism” (113). But were not all such sects claiming to be the true form of Judaism, that is true Jewishness? Similarly, Paul himself, as Fredriksen recognizes (166), speaks clearly of the proper understanding of Judaism, namely, the one that has torn the veil away from reading the law and sees Christ face to face. So, directly for Fredriksen: Does the idea of the apocalyptic now, of the eschatological state as a theoretical construct, of the transformations generated by the pneuma, of the extreme Judaizing on the part of Christ-believing Gentiles not require the notion of true Jewishness (or Judaism) on the part of Jews, too, which is also the one adopted by those extremely Judaizing Christ-believing Gentiles?
(7) Throughout the book, too, Fredriksen is adamant that “Israel” stands for “ethnic, genealogical, fleshly Israel,” that is, circumcised Jews. There is much that speaks for this. Galatians 6:16 is a case in point (114n39). Romans 11:25–26 is another one (161). However, what is the point of Paul’s metaphor of the olive tree in Rom 11:13–24 together with its explication in 11:25–36? Its root, that is, Judaism, is holy (and set apart, as Fredriksen brings out well, 151–54), and so are its branches (11:16). On this tree, then, some branches, namely, non-Christ-believing Jews, have been broken off whereas Christ-believing Gentiles, who are in themselves (that is, as Gentiles) wild shoots, have been grafted in (11:17). They were wild, but have now been grafted in.16 Is this tree (with that root) not Judaism, and by implication, Israel? And does it not continue to be Judaism (and Israel) when the Gentiles have a share in it and so are no longer merely “wild branches” (but radically Judaizing!)? So, directly for Fredriksen: Can you accept that although Paul surely begins from taking “Israel” to stand for “good, ethnic Judaism,” he also aims to create something new? This new thing will be all Israel in the old sense, but now as transformed in such a manner that there is no longer any difference with regard to what alone genuinely matters between that new Israel and those Christ-believing Gentiles who, now, also belong to the holy, Jewish root?
(8) I must end on a more technical level. A rule of thumb among radical interpreters of Paul is to say that where tradition has seen him as arguing against Jews and Judaism, he is in fact arguing against Christ-believing Gentiles who thought that they had to become full Jews, that is, ethnically. The underlying logic is this: Paul addresses Christ-believing Gentiles. So, he is only talking about Christ-believing Gentiles. As a piece of logic, this cannot be right. In some places in these letters that are all directed to Christ-believing Gentiles, Paul also speaks directly about Jews and Judaism, not least when he has in mind those Jews who had not (yet) come around to Christ faith. As a reader of Paul, one has to accept that. One also has to accept the following as a methodological rule: in each relevant passage, one must carefully scrutinize the specific context in order to find out exactly what it then is that Paul aims to say about Jews and Judaism precisely when he is talking to Christ-believing Gentiles.
I have collected six examples of specific passages in Paul where I would ask Fredriksen whether her treatment of a number of texts is in agreement with this rule.
- For instance, Fredriksen does not at all address Gal 2:15–21 apart from characterizing it as a “tirade” that reflects “the heat of his rhetoric” (99). But would she not allow that this passage, in which Paul is speaking about himself and Peter, who are both “Jews by nature,” and the effect on them of the Christ event, calls for the closest scrutiny, and certainly in connection with 2:11–14, which Fredriksen does discuss?
- In another instance, Fredriksen considers Gal 3:1–4:31, though only very briefly since she finds that “Paul’s intemperate language and agitated arguments are difficult to follow” (107). “To grasp his thinking on the issue of gentile circumcision” she therefore turns to “Paul in a calmer moment” in 1 Cor 7:18–20. But would she not allow that any account of Paul on Gentile circumcision will have to scrutinize Gal 3:1—4:31, where Paul is once again unmistakably speaking to his non-Jewish readers about non-Christ-believing Judaism?
These were examples of Paul speaking relatively negatively of non-Christ-believing Judaism. But the same kind of textual—and indeed textually contextual—scrutiny is required when he speaks much more positively of Judaism. Again, I do not see this so clearly in The Pagans’ Apostle as one might wish.
- For instance, when Fredriksen has turned from Galatians to 1 Cor 7:18–20 (cf. above), she concludes that Paul “cannot” here be talking about God’s commandments to Israel, but “must” mean that circumcision or foreskin does not matter “specifically and only for not-Israel, that is, for gentiles’” (107, her italics). But she does not argue this claim by looking at the context itself, but brings in from a wholly different letter (Romans) that “Jewish circumcision . . . mattered very much to Paul” (107, her italics). Would she not recognize that there is a contextualizing deficit in such a manner of arguing?
- If we then look—for our next example—at Fredriksen’s handling of those texts in Romans just referred to, the same issue of careful contextual scrutiny comes up. “Jewish circumcision is of great value” (Rom 3:1–2, 107); “fleshly Israel’s privileges” remain (Rom 9:4–5, 107); “God’s gifts and call to Israel are ‘irrevocable’” (11:29, 107). This is all very true. But in the two first cases it constitutes an introduction to a line of thought that runs like this: in spite of the fact that this and the other holds for Judaism—there are problems (namely, of course, in the light of the Christ event). And in the last case, the line of thought is given in 11:30–31 to the effect that one can be sure that although (non-Christ-believing) Jews have now been disobedient (to God) by the mercy shown to the Gentiles, they, too, will—now or in the end—receive mercy. “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (11:29). In other words, the latter claim concerns the gifts to and calling of “fleshly Israel” with respect to the Christ event. So, would Fredriksen accept the need for careful scrutiny of the line of thought in each specific text (and letter) before drawing any wider conclusions, as opposed to a reading that takes what suits one and forgets the rest?
- Exactly the same goes for one more example, which is Fredriksen’s suggestion that in Gal 6:15 (“neither circumcision counts . . . nor foreskin”) Paul “is not referring to Jews in the first instance and to gentiles in the second,” but only to different types of Gentiles (107n22). Once again, Fredriksen here draws on the passages just mentioned from Romans. But would she accept that one will—primarily, at least—have to situate this text within its specific context (including that of Paul’s immediate opponents in Gal 6:11–13)?
- One last example: Fredriksen speaks of “Paul’s much-touted proclamation of oneness in Christ, Galatians 3.28,” which neglects “those many other places where Paul speaks of a community striated by significant internal distinctions . . .” (150). But when she then lines up these distinctions—apostles, prophets, interpreters, healers; male and female; Jew and Greek; Israel and the nations—she forgets to mention Paul’s overt point in those passages: that they all share in the same thing, which is basically the pneuma with all that this implies. Paul did not aim to erase ethnic (and more generally, “sarkic”) differences. But he also did not think that they at all mattered in comparison with what overwhelmingly did matter: dedication to the Jewish God.
I have sketched a reading of Paul that goes a very long way in tandem with the one given in The Pagans’ Apostle. Paul is arguing—apocalyptically and pneumatically—for a directedness towards the Jewish God that is shared by Christ-believing Jews and Gentiles alike. Where our understandings differ is that I take this directedness to have the additional characteristic that it leaves distinctions of ethnicity, gender, social status and the like in place, while also claiming that none of these distinctions (including the one of traditional = non-Christ-believing, Jewish ethnicity) matters vis-à-vis the only goal, which is (a Jewishly conceived) righteousness and salvation. Instead, what alone and apocalyptically and pneumatically now does matter is the true Jewishness (or Judaism) in which both Fredriksen’s only partly, but also radically, Judaizing Gentiles and the Christ-believing Jews have an equal and undivided share.
For the last twenty years, I have kept saying that I have learned most about Paul from Jewish and “Jewish-oriented” scholars. Paula Fredriksen’s new book now helps us enormously—both where it is right and where it is wrong—to grasp the unique understanding of Christ faith and Judaism that was Paul’s.
My old friend Paula I here call Fredriksen.↩
This self-description cannot be wholly adequate. As we shall see, I myself also understand Paul as belonging within Judaism, but I disagree over what this means with regard, in particular, to ethnicity. (In Denmark, we have decided to continue speaking of the “radical” perspective on Paul.)↩
It would be extremely interesting to focus one’s attention on Fredriksen’s use of this literature from Schweitzer to, say, John Barclay. Are we in general always fair to those scholars we enlist in support of our cause—and those we reject? Fredriksen, at least, attempts to be so, which is a sign of one of her most laudable virtues: honesty.↩
Cf. 9n3: “The present book emphasizes the fast approaching, impending future.”↩
Cf. The Pagans’ Apostle, 153n49: “Jewish Christ-followers are likewise empowered by pneuma, Paul being one of Paul’s premier examples of this.”↩
Here “A” stands for Christ-believing Gentiles, “B” for Christ-believing Jews, and “X” for God or Christ.↩
The addition of “or indeed, her!” is intended to indicate that the question of ethnicity (in “Christ-believing Jew or Greek”) has exactly the same place in Paul as the question of gender (in “Christ-believing male or female”), cf. Gal 3:28. In the same way, there is a close similarity in “identity politics” between Fredriksen’s ethnic concern and a feminist one of, say, thirty to forty years ago. Both are highly commendable, but I do not believe they were Paul’s. (Nor do I think—in a modern context—that they contain the whole truth. A book of mine, Paul on Identity, will be published in Danish in January 2020. Here I show how Paul’s “dual understanding of identity” [as expressed, e.g., in Gal 5:6] works throughout the letters in relation to Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, and political authorities. Relating this to the understanding of identity and identity politics given by Francis Fukuyama in Identity: Contemporary Identity Politics and the Struggle for Recognition [New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018], I go on to suggest that Paul’s handling of identity is more satisfactory than Fukuyama’s.)↩
For the Stoic notion of “indifferents” (adiaphora), see von Arnim, Stoicorum veterum fragmenta III.117–23. Things like “life, health, pleasure, beauty, strength, riches, a good name, good birth” (and, we might add, ethnic status) are “nothings” (oudetera, §117) in that they “in no way add to the happy life” (§118) and hence do not matter at all in relation to that. Still, they do have “elective value” (axia eklektikē, §118) and so may well be “preferable” (proēgmena, §122). (Conversely, things like death, illness, etc., have “dyselective disvalue” [apaxia apeklektikē, §118] and so may be “dispreferable” [apoproēgmena, §122].) To that extent, even ethnic status does matter.↩
Cf. The Pagans’ Apostle, 34, on the phrase “ex-pagan pagans,” where Fredriksen speaks of “the extreme anomaly, socially and therefore religiously, that this first generation represented”: “they were non-Jews who, as non-Jews, committed themselves to the exclusive worship, in some specifically Jewish ways, of the Jewish god.”↩
The Pagans’ Apostle, 74 (her italics): “But the Kingdom’s pagans were a special and a purely theoretical category: they were ex-pagan pagans.”↩
For the idea that the pneuma has enabled Christ-believers to act rightly, see The Pagans’ Apostle, 106, 120, 130, 158 (with a reference—158n68—to Stanley Stowers on self-mastery). I myself see Paul as arguing instead for moral perfection in Christ-believers. (Correspondingly, the logic of Pauline paraenesis is not that they should (or must) do something that they are not doing, but that they should keep doing something that they are already doing—since that is what the whole thing means.)↩
For essentialism, see The Pagans’ Apostle, 65: “Given the essentialism of ethnicity in antiquity.”↩
Cf. The Pagans’ Apostle, 77: “‘conversion’ itself was an odd thought to think.”↩
Cf. The Pagans’ Apostle, 112: Paul’s “gentiles were to act ‘as if’ they were Jews without, for males, receiving circumcision.”↩
You could say, of course, that it is so odd as to be logically incoherent—and that is its very point. But you could also say that it is so odd that it points towards some kind of resolution, which might consist in loosening and weakening the understanding of the all-important role of ethnicity on which Fredriksen insists—as in my alternative model.↩
Contra The Pagans’ Apostle, 117n45: “the ‘wild’ branches remain ‘wild.’”↩
Modeling Ethnicity and Theology in Paul . . . and in Us
Paula Fredriksen’s Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle narrates an Apostle Paul gazing over a chronological and cartographical horizon. The eschatological moment of redemption and the drawing together of peoples from every corner of the world intersect in a theological and exegetical symphony Paul intended to be heard only for a short while. And in that brief, liminal space between the world as it was and the world as it is and will be, Paul does not turn away from the ethnic and theological resources that shaped who he was before he encountered Jesus; instead, after that encounter, Paul’s imagination finds further root in the same promises and ethnic identity Paul had always confessed. What Paul discovers as he digs into the richness of his tradition is a promise that would be kept to Israel not apart from Jewish ethnic and religious identity but within it; Gentiles too would become beneficiaries of God’s grace neither apart from nor in replacement of the promises God made to Israel. The eschatological upturning of the world would draw the world together in the midst of ethnic and religious particularity. Borrowing language from Acts, we might say that Paul was writing at the end of the world with an eye towards the ends of the world.
In this way, Fredriksen seeks to set free a Paul whose gospel has been occluded by generations of misinterpretation and to make clear the nature and shape of the historical Paul’s ministry among the pagans. Paul did not see himself as turning away from either a faith or ethnicity in following Jesus, and the faith he taught to Gentiles did not efface Jewish particularity. And in this way, yes, Fredriksen’s work is a deeply historical analysis. At the same time, I wonder if the argument’s influence may shape how we understand contemporary interpretation and interpreters of Paul even more than how we understand the historical Paul, the Paul whom scholars conjure even more than the Paul who wrote letters as he imagined that the arc of time was drawing to a close. That is, might Fredriksen bring us to the very edge of the limits of historical inquiry to show us, not just who Paul was, but who historians and Christian theologians alike have become when we narrate a misshapen Paul?
Critical to Fredriksen’s argument is sustained attention to the construction and (re)construction of ethnic identities and their boundaries. How Paul renders Jewish ethnic identity and imagines Gentiles becoming beneficiaries of the gospel are both at stake and interwoven in her book. Thus, I turn to three forms of ethnic construction I see running through this persuasive, fascinating, field-shaping work.
In some ways, it is not much of a surprise that Paul’s ethnic identity is at the center of this book. The Paul whose ethnic body has been contested through generations of scholars is central here as are the racialized bodies of those Gentiles grafted into a tree cultivated by a God who chooses Israel. To what degree Paul remained Jewish in his ethnic and religious identity is a key working assumption in so many readings of his letters. His assumed departure from Judaism is coded in headings in study Bibles that say that Paul “converted” on the road to Damascus, in popular readings that Paul turned away wholly and dramatically from the law to the gospel, in Christian proclamation that calls Paul a Christian who has departed from his previous religious and ethnic commitments as a Jew. In contesting Paul’s Jewish body, however, too few scholars have noted the ethnic dimensions of these conclusions about Paul’s religious identity. What has become clearer in scholarship are the many ways religion and ethnic identity were interlaced in antiquity and are woven together in many articulations and constructions of identity today as well. Making far more explicit the implications of assuming Paul left behind his religious and ethnic identity when he became a follower of Jesus is one of many vital contributions this book makes.
What is more surprising and that much more interesting in my mind is Fredriksen’s argument that the ethnicity of God is at stake in Paul’s formulation of an eschatological theology. In a significant sense, Paul’s God is Jewish, Fredriksen argues both here and in a persuasive article in the Journal of Biblical Literature.1 The God of Paul is not a generic, universal, numinous deity but a God tied intimately to a people and place; God’s commitments to Israel are ethnic as are God’s commitments to Gentiles, though in a quite different way. Interpreters, she suggests, made a critical mistake when they “radically de-ethnicized Paul’s God; and, accordingly, they also reconceptualized his Kingdom” (173). That is, Paul’s thinking was not free of ethnic particularity, not even when Paul imagines God’s ethnicity. Fredriksen argues for a Paul deeply concerned with the ethnic identities not just of the followers of Jesus but the very God whom they were seeking.
That Paul’s God would bear an ethnicity further clarifies the constructedness of ethnicity. Ethnicity is a construction through and through. It is a fiction by which we organize peoples and places alike. Fiction, however, is not the opposite of reality. Fiction—and in this case, ethnic fiction—is powerful and formative. That ethnicity is constructed, contested, concocted does not mitigate ethnicity’s persuasive force and organizing power. In my own recent work, I have been pointing to ethnicity as narrated, as storied. That is, ethnicity is built in the mode of narrating the past. In short, ethnicity is built, and the architectures of ethnicity provide the rich contexts within which communities make sense of a complex world.
What remains to be done among scholars is to distinguish even more clearly the distinctions and overlaps between religion and ethnicity, especially when it comes to how we today render first-century Judaism. If we follow Fredriksen’s claim that Paul’s God is Jewish, to what degree do we mean that to be an ethnic or a religious designation? To be sure, these two forms of identity are so interlaced, so intersecting that it may prove impossible to create a category “ethnicity” entirely separate from “religion” and vice versa. And yet how do we distinguish between them in our analyses—even if in heuristic ways—so that the two categories do not simply collapse into one another? After all, when fine distinctions collapse so too do their explanatory power.
Ethnicity is built; ethnicity is also projected upon the world.
Paul, Fredriksen argues, was persecuted not so much by aggrieved co-religionists troubled by his heterodoxy and his puncturing of the boundaries of Jewish communities with the inclusion of Gentiles but by those who relied on a particular mapping of heaven and earth. That is, Paul proved offensive not so much to fellow Jews but to the larger Roman structuring of heaven and earth as interwoven realities. To assuage the gods was to ensure prosperity and peace; to trouble the cosmic order was to threaten life in the here and now. Paul was perhaps most controversial in perpetuating a restructuring of the relationships between the heavens and earth, a reorientation with real, tangible consequences in the eyes of Paul and his opponents alike.
There is, of course, also the challenge of mapping Paul’s own world, Paul’s own theological cartographies. That is, what sources can we rely on to re-create those threatening maps that got Paul into so much hot water? How do we map Paul’s theology using the varied and complex evidence in the New Testament? For instance, to what extent can Acts illuminate the authentic letters of Paul? Though she will lean some on Acts along the way, Fredriksen contends that “in our quest for the historical apostle, however, Paul’s own letters must have priority” (62). How much weight though can these occasional letters bear in historical inquiry? If relying on Acts is a frail approach because of our uncertainty about how much of Luke’s account of Paul is historically accurate and not the product of Luke’s own theological commitments, then what are the limits of relying on these occasional, theologically inflected letters to communities whose composition and stories we can glimpse only partly, only dimly? Fredriksen acknowledges these limitations, I think, in noting, “In sum, the letters as we now have them reflect only imperfectly what Paul’s scribe, almost twenty centuries ago, would have written” (63). Indeed. We might wonder whether fractured witnesses will always necessarily result in a fractured portrait of a fractured apostle. And how we fill those fractures might reflect far more on us, Paul’s interpreters, than the historical Paul himself. In short, I wonder how we as scholars might continue to appreciate and theorize the very limitations of the historical and theological inquiry in which we are engaged, not just to circumvent those limitations but to see them as real limits worthy of study themselves.
Ethnicity is built. Ethnicity is projected. In Paul, also, ethnicity bears the mark of eschatology, the promise of a world renewed and recreated.
For Fredriksen, eschatological expectation is not a detachable feature of earliest Christianity but the very “drive-wheel of the first generation of the movement—which firmly believed that it would be the only generation of the movement” (167). Fredriksen’s Paul stands at the precipice of an eschatological upturning of the world, a promised setting right of the world. That setting right is not as simple and as colorless as a melting of ethnic particularity into human homogeneity. Instead, the eschatological moment is ethnic in its character too, for it preserves Israelites as Israelites and “ex-pagan pagans” as “ex-pagan pagans,” in Fredriksen’s memorable phrase. Here, she demurs from accounts of Paul’s view of salvation as focused on “grace, not race” (110); she rejects a Paul that escapes the ethnic restraints of first-century Judaism to inaugurate a universal humanity liberated from racial distinction. Here, Fredriksen is particularly persuasive to me as a person of color whose ethnic identity is not buttressed by the dominant culture. It is largely within the confines of majority status with the privileged power such racialized status can bring that one might yearn for liberation from particularity, for an escape from all the ethnic indicia that mark communities as rich and particular. It may only be when one’s own language is assumed to be universal—a lingua franca for the whole world—that the presence of other languages seems so problematic as to necessitate a single language. It may only be from the perspective of the protections of imperial structures that ensure that only one set of cultural experiences is seen as default or universal that a ceasing of difference may sound paradisal. Those who dwell on the underside of history, the victims rather than the victors of colonization, often see this all quite differently.
Ethnic identity is not just a way to distinguish but also an inheritance of survival among the powerless, the hybrid negotiations of empire that shield vulnerable communities while also naming the frailties of the powerful. I wonder then if naming Paul’s colonial status might be a helpful addition to Fredriksen’s already persuasive portrait. How might the limitations experienced by colonized people and the rich strategies of survival found among them help give shape to Paul’s theologizing? This is not necessarily to suggest taking a side in the scholarly contestation over whether Paul is anti-imperial or largely unconcerned with Roman might but to engage further the kind of intellectual and ideological resources tapped by colonized peoples. In what ways were the creation of communities seen by Paul’s opponents as threatening to the social order, to the mapping of heaven and earth funded by the composition and reading of Israel’s scriptures in a colonized ambit?
If Fredriksen is right, then Paul cannot imagine a community of Jesus followers apart from Israel; a singularly Gentile church, an exclusively Gentile Christianity is wholly incomplete, even incommensurate: ethnically, theologically, eschatologically. And thus this book drives us to a critical question for all kinds of scholarship. How do we name historical personages and phenomena? How do we identify peoples and groups and historical moments and eras in a way that both captures well their shape in antiquity but is also legible to contemporary readers of our scholarly work? Naming is power, for it harnesses imagination; it points to definitive boundaries around the object of our study. So, for instance, if Paul’s vision is as described by Fredriksen, then can we even name the earliest Jesus followers as “Christians” without numerous, critical caveats? In reference to Jesus’s earliest followers in particular, is “Christian” far too hampered by the term’s usual reference to a Gentile Christianity wholly apart from the promises God made to Israel? Of course, Fredriksen’s argument goes beyond how we name Jesus followers to the complex, rich identities to which those names might point.
The implications of this book’s arguments are manifold for the exegete of Paul, for the historian of early Christianity, and for the Christian theologian, too. If the God Paul narrates is Jewish, if the communities he helps nurture are sites of ethnic negotiations not erasure, then we will have to reimagine how Christian theology today renders difference, identity, eschatology, and, of course, the theological task itself. If ethnic difference is not a problem Paul seeks to resolve but a site for divine activity, then how might ecclesial practices around the growth of diverse communities and churches need to shift? If identity is not a theological derivative or a tertiary concern after the purportedly weightier matters of theology, then how might theological discourse need to be renewed, especially as white nationalisms rise in Western contexts? If eschatological expectation was a sine qua non for Pauline theology, how do we read Paul as anxiety around the parousia has faded even as apocalyptic fever dreams about rumors of wars and pandemics and supposed hordes of migrants keep nourishing paranoia about our neighbors?
In short, this book is a fascinating, elegantly written work. It also marks a vital turning point in scholarship around Paul.
But most of all, it demonstrates so convincingly that the Paul many of us thought we knew might be a distorting portrait that has distorted history and theology alike for far too long.
Paula Fredriksen, “How Jewish Is God? Divine Ethnicity in Paul’s Theology,” JBL 137 (2018) 193–212.↩
Putting the End Back into the Beginning
Paula Fredriksen, Eschatology, and Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle
Paula Fredriksen’s Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle is the sort of book that indicates where we are now as a field—both a benchmark and beacon monograph in which she offers an original contribution while also pointing to the transformative Pauline scholarship of recent decades. Her study weaves together important arguments which underscore the primary claim of the book: Paul’s apocalyptic eschatological expectations inform everything else he writes, and such apocalyptic eschatology places him squarely within a Jewish tradition. When I say “squarely within a Jewish tradition” I do not mean that Fredriksen perpetuates the misguided notion of a Judaism/Hellenism divide, but rather that she resists the notion that Paul rejected the law, or Judaism more generally. Paul never abandons the traditions of his ethnic group, nor could he, given how ethnicity was understood and constructed in antiquity. Instead, she rightly insists that we consider his audience, the Gentiles, when encountering what he says about the law. Ultimately, to Fredriksen, Paul’s impending crisis is this: Gentiles and ethnic Jews (or, Judeans) must properly worship the Jewish god in preparation for the eschaton, after which the Jewish god will reign supreme.
Fredriksen spends the first two of five chapters providing indispensable context. This strategy is vital, given the long history in which NT scholarship has treated context as “helpful background information,” out of which a hero (e.g., Jesus, Paul) emerges unique. Fredriksen’s chapters on Gentiles and Jews in first-century urban environments, combined with an analysis of Jewish apocalypticism, render Paul legible. Indeed, such context is the very key to why Paul would have been intelligible to anyone to begin with. There is much in the book I would like to respond to, but I will limit my attention to three issues to which I continually returned as I read.
“. . . the impending crisis . . .”
If we take him at his word, the Apostle Paul did not envision a mundane, tellurian future. More specifically, the future that Paul describes is one in which the world as he knew it was imminently ending. The references are familiar to Pauline scholars: “The time has been shortened . . . the form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor 7:29); “For salvation is even nearer to us than when we first became convinced. The night is far gone; the day is at hand” (Rom 13:12) (Fredriksen’s translations, 131–32). He and his peers were the last generation whose transformation would come when Christ returns, raises the faithful from their graves, and sweeps them all up into the sky where they will live forever with God: “And the dead in Christ will rise first, and then we the living who remain will be snatched up together with them in the clouds, meeting the Lord in the air, so that we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess 4:15–18).
It is easy to lose sight of the eschatological underpinning of Paul’s thought. As Fredriksen so deftly points out, “Time drags when you expect it to end. Put otherwise: all apocalyptic prophecies tend, of necessity, to have a short half-life. As the designated date fails, as the elusive End-time recedes, the prophecy itself can be undermined” (101). Apocalyptic expectations can be sustained for only so long. One reason why it is easy to forget Paul’s apocalypticism is because there is so much else to look at in Paul’s letters. But perhaps the most important reason why we ignore his eschatological certainty is because he was utterly wrong. Christ did not return, and what Paul thought he was doing to prepare for the End became, unbeknownst to him, the beginning of something else entirely. This is evidenced by the longevity of followers’ lives, anticipated by the authors of the deutero-Pauline and pastoral letters (e.g., Eph 6:3).
Fredriksen’s book elegantly and patiently refocuses our attention on Paul’s eschatology and apocalypticism. As she makes clear, apocalypticism is not simply one aspect of Paul’s thinking that informs his letters; it is the very lens through which he writes everything he writes. Thus, it is the first lens through which we must view and interpret him. It is in the context of such apocalypticism that Paul imagines the eschatological future to include Israel and Gentiles-in-Christ. It is in the context of such apocalypticism that Paul encourages Gentiles to Judaize in some ways (e.g., to worship the god of Israel alone and to “eschew idol worship”—see pp. 116–17) but not others (e.g., practice circumcision).
Fredriksen is, of course, not the only scholar to emphasize Paul’s apocalypticism (most recently, for example, see Emma Wasserman).1 However, this particular book brings apocalypticism to bear in those larger conversations about ethnicity, Torah, Judaizing, and ancient rhetoric. That is to say, through her argument, the many significant advances in Pauline studies over the past forty years are properly anchored by such overarching eschatology. Perhaps “refreshing” is a strange word to use when discussing apocalypticism, eschatology, Paul, or even New Testament scholarship, but refreshing it is to see this eschatological expectation, which is so paramount in Paul’s thinking, successfully reorganize how we approach his letters and labors.
The Problem with “Pagans”
Paganus is a Latin adjective meaning rural, rustic, belonging to a village. Used substantively, it refers to a villager or peasant. Because urban dwellers (ancient and modern) often think themselves more sophisticated than people out in the countryside, the adjective can be used in a derogatory manner to mean “redneck” or “bumpkin.” It is in that disparaging urban versus rural context that paganus is adopted by Christians to mean “pagan”: the backwards country people who cling to their outdated, uneducated, ancestral ways (i.e., ways that are not Christian and urbane). This transformation in connotation does not happen for three centuries or so after Paul. Yet here we stand, the recipients of a legacy that defines Paul’s Gentile followers in the first century by a term developed later by Christians to describe non-Christians. The problem with this, of course, is that when it comes to Paul, we are not dealing with Christians and non-Christians; we are dealing with Judeans and Gentiles. And Gentiles who are Judaizing.
What, then, do we call the followers of Paul? For that matter, what do we call the Gentile non-followers of Paul? He utilizes two categories of people: Ioudaioi and ta ethnē. Occasionally he will use hellēne interchangeably with ta ethnē. In addition to categories of people (by ethnicity), Paul calls his Gentile followers “holy people” or “holy ones” (hagioi) and “brothers” (adelphoi). As Fredriksen points out, even Paul “had no good term for the ekklēsia’s non-Jewish ex-idol-worshippers” (117). In 1 Cor 12:2 he says, “When you were ta ethnē (Gentiles), you were led astray to mute idols,” suggesting that, at least, they are no longer ta ethnē.
The work of Adi Ophir and Ishay Rosen-Zvi has addressed the extent to which Paul may have had his hand in crafting the category of goy or Gentile,2 but we scholars are stuck without a word by which we may identify Paul’s non-Jewish Gentile followers who (may or may not) have abandoned their ancestral gods and traditional religious practices and origins stories, in favor of Paul’s origins story and Paul’s ethnically Jewish god. How do we categorize such people? Throughout the book, Fredriksen navigates this problem by using “pagans,” “ex-pagan pagans,” and “Gentiles-in-Christ.”
“Pagan” is a discomfiting category. I say that not as a critique of Fredriksen’s book; quite the contrary, I am deeply sympathetic to the struggle for an ethnonym or category that resists the anachronistic Christian/pagan distinction. I have a strong interest in this problem, because to think about it means one must grapple with a problem that has no satisfactory solution. Those kinds of problems are particularly compelling.
Sheepishly, I can offer no proper solution and no better category. But the conversation about categories of people in Paul’s letters is persistently interesting and given the centrality of the category “pagan” in Fredriksen’s book, the topic is unavoidable. I suspect that the failure of a sufficient category is a blessing in disguise; because categories function to corral and feature one set of data about people (ethnicity, age, sex, etc.), other types of data are neglected or overlooked. When we rightfully critique the familiar “pagan,” we are forced to consider, in close detail, how Paul speaks of various ancient peoples and how they pertain to one another in a larger divine plan that hinges on ethnic belonging. Lacking a convenient category for such people is frustrating but continuously provocative, as Fredriksen’s book shows. While she uses the word “pagan,” she frequently addresses why it is problematic. This issue is larger than simple nomenclature; to claim that it is simply a dispute over convenient nomenclature is to obfuscate the social mechanics by which new categories of people emerge in history. In the wake of Paul’s life and work, we see a new category for people emerge and that historical process is nothing short of fascinating.
Paul within Judaism
Fredriksen argues that Paul lived his life fully within Judaism. Framing Paul as fully “within Judaism” has gained purchase in recent years, and another way of putting it is that Paul did not “abandon” his ethnic Judaism: he did not neglect worship of the Judean deity, give up traditional ethnic-religious practices, or disavow Judean sacred texts. He can be understood vis-à-vis other Jewish writers of his era. Fredriksen’s articulation of this is especially helpful as a response to the continued proliferation of NT scholars who think that Paul rejected Judaism in favor of Christianity. Such a position, still entrenched in some circles, John Gager dubbed the Rejection-Replacement model.3 Thus, while Fredriksen’s dismantling of such an approach is important, it is unclear what else “Paul lived life fully in his native Judaism” entails in this book.
As an inhabitant of the Roman empire heavily influenced by the legacy of Greece, and as a native Greek speaker clearly versed in Greek philosophical concepts and actively interpreting Jewish sacred texts, Paul would certainly be “as Judean” as he is “a product of Hellenization.” Fredriksen does not dispute this, and even spells that out clearly in chapter 2, which discusses the integration of Jews among their neighbors in Mediterranean cities. Yet, as the book unfolds, it seems that “Paul within Judaism” comes to look like “Paul only within Judaism.” This is a tricky thing for me to suggest, especially since Fredriksen has so painstakingly demonstrated that even “the Western synagogue joined the ranks of the gymnasium, the hippodrome, the odeon, and the baths as another institution of Greco-Roman urban culture” (60).
I do not want to resurrect (ahem) the Judaism versus Hellenism argument, but do wonder this: In Fredriksen’s thinking, how do we see Paul’s activities and teachings as exemplifying a kind of integrated Greco-Romano-Judeanness? I am aware that my question runs the risk of reinscribing distinctions I myself resist. But I ask because after so carefully arguing for the integration of Jews within first-century cities, Fredriksen focuses almost solely on Jewish authors, texts, and traditions. If that integration is as she has suggested, where in Paul’s thinking do we see it most readily? His ethical teachings? His ideas about gender and sexuality?
In 1962, Thomas Kuhn published The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,4 in which he argued that changes in scientific knowledge do not come about by the (traditionally assumed) accumulation, or critical mass, of small-bore knowledge that piles up as an overall mass of knowledge. Rather, he argued, observable anomalies, which poke holes in prevailing scientific theories, trigger a reckoning with current knowledge and, thus, demand paradigmatic shifts in scientific thinking. Scientific knowledge grows and is refined as it disproves itself, giving way to new paradigms. These amount to monumental changes in how we think and what we know.
We see something similar in our field. As Fredriksen points out in her acknowledgments, “Something is going on in Pauline studies” (175). Something indeed is happening, and that something is tantamount to a paradigm shift in how scholars approach, contextualize, and interpret Paul. Anomalies and contradictions in our knowledge abound: if Paul describes his followers and God as pistoi or pistos, respectively, why do translators render God as faithful but Paul’s followers as believers? If Paul uses precisely the same technical vocabulary found among Stoics and Platonists, why the refusal to consider him conversant in Greek philosophy? If Paul clearly employs two categories of people—the Ioudaioi and ta ethnē, why do we insist that he operates with three (Jews, Christians, and pagans)? If we know Paul’s letters to be occasional pieces, why do some New Testament scholars continue to treat them as though they were written for all of humanity, millennia into the future—especially if Paul did not conceive of a mundane future? Such anomalies have punctuated the traditional ways of approaching Paul and demand our attention. Thankfully, over the past forty years, such anomalies, anachronisms, and contradictions have been addressed and continue to be addressed with erudition and thoughtful precision. We have what amounts to a shift in our thinking toward locating Paul not just in his historical milieu, but as a product of that milieu.
This leads me to what I think is the greatest strength of Fredriksen’s book. While scholars have produced groundbreaking studies on Paul in recent decades (e.g., Stendahl, Malherbe, Stowers, Gager, Johnson Hodge, Wasserman, and others),5 Fredriksen does what other studies have not, to date: to synthesize, in one volume, where we now “are” in Pauline studies. She does this with patience for the non-specialist and with exactitude for the scholar. By that, I mean she explains words like theosebeis and prosopopoeia, knowing that many readers may already be familiar with such terms and why they matter. At the same time, she engages in highly specific and technical discussions that will challenge the presuppositions of her specialist audience. This strategy in writing makes the book relevant in scholarly discussions without excluding the general, interested reader.
Emma Wasserman, Apocalypse as Holy War: Divine Politics and Polemics in the Letters of Paul (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018).↩
Adi Ophir and Ishay Rosen-Zvi, Goy: Israel’s Others and the Birth of the Gentile (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018).↩
John G. Gager, Reinventing Paul (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).↩
Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962).↩
Krister Stendahl, Paul among the Jews and Gentiles, and Other Essays (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976); Abraham J. Malherbe, Paul and the Popular Philosophers (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989); Stanley K. Stowers, A Rereading of Romans: Justice, Jews, and Gentiles (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994); Gager, Reinventing Paul; Caroline Johnson Hodge, If Sons, Then Heirs: A Study of Kinship and Ethnicity in the Letters of Paul (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), Emma Wasserman, The Death of the Soul in Romans 7: Sin, Death, and the Law in Light of Hellenistic Moral Psychology, WUNT 2/256 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008).↩
5.26.20 | Paula Fredriksen
Ethnic Eschatologies: A Response to Jennifer Eyl
We stand on the shoulders of giants. But which giants, and by what criteria do we choose them?
My questions determine my criteria. Why and how did those texts, communities and, movements that, by the early second century, we can begin to identify as “Christian,” originate in the closing decades of Late Second Temple Judaism? How does a message so idiosyncratically Jewish—about Israel’s god and his son, the final Davidic messiah; about the ends of the ages and the impending resurrection of the dead; about the reunion of all twelve tribes and the universal acknowledgement of their god by the seventy non-Jewish nations—even and ever become involved with pagans in the first place? And why did these pagans sign on, radically Judaizing their social practices, their worldview, and their ritual behaviors, showing honor solely to Israel’s god?
In light of these kinetically interrelated questions, coherence of explanation is my prime criterion. Whatever these Jews were saying—in the Galilee and in Judea, in Aramaic and in Greek, in Caesarea and in Damascus and in Rome—it had to make sense to their various contemporaries, hearers both Jewish and pagan. What ways of thinking about the past, about this past, best accounts for the behaviors of all of these ancient people, and for the exiguous textual evidence (preserved in vastly changed circumstances) that they left behind?
Thus, my giants: Schweitzer and Stendahl. Schweitzer (and I interject here a shout-out to Johannes Weiss) in his work on both Jesus and Paul, unflinchingly emphasized eschatology. Immediate, temporally conceived, End-of-the-world-as-we-know-it eschatology.1 Stendahl (and I interject here a shout-out to Johannes Munck), in his work on Paul and especially on the Letter to the Romans, emphasized mission as the context and content of message.2 Jews, convinced that Israel verged on cosmic redemption, had an urgent message to get to the nations. The nations, too, they said, would be redeemed: but they had to commit to the right god. Through the pneuma of that god’s son, these people could do so; and in the brief meanwhile—as Eyl’s own lambent publication has recently explored3—their own pneumatic powers offset those of current cosmic rulers. But, said Paul, they better get with the program before Christ came back, which was soon. To quote Dale Allison’s quoting Harris Lenowitz, “The time scheme . . . for a messianic movement has but a single date: now.”4
I lack the evidence to conjecture why John the Baptizer and, following him, Jesus of Nazareth thought that God’s kingdom was at hand. I do know that an astonishingly strong, non-falsifiable trust (emunah; pistis) in this prophecy enabled some of Jesus’s followers not only to experience Jesus as raised, but also to interpret that experience: it validated their confidence in his prophecy. Paul, some quarter-century later, and to significantly different auditors, still broadcast the same message: The Kingdom is at hand.
“Jewish apocalyptic eschatology” is our heuristic, scholarly shorthand term for a baggy and uncoordinated assortment of expectations, predictions, resentments, compensatory visions, and hopes. As an interpretive framework, though, it represents the only first-century way of thinking that could have made sense of Jesus’s resurrection—and, indeed, that could even have sponsored having that experience to begin with. And it is the only interpretive framework that accounts for the immediate afterlives of Jesus’s message in his followers’ missions to Israel of the Diaspora, where synagogues already held sympathetic pagans. The missions’ demand that these ethnic others foreswear their own gods for Israel’s god, itself a form of radical Judaizing, indexes the missions’ apocalyptic sensibility: the returning messiah was about to put these lower deities in their place (e.g., Phil 2:10–11; 3:21; Rom 8:38; for the more detailed theomachy, 1 Cor 15:24–28). Worried synagogue authorities, Roman magistrates, and urban crowds outside the movement(s) thought otherwise (2 Cor 11:24–27). Not everyone was as certain as were Paul and his colleagues that they knew the time on God’s clock. But again, these apostles had inside information: pneuma and its prerogatives.
“One reason why it is easy to forget Paul’s apocalypticism,” Jennifer Eyl rightly notes, “is that there is so much else to look at in Paul’s letters.” True; and from those elements mighty institutions have grown. Institutions are invested in the long term. Apocalyptic movements are not. Inevitably, then, theologies based on these first-century Jewish texts will have a built-in torque. Paul (as Krister Stendahl luminously reminded us) was not a fourth-century Augustinian catholic. Nor was he a sixteenth-century Augustinian monk.5 Nor was he—I remind my New Testament colleagues—a member of the SNTS with a full set of Loebs. What a text meant to its first-century authors and hearers, as Krister again reminded us,6 will invariably be other than what it means to a twenty-first-century Christian community (of any denomination).
But, as Eyl continues, “perhaps the most important reason why we ignore [Paul’s] eschatological certainty is because he was utterly wrong.” Paul—as Jesus and the Baptizer before him, and as the Teacher of Righteousness before all of them; and as Joachim of Fiore and Sabbatai Zvi and William Miller, to name but a few, after them—was wrong about the world’s ending in his lifetime.
This unimpeachably correct observation touches a living nerve that connects the modern measure of truth to meaning: scientistic constructions of empirical confirmation. Logical positivism is a dusty reminder of what happened when philosophy internalized this standard to assess the meaningfulness of truth claims. Scientific and humanistic study both rest on hermeneutics, true. Like God, the Higgs Boson particle is elusive. But criteria of meaning, as we search for each, differ. Ideas about God in the West have a much longer echo chamber, a lot larger institutional investment, and (for better and often for worse) a lot more social purchase than does particle physics, for one thing. And the tests for Higgs Boson, while elaborate and expensive, are empirical, not moral or creedal or cultural.
It should be possible—indeed, it must be possible—to do theology even though the chief prophecy of Jesus and Paul, it turned out, was wrong. Schweitzer thought so. So did Stendahl. And they declined to distort history, or to deny it, in order to think theologically and to engage the world ethically. In their lives and in their work, these two great men embodied courage. Intellectual and theological courage. Strong shoulders to stand on.
One quick word, about theological taxonomies—“The Problem with ‘Pagans,’” as Eyl notes. The syngeneia that defined ancient Mediterranean “religions,” the kinship relations between heaven and earth, left Paul’s tongue tied. Ethnic others, whether Greeks or barbarians, were to commit to his Jewish god—while not, he heatedly insisted, “becoming” Jews. (No circumcision parties!) There was no term for non-circumcised (“unconverted”) ex-pagan pagans committed exclusively to Israel’s god, enabled through his son’s pneuma to follow (many of) that god’s specifically Jewish laws. This lexicological fact itself indexes the unstable social novum represented by these first-generation Christ-movements.
In time—the very thing that Jesus and Paul were convinced did not remain—these ex-pagans would be called “Christians.” That term would then be extended to the original and originary Jewish generation as well. But the very idea attested by this term means that the movements’ founding prophecy had to be retrieved through reinterpretation. In the late third-century anthology that we now call the “New Testament” an assortment of these second-, third-, and perhaps fourth-generation reinterpretations abides, the canonized survivors of Constantine’s later triage. The erasure of immediate eschatology began as soon as time failed to end on time. As historians, we have to work to recapture that moment of the movement. And we can.
Finally, to “Paul within Judaism.” That the argument qua framing device even needs to be made—as it now is, variously, by a merry band of scholars who dispute raucously as well between themselves—measures how theologically overladen the field of Pauline Studies is. “Judaism,” like “Christianity” and like “paganism,” is just another heuristically convenient label. Roman-period Jews (which is what and who I actually study, not “Judaism”) were an ethnic archipelago unevenly distributed across the empire and beyond, varying locally according to class, clan, and culture, varying trans-locally even more. (Jesus and Paul, remember, did not even share the same scriptural traditions.) Ancestral customs, many concentrated on and around their one particular god (and, occasionally, on his assistants), were variously communicated and enacted by people who thought of themselves and were thought of by others as Ioudaioi. That (hi, Steve Mason!) is what I mean by “Judaism,” whether modern or ancient. Jews were no more on the same page then than Jews are now.
Eyl gently complains that “as the book unfolds . . . ‘Paul within Judaism’ comes to look like ‘Paul only within Judaism.’” Heu, miserrima! (I, not she.) I labored, using his undisputed letters, to locate Paul within the god-congested, multiethnic pagan religious institution where he worked: the ancient city. I am morally certain that he, like Gamaliel after him, availed himself of Roman baths. (That is, Paul—as other wandering apostles, doubtless—was naked, in public, immersed together with uncircumcised idol-honoring Gentiles both before and after God revealed his son in him. That thought should put the quarrel in Antioch, whatever that was about, in some sort of perspective.) And Paul used the public loos. And the public fountains. But he never says so, and those behaviors do not really touch significantly upon what we have of his messaging.
But we do know that Paul called down the pneuma of Christ using exactly the same language of adjuration that a magical adept would employ to summon any obliging superhuman power: epikaloumai.7 Surely his first-century auditors (the Jew first and also the Greek) would recognize an adjuration when they heard it. Paul watched (though I doubt ever participated in) Greek sporting events, and he uses this experience to articulate teaching moments. Paul’s main conceptualization for integrating ex-pagans into Abraham’s family draws on Roman (i.e., pagan) legal protocols of huiothesia / “son-making.”8 He combats the social agency of insulted godlings (lower gods, lords, and daimonia), and he looks forward to their losing the final cosmic battle to the son of his god.
Paul, in short, worked a different neighborhood than did James. In consequence, he had to deal with a lot of non-Jewish others, both human and divine. As a first-century diaspora missionary, Paul-within-Judaism worked within and was shaped by majority Mediterranean culture, a.k.a. paganism. “Paganism” no less than “Judaism” contoured his Christology: those gods are Christ’s “last enemies.” Modern monotheist readers do not see these other gods, but there they are in the New Testament, as in the Old, looking right back at us. Of course, these deities also stand in Plutarch and in Seneca and in Tacitus and in Juvenal, and I appealed to those sources too, though lightly. The gods are not invisible, there. The Pagans’ Apostle seeks to help the reader to see that these gods also operate, importantly, within impeccably Jewish texts: 1 Thessalonians and Philippians and the Corinthian correspondence and Romans. I wanted to make them visible there.9
To close on the question that Eyl closes on: Where are we now in Pauline Studies? Alas, as far as I can tell, we stand in two discrete silos. The SBL bears witness to this. One silo is Pauline Theology. The other is Pauline Epistles, joined recently by the Historical Paul. These silos usually host scholars trained and teaching in different institutions: divinity schools and faculties of theology, to the one side; humanities departments—comparative religion, or Classics, or history, or philosophy, or some combination of these—on the other. We all share space in some journals, but that situation, too, is becoming polarized.10 There is little traffic across the (evident) aisle. I want to change this. I want this to change.
To that end (telos, as in Rom 10:4), to contemplate the state of our state, both sections, Pauline Epistles and Pauline Theology, are co-sponsoring a session on Paul, History, and Theology. Paul-people will speak (John Barclay, Troels Engberg-Pedersen). A Roman-period Christianist will speak (Candida Moss). And the man who wrote the book (actually, many books) on Renaissance historiography, Professor Tony Grafton of Princeton University’s Department of History, will also speak. (That way of framing history, in the sixteenth century, is why Luther validated his reading of Paul by saying that he was simply recovering what Paul himself had said.)11 Insha’allah, Covid-19 will get in no one’s way. I cannot divine from here what wisdom will spring forth or which spirits will descend. One thing I do know: this panel will be terrific. SBL, Boston 2020. Be there or be square.
The Quest of the Historical Jesus, ed. John Bowden, trans. William Montgomery (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001; first published as Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung. Tübingen: Mohr, 1906); idem, The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle, trans. William Montgomery (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998). Before him, Johannes Weiss, Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God, trans. Richard Hyde Hiers and David Larrimore Holland (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1971; first published as Die Predigt Jesu vom Reiche Gottes [Göttingen, 1892]).↩
“Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West,” HTR 56 (1963) 199–215. Idem, Paul among the Jews and Gentiles (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1976); idem, Final Account: Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995). Before him, Johannes Munck, Paul and the Salvation of Mankind, trans. Francis Clarke (Richmond, VA: John Knox, 1959). See esp. his first chapter on Paul’s “call.”↩
Signs, Wonders and Gifts: Divination in the Letters of Paul (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019).↩
Constructing Jesus: Memory, Imagination, and History (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010), 31.↩
“Introspective Conscience,” art. cit. On Romans 7 as Paul’s own lament, and the ways that that misreading was shaped not by the Confessions, pace Stendahl, but by Augustine’s later attacks on “Pelagians,” see my essay, “Paul, Augustine, and Krister, on the Introspective Conscience of the West,” in Krister among the Jews and Gentiles: An Appreciation of Krister Stendahl, ed. Paula Fredriksen and Jesper Svartvik (New York: Paulist, 2018), 146–62.↩
Krister Stendahl, “Biblical Theology, Contemporary,” Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, ed. George Arthur Buttrick, 4 vols. (New York: Abingdon, 1962), 1:418–32.↩
The Pagans’ Apostle, 238–39n15, with thanks again to Joseph Sanzo for all the PGM references.↩
The Pagans’ Apostle, 148–51, expanded in my essay “How Jewish Is God?,” JBL 137 (2018) 193–212.↩
For my more forceful effort at unwrapping this particular invisibility cloak, see “Philo, Herod, Paul, and the Many Gods of Ancient Jewish ‘Monotheism.’” I have tried publishing this essay in two scholarly theology journals, Early Christianity (for which it had originally been solicited) and New Testament Studies. It was rejected, both times, on the basis that ancient Jews were strict monotheists. (With NTS, the first-century Jewish evidence attesting to many gods brought in my argument was dismissed with citations to Deuteronomy and Isaiah. Seriously.) I have taken the essay elsewhere, to a religion journal—with regret: it’s the NT guild, not the religionists, who need to think about it. Stay tuned.↩
See above, infra n9.↩
For an unsurpassed analysis of this theological deployment of “history” in the Protestant/Catholic face-off of the late Renaissance/early Reformation, and the ways that it still affects NT scholarship (esp. on Paul and on Jewish law), Jonathan Z. Smith, Drudgery Divine (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990).↩