Paul's Profound Identity as a Jew of His Day

A Time for Recommitment also urges that antisemitism be combated "by recognizing Paul's profound identity as a Jew of his day, and interpreting his writings within the contextual framework of first-century Judaism."

By Philip A. Cunningham

Perhaps no single topic illustrates the recent change in Christian attitudes toward Judaism than the history of the interpretation of the New Testament letters of St. Paul. For centuries, he was understood to have abandoned Judaism and converted to Christianity. He supposedly found the effort to earn salvation by obeying the commands of the Torah to be futile or unavailing, and therefore proclaimed the end of "the Law" for Jews and Gentiles alike. However in recent decades biblical scholarship has begun to see Paul in a very different light, though widespread consensus about every aspect of his thought has yet to emerge.

Even in ancient times, another New Testament writer described Paul's letters as "hard to understand" (2 Peter 3:16). Indeed, certain features of Paul's writings have always encouraged misinterpretation. There are several reasons for this...    [read on...]