My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Having written nearly 1/3rd of the Christian New Testament, it is difficult to ignore the significant contribute by St Paul to Western Christianity. Unfortunately, the 13 or so letters attributed to Paul can be difficult to interpret (Thiessen even notes that the Book of Acts says that many were confused by his teachings). The problem is exacerbated by the fact this we no longer have the same context as his original audience so a straightforward reading may often leads us astray. According to Thiessen, this is particularly true with Paul’s apparent rejection of Judaism that has frequently been used to support the concept of supersessionism, and by extension antisemitism. Placing Paul firmly within an early Jewish milieu under the influence of Greek [Stoic] philosophy can actually provide us with a better understanding of what Paul was trying to do as the Apostle to the Nations (Gentiles).
This is not a new concept for me. Paul is a self described Uber Jew, so after his Road to Damascus “conversion” and apparent rejection of Jewish tradition (for Gentile Jesus followers) has generally been seen as a hard break with the “Judaizers” of his past … except such a believe just doesn’t add up considering his deference to St Peter and the Church in Jerusalem. I have always been uncomfortable with many of the modern interpretations of Paul and have actively sought after an exegesis more in line with how I read the Gospels … this included a number of articles and discussions that attempted to incorporate St Paul’s view of how Gentiles fit within the larger salvific plan of the God of Israel. Thiessen does an excellent job of presented his [academic] argument in language that is clear and accessible to a casual reader with solid support for his positions. Even so, much of the evidence provided is circumstantial, so his conclusions are generally based on a “best fit” paradigm and largely subjective where some readers may not be persuaded of his point of view. This book is a welcome addition to my growing library from which a gain a better understanding of my own faith.
The chapters and sections in this work are:
1 - Making Paul Weird Again
2 - Radically New or Long-Lost Reading of Paul?
3 - Judaism Doesn’t Believe Anything
4 - Paul, an End-Time Jew
5 - The Gentile Problem
6 - Jesus the Messiah
7 - The Gentile Problem and Cosmetic Surgery
8 - Pneumatic Gene Therapy
9 - The Bodies of the Messiah
10 - Living the Resurrected Life
11 - Resurrection as the Culmination of the Messiah’s Coming
12 - The Messiah and the Jews
Some of the other points that really got my attention are:
If a person is a Jewish follower of the Messiah, they should continue to be a Jewish follower of the Messiah. Do not try to change that identity now. If someone is a gentile follower of the Messiah, they also should not try to change that identity.
Paul argues that circumcision and adoption of the Jewish law in its entirety will not work for gentiles because Israel’s God never intended for non-Jews to undergo circumcision and adoption of the Jewish law.
This divine hardening of many Jews, Paul is convinced, is a temporary situation, one that serendipitously results in gentiles receiving deliverance (11:25). It is not permanent. It is not the final word, because God has elected Israel for the sake of their ancestors. And God’s call and God’s election cannot be undone.
I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
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