Friday, January 21, 2011

Paul as an Anomalous Diaspora Jew? (Lucky 1000 Competition)

We invite your comments concerning the following thesis of John Barclay (“Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora: From Alexander to Trajan (323 BCE – 117 CE)”, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996, pp. 393-395):

“In his conceptuality Paul is most at home among the particularistic and least accommodated segments of the Diaspora; yet in his utilization of these concepts, and in his social practice, he shatters the ethnic mould in which that ideology was formed. He shows little inclination to forge any form of synthesis with his cultural environment, yet he employs the language of a culturally antagonistic Judaism to establish a new social reality which transgresses the boundaries of the Diaspora synagogues. By an extraordinary transference of ideology, Paul deracinates the most culturally conservative forms of Judaism in the Diaspora and uses them in the service of his largely Gentile communities. It is hardly surprising that this anomalous Jew should meet both puzzled and hostile reactions in Diaspora synagogues. However scriptural he claimed his theology to be, and however much it was couched in traditional Jewish terminology , Paul’s assimilating practices and his lax (or at least inconsistent) observance of the law earned him suspicion, opposition and even punishment in the synagogue. … The very fact that Paul could speak so persuasively in the traditional Jewish idiom, made him all the more insidious a foe to those who judged his teaching subversive. The majority of Paul’s Jewish contemporaries (both Christian and non-Christian) found his mutation of the Jewish tradition incomprehensible or unattractive. The majority of his Gentile converts, and most subsequent readers of his letters, could only see their distance from, not their common destiny with, Jews. Thus, most unwittingly, Paul fostered the fateful division between Christianity and Judaism.”

Lucky 1000 Competition!

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2) To *win* a participant has to:
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1 comment:

  1. I think this is a great topic and look forward to the discussion thread it generates. I'm intrigued by Barclay's point that Paul unwittingly sets in motion the later parting of the ways. That seems pretty in line with what James Dunn was arguing around that time as well (a few years earlier), particularly since scholars like Dunn (and also NT Wright) were claiming at that time that the problem of Judaism was its ethnocentrism. What Paul then did, they claim, was remove its particularist badges of covenant membership (circumcision, food laws, and Sabbath observance) to allow Gentiles in. In recent times, though, it seems scholarship is either moving in the direction of Paul who saw himself as resolutely Jewish to the point of wanting to 'Judaize' Gentiles (Nanos, Eisenbaum, Fredriksen), or there is the resurgence of the previous paradigm that Paul was indeed advocating a separation process from the Judaism of his time. For instance, consider Francis Watson: “the social reality underlying Paul’s discussions of Judaism and the law is his creation of Gentile Christian communities in sharp distinction from the Jewish community. His theological reflection legitimates the separation of church from synagogue” (Francis Watson, Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles: Beyond the New Perspective. Revised and expanded edition. Grand Rapids – Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2007, p. 56.). Barclay's point, though, seems to be that there is a transference of ideology involved that facilitates him using the tools of a culturally antagonistic Judaism and flipping it completely around. I wonder what that transference was precisely? His conversion? Also, it's a highly provocative thesis but on what basis does he argue that Paul was a culturally conservative Jew to begin with? From Paul's own statements about having been zealous about the law?


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