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Paul and Jewish Theology:
A New View of the Christian Apostle

- Abstract

IN THE whole history of the Christian Church there is probably no more fascinating and controversial figure than that of the great Apostle to the Gentiles. Saul of Tarsus, who was a Jew, became Paul, the Apostle of Jesus: the man most responsible for the spread of Christianity among the Gentiles, and for the rupture that divided Synagogue and Church. The same man who laid the theoretical foundations for Christian anltinomianism, for the Christian rejection of the Jewish law, is also reported to have been a student of Rabban Gamaliel, a “Pharisee of the Pharisees.” Indeed, there is reason to believe that Paul, in his personal practice, remained an observant Jew to the end of his life. And- on the face of it an even greater paradox- Paul used the Torah itself to “prove” the “end of the Law.”

The facts about Paul to be gleaned from a superficial reading of the New Testament are straightforward enough. The Diaspora Jew, Saul of Tarsus, had come to Jerusalem to study the Torah. Soon he was a Pharisee of the strictest kind, zealous for the observance of the Law, and intolerant toward all deviationists. There is even a suggestion that he took pant in the stoning of Stephen, the first Hellenistic-Jewish martyr of the young Church. Afterward he set off for Damascus as an emissary of the Jerusalem authorities, with the intention of inhibiting the Christian congregation there. But on the road to Damascus he had a vision of Jesus, saying to him: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”

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