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It was more like an observation that was a kind of lament—for the observation I think betrayed a desire among our congregation to learn more about Judaism and to expand and deepen our knowledge of one another. Towards this end I would point out that in the past decades there has actually been a significant amount of attention given by biblical scholars to areas where our religious traditions intersect—a cooperative effort of scholarship that has done important work to remove old prejudices—and even in some cases lead to a deeper appreciation of our shared history.

As a starting point most people do not know that Paul of the New Testament is one of only two Pharisees who have left behind any personal writings Josephus is the other. On this basis alone says the Jewish biblical scholar Alan Segal—Paul is of interest for what his life can can tell us about first century Judaism.

Paul Among Jews and Gentile by Krister Stendahl | | Booktopia

Digging deeper, one of the stereotypes of Paul, and the principle way that he has been understood through the centuries is as an apostate of Judaism—an individual whose conversion temporary Emphasis to Christianity can only be seen as affirming one tradition—and negating the other. And it is this trap—a false choice of extremes as applied to Paul—that has led to great misunderstandings. Ari Goldman lamented that, by the time he got to Harvard, the groundbreaking Swedish New Testament scholar, Krister Stendahl, had left the faculty to serve as bishop of Stockholm.

In his famous book, Paul among Jews and Gentiles , Stendahl persuasively argues that we should not properly speak of the conversion of Paul at all. Rather, Stendahl argues for adopting the language of prophetic call— a notion that comes to us from the Hebrew Scriptures. Stendahl at length details and articulates how Paul himself uses language that is very similar to the calls of the great prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah to describe his intense religious experience of the risen Jesus. I proclaim to you: The God who made the world and everything in it….

The Lord of Heaven and earth…From one ancestor he made all nations…We ought not to think that the deity is like gold or silver or stone….

The Episcopal Church of St. Matthew

In his preaching to the Gentile Greeks, Paul clearly has a foot in two worlds and elsewhere in his own writings he attempts to reconcile the two major strands of his religious experience. In his year at Harvard Ari Goldman attended many interfaith events and he described how on many occasions he could hear the voice of his Orthodox Rabbi—Rabbi Siegal in the back of his head, complete with the image of his waving a finger, warning of the dangers of interfaith encounters.

I have likewise heard members of several Christian denominations express concerns about contact and exposure to doctrines that deviate from their particular faith. From our collective experience—of reaching out to others—- We know differently. In attending the services of other faiths Goldman described his visits this way. He observed: In each case I leave as a Jew, rooted in my own faith—but nourished by the faith of others.

That is do wonderfully stated. As our visitors you have landed in the midst of our ongoing celebration of Easter.


  1. (++) Paul among Jews and Gentiles (1976 Stendahl), book!
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  7. Part of the joy of our celebration on this day is knowing that we worship a God who is greater than our individual capacities of knowing and comprehension. This volume provides convincingly new ways for viewing Paul, the most formative of Christian teachers. What would you like to know about this product?

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    Mark Nanos, "Paul's Relationship to Jews and Judaism in First-Century Context," Mar. 24, 2014

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