Would Paul Have Made a Good Evangelical?

No.

Even when you account for 2000 years of cultural differences between Paul and Evangelicalism, the answer is no.

Why? Because Paul didn’t treat the Bible the way mainstream Evangelicalism says you need to.

The way Paul handled his Bible–what we call the Old Testament–would keep him off the short list for openings to teach Bible in many Evangelical seminaraies and Christian colleges. Heck, John Piper, John MacArthur, and R. C. Sproul probably wouldn’t let Paul lead a home Bible study, at least not without supervision.

Here is the main reason why:

For Evangelicals, the Old Testament leads to the Gospel story. For Paul, the Old Testament is transformed by the Gospel.

For Evangelicals, the Old Testament, read pretty much at face value, anticipates Jesus. For Paul, the Old Testament is reshaped in order to conform to Jesus.

For Evangelicals, the Bible is God’s final authority. For Paul, Jesus is the final authority to which the Bible must bend.

You see, Paul had a monumental theological and hermeneutical task before him.  The Old Testament is centered on Israel’s need for obedience to the law of Moses in order to stay in God’s favor–what the Old Testament often calls “life.” God’s favor is most clearly demonstrated by Israel’s remaining in the Promised Land–if they obey, they stay; if they disobey, the are cast out (which is what the exile to Babylon was all about). And, as an added benefit, when Israel is faithful to God, the other nations will take notice and also bend the knee to Yahweh, Israel’s God.

Obedience to law; holding onto the land (and along with it worship in the temple); conversion of the Gentiles. All central elements of being an Israelite.

The Gospel of Christ that Paul preached said:

Law was a parenthesis, a temporary measure; holding on to land is now a non-issue; Gentiles can claim Israel’s God as their own as Gentiles.

Clearly something has to give. For Paul, it was the Old Testament.

Paul cites the Old Testament 106 times; 59 times in Romans. For example, look at the string of quotations in Romans 9:25-29. Paul is arguing for Gentile inclusion in the plan of God–Gentiles do not need to be circumcised, thus following Jewish law. They are included as Gentiles simply by faith in Jesus the messiah.

Paul could have simply said, “Jesus is here and we are turning a new page. From now on we welcome Gentiles with open arms without them becoming Jewish first.”

That would have been a pretty radical message all by itself, but Paul gets even more radical. He argues that in the Old Testament itself teaches that Gentiles are to be included among Israel solely on the basis of faith–not obeying the law. Paul claims that Gentile inclusion without circumcision was God’s plan all along.

If you’re familiar with the Old Testament, you would be right to wonder how Paul is going to pull that off, since the Old Testament is so adamant about maintaining the distinction between Jew and Gentile.

In this string of quotations in Romans 9, Paul cites two passages from Hosea and two from Isaiah to support his claim that Gentile inclusion is part of God’s plan. The problem, though, is that all four of these passages have nothing to do with Gentile inclusion. They are all aimed at God’s mercy at restoring Israel.

This is not a minor point. Paul is not getting a little creative with some passages, tweaking them a bit, teasing some fresh angle out of them. He is saying that these passages support his Gentile agenda, even though a plain reading shows unequivocally that they are about Israel.

Flip over to Romans 10:5-8. Paul places two passages from the law of Moses side by side–and he pits them against each other.

The first is Leviticus 18:5, where Yahweh tells Moses that the Israelites are to “Keep my decrees, for the man who obeys them will live by them.” Note that keeping the law is assumed to be attainable and a benefit to those who do so.

But in very next verse Paul brings in another passage from the Law, Deuteronomy  30:13-14. In Deuteronomy, these verses have a very clear meaning. The commands that God is giving to the Israelites are doable. They are not out of anyone’s reach. They are not up in the heavens or somewhere acoross the ocean. They are right here–”in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.”

The Israelites were expected to keep these laws, and keeping them brings life, which is sort of what Leviticus 18:5 says. The two passages are in complete harmony.

But Paul contrasts these two verses to pit law against faith.

For Paul, Leviticus 18:5 is correct insofar as it goes, but Paul clearly does not present obedience to the law as a benefit to anyone–which contradicts the point of the passage.

Paul’s handling of Deuteronomy 30:13-14 should, by all standards, drive mainstream Evangelicals crazy. In Deuteronomy, God tells the Israelites to keep these doable-written-on-your-heart commands. Paul says it is not about commands at all but about having faith in Christ, apart from the law of Moses.

Either Paul can’t read or something else is up.

Something else is up.

Paul handles his Bible the way he does for two reasons: (1) Judaism has a long history of manipulating scripture in the interest of supporting theological arguments. Paul, in case you need reminding, was a Jew trained in this way of using scripture. (2) Paul’s grand goal in Romans is to make the case that Jews and Gentiles are on equal footing before God; Paul’s angle is to show how the law itself made that same point all along–which requires Paul to take get very creative with the Old Testament.

If anyone else were doing this–me, you, the Pope, Jehovah’s Witnesses, an emergent pastor, a liberal theologian, a first year seminary student–Evangelicals would call it “distorting the inerrant Word of God.” Paul, however, either (1) gets a free pass because Paul is an apostle (and apparently it’s OK for apostles to do this), or (2) Paul’s reading of the Old Testament is defended as being consistent with the Old Testament meaning (which leads to overly subtle and back-breaking arguments).

Here is the great irony. Without question, as a first century Jew, Paul believed his scripture was God’s Word. He had what Evangelicals like to call a “high view” of scripture.

That is correct. It’s just that Paul’s high view and an Evangelical high view are clearly not the same. I’m just glad Evangelicals weren’t around at the time to try to stifle Paul, to keep him from landing his gig as apostle to the Gentiles. We would have missed out on a lot.

 

  • Lindsay

    For many years, I had trouble with reconciling many NT comments with the OT passages that were quoted. It took a long time an my eventual reconciliation came after I formed an understanding of what the Bible is and what its purpose is, viz. “The Bible contains all that is necessary for me to understand what God wants me to know”. Now this is a personal understanding but it enables me to reconcile many things. I do not subscribe to the Chicago Statement, nor to the Manhattan declaration, but to Paul’s Statement
    “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that every man of God may be fully equipped for every good work. ”
    Now for “All Scripture”, which was for Paul the OT, to be valid for all times, verbal inspiration doesn’t hold water for a number of reasons not the least being textual variants. To me, the importance of the Bible is the message that is behind the words, thus I can understand the creation stories to indicate that God has been in control since the beginning. The how, the when and the where are irrelevant. Having said all this I have come to the belief that although Paul and the Gospel writers have performed some (to me) verbal gymnastics to arrive at their interpretation, I am not at liberty to deliver my own performance. However it does mean that I should attempt to look deeper into the passage and go beyond the words to find the meaning. As a basis I do accept that the general purpose of the OT is to point to Christ. Looking back over what I have written it probably seems disjointed and illogical, but it makes perfect sense to me

  • Matt Blackmon

    As usual, nicely said and clearly explained.

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  • Thome

    Damn. That’ll preach!

  • Greg M

    Dr Enns, how might inspiration play a part in Paul’s treatment of the OT? For example, I could imagine Evangelicals saying he was inspired by God to reinterpret these passages in a new way.

    Do you think that is a legitimate trump card, or does it just rely on a “Goddidit” mentality that might not like uncomfortable solutions?

    • peteenns

      Greg, appealing to inspiration in this instance is a problem. It is used as a “get out of jail” card whenever there is a problem. It is also self-contradictory to their own theological system to say that the Spirit inspired Paul to drive a tank over what teh Spirit inspired the OT writers to say.

  • http://www.gentlewisdom.org/ Peter Kirk

    Surely the Evangelicals were around in Paul’s time, trying to disrupt his mission to the Gentiles. They were known as Judaizers and the circumcision party, insisting on literal applicability of Old Testament laws which, as Paul taught, have been set aside in Christ. For many years they couldn’t touch Paul in person but eventually in Jerusalem they managed to get him arrested. Of course that didn’t stop him writing. But he didn’t get a free ride from the biblical literalists.

    • peteenns

      We are on the same wavelength, Peter.

  • http://www.donbryant.wordpress.com don bryant

    As a graduate of Westminster I remember being explicitly taught that Paul’s being an Apostle freed him from a historical-grammatical method of OT interpretation. Me, not being an Apostle, have to yield to historical-grammatical guidelines. I mean, what are my options? I had no problem with that. I have no problem with that. I assume that the human author of a biblical text is moved by the Holy Spirit in ways that are not accessible to me. This does set up dissonance in the interpretive project. My impression is that we are to follow the historical-grammatical method at all places except where the NT asserts something that would not arise out of the OT text through normal means of inquiry though informed by a NT hermeneutic of the OT. There are no other obvious checks on OT interpretation. If Paul “transformed” the OT, making it “other”, then perhaps it is “other” only at the points where Paul makes it “other.” To make “other” a whole cloth interpretive grid seems a bit loose to me. It reminds me of 19th century theology where Hegel’s trinitarianism transformed the Bible into “other.” I know you are concerned about this but I am trying to figure out how you keep such from happening. My next project is to read your “Inspiration and Incarnation.”
    I have read your Evolution of Adam. Thanks for the hard work of putting that together. Intriguing. I’m open. I have never been satisfied with using Genesis for scientific inquiry. I am horrified that both RC Sproul and Al Mohler are early earth in their interpretation.
    And BTW, It could be me but I thought JEDP was pretty much dead.
    Thanks for being straight forward and clear about your interpretations. You clearly aren’t waffling and seeking to have it both ways. I respect that. I am always nervous about seminary profs who hint at where they might go with a text or topic but don’t take the next steps. In the rat part of my brain I think salary might have something to do with that!!

    • peteenns

      Hi Don. When were you at WTS?

      I hear you re: Paul and the OT, but my years of studying this issue in the context of Second Temple Judaism leads to other conclusions (some of which you will find if you read I&I).

      JEDP, as Wellhausen articulated it, is passe. Source Criticism of the Pentateuch is alive and well. It is an Evangelical meme to claim it’s demise. I see that claim all over the place.

      The instincts in your last paragraph are quite accurate, though maybe not the entire picture.

      • http://www.donbryant.wordpress.com don bryant

        I was at WTS 1975-79. 1979 was a big deal because it was the 50th anniversary.

    • Nathan

      JEDP is not dead!

  • http://www.nestheology.org Ray Pennoyer

    Dr. Enns, here is where I see problems with your thesis in a nutshell. I realize I am just touching down in a much larger conversation you have been engaged in (much larger than just this post).

    First, the “hermeneutical task” that Paul had before him is done;

    Second, that task was radical but not quite as monumental as you would lead us to believe. For example, Paul effectively demonstrates that the theocratic focus on law and land was a parenthesis between Abraham and Jesus. And remember the task was already “started” by Jesus;

    Third, Paul was an inspired writer and theologian (literally inspired) – we are not. If at times he finds a “higher sense of scripture” that is not licence for us to do the same. A theologian’s job is to discover, not create. That is the humble position of all faithful theologians, evangelical or otherwise. So, sure, there is a sense in which Paul would not be a good evangelical theologian. But so what?

    • peteenns

      Ray, you are probably aware of standard responses to your argument.

      1. If Paul’s hermeneutic is a one-time deal, then why was so much of the early church taken up with a similar midrashic hermeneutic? And if this is over with Paul, the church is left to handling the OT in a way that actually doesn’t conform to Scripture.

      2. The entire issue is what “effectively demonstrates” means. Law and land were hardly parenthetic in the OT (!!). Look more closely at how Paul had to handle, say, the Abraham story in Romans 4 to make his case.

      3. I think you are minimizing the extent of Paul’s reframing of the OT by saying “at times” and “higher sense of Scripture.” And no, we are not inspired, but does that not mean that we should be all the more vigilant to take Paul’s lead?

      • http://www.nestheology.org Ray Pennoyer

        Thanks Dr. Enns. A few words by way of reply:

        1. It is not whether people can engage in “midashic hermeneutic” but about where authority resides. Even today preachers engage in a kind of midrash and we call them sermon illustrations. But these illustrations are not authoritative in themselves but only to the extent that they reflect something explicitly taught in Scripture elsewhere.

        2. The Damascus-Road-Event caused Paul to re-think the entire OT. Texts were seen in a new light and certain texts took on particular prominence. Looking back from this new vantage point I think Paul’s treatment of Abraham is fundamentally exegetical and not midrashic.

        3. It is not a matter of quantity (How many times is Paul contextual-exegetical? How many times does he see an additional “higher sense”?), but whether or not we can do the same thing with any authority. And I would say: No, we cannot “take Paul’s lead” in this way because he was commissioned as apostle to the Gentiles and we are not. He stood at a crucial change in the ages and we do not. And if we insist on doing this kind of thing chances are we are going to do it in ways that suit our preconceptions. The text is no longer serving as an authority but rather as an occasion. That is not a place we want to be as humble, teachable theologians.

        • peteenns

          Ray

          My point re: #1 was that the early church did not practice the hermentuic that you are advocating, of not following Paul becaue he was an apostle. They followed him (and went further, actually) because he was an apostle.

          No doubt the Damascus Road experience (along with subsequent experiences) caused Paul to rethink his scripture. But I don’t think we should underestimate how “looking back from this new vantage point” led to highly innovative (not just revealing deeper things “in the text”) exegesis on Paul’s part–especially in view of the Second Temple Jewish context Paul lived and breathed in. So much of Paul’s exegesis, in my opinion, is a function of the struggle to align old and new, Israel’s story with the death and resurrection (!!) of Israel messiah, in the matrix of Jewish and Greco-Roman rhetoric. (Side question: Do you think Abraham in Genesis “did not waver through unbelief” as Paul says in 4:20?).

          On your last point, I still do not agree with your assertion that Paul was allowed to practice his “creative” exegesis because of his apostolic authority. Of course, there are risks today, as you say, but fear of those risks doesn’t determine our understanding of what Paul was doing in his context. Actually, if one puts Paul’s hermeneutic in a larger Second Temple map, his midrashic approach to handling scripture, if anything, seems quite uninspired. As others have said, and I agree, Paul’s apostolic authority is seen in the content of his message, not his exegetical method.

        • Robert Waldron

          Great explanation. I wondered if someone was going to straighten this out.If you read Pauls epistles he says that he is the apostle to the gentiles. Even peter after he had traveled with paul and went his seperate way preached the gospel of the Grace of God to his audience.He(Paul) clearly states that he is the apostle to the gentiles. Roman11;13, Acts 22:21Rom. 1;1-14 Roman Rom.16;25,26Gal. 1 12-16Eph;3;7-8 Gal,. 2;7-8 Paul,The Apopstle to the Gentiles,Peter to the Jews.
          Paul was NOT sent to baptize 1Cor. 1;13-17 Paul is the minister of the New Testament 2,Cor;Chapter 5&6.Pauls saying ,ordained by Jesus. Acts28;30&51.
          How much clearer can it be said.than by the author of the dispensation of Grace to the Gentiles than the bible its self?

  • Peter

    ” I assume that the human author of a biblical text is moved by the Holy Spirit in ways that are not accessible to me. ” I really need to ask about that: is this true? Was Paul’s (or first Isaiah’s or James’, etc.) experience of the Holy Spirit different from mine? On what basis does one establish this difference? Because if there is no difference, then our understanding of Scripture changes, doesn’t it?

  • http://www.michaelpahl.com Michael Pahl

    Pete, I like much of what you say here, but as a Paul guy I’d say it’s more complex than this.

    Take your first two “main reasons why”: “For Evangelicals, the Old Testament leads to the Gospel story. For Paul, the Old Testament is transformed by the Gospel,” and “For Evangelicals, the Old Testament, read pretty much at face value, anticipates Jesus. For Paul, the Old Testament is reshaped in order to conform to Jesus.” Yes – but it works both ways. For Paul, the Christ events provided the lens through which he read the the Scriptures, but the Scriptures also provided the lens through which he made sense of Christ/the gospel. For Paul these are mutually interpreting.

    We see this in your example of Gentile inclusion in the saved people of God. There was an expectation – evident in texts like Isa 2:2-4 and 49:6 – that at the end of the age the Gentiles/nations would turn to YHWH and in at least some sense participate in “salvation.” Paul believes the end of the age has dawned with the Messiah’s coming, so it’s time for these biblical texts to be fulfilled. (Note the several quotations and echoes of those two Isaianic texts and others like them in Paul and even Paul-in-Acts. In fact, I’d say for Paul Isaiah and Isaiah’s conceptual world was the primary bridge he used for connecting Scripture and Jesus/the gospel.) However, as you’ve noted, there’s a catch. Undoubtedly those Israelites who anticipated an eschatological “Gentile mission” (including Paul before his Christ call) would have understood that any “Gentile inclusion” would mean “Gentiles becoming Jews,” not “Gentiles coming in as Gentiles.” So this is where Paul gets creative, interpreting Scripture in light of the Christ events in something like what you have outlined here.

    All this to say (and much more could be said!) that Paul doesn’t make up a Gentile mission ex nihilo in light of Christ; there’s a Scriptural anticipation of such a Gentile mission, Paul reads the Christ events in light of this Scriptural anticipation, then fleshes this out by turning around and reading other Scriptures in light of the Christ events.

    None of this, though, denies your basic thrust here, for this “mutual interpretation of Christ events and Scripture” is still not the way evangelicals read Scripture – though perhaps it’s closer to the way at least some thoughtful evangelicals do so…? :-)

    • peteenns

      MIchael, thanks for commenting. My short answer is that I agree with you. My longer answer would be another short post on the bi-directionality of it all and how that works in a midrashic/Christotelic hermeneutical framework. In any case, you get my point that “Gentiles as Gentiles” is the issue–and this needs to be found in the OT through a “non-Evangelical” use of Scripture.

    • http://deathisdefeated.ning.com/profile/Norm Norman

      Michael,

      I appreciated your comments and agreed with them. I also noticed that you had written some books and I ordered the Kindle version of “The Beginning and the End” as it reminded me of a book I was involved with a couple of layman friends a few years back. “Beyond Creation Science: New Covenant Creation from Genesis to Revelatioon”
      http://beyondcreationscience.com/

      I always like to compare simalarly scholarly works with their work. I’m sure I’m going to enjoy your piece from what I can already tell.

      • http://www.michaelpahl.com Michael Pahl

        Thanks. I hope you do enjoy it!

  • TimHeebner

    Pete,
    It seems that from your books and your blogs, you still consider the Bible “God’s Word.” This is something I am wrestling with now. My current take is that the Bible is, yes, inspired, but not necessarily God’s Word – that title belongs to Jesus. It seems that with that label, it makes it much easier for an Evangelical (or whomever) to then spout the “inerrancy” card.

    Am I correct in your assessment of the Bible? If so, what are some good resources that develop the argument to support this title?

  • Don Johnson

    Claiming that Paul would not be an evangelical is nothing new to Messianics, they point out that he was a Messianic Jew who was Torah observant, see Acts 21; where he pays for Nazirite vows to prove he is Torah observant (in other words, this is not a complex theological treatise to figure out).

    So when you say “The Gospel of Christ that Paul preached said: Law was a parenthesis, a temporary measure;” I do not think that Paul actually preached this. It is true that many prots (and many evangelicals) interpret some things in the NT in this way, but I think they are simply mistaken in this area, per the implications of Acts 21.

    To get to the specific passage you mention Rom 10:5-8, this is part of the larger section of Romans 9-11 where he goes into an extensive discussion about Jews in relation to his message of Christ. The net of it is that for Rom 10:5-8, I do not see them as competing ideas from Torah, as you read them. As Paul accepted Torah and thought it was a good thing (including Lev and Deu) so that while a Jew could live by its precepts per Lev, the ABILITY to live by its precepts is a gift from God by grace per Deu, this ability was called having the Torah incribed on one’s heart, which is a promise of the new covenant as stated in Jer. 31:31, which was instituted by Jesus at the last supper, per Luke. In other words, it does no good by itself to have precepts written on parchment, you gotta’ wanna’ keep them and God gives a believer the ability to wanna’ by writing them on our heart.

    • peteenns

      Don, in Acts 21, wasn’t Paul observant or torah for missional reasons, much like having Timothy circumcised in ch. 16 immediately after the Jerusalem Council determined that Gentiles need not be circumcised?

      I definitely see you point about Paul’s complex rlsp to the law, and, if I recall correctly, Luke Timothy Johnson in his commentary takes a similar approach as you do. I hope, though, that I am not too blind to my Protestantism (since I tend to be so critical of it :-) ) but I read Rom 5:12-21 as Paul de-centering torah-breaking as the problem and as the solution. Jewish infidelity to law, which landed them in exile, is not the real problem, despite current Jewish thinking in Paul’s day; neither is fidelity to torah the solution (as it was in the OT). Now the deeper problem is a universal human one (in Adam) which brought physical death, and so the deeper universal solution is for God to conquer death. At least, that’s the way I see it in my NPP way…..

      • Don Johnson

        I like the NPP, I just think it does not go far enough in its conclusions, even tho for many prots it seems radical. I think many prots glide over Acts 21 and simply do not recognize many of the implications of Paul claiming to always be Torah-observant, I know I did until it was pointed out to me. Given that Paul an an apostle to the gentiles, it certainly would have been a lot easier if he wasn’t. But this means that ALL of his letters need to read with this grid of his Torah-observance in the background, as an assumption, so when one finds some things that might look like he is saying something different, it should challenge that interpretation. So the paradigm is that for Paul, in the new covenant, it is allowed to be a Torah-observant Jew (as he was) and also allowed to be a gentile and not be a Torah-observant Jew. This also means that the church councils that forbade celebrating “Jewish” things were 180 degrees out of phase with what Paul taught, in other words, the gentilization of the institutional church was complete and total and wrong and this was a long time before the Great Schism or the Reformation.

        So in Romans he discusses both groups and how they both are sinners and both need Jesus, even tho Jews have certain advantages, as discussed in Rom 3. That is, both have sinned according to their own understandings. Paul points out that Torah keeping never made one righteous as that was not its purpose, it is only having an active living risking faith based on God’s promises as they have been revealed to you that God counts as righteousness, per Abraham. (And of course, the promises point to Jesus and are fulfilled in Jesus.)

        • Troysko

          Don, can you recommend any good scholarly works about Paul and Jesus being Torah-observant?
          I have recently argued (http://bit.ly/GFLN42) that in Acts the Sinaitic covenant (including Torah stipulations) is renewed for the Jewish Christian community. I had some trouble finding sources on this.

          • peteenns

            I know that in the Jewish Annotated NT there are some essays that make a similar point, one by Amy Jill Levine. I am a bit skeptical, but certainy open.

          • Troysko

            Thanks

          • Don Johnson

            Some popular works on being Torah-observant as a Messianic Jew are by Derek Leman, Tim Hegg, and D. Thomas Lancaster. As with any teacher, I do not agree with everything they say, but they make me think and have caused me to be more careful. Based on Rom 7:1-6 I do not think anyone is required to be Torah-observant, but I think any might choose to be so and be faithful in that choice.

          • peteenns

            Don, also, in Romans 14-15, the “weaker” are those who still remain as torah-observant, no? The “stronger” (Paul being among them) are those who have moved past that.

          • Don Johnson

            On Rom 14, there is a very unfortunate common mistranslation that can end up making a reader get wrong ideas about what is being said. It is very common to translate Greek koinos as unclean, when it should be translated as common or profane (as contrasted to holy); this is because the translators are trying to be helpful and simplified the purity laws, but in this case, it is a big fail.

            Most people know about the clean/unclean distinction, but fewer know about the holy/common (or profane) distinction among clean things. We can know that it is the latter distinction because plants are inherently (ritually) clean and wine is being discussed in Rom 14:21 and is a plant product.

            Lev 10:10 You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean,

            is the principle being violated by the translators when they translate koinos as unclean as it muddies the waters.

            So I read Rom 14 as Paul arguing for gentile believers to agree with the Acts 15 decision.

          • peteenns

            Hmm. Not sure how many commentators follow you here, Don, but I am open.

  • http://www.nearemmaus.com Brian LePort

    I have heard the “well, Paul was an Apostle” argument as well. That seems like a slippery way to escape the real problems Paul creates for evangelicals who demands some combination of inerrancy and historical-grammatical hermeneutics.

  • Huol

    Hello Dr. Enns,
    I understand that this can be applied to the OT, but can a similar hermeneutic be applied to the NT? I mean, much as changed since Paul, what I wonder is, why stop at the OT, why not also apply a similar understanding to the NT?

    • peteenns

      In a word, yes, I think the NT sets the church on a trajectory where we, too, negotiate the balance between past and present.

  • Norman

    Pete,

    I can see you expanding this discussion in much more depth. I like the way that you appear to be embracing Paul reading the OT and it seems you are more nuanced regarding Paul than you have been in the past.

    I would interject alongside some of your thoughts that there were many signs within the OT and 2 T literatures that would lend itself to reading and interpreting the messianic fulfillment in the manner that Paul ends up doing.

    It’s hardly a taken that poetic and apocalyptic literature doesn’t almost require it to be read in the manner that Paul does. Example is Ezekiel in which the Land discussion should hardly be expected to be interpreted literally due to the clues found within it.

    Also it seems that the poetic style or whatever you want to call Hosea opens the door to recognizing who the people who are “not my people” are going to ultimately be. It seems to be written as a veiling recognition that true remnant Israel is going to become a people who fulfill Paul’s definition of Israel in Rom 9:6-8. Paul at least appears to interpret it and apply it in that manner and frankly it makes sense when you read it as Paul does. I think it is designed to be read between the lines.

    I think it’s possible that Paul joined the club of many Jewish OT and 2T authors in switching to more of an Alexandrian hermeneutic of interpretation. Therefore I would venture that much of the OT and 2T literature was written with these intentions. There are portions of 2T literature that looks like a blueprint of the NT writings already laid out if read in such a manner.

  • Jon hughes

    Pete,

    That was such a thrilling post to read. I have this image of Paul the Apostle shackled by a pre-arranged script, redrafted six times with the ‘help’ of his theological supervisor, nervously taking the fortnightly house-group (only as a stand-in because the usual guy was off sick) – and strongly encouraged to purchase the MacArthur Study Bible so that he might unleash-God’s-truth-one-verse-at-a-time more effectively next time around!

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  • http://www.schooleyfiles.com Keith Schooley

    I’d agree that Paul (and Jesus, and the rest of the NT writers) wouldn’t be considered a “good Evangelical”, but on entirely different grounds. As far as his interpretation of the OT goes, I don’t think the problem is as significant as you describe–in the Romans 9 passage you cite, Paul himself states that the text was addressed to Israel. He’s not trying to hide it. I don’t think Paul would say that he was simply manipulating scripture (and therefore it would be okay for us to do the same, if it weren’t for those stodgy Evangelicals)–if that were the case, how would he expect to be able to persuade anyone?

    I think Paul would say that he was rediscovering a significant strain of the OT that had been neglected but was rediscovered in light of the Christ-event. After all, the climax of God’s original covenant with Abraham was that he would be a blessing to all nations, not just his own physical descendents. There was also a strain that focused on separation from Gentiles, which Jewish interpretation had by the first century focused on to the exclusion of almost everything else, but that wasn’t the whole OT.

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  • gingoro

    “John Piper, John MacArthur, and R. C. Sproul probably wouldn’t let Paul lead a home Bible study”. Well I have books by Piper and Sproul and frankly I find neither of them helpful or worth spending my limited time on. I’m sure there is something of value in the new Fundamentalists but it takes so much digging that it does not seem to be worth it. Rather I tend to read McKnight, Wright, Enns, Olson, Kirk and a couple of Easter Orthodox folks.

    No Paul would not be a good evangelical using the modern definition, but neither are the folks I mention above, nor am I.

    I certainly think that the moral law in the OT serves as a very useful guide in our walk as novices in the order of Jesus.
    Dave W

    • peteenns

      I appreciate the point. My reason for mentioning Piper, etc. is that they are well known names that represent self proclaimed gatekeepers in general. I would not consider them the best representations of evangelicalism but their ilk have the power.

  • Stephen

    If I may post something I said elsewhere.
    Paul would know that he didn’t write the Pastoral Epistles, therefor he would be a bad evangelical… ;)

  • James

    Your point is well taken, that is, if we can take Paul at face value. But we can’t. Even he must fit into an overarching frame of biblical interpretation that includes Old and New Testaments–together, we believe, inspired by God. It is true that the NT is all about kingdom fulfilment in and through the Christ event and this must be at the base of our present day interpretation of both Paul and the OT he interacts with. But we need to contextualize Paul too and the OT helps us do it. Case in point: gender roles and the ordination of women. We have fits with Paul on this one, but not so much when we place even he (along with science, politics, current culture, etc.) into a still larger frame–ultimate reality, known fully only to God.

  • Mark Chenoweth

    Is this going to have a part 2? It sounds like it’s supposed to lead into a discussion of how Paul may have seen the OT as inspired?

  • http://jshakart.co.uk John Shakespeare

    I may have misunderstood — I often do; however, while I have every sympathy with the critique of evangelicalism, I’m not convinced that Paul’s take on the OT was stuff he just sort of made up. There must have been a shared understanding of the HB between Paul and his readers, or else Paul’s arguments, in which he cites the OT as support, would have fallen on deaf ears. The same applies, by the way, to the reaction of Jesus to his interlocutors on the Emmaus road. Jesus didn’t say “This is what the prophets really meant,” or even “This is what I am taking the prophets to mean.” No; he rebuked his companions as fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. The rebuke would have been undeserved unless they had at least the framework of a shared understanding. Likewise Paul’s appeals to the HB.

    • peteenns

      John, indeed! The shared understanding is found in various strands of Second Temple Judaism. But, that shared understanding does not mean that Paul’s message was simply falling on fertile ground. What he said was in many respects unprecedented.

    • Norman

      If you want to see a very detailed method of Jewish Midrash explaining and interpreting the OT to the early Christians then you can find no better example than the Barnabas Epistle. This writing that (I consider) comes from as early as 50AD and no later than 70AD details how the nuance of biblical understanding were not pervasive among most folks and needed to be explained. This is a clear cut example of how this process worked. I recommend finding a modern translation of Barnabas and read it a couple of times and notice how it is a commentary of instructions.

      Here is just a smattering of the mindset of the writer and his purpose. Notice that in Chapter 15 he reinterprets Genesis 1 in a way that would upset the YEC crowd today. At first glance it looks like he is falling in line with their idea of a 6000 year old earth but nothing could be further from this authors purpose. His usage of 1000 years is being utilized in the classic Jewish concept that we find in Psalms, Jubilees, 2 Peter and John’s Revelation in which 1000 is used symbolically. The writer considers that the six ages or days of Genesis are coming to an end at the time of Christ and His work and that the true Sabbath rest is upon them. Now this construct below followed the church and we see where many of the early church fathers followed its patterns such as Augustine yet they lost some of the Jewish methodology quickly and started us all down the road to reading it overly literal thus laying the ground work for present day YEC.

      Most people will only look at bits and pieces of Barnabas and haven’t trained themselves to read it comprehensively from this Midrash perspective, however when one grasp this Midrash approach you can understand how Paul and other contemporaries were understanding this literature from the perspective and reality of Christ originating from the OT. They obviously took much as symbolic and not literal; in fact the writer chastises the apostate Jews who rejected Christ as not too bright concerning their literalizing of the OT symbols. Very similar to our modern debates with the literal reading fundamentalist today.

      If one pays attention to the ending of this section you will see that an eternal never ending 8th Day is projected to occur at the end of the Old Covenant world. People think this is physical language but its Kingdom covenant language referring to the end of the Old Covenant which was being counted down to the last eschatological days that arrived via Christ and the coming judgment upon Old Covenant Judaism that He invoked.

      Bar 7:1 1 Understand therefore, children of gladness, that the good Lord made all things plain beforehand to us, that we should know him to whom we ought to give thanks and praise for everything
      Bar 15: 3 He speaks of the Sabbath at the beginning of the Creation, “And God made in six days the works of his hands and on the seventh day he made an end, and rested in it and sanctified it.” 4 Notice, children, what is the meaning of “He made an end in six days”? He means this: that the Lord will make an end of everything in six thousand years, for a day with him means a thousand years. And he himself is my witness when he says, “Lo, the day of the Lord shall be as a thousand years.” So then, children, in six days, that is in six thousand years, everything will be completed. 5 “And he rested on the seventh day.” This means, when his Son comes he will destroy the time of the wicked one, and will judge the godless, and will change the sun and the moon and the stars, and then he will truly rest on the seventh day. 8 Furthermore he says to them, “Your new moons and the sabbaths I cannot away with.” Do you see what he means? The present sabbaths are not acceptable to me, but that which I have made, in which I will give rest to all things and make the beginning of an eighth day, that is the beginning of another world.

  • John

    Well, this certianly opens up some new conversations and avenues for study !!! I am not sure if a “thank you” is sufficient.

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  • Scott

    Peter,

    Can I ask, so what is your point? How does this article reach anyone for Christ? How does throwing Piper, MacArthur, or Sproul under the bus help reach non believers? Sure, if I wanted to I could point to a dozen different things that you have written about that are clearly wrong, but it doesn’t help spread the word of Christ. Get your head in the game of spreading the good news, instead of the game of gotcha.

    Scott

    • peteenns

      I’m not trying to reach unbelievers. I am trying to reach conflicted believers, agonizing over bad answers to good questions.

      • Scott

        Is that the point of Christianity to reach conflicted believers? Or is it to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ? I understand the need for solid theological foundations, but there is so much bickering that Christ gets lost in the process. You are so worried about if Paul would be an evangelical and Piper is worried about if you are a Christian Hedonist that the fellowship of Christians is hurt as a result.

        I say enough with all the division. If you are so worried about the impact of evangelicals why not call Piper, Sproul, Keller, MacArthur or Chan and ask them to discuss your issues, instead of putting up blog posts that they will never read and are (if the comments are any indication) only read by people who already agree with you.

        • peteenns

          Scott, I’m not sure if “the point” of Christianity is to save souls. Maybe there are many points. Also, I am not calling our Piper, et al in the hopes they will read this but for those who are mislead by them to see there is another way. You are certainly welcome to disagree, but that is what I am overtly doing.

          • Scott

            Peter,
            I never said “the point” was to “save souls,” but to spread the Good News of Jesus. I know that there is not one Christian in the world who can save a soul, only God can do that.

            Also, if you think that Piper, et al. are misleading people about Christianity, wouldn’t the right thing for you to do would be to contact these people directly and discuss your issues with them instead of writing blog posts? Have you ever picked up the phone and called one of these folks you disagree with? Or e-mailed them with your concerns? I think it would be the Christian thing to do.

          • peteenns

            Scott, I disagree with your approach. Public statements and actions (in books for example) can and should be addressed publicly. That is the right thing to do in these situations. If they have offended me in some way, then I will go to them. They haven’t. Not at all.

          • Scott

            Peter,
            I guess I have no problem with you addressing public statements and actions in a public forum. My question is this, in the following sentence what public statement or public action are you addressing?
            “Heck, John Piper, John MacArthur, and R. C. Sproul probably wouldn’t let Paul lead a home Bible study, at least not without supervision.”
            It doesn’t seem like you’re addressing any public statement or action, you are just being a bit snarky.

          • peteenns

            Scott, I appreciate your comment and I certainly respect your right to hold your opinion.

  • http://meaninginhistory.blogspot.com/ mark

    my point [is] that “Gentiles as Gentiles” is the issue–and this needs to be found in the OT through a “non-Evangelical” use of Scripture.

    Heh. Silly Catholic me. I thought the point was the Word being made flesh, but, nooooo, that’s not good enough for some people–they’ve got to find it “in the OT through a “non-Evangelical” use of Scripture.” :-)

    The key to this, IMO, is not through a theory of inspiration but through a theory of revelation. Once you work out what revelation is and is about, inspiration is not a problem. Jesus the person in person is revelation in the absolute sense. All else is derivative.

  • http://www.lambspoet.com David Severy

    I have seen more than one “statement of faith” begin as does this one:
    Statement of Faith
    We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.
    We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
    Notice what is first and what is SECOND! The article here makes the same point! “For Evangelicals, the Bible is God’s final authority. For Paul, Jesus is the final authority to which the Bible must bend.”
    Where did this Statement of Faith come from? Here:
    http://www.nae.net/about-us/statement-of-faith
    At the National Association of Evangelicals no less!!!

    • http://meaninginhistory.blogspot.com/ mark

      To me that’s just amazing (and I assume David Severy finds it equally amazing). How can one possibly believe that the “Bible” is the infallible word of God without first believing in…God? It seems to logically presuppose a number of other questions, like: How does one come to believe in God? How does one come to believe that God has proffered his word in written form, and that that written form is infallible and authoritative? What do we mean when we say “infallible and authoritative?” What is the “Bible” and how do we know what it is? And so on. To me, talking about inspiration before revelation is putting the cart before the horse.

  • deafy

    Very close! …
    Only one thing is missing from that article …
    The “Gentiles” are in fact Israelites themselves, of the “10 Lost Tribes”, not just anyone out there in the world, as it is understood in Christianity in general.
    Y’shua came so that the Throne of David is restored and whole 12 tribes are restored to their covenants which are supposed to be eternal. He does not lie and His promises never once were nullified.

  • Bill

    In reading the original post and the comments following, I was a little surprised that the issue at hand was described primarily as a Pauline characteristic. It is as if our goal was to comprehend why Paul employed such a loose hermeneutic to prove his point. But the approach Paul took was not unique to him. I will cite just one example. Matthew wrote that Jesus fled to Egypt (taken there by his Mary and Joseph to escape Herod) and came back from Egypt as a fulfillment of Hosea 11:1. Hosea 11:1 is talking about natural Israel, but Matthew uses that passage to explain why it was necessary for Jesus to come out of Egypt to fulfill the prophesy “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

    I cannot speak to the larger question of why New Testament writers either played loose with Old Testament language or simply had revelations that superseded hermeneutic norms. But it seems helpful to recognize that this was not something unique to Paul.

    • peteenns

      Completely correct–which makes Evangelical gatekeepers somewhat nervous.

    • http://meaninginhistory.blogspot.com/ mark

      If you don’t mind my saying, this plays into some of the things I was saying earlier re revelation. Here’s how I see the background to these issues. Logically, the progression should be like this:

      1. Belief in God.
      2. Belief in Jesus and his claims (esp. re relationship to God)
      (I realize that in the real world #1 and #2 can interrelate, but I believe that this is the logical order.)
      3. Coming to terms with the traditions (written and oral) of Jesus’ disciples and how those traditions relate to Jesus.
      (Again, there is clearly an interrelationship between #2 and #3, but I think the logical priority is as stated.)
      4. Deciding how the Israelite scriptures and Israelite history relate to Jesus in light of #2.
      5. Deciding how the traditions (oral and written) of Jesus’ disciples relate to the Israelite scriptures. For example, assuming that Jesus himself is revelatory, are the early Christian traditions also revelatory, and if so in what sense. Similarly, we must ask whether the Israelite writings and history are revelatory and, if so, in what sense–and how do all those senses relate.

      Having come to some conclusions about revelation, we may then wish to talk about inspiration.

  • http://www.cotks.org John Stoos

    Rather than focus on an alleged ‘conflict’ between Paul and modern pastors, why not rather do what Pastor Doug Wilson did in the first part of his short commentary on the Book of Hebrews and talk about how ALL of us often struggle with how the New Testament treats the Old Testament!

    It is important to remember that ultimately BOTH Testament have the same author and if He says that what He said in the past is to be taken a bit different than any one of us or all of us think it should it should be taken, then we would be best to trust His judgment I would think.

    In the Lamb,

    John

  • Duke1CA

    I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment, Peter. I see Christian theology being at a very low ebb today because it is dominated by nomism both on the conservative side (with either blatant legalistic moralism of typical Evangelicals or Reformed mono-covenantalism) and on the liberal (with New Perspectivists who fail to realize that Paul was rejecting “covenantal nomism” altogether in favor of salvation by grace alone through faith alone).

  • David E-shepherd

    Many groups say they like Jesus but hate Paul, but as the more spiritually and less physically oriented Gospel of John was a late arrival on the scene, Paul may have influenced and inspired John in the aspects and orientation of Jesus that were not being understood and responded to in the early church. The Jewish OT interpretation was very physical, and many Evangelicals and Fundamentalists seem very attracted to that literal certainty. Somehow, that does not keep them from cherry-picking the law, for few keep kosher or circumcise. Will they ever accept the primitive aspects of the OT as such, like lepers being spiritually unclean — it never was very contagious and we have a pill now? No, it is inconvenient. Humans are weak that way.

  • Chris Matthews

    You have created a false dichotomy and then tried to vaidate it. You claim that evangelicals claim the Old Testament leads to Jesus, while Paul claims the Old Testament is transformed by the Gospel.

    The truth is, that both of these claims are reductionistic. No evangelical scholar I know would say that, solely by reading the Old Testament, anyone would be led to the Gospel. It does anticipate Christ (the Messiah is promised in dozens of places), but it is very elusive and mysterious as to exactly what the nature of the coming kingdom of the Messiah will be like. It is not until we see the Old Testament in light of the Gospel that it becomes clear. What is clear in the OT, is that there is a Messiah coming who will bring in a new era, and a New Covenant between God and His people, that does not suffer from the same failings that marked the history of Israel under the Old Covenant.

    Also, it is reductionistic to say that Paul teaches the Old Testament is “transformed” by the Gospel. A better way to say it is that the Gospel reveals the true meaning of the Old Testament. It was hidden, or mysterious as Paul calls it, as to how all these things would come to pass, and it was mysterious that Gentiles would be included. But in Christ, it has now become clear. Paul would affirm that the Old Testament points to Jesus and the Gospel. As a matter of fact he does so precisely in Galations 3:24.

    When Christ comes, He shows us the true nature of what this new era and what this New Covenant is actually like. In this way, we can now rightly understand the purpose of the law and the Old Testament. It not only provided a way for the Israelites to express their faith through keeping covenant with God, but it pointed us to our need for a redeemer when we failed, a need for a change of heart in God’s people towards God that was beyond our own abilities, and a priority on trusting God as our authority and strength, instead of trying to keep covenant with God on our own.

    This is not a true dichotomy between Evangelical though and Pauline thought. Evangelicals are not without our problems and mistakes, but disagreeing with Paul on the Old Testament is not one of them.

    Also, , you claim that Paul “manipulates” the Old Testament to support His view, as Jews had a history of doing. That is a misrepresentation of what Paul does. He is not manipulating the Old Testament to support his own theological view. Instead He is clarifying the Old Testament (the previous revelation of God) in light of the new revelation of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ, who is the incarnate Word of God. Now, he could be wrong, that God was not providing further clarifying revelation in Jesus Christ and so he shouldn’t clarify the Old Testament in light of Him. But if He is not wrong, and Jesus is the Word, then what he is doing is not manipulation it is clarification.

    All that being said, it is true that evangelicals do not believe we have the freedom to do with Scripture what Paul is doing with the Old Testament in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ. The reason we do not have the freedom to continue to “manipulate” or re-interpret that Bible in the same way that Paul does, is because there is no new revelation that we have after Jesus Christ. He is the incarnate Word, God’s full and complete revelation. Interestingly enough, PAUL HIMSELF actually advises Christian of this fact himself, that we should NO LONGER ACCEPT any new “manipulation” or re-interpretation, EVEN IF IT COMES FROM PAUL HIMSELF OR AN ANGEL!

    But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
    (Galatians 1:8-9 ESV)

    We are not in the same position that Paul was in as God had anointed Him by the Holy Spirit to write Scripture and provide written revelation that clarified the Old Testament in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We, instead, are to remain faithful to the gospel that was once for all, entrusted to the saints.

    • peteenns

      Chris, I understand what you are saying, but what you offer here are, if I may, standard Evangelical responses about how the Bible needs to act. My point is that the biblical data don’t harmonize well with this system. The reason I have come to that conclusion is from reading how Paul and other NT authors use the OT. My conclusions are hardly innovative and, outside of certain circles, hardly worthy of comment. The hermeneutical problems cannot be addressed through asserting theological prolegomena.

      • http://meaninginhistory.blogspot.com/ mark

        Chris, I understand what you are saying, but …

        1 Corinthians 14

      • Chris Matthews

        With all due respect, I was offering Paul’s response to your position from Galatians. If you want to call that the standard evangelical response, I take that as a good thing, but it defeats your argument.

        • peteenns

          Chris, I understand the principle you are articulating, and I once would have agreed with you–until I began studying the NT’s use of the OT in Second Temple Judaism and I had to leave that behind. Focusing on alleged non-negotiable theological prolegomena is not helpful.

    • http://meaninginhistory.blogspot.com/ mark

      What is clear in the OT, is that there is a Messiah coming

      That’s precisely what is not clear: The One Who Is to Come.

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  • http://lowerthoughts.jrbuckley.com J.R. Buckley

    My head is spinning. A lot of good discussion going on here, but I’m struggling to find a takeaway. Is the main point being made that none of us have a monopoly on absolute truth, particularly when it comes to doctine and interpretation/application of scripture?

  • Seán Ó Cluaid

    I can understand that Evangelicals may have difficulty with Paul and vice-versa but one must first clarify “evangelical” as that has probably changed over the years and all those calling themselves evangelicals today don’t agree. In conversation I mentioned the name of the speaker (from one of the U.S. Seminaries) I had heard at a Summer Bible School. A listener who had connections with another U.S. Seminary said, “We wouldn’t allow him through our door.” Both Seminaries would call themselves evangelical.

    Dr.Enns’ third point on the reasons must be suspect – “For Evangelicals, the Bible is God’s final authority. For Paul, Jesus is the final authority to which the Bible must bend.”

    Yes, for Paul Jesus was the final authorityand from that he gave us most of Jesus’ teaching through his N.T. letters. Jesus is still the evangelicals’ final authority but the commands for us are found in the written word of the N.T. In practical terms the “final authority in belief and practice is the written N.T.”, but that is because Jesus’ commands, the final authority today, come to us.

  • Sandy Anderson

    Personally, ANYONE who has had a life changing that radical is in my humble opinion a definate Evangelical, as long as he is preaching Jesus Christ as the life changer. I mean seriously, what kind of people dream this stuff up? “Would Paul be an evangelical today?” If these people think not than I sure don’t have the time of day for them because they are not preaching just Jesus. I would have to assume that some of them may have an agenda. But Paul, well here is a man that went from killing Jews and hating Jesus to being imprisioned for preaching JUST JESUS and Him only…. Not even wanting to take any money or anything else from the people he was preaching to. Problem today is that there are to many people are focusing on stuff instead of Jesus Christ the one who died, was raised from the dead and has the power to transform lives, and He will someday return to judge the living and the dead and then those who beleieve will be sitting with Him and we will be worshipping Jesus Christ and no one else and no creed or anything else. ONLY Jesus will we be worshipping. SO you best beleive that Paul is an evangelical. Why? Because he had an encounter with Jesus Christ and it changed his life forever. If John Piper, John MacArthur, and R. C. Sproul have a problem with Paul than it is their problem and not Pauls. Why? Because at least 90% of the New Testament is written by Paul and if 2 Tim 3:16 is accurate than nothing anyone else tells me is going to change my mind because God made Paul into an evangelical for His purpose. And Paul never even boasted on himself unlike so many of todays evangelicals.

  • Lewis H. Seaton III

    There’s too much false doctrine here on which to comment. This whole thing is just plain stupid. The Old and New Covenants are not the same covenant. They are not even the same kind of covenant. The Old was a tutor to lead us to the New. Every word in the Old Testament is not Covenant. God hints at what is to come — what is to be permanent and more desired. Paul did a fantastic job of explaining the relationship of the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. They are not the same. His point was not that the New Covenant is a better understanding of the Old. If you can’t get this most basic understanding of Scripture you shouldn’t be writing commentary.

  • http://www.hopeabbey.com/ Jacob Fronczak

    “That would have been a pretty radical message all by itself, but Paul gets even more radical. He argues that in the Old Testament itself teaches that Gentiles are to be included among Israel solely on the basis of faith–not obeying the law. Paul claims that Gentile inclusion without circumcision was God’s plan all along.

    “If you’re familiar with the Old Testament, you would be right to wonder how Paul is going to pull that off, since the Old Testament is so adamant about maintaining the distinction between Jew and Gentile.”

    Peter, after reading J. Brian Tucker’s book Remain In Your Calling, I became even more convinced that Paul also prioritized this distinction. I don’t have time to compose a complete response but I did write a review of that work for Messiah Journal 110 if anyone is interested. As for your conversation with Don Johnson above, pertinent works have been written by Mark Nanos, Kathy Ehrensperger, Pamela Eisenbaum, Magnus Zetterholm, David Rudolph, Mark Kinzer, and John Gager, among others; though all disagree on the details they have all to some degree come to reappraise the Torah and the role of Jew and Gentile in Paul’s thinking.

    As an Evangelical who is working to fix some of the same kinds of problems you perceive in Evangelicalism, I see the value of being able to realize that Paul reinterpreted the OT, as he certainly did; however, I believe he did it within a certain framework that I think we often overlook, a framework that was heavily informed by assumptions and terminology rooted in Second Temple Judaism.

  • Patrick

    Jacob,

    There are OT textual antecedents for Paul’s theology, IMO.

    I can’t recall chapter and verse like a preacher, but, in Exodus there is an obscure verse like this one, “IF a Gentile (ethne) desires to celebrate passover feast, he is to be considered part of the “congregation of Israel”. That’s the first reference to Gentiles being = to Jews with Yahweh I know of. Which is a forerunner to the “Israel of God via faith and not first birth assets” concept Paul pushed hard.

    Then, there are verses ( I think Isaiah and Jeremiah) that indicate Yahweh considered the apostate Jew to be a Gentile. So, while it was very obscure, the concept of a spiritual Israel via faith pre existed Paul, IMO.

    Also, while in Deuteronomy we read “Jacob is Yahweh’s portion”, we read elsewhere that the “nations are Yahweh’s inheritance”. The famous “Feast of Messiah” passage in Isaiah makes it clear, all humanity is invited and representatives of all humanity are present at the great feast of the “Jewish Messiah” equally.

    Paul sure elaborated on it bigtime, but, I think the seed of the idea was existing in Torah.

    • http://www.hopeabbey.com Jacob Fronczak

      As we disagree as to what Paul’s theology of Gentiles actually was, of course I also disagree as to the seed of said theology being found in the OT. There are plenty of passages that make it clear that God’s covenant relationship was with Israel and not Gentiles (Ps. 147:19-20, 1 Chr. 16:12-18, Ps. 135:4, 2 Sam. 7:23-24, Ps. 148:14, and lots more), but more than that, Israel’s election as a nation is basically assumed throughout the OT.

      As to the ethne eating the Pesach, he had to be circumcised first. In Paul’s day circumcision was equal to taking on Jewish status (i.e. proselytization) and this is the way he uses the terminology as well. This is one of those areas where Paul would have reinterpreted the OT through the lens of Jewish terminology and theology.

      Your other passages (the ones you specifically cited, anyway) do demonstrate that God has, so to speak, a global view, and does not deal solely with Israel. However, there remains a distinction in both Testaments between Israel and Gentiles–even believing Gentiles. 1 Cor. 7:17-24 is a very clear, key text here and Tucker expounds on it considerably.

      At any rate, there is no point in going into greater detail as Tucker’s monograph has really explored the subject well and is worth a read if you’re interested. I’d also recommend David Rudolph’s A Jew to the Jews. R. Kendall Soulen, Peter Tomson, and of course Krister Stendahl have also contributed great thoughts on this subject, as well as the authors I mentioned in my last comment.

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  • Gail Steelhammer-Cohen

    Scott I could not have said it better – by the way Jesus, when he addressed the Samaritan woman, stated that “true worshipers will worship the father in Spirit and in truth”(John 4) – that the physical place will not matter – Christ Himself was overturning the status quo – to spread the Gospel.

  • Bob

    Lewis, I agree with you 100%. I started to write notes of all the false premises and ran out of paper. It’s hard to know where to start. Paul was the first Evangelical…aside from Christ, and moreso than the disciples. Paul defined Evangelicalism. To compare him to “mainstream evangelicals” and using the “mainstream” as the standard is ridiculous. Any evaluation of modern doctrine MUST be done compared to the Bible (which includes Paul’s writings)…not the other way around!

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