On Gaston/Gager theory
- Hello all,
I was trying to interact with Gager's theory that Christ was only for the
Gentiles and that the Jews have the Torah. Here is what I have come up with.
Suppose that we are to take Gaston and Gager's thesis that Paul had a "two
way" path towards God. How did this mutation of the role of Jesus come about?
If we are going to follow Gager's theory, this is how we might reconstruct
it. We read in the Gospels that Jesus was an eschatological figure who taught
about the kingdom of God and believed that God was acting in him to redeem
Israel and the whole cosmos. Jews looked to him and thought that this may be it,
that this may be the man who will liberate them from the oppressions of
Rome. He then died at the hands of the pagans and which would have stopped the
movement or have made another man the so-called messiah. But we know that the
early followers still believed that the kingdom of God was here and this is
because the resurrection has happened. The early disciples then went out and
proclaimed this news, that Jesus Christ has been raised. Then Paul, who was a
Pharisee, converted because Christ appeared to him and he was taught by the
apostles that it is true, that Christ has risen from the dead. He begins to
believe, along with the disciples, that Jesus is Lord. Paul then believes that
Jesus is Lord, not for the Jews, but for the Gentiles. The Jews still have
their Torah and the Gentiles have Christ.
Such a reconstruction is implausible. First, such a theology is so complex
that twenty years from the death and resurrection of Jesus might not have been
enough time to develop it. Second, Gager's reliance on Justin Taylor and
Etienne Nodet seems implausible. For them, they believed that Paul "identifies
Jesus as the traditional Jewish Messiah who was about to return; later on he
underwent a 'profound transformation' and came to see Jesus as Lord" (Gager pg.
150). Even if we believe that for Paul, Jesus is no longer the traditional
Jewish Messiah, but rather the Lord, it does not mean that Jesus is not Lord
for the Jews as well. We read from Paul that "if you confess with your mouth
that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the
dead, you will be saved...For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the
same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him" (Rom. 10:
9,12). There is no way one can interpret this passage as simply saying that the
Gentiles need not be circumcised or become Jews. The passage says that the
"same Lord is Lord of all," that is, the Lord of the Jews is "the same" as the
Lord of the Gentiles, thereby concluding that Jesus Christ is Lord of all (Rom.
10:9). Third, Paul believes that the kingdom of God has arrived. He speaks
of "the kingdom of God" in many places and if we are to hold to the two way
theory, then this is simply implausible if we are going to interpret this from
a second-Temple Jewish worldview. "The phrase 'kingdom of God', therefore,
carried unambiguously the hope that YHWH would act thus, within history, to
vindicate Israel" (Jesus and the Victory of God pg. 203). The phrase "kingdom of
God" was a Jewish notion that YHWH will redeem Israel and save her from
oppressions of other powers. "Any attempt to deJudaize it, whether or not in the
interests of 'relevance' to another age, is bound to result in the
dissolution into multiple elements of what first-century Jews would have perceived as a
complex but coherent whole, in the consequent mutilation of each element,
and (last but not least) in the serious misreading of the relevant texts"
(Jesus pg. 206). To separate Israel from the "kingdom of God" would leave Israel
in exile still waiting for the kingdom of God. To put it concisely, if we are
to accept the two way theory, then this means that the Jews looked for the
day when YHWH redeemed Israel and the whole cosmos, Jesus died and rose again,
but he is only for the Gentiles. In other words, there is no good news for
the Jews, only the Gentiles. The ironic turn here is that if we are going to
try to interpret a non-anti-semitic Paul to the point where he believes that
Christ is only for the Gentiles, then we have to interpret Paul to mean that he
did not think that the kingdom of God refers to YHWH's liberation of Israel.
It is a whole new mutation of the understanding of the kingdom of God. Such
a complexity adds more weight to my first point.
But one can save the two way theory by proposing this thought: Paul does not
believe that the kingdom of God is here yet (that is why he mostly says
"will inherit the kingdom of God"), but Christ's death and resurrection is the
means YHWH has taken to pull the Gentiles to his fold so that his kingdom will
And that's where I could not think any longer. Any thoughts?
 I remember bringing this up with Gager when I met him and I don't
remember him interacting with it. I do remember that he allowed the possibility of
Stowers' interpretation that Jesus would be the future messiah for Israel
(pg. 60), or at least, that is how I interpreted him.
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