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Jesus, Paul and the law

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  • Ronald Price
    In a posting on Synoptic-L I provided evidence from the synoptic gospels that the historical Jesus did not break Jewish laws. Here is a more general approach.
    Message 1 of 10 , Apr 26 6:53 AM
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      In a posting on Synoptic-L I provided evidence from the synoptic gospels
      that the historical Jesus did not break Jewish laws.

      Here is a more general approach.

      Rom 14:20 (RSV) - ³Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God.
      Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for any one to make others fall
      by what he eats.²

      Mk 7:19b (RSV) - ³(Thus he declared all foods clean.)²

      I am aware that the latter reference is a paraphrase, but it appears that
      most Greek experts agree that the paraphrase correctly conveys the meaning
      of KAQARIZWN PANTA TA BRWMATA in Mark. Also, some commentators see the
      sentence as Mark¹s interpretation of a tradition he has just recounted. But
      this view does not affect any trajectory argument because the interpretation
      is correct, i.e. the sentence matches its context.

      Is it Romans or Mark which reflects the earlier attitude? I suggest the
      following reasons for thinking that it was Paul who was the first person in
      the Jesus movement to disparage the Jewish law.

      (1) Although Paul¹s attitude to the law was ambivalent (e.g. Rom 3:1-20),
      there are places in his extant correspondence where he indicates that the
      addressees were not Œunder the law¹ (e.g. Rom 4:16; 6:14; 10:4).

      (2) Paul never made a clean break with Judaism, so the natural trajectory is
      that his ambivalent attitude was *followed* by the complete rejection of the
      Jewish legal system, an attitude still held by Christians today.

      (3) If Jesus had rejected the Jewish law in whole or in part, it is
      difficult to see why Paul was so ambivalent about both the law as a whole
      and about specific laws pertaining to circumcision and food. Dale Allison
      puts it this way in a comment on Mt 11:13: ³... If Jesus himself had set
      aside the law, the heated debates on the topic in the primitive community
      are hard to fathom.² (Matthew, II, 257)

      Ron Price,

      Derbyshire, UK

      http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Gordon Raynal
      Ron, Interesting note. Just a comment... one thing that I often wonder about is the definition of ***the*** Law in conversations like this. What are the
      Message 2 of 10 , Apr 26 7:14 AM
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        Ron,

        Interesting note. Just a comment... one thing that I often wonder
        about is the definition of "***the*** Law" in conversations like
        this. What are the suppositions about the relative relationships, say
        between the weight of the Decalogue versus dietary restrictions, say?
        How does one conceive of the legal midrash? How does one think about
        the life situations when there are tensions or even contradictions in
        duty as regards Torah? How does one think about legal developments
        related to interpretation? How is the relationship between moral law
        and cultic and social laws conceived. I'd argue that such questions
        as these have to be a part of the mix when things like "Paul was the
        first person in the Jesus movement to disparage Jewish law."

        Is that language actually clarifying or not?

        Gordon Raynal
        Inman, SC


        On Apr 26, 2011, at 9:53 AM, Ronald Price wrote:

        > In a posting on Synoptic-L I provided evidence from the synoptic
        > gospels
        > that the historical Jesus did not break Jewish laws.
        >
        > Here is a more general approach.
        >
        > Rom 14:20 (RSV) - “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of
        > God.
        > Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for any one to make
        > others fall
        > by what he eats.”
        >
        > Mk 7:19b (RSV) - “(Thus he declared all foods clean.)”
        >
        > I am aware that the latter reference is a paraphrase, but it appears
        > that
        > most Greek experts agree that the paraphrase correctly conveys the
        > meaning
        > of KAQARIZWN PANTA TA BRWMATA in Mark. Also, some commentators see the
        > sentence as Mark’s interpretation of a tradition he has just
        > recounted. But
        > this view does not affect any trajectory argument because the
        > interpretation
        > is correct, i.e. the sentence matches its context.
        >
        > Is it Romans or Mark which reflects the earlier attitude? I
        > suggest the
        > following reasons for thinking that it was Paul who was the first
        > person in
        > the Jesus movement to disparage the Jewish law.
        >
        > (1) Although Paul’s attitude to the law was ambivalent (e.g. Rom
        > 3:1-20),
        > there are places in his extant correspondence where he indicates
        > that the
        > addressees were not ‘under the law’ (e.g. Rom 4:16; 6:14; 10:4).
        >
        > (2) Paul never made a clean break with Judaism, so the natural
        > trajectory is
        > that his ambivalent attitude was *followed* by the complete
        > rejection of the
        > Jewish legal system, an attitude still held by Christians today.
        >
        > (3) If Jesus had rejected the Jewish law in whole or in part, it is
        > difficult to see why Paul was so ambivalent about both the law as a
        > whole
        > and about specific laws pertaining to circumcision and food. Dale
        > Allison
        > puts it this way in a comment on Mt 11:13: “... If Jesus himself had
        > set
        > aside the law, the heated debates on the topic in the primitive
        > community
        > are hard to fathom.” (Matthew, II, 257)
        >
        > Ron Price,
        >
        > Derbyshire, UK
        >
        > http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/
        >
        >
        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        >
        >
        >
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      • Bob Schacht
        ... I ll take this further, and argue that Jewish law is too broad a topic. For example, didn t the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes differ among themselves
        Message 3 of 10 , Apr 26 9:43 PM
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          At 07:14 AM 4/26/2011, Gordon Raynal wrote:
          >...I'd argue that such questions
          >as these have to be a part of the mix when things like "Paul was the
          >first person in the Jesus movement to disparage Jewish law."...

          I'll take this further, and argue that "Jewish law" is too broad a
          topic. For example, didn't the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes
          differ among themselves quite a bit as to how much, and which, Jewish
          law should be observed? IIRC, the Sadducees were minimalists (nothing
          but the Law of Moses), the Pharisees took a much broader view, and
          the Essenes had their own special take on exactly what the law
          required. So, for example, some of the "Jewish law" disparaged by
          Jesus was, again IIRC, Pharisaic additions to the law that the
          Sadducees did not recognize. And then there were the Samaritans...

          So I think there are sectarian (intra-Jewish) issues here to deal
          with, as well.

          Bob Schacht
          Northern Arizona University



          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Ronald Price
          ... Gordon and Bob, In my first posting to this thread I mentioned three aspects of Jewish law: the whole (now rejected by all Christians), circumcision, and
          Message 4 of 10 , Apr 27 3:40 AM
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            On 27/04/2011 05:43, "Bob Schacht" <r_schacht@...> wrote:

            > I'll take this further, and argue that "Jewish law" is too broad a
            > topic. For example, didn't the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes
            > differ among themselves quite a bit as to how much, and which, Jewish
            > law should be observed?
            >
            Gordon and Bob,

            In my first posting to this thread I mentioned three aspects of Jewish law:
            the whole (now rejected by all Christians), circumcision, and food laws.
            Paul had an inconsistent attitude to all three because he wanted to have it
            both ways. Mark¹s Jesus rejected the food laws. As far as I am aware,
            circumcision and (for instance) not eating pork, were characteristics of
            Judaism as a whole.

            Of course Mark, followed by the other synoptics, includes several sabbath
            controversy stories. In some of these it may be more difficult to decide
            whether what was being broken was the law or mere tradition. However this
            seems to me immaterial, as I don¹t see any of them going back to the
            historical Jesus, for very little oral tradition could have survived the
            triple whammy of the destruction of Jerusalem, the geographical spread of
            the Jesus movement, and Paul¹s general lack of interest in the human
            activities of Jesus. These stories must surely all have been created in
            order to further the distinction between Judaism and Christianity at a time
            when the latter was becoming more and more exclusively a religion of
            Gentiles. Thus there is no reliable evidence of Jesus breaking either the
            laws or the traditions of the Jews.

            Ron Price,

            Derbyshire, UK

            http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/


            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Gordon Raynal
            Bob, Nicely noted! Ron, (see below) ... A point of clarification: what does the whole (now rejected by all Christians) mean? Thanks, Gordon Raynal Inman,
            Message 5 of 10 , Apr 27 4:05 AM
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              Bob,

              Nicely noted!

              Ron,
              (see below)
              On Apr 27, 2011, at 6:40 AM, Ronald Price wrote:

              > On 27/04/2011 05:43, "Bob Schacht" <r_schacht@...> wrote:
              >
              >> I'll take this further, and argue that "Jewish law" is too broad a
              >> topic. For example, didn't the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes
              >> differ among themselves quite a bit as to how much, and which, Jewish
              >> law should be observed?
              >>
              > Gordon and Bob,
              >
              > In my first posting to this thread I mentioned three aspects of
              > Jewish law:
              > the whole (now rejected by all Christians), circumcision, and food
              > laws.
              >
              >

              A point of clarification: what does "the whole" (now rejected by all
              Christians)" mean?
              Thanks,

              Gordon Raynal
              Inman, SC
            • Matson, Mark (Academic)
              ... It strikes me that the central issue is not the Law per se, or not the Law , but rather the audience. The Law (of Moses) was, at least according to
              Message 6 of 10 , Apr 27 6:27 AM
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                Gordon, Ron, Bob:

                >(responding to all, but particularly this in Ron's first post:

                >(3) If Jesus had rejected the Jewish law in whole or in part, it is difficult to see why Paul was so ambivalent about both the law as a whole and about specific laws >pertaining to circumcision and food. Dale Allison puts it this way in a comment on Mt 11:13: ³... If Jesus himself had set aside the law, the heated debates on the topic in >the primitive community are hard to fathom.² (Matthew, II, 257)

                It strikes me that the central issue is not "the Law" per se, or "not the Law", but rather the audience. The Law (of Moses) was, at least according to Paul, a particular feature of Judaism. It was God's gift to Jews, and was incumbent on them as part of the covenant. I am not sure that Paul ever moved away from this position. But for Gentiles to whom he now preached and who were his primary audience, the Law is not necessary. It is not an entry-way into this new covenant, hence the pitched arguments over circumcision. Circumcision is symbolic for the whole law... a synecdoche if you will. Gentiles only need faith in Jesus to enter the new covenant.

                So if the law is not a required entry point into the new covenant, does it have any value? Well, instructional at most. And here I think the distinctions between "moral law" and "ceremonial law" might be useful, but never as actual legal dictates for Gentiles.

                But did Paul reject the law for Jews? Or, to put it another way, does the new covenant completely supplant the old covenant for Jews (are they mutually exclusive?). I don't think Paul thought so. I think he remained an law-observant Jew.

                Ron, I think you're right on Jesus. He seemed to have operated fully as affirming the Law. What might be interpreted as "breaking law" is usually interpreting it in a quite rabbinic fashion.




                Mark A. Matson
                Academic Dean
                Milligan College
                423-461-8720
                http://www.milligan.edu/administrative/mmatson/personal.htm
              • Ronald Price
                ... Gordon, I meant that Christians rejected the whole Jewish system of laws based on the Torah, where ³whole² has its normal dictionary definition. Of
                Message 7 of 10 , Apr 27 8:54 AM
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                  On 27/04/2011 12:05, "Gordon Raynal" <scudi1@...> wrote:

                  > A point of clarification: what does "the whole" (now rejected by all
                  > Christians)" mean?
                  >
                  Gordon,

                  I meant that Christians rejected the whole Jewish system of laws based on
                  the Torah, where ³whole² has its normal dictionary definition.

                  Of course the Christian bible includes the Torah, but in practice it is the
                  New Testament which is used as the yardstick for Christian behaviour, and
                  even there Christians usually focus on general guidelines such as Œdo to
                  others what you want people to do to you¹ rather than detailed rules or
                  ³laws².

                  Ron Price,

                  Derbyshire, UK

                  http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/



                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • Bob Schacht
                  ... Well, I don t know what the practice is in your Christian church (assuming that you belong to one), but in the Episcopal church (and Anglican), the Ten
                  Message 8 of 10 , Apr 27 9:35 AM
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                    At 08:54 AM 4/27/2011, Ronald Price wrote:
                    >On 27/04/2011 12:05, "Gordon Raynal" <scudi1@...> wrote:
                    >
                    > > A point of clarification: what does "the whole" (now rejected by all
                    > > Christians)" mean?
                    > >
                    >Gordon,
                    >
                    >I meant that Christians rejected the whole Jewish system of laws based on
                    >the Torah, where ³whole² has its normal dictionary definition.
                    >
                    >Of course the Christian bible includes the Torah, but in practice it is the
                    >New Testament which is used as the yardstick for Christian behaviour, and
                    >even there Christians usually focus on general guidelines such as Œdo to
                    >others what you want people to do to you¹ rather than detailed rules or
                    >³laws².

                    Well, I don't know what the practice is in your
                    Christian church (assuming that you belong to
                    one), but in the Episcopal church (and Anglican),
                    the Ten Commandments are included in the Book of
                    Common Prayer and are occasionally included in
                    communal worship, especially in penitential seasons.
                    Furthermore, here in the States we've had a bit
                    of controversy with some evangelical Christians
                    who want the Ten Commandments to be publicly
                    displayed (e.g.,
                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Moore). Contrary
                    to your portrayal, I don't think the Ten
                    Commandments are a dead letter in the Christian
                    Church-- either now, or in the First Century of our era.

                    Bob Schacht
                    Northern Arizona University
                    So that hardly sounds like a rejection of the "whole" of Jewish law.

                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • Ronald Price
                    ... Bob, O.K., what I wrote was an over-simplification. You can tell I have never been a member of the Anglican Church! Nevertheless I think there is an
                    Message 9 of 10 , Apr 27 11:24 AM
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                      On 27/04/2011 17:35, "Bob Schacht" <r_schacht@...> wrote:

                      > Well, I don't know what the practice is in your
                      > Christian church (assuming that you belong to
                      > one), but in the Episcopal church (and Anglican),
                      > the Ten Commandments are included in the Book of
                      > Common Prayer and are occasionally included in
                      > communal worship, especially in penitential seasons.
                      > Furthermore, here in the States we've had a bit
                      > of controversy with some evangelical Christians
                      > who want the Ten Commandments to be publicly
                      > displayed (e.g.,
                      > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Moore). Contrary
                      > to your portrayal, I don't think the Ten
                      > Commandments are a dead letter in the Christian
                      > Church-- either now, or in the First Century of our era. .....
                      >
                      > So that hardly sounds like a rejection of the "whole" of Jewish law.

                      Bob,

                      O.K., what I wrote was an over-simplification. You can tell I have never
                      been a member of the Anglican Church!

                      Nevertheless I think there is an important distinction between Jewish
                      acceptance of the ten commandments because they form part of the Torah, and
                      any Christian acceptance of them. The latter cannot be simply because they
                      are in the bible, for in that case Christians would not eat pork and
                      circumcision would be obligatory on religious grounds. So presumably their
                      attraction for some parts of the Church must be because they are perceived
                      to reflect Christian values as reflected in the New Testament.

                      Ron Price,

                      Derbyshire, UK

                      http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/


                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    • Gordon Raynal
                      Hi Ron, Thanks for your reply to me. I ll just respond off of Bob s note, so see below: ... This takes us away from Bible and into the world of Christian
                      Message 10 of 10 , Apr 27 11:35 AM
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                        Hi Ron,

                        Thanks for your reply to me. I'll just respond off of Bob's note, so
                        see below:
                        On Apr 27, 2011, at 2:24 PM, Ronald Price wrote:

                        > On 27/04/2011 17:35, "Bob Schacht" <r_schacht@...> wrote:
                        >
                        >> Well, I don't know what the practice is in your
                        >> Christian church (assuming that you belong to
                        >> one), but in the Episcopal church (and Anglican),
                        >> the Ten Commandments are included in the Book of
                        >> Common Prayer and are occasionally included in
                        >> communal worship, especially in penitential seasons.
                        >> Furthermore, here in the States we've had a bit
                        >> of controversy with some evangelical Christians
                        >> who want the Ten Commandments to be publicly
                        >> displayed (e.g.,
                        >> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Moore). Contrary
                        >> to your portrayal, I don't think the Ten
                        >> Commandments are a dead letter in the Christian
                        >> Church-- either now, or in the First Century of our era. .....
                        >>
                        >> So that hardly sounds like a rejection of the "whole" of Jewish law.
                        >
                        > Bob,
                        >
                        > O.K., what I wrote was an over-simplification. You can tell I have
                        > never
                        > been a member of the Anglican Church!
                        >
                        > Nevertheless I think there is an important distinction between Jewish
                        > acceptance of the ten commandments because they form part of the
                        > Torah, and
                        > any Christian acceptance of them. The latter cannot be simply
                        > because they
                        > are in the bible, for in that case Christians would not eat pork and
                        > circumcision would be obligatory on religious grounds. So presumably
                        > their
                        > attraction for some parts of the Church must be because they are
                        > perceived
                        > to reflect Christian values as reflected in the New Testament.
                        >
                        > Ron Price,
                        >
                        This takes us away from Bible and into the world of Christian theology
                        and ethics, but your summation even here is still an
                        oversimplification. The relationship between "grace and law" is an
                        issue all across the Christian theological heritage and it is quite
                        complex. That said, take a look sometimes at the Westminster Larger
                        Catechism and the section on the place and understanding of the
                        Decalogue.

                        Gordon Raynal
                        Inman, SC
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