PAUL AND THE JEWSWritten by A. Andrew Das Reviewed By M. Sydney Park
The highly controversial debate over Paul and his thoughts on the Law and Judaism as reflected in the epistles to the Galatians and Romans receives a deft and extensive investigation in Das’ most recent work. He not only demonstrates expertise with the biblical texts and vast array of primary sources but he also brings some measure of equanimity to the oftentimes ‘one-sided’ debate. While Das firmly rejects the New Perspective’s proposal that the issue addressed in either Galatians or Romans is merely the Jewish offence of ‘exclusivity,’ he nevertheless strives to grapple with the highly derogatory implications of Paul’s stance on the Law and Judaism (historical effects as well as modern day dangers of anti-Semitism) and offers a refreshing synthesis of theology and praxis that is not based on what may be deemed politically correct in contemporary scholarship but on the words of Paul himself in Romans 9–11.
Specifically, in chapter two Das investigates Paul’s strong stance against the Law in Galatians and argues persuasively that the crisis in Galatians is that of intra-Christian struggle rather that a comprehensive treatise against Jews (29). In chapter 3 Das sketches the historical background of Rome which in turn serves as the base for his proposal that the ‘weak’ in Romans 14:1–15:6 are not the ‘non-Christian Jews’ as argued by M. D. Nanos but rather ‘non-Law observant Christians’. Again, the issue addressed is that of intra-Christians rather than that of Christians and Jews. Chapters four to six focus on Paul’s thoughts on the Law and Israel as God’s elect in light of the Christ event. Several critical questions are addressed here:
- What value can be accorded to the Law for the Jews if all are saved by grace?
- Is salvation through Jesus Christ only valid for the Gentiles while the Law retains salvific value for the Jews as the two-covenant theory maintains?
- Indeed, where is the benefit of election for Israel if the Law has been eclipsed by faith in Jesus Christ?
- What is at stake is not only the Jewish identity vis-a-vis Gentiles but their identity before God as his chosen people.
Das firmly asserts that salvation for both the Jew and Gentile is through faith in Jesus Christ. Simultaneously, Das also highlights Paul’s firm belief that the message of salvation is to the Jews first, then the Gentiles (Rom. 1:16). God’s election of Israel is maintained through God’s faithfulness among Jewish Christians (the remnant) and those who will come to belief at the end time in spite of their current belief. In chapter seven Das addresses the much needed issue of the Law and the Christian life. Das appropriately notes that Paul has by no means abandoned the Law as the normative force in the life of faith. However, ‘the Law’ has been modified greatly in light of Jesus Christ. Hence, Jesus Christ himself through his demonstration of self-sacrificing love not only reinterprets the Law but also becomes the norm for Christian conduct. The conclusion ties together his investigation of the preceding chapters with an insightful and much needed attention to the polemical nature of Paul’s perspective on the Law and the Jews and the very offence it presented and still presents today. The reader is left to ponder the issue: given the offence of the gospel for the Jews, and given Paul’s clear belief that the Jews are not abandoned but that God’s faithfulness will be demonstrated in the end times, have Christians sufficiently demonstrated the ‘Law of Christ’ as revealed on the cross as testimony to the Jews? In sum, Das offers a refreshing and engaging interaction with the current and much debated issues of Paul, the Law and the Jews.
M. Sydney Park