Saturday, December 06, 2014

Grafting Gentiles into the Tree

In the first chapter, we saw that one aspect of the recently revised perspectives on Paul and Judaism was a greater sense of the continuity between Israel and earliest Christianity. Indeed, throughout the book I have argued that it is much more accurate to speak of Christian Jews than it is to speak of Jewish Christians. Even Gentile believers in Christ were, at the beginning, something along the lines of Gentile converts to Israel. When I speak of "Gentile Christians," I am in a sense speaking of a certain species of "Gentile Israelite."

In this chapter, we now want to look at Hebrews in relation to the Jewish sense of election, covenant, and the Law in its environment. The previous chapter looked at the Christology of Hebrews in relation to Jewish "monotheism." Earlier chapters have looked at Hebrews in relation to the temple, which speaks to Jewish conceptions of land and redemption. [1] Now we want to ask to what extent Hebrews might reflect a partitioning or parting of the ways with Judaism in relation to election, covenant, and Torah. [2]

At this point it is perilous to enter into Pauline waters, even though we must. Much like the first chapter, we will simply have to take certain positions and more or less by-pass the significant amount of debate that surrounds an issue such as this one. The amount of literature on Paul and the Law is staggering to the mind. To some extent, we will simply have to comfort ourselves with the fact that the position we will take here in relation to Paul has already been defended elsewhere by others, even though we cannot hope to rehearse an exhaustive argument.

So we begin with Paul as potentially relevant background to Hebrews on the question of election, covenant, and the Jewish Law...

[1] In Paul Was Not a Christian: The Original Message of a Misunderstood  Apostle (New York: HarperOne, 2009), Pamela Eisenbaum considers redemption one of three key components of Judaism at the time, along with worship and Torah (68). N. T. Wright considers her category of redemption to correspond loosely to his third element, "eschatology," alongside monotheism and election, in Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2013), 612 **.

[2] See chapter 1. For language of "partitioning," see especially D. Boyarin, Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2004).

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