Monday, November 14, 2011

Completing Gaston's Paul and the Torah

I finished Lloyd Gaston's Paul and the Torah. I have two items:

1. An issue that has been of interest to me is the relevance of the Torah to Gentiles. Gaston's argument has been that, for Paul, Jews were under the Torah within the context of a covenant that had gracious provisions for them, whereas Gentiles were under the law as it was oppressively administered by angels.

My reading yesterday pertained to this issue, or it may have, at least. For example, on page 197, Gaston refers to Talmudic passages (Kid. 30b; B. Bat. 16a; Shab. 146a; etc.) that claim that the Torah was an antidote to Adam's sin and the evil inclination. Does that imply that the Torah has a universal dimension, since Adam's sin and the evil inclination are problems that relate to the entire human race, not just the Jews? Maybe, but not necessarily. As N.T. Wright documents, there was a view within Second Temple Judaism that Israel represented humanity, and that God intended to subordinate the Gentiles to Israel, as the animals were subordinated to Adam. In this case, there is a Jewish view that regards the Torah as a solution to a human problem, yet it maintains Jewish particularism.

On page 198, Gaston states: "The Torah as covenant and commandments is only for Israel and irrelevant to Gentiles...Torah as teaching remains valid also for Gentiles." This makes sense to me in light of Gaston's argument that only Israel was under the covenant. But Gaston also argues in this book that God judges Jews and Gentiles according to the same standard, so Gaston's claim that the Torah as commandments was only for Israel makes no sense to me, in light of Gaston's arguments elsewhere in this book.

2. Yesterday, I talked about Paul's rebuke in Romans 2:22 of those calling themselves Jews. There, Paul accuses them of temple robbery. On page 231, Gaston gives examples of what Paul may have had in mind:

"[Josephus] uses the hierosyl- root to refer to robbery from the temple contributions of Jews from Asia in Ant. 16.45, 164, 168; to describe robbery from the Jerusalem temple itself in JW 1.654 (=Ant. 17.163), 5.562, and Ant. 12.359; and in referring to Manetho's accusation that Jews robbed Egyptian temples before the Exodus (AgAp 1.249, 318f)."

Overall, I enjoyed Gaston's book (even if I disagreed with parts of it) because it offered an alternative interpretation of biblical passages.

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