I heard yesterday that my paper proposal for the Paul Seminar of this year’s British New Testament Conference has been accepted. Here it is:
‘The Rhetorical Identification of Judaism and Gentile Paganism in Paul’s Letters’
Recent scholarly discussion of Paul’s post-call/conversion attitude towards Judaism can neglect the rhetorical, contextual and polemical dimensions of the relevant epistolary texts. Works that portray Paul’s ‘view’ of Judaism in terms of either continuity or discontinuity, as either ‘positive’ or ‘negative’, often assume that such a view can be abstracted from the texts and shaped into a coherent set of statements, otherwise known as Paul’s ‘theology’.
In this paper, I do not intend to survey such portrayals, and do not want to reject the possibility of giving an account of Paul’s theological convictions. Instead, I seek to show how attention to the rhetorical features of his letters might add nuance to any such account. Specifically, I want to investigate Paul’s portrayal of Judaism in terms that establish different kinds of rhetorical identification between his ancestral faith and Gentile paganism. The texts to be explored are: 1 Thessalonians 2.14-16; Galatians 4.1-11; Philippians 3.2-3, 18-19; Romans 1-2 and Colossians 3.8-23. While, at first glance, Paul’s ability to make such an identification should give pause to those who are keen to describe Paul’s theology in terms of continuity with Judaism, such a rhetorical strategy is commonplace within 2nd Temple Judaism itself. Thus, the nature of Paul’s theologizing, in this instance, demonstrates his location within the various competing identity claims within Judaism, yet contains the ingredients that explain the development of early Christian identity into a tertius genus.