Throughout the Christian era, Paul has stood at the center of controversy, accused of being the father of Christian anti-Semitism. But have we misunderstood the man and his teachings for nearly 2,000 years? In this highly accessible book, John Gager challenges this entrenched view of Paul, arguing persuasively that Paul's words have been taken out of their original context, distorted, and generally misconstrued.
Gager takes us in search of the "real" Paulusing Paul's own writings. Through an exhaustive analysis of Paul's letters to the Galatians and the Romans, he provides illuminating answers to the key questions: Did Paul repudiate the Law of Moses? Did he believe that Jews had been rejected by God and replaced as His chosen people by Gentiles? Did he consider circumcision to be necessary for salvation? And did he expect Jews to find salvation through Jesus? To all these questions, John Gager answers no. First, he puts Paul's proselytizing in context. Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles, not the Jews. His most vehement arguments were directed not against Judaism but against competing apostles in the Jesus movement who demanded that Gentiles be circumcised and conform to Jewish law in order to be saved. Moreover, Paul relied on rhetorical devices that were familiar to his intended audience but opaque to later readers of the letters. As a result, his message has been misunderstood by all succeeding generations.
Reinventing Paul brilliantly sets forth a controversial interpretation of Paul's teaching. This thought-provoking portrait is essential reading for theologians and lay people, historians and philosophers, Christians and Jews.
Gager (religion, Princeton) has written an articulate and well-documented presentation of a controversial but increasingly popular point of view in Pauline studies. Traditionally, biblical scholars have held that Paul taught that the Church replaced the Jews as those now in covenant with God and that Paul thought the Law was no longer binding. Gager sees this as a complete misunderstanding that can be cleared up if we recognize that Paul's teachings on these issues were meant for Gentiles only. The essence of Gager's view is that since Gentiles are Paul's intended audience, it should be clear that rather than rejecting Judaism, Paul is rejecting "anti-Pauline apostles within the Jesus-movement." After he lays out the issues in question and summarizes traditional views of Paul, Gager then makes his argument and discusses various like-minded contemporary scholars, such as E.P. Sanders. He then shows how passages in the New Testament books of Galatians and Romans can be interpreted very differently when his Gentile audience is kept in mind. This informed and revolutionary view of Paul's thought will become one of the central books of modern scholarship on this subject. Highly recommended for any library.--David Bourquin, California State Univ., San Bernardino Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\