JEW VS. JEW:
St. Paul not a Christian says theologian
(Christopher Guly and Randy Boswell, November 23, 2002, The Ottawa Citizen)
Regarded today as Christianity's greatest missionary and the premier apostle whose writings in the New Testament promulgated Jesus' message, St. Paul would be "perplexed and dismayed" at the role ascribed to him as one of the principal founders of a new religion, says an American theologian.
"Paul would not be happy with this characterization -- he doesn't even use the term 'Christian,' " said Dan Schowalter, a professor of religion and classics at Carthage College, based in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Mr. Schowalter argues that Paul, a Jew, believed that Christ embodied the "fulfilment of Judaism" and was the genuine messiah of Jewish prophecy. [...]
In an interview, he said while "select" teachings contained in Paul's New Testament epistles served as the "foundation" of the Christian Church, Paul's "intention was not to form a new religion" at the expense of Judaism.
"If we use the term 'Christian' to refer to Paul or any believer in the first century, we're oversimplifying and applying an anachronistic term to that situation," explained Mr. Schowalter.
However, he added that during Paul's lifetime, most Jews would not have regarded him as one of them as soon as he began advocating Jesus as their messiah and including Gentiles in the Jesus movement without them first becoming Jews.
This is just idiotic. When the rest of the Jews didn't recognize Christ as the Messiah what were his followers going to do, fight them for the name "Jews"? One side or the other was going to be called something different and the odds were the smaller group was going to get stuck with a new name, right?
Posted by Orrin Judd at November 24, 2002 5:08 PM
I seem to remember a statement in the book of Acts, chapter 11, verse 26: "And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." This was around AD 43. So where's the anachronism? Paul didn't start his first missionary journey until about two years later, from Antioch. Sometimes I wonder whether these theologians read the New Testamant at all.
At least until the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, the early "Christians" thought of themselves as Jews precisely because most of them were Jews, though they would be expelled from certain of the synagogues. During that period and even later, there were many strains of Judaism. When the Temple no longer stood and Judaism entered a major crisis that was only resolved through great teachers like Hillel and Akiva who created what we now call rabbinic Judaism, the kerygma regarding Jesus began to spead to the Gentile world. Thus, in scholarly Christian circles, we have for many decades spoken of Jewish Christians and then Gentile Christians. This man is looking for a bit of publicity through his sensational wording. Nothing he says is particularly startling to anyone who has had to study Scripture on a sopisticated level, as this RC did in a graduate dept of theology at a Jesuit university decades ago. The indiscreet wording is picked up by reporters not trained in the subject. As one who spent 12 years as a newspaper editor, I can advise you that reporters in general know virtually nothing of religion. As a Catholic, I had to explain Jewish concepts to my Jewish colleagues and translate Yiddish and Hebrew for most of them under 50. The only other person on staff who seemed actually to understand religion was a Greek Orthodox sports editor. Certainly, our polite and pious Protestant church lady who did the religion column knew job gossip as to who would get what pastorate, but in terms of serious religious thought, she probably knew less than our resident atheist (who sent his kids to Catholic school because he wanted them to get the best education he could afford for them). This becomes sensationalism and "news" only because of the levels of journalistic ignorance involved. No non-fundamentalist Scripturalist would consider this "news." It is not idiotic, but it is badly worded and badly presented.
Did Paul use the word "Christian"? We don't really know, but the evidence in Acts indicates he probably did. But putting aside the semantics, to say Paul had no idea he was creating a new religion or working within Judaism is just plain silly. The man wrote "In Christ there is no Jew; there is no Greek." This is NOT Judaism according to any of the main branches that were in existence at the time. There may have been dispensations for "righteous Gentiles," but they were still Gentiles and Jews were Jews. Paul broke completely away from this mold, and he new it as any surface reading of Romans will indicate.