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Can Paul Come to AJS? When Pauline Studies meets Jewish Studies

Sun, December 16, 4:15 to 5:45pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Waterfront 1 Ballroom
Mon, December 17, 3:00 to 4:30pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Waterfront 1 Ballroom

Session Submission Type: Seminar


This seminar takes the opportunity presented by AJS’s 50th anniversary to ask the question how looking with new lenses at Paul, the purported author or subject of almost half of the Christian New Testament, might contribute to the study of Judaism. In two seminars we explore first Paul within first century Judaism and second how Paul’s Jewish identity was perceived, questioned, or deployed in Late Antiquity. By looking at Paul through these two lenses, we can see how Paul’s writings were conscripted into Christian theological anti-Judaism, while also reconceptualizing Paul as a Jewish author among other first-century Jews.
For the past two millennia, the letters of Paul have largely been read as a rejection of Judaism, largely based on his polemic between Law and Faith, and deployed as a weapon in Christian theological anti-Judaism. As a figure whose writings undergirded anti-Semitism and a universalist, Christian culture, Paul has been conscripted into the worst excesses of Western history, from the Holocaust to the conquests of the Euro-American colonial empires. As a result, Pauline scholars in the last century began to reassess Paul’s complicity in these theological and political frames, in what has come to be called the New Perspective on Paul. This shift has led to a renewed focus on how Paul might be read within first century Judaism and not as a deviation from it. What might reading Paul within Judaism say about his relevance to the study of Jewish history?
While Pauline studies has undergone a sea change in its frameworks, little attention has been paid to how Christians and their competitors in Late Antiquity dealt with Paul’s Jewish ethnicity. In his letters, Paul himself is ambiguous, ambivalent, or evasive on this subject. Ancient readers of Paul’s letters, Christian and non-Christian alike, struggled with Paul’s self-descriptions, finding different ways to explain, hide, or deploy Paul’s Jewishness for their own rhetorical purposes. By attending to how Late Antique authors used Paul’s Jewishness, can we find a new way of looking at the formation of Christian theological anti-Judaism?

Paper Descriptions:
Matthew Chalmers: What does it tell us that in ON GEMS the fourth-century bishop Epiphanius of Cyprus focuses on Paul's Israelite identity and descent from Benjamin, not simply his Jewishness?

Cavan Concannon will address the ways in which Paul's ethnicity was constructed in Late Antiquity in intra-Christian polemics as a means of articulating Christian-Jewish relations.

Paula Fredriksen: How Jewish is Paul's God and how does God's Ethnicity shape Paul's theology?

Joshua Garroway will address the manner in which Paul, operating *within* the discursive framework of first-century Judaism, reinterprets the principal markers of Jewish identity.

Jill Hicks-Keeton: By comparing Paul’s model of gentile access to Judaism to that of other Second Temple Jewish thinkers, Hicks-Keeton suggests that including study of Paul in Jewish Studies challenges traditional scholarly categories of “universalism” and “particularism.”

Andrew Jacobs: Converting Paul. When and how does Paul get figured as a "convert" to Christianity in late antiquity, and what can "ex-Jew Paul" tell us about the Christian invention of "conversion"?

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