Apostle Paul and Judaism

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Using the text of Romans, evaluate E.P. Sanders' assertion that Paul broke with Judaism in that he "denies two pillars common to all forms of Judaism: the election of Israel and faithfulness to Mosaic law." (Sanders, E.P. Paul, the Law and the Jewish People. Fortress Press. Minneapolis, 1983.) Paul upholds the election of Israel throughout the text of Romans as while the apostle is driven by his belief that the time to offer salvation to the Gentiles has indeed arrived, the primacy of Israel remains the fulcrum of his theology. The binary understanding of Jew and Gentile is the prism through which Paul understands his mission (“Ἰουδαίου τε πρῶτον καὶ Ελληνος”) and denotes the fundamental Jewishness of the apostle’s worldview. The election of Israel as God’s chosen people and first receiver of his grace underlies even Paul’s most emphatic appeal to the righteous nature of the Gentile; his position is clearly that while the Gentile may indeed be offered a place in the scheme of divine favour (a theme deeply rooted in the Masoretic Scriptures) the privilege of Israel remains undiminished. In this context it should be understood that while Paul asserts that “οὐ γάρ ἐστιν προσωπολημψία παρὰ τῷ θεῷ”, he clearly understands the respective grace and wrath of God to be applied to Jews and Gentiles in a fashion relative to their position in the divine scheme, i.e. first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. On this point one recalls the discussion made by scholars such as Grindheim regarding the tension inherent in Paul’s theology and the sense of conflict which lends the text of Romans much of its direction: the gospel is to the Jew first, yet God is not only God of the Jews, “Paul insists that the advantage of the Jew is great (3:1-2) and yet there is no distinction (3:22)”. This theological tension over the notion of elevation is one which reaches back to the days of the
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