Wrestling with Paul
You will surely not find it strange that this subject, so profound and difficult, should bear various interpretations, for it will not impair the face of the argument with which we are here concerned. Either explanation may be adopted.
This book is the record of an encounter with some of the most remarkable texts in the canon of western literature, the letters of Paul. If one measure of the greatness of a work of literature is its ability to support many interpretations, then certainly these texts must rank among the very greatest of literature, for they have spawned and continue to spawn—anew every morning—not only new interpretations of particular passages but entirely new constructions of their complete thought-world. Here, then, you have a talmudist and postmodern Jewish cultural critic reading Paul. I think that my particular perspective as a practicing Jewish, non-Christian, critical but sympathetic reader of Paul conduces me to ways of understanding his work that are necessarily different from the ways of readers of other cultural stances. This text fits into the tradition, then, of what has come to be called cultural readings of the Bible, readings that are openly informed by the cultural knowledge and subject-positions of their producers.
I am going to begin this introduction by asking a question that I fantasize will be asked by many of my readers: What motivated a scholar of Talmud, virtually untrained in New Testament scholarship, to produce an essay about Paul? What is my purpose in writing this book? What, indeed, beyond the sensual pleasure of learning, impelled me to learn Greek (of which I had only one year before this project) in order to read Paul and write about him? There are several answers to these closely related questions.
First of all, I would like to reclaim Pauline studies as an important, even an integral part of the study of Judaism in the Roman period and late antiquity. Paul has left us an extremely precious document for Jewish studies, the spiritual autobiography of a first-century Jew. There is hardly another document, save parts of Josephus and Philo, which even comes close to fitting such a description. Moreover, if we take Paul at his word—and I see no a priori reason not to—he was a member of the Pharisaic wing of first-century Judaism, with which Josephus may have also been connected but with which Philo certainly was not. In addition, Paul's activity and its consequences have had an enormous effect on the history of the Jews and Judaism in late antiquity (not to mention afterward). Much of that distinctive religious formation that we call rabbinic Judaism, which is the ancestor of virtually all Judaisms since late antiquity, was formed in the environment of a Pauline Christianity growing steadily in influence through the crucial formative centuries of this Judaism and culminating in the triumph of Christianity in the fourth century. I would like to make this absolutely clear. It is proper to speak of “rabbinic” Judaism only with regard to the second century and onward, because we have no direct evidence for such a movement prior to the Mishna formed in the late second century. The Rabbis see the first-century Pharisees as their spiritual ancestors, and there is no reason to doubt that sensibility, but, on the other hand, neither is there reason to assume that the later rabbinic reports about those Pharisees have not been substantially re-formed in the light of rabbinic Judaism itself. Accordingly, when we speak of rabbinic Judaism, we are speaking of a post-Pauline religious development. This means that Judaism formed itself for good and for ill in the context of Pauline (and other Christian) thought, sometimes undoubtedly reacting simply for the purpose of self-definition but also, more positively, answering in its own distinctive fashion theological and other challenges placed before it by Pauline Christianity.
Second, I would like to reclaim Paul as an important Jewish thinker. On my reading of the Pauline corpus, Paul lived and died convinced that he was a Jew living out Judaism. He represents, then, one option which Judaism could take in the first century. Paul represents a challenge to Jews in the first century, and I will argue that he presents a challenge to Jews now as well. Assuming, as I do, that Paul was motivated not by an abnormal psychological state but by a set of problems and ideas generated by his cultural, religious situation, I read him as a Jewish cultural critic, and I ask what it was in Jewish culture that led him to produce a discourse of radical reform of that culture. I ask also in what ways his critique is important and valid for Jews today, and indeed in what ways the questions that Paul raises about culture are important and valid for everyone today. Further, I want to inquire into the limitations, inadequacies, contradictions, and disastrous effects of some of the Pauline solutions to those problems. Finally, I wish to interrogate our situation and ask whether we have better solutions to the cultural, social problems raised by the Pauline corpus.
In his very extremity and marginality, Paul is in a sense paradigmatic of “the Jew.” He represents the interface between Jew as a self-identical essence and Jew as a construction constantly being remade. The very tension in his discourse, indeed in his life, between powerful self-identification as a Jew—in Romans 9, he expresses willingness to sacrifice his own salvation for that of “his brothers according to the flesh”—and an equally powerful, or even more powerful, identification of self as everyman is emblematic of Jewish selfhood. Paul represents in his person and thematizes in his discourse, paradoxes not only of Jewish identity, but, as we have come to learn, of all identity as such. When the Galatians wish to take on Jewish cultural practice, Paul cries out to them with real pathos: Remain as I am, for I have become as you are. The paradoxes and oxymorons of that sentence are, I submit, those of identity itself, and exploring the Pauline corpus with this kind of quest in mind will lead us to a deeper and richer appreciation of our own cultural quandaries as male or female, Jew or Greek, and human.
I am indeed wrestling here with Paul—a metaphor that I think he would have appreciated—in two senses: I am wrestling alongside of him with the cultural issues with which he was wrestling, and I am also wrestling against him in protest against some of the answers he came up with. Paul's discourse is supremely pertinent even today, and not only because there are millions for whom his word is Scripture. When Paul says, There is no Jew or Greek, no male and female in Christ, he is raising an issue with which we still struggle. Are the specificities of human identity, the differences, of value, or are they only an obstacle in the striving for justice and liberation? What I want to know is what Paul is saying to me, a male Jew, and how I must respond to it. How must I accept what he says as an ethical challenge and in what ways do I wish to reject that challenge and its implications? Finally, how might Paul's challenge and my response be of interest and importance to other people of difference?
Rather than seeing Paul as a text and my task that of a philologist, I see us engaged across the centuries in a common enterprise of cultural criticism. When, for instance, I deal with the question of the signification/significance of circumcision in Paul and in the rabbinic response to him, I speak about it in terms drawn from post-structuralist inquiries into the significance of the “phallus,” a seemingly appropriate line of inquiry which to my knowledge has yet to be pursued, although Derrida has, I think, been thinking along these lines for years. When I inquire into Paul's pronouncements on the relations between the sexes, I do so with the full agenda of feminist cultural criticism in my personal reading agenda. And I am concerned as well to register the response of an actively practicing (post)modern rabbinic Jew to both Paul and Pauline interpretation, particularly insofar as these (especially the latter) have often been inimical to my religious/ ethnic group and practice. My inquiry and response involve, as well, the ways that the Pauline discourse of the Jew as “figure” has heirs today in both marxian and other theoretical discourses.
This book is intended to be a cultural study of particular texts and issues within the Pauline corpus, especially those of gender and ethnicity. My underlying assumption is that in some fundamental ways Paul has set the agenda on these issues for both Jews and Christians until this day. The Pauline text that I most focus on is his Letter to the Galatians. This letter is in some respects the “sport” among the Pauline texts. One of the most obvious ways in which it is different from other documents in the corpus is that it does not speak, not even once, of the Parousia. Eschatology in Galatians—and there is much eschatology indeed—is realized eschatology, the ways in which the world is already changed by the coming and crucifixion and rising of the Christ from the dead. As J. Louis Martyn has expressed it, “Through the whole of Galatians the focus of Paul's apocalyptic lies not on Christ's parousia, but rather on his death” (Martyn 1985, 420). Second, in Galatians of all Paul's letters the theme of the new humanity—or rather, the new Israel—which includes both Jews and Gentiles is most powerfully expressed. Third, Galatians includes the stirring—for us particularly—declaration that there is “no male or female in Christ” (3:28), a gospel unknown from the rest of the corpus. Many Pauline commentators have reveled in the “difference” of Galatians—it was Luther's favorite—while others have virtually ignored it in their construction of Pauline thought. Martyn has even invented a charming technical term for this phenomenon: “Galatian embarrassment” (Martyn 1985, 411). This book, then, is conceived as a “reading” of Galatians, a reading in the contemporary sense of a particular putting together of a text and a reader, such that a particular construal of the text is undertaken.
Benjamin Harshav compares criticism to a kaleidoscope: neither mirror nor window. Each turn of the glass produces a new view and constructs the object; the view is never true and undistorted, but it does construct an object and not merely reproduce the eye of the beholder. Viewing Paul through the lens of Galatians, and especially through Galatians 3:28–29, the baptismal declaration of the new humanity of no difference, constructs a particular Pauline object, a different Paul from the one constructed by reading Paul through 1 Corinthians, Romans, or 1 Thessalonians. Choice of a hermeneutic and moral center from which to read the text is not a defect in but a starting point for the reading. This element of choice is inescapable, though less often acknowledged (even to the interpreter herself) than tacit. Let me take a simple and dramatic example. Traditionally, Philemon has been read as a support for the institution of slavery, as a return of Onesimus to his former slave status, taking the moment in 1 Corinthians 7 where Paul tells slaves that they need not be free in order to be saved as determinative. If, however, we read Galatians 3:29 as our constant, with its declaration that there is no slave and free in Christ, then Philemon reads entirely differently, not as a commitment of Onesimus back into slavery but as a deft effort to pressure Philemon to free Onesimus. Though texts are not infinitely indeterminate, neither do they dictate ineluctably only one possible interpretation, and the interpreter must take, therefore, moral responsibility for her readings.
This point has been very well made by John Gager. He recognizes clearly that the choice of starting point will to a large extent determine one's reading of Paul. Thus, in producing his argument that for Paul Christ had not changed the status of the Jews at all but only of the gentiles, Gager cites such verses as, “Do we then overthrow the Law by this faith? By no means,” as a starting point for his reading, arguing that such texts have always been an embarrassment to the traditional readings of Paul. He then argues:
This strikes me as one of the sharpest and clearest expositions of a simple hermeneutical principle I have ever seen. Unless we simply abandon the attempt to render the Pauline corpus more or less coherent, we will always be choosing some starting point or other and trying to find how other texts fit in with it. (Of course, this does not mean necessarily simply harmonizing texts but attempting to account for their sameness and difference.) And to put even a sharper point on it than Gager has, although the implication is clear in his works as well: The choice of starting point is primarily a theological, ethical, political decision, not a “scientific” one. I have found that taking Galatians—particularly its stirring call for human one-ness—as central to Paul treats us to a Paul who heightens our understanding of cultural dilemmas of both the first century and our own. Readings of Paul which either blunt the force of his critique of Judaism or (much worse) render him a slanderer of Judaism seem to me much less useful in appropriating the Pauline texts today.
But to be embarrassed is not to be defeated. For those who do not simply ignore such texts, the solution lies in choosing not to begin with them, but to begin with passages that can be read as speaking of the demise of Israel and the abrogation of the Torah, for example Rom. 10:4, “For Christ is the end of the Law, that everyone who has faith may be justified,” and treating other passages as anomalous items which must be accounted for within this framework. It is apparent here that the beginning point has determined the final result. The truth is a simple one and does not require elaborate exposition: the end depends on the beginning. What does require explanation is why particular beginning points are consistently preferred over others. (Gager 1983, 204–05)
It is not, however, merely a question of starting point. While every interpretation will require some effort to fit recalcitrant texts into its scheme, for some the effort is greater than for others. In order, then, for a reading of Paul centered on Galatians to carry any sense of conviction, one of the factors has to be the entire context of the Pauline corpus. I will have, therefore, many occasions to refer to others of Pauline letters, particularly the other Hauptbriefe, Roman and Corinthians, both of which stand in very powerful and interesting interaction with Galatians. Indeed, one of the tasks of some of the reading here undertaken is to relate the ideas of Galatians to ideas expressed in the other letters, without, however, simply collapsing them. This reading of Galatians is pursued under the sign of what I take to be the hermeneutical key to Paul, his allegorical hermeneutic and a cultural politics which grow out of the hermeneutical/ intellectual and religious/ moral world that he inhabits, the world of Hellenized Judaism of the first century. Let me hasten to add that I do not by this intend a Hellenistic Judaism which is somehow less pure than a putative “Palestinian” Judaism. I hold, rather, that all of Palestinian Judaism was also Hellenized to greater or lesser extent, although it is surely plausible that there were major cultural differences between Jews whose daily language was Semitic (Hebrew or Aramaic) and those whose daily language was Greek. Rabbinic Judaism, which I have interpreted in my previous book (Carnal Israel: Reading Sex in Talmudic Culture), is also Hellenistic. Its mode of Hellenization is, however, more often rejectionist than assimilationist, as I have argued in that book.
Paul was motivated by a Hellenistic desire for the One, which among other things produced an ideal of a universal human essence, beyond difference and hierarchy. This universal humanity, however, was predicated (and still is) on the dualism of the flesh and the spirit, such that while the body is particular, marked through practice as Jew or Greek, and through anatomy as male or female, the spirit is universal. Paul did not, however, reject the body—as did, for instance, the gnostics—but rather promoted a system whereby the body had its place, albeit subordinated to the spirit. Paul's anthropological dualism was matched by a hermeneutical dualism as well. Just as the human being is divided into a fleshy and a spiritual component, so also is language itself. It is composed of outer, material signs and inner, spiritual significations. When this is applied to the religious system that Paul inherited, the physical, fleshy signs of the Torah, of historical Judaism, are re-interpreted as symbols of that which Paul takes to be universal requirements and possibilities for humanity. Thus, to take the most central of all Paul's examples, literal circumcision, which is for Jews alone, and for male Jews at that, is re-read as signifying baptism in the spirit, which is for all. Jewish history, the history of Israel according to the flesh, is taken as a sign for the meaning of Christ and the Church, Israel according to the spirit, in the world. I will argue throughout this book that many outstanding problems in Pauline interpretation can best be approached through this hermeneutical perspective. Just to take one example, E. P. Sanders's fine discussion of fulfilling the Law in Paul would be even stronger, I think, were he to adopt a hermeneutical understanding of Paul's antinomies between the Law under which Christians are not and the Law which they must fulfill and can fulfill by loving their neighbors as themselves (Sanders 1983, 93–105). The letter of the Law is abrogated; its spirit is fulfilled. This very old-fashioned (patristic!) interpretation of Paul must be integrated with newer understandings of the vital role that the integration of gentiles into the People of God played for Paul. It is this integration which my book attempts essentially by claiming that the two are one: The very impulse toward universalism, toward the One, is that which both enabled and motivated Paul's move toward a spiritualizing and allegorizing interpretation of Israel's Scripture and Law as well.
While Paul's impulse toward the founding of a non-differentiated, non-hierarchical humanity was laudable in my opinion, many of its effects in terms of actual lives were not. In terms of ethnicity, his system required that all human cultural specificities—first and foremost, that of the Jews—be eradicated, whether or not the people in question were willing. Moreover, since of course, there is no such thing as cultural unspecificity, merging of all people into one common culture means ultimately (as it has meant in the history of European cultural imperialism) merging all people into the dominant culture. In terms of gender, for Paul (as indeed, for nearly everyone until now), autonomy and something like true equality for women were bought at the expense of sexuality and maternity. Also, analogously to the culture question, the erasure of gender seems always to have ended up positing maleness as the norm to which women can “aspire.” 
Rabbinic Judaism is in part a reaction formation against both of these Pauline moves—or, at the very least, a typological antithesis. Ethnic difference, cultural specificity, specific historical memory, and sexuality were highly valued in that cultural system, providing a partial, useful model for contemporary culture. If Paul's solutions were unsatisfactory from one point of view, however, those of rabbinic Judaism seem equally unsatisfactory from the opposite point of view. In terms of ethnicity, the Jewish system has created the danger (and in our times, the realization of that danger) of a racist social system, while rabbinic marriage, for all of its warmth and valorization of sexuality (including female sexuality) and childbirth, left precious little room for female autonomy, equality, and freedom. In my previous book, Carnal Israel, I have attempted a detailed description of the rabbinic side of this dialectical tension. In this work I hope to produce a more nuanced and rich account of the Pauline side of the dialectic. The mode of argumentation and thought in the book is thus one in which there is no winner or loser. My concern is not to promote or defend either the Pauline or the rabbinic discourse but to show how they participate together in the articulation of a set of cultural, social, and moral dilemmas which still plague us—“Gender Trouble” and the “Jewish Question.”
The argument of the book is that this tension between the same and the different, in both gender and ethnicity, indicates the precise quandaries in which our sociocultural formation is trapped through the present; the dilemmas of multiculturalism and feminist theory seem to grow, then, out of cultural dilemmas that were first seriously encountered in the first century. The Pauline corpus is, moreover, one of the main textual sources for Christianity, the most powerful of hegemonic cultural systems in the history of the world. Paul and the reactions to Paul are thus a major source for a historicization of our cultural predicament. In the reception history of Paul, his texts have generally served what might be broadly called conservative cultural-political interests; they have been used as props in the fight against liberation of slaves and women as well as major supports for theological anti-Judaism. I am going to argue here that Paul need not be read this way, indeed, that his texts support, at least equally well, an alternative reading, one that makes him a passionate striver for human liberation and equality. I will further claim that this very passion for equality led Paul, for various cultural reasons, to equate equality with sameness, and that, despite what I take to be the goodness of his intentions, his social thought was therefore deeply flawed.
It is important that this claim not be misunderstood. I am not suggesting, of course, that Paul literally called for cultural uniformity in the sense that he demanded that people speak alike, dress alike, and eat alike. Indeed, one could argue—and it has been argued—that Paul's declarations that observances of the Law are adiaphora, matters of indifference, represent rather a cultural “tolerance.” His argument is precisely against those who think that what one eats is of significance. It is, however, this very tolerance that deprives difference of the right to be different, dissolving all others into a single essence in which matters of cultural practice are irrelevant and only faith in Christ is significant. Thus for a Pharisee of Paul's day or a religious Jew of today, to be told that it is a matter of indifference whether Jews circumcise their sons or not, and therefore that there is no difference between Jews and gentiles hardly feels like regard for Jewish difference. Here differences persist, it seems, between many Jewish and Christian readers of Paul. A recent interpreter who argues strongly—and cogently—for the thesis that “Paul did not hold that Christians should lose their cultural identity as Jew or Gentile and become one new humanity which is neither”  shows this difference of perception in his very formulation, since the question for me is not the relative statuses of Jewish and gentile Christians but the statuses of those—Jews and others—who choose not to be Christians. Similarly, the claim of the same writer that “Paul believed that the Gospel gave him the freedom to be flexible in his keeping of Jewish food laws” (Campbell 1992, iii)—a claim with which I agree entirely—for me thoroughly undermines any argument that Paul intended Jews to remain Jewish, although Paul, were he here, would probably argue that he was redefining Jewishness in such a way that everyone could be Jewish. Those who would contend that the maintenance of Jewish practice is simply a life-style and that tolerance consists in insisting that it is a matter of indifference whether Jews follow that life-style or not are simply “buying into” Paul's ideology, not commenting upon it. Jewish difference does not mean only permitting Jews to keep kosher or circumcise within Christian communities; it means recognizing the centrality and value of such practices for Jews as well as their “right” to remain unconvinced by the gospel. This does not, however, constitute an accusation of intolerance on the part of Paul. Paul's gospel was one of tolerance. I claim rather that tolerance itself is flawed—in Paul, as it is today. Its opposite—by which I do not mean intolerance but insistence on the special value of particularity—is equally flawed. The theme of this book is that the claims of difference and the desire for universality are both—contradictorily—necessary; both are also equally problematic. The challenge of Paul's positive call to autonomy, equality, and species-wide solidarity cannot be ignored or dismissed because of flaws within it or because of the reactionary uses to which it has been put, but just as surely the insistence on the value of ethnic—even genealogical—identity that the Rabbis put forth cannot be ignored or dismissed because of the reactionary uses to which it can and has been put. The book will suggest in the end some dim glimmers of light to brighten this dark portrayal.
This reading of Paul will be supported, of course, by detailed analysis of his texts, a major part of the book. I have tried by my own efforts, and through seeking the help of experts, to keep my readings plausible both philologically and historically. One of the interesting issues that has come up in my interactions with professional Pauline scholars is a repeated response that I am reviving here in some ways currents in Pauline interpretation which were active in the nineteenth century and abandoned since. So be it. In the reading of texts, there may be progress in terms of our knowledge of the language or the historical and archaeological context; otherwise it may very well be that changed paradigms in reading owe as much to changes in our culture and politics as to real progress in knowledge. So, let the worm turn again. I suggest that this mode of reading Paul—which, once more, I have done my best to keep responsible in terms of scholarship—gives us a Paul who can live for us and work for us—not, of course (from my perspective) dictate to us—in our present wrestling with cultural and social dilemmas.
I would like to relate something of how this book was produced. It began with a careful but naive reading of Galatians virtually unaccompanied by any commentaries other than those designed primarily to aid in the construction of the Greek. This reading, having exposed to me what I took (and take) to be the central themes in the letter, led me to consider those themes within the context of Judaism. Having written that, I proceeded to “backfill” my text by undertaking an intensive reading of the voluminous literature on Paul published within the last twenty years or so. As I read, I discovered my predecessors and antagonists, avant le lettre. This is virtually nothing, it seems, that I have said which is not either asserted or denied at some point in the Pauline scholarship. The particular combination is, I hope, unique.
This book is thus related in different ways to different interpretative work currently being done on the Pauline corpus. I owe a profound debt to the rich re-reading of Paul undertaken in the wake of the treatises of Krister Stendahl, W. D. Davies, and his student E. P. Sanders. Richard Hays's Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul has revealed Paul as a consummate reader of the Bible, answering my intuition that it is impossible to assume that Paul, any more than the Rabbis, would have been content to falsify or manipulate Scripture (in his own eyes) to win his arguments. Perhaps not surprisingly, this book is part of the movement to thoroughly discredit the Reformation interpretation of Paul and particularly the description of Judaism on which it is based. I go further than some of the scholars in arguing that not only is this reading unsupportable in scholarly terms, but that it is an ethical scandal as well, and one that does Christianity no credit. On the other hand, I do (unlike Davies and Sanders) believe that Paul was motivated by a critique of Judaism, if not by the slanderous libel that Luther accused him of. In terms of specific understandings and interpretation, the reading of Paul which I undertake here seems to be closest in spirit (and often in detail) to the work of Ferdinand Christian Baur, produced over a century ago. He also read Paul as primarily moved by a vision of universalism, although where I am generously critical, Baur waxed panegyrical. Moreover, where Baur, the consummate Hegelian, sees Paulinism as the triumph of a new and higher consciousness over Judaism which is a “lower state of religious consciousness,” I can hardly accept such an evaluation. The great disappointments with universalism and human progress had not yet set in when he wrote, but his understanding of the essential issue at stake in Paul remains to my mind the most compelling. Two of the most effective contemporary representatives of a reading along these lines are James Dunn and Francis Watson (Dunn 1991, 125–46; Dunn 1990; Watson 1986). At many places in my text I will be engaging in dialogue (and not a little disagreement) with these two scholars. Finally, the book is most closely connected typologically (as far as I know) to a recent book, Elizabeth Castelli's Imitating Paul: A Discourse of Power, not so much for the conclusions (although many of hers are similar to mine) as for the explicit design to read Paul through the kaleidoscope of contemporary critical and cultural concerns.
By taking Paul seriously as an internal critic of Jewish culture, the value of his work for cultural criticism can be revealed. Marginalizing him as the founder of a new religion (a result which took place, I claim with many others, only after his death) deflects the force of his cultural challenge, which, even when its answers seem totally unsatisfactory, nevertheless calls us to provide answers of our own. I read Paul's discourse first and foremost as an inner-discourse of Jewish culture, one that was to repeat itself mutatis mutandis in the future development of Jewish culture as well. Both the passionate commitment to Jewish difference and the equally passionate commitment to universal humanity are dialectically structural possibilities of Jewish culture as it is (always) in contact with and context of the rest of the world.
Sometimes this thesis and antithesis are present even in the same person, more often in contending political and social currents within any given Jewish chronotype. Paul's discourse, therefore, and its later analogues are a vitally important chapter in the cultural poetics of Judaism. I have several ambitions, or hopes, for this book. For scholars of Paul, at best it may prove some contribution to the interpretation of Paul's work; at worst it will be for them an object lesson in the dangers of going outside one's specialty. On the other hand, whether it achieves the first-mentioned aim or not, it still has a chance to participate in an activity even more important, to contribute in some small way to the improvement of human living together, that of Jews with Christians, Israelis with Palestinians, and all men with all women.
1. See the very similar points made in Segal (1990, xi ff. and 48). I think that Segal's remark there that “Paul's letters may be more important to the history of Judaism than the rabbinic texts are to the interpretation of Christian Scriptures” is right on the mark. Readers of both books will perceive both my debt to my distinguished predecessor (and colleague in graduate school) as well as my disagreements with him. Some of these will be pointed out in the notes. For the question of Josephus's alleged Pharisaism, see the excellent discussion in Segal (1990, 81–83). [BACK]
2. It is one of the distinct achievements of Jacob Neusner to have clearly seen this point. [BACK]
3. The idea of this analysis originally came to me when participating in a seminar of his at the School of Criticism and Theory at Dartmouth in the summer of 1987, where he referred briefly to Paul and Spinoza on circumcision. [BACK]
4. Cosgrove 1988 is an excellent example of a reading of Paul that is explicit and self-aware in its choice of starting point and the hermeneutic effects of that choice. See p. 2 of that book. I do not believe that the reading of Galatians offered in this book is incompatible with the one offered there; indeed, I hope that they complement each other with their significantly different emphases. Incidentally, this example shows how the choice of a center even within a single letter makes a big difference; where Cosgrove reads Galatians through 3:1–5, I read it through 3:28–29. There is absolutely no Archimedean point from which to adjudicate such choices—on this issue I quite disagree with Cosgrove who does seem to hold that there are criteria which enable such choices (6)—but they should not result, it seems to me, in mutually exclusive interpretations. [BACK]
5. Gager's remarks on “loose ends” as well as his comment that “I do not take it as a given that the interpretation proposed here is the new, correct view of Paul on these matters. I do assume, or rather will undertake to demonstrate that it is a good interpretation, a valid one” (1983, 208–09) could serve as hermeneutical models. I offer my somewhat different interpretation in precisely the same spirit. [BACK]
6. Obviously, I hold that the Gaston-Gager interpretation fits into the first category. Despite its appeal ethically and religiously, it ultimately leaves us with a very weak reading of Paul. Furthermore, as I will argue below in Chapter 2, it falls down on exegetical grounds as well. I believe that my own reading of Paul answers many of the same theological and ethical needs that Gaston's does, but in a way that preserves the enormous force of Paul's critique of ethnicity. By reading Paul as a Jewish cultural critic, criticizing aspects of Judaism from within, I can preserve the power of his critique without turning him into an “anti-Semite.” (I reserve the term “self-hating Jew” for pathological instances, such as Otto Weininger and those Zionists who detested European Jews and saw them in the same light as anti-Semites did.) [BACK]
7. The desire for the One seems, in fact, to go back to much earlier Indo-European roots, as witness the Rgveda (Kuschel 1992, 181–82). Note the contrast with biblical myth in which God begins his creative work with pre-existent matter. Completely incidentally, a rather bizarre moment in this book is the identification of Emil Schürer as “a great Jewish historian” (198), an artifact, I assume, of the translation. The error, however, ends up particularly grotesque given Kuschel's constant interpretation of scholars according to their religious affiliations. [BACK]
8. Some feminists may claim of my book—with justice—that it is interested more in the question of ethnicity than of gender, indeed, that it gives gender relatively short Schrift. While that is so, I think nevertheless that my argument has implications for feminist theory, since if I am right in certain ways the fates of ethnic and gendered “difference” are common in western culture without, of course, either one being epiphenomenal to the other. [BACK]
9. William S. Campbell's work begins with a very similar problematic and intuition, to wit, that Paul's situation and his texts have much to teach us about our own cultural situations and dilemmas (Campbell 1992, vii). In some ways, however, his reading of Paul is quite different from mine. My dialogue with Campbell will be specifically marked at several points in the book in footnotes. [BACK]
10. Some of this reception history will be sketched out below in Chapter 2. [BACK]
11. Thus, interpretations of Paul (such as Campbell's) that claim that he did not mind whether Jews continued to circumcise their children and keep kosher, i.e., that he allowed for Jewish Christianity, do not disturb my claims. Only interpretations such as that of Lloyd Gaston and John Gager, discussed in Chapter 2, that would have Paul arguing that Jews need not believe in Christ in order to be saved would disrupt my argument. [BACK]
12. Hays (1989). See now also Wright (1992a, 140). In future work, however, I intend to argue that Paul's exegesis of Torah is closer to rabbinic exegesis than Wright allows; nor is rabbinic exegesis to be identified with “fanciful” or arbitrary prooftexting, pace Wright 168 n. 45 and passim. [BACK]
13. Baur (1875) and see selection in Meeks (1972, 277–88). I had essentially arrived at my interpretation before coming upon the work of Baur and was quite astounded to discover how often I hit on his ideas and formulations. I hope that my reformulation, however, in modern critical terms—taking into consideration other more recent interpretations of Paul as well—will lead to a reconsideration and reevaluation of Baur's contribution. [BACK]
14. Compare the excellent formulation of John Gager: “We do not find a self-confident paganism aggressively and unanimously set against Judaism as a ‘barbaric superstition,’ but a prolonged debate within an increasingly anxious culture over the status of Judaism as a religion of universal humanity” (Gager 1983, 31). Gager is referring, of course, to the prolonged debate over the status of Judaism within “pagan” culture, but this is the “flip side” of seeing the internal Jewish debate within that “increasingly anxious culture,” over precisely the same issue. [BACK]