Monday, February 11, 2013

Intriguing Suggestion by Paula Fredriksen About the Intended Locus of Paul's Readership

So I was reading Paula Fredriksen's "The Birth of Christianity and the Origins of Christian Anti-Judaism" today and she said something that I hadn't considered before.  In so many words, she suggested that Paul's writings were never intended to be read outside of a synagogue and outside of the Judaic traditions of interpretation and practice!

What an interesting idea!

It makes perfect sense.  Here's her own words:

"Christian antipathy toward Jews and Judaism began when Christian Hellenistic Jewish texts, such as the letters of Paul and the Gospels, began to circulate among total outsiders, that is, among Gentiles without any connection to the synagogue and without any attachment to Jewish traditions of practice and interpretation.  At that point, the intra-Jewish polemics preserved in these texts began to be understood as condemnations of Judaism tout court."

That, according to her, was the first stage of Christian anti-Judaism.  The second stage involved the systematization of anti-Judaic ideology into formalized Christian theology:

"How did Christian anti-Judaism happen?  Gentiles interpreted the intra-Jewish disputes of the earliest Christian movement as the condemnation of all Judaism by those parties to the dispute with whom these Gentiles now identified.  When did this happen?  Toward the turn of the first century through the first half of the second, when warring Gentile Christian intellectuals staked out their territory and systematized their convictions into theologies.  When, then, does Christianity begin?  It is twice-born, once in the mid-second century, and again after Constantine, in the fourth.  And in that second birth especially, orthodox Christian anti-Judaism increased in range and in intensity...  The answer to a fourth, and more important question, I leave to you:  What, knowing this history, is today's Christian to do?"


The implications for One Law?  Well, for starters, if Paul's writings were intended only for synagogue use then the Gentiles would've gradually assimilated--just as Gentile sojourners had always done within Israel.

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