- Paul and the Jews
This is a book written within the guild of New Testament studies. It represents a small step forward within the confines of standard Christian orthodoxy on Paul's attitude toward the Jews. If one were to place this author on the map of Christian approaches to Paul's writings regarding the Jews, one could say that Das combines an acknowledgment of the new perspective on Paul with Reformed theology's "third use" of Mosaic law to provide guidelines for Christian life.
The first chapter, "Paul and the Jews: A New Starting Point" (pp. 1–16), offers a reappropriation of the "new perspective" on Paul by claiming that first-century Judaism held to God's gracious election of Israel while at the same time expecting that Jews needed to keep the Torah for salvation. Das throughout the book assumes a Christian connotation for the term "salvation" as forgiveness from sins that leads to an otherworldly bliss. Das makes clear his other emphasis here as well, "When Jesus Christ revealed himself to the future apostle, Paul realized that Judaism did not offer a viable path to salvation; the path to a right relationship with God was only in Christ" (p. 12). He goes on [End Page 182] to summarize his book as an exploration of how "Paul's association of God's grace with Christ sent ripples through his entire system of thought" (p. 13).
Chapter 2, "The Crisis in Galatia: Salvation in Christ and the Mosaic Law" (pp. 17–48), begins with the question of "whether Paul sees saving value in the gracious elements of Judaism, that is, in its covenant(s) and elect identity" (p. 17). After a traditional reading of the letter as Paul's response to other Jewish followers of Jesus who sought to bring the Galatian believers under the Torah, the answer to this question is that "one looks in vain for any reference to the atoning sacrifices of Judaism or to a reconciliation with God apart from Christ" (p. 46).
Chapter 3, "The Situation at Rome: The Law-Observant and the Non-Law-Observant" (pp. 49–77), offers the picture of Roman Christians composed mainly of Gentiles. Paul's section on "the strong" and "the weak" in Romans 14:1–15:6 is Paul's call for Gentile believers in Jesus to allow other Jesus believers in their churches to continue to follow Mosaic law. Das admits that the history of the Christian church's relationship with Jews would have been better if later Christians had followed Paul's counsel in this section of Romans (p. 77).
Chapter 4, "The Messiah and Israel's Election in Romans" (pp. 78–113), is a chapter devoted to that section of Romans in which Paul addresses what he perceives as the problem of Israel's unbelief in Jesus as Messiah. It is certainly more cognizant of the emphasis Paul places on Israel's continuing claim to the divine covenants than Christian theologians have been in past centuries, but still unbending in its Christo-centric reading: "The apostle firmly maintains Israel's election (11:25–26) while he at the same time also emphasizes the necessity of faith in Christ" (p. 113).
Chapter 5, "Israel's Priority among the Nations" (pp. 114–40), argues from Romans 11:11–26, chapters 3–4 of Galatians and 1 Thessalonians 2:14–16 that Israel still remains an elect nation. Das writes, "Israel's sinfulness has delayed the end of the world and the culmination of the ages. Their rejection has opened a window for the Gentiles that will close once Israel repents and is restored. With the repentance of Israel, the end will come" (p. 117). While not stated explicitly, Das's view that Israel as a nation has been sinful made me wonder if he holds to an instrumental understanding of Israel's election (p. 122). This concerns me, since other NT scholars move in a supersessionist way from such an understanding to say that Jesus has replaced what Israel was supposed to...