Recommended Reading (2/5/12)

New volumes added 2/5/12.

This page is a list of resources I recommend to those who want to explore the Radical New Perspective on Paul and the Third Quest for the Historical Jesus, two streams of academic thought which underlie and reinforce a Messianic Jewish worldview.

All of these books are academic in nature. They are written by experts and have copious footnotes. They are all suitable for citation in academic work. But they are also difficult reading. They will require your full attention and it helps to have a certain level of familiarity with the issues at hand.

The Mystery of Romans is a commentary on Romans from a post-supersessionist perspective. Mark Nanos approaches the text from the perspective that Paul was an observant Jew – “a good Jew”, as Nanos puts it – who never departed from the faith in which he was raised. According to Nanos, Paul was writing to the Gentiles in Rome in an attempt to influence them to remain in the synagogues and submit to synagogue authority, so that when Paul arrived, the Jews in Rome would be more likely to accept his message.

The Irony of Galatians, also by Mark Nanos, explores Galatians from a post-supersessionist perspective. Nanos makes the case that Paul used a common epistolar form: the letter of ironic rebuke. Reading Galatians through this lens, Nanos questions the idea that the Galatians had actually taken on circumcision and full observance of the Mosaic law, or that they had defected from the true faith to embrace another. Instead, he seeks to help them preserve their identity as believing Gentiles and resist the pull of Paganism on one side and conversion to Judaism on the other.

The Formation of Christianity in Antioch, by Magnus Zetterholm, is a detailed social-scientific study of the separation between Judaism and Christianity in the city of Antioch-on-the-Orontes. Zetterholm posits several social factors that influenced the early Christ-believing Gentile community to turn against the synagogue and begin to define itself as the only true continuation of the Abrahamic religion. The model he presents is well-thought-out and a must-read for anyone interested in Christian origins and our Jewish roots.

Approaches to Paul, also by Zetterholm, is a survey of scholarship on Paul from Ignatius to the present day, with a focus on the past five hundred years. Whether you have access to a large theological library and want to know which books on Paul are most important, or you have very few books and want to know what opinions are extant in modern scholarship, this book is a handy and brief guide to the emergence of the Lutheran paradigm, the New Persective, and the views that have emerged out of the NPP, of which the post-supersessionist view is one.

Postmissionary Messianic Judaism, by MJTI President-Emeritus Mark Kinzer, presents a theory of ecclesiology that unites believing Gentiles and Jews in a two-winged body. This “bilateral ecclesiology in solidarity with Israel” is a controversial idea. However, I believe it represents an important step forward for Messianic Judaism and a thought-provoking idea for the believing Gentile world. We must recognize that Judaism and Torah observance are not illegitimate or wrong and that Jewish identity matters. Only then will our efforts to proclaim Yeshua in his original context meet with success.

Paul and the Jewish Law by Peter Tomson is a study of Paul’s use of the Mosaic Law in his epistles to the Gentile churches. Tomson makes the strong case that Paul relied on the Law as his basis for halachic rulings for the Gentile believing assemblies. His findings include Paul’s “rule for all the churches” in 1 Cor. 7, an important text for those who believe that Jewish identity is still relevant in the body of Christ. Of all the books I own on Paul and the Law, this one is my favorite, as it bypasses traditional theological objections to Torah observance and goes straight to Paul’s halachic rulings.

Jewish Believers in Jesus, edited by Oskar Skarsaune and Reidar Hvalvik, is a compendium of articles on the early Messianic Jewish sect – the first Jewish followers of Jesus, including the Apostles and the early Jerusalem community of faith. It includes a great article by Bauckham on James and his position as leader of the church, among many other useful articles with information from many ancient sources. If you want to get a picture of what the early church was like and what happened to the Jewish believers of the first century and their descendants, this is the book for you.

Augustine and the Jews, by Paula Fredricksen, is an interesting volume. The first few chapters have great information about the social, cultural, and religious background for the New Testament, including the important realization that gods in ancient times were considered to be indissolubly linked with their people and with specific locations. The rest of the book details the life of Augustine, probably the most important and influential theologian in the formative Patristic Era of Christianity’s development, and his influential attitude toward the Jews which later helped stave off medieval anti-Semitism.

Paul Was Not a Christian, by Pamela Eisenbaum, is a great introductory volume to the view of Paul as a “good” Jew, termed by Zetterholm the “radical New Perspective on Paul.” Eisenbaum argues that Paul didn’t consider the Judaism he was brought up in to be deficient in itself. Paul did not leave Judaism, nor did he join or found another religion. Rather than “Paul the Convert,” Eisenbaum sees Paul as an innovative Jewish theologian who felt called to missionize Gentiles, bringing them into the fold of Jewish monotheism with an evangelistic fervor driven by eschatological expectations.

The Jewish Annotated New Testament, edited by Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, is a copy of the New Testament in study-bible format, with the unique claim to fame that all of the commentary is written by Jewish theologians. Indispensable for gaining a modern Jewish take on the New Testament, the JANT records hundreds of parallel ideas and passages in Rabbinic literature. Furthermore, a huge number of essays introduce the reader to a Jewish view of such topics as Paul’s relationship to Judaism and the Law, Christian stereotypes of Judaism, the Dead Sea Scrolls, etc.

Paul Among Jews and Gentiles, by Krister Stendahl, contains one of the great seminal essays on Paul: “Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West.” In it, Stendahl argued that Paul did not suffer from the supposed pangs of conscience that Luther and Augustine so identified with; rather, Paul had a “robust conscience” and believed himself to be – and always to have been – a good Jew in good standing with God, except for his former persecution of the church, which he made up for by his strenuous efforts on Christ’s behalf. Stendahl helped lay the groundwork for many of the other works on this page.

Paul and Palestinian Judaism, by Ed. P. Sanders, wasn’t the first work to argue that Second Temple Judaism was not an ethnocentric meritocracy devoid of grace, but it was the first work of its kind that heavily influenced Protestant scholarship. The “New Perspective on Paul” would not have been possible without the “Sanders Revolution.” Through a careful survey of Jewish literature from the Second Temple period, Sanders revealed that Judaism operated from a basis of grace given on God’s initiative. He called this construct “covenantal nomism” and it now enjoys a broad scholarly consensus.

Abraham’s Promise, by Jewish theologian Michael Wyschogrod, is a unique and landmark contribution to the field of Jewish-Christian relations. Wyschogrod addresses concepts such as the Incarnation and the Trinity from an authentic Jewish perspective and concludes that they are not totally incompatible with Judaism. Wyschogrod also has a lot to say about the election of Israel as a physical entity and its eye-opening significance for Christian claims. R. Kendall Soulen’s lengthy introduction is helpful in estimating the importance of Wyschogrod’s contributions from a Christian perspective.

A Jew to the Jews, by Messianic Jewish Rabbi David Rudolph, is a landmark scholarly work. Rudolph, brick by brick, takes apart the scholarly consensus regarding Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 9:19-23 that he becomes “all things to all men.” While most scholars have historically taken for granted that this passage is incompatible with a Torah-observant Paul, Rudolph has seriously destabilized the consensus interpretation. Winner of the 2007 Franz Delitzsch Prize from the Freie Theologische Akademie.

The Misunderstood Jew, by Amy-Jill Levine, is an important contribution to Jewish-Christian relations and required reading, in my opinion, for Christian theologians and seminary students. Levine explores Jesus from a Jewish perspective. Levine’s approach is refreshingly sympathetic to the person of Jesus, but realistic about the differences between Christianity and Judaism. Her work includes the assessment and rebuttal of several anti-Jewish stereotypes popular in New Testament studies as well as a long list of helpful principles for Jewish-Christian dialogue.

The God of Israel and Christian Theology, by R. Kendall Soulen, is a treatise on supersessionism and the damage it has done to Christian theology by removing Israel from the picture. As Soulen puts it, that “flaw in the heart of the crystal” has existed since the days of Justin Martyr. Soulen details how supersessionism guided the development of Christian theology through the succeeding generations and then offers some first steps toward the formation of a post-supersessionist theology that recognizes the continuing role of the Jewish people and their centrality in God’s work of consummation and redemption.

Remain in Your Calling: Paul and the Continuation of Social Identities in 1 Corinthians, by J. Brian Tucker, is a brand new series of articles on social identities in 1 Corinthians. Tucker argues that Paul sought to “invent” a new identity for Gentile believers that was at once united with believing Jews yet variegated as to their social identity and their obligations to the Torah. This new “hybrid identity” was informed by both Jewish law and Roman culture and served to establish non-idol-worshiping Gentiles as a viable social identity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>