Introduction and Summary

As explained elsewhere on The Paul Page, the new perspective on Paul pioneered by scholars like E.P. Sanders, James D.G. Dunn, and N.T. Wright is predicated on the recent Protestant Christian recognition that Judaism was never a religion of legalism. While seeking new interpretations of Paul against the background of this reevaluation of Judaism, however, those working out of this perspective nevertheless continue to set Paul in contrast to the Judaism of his day. A smaller but increasingly vocal group of scholars within this movement have gone even further, arguing that Paul never ceased to be a Torah-observant Jew.

These scholars — including Lloyd Gaston, John Gager, Stanley Stowers, Neil Elliott, Mark Nanos, and Pamela Eisenbaum, among others — are increasingly distinguishing between their approach and the more familiar new perspective on Paul. Some have suggested describing their perspective as “the radical new perspective on Paul.” However they can best be described, these Jewish and Christian interpreters of Paul argue that the new perspective on Paul has simply replaced one negative stereotype of Judaism — that of legalism — with a different negative stereotype, that of exclusivism or ethnocentrism. Their alternative argument is that Paul’s negative rhetoric about the Torah was intended only for Gentiles, not for Jews.