Interpretations of Paul and the Dynamic of Christian-Jewish Interaction in the Later Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period
The roots of Christian attitudes towards Jews and Judaism and, no less significantly, of Christian ideas and representations of Jews and Judaism, lie in the teachings of the Apostle Paul. Paul himself was a Jew, and he formulated his ideas that comprise the bedrock of Christian theology in language, terminology, and modes of expression deeply embedded in Jewish Scripture and tradition. Paul’s emergence as an apostle to the Gentiles involved him in ongoing discussion and often bitter dispute with the Jewish founders of the original Jesus-believing community, leading him to assert his own doctrine by negating their beliefs, and to offer ostensibly negative judgments of Jews, Judaism, and the Law of Moses. Paul’s seemingly anti-Jewish pronouncements figure prominently in heated debates among Pauline scholars, and over the past decades the New Perspective on Paul, which narrows the gap between Paul’s own “Christianity” and the first-century Judaism that spawned him, has become an unavoidable issue for investigators of early Christianity.This session will consider various interpretations of Pauline doctrine – and of his Epistle to the Romans above all – concerning Jews and Judaism in late medieval and early modern Christian Europe. All four papers will explore Christian views of the Jewish role in the divine economy of salvation: their election in the past, their role at present, and their destiny at the end of days. In each of the analyzed four cases, we shall highlight readings of Paul that sought somehow to overcome the gaps and hostilities dividing Jews and Christians over the centuries.
Few readers of Paul can deny that Israel stands at the center of God’s plans for human salvation, and in the eschatological fulfillment of these plans above all. But who constitutes Israel, and what does Israel’s singular eschatological role entail? Highlighting the debate that these questions have provoked, this paper will contrast the exemplary Catholic stance of Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) with the maverick ideas of the Puritan Thomas Brightman (d. 1607). The former struggled to maintain a balance between the conflicting views of his predecessors; the latter, a true non-conformist, read the eschatological prophecies of Hebrew Scripture as applying primarily to the Jews of the millennium.
This paper revisits the elusive Jewish converso Profayt Duran (d. ca. 1432) and his anti-Christian polemical Reproach of the Gentiles (Kelimat ha-goyim) with an eye toward the particular place accorded to Paul in this work. The paper offers a new perspective on the treatise and its objectives. Paul could, to some extent, given the ambivalence in his ideas and his divided personality, serve as a model for those conversos (anusim) now required to nurture, like him, a dual identity and seemingly contradictory positions. Profayt Duran can serve as a forerunner of converso Paulinism.
The paper discusses the distinct perspectives on Paul that emerged in the Iberia Peninsula, as a part of the “converso crisis” of the 15th century. While in the Christian world Paul’s conversion was often considered to be a miraculous event that marked a total transformation, the fresh perspective of Jewish converts and their descendants tended to stress other sides of the Pauline conversion. Namely, Paul’s continued commitment to his Jewish heritage, the salvation of Israel and the Old Testament. For them, Paul provided a specific model for Judeo-Christian conversion.
This paper will reveal a conflicting interpretation of Paul’s soteriology though the prophetic and “millenarian” lenses of the Jesuit Father Antonio Vieira. If the history of human salvation is that of a Divine election alternating between Jews and Gentiles that will still pervade the last and most glorious stage of human history (identified by Vieira with the Book of Daniel’s Fifth Empire) when all will sincerely adhere to Christianity, how could Vieira possibly stand against the Inquisition and the exclusionary “laws of purity of blood” on grounds of perpetuating essentialist ideas of Jewishness which endures baptism? The final aim of my talk will be to offer an answer to this seeming contradiction.