Paul and the Jews

By A. Andrew Das
Peabody, Mass. : Hendrickson (2003). xvi + 238 Pages.

Reviewed by Paul Thorsell
17.1 (Spring 2006) : 113-114

Paul and the Jewscontinues Andrew Das’ critique of and alternative to the “new perspective” on Paul, begun in his Paul, the Law, and the Covenant. The former volume focused on Paul’s view of the Mosaic Law and its relation to Israel’s covenant. The “new perspective,” while of heuristic value for Pauline scholarship, misconstrued Paul’s polemic against the Law as focused one-sidedly on the ethnic particularities of torah observance. This second volume addresses Israel’s continuing role in God’s purposes according to the apostle from Das’ “newer perspective.”

Das treats Paul’s discussion of the Jews and the Law in Galatians in his second chapter. He cogently argues that Paul addressed Gentile Christians (“you”) who were being influenced by Jewish Christians (“they”) to be circumcised and follow the whole of the Mosaic Law. Paul’s apocalyptic worldview informs his conclusion that the arrival of Christ and the Spirit has brought the era of the Law to a close. Das suggests the intriguing thesis that Paul distinguished two Abrahamic covenants in Galatians 4—one connected with the Law and one with the Spirit. Far more probable, in this reviewer’s estimation, the two covenants in Galatians 4 are the new covenant and the Mosaic covenant. Paul identified Isaac (= Christians) born by the Spirit (under the new covenant) as the true heir of Abraham rather than Ishmael (= Jews) born of the flesh (under the Law).

Chapters four and five address Israel’s role in God’s plan, focusing particularly on Romans 9–11. He connects Paul’s notion of election closely with God’s choice of Israel. In chapter four, three solutions to the question of Israel’s place in God’s purpose are proposed and rejected. Das masterfully dismantles Krister Stendahl’s thesis that two covenants are in view—one saves Jews and the other Gentiles. Likewise rejected are the solutions that “Israel” in Romans 11 is the elect of all ages or the Jewish remnant of all ages. Chapter five comprises Das’ own solution. Eschatological salvation is never apart from Christ (contra Stendahl), nor is it apart from Israel’s mediation (contra replacement theology): “God’s eschatological plan revolves entirely around Israel” (110). Gentiles are blessed with Israel and are united with Israel without the categories of Jew and Gentile losing significance.

Das’ book, Paul and the Jews, interacts with materials in which the “new perspective” is argued, but arrives at a different conclusion. “New perspective” interpreters will need to interact with Das’ proposed construction of Pauline theology; “old perspective” interpreters will need to examine whether Das’ thesis has elements they can embrace. Despite the recent proliferation of works on Paul’s view of the Law and Israel, Das’ contribution will remain substantial and noteworthy for some years.