The antithesis of the ages: Torah and Christ in Paul

Stephan Kern Davis, Marquette University

Abstract

An intertextual analysis of the Apostle Paul's Torah theology in the light of other early Jewish Torah theologies. The thesis is that when Paul wrote negatively about Torah (Jewish Law) he was not addressing Torah per se, but rather a particular mode of envisioning Torah that is identifiable in many early Jewish texts. Paul opposed the "eternal Torah," a development in early Jewish theology that is founded on the identification of Torah with divine Wisdom. The eternal Torah is not just a revelatory book, a group of books, or a set of laws; it is Torah as God's cosmic force, an entity that acts as an intermediary between God and humanity. The eternal Torah is the Word or Wisdom by which God created the world, and the instrument of final judgment. In Pauline theology, Christ, not Torah, is identified with divine wisdom. Paul's conflict with the eternal Torah concerns the eschatological fate of gentiles. In some early Jewish texts the Torah is portrayed as condemning the gentiles in the apocalyptic judgment scenario. This condemnation is a by-product of Torah's association with Wisdom. In Paul's gospel, on the other hand, the gentiles are accepted by God through faith in Christ. Paul therefore denied the developments in Torah theology that made its role in eschatological condemnation possible. Paul's opposition to the eternal Torah is demonstrated in three case studies of Pauline texts that are characterized by their high "volume" of Torah-content and the prominence of biblical lemmata. The case studies exhibit Paul's intertextual reconfiguration of Torah theology in which he uses biblical phraseology and imagery to assert that Christ not Torah is God's Wisdom, that the Abrahamic promise of the gentiles' eschatological acceptance precedes and is not superseded by the Mosaic Torah, and that the Sinai tablets are inferior to the eschatological revelation of Christ written on human hearts. Paul affirmed Torah as God's gift to Israel, but denied that it is the means of transcending "this present evil age." Thus gentiles would not go through Torah to participate in the "age to come" that has mystically dawned.

Recommended Citation

Stephan Kern Davis, "The antithesis of the ages: Torah and Christ in Paul" (January 1, 1999). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI9929153.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI9929153

Share

COinS