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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: May 2010

2 - Constructions of Paul and Interfaith Relations: Building Barriers or Bridges between Judaism and Christianity


As we have seen, for Jewish thinkers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries who wished to define themselves against Christianity, Paul had come to be seen as a replacement for Jesus as a symbol of Christianity per se. Concerned to defend themselves against Christian critiques of Judaism, they had preferred to champion the newly discovered Jewish Jesus as an ally rather than as a figure representative of the antithesis of Judaism; and so Paul emerged as his unfortunate successor. In this chapter we will consider how, for Jews who saw themselves as ideological opponents of Christianity, Paul's alien origins and absorption of foreign influences could be effectively contrasted with Jesus' Jewish authenticity. In this context, the apostle's influence and significance were more easily undermined than those of Jesus, his motives could be questioned, and the common view of his understanding of Judaism and the Law could be attacked as a betrayal of the faith of his master Jesus. We will also explore the options open to Jewish thinkers who wished to encourage better relations between Jews and Christians and who, with Paul as the new figurehead for Christianity, now had to address his place in the Jewish–Christian discourse as well as Jesus'. Although difficulties remained with many aspects of the apostle's theology, a small number of writers were ideologically predisposed to overlook his apparent weaknesses and, remarkably, to attempt to use him as a bridge to dialogue, that is, to view him as a means by which to better become familiar with and strengthen ties to the surrounding Christian world.

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