21 thoughts on “David Rudolph on Paul’s Rule

  1. The problem I have with Rudolph’s interpretation of the term “calling” is that nowhere in the Apostolic writings is the term calling refers to calling someone to be a Jew, nor to Judaism. In fact, in 1 Cor. 7:17-24 , the people who are called are already who they are, being it a Jew, a Gentile, or a slave. If we understand that so, then what is the calling for? If I am called already circumcised (v.18), to what was I called? To remain circumcised? No, the call is for salvation to Jew and gentile alike.
    Rudolph reads his agenda into Scriptures.

    • Thank you for your engagement with the paper. Actually, there are two places in the Apostolic Writings where Paul uses the term “calling” to refer to Jewish calling. One is 1 Cor 7 and the other is Rom 11. Paul writes in Rom 11:29 concerning the Jewish nation’s calling – “for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Here the Greek word for “calling” is κλῆσις, the same Greek word that Paul uses in 1 Cor 7:20 where he says, “Each one [the circumcised and the uncircumcised] should remain in the calling [κλῆσις] which he was in when God called him.”

  2. @Joseph: Thanks for sharing the link!

    @danbenzvi: Rudolph interacts substantially with your objection (which is basically the dominant modern reading of 1 Cor 7) starting in the middle of page 3 of the paper. For one thing, he argues that 7:20 is exactly the example you say appears nowhere in the Apostolic writings (“in the calling in which he/one was called, let him remain”–the second “called” may refer to salvation, but the first one refers to circumcision/uncircumcision, etc). Rudolph also surveys interpreters both Christian (Augustin, Luther, other modern interpreters) and Jewish (Emden) who interpreted the “situation/calling” of 7:20 as referring to situation/vocation/status in life.

    • Yahnatan’

      I think you are taking things out of context here. There is no indication in this context that paul envisions two separate lists of commandments, one for Jews and another for Gentiles. The plain sense of of the passage is that being counted as Jewish or non-Jewish has no bearing on keeping the commandments. All who are “called” to salvation are to keep them. “what matter is keeping the commandments of God” (v.19).

  3. My pleasure Yahnatan, and congratulations David for getting your work published in the journal. It’s really interesting to see how you highlighted Emdem’s take on Paul too.

    I think where I would disagree with David would be that I don’t agree that being Jewish is synonymous with law-keeping.

    I think Galatians 6:13 makes the distinction between ‘being circumcised’ and ‘obeying the law’, where Paul is writing in polemics:

    “Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh.”

    • Thank you and I agree with your point. It is possible to be a Jew without the Torah being a defining element in one’s life. Gal 6:13 seems to underscore this as you point out. But the question in my mind is whether Paul supports this state of affairs or critiques it. I think it is the latter in Gal 6:13 where he sees a measure of inconsistency present. I would hold Gal 6:13 in tension with Gal 5:3 (“Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law”) and Rom 2:25 (perhaps a less polemical context) where Paul says, “Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.” In these texts, Paul seems to suggest that circumcision (i.e. Jewish identity) is supposed to be followed by the circumcised (Torah oriented) life, a normative view in Second Temple Judaism and the Judaism that preceded it. Piecing together other Pauline passages, I think he would also say that such a life should be lived out by grace, in faith, and through the power of the Ruach (Spirit).

      • In that case I think I’m pretty much in agreement with you, both in tone and emphasis. I especially agree with you that Paul was not critiquing Torah-observance for Jews, but the breaking of table fellowship, and that he had a positive attitude towards the Torah. I found your piece fascinating.

  4. A very interesting article from Rudolph, one to read a number of times to glean everything he is suggesting. I like and agree with much of what he writes.

    I like this: “Because the church did not keep Paul’s rule, it became a broken family. It became an all-Gentile church with a persona non grata view of practicing Jews, a deformity never envisioned by Jesus and his apostles.”

    and this is interesting: “There are presently over one million Christians in the United States who have a Jewish parent. We do not know how many of these Christians of Jewish descent attend churches; however, there is little question that the number is in the hundreds of thousands. Church leaders who meet
    these individuals can act on Paul’s rule by connecting them with Messianic synagogues where the ethos and community life reflects a commitment to Jewish covenantal living”

    I have a question, I guess he sees circumcision and uncircumcision as a metaphor for Jews and Gentiles. But what of those million Jews from assimilated familes who were uncircumcised, should they remain like that, is that then their calling?

    Does this also put the kibosh on ‘Messianic megayering’ – converting Gentiles to Messianic Judaism? Stay in your calling.

    • Gev wrote, “I have a question, I guess he sees circumcision and uncircumcision as a metaphor for Jews and Gentiles. But what of those million Jews from assimilated familes who were uncircumcised, should they remain like that, is that then their calling?” It’s a great question. First, many Jews in churches today were circumcised as children. Second, perhaps Paul’s circumcision of Timothy (the son of a Jewish mother and Gentile father who was not circumcised as a child) provides an New Testament precedent that sheds light on your question. Given the Acts 15-16 context in which the Jerusalem apostles and Paul emphasize that Yeshua-believing Gentiles are exempt from circumcision (i.e. they do not need to become Jews in order to be full members of the people of God), I think a reasonable case can be made that Paul circumcised Timothy in order to confirm a pre-existing covenantal identity on the basis of Timothy’s Jewish mother Eunice (2 Tim 1:5). There is some indication that matrilineal-based Jewish identity was just beginning to surface in the matrix of pluriform Second Temple Judaism. See Maren R. Niehoff, “Jewish Identity and Jewish Mothers: Who Was a Jew According to Philo?” The Studia Philonica Annual 11 (1999): 31-54; Irina Levinskaya, The Book of Acts in Its Diaspora Setting (vol. 1 of The Book of Acts in Its First Century Setting; ed. B. W. Winter; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 16-17. Significantly, Paul’s actions would have also implemented the implication of the Jerusalem council decision, that Jews should be circumcised in keeping with the “covenant of circumcision” (Acts 7:8; Gen 17:9-14). From a literary perspective, Paul’s circumcision of Timothy also informs the reader in advance that the later accusations leveled against Paul, that he taught Diaspora Jews not to circumcise theirs sons (Acts 21:21-26), are false. If this interpretation is accepted, Luke’s explanatory statement in Acts 16:3 (“because of the Jews who were in those places”) does not mean that the act of Timothy’s circumcision was an expedient, but that the timing of his circumcision was an expedient.

  5. Yahnatan, David,

    Help me here please. Maybe I am not educated enough or just dense, but if Paul like you said is urging people to remain in their calling (assuming circumcision-Jewish; uncircumcision- Gentile), why then does MJTI insist on converting Gentiles? Does Paul anywhere teach that, well, maybe, in some cases Gentiles are called to become Jews and don’t have to remain in their original calling?

    Isn’t that a typical case of having the cake and eat it too?

    • Danbenzvi wrote, “Maybe I am not educated enough or just dense, but if Paul like you said is urging people to remain in their calling (assuming circumcision-Jewish; uncircumcision- Gentile), why then does MJTI insist on converting Gentiles?” MJTI (Messianic Jewish Theological Institute) is an approved school of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations and does not take a stance on conversion. It certainly does not “insist on converting Gentiles” as you said. I would encourage you to do your homework before making inaccurate statements like this on the Internet.

      • Now, David, maybe you can find some time to answer my question, and also this one?

        A member of MJTI underwent a long process of conversion, shouldn’t he have stayed in “the calling he was called for?”

  6. To: David Rudolph.

    It is a very interesting a scholarly article. I have a question. How do you align “Paul’s Rule” in 1 Cor 7:12-24 with “Paul’s One Rule” in Ephesians 2:12- 17, that is one in the body.

    If we follow your teaching in your paper, are we Jewish believers not rebuilding the middle wall of partition which is in the commandments and ordinances of Moses Law? Are we not in one body now, and should not the local congregation reflect this, but allow for differences within. I am not sure I am entirely at ease, with the Jewish believer meeting in the synagogue, and gentile believer meeting in the church? Do we see the problem?

    Eph 2:12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens Eph 2:14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,
    Eph 2:15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,
    Eph 2:16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.
    Eph 2:17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.

    I look forward to your answer and thoughts.


    • Levitt wrote, “I have a question. How do you align ‘Paul’s Rule’ in 1 Cor 7:12-24 with ‘Paul’s One Rule’ in Ephesians 2:12- 17, that is one in the body”? Excellent question. Here are some thoughts: (1) The one new man can exist on the macro level without it being fully realized on the micro level. The body of Messiah is a table fellowship of Yeshua-believing Jews and Gentiles who are supposed to partner together in relationships of interdependence and mutual blessing. But how many churches around the world have a group of identifiable Jews within it? The vast majority do not and never will. My point is that the one new man is more of a macro reality. (2) Unpacking Eph 2:14-16 is unfortunately beyond the scope of this venue. This said, based on the many places where Paul quotes the Torah and refers to its ethical teachings, I am not convinced that Paul is talking about the abolition of the Torah in Eph 2. In his Baker Academic commentary on Ephesians, Harold Hoehner rightly notes that it is not possible to distinguish between moral and ceremonial law in this context (p. 376). Therefore, I think a reasonable argument can be made that Paul is focusing on a subset of Jewish laws (some extra-biblical, some halakhic in nature) that created enmity by separating Jews and Gentiles (e.g. the wall of partition in the Temple, see Acts 21:27-29; table fellowship taboos, etc.). And finally (3) Markus Barth underscores in his Anchor commentary on Ephesians that the one new man is “one out of the two” and not “in place of the two.” Consistent with my paper on Paul’s rule, he writes: “Ephesians alone calls God’s covenant partner ‘one new man’ and emphasizes that this man consists of two, that is, of Jews and Gentiles…The incorporation of the Gentiles into Israel and the formation of one people consisting of Jews and Gentiles certainly does not mean that the Gentiles must become Jews, or the Jews Gentiles!…Their historic distinction remains true and recognized even within their communion” (310).

  7. Shalom and thank you David for you considered reply.

    I agree with you that that new man is “one out of the two” and “not in place of the two”, but in having a synagogue vs church you create “two out of the one”. Does this not concern you?

    After all in Ephesians 4:4-6 Paul speaks of the importance of endeavouring to keep a unity of spirit and bond of peace as we are one body, on spirit, one calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism….. so surely one local congregation of gentile and Jews. After all we don’t have a separate church for women and another for men?

    I’m concerned that you are stretching from obvious and most literal meaning of the text. So for instance the easiest interpretation of what Paul could be referring to when he mentions commandments and ordinances would be Moses 613. A less obvious conclusion would be Halakhic tradition, do you not think?

    I am not convinced by your micro/macro argument. We are made in God’s image, and so reflect Him, in that we have eyes and can see like God can see, we have ears and can hear like God can hear. Should not also the local congregation (micro) reflect the Body of Messiah (macro)? What is heaven/spirit is often reflected here in earth. For instance the Tabernacle was a picture/shadow of heavenly truth. Therefore we should do what we can to reduce division in the body. If we agree with Paul’s writings that the middle wall of partition, the ordinances and commands is removed surely this should be the case in the local congregation. Keeping Moses 613 rebuilds the middle wall of partition, separating Jew from Gentile.

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

    • “After all in Ephesians 4:4-6 Paul speaks of the importance of endeavouring to keep a unity of spirit and bond of peace as we are one body, one spirit, one calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism….. so surely one local congregation of gentile and Jews. After all we don’t have a separate church for women and another for men?”

      Exactly, as I say, a contradiction of terms? Sadly, this is where this type of thinking ends… and is why BE, just does not and will not work.

    • I thought his answer was “MJTI doesn’t take a stance on conversion.”

      I must cast doubt on that answer, as it seems to me MJTI does indeed take a stance.

      Still, I don’t want this thread to devolve into a Derek Leman-bash-fest. :-) I’d rather focus on the good here, and I thought David wrote a well-researched, thought-provoking article, even if the likes of us common folk don’t agree with its conclusions. :-)

  8. David,

    Thank you for this article. It’s apparent you’ve been blessed with this great scholarly mind. We need scholarly minds like yours in the Messianic movement. Even though I didn’t agree with all your conclusions, I thoroughly enjoyed your well-researched article.

  9. Pingback: Sabbatarians, Subbotniks & a Line in the Sand? « The Rosh Pina Project

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