In this historical and theological study, John G. Gager undermines the myth of the Apostle Paul's rejection of Judaism, conversion to Christianity, and founding of Christian anti-Judaism. He finds that the rise of Christianity occurred well after Paul's death and attributes the distortion of the Apostle's views to early and later Christians.
Though Christian clerical elites ascribed a rejection-replacement theology to Paul's legend, Gager shows that the Apostle was considered a loyal Jew by many of his Jesus-believing contemporaries and that later Jewish and Muslim thinkers held the same view. He holds that one of the earliest misinterpretations of Paul was to name him the founder of Christianity, and in recent times numerous Jewish and Christian readers of Paul have moved beyond this understanding.
Gager also finds that Judaism did not fade away after Paul's death but continued to appeal to both Christians and pagans for centuries. Jewish synagogues remained important religious and social institutions throughout the Mediterranean world. Making use of all possible literary and archaeological sources, including Muslim texts, Gager helps recover the long pre-history of a Jewish Paul, obscured by recent, negative portrayals of the Apostle, and recognizes the enduring bond between Jews and Christians that has influenced all aspects of Christianity.
Gager, a professor of religion at Princeton, tackles the long-held belief that the apostle Paul was an anti-Jewish Christian in this scholarly and well-researched volume, part of a series of lectures under the direction of the American Academy of Religion. To support his claim that Paul was, in fact, a loyal Jew whose words have been misconstrued by an anti-Jewish Christian imagination, Gager paints a portrait of the social, religious, and historical milieu in which Paul lived. Beginning with Paul's writings, which until very recently have been viewed as Christianity's go-to text for anti-Jewish thought, Gager asserts that when Paul's letters are read in their appropriate context, a startlingly different image of Paul's agenda emerges. To accomplish this task, Gager presents a host of contemporary historians' opposing views and either validates or deconstructs them piece by piece, always with a strict adherence to facts and historical context. While some might argue with his interpretation of certain passages, Gager provides copious, informative footnotes to back up his points and provide outlets for further inquiry. His clear and thorough journey, taking scripture into account as well as other relevant texts and artifacts including works by both Jewish and Christian historians will engage and impress any student of Abrahamic history.