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A Jewish Paul

The Messiah's Herald to the Gentiles

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What was the apostle Paul's relationship to Judaism? How did he view the Jewish law? How did he understand the gospel of Jesus's messiahship relative to both ethnic Jews and gentiles? These remain perennial questions both to New Testament scholars and to all serious Bible readers.

Respected New Testament scholar Matthew Thiessen offers an important contribution to this discussion. A Jewish Paul is an accessible introduction that situates Paul clearly within first-century Judaism, not opposed to it. Thiessen argues for a more historically plausible reading of Paul. Paul did not reject Judaism or the Jewish law but believed he was living in the last days, when Israel's Messiah would deliver the nations from sin and death. Paul saw himself as an envoy to the nations, desiring to introduce them to the Messiah and his life-giving, life-transforming Spirit.

This new contribution to Pauline studies will benefit professors, students, and scholars of the New Testament as well as pastors and lay readers.

1. Making Paul Weird Again
2. Radically New or Long-Lost Reading of Paul?
3. Judaism Doesn't Believe Anything
4. Paul, An End-Time Jew
5. The Gentile Problem
6. Jesus the Messiah
7. The Gentile Problem and Cosmetic Surgery
8. Pneumatic Gene Therapy
9. The Bodies of the Messiah
10. Living the Resurrected Life
11. Resurrection as the Culmination of the Messiah's Coming
12. The Messiah and the Jews


"Scrupulous in its fairness to Judaism and immensely helpful in correcting noxious Christian misrepresentations of it, this readable and engaging little book succeeds remarkably in locating Paul, the Christian apostle to the gentiles, within the Judaism in which he was formed and which he never thought he had altogether left. Both Christians and Jews have much to gain from reading A Jewish Paul. Highly recommended!"

Jon D. Levenson, Albert A. List Professor of Jewish Studies, Harvard University

"Ever since E. P. Sanders's pioneering work, the role of Judaism has been an important dimension of work on Paul's letters. In this very readable volume, Thiessen provides the reader with a portrait of Paul that takes his Jewishness with the seriousness it deserves. The debate on many issues he engages will not be brought to closure, but he charts directions that all scholars will need to consider going forward."

Gary A. Anderson, Hesburgh Professor of Catholic Thought, University of Notre Dame

"Since the middle of the twentieth century, debates have raged in academia over the question of Paul's relationship to Judaism. Yet these debates remain scarcely known to the public. Matthew Thiessen seeks to remedy that situation in this book, and he succeeds admirably in clear and cogent prose. But the book is not merely an introduction to debates over Paul and Judaism; Thiessen does not plod neutrally through various scholarly positions. He makes a strong case that Paul remained fully and firmly within Judaism from birth to death. Thiessen is not the first to make this argument, but he does it with a notable twist: he argues that the best framework for understanding the historical Paul lies in the portrait bequeathed to us by the author of Luke-Acts. It is a compelling argument, sure to hold the attention of seasoned scholars while providing uninitiated readers a clear introduction to this important debate."

Pamela Eisenbaum, Iliff School of Theology

"God bless Matthew Thiessen! It is so difficult to give a historically compelling account of the apostle Paul that is, at the same time, helpful to readers of Christian Scripture and, on top of all that, readable and accessible. I know because I have tried. Now, though, I will be very happy simply to refer people to this wonderful book."

Matthew V. Novenson, University of Edinburgh

"This is an excellent introduction to Paul. It is concise, clear, and nuanced. It will be a real feast to scholars, students, and interested readers. The book can be used in various contexts (seminaries, religious studies programs, or church Bible studies). I cannot recommend Thiessen's A Jewish Paul enough for serious and important conversations between Jews and Christians."

Ronald Charles, associate professor, Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto

"In A Jewish Paul, Matthew Thiessen offers an introduction to Paul that is genuinely fresh, thoroughly stimulating, and highly accessible. Drawing on some of his signature contributions to Pauline studies as well as new material, Thiessen offers provocative readings that challenge long-standing interpretations that fail to recognize Paul's identity as a first-century Jewish thinker. All who consider themselves students of Paul--whether the beginner or the scholar--will find themselves engrossed in this book's pages."

Michael Patrick Barber, professor of theology and Scripture, Augustine Institute Graduate School of Theology

"The apostle Paul may need no introduction. Few people--perhaps only Jesus himself--are as widely known as the man from Tarsus. In fact, Paul may be too well known, and his robust reputation may prevent us from seeing him with historical or theological clarity. Matthew Thiessen offers students and scholars alike an invaluable resource: an accessible-yet-innovative introduction to a Jewish Paul, the herald of Israel's Messiah to the non-Jewish nations."

Rafael Rodríguez, professor of New Testament, Johnson University

"Excellent scholars who work at the cutting edge of their field and who have a mastery of its history (as does Thiessen on Pauline studies) are sometimes unable to communicate that field to those outside of it. This book is an outstanding exception. It is as readable as it is masterful. This is fortunate, because its message could not possibly be more important if Christians and New Testament scholars alike are to finally escape the gross misreadings of Paul that continuously put Jewish lives in danger of violence."

Sara Parks, assistant professor in religious studies, St. Francis Xavier University

The Author

  1. Matthew Thiessen
    Photo credit: Jessica Penner

    Matthew Thiessen

    Matthew Thiessen (PhD, Duke University) is associate professor of religious studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He is the author of numerous books, including Paul and the Gentile Problem, Jesus and the Forces of Death, and...

    Continue reading about Matthew Thiessen