Paul – Why Bother?

A Jewish Perspective


  • Mark D. Nanos


Most interpretations of Paul understand the apostle to argue that Jews who did not share his faith in Jesus Christ had lost their original covenant standing. Yet, at the same time, they maintain that there will come a time when Jews will believe (based on the same terms as Gentile sinners), and then "all Israel will be saved" (Rom. 11:26). I began my investigation of Paul assuming that, although the prevailing view that the apostle left Judaism was mistaken, his interpreters were basically correct about his view of his fellow Jews as lost but certain to be saved. I no longer do. In this essay I trace some of the developments in my life-time journey, as a Jew, to read and then re-read the texts in Romans 11, wherein Paul sets out his view of his fellow Jews. I discovered alternatives for translating and interpreting these texts that did not privilege the traditional premises, which has led to profoundly altering some of my previous conclusions. I now propose that we read Paul to signal "kept safe" rather than "saved", because that is simply how σώζω was used, and what, I now realize, everything else in his argument signals. I propose that this revision offers a more historically probable reading of Paul's arguments. Moreover, I am convinced that his voice, thus understood, offers a more promising way forward for Christian-Jewish relations.