David Rudolph on "Paul's Rule" (1 Cor 7:17-24) and Torah-Defined Ecclesiological Variegation

David Rudolph is a fascinating, young, Messianic-Jewish, NT scholar. Here is the latest of his provocative articles reinterpreting Pauline theology and ecclesiology. This article focuses on one small section of Paul but it is part of a much larger project of reinterpreting Paul. It is well worth a read!


Anonymous said…
Thank you for that, it was very refreshing, and it helped to clear up a lot of gaps in my understanding of what was going on with Paul and the New Testament Church.

One related problem:
While the OT doesn't seem to make a distinction between moral and ceremonial laws, we Christians often say that the NT takes over only the moral laws for Christian observance.
And yet the "Apostolic Decree" is 75% ceremonial and only 25% moral:

abstain from foods which are
a) sacrificed to idols
b) from blood
c) from what is strangled

abstain from unchastity

It would almost seem the Jewish Christians were more concerned about the ceremonial laws than the moral ones!

Any thoughts?
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Robin Parry said…

Yes—it is a great article. Glad you found it helpful.

You are right that the moral/ceremonial split is not one the OT itself makes.

However, I do think that for Gentile believers (though not for Jewish) there is substance in the claim that, for the most part, the Torah has moral rather than ceremonial application. The precise hermeneutics here is an issue that would need careful attention.

re: the apostolic decree. Well, I wonder if it is right to call idolatry a ceremonial issue rather than a cultic one. It is certainly a big issue for Jesus-believers (Jewish and Gentile).

The blood and the strangled issue are really the same (I think). Animals killed by strangling have not been drained of blood. Here the theological issue is one in which blood symbolizes life and the refusal to consume blood is part of a symbolic recognition that the life of animals belongs to God and not to humans. So the ritual/cultic/theological/moral categories do blur somewhat here.

But to understand the rationale for the ban I suggest that you read the article by Richard Bauckham that David Rudolph references.

Bauckham argues that the items in the ban are the items from Lev 17-18 that apply not merely to Israel but to "the foreigner in your midst." Bauckham says that James saw the Gentile Christ-believers as like eschatological nations in the midst of eschatological Israel and so he (and the council) read Leviticus in an eschatological way and applied those parts to the Gentiles. Bauckham makes a very convincing case.

All of this raises, as you say, the issue of how the OT laws do and do not apply today (and how they apply to Jews and Gentiles today). I do not have completely sorted out views on that issue (to say the least!)

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