Lloyd Gaston, Paul and Torah

Wipf and Stock, 1987, 262 p .

Gaston employs a self-consciously experimental hermeneutic. Presuming that Paul is as familiar with covenant-nomism as E.P. Sanders and does not fundamentally misrepresent the Law (and thus Judaism) can Paul be read coherently? Gaston argues that Paul preaches exclusively to the Gentiles (and considers himself “apostate” from Israel’s covenant as a Gentile apostle), and that “nomos” functions in Pauline discourse in two very distinct ways: (1) as Torah, Israel’s law conjoined to the covenant; (2) as the law of Sinai administered to the nations by angels/powers, apart from the covenant, and thus with the inevitable result of a curse. Gaston’s exegesis is a strained, Procrustean attempt to weed out every hint of Anti-Judaism in Paul (though he is perfectly content to admit it in the rest of the NT). He opens up new readings with admirable creativity and problematizes old assumptions about Paul’s “antagonistic” relationship with Judaism, but his attempt to systematically re-read Paul simply cannot be taken seriously as a system. It succeeds as a goad to further conversation and as an experimental re-reading, it fails in terms of historical-critical rigor. Further, I’m not convinced that Gaston succeeds in furthering the cause that launches his project. Unless we are planning on re-pristinating a Pauline Christianity which was originally pure (and quickly distorted), the picture of the Pauline mission that Gaston delivers does not significantly avert anti-Judaism.