Collationes: Vlaams tijdschrift voor theologie en pastoraal vol:39 issue:1 pages:31-42
Paul’s contribution to Christian theology cannot be underestimated. Many would consider Paul, and not Jesus, the real founder of Christianity as a religion. That also implies that Paul is responsible for Christianity’s split from Judaism. In the past thirty years, however, a new way of understanding Paul within the context of his Jewish identity has emerged. Within this ‘New Perspective’, Paul is no longer seen as causing the split from Judaism, which is seen to have only occurred at a much later date, in what is referred to as ‘the Parting of the Ways’. The Parting of the Ways is currently the regnant heuristic model to explain the separation between Judaism and Christianity. The turning-point is usually the Bar Kochba revolt, in 135 CE, after which Jews and Christians supposedly went their separate ways as though diverging at a ‘Y junction’. This article explores the methodological problems with both the Parting of the Ways model and the New Perspective on Paul. Both operate out of present-day ecumenical concerns to see Israel and the Church as compatible with one another yet at the same time separate and distinct. Methodologically, however, this theological concern is problematic for conducting historical and sociological studies. Where the Parting of the Ways is concerned, the problem arises that Jews and Christians of Antiquity did not see themselves as already having ‘parted’. With regard to Paul, his own ambiguous relationship towards Judaism, Israel and the Law, means that Pauline scholars need to find creative ways to affirm that Paul espoused both continuity and discontinuity towards his Jewish roots. However, even though Paul and the Parting of the Ways between Judaism and Christianity are now separated by at least a few decades (if not centuries), one can still infer that Pauline scholars continue to wrestle indirectly with Paul’s role in that parting and thus implicitly with the notion that he was the founder of Christianity.