In this edition of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics, the perennial issue of whether Christians are called to “keep the law” is explored. While Jon Olson’s article and Robin Mattison’s response center on the Apostle Paul, his Jewish heritage and the extent to which he continued to observe the Sabbath and observe the dietary laws […]
Peter Tomson reckoned Paul’s theology of justification able to coexist with his Law (Torah) observance. Recent exegetical work based on the view that Paul remained within Judaism make reconsideration of Tomson’s position timely. Olson examines five theological criteria in Stephen Westerholm’s Lutheran Paul, arguing that Paul so defined might also consistently observe the Jewish Sabbath and dietary laws. If so, the ‘Third Use’ of the Law is relevant for all Christians.
Olson’s concern with the last twenty-five years of critical work on Paul’s identity as a Christ-believing hellenistic, diasporan Jew is its potential to shift the Lutheran paradigm of the proper boundaries of Christian praxis for Jews. Olson notes that this desire was expressed in the papers of the 2014 Helsinki consultation on “Continuity in the Body of the Messiah”. Christ-believing Jews wish “to express election and covenant-based Torah practice in the church” as part of their Christian witnesss. Such commitment to God’s earlier and continuing covenant is not foreign to Paul’s thinking about Jews, “… to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the worship and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah (Rom 9:4-5)”. Thus, Mattison explores the question of would or could the Pharisaic, diasporan Paul have kept the Law while an apostle to the Gentiles? What would be the criterion for keeping the Law?
Lloyd Steffen and Dennis R. Cooley. The Ethics of Death: Religious and Philosophical Perspectives in Dialogue. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014, 325pp.