The Paul of Philippians

The New Testament book of Philippians is the third “authentic” Pauline letter our small study group has worked through. Let me preface my comments by remarking on the position taken by Paul Nanos, who describes himself as a New Testament scholar with an alternative approach to understanding the apostle Paul. Nanos wants to read the Pauline corpus as though Paul were a Torah-observant Jew. Now, I am having a difficult time with this approach on two counts. First, doesn’t this beg the question of what the first century Paul’s attitude might have been toward Jewish law? Second, I am left to wonder whether Nanos and I are reading the same texts. I cannot fathom how he finds support for a Torah-observant author (whatever that might mean given the first century CE context). Philippians is a case in point for my argument that the Paul who wrote this letter, and the previous two letters we have read, has no interest in upholding even the rudimentary requirements of Jewish law let alone presenting himself as “Torah-observant”. Continue reading

A Bucket of Books

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A fellow blogger suggested putting together a ‘bucket list’ of books we need to read before—well, in my case, before the end of summer. My collection is a bit eclectic, and the choices I’ve made were sometimes impulsive, not necessarily with a great deal of forethought. Take Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz, for example. I bought this on the first day of its release (June 6, 2017) mostly because I loved the cover and only then did I pay attention to the author, who just so happens to be the writer responsible for many of my favorite Midsomer Murders episodes, and only then did I read the first chapter and decide it was going to be time well spent reading. And how was I to pass up a title like Tova Reich’s One Hundred Philistine ForeskinsThis tantalizing satire was passed along to me by a good friend; caveat though to those unfamiliar with the alternative universe of orthodox Judaism, you might want to find someone who is or keep Google open to look up unfamiliar terms. Continue reading

Lost and Found

Over the weekend I happened to find a lost car key on the sidewalk during one of my walks. Luckily the owner had a strip of laminated paper with a phone number attached to the top so I was able to call and return the key. car-keyThe man on the phone seemed surprised, either that the key was lost or that someone had found it. I too was a bit surprised, not that I came across a piece of lost property but that finding it and being able to return it to the rightful owner reminded me of what Judaism teaches about good deeds as mitzvot. I learned (or re-learned) two things from this experience. First, that we are sometimes dependent on someone else’s misfortune in order to do a good deed (or fulfill a divine commandment in Jewish thinking), and  Continue reading