Early 20th century Jewish and Christian thinkers readily agreed that in breaking with his Jewish origins, the Apostle Paul was the founder of the Christian religion. While they disagreed strongly about how to evaluate this break, Jewish and Christian thinkers also agreed that Paul’s Christianity advocated individual spirituality in contrast to outward forms of Jewish collective life. Late 20th and early 21st Jewish and Christian scholars have upended this simple distinction between Judaism and Christianity, and between collectivity and individuality, by insisting on Paul’s fundamental Jewishness. This lecture considers the implications of this shift not just for Christian theology but also for Jewish thought. If Paul understood himself as a 1st century Jew, then how should Christians and Jews reimagine the seeming Pauline dichotomies between universal and particularism, faith and law, spirit and flesh, and indeed between race and grace, which have been so fundamental to historical readings of Paul?
Leora F. Batnitzky is the Ronald O. Perelman Professor of Jewish Studies and Professor of Religion at Princeton University. Her teaching and research interests include philosophy of religion, modern Jewish thought, hermeneutics, and contemporary legal and political theory. In 2002 she received Princeton’s President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching. She is the author of Idolatry and Representation: The Philosophy of Franz Rosenzweig Reconsidered (Princeton, 2000), Leo Strauss and Emmanuel Levinas: Philosophy and the Politics of Revelation (Cambridge, 2006), and How Judaism Became a Religion: An Introduction to Modern Jewish Thought (Princeton, 2011). Her current book project, tentatively titled “Conversion Before the Law: How Religion and Law Shape Each Other in the Modern World,” focuses on a number of contemporary legal cases concerning religious conversion in the U.S., Great Britain, Israel, and India. She is co-editor, with Ilana Pardes, of The Book of Job: Aesthetics, Ethics and Hermeneutics (de Gruyter, 2014) as well as co-editor, with Yonatan Brafman, of an anthology Jewish Legal Theories, for the Brandeis Library of Modern Jewish Thought. She is co-editing Institutionalizing Rights and Religion, with Hanoch Dagan, to be published by Cambridge University Press and is also co-editor, with Ra’anan Boustan, of the journal Jewish Studies Quarterly.