Paul and the law

E. P. Sanders's retrieval of Judaism

The Jews of Jesus’ time, the preacher intoned, were slavishly devoted to the practices of their ancestors. They studied scripture but did not apply it. Their temple was “rotten to the core.” Ancient Judaism was a religion whose rituals were “impressive, inspiring and empty.” It was a faith preoccupied with the superficial and lacking in substance. “As long as people talked about love,” the speaker thundered, “they did not have to practice it.”

I took notes on this particular preacher because his portrait of Judaism was so outrageously negative. But his version of Judaism is not that unusual in Christian history. Such caricatures of Judaism have abounded in Christian preaching.


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