Jesus, Paul and Torah: Collected Essays.

What is the Truth about Jesus Christ? Problems of Christology
December 1, 2018
How Jesus became God!
January 10, 2019

Jesus, Paul and Torah: Collected Essays.

by Heikki Räisänen, chapter 6.

Taken at face value, [Mark 7.15] looks like a radical if implicit attack on important parts of the Torah. If nothing that enters into a man from outside can defile him, then the biblical food laws are actually set aside. Consequently, many interpreters who regard the saying as genuine understand it as a polemical statement on the Torah. Jesus is openly combatting the law….Mk 7.19 leaves no doubt about the repudiation of all food laws on the editorial level….the saying certainly leaves the impression of being critical of the Torah. It was so understood by all the Synoptics.

But while being radically different from ‘normal’ Jewish statements on food laws, Mk 7.15 is not at all dissimilar to early Christian statements like Rom. 14.14, 20 or Acts 10.15b. To conclude from this that Mk 7.15 is not genuine would, of course, amount to a gross misuse of the criterion of dissimilarity; it cannot function in this way. The point is merely that no thoroughgoing dissimilarity can be established in this case and that this particular criterion therefore remains inconclusive.

Jesus mixed, it seems, without scruples with ‘sinners’, who did not meet the demands of the purity regulations of the Torah. Against Moses, he denied to a husband the right to dismiss his wife. He interpreted the Sabbath command in a humanitarian way and took a critical attitude toward the temple. Surely it would be coherent with the picture thus emerging if he also made a statement which actually did away with the food laws [Mar 7.15]. There is indeed no denying this.

It seems that the acceptance of Gentiles into Christian congregations without circumcision, as well as interaction with them without regard to food laws, began spontaneously, without a ‘theological’ decision. ‘Action preceded theology’.

Starting from the problem posed by the inconsistencies in Paul’s later statements on the law, I came to adumbrate a similar overall view. I suggested that Paul at first adopted that ‘somewhat relaxed attitude to the observance of the ritual Torah’ which included ‘perhaps even a neglect of circumcision as part of the missionary strategy’ that he met with the Hellenist Christians he persecuted. Having since then worked more on the subject of the Hellenists, I would now emphasize that it was precisely the admission of Gentiles without circumcision that was probably the most outstanding feature of the Christians persecuted by Paul. Along with it must have gone a neglect of the ‘ritual’ Torah, in practice a neglect of the food laws and (perhaps) of the Sabbath in the context of the mission. 1 Corinthians 9 shows that as late as the fifties Paul himself followed this practice, treating the (‘ritual’) law as an adiaphoron which he could, but need not, observe. I further suggested that Paul’s final, more negative view developed in the course of his conflicts with ‘Judaizing’ opponents [Raisanen, Paul and the Law, pp. 256-63.]