II. What is a Jew in the times of Paul
A. The Aim and Scope of this Study
B. Methodology and Theses used
III. Individual difference: What kind of a Jew was Paul?
A. The Cultural interactions
B. The Local distinctiveness
C. The variety of sects (especially in Judea)
A. Analogy of a person from Hong Kong:
B. Pre-Christian Paul
C. Converted Paul
1. His Interpretation of the Damascus Event
2. The Change of his thought
D. The Missionary Paul
VI. Bibliography (Deleted to minimize the size of this file.)
The study on Paul has been dominated by the label of Hellenism and Judaism. The real dynamic relationship between the two cultures has been marred by this prejudice. Here I argue from the perspective of dynamic interactions between cultures and strive to search the identity of a Jew under this situation. The cultural interactions are discussed first to find a syncretistic picture that reflects the more realistic reconstruction of Paul's times. Then we will focus on local distinctiveness; the variety of sects in Jerusalem is depicted to identify Paul's position. Individual difference will be suggested, but very little information can be found for this part. Since it covers a lot of materials, I can only select some to illustrate the findings. An article of this size can only provide very few findings, but I wish it is a good start to search for deeper understanding of these differences among the Jews.
The final part will put the emphasis on the study of Paul who has undergo significant change in his Christian life. With the understanding of this, I hope to illuminate the real conflict between Paul and his fellow Jewish Christians and contemporary Jews.
This study will be based on Acts, the Pauline Epistles and some other works on history, like Josephus. Acts is a redacted writing on the spread of Earliest Christianity. This poses some limitations on the rediscovery of the historical Paul. Though the use of the Pauline Epistles is a way to balance this weakness, the epistles are occasional letters with little information on the sociological matters. Josephus can provide a different angle. He is writing with an apologetic aim, so his source should be critically received. Scholars like Rhoads uses his life and other sources as control.
The historical analysis by Arnold J. Toynbee is employed to scrutinise the impact of cultural interactions. Though it is based on this study of more than 20 civilizations, the application of his work on a particular civilization still demand some guesswork. I will also intentionally use the situation of Hong Kong as an analogy of Paul's world to illuminate our search. The use of analogy is a way of trying to bridge the gap, but the cultural, social and historical differences are also noticed by me.
Anthropology and sociological theories are occasionally used. The cultural differences can easily undermine the function of a sociological approach. Therefore anthropology is used to become a remedy to it. In order to reconstruct the social situation of Paul's times, sometimes we have to expand the information by means of argument from silence. However G. M. Styler reminds us that the handling of argumentum e silentio is a risky business. There is a real danger that those arguments may be imposed on the texts by the presuppositions of the researchers without noticing the great gap between Paul's world and modern society.
The well-known classification of Jews into 4 classes by Josephus has been challenged by modern scholarship. Besides Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and the "Fourth Philosophy, some other "Jewish groups like Therapeutae, Nazoreans, Hemerobaptists, Menistae, Genistae, etc. have been found in other ancient sources. What do these groups have in common? What is the essence of their Jewishness? What makes them "Jewish groups? I will try to discuss this question in four different aspects: namely, in the cultural interactions, the local distinctiveness, the variety of sects, and individual difference.
The Jews had been continually conquered by other nations up to Paul's times. The Assyrians captured Samaria (722 BC) and resettled people from Babylon, Curthah, Avva, Hamath and Sephavaim (2 Ki. 17:24.) The people in this city finally worship YHWH alongside with their own gods (2 Ki. 17:33.) The Israelites have also worshipped in a syncretistic way. Gradually, they developed their own way of interpreting the law. The Samaritans worshipped on Mt. Gerizim (Jn. 4:20-21), contrary to the "Jews who worship in Jerusalem. On the other hand, Manasseh King of Judah has encouraged syncretism throughout Judah, which becomes an unbreakable practice even under Josiah's "reform. This practice could be seen in the description on Jerusalem's priests by Ezekiel.
The Babylonian impact was far more terrible, because they destroyed the Temple and captured Jerusalem, which was believed by the Jews to be the dwelling place of YHWH. When the leaders were brought to the land of Babylon, they faced the dazzling walls of the city and grandeur of the temple for Marduk. In response to the challenge of the defeat of Yahweh by the Babylonian gods, some Jews explained the exile as a punishment from Yahweh; some accepted the Babylonian gods. Some Jews started an ideological war against other gods, stating that other gods were idols only. Monotheism was stressed. The so-called Judaism was formed under this background. Hence, it was a reaction to the threat of losing their own religion and identity.  In order to retain their own identity as Jews, they lived together and rejected assimilation into Babylonian culture. They practised isolationism.
When the Jews were allowed to go back to Jerusalem by the Persians, many Jews had already set their roots in the capital of this empire. For example, Nehemiah, who was born in the Persian city, became one of the chief officials of the Persian King. His concern for the city of Jerusalem was very strange. Many Jews had already settled down in the foreign land. When the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem, many preferred to stay in Babylon. Only about 50,000 persons went back. In order to resist conformation to the pagan religions, they had a very strong isolationistic tendency  that could be seen in Nehemiah and Ezra. The emphasis on angels in later Judaism was probably a reaction to the challenge of Zoroastrianism. The dramatic rise of significance of Satan may have been due to the dualism of this religion. Satan may have been analogous to the Evil god Ahriman (though in Jewish thought, Satan was submissive to Yahweh), while Yahweh was the Lord of Wisdom (Ahura Mazda.) However, it did not affect the central theme of Judaism, but the marginal understanding only.
The influence of Greek culture was far-reaching. There was no immediate influence after the Greek conquest. Under the influence of Ptolenaic economy, the economic upgrading of Palestine gave rise to Jewish middle class and bourgeoisie. In 168-167 BC, Antiochus IV Epiphane started a Hellenization campaign to assimilate the religion of the Jews. He made a new altar in the Temple to worship the Greek god Zeus. He prohibited all the practices of the Jewish laws and decentralised the worship places in every city and village. Under this religious oppression, The Maccabees rose up to fight for religious independence and ended in political independence. The zeal for the law was a key reason for the rise of this revolution. The position of Jerusalem and the Temple was resurgent in this period that lasted up to their destruction in AD 70. The rise of the political power of priests and the Levite's Messianic figure was due to the rule of Simon. The hope of resurrection developed under this situation.  Many sects had their origins from this period.
In addition to this, Hellenistic influence on Jews in Palestine could be seen even in the third century BC. Some signs of acceptance were obvious in the pro-Hellenistic upper class and in the realm in late wisdom. Even the Hasidim, who opposed Hellenism, lived in an organised community similar to Greek associations. Even Pharisaism accepted the identification of wisdom and Torah - a kind of Torah ontology which had parallels to the thought of Philo. Under the penetrating influence of Hellenism, the existence of so-called distinguishable Palestinian Judaism was doubtful. In reaction to this threat, the significance of the Torah increased and hope for the future was stressed. Though the Jews started an active mission to the Gentile, the nationalistic feature of Judaism limited the Gentile's total commitment to it. A large number of semi-proselytes standing between Judaism and paganism in NT times was a proof of this dilemma (c. Ap. 2, 183.) Christian mission to the Samaritans was a new move to step beyond this nationalistic feature. Jesus prophetic and eschatological message inspired the so-called Hellenists to abandon the self-contradictory nature of the Jewish mission - the protective attitude of Judaism over against its environment. Christology replaced the role of Torah ontology, and was expressed as the free and sovereign saving revelation of God in history, not a limited salvation. 
Toynbee suggested that the Roman Empire caused dehumanisation (as seen in economic and political stress), rise of zealots and Herodism (as diverse responses to the conquest), and active Jewish propaganda. 
The Roman and Herodian rule caused great economic stress for the Jews: a) The high tax imposed on the peasants by Herod (estimated up to 40%); b) The peasant indebtedness and loss of land. c) Periodic drought and the resultant famine. On top of these, there was some political stress too: a) Roman conquest aroused the independence wish of the nation, or at least some of the people; b) Illegitimate character, the compromised position, and the exploitative behaviour of the Jewish ruling class;c) The insensitive way of ruling of the Roman governor like Camanus (AD 48-52.) For example, Rome's census incited Judas the Galilean to revolt. Hence, the Roman rule gave fuel to the demand for the Prophet to liberate the Jews  and the revival of popular traditions of ancient Jewish kingship, but not necessary a real descendant of David.
The rise of zealots and Herodism showed different responses to the Roman conquest. Refusing to be totally assimilated to the Roman culture, the Zealots fought for cultural independence. The Herodians accepted the Roman and Greek culture, and used the syncretistic or compromising approach. Since we will discuss the differences of sects in later parts (in section C), I will not go in-depth in this section.
According to Mcknight, the Jews were not isolationist in their attitude to Gentiles. Even though some Jews acted in a nationalistic way, many were willing to accept Gentiles and actively became involve in the Pagan world. They were willing to make some adaptations if these did not force them to deny their God, their law, and their nation. For example, the Jews allowed Gentiles to participate in their religious activities and to attend their religious gatherings. Jews joined Gentile society through citizenry, education, even intermarriage; Some even practised integration to the point of apostasy! Judaism did not develop a clear mission to the Gentiles that had the conversion of the world as its goal. But many Gentiles converted to Judaism through many means, especially the good deeds of Jews.
According to Dunn, the four pillars of mainstream Judaism were monotheism, election, covenant focused in Torah, and Land Focused in the Temple. Besides these, I find some hints given by Paul in Phil. 3:5-6. In order to rebuke the Jews who emphasized circumcision, he listed his own "qualification as a pious Jew. "...in the flesh, I more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. Paul gave us four criteria: 1) circumcised and born as a Jew; 2) obedience to the law; 3) a zeal for the law; 4) legalistic righteousness. The first criterion was related to the flesh, while the other criteria were related to the law. Another clue for Jewishness might be the ability to speak in Hebrew, the Biblical Language. In Ac. 22:2, when Paul spoke in Hebrew (Ebraidi), the people kept quiet. Paul was accused of bringing Greeks into the temple area (Ac. 21.28.) The crowd became quiet because of the difficulty of the Hebrew  and more probably because of the nature of this language -- The language of the law! 
In summary, we get the following observations:
1) The Jews had two main tendencies towards the Gentile cultures, namely syncretism
and isolationism. The zealots and Herodism were good examples of these tendencies.
2) Monotheism was basic element of Judaism.
3) Torah -- the zeal for the law, observance, and using the Biblical language (Hebrew) were important signs. The righteousness received by obeying the law was also significant.
4) Circumcision -- related to the covenant of God, hence related to salvation
5) Born of a Jewish family (of Jewish father or mother.)
6) The Jews were the people of Israel, the people chosen by God.
7) Some other controversial views among the sects: the position of the Temple, resurrection (not accepted by Sadducees?) , the coming of the Prophets.
8) The Jews were influenced deeply by other cultures. Ignoring these influences, we could not understand the real life of the NT times.
As modern scholarship observed, early Judaism was a complex and variegated phenomena in cultural, social, and theological aspects. We will then try to illustrate some local distinctiveness in the following section B.
In Ac. 2:7-11, we had two clues:
1) There were many Jews around the World, except in the areas of the Greeks. The Jews spread among Parthian empire, Media, Elam, Mesopotamia (because of the Babylonian and Persian rule) , Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Cyrene, Rome (Roman rule, for political or commercial reasons) , Crete, and Arabia.
2) The people could identify the disciples as Galileans even when they were speaking their native languages. This might mean Galileans had some distinctive appearance. Besides, the Galileans had different accent in speech compared to the people living in Jerusalem (Mt. 26:73.) The reputation of Galilee seemed to be not good. Many Bandits and Messiahs came from Galilee, e.g. Galilean Cave Brigands (30s CE) and Menahem son of Judas the Galilean (c. 66 CE, a Messiah) . Jesus focus was on a rural setting, and Sepphoris (the "capital city in Galilee) was ignored. It might due to the fact that the city was a Hellenistic crossroad of lower Galilee, i.e. highly influenced by Hellenistic culture. It lay near to his home town Nazareth. Nazareth was seldom mentioned in the gospels, and only five times in Mark (1:9,24; 10:47; 14:67; 16:6) . Nathaniel's contempt for this village may be related to a common idea on Galilee (Jn. 1:46) . As in John 7:52, the Pharisees said, "Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee (NIV.)  It was also taken by the Jews as "Galilee of the Gentiles in Mt. 4:15. This negative image was not mentioned in Mark and Jesus never called himself a Nazarene, a prophet or a Galilean. But Galilee had a strong religious traditions related to the prophecy of the Isaiah.
There were diversity even inside Galilee. According to modern evacations, 65% of the inscriptions of the syngagues from Roman Palestine was in Greek, but paucity of inscriptions was in Greek from eastern upper Galilee and central lower Galilee. The later one was mostly in Hebrew. In early Roman period, the syngagues in lower Galilee and Golan, e.g. Herodium, Masada, Magdala, Gamala in Golan, were only simple structures for gathering. Only in later Roman period, they became complex in structure and functioned as both a religious instituition and civic center. These evidences suggested that the lower Galilee was more Hellenized while the upper and central Galilee were attached to Jewish (Hebrew) culture. But the whole Galilee was full of tombs inscribed with Greek and Greco-Roman deities distributed in southern border, Sepphoris, Banias, Tel Anafa in (western?) upper Galilee. High percentage of coins from Tyre and southern Syria, found in evacations on Gush Halav and Khirbet Shema, proved frequent economic and cultural interations in upper Galilee with these cities. Besides, the language used in the coins had shifted from Hebrew to Greek. John Hyrcamus used Hebrew, Alexander Yannai used both Hebrew and Greek, while Herod the Great used Greek only.
Politically speaking, the Galileans desired to liberate the Jews from the Romans while the ruling class in Jerusalem loved to stay status quo. The rulers, including the Sadducees were afraid of any popular movement. Jesus movement was untouched by them, until Jesus posed a threat to them (e.g. His "cleansing of the Temple.) The chief priests warned, "If we let him (Jesus) go on thus, every one will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation, (John 11:48-50.) In Acts 21:27-29, Paul was accused of leading a Gentile into the Temple and defiled it. When Paul defended himself in Hebrew, the people listened patiently until they learnt that he was sent to the Gentile (Acts 22:21-22.) The people in Jerusalem might tend to be Temple-centred and isolationists.
Stephen's attack on the Temple (Ac. 7:48-50) ,though backed by religious traditions, might reflect the position of some Jews in the Diaspora. The centrality of the temple was not totally accepted. The Jews stoned him not because of this, his direct accusations against them. Jesus cleansing of the Temple, which might be a symbolic judgment on the Temple, did not cause him a lot of problems. The Samaritans worshiped in Mt. Gerizim. They had their own version of Pentateuch. The Jews in Egypt near the first waterfall (today we call Aswan) had a temple. In their written materials, they joined the name of Yahweh (called by them as Yahu) with the gods of Cannaan (e.g. Anath-Yahu.) They practised syncretism,  and of course rejected the centrality of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Modern scholarships has progress on the understanding of the four sects described by Josephus: Pharisees, Essenes, Sadducees, and the "Fourth Philosophy. 
The Jews in NT times could be classified as follows:
a. High priests, priests, and levites
b. The patriarch and his court
c. Scribes, elders, rabbis, sages, members of the Sanhedrin
b. "Holy men, "magic men, charismatics, healers, exorcists, messiahs, etc.
c. Prophets 
3. Other Jews
a. The am haares and other "nonsectarian Jews
b. "Hellenistic Jews
4. "Semi-Jewish People 
Focusing on the sects beyond the Religious Establishment, we will discuss only categories 2- 4:
The Qumran texts and rabbinic texts revealed a new portrayal for us. If the Qumran text was of the Essenes, then the Essenes were not a monolithic sect or religious movement.It seemed to be very complex "movement: Charlesworth classified 4 different phenomena relating to the Essenes: the Proto-Essenes (early books of Enoch) , the Qumran Essenes, non-Qumran Essenes (living in Palestine other than Qumran) , not necessarily Essenes, but related groups of Jews (the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs; Therapeutae.) The Essenes stressed the important role of the temple priests and temple worship. Thus it was possible that Essenes were the priests who abhorred the rule of the High priest in the Jerusalem, but respected the temple cult. As Baumgarten concluded "Qumran did not offer sacrifices there and that they brought offerings to Jerusalem "when religious and political circumstances were favourable. The Essenes might be a spontaneous movement searching for a better worship, a way to express their faith. Therefore, different groups arisen from different places developed their own way of the Essenes, though they shared some basic thought. They might even interact with one another. Due to their independent origins, but were not an identical group, but related groups. Some Essenes might develop a powerful influence on the upper class of Jerusalem, so Josephus considered this sect.
As for the Pharisees, many questions were still unanswered: e.g. their history and practice, and the validity of the sources that refer to them. The Hasidim, as believed by earlier scholars relating also to the Essene, were again very enigmatic. We knew little about a specific "Hasidim party, its history, its beliefs, and its relationship to the Pharisees and the Essenes of Qumran. Hasidim seemed to be just a collective term for some specific people who join the Maccabean revolt, but they did not form an identifiable group. The anti-Hellenistic nature and their strict adherence to the law were substantial for the Hasidim. They started this kind of movement, but they were not well organised and the movement died. The Pharisees were the later dominant groups of a later movement. They accepted the oral and the written law; and emphasised purity (especially in table fellowship) . They were concerned with "separation from the uncleanness and especially from the unclean people of the Land. amme haarets and haberim ( conventicles, brotherhoods) might be some groups who advocate similar ideas as the Pharisees, but of some different origins and with small differences in doctrines and practices.
The Sadducees  were believed to be related to the priestly party, as Josephus claimed that the wealthy and the highest men supported this group. They were not supported by the masses, and some priests were Sadducees, but not all. Some Sadducees were only laymen.  They rejected resurrection and / or life after death and the oral law; also they hold a literalist interpretation of the law. The rabbinic texts usually told us that the Sadducees debate with the Pharisees over special topics like purity. The Sadducees struggled for political power against the Pharisees. Both parties strived for the acceptance of the rulers. The Sadducees were depicted by Josephus as "more heartless than any of the other Jews when they sit in judgement (Antiq. XX. 9:1) while the Pharisees as being "naturally lenient in the matter of punishments as compared to the Sadducees (Anitq. XIII. 10:6.) The Ancient Chinese Culture might give us a good analogy to analyze this picture. There were four main Philosophies in China, namely, Confucianism(¾§®a), Legalism, Taoism, and Buddhism. The first two were dominant philosophies which strived to give the attention of the rulers. Taoism and Buddhism were at first the folk religion. When they gained larger popular support, they emerged as a political sect in the court of the emperors (only in some dynasties.) The Confucianism(¾§®a) was like the Pharisees; appealed to the heart of men and winned the support of the intellectuals, the "middle class and even the populace. The Legalism did not believe in man's good nature; they relied on a good legal system. They gained support mainly from ruling class, especially the tyrants. When the strong rulers died, they lost their support. Similarly the Sadducees lost their influence after the fall of the Temple (including the ruling high priest.)
The Fourth Philosophy was mentioned only by Josephus. As I previously argued the fourth philosophy was not related to Judas the Galilean. The Zealots, proposed by Stern, were not identical to Sicarii and Sicarii were organised only late in the revolt.  The contrast between the two groups were as follows:
|1. directed by a group of priests in Jerusalem||1. originated in the north|
|2. not committed to any dynasty.||2. accepted the dynasty of Judas the Galilean|
|3. did not put their eschatological hopes in their leaders.||3. put their eschatological hopes in their leaders.|
In summary, we could see that the so-called four sects of Josephus may be only some famous sects in NT times. There were a lot of sects relating to them, or against them, or unrelated to them. It was a very complex picture. I propose that the Maccabean revolt, which starts an anti-Hellenism emphasis, ignited the rapid growth of sects in order to cope with the situation. Some Jews tended to reject Hellenism totally (though they were influenced by it) , some tended to use syncretism, and some tended to higher Hellenization (e.g. the High priests and higher officials) . This large spectrum of responses gave rise to a lot of spontaneous growth of different sects. Each one of them advocated different approaches, but some became dominant ones. For example, the Sadducees supporting the priests and government were the dominant group of this tendency.
Even inside the same sect, individual differences were also possible, e.g. the renowned differences between Hillel and Shammai. We will go on discuss this, focusing on Paul as an example in Section III.
Even inside the same sect, individual differences were also possible, e.g. the renowned differences between Hillel and Shammai. We will go on discuss this, focusing on Paul as an example in Section III.
The Identity of a Chinese in Hong Kong is ambivalent. We sometimes feel ashamed of being a Chinese, because China is a non-advanced nation and the Communist rule has made it a corrupted society and poor in economy. Though we have "British (oversea) as our nationality. We hate to admit it, only when it is useful. We may be proud of the ability to speak English, implying Hong Kong's internationality. However, when someone asks of our nationality, many people will say they are "Chinese, despite the nationality mentioned in their identity cards. We will also associate the villages of our parents or our grand-parents villages as our own "native places. Many of us still have a sense of going back to our home-land. So we call it mainland China. It is mainly of agricultural setting. Comparing to Hong Kong, it is still not advanced enough, so many people still look down upon the people coming from China. Of course, it has been improved in recent years as the people in the mainland have grown in wealth, knowledge and power.
Multiple languages and cultures co-exist in our lives in Hong Kong. We are forced to favour British English (the official language) in order to ascend in the ladder of the Hong Kong government and companies. Mandarin is not generally used in Hong Kong, but Cantonese is widely used. Native dialects are still widely used among the older people, sometimes even in the people under age 20. Mandarin is recently taught in high schools because of 1997 and dramatic growth in China Trade. Under the influence of foreign trade and political interactions, US English, Japanese, German, French, or even Italian are used by the people in Hong Kong. Of course, US English is most influential in Hong Kong, because of commercial, cultural (e.g. films) and political reasons.
Understanding Chinese Philosophy and born of Chinese blood (counting the men sides) are signs of being a Chinese. Though we may be Western minded in legal understanding, commercial practices, and life-styles. We still embrace the Chinese way of thinking. For example, a Chinese tends to keep first priority on personal relationship. We will try not to make other people "losing their faces. In marriage customs, we observe both the Western and Chinese styles.
The Jews in Paul's times might feel the non-advanced state of Palestine as shame. Some of them try to modernise it by introducing Hellenism. They, including the kings and the high priests, gradually introduced Greek culture in their reign, e.g. the use of Greek in the coins. Many Jews were able to speak in Greek, but they also preserved their native tongues, as seen in Acts 2:7-11. They called themselves Jews and went back to Jerusalem to worship Yahweh. They might have a strong feeling to go back to Palestine, but would not actualise it because of their deep roots in the foreign lands. Since economic and political situations were different, they might look down upon the poor states. For example, Jerusalem had grown in wealth because of the pilgrims, commercial, industrial, geographical and political reasons. However, it was a highland city, always short of water and of raw materials for industry. This unfavourable position for trade and commerce had resulted in a very high cost of living in Jerusalem. Besides, Jerusalem was not a big city. About 55,000 persons lived in it, and 125,000 pilgrims during the Passover festival. Galilee, especially the lower Galilee including Nazareth, might be despised by the others because of its Hellenistic tendency and mostly in rural setting. In contrast to the nationalistic and isolationistic tendency of the people in Jerusalem, it was not a piety region and comparatively poorer in economy.
Multiple languages and cultures existed in the lives of the Jews, even in Palestine. The written notice above Jesus in Crucifixion, only in Jn. 19:19-20, used three languages: Aramaic, Latin, and Greek [(NIV) Lk 23:38; Mt. 27:37; Mk. 15:25.] When the priests protested against the use of the term "the king of the Jews, it might mean they understand the languages. They might know Latin also. Since Latin was mentioned in the gospels, there existed some disciples who understand Latin. If not, the gospels might only mention the two languages and "the unknown language, probably Latin. The uses of Greek and Aramaic among the disciples are common. Greek was as an international language and native dialects
were also used by the people. The Babylonian Aramaic and Palestinian Aramaic were different. Since they were easily recognised, the Galilean dialect was also different from the tongue used by a person from Jerusalem.
The emphasis on the zeal for the Law was a key of Judaism. It was similar to the importance of Chinese philosophy and customs of the Chinese. According to Acts, Paul pratised Jewish customs. Before he was proud of his Jewish training as a zealous Pharisee, as seen in Galatians. He used Jewish methods of interpreting the Torah. He also emphasized that he was born of Hebrew blood (Phil. 3:5.) On the other hand, he used ideas similar to his contemporary Greek Philosophers who aimed at moral reformation, especially Cynics and Epicureans.  Paul had strived to avoid the Thessalonians to adopt Cynic way of life that was morally and socially irresponsible. In contrast, Paul formed and nurtured a community that supported one another, rejected idleness (2 Thess. 3:6-15), and responded to the larger society.  In Areopagus, Paul used quotations from Hellenistic philosophers to convince his audience. All these showed that Paul lived with a combination of Hellenistic and Jewish culture.
Paul was trained in a Jewish Pharisaic school with a good elementary training. His father was a Roman citizen with a relatively high social status. He spoke Greek at home and was familiar with the LXX more than the Hebrew Bible. He joined the Pharisaic school in Jerusalem when he was an adolescent.  He joined the Greek-speaking synagogues in Jerusalem where he learnt Jewish-Greek rhetoric aimed at synagogue preaching which was essentially different from the literary style of the Greek schools. It's why he had a conflict with the so-called Hellenists in Christian groups. He opposed them and planned to prosecute the Hellenists groups in Damascus. But in the way to Damascus, He saw a vision which changed his views. He reversed his Jewish Theology and made the so-called Christian Theology which stressed salvation through grace by faith, not by the works or the law.
It was a striking fact that Paul treated it as his commissioning rather than as a conversion. As John Knox described: for Paul
its major significance lay in the fact that the experience made him a witness of the Resurrection and thus qualified him to be an apostle (referring to 1 Cor. 9:1, 15:8 and Gal. 1:11-17) . But he never cited it as the explanation (although it was undoubtedly the occasion) of his Christian life.
In addition to this, Paul understood his commissioning from the first as having the Gentiles in view. This was clearly shown in the Galatians 1:15-16. It said, "But when God, who set me apart from birth, and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, .. Paul also treated this as a special kind of conversion. In Gal. 1:23, he used a conversion formula, "before (pote) ...but now (nun) . Note that he was not converted from non-believer into a believer, but a persecutor, who believed in God and had a zeal for the law, into a apostle of Christ. He was converted from hatredness on the heresy of Jesus into the love of Jesus Christ, his God. As he said, "He who once prosecuted us was now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy. Hence, Paul was liberated from the bondage of the Law that blinded his eyes to Jesus Christ. He also treated it as a Christophany, in contrast to the Theophany in the Old Testament. In 1 Cor. 9:1, he said, "... I not seen (heoraka) Jesus our Lord?... Paul clearly took the vision as direct encounter with Jesus. And in 1 Cor. 15:8, he wrote, "...and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born (to ektromati) . Though he was not with the Lord for a long time, but he was suddenly taken as an apostle. Paul had combined three perspectives to describe the Damascus Event:
Conversion Called as a Prophet (by means of Christophany)
Darkness -------------------------------------> Light-------------------------------------------------> Commission
from the bondage of the Law, || from the zeal for the law and the Jews,
to freedom of the grace || to the mission to the Gentiles
When and how he changed his thought were important issues.
Seyon Kim suggested an immediate change of Paul's thought, and E. P. Sanders suggested that Paul made this change only after 10 years when he wrote the Epistle to the Galatians. It was possible that Paul changed some of his thought immediate after the Event, but it was impossible for Paul to reformulate his whole set of thought without a long time for reflection. This was implicitly stated in Gal. 1:17, "...but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus. Note that this was immediately after the Damascus Event. Sanders suggestion went to another extreme, because it was unlikely for Paul, a strict Pharisee, to reformulate his thought only after 10 years under the stimuli of the Galatians challenge. I suggested that the Damascus Event totally undermined Paul's whole set of thought, he was forced to re-think his own system of thought. His change of his thought was suggested as follows:
Old Testament Salvation Dilemma
One God 1. Renewal by Holy Spirit 1. Flesh.
2. Justification + Forgiveness 2. Men commit sins-->God's wrath
The Law 3. Faith + Grace 3. The Law blocks sins
(personalized => Justification through Grace [The Law was the Grace of God.]
as the Wisdom) 4. Deliverance + Redemption 4. Powers of Sin-> God abandons
God's people 5. New Life = Eternal Life 5. Death = Eternal Death (The covenant) [The vicarious Death of Christ ==> Soteriology]
Three things were controversial for the Contemporary Jews:
1. Paul's claim for apostleship, by means of the Vision, was not a legitimate one.
2. His re-definition of the signs of God's people was revolutionary.
3. The role of the Law been played down due to the influence of Sin. The Law, according to Paul, been superseded by Christ (Rom. 3:21) .
Due to these great differences, many oppositions to Paul could be traced in the NT corpus.
We will discuss these problems in the following section C "The Missionary Paul.
Paul's relationship with the Jewish Christians was dominated by so-called anti-Paulinism found in the New Testament. Two main incidents reflected the anti-Paulinism attitude: the Jerusalem conference and the Antioch incident. According to the sequence of Galatians, the former conference preceded the later incident.
The issue in the Jerusalem Conference was whether the Gentile Christians must be circumcised as a prerequisite to membership in the Christian community (Gal. 2:3) . This was certainly not practised in Paul's mission field. The demand was made even in Antioch where some "false brethren (Gal. 2:4) had already advocated it. There seemed to been two proceedings. The First one took place in the assembly of the whole congregation (Gal. 2:2a.) The second one took place within the limited circle of distinguished leaders, the "pillars (Gal. 2:2b, 6ff.)  It was probable that the first proceeding was not successful to settle their dispute, and the leaders of both sides were forced to deal privately in order to minimise the possibility of schism. The following questions were important:
(a) Who supported "the circumcision group and why did they support it?
(b) Why did Paul take Titus, an uncircumcised Greek, with him? What were the position and significance of Titus?
(c) What was the result and consequence of the meeting?
The "pillars might in the beginning favour the idea of "the circumcised group and gradually changed their own ideas. I suggested that the three apostles might different tendencies too. James tended to be more conservative, while Peter tended to accept new ideas (but not holding it firmly), and John was the silent one who sought for compromise. For the Jews, circumcision was essential for the Jews because it was a sign of the covenant between God and the elect. If they did not practise this, they could not belong to Him and not keeping the Law! Therefore it was essential for man who wanted to be saved (Acts 15:1.)  Since it violated the basic requirements of God's people, they urged the Gentile Christians to observe it. Paul held that circumcision was the main stumbling block for the Gentiles, and the Spirit was the seal of God's people, not circumcision. As for the role of the Law, Paul had played it down by emphasising grace through faith (Rom. 3:21-24.) It might be the main issue: the primacy of the Law or grace through faith in saving people.
In Gal. 2:3, Paul said, "Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. Obviously, Paul intentionally took Titus with him to the meeting and cited this as a proof of the triumph of his position. Titus might be a distinguished Gentile leader of Antioch and he represented the position of the Gentile Christians in Antioch. If his position was rejected, then there might be a schism between Antioch and Jerusalem.
Even though Paul's position seemed to be inadequate in the eyes of the Jewish Christians, since the Gentiles did not obey the whole Law. However it would be better to make some compromise to win these converts, because it creates centres for the gospel which could receive the representatives from Jerusalem. Certainly the result was a compromise between two positions: In Gal. 2:9, the mission field was divided into allotments, and the use of eis ta eqnh and eis ten peritomen seemed to be ethnographic. It meant that the Jewish Christians who lived with the Gentiles in Paul's mission fields, had to comply with the Law, simply because they were Jews. In regard of their living places, Jews were to obey the Law disregard of any other reasons, including Paul's new interpretation! The apostleship of Paul not been accepted. In parallel comparison of Peter and Paul in Gal. 2:8, Paul's apostleship not been mentioned by Paul himself! Though it was in Paul's consciousness (Gal. 1:16) and it was essential for the support of his position. According to Acts 15:19-21, some dietary laws and Sabbath (assumed in v.21) were necessary for the Gentile Christians. Hence, Jewish ideas of God's People (circumcision, dietary laws, and Sabbath) were essential too! It seemed only the circumcision was withheld. The Jewish Christians might convince the Gentile Christians later. If the reconstruction was correct, it could explain why the Antioch incident happened.
In the Antioch incident, the Jewish Christians were used to eat together with Gentile Christians. When some men came from James went to Antioch, Peter and Barnabas separate from the Gentile in fear of the circumcision group (Gal. 2:11-13.) Paul was angry and scolded Peter openly (Gal. 2:14.) As Paul continued to argue in Gal. 2:15-21, after description of this event, the main issue was observing the law as a mean of justification. This was to say the problem in Jerusalem Council rose again. James D. G. Dunn had reminded us of the significance of the background in interpreting this incident. At this stage, the Jewish Christians still looked at themselves as Jews within the Judaism (a form of eschatological and messianic Judaism.) The primacy and authority of the apostles in Jerusalem were widely accepted among Christians in the whole world. The political situation was deteriorating. Stephen's death had revealed the pressure of keeping the Christians within the acceptable boundary of Judaism. The interpretation of Gal. 2:14-15 was fundamental to the explanation of the cause of the conflict. There were at least three alternatives, but the third one seemed to be more convincing. It held that "the Gentile Christians already observing the basic food law prescribed by the Torah; in their table-fellowship with the Jewish believers, in particular, pork was not used, and when meat was served care had been taken to ensure the beast had been properly slaughtered. In this case what the men from James would called for was a much more scrupulous observance of the rulings on what the dietary laws involved, especially with regard to ritual purity and tithing. It fitted Paul's charge that Peter by his action was compelling the Gentile believers to judaize. Besides, the "decree of the Jerusalem Council had been carried out, but the demand for full compliance with the Law was still working among the Jewish Christians (sometimes they were called Judaizers.) It meant the compromise position of the Jerusalem Council had not been a successful one. The core issue at stake was "On what conditions were the Gentiles to be allowed into the community? It was unsolved by the meeting and led to further conflicts not only in Antioch, but even the following years in Paul's mission.
We have surveyed the cultural interactions in the Jewish history. In Paul's times, the Jews were living in a multi-cultural setting. Their Jewish identities were ambivalent. They mingled Hellenistic and Jewish cultures and customs in their daily life. Local distinctiveness was also evidenced. The differences between Hellenistic and Palestinian Judaism were actually a local distinctiveness, rather than innate contrast between Judaism and Hellenism. The people in Jerusalem tended to be nationalistic, isolationistic, and Temple-centred. The Galileans were more Hellenized in the lower Galilee, while the upper and central Galilee embraced Hebrew culture. The Galileans strived for independence from the Romans, but the leaders in Jerusalem tended to remain status quo. The diversity of sects in Palestine reminded us the broad spectrum of positions on Torah. The Christians might also have great diversity among them. Paul, as an individual, had his own interpretation on the traditions received. He had changed from a Law-centred understanding into a Christo-centred interpretation. He also abandoned the limitations posed by the Law on the Gentile. This revolutionary interpretation enraged the pious Pharisaic Christians who thought he was heretic. They opposed him and made some compromise under the help of "the three apostles. It was not successful and ended in long time struggle between their positions and that of Paul, even down to the time of Irenaeus.
In order to ease the listing of full name of the books in the footnote, I will use author's name only. In case of an author who had written more that one book used in this study. I will use the first name of the book to denote it. For example, R.A. Horsley's Bandits, Prophets, and Messiahs: Popular Movements at the Time of Jesus will be donated by "Horsley, Bandits, in footnotes.
One exception was the following edited work:
JPT Bammel, Ernst and Moule, C.F. E. ed. Jesus and the Politics of his Day.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.
For primary sources, I will use the abbreviated name of the book. For example, Josephus works will be abbreviated as follows:
War. The Wars of the Jews
Dictionaries and Encyclopaedia are abbreviated as follows:
Bauer Bauer, Walter ed. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, tr. by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich. second edition. Chicago and London: University of Chicago, 1979.
ABD Freedman, D. N. editor-in-chief. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 1-6. New York, London, Toronto, Sydney and Auckland: Doubleday, 1992.
ZPEB Tenney, M. C. gen. ed. The Zondervan Pictorical Encyclopaedia of the Bible. Vol. 1-5. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976.