Paul The Jewish Theologian, by Brad H. Young
Hendricksen Publishers, 1997.
A book has recently come to my attention which I wish I had read ten years ago!
Brad Young, author of Jesus The Jewish Theologian has written a companion volume
on Paul. I met Brad thirty-five years ago when we were both students at the Institute of
Holy Land Studies (now the Jerusalem University College). We spent the last two
weeks of the summer of 1973 excavating at Tel Qasile, a Philistine city on the Yarkon
River just north of Tel Aviv. Although he has always been Young, we were both a lot
younger then when we were both at the beginning of our academic careers. Brad has
gone on to accomplish much in research and writing. I have appreciated his earlier
book on Jesus and am happy to recommend this book on Paul as well.
What Young does so well in this book is to show that Paul was a Jewish
theologian who embraced Jesus as Israel’s promised Messiah but never left his Jewish
faith and theology. Young carefully demonstrates through his use of Paul’s writings,
coupled with references to rabbinic resources, that Paul’s view of the Torah was always
positive. He shows that Paul did not cancel the Law and that at a believer in Jesus he
was never opposed to the observance of Torah.
Young points out that Romans 10:4 has been improperly translated and
misunderstood. He demonstrates that the Greek word telos translated “end” is better
understood in its wider meaning, “goal” or “purpose.” Where as “end” suggests that the
law has been canceled, whereas Paul understood that the coming of Christ is the goal
or purpose of the law–the “climax of salvation history” (p. 31).
It has been a long time since I have read such a positive treatise on the law, a
viewpoint which I fully endorse. One cannot read the Torah or the Psalms and come
away with a low opinion on God’s “instruction” (torah).
My only dissatisfaction with Young’s book was in chapter five where he
discusses grace and faith in Paul’s message. There he writes that popular Christian
theology, “especially that of the dispensationalists,” maintain that the divine character
was transformed from a God of legalism and law in the Old Testament into the God of
grace and love in the New. Having studied at two dispensational schools (Western
Seminary and Dallas Theological Seminary), I know this is not the case. Never was this
taught by any of my professors and I have never read this view in any of the
dispensational theologies. Dispensationalists like myself believe that the God of both
testaments is the same God of grace and truth and that the means of salvation was
always by grace and through faith.
I highly recommend Brad Young’s book and plan to use it in my New Testament
class which I will be teaching next year. I want my students to understand that Paul, like
Jesus, lived and died an observant Jew. He taught that commandments of the law are
“holy, righteous and good” (Romans 7:12) and that the righteousness of the law can be
fulfilled in believers through the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:4).