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Paul's theology of grace has been “perfected” (drawn to an end-of-the-line extreme) in many different ways during its history of reception, as super-abundant gift, prior gift, gift to the unworthy, gift without return, etc., often with the consequence that Judaism is figured as a grace-less religion. If we distinguish and disaggregate the many possible meanings of “grace,” we find in Second Temple Judaism not a single or simple concept, but a variety of distinct voices, and even debate, concerning the construal of divine beneficence. Paul does not stand apart from Judaism, but in the midst of this debate. The hallmark of his theology is the interpretation of the Christ-event as an incongruous divine gift (given without regard for worth) – a notion developed in and for his mission to the Gentiles. Judging from experience that the Torah is not how God evaluates worth, Paul locates the believers' symbolic capital only in Christ, with socially radical consequences from which we could still take inspiration today.


Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry

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Journal Article

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