'And Abraham believed'. Paul, James, and the Gentiles


  • Magnus Zetterholm Lund University


Christianity and Judaism, Bible, Old Testament -- Criticism, interpretation, Jewish, Gentiles, Midrash, Rabbinic literature, Group identity, Paul, Saint, Apostle, Bible, James, Covenant


The New Testament is basically a collection of Jewish texts written during a period when the Jesus movement was still part of the diverse Judaism of the first century. Therefore we should expect to find examples of rabbinic biblical interpretation in the New Testament. This article suggests that the apostle Paul used midrash to create an interpretation of Gen 15:6 that allowed Gentiles to be included into the covenant without prior conversion to Judaism (Romans 4:1-12). It is argued that James, the brother of Jesus, in his interpretation of the same verse (James 2:14-24) also used midrash in order to create an interpretation that contradicted that of Paul. It is likely that this reflects an intra-Jewish debate concerning the salvation of the Gentiles. While the majority of Jews within the Jesus movement neither seem to have agreed that Gentiles were not to become Jews, nor were they obliged to observe the Torah, Paul’s solution of including the Gentiles into the covenant may have been perceived as a threat to Jewish ethnic and religious identity.



How to Cite

Zetterholm, M. (2003). ’And Abraham believed’. Paul, James, and the Gentiles. Nordisk judaistik/Scandinavian Jewish Studies, 24(1-2), 109–122. https://doi.org/10.30752/nj.69602