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The vocational dimension of Jewish identity in the New Testament

This is what I mean by the vocational dimension of Jewish identity in my book:
Paul and the Vocation of Israel: How Paul's Jewish Identity Informs his Apostolic Ministry, with Special Reference to Romans

Our investigation of Paul’s Jewish identity in this book will focus on an important, yet often neglected, perspective on first-century Jewish identity: vocation. In using the term “vocation,” we are referring to the notion that the distinct existence and concrete practice of Jewish people stems from a special divine intention, an intention which can imply a particular divine role for Jews in relation to non-Jews. (p.9)

This vocational aspect of Jewish identity cuts across the grain of an assumption that is sometimes made by Pauline scholars—the assumption that Jewish identity is simply another way of speaking about the boundaries of salvation. Being Jewish, in this view, is seen as equivalent to being “saved.”1 (pp. 13-14)

We are contending that Paul did not conceive of the distinct value of Jewishness principally in terms of salvation, but rather in terms of a special vocation arising from their possession of a unique divine revelation (the Law, or the Scriptures more generally). For many other Jews in Paul’s context, a careful distinction between vocation and salvation would have been largely irrelevant, since Israel’s response to divine revelation (particularly the Law-revelation) was often thought to lead to salvation in a fairly straightforward manner. For our purposes, however, it is important to distinguish soteriological and vocational elements in Paul’s discussions of Jewish identity. This is because Paul views the relationship between salvation and the Law as contentious and problematic. For Paul, the possibility that Jews, by virtue of receiving and responding to the Law, may achieve God’s purposes in the world but may not thereby receive God’s salvation is a topic of intense discussion. This is particularly true when it comes to Paul’s letter to the Romans. (pp. 14-15).

Windsor, Lionel J. Paul and the Vocation of Israel: How Paul’s Jewish Identity Informs his Apostolic Ministry, with Special Reference to Romans. BZNW 205. Berlin / Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2014. Pp. 9, 13-15.

  1. See the classic expression of “covenantal nomism” in Sanders, 1977. Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion (London: SCM, 1977), pp. 422–423: “All those who are maintained in the covenant  . . . belong to the group that will be saved.”
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