Rabbi Joshua Garroway will discuss the Apostle Paul
Temple Har Shalom event is open to the public
Rabbi Joshua Garroway is often asked why he would choose to get a Ph.D. from Yale in Religious Studies, with an emphasis on the New Testament.
“I jokingly respond, ‘If you have a lot of money and are willing to give it to me so I can sit on a couch with a psycho analyst for a week, I might be able to figure what it is that drew me to this direction,’” Garroway, who serves as Associate Professor of Early Christianity and the Second Commonwealth at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, said during a telephone interview with The Park Record from his office. “It is funny how someone will go to college and take a course in French and fall in love with it so much they major in it, but no one will ask them why would you become a French major.
“But somehow it’s odd that a Jewish kid would go to college and find first century history fascinating and want to study early Christianity. But when you find something interesting, you just have to go with it.”
Garroway, the author of “Paul’s Gentile-Jews: Neither Jew nor Gentile, but Both,” will talk about his studies in a presentation tiled “Is the Apostle Paul a First Century Reformed Jew?” at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, July 14, at Temple Har Shalom, 3700 Brookside Court. The event is free and open to the public.
“This is a topic that I have started to write and talk about quite often, and it stems from a number of people asking me over the last decade why a reformed Jewish rabbi has chosen, of all areas of concentration and scholarship, to pursue the Apostle Paul, because historically the Apostle Paul has seemed so anti-Jewish, because of a number of things he says in his Epistles,” Garroway said. “But there has actually been a big change in the scholarship regarding the Apostle Paul in the last 40 years.”
Many scholars have started seeing Paul as a Jewish figure, much like they have been changing their views about Jesus Christ, Garroway said.
“In the past 100 years, scholars have begun to acknowledge that Jesus was a Jewish man of the first century who thought and spoke within the context of a Jewish environment,” he added. “In the past few decades, there have been a lot of questions about how one goes about seeing Paul as a Jew. And my argument, as it has started to become, is that the experience of reformed Jews in Europe and America in the 19th century might well be a nice analogy of what Paul was experiencing as a Jew in a first century.”
Between 1810 and 1820, some leaders of the reform movement began to discard traditions and ritual, according to the Jewish Virtual Library (www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org).
“Some congregations in Seesen, Hamburg and Berlin instituted fundamental changes in traditional Jewish practices and beliefs, such as mixed seating, single-day observance of festivals and the use of a cantor/choir,” according to the website.
Garroway said just as 19th century Jews experienced a world-shattering experience in enlightenment and emancipation that made them fundamentally rethink what it means to be Jewish in the modern world, Paul had a similar life-changing moment.
“For him, it was his conviction that he had experienced Jesus of Nazareth risen from the dead,” Garroway said. “Now, while I don’t really believe that happened, he believed he did. And he tried really hard to figure out the implications of that event.”
Garroway’s studies suggest the experience led the Apostle to think Judaism was still correct, but it needed to be dramatically transformed, which was what Jews of the 19th century felt.
“The way they wanted to transform Judaism was similar,” he said. “They wanted to find a new expression of Judaism that transcends observance of the commandments of the Torah. So, thinking about Paul in that sense is very compelling. That’s what I’ll be talking about.”
Temple Har Shalom Rabbi David Levinsky, who attended rabbinical school with Garroway, said he is looking forward to the presentation.
“This is an academic interest of mine as well,” Levinsky said. “My Ph.D. was in rabbinic text, and I also learned Syriac and Greek. So, I did some work with this as well. but not to the extent of what Josh has done.”
Garroway is coming to Temple Har Shalom to be its scholar in residence, Levinsky said.
“The idea of having a scholar in residence is that there are a lot of people in the state of Utah who are religious, but there aren’t a lot of people in the state of Utah that understand the academic approach to the study of religion,” he said. “Scholars bring in a different perspective on something important to the state’s culture.
“We started a tradition to have a scholar in residence at Temple Har Shalom and this year I thought it would be nice if we had someone who would be of interest in the broader community as well,and not just the Jewish community. That’s why I picked Josh.”
Levinsky and Garroway met in rabbinical school in Ohio.
“We’re both rabbis who went on to get Ph.D.s, which isn’t that common,” Levinsky said. “And he’s even more uncommon because he’s one of the very few rabbis in the world to have a Ph.D. in the New Testament.”
Garroway said he enjoys giving presentations such as the one he will do at Temple Har Shalom.
“I went to college as a curious kid who wanted to know about the religions of the world and ancient history and took a number of courses,” Garroway said. “I took Roman history. I took courses on the New Testament with a wonderful professor named Dale Martin, who would eventually become my doctoral advisor. I found the material interesting and the professors compelling.
“When I was done with college, I decided I wanted to pursue a career in the rabbinate, but my academic interests in first-century Jewish religiosity and the rise of Christianity never went away. When I finished rabbinical school, that was the field that seemed like the right fit.”
Rabbi Joshua Garroway will present “Was the Apostle Paul a First Century Reformed Jew?” at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, July 14, at Temple Har Shalom, 3700 Brookside Court. The event is free and open to the public. For information, visit http://www.templeharshalomparkcity.org.
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