Jew, Greek and Christian: Some Reflections on the Pauline Revolution

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Rémi Brague


Paul of Tarsus addresses a central human problem: Why do we not do what we know we should? This presumes that we know what we should do. Paul’s claim that even those without the revealed law know what is right by means of “nature” and “conscience” may seem to impose Greek notions onto Hebrew religion, but in fact articulates suggestions already present in the law and prophets, namely that the revealed law codifies and concretizes the law already written on the human heart by the Creator. Since this core of universal principles lacks specific normative content, Pauline Christianity necessarily seeks to absorb what is good from the content of existing civilizations. In so doing, it separates the literature, thought and practices of the civilizations it absorbs from their religion, thus giving birth to the very notion of “culture,” and specifically to Greekness as a cultural entity that could be preserved and passed on without losing its otherness.

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