Why is Paul a loyal and practicing Jew in the Book of Acts, but an enemy of the Law in his Epistles?

Apostle Paul (494-495 AD), mosaic in ceiling, Archiepiscopal oratory chapel of St. Andrew, Ravenna, Italy
Apostle Paul (494-495 AD), ceiling mosaic
 Archiepiscopal Chapel of St. Andrew (oratory), Ravenna, Italy

Copied fromRejection of Pascal’s Wager

In Acts, although Paul is the great missionary to the Gentiles he is also presented as a loyal and practicing Jew. Phillip Vielhauer summarise this portrayal of Paul with eight examples.: [12]

  1. Paul’s missionary in a new location often begins with preaching at the synagogues (Acts 13:14, 14:1, 17:1, 17:10, 17:17, 18:4, 18:19, 19:8)
  2. He submitted to the Jerusalem authorities (Acts 9:26, 15:2)
  3. He had Timothy circumcised (Acts 16:3)
  4. He preached the apostolic decree (Acts 16:4)
  5. He assumed a vow (Acts 18:18)
  6. He made trips to Jerusalem for Jewish religious festivals (Acts 18:21, 20:16)
  7. He participated, on the advice of James, in a Nazirite vow (Acts 21:18-28)
  8. He stressed his Pharisee credentials during his trial and asserted that he preaches merely the “resurrection”; something the Pharisees already believed (Acts 23:6-8, 26:2-5)

Some of the above could well be historical (1, 7), some (2, 3, 4 and 8) most definitely not. The point is that Luke weaved them together into a coherent picture of Paul’s positive attitude towards the law and his continued adherence to it.

Yet the historical Paul, on many occasions, shows his disdain for the law and those who followed it. I quote from Bornkamm:

The real Paul was completely different from this. Philippians in particular shows how he abandoned his former Pharisaic zeal for righteousness based on the Law and counted everything as “loss” and “refuse”, finding salvation solely in faith in Christ. [Philippians 3:5-9] [13]

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