Ekkehard Stegemann has published a very fine essay titled Did Something Go Wrong in the Beginning? both in ASE 29/1 (2012) 7-19 (which just appeared) and in the volume previously mentioned (which I’m reviewing) titled Der Römerbrief: Brennpunkte der Rezeption.
Did something go wrong in the beginning – and, we must add, since when, and just why? It is obviously an apocalyptic myth or a messianic dream that inspired Paul and Jesus, as it did other witnesses after Paul. Krister Stendahl’s honorable search, however, for an alternative to or a disarmament of the shameful anti-Jewish self-definitions of Christianity will in the end – I believe – not really reach its goal if restricts itself only to a better and more insightful interpretation of Paul and the New Testament. Paul’s apocalyptic framework is not repeatable. What went wrong, I think, is that the necessary shift from an apocalyptic self-definition through dramatizing the present as the end of time to a post-eschatological self-definition, which acknowledges the ongoing process of the old theatre of the world, armed itself with the weapon of superiority-claims and blamed the Jews. Although we must protect Paul from interpretations which legitimate racism and supremacy, we have to admit that we are responsible for our mental and political attitude, and therefore cannot hide or creep away from the teaching of contempt only by appealing to a better understanding of Paul. But, of course, a better understanding helps.
Joel and others interested n the subject of early Christianity ought to read it.