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Delio DelRio: Paul and the Synagogue

Delio DelRio, Paul and the Synagogue: Romans and the Isaiah Targum (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2013), 156 pages.

This book explores how insights from the field of Targumic studies can help us understand some of Paul’s exegetical moves in Romans. It takes the form of an analysis of Paul’s use of Isaiah.

DelRio was a student of Bruce Chilton (who contributes a foreword), and he describes his method as “an augment of Chilton’s approach” (p. 20). He lists three goals for his study: (1) “to establish the literary boundaries of the unit that contains the Isaiah text cited by Paul in Romans”, (2) “to analyze each Isaiah citation within its literary unit in order to establish an exegetical interpretation”, and (3) “to observe and identify the presence, if any, of either particularism or inclusivism within the unit” (p. 28).

DelRio mines Isaiah chaps. 1, 8, 10-11, 27-29, 45, 52-53, 59, and 65, first in their pre-Targumic shape, for indications of inclusivism and particularism with respect to YHWH’s dealings with Israel vis-à-vis the nations. Then he repeats the analysis for the Targumic versions of these chapters, noting, on every hand, a heightening and/or clarification of the particularistic aspect of Isaiah’s stance, together with an increased presence of messianology. DelRio then turns to the text of Romans, where he finds Paul taking a stance, with respect to the inclusivism/particularism question, opposite to that of the targumist. Then sets things up for the question fielded in chap. 5, of whether there is a sort of “intertextual dialogue” going on between Paul’s inclusive Christian reading of Isaiah and an opposing ideology as he might have encountered it in the synagogue. (This assumes that the overt glosses of the Targum began life as the discourse of the synagogue, which seems rather likely.)

Overall this book was a joy to read. DelRio’s analysis never seems forced or risky with respect to the chronology of the Targum. I recommend it for students of Paul and for those wanting to understand the value of Targum studies.

Reviewed by John Poirier


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Category: In Depth, Winter 2016

About the Author: John C. Poirier, Th.M. (Duke Divinity), D.H.L. (Jewish Theological Seminary), is an independent scholar who has published numerous articles on a wide range of topics. He is the author of The Invention of the Inspired Text: Philological Windows on the Theopneustia of Scripture (2021).

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