A commonly misunderstood belief, mentioned in the Pentateuch, which was the target of Paul's indignation was that of the Chosen People. Paul and many Christians after him resented and misrepresented Jews because of their mistaken interpretation of the phrase which they imputed to Jews. Paul expressed hostility by accusing Jews of bragging about their "relationship to God" and "about the Law" in both Rom. 2:17 and 2:23:
Rom 2:17 17 Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, (KJV)
Rom 2:23 23 Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? (KJV)
His anger over the boastfulness he attributed to them reached such a pitch that he lost sight of his original accusation: he expanded his charges to include, robbery, adultery, and idolatry as seen in Rom. 2:21-22.
Rom 2:21-22 21 Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? 22 Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? (KJV)
What the Christian needs to understand is that Paul's real attack on Judaism was against the covenant (E. P. Sanders, Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People, p. 47). As John Townsend succinctly put it, "In the Pauline epistles Jewish election had become meaningless" (John Townsend, article, "The Gospel of John and the Jews,' p. 75).
As a consequence of accepting the Torah and the responsibilities which its laws imposed on them, Israel saw itself in a special relationship to God Who had presented the Law to them through Moses. Exactly how the commandments were transmitted to Moses, whether through direct dictation or inspiration is, of course, unknown, and its explanation depends on one's religious orientation. There are those who consider the ability to assemble such a body of rules governing human behavior, the talent to convey them to others, and the charisma to persuade a whole nation to accept them, a result of genius, which, in itself, is viewed as God-given.
Whichever way the Law came to the Hebrews at Sinai, there is no doubt that it has been seen by its believers as sacred, binding, and an integral part of the covenant between God and Israel. The sticking point for some non-Jews is the conviction that Jews consider themselves superior because they were chosen by God. Chosenness, however, works both ways. It is not only a case of God choosing Israel but of the latter accepting God and Torah as their Lord and Law. The story is told in the Midrash of God offering the Torah to several nations, all of whom refused it. Only Israel accepted it without even asking its contents. Israel had such faith in its divine source that the nation did not inquire about its contents. This is the ultimate in faith. By accepting the Law, Israel incurred the obligation to abide by and be loyal to it. And, as with any contract, the people were held accountable. They were obliged to live up to a high standard of morality or lose that particular closeness and connection with God which was implicit in the covenant. The promise imposed a responsibility to perform. The fulfillment provided the other half of the agreement: God's acceptance of them as His people. The special relationship which Torah-oriented Jews feel toward God is based on the phrase, "1 will take you to Me for a people and I will be to you a God" (EX 6:7). This does not exclude other people from joining that covenant nor does it exclude the righteous outside the covenant from salvation.
Like so many aspects of life, being part of the Chosen People has a trade-off. The burden of taking on certain obligations also brings rewards. In this case, it is the satisfaction of living up to a divinely-mandated duty. This is a far cry from boastfulness. Bragging is not usually found among people trying to behave according to a set of ethical principles. However, there is no contradiction that people take a justifiable pride in achieving certain goals or in living up to certain standards. The pride lies in adhering to the Torah rather than in the selection to do so.
Chosenness, thus, is more a mark of responsibility than of favor.
While there is no reason to boast, neither is there cause to hide the gratification which comes from receiving this God-conferred gift and obeying it. Actually, the people were accepted because they promised to follow the commands. This, then, was the basis of chosenness.
If there was a feeling of superiority, it was to the idolatrous ideas of pagans. Christians affected this attitude and developed it to a high degree through their proselytizing activities among "non-believers." Following Paul's example, his religious heirs established missions all over the world, in an effort to convert the heathens and relieve them of their idolatry. Nor did they stop at pagans. Again, conforming to Paul's mode of operation, as in 1 COR 9:20 and in Acts, Christians have engaged in widespread efforts to convert all people including monotheists, such as Jews and Moslems, to their faith which they judge to be superior to all other religions. E.P. Sanders, in his Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People, relates on page 198, that "Paul was trying to bring the Jews into the Gentile fold. He did not engage in a thoroughly Jewish task of bringing the Gentiles into the Jewish people of God as the Covenants of the Old Testament indicate. This was Paul's fatal mistake and the tragic fruit of such disobedience is with us today as seen in the many paganistic practices involved in Gentile Christianity. This tragic error is magnified when a Jew converts to Christianity because by default he become an idolater and such is the most tragic of sins a Jew can commit.
Answer for yourself: Is this not a form of arrogance of which Jews stand accused in Paul's letter?
The apostle's accusation--that Jews are conceited about being the Chosen People--has been accepted by generations of Christians despite the lack of empirical support in Jewish writings and actions. Yet, while ascribing an arrogance to Jews, they saw no such trait characterizing their own proselytizing activities and forced conversions. In Paul's epistle to the Romans, Paul wrote sometimes about Jews and more often about Jewish background Christians or Judaizers. In his other letters to the Galatians, Philippians and Corinthians, his primary focus was on Judaizers. However, few persons apart from scholars possess the knowledge and critical capacity to be aware of the distinctions. Paul's attacks on Judaizers had Judaism as their ultimate target for he opposed Jewish practices. This is rather amazing for a Pharisee of Pharisees as Paul presents himself. As Lloyd Gaston stated, "Canonization of the letters determined an anti-Jewish reading of them in all subsequent Christianity," quoted in The Origins Of Anti-Semitism, by John Gager, p. 191. We have a perfect example in this regard as concerning Paul and the Chosen people of God.