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In Search of Paul: How Jesus' Apostle Opposed Rome's Empire with God's Kingdom Paperback – November 1, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Crossan and Reed make a compelling case for the idea that culture, politics and quest for empire played as large a part in the formation of the Apostle Paul as did theology and religious training. It is an approach that will leave some wondering just how much of a role spirituality played in the Paul story. The authors (Crossan is a prolific author and former co-chair of the Jesus Seminar, Reed is Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at La Verne College in California) dig deeply into the history and archeology of Paul's world, searching for an understanding of the enigmatic apostle. Paul emerges as a fervent advocate for both the uniqueness of the Christian faith and the marginalization of others, the triumph of the City of God over the pagan and anti-God Roman empire. And this Paul is willing to reach out to both Jew and Gentile to accomplish his aims. In the end, Paul the man of faith is subsumed in Paul the agenda-driven revolutionary. The authors' masterful use of history, geography and theology combine to offer a strong case for their thesis. This book is written for a sophisticated audience, and therefore will be inaccessible to many readers, but it will be a valuable addition to the scholar's library.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“An adventure in history, theology, and the politics of empire. Christianity needs this book, but so does America.” (James Carroll, author of Constantine's Sword)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; Reprint edition (November 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060816163
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060816162
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #609,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John D. Crossan is generally acknowledged to be the premier historical Jesus scholar in the world. His books include The Historical Jesus, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, and Who Killed Jesus? He recently appeared in the PBS special "From Jesus to Christ."

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

166 of 173 people found the following review helpful By Robert Grimm on October 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I have heard Crossan lecture, seen him on TV and read two of his books Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, and his memoir, A Long Way from Tipperary. I logged onto Amazon.com in the hopes of getting a copy of his newest book In Search of Paul co-authored with the archaeologist Jonathan Reed and read the review from Publishers Weekly. That review said it was only for scholars so I decided to avoid it, but then I saw Crossan do an absolutely fascinating PowerPoint presentation on "Religion & Empire, Faith & Violence" with a "Case Study on Roman Imperial Theology," at a seminar in Jackson, MS. There were early copies of In Search of Paul for sale at the book-display, and bought it immediately. Most of the others buying the book were not scholars, but lay people, just like me. I am now about half-way through In Search of Paul and find absurd the Publishers Weekly reviewer's judgment that "this book is written for a sophisticated audience, and therefore will be inaccessible to many readers, but it will be a valuable addition to the scholar's library." The book gives a clear and concise picture of Paul in a historical context with added richness displayed in over 30 color pictures and over 130 black & white ones. This book is emphatically not just for scholars, but reaches the general educated audience on a most fascinating and accessible level. And, although I am only at the half-way point, I am finding it a most enjoyable read-and-look book. I think of it as The Da Vinci Code with pictures, but better researched and better written.
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118 of 125 people found the following review helpful By James F. Loftus on November 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I judge the success of a book by the degree it challenges me, and opens up new perspectives, and this is what Cossan has achieved. I had not realised just how immersed Paul was in his Roman time and culture, how subversive he was to it, and how closely allied he was to Jesus' vision of Jewish justice. I feel that I am 'there' in Roman cultural life, and I feel the immediacy of the man, Paul, on the road, in prison and in the awful death. What the book also does is make me ask many more questions such as why was Paul's vision so quickly muted in the post-Pauline and anti-Pauline developments, how much influence has the classical Roman mind had on Augustine and later Roman Catholic moral attitudes. I want to know more. And, significantly, Crossan and Reed clearly indicate Paul's real positive attitude to women and sex, distinguishing it from the slander often attributed to him. Taken seriously this book is a time bomb for Christian denominations, individual Christians, and for me. But who will heed it? Who did heed the historical Paul? Even Luke in 'Acts' sanitised him. I shall read this book again as there is much to enjoy, much to learn.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Timothy P. Chambers on June 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
There are alot of books about Paul and I've read my share. This book gave me more information about the world around Paul than about him directly. I feel like I know more about the Roman Empire, the Imperial Cult, the status of Jews and the synagogue in the first century, and the patronage system than I could have learned from a cache of historical books. Crossan and Reed bring it all together for a better understanding about Paul.

Crossan let a little of his own beliefs slip into the text. I used to think he was a scholar without "faith." I believe differently now.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Adrian Jones on February 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
I was a little pleased to see that John Dominic Crossan (the main author, I'd say) turns out to be something of a fan of Paul. I had been prejudiced, I suppose, to expect something of a desacralising of the apostle and perhaps some questioning of his state of mind, such as I'd read in books by Burton Mack and, perhaps, Jerome Murphy O'Connor. However, though Crossan sees Paul as a vulnerable human being like the rest of us, he presents him as a genius of politico-sociological analysis (sorry about the jargon) on the one hand and as a theologian with a very clear, very challenging understanding of Christ's purpose as saviour of the world and messenger of peace through justice.

Like an earlier reviewer, I too began skipping the detailed bits about archaeological finds and the material culture of the Roman Empire, though I stayed with any discussion of what these revealed about social stratification, the production and distribution of social influence, and the living arrangements of people in the "insula" (suburbs and blocks of dwellings) and residences of people at the time, because I thought that would tell me something about the structure and practices of the early "house churches" - Paul's audiences. Which it did.

I think the book is very helpful at revealing the political, social and physical context in which Paul worked. It also has a powerful political and theological message that the authors believe is crucial for America in her attempts to impose and defend Pax Americana throughout the world.

Crossan proposes that Paul understood the death and resurrection of Jesus as significant because Jesus was executed violently by imperialist forces. This was seen as necessary to defend the Pax Romana in Judea.
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41 of 50 people found the following review helpful By D. Rigas on January 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Any book by Crossan has its own guaranteed readership, to which I admit I belong. This book, however, is a little different. It is really three books in one:

The first one is a travelogue through the lands where Christianity and its preceding pagan religions originated. Probably written by co-author Reed, it presents interesting glimpses of archaeological sites in Pompeii and Delos, Corinth and Ephesus, to name a few. It details the construction of pagan temples and Jewish synagogues, of the aqueducts and roads that crisscrossed the land. It is also one of the explanations given regarding the reason for writing "yet another book about Paul." We are told that it helps the reader "be there," that it places Paul in context to his time and environment and hence helps the reader understand him better. Frankly I am not much for travelogues, and I just flipped through the pages whenever I got to them.

The second booklet inside the main book, deals with the sociology of the time. The five story apartments where the poor Jews lived in Rome, the villas where the rich people lived, the combination rich house, rental apartments, and shops which would have allowed Paul the craftsman access to rich patrons. The patronage system through which everything got done in those days, moving downwards "from divinity, through royalty, priesthood, aristocracy, and citizens, to the freed, the servile, and the enslaved." This part of the book discusses in detail how Caesar, Augustus, and the other Roman emperors were awarded divinity, and what it meant to the average Roman subject to know that the emperor who governed him was god. And how the Roman government and army had only two purposes: to keep peace and collect taxes.
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