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The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church’s Conservative Icon Paperback – March 2, 2010
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“Paul is one of the most controversial figures in Christian history—and one of the most misunderstood. . . . Many will be thrilled with this fresh, erudite portrait of the man.” (Publishers Weekly)
“In this scholarly and engaging account . . . Borg and Crossan successfully argue that we must separate the genuine writings of the apostle from the writings attributed to him . . . This well-researched and highly readable account is recommended for all students of Paul [and] interested lay readers.”” (Library Journal)
From the Back Cover
Bestselling authors of The Last Week and The First Christmas, Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan join once again to present a new understanding of early Christianity—this time to reveal a radical Paul who has been suppressed by the church.
Paul is second only to Jesus as the most important person in the birth of Christianity, and yet he continues to be controversial, even among Christians. How could the letters of Paul be used both to inspire radical grace and to endorse systems of oppression—condoning slavery, subordinating women, condemning homosexual behavior? Borg and Crossan use the best of biblical and historical scholarship to explain the reasons for Paul's mixed reputation and reveal to us what scholars have known for decades: that the later letters of Paul were created by the early church to dilute Paul's egalitarian message and transform him into something more "acceptable." They argue there are actually "Three Pauls" in the New Testament: "The Radical Paul" (of the seven genuine letters), "The Conservative Paul" (of the three disputed epistles), and "The Reactionary Paul" (of the three inauthentic letters). By closely examining this progression of Paul's letters—from the authentic to the inauthentic—the authors show how the apostle was slowly but steadily "deradicalized" to fit Roman social norms in regards to slavery, patriarchy, and patronage. In truth, Paul was an appealing apostle of Jesus whose vision of life "in Christ"—one of his favored phrases—is remarkably faithful to the message of Jesus himself.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Crossan and Borg do a fine job showing Paul's clear teachings about equality and his counter-empire ideas, and show explicitly where Paul and Acts are at odds. The commentary on the book of Philemon is well done and in-depth. However, it would have been nice to see a much more comprehensive look at the rest of Paul's writings. But that didn't seem to be the purpose of this book; Crossan and Borg are simply painting a picture of Paul's theology, not providing insight into every detail.
I have to say, though, that the chapters on the cross and "salvation by grace through faith" were, unfortunately, pretty weak. Frankly, it's going to take a lot more than two chapters containing a select few passages from Romans and 1 Corinthians to "dismantle" the idea of substitutionary atonement and salvation as simply a post-mortem "salvation" from divine punishment. There are better, more comprehensive, books out there, though, on Paul's theology of "Christ crucified" (see J. Denny Weaver, Stephen Finlan, etc.). The two chapters dedicated to the cross and salvation just didn't make a well-reasoned argument (in my opinion), partly because of the lack of time Crossan/Borg spent looking at Paul's words (though, I should say, I agree with most of their conclusions).
I'd definitely recommend this book to any Christian, or to anyone interested in the apostle Paul. But, don't expect an in-depth, exceptionally convincing look at Paul's theology; rather, expect a sometimes persuasive, sometimes lackluster, brief and easy-to-read portrait of the man who claimed to see Jesus on the road to Damascus.
As stated in the book, half of the New Testament concerns Paul or was written by Paul. Paul matters. As a believer who engages in critical thinking, I appreciated the authors doing all of the heavy lifting for me. As a "thinker" I could never reconcile the views that Paul held regarding slavery, women, etc. The authors explained this in a very straight-forward way and the `scales' have now fallen off my eyes.
Explained from the perceptive of historical context, it was very easy for me to see that, yes, there were three Pauls. One real - two pretenders.
The radical (and real) Paul wrote:
* Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians and 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians and Philemon (which the authors break down verse by verse)
A person or persons calling themselves Paul wrote the pastoral letters:
* 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus.
A majority of scholars "dispute" the authorship of:
* Ephesians, Colossians and 2 Thessalonians
The detailed analysis of who, where, why and what certainly provides a non-contradictory view of the apostle Paul compared to the chaotic mess I have struggled with in the past. I also greatly appreciated the mind picture of the set of concentric contextual circles. It was very helpful in providing context for the writing of Paul.
While I have mentioned only a few of the highlights in this book, rest assured that it contains a plethora of entertaining and enlightening facts.
I hope you find this review helpful.
Michael L. Gooch, Wingtips with Spurs: Cowboy Wisdom for Today's Business Leaders
They present Paul as a Jewish Christ mystic who lived with a profound sense of oneness with God. They go through the writings of Paul and show how his message changes on various specific themes (from radical to reactionary and Conservative)like slavery, crucifixion, justification.
Jesus is Lord (ch. 4) is especially helpful, where they develop Roman Imperial theology of "Religion-War-Victory-Peace" and show how Paul responds to this in his own theology of Jesus.
But my favorite in this book is ch 5 "Christ Crucified". This treatment of Paul's theology is some of the best available for the lay person who cares about how we talk about salvation. They deal carefully with several popular explanations of the death of Jesus, demonstrating difficulties in how these themes deal with the theology, then offering a more positive, comprehensive understanding (that makes good sense).
In my judgment, these two chapters are worth the price of the book. These two men develop and excellent theology of Paul in language that can be understood, with an affirmation of faith that is very helpful.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a relatively uncontroversial book - for Borg. He focuses on the letters of Paul that are generally accepted as genuine and stresses the contrast, especially, with the... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Brenda Brown
This book written by two men of different denominations in the Christian branch of abrahamic traditions gives a well thought out and easy to follow explanation of the biblical and... Read morePublished 3 months ago by James Green
This author is a superb writer and I learn so much more than I ever realized about the topics! Hus book The Last Week was also great!Published 5 months ago by shines
Again, Marcus's insights are powerful. He will be sorely missed.Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
The authors brilliantly show how the teachings of Jesus and Paul came to be subverted after Christianity was appropriated and subverted to the needs of Imperial Roman ideology.Published 6 months ago by B. Lott
Recommended for anyone wanting an advanced discussion of Christian Theology, but requires a little more than a "Praise the Lord" knowledge of Christianity. Read morePublished 6 months ago by OLD1mIKE
Book was in good condition. First time I purchased a used book on line. Will do so again.
I like Marcus Borg and this book is no exception. Read more