- Paperback: 324 pages
- Publisher: Augsburg Fortress Publishers (March 30, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0800623797
- ISBN-13: 978-0800623791
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,068,510 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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LIBERATING PAUL Paperback – March 30, 2006
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"For centuries the apostle's legacy has been systematically manipulated by human structures of domination and oppression, from the conservative interpreters of Paul who found their way into the New Testament itself, down to the legitimation of the 'New World Order' or the sonorous waves of antifeminist backlash in our own time." (p.x)
Elliott offers Haiti as an example of "the continuing deadliness of my nation's global war against the poor ... U.S. policy toward Haiti seems crystal clear: to deter the threat of real democracy at any cost, and thus to guarantee ever higher profits for U.S. businessmen. ... Aware of the war waged, in our name and for our sake, against the poor, we must yield to his [Paul's] appeal for solidarity with the oppressed." (pp.228-230)
Some of the more convincing arguments include the following:
- 1 Cor 7:21 has been misinterpreted to suggest Paul advised slaves to remain slaves even if they had a chance for freedom. This has bolstered the "Paul is a social conservative" viewpoint.
- Terminology and themes in pseudo-Pauline epistles have adversely affected interpretation of genuine Pauline epistles. Even if there was a "Pauline school" that doesn't mean every voice in it was in agreement. (While this makes sense, the argument would have been stronger if more attention had been paid to explaining the context and arguments of the pseudo-Paulines themselves; the text is thin here. )
- Too much emphasis has been laid on passages in Paul for which there is strong evidence that they are interpolations (such as Paul's prohibition against female leadership in church in 1 Cor 14:34-35).
- Interpretation of Romans has been skewed by seeing it as a compendium of theological thought. It is really, like all of Paul's writing, parenesis (exhortation) with a theological prologue. "Paul's gospel" is about action, not thought or belief.
- Paul's epistles are addressed to Gentile communities and what he says in them about the Jewish Law is expressly about how Gentiles should relate to it, not necessarily about how Jews should relate to it.
- Many of the standard explanations for why Paul persecuted Christians before his conversion do not make sense. Elliott offers a political interpretation that does make sense, even if it is speculation.
Some of the cases where it seems that Elliott tends to see what he wants to see:
- Elliott tries to debunk any interpretations that would validate use of force at the national level. He criticizes the "Christian realism" of Niebuhr who asserted that "'the conscious choices of evil for the sake of good' was the essence of `the Pauline doctrine.'" It is easy to criticize this "end justifies the means" attitude but making Paul disagree with it in principle requires focusing on some passages and ignoring others.
- Elliott asserts that Paul's real opponents were among Gentiles and were not pious Jews. This too requires selective emphasis on choice biblical texts. The fact that he was writing to Gentiles does not mean that his opponents had to be exclusively among the Gentiles. For an extended discussion about Paul's opponents see Galatians: A Commentary (Orthodox Biblical Studies).
- It is quite a stretch to interpret "freedperson of the lord" in 1 Cor 7:22 to mean a slave who was manumitted by his church.
- Elliott's assertion that Paul's collection for "the poor" shows he had similar goals to liberation theologians is one among several instances where Paul's phrase "the poor" appears to be assumed to mean the same thing as Elliot's phrase "the poor". This is questionable at best.
- Elliott assumes as virtually self-evident that Jesus was crucified by Rome "as the consequence of his [Jesus'] own struggle against social and political injustice," and the gospels deliberately misrepresented the story by blaming it on the Jews. Rome did crucify for political reasons, but we certainly don't know what they were specifically in this case.
- To support his view of a politically-oriented Paul, Elliott must put extreme emphasis on a single passage (1 Cor 2:8 blaming the crucifixion on the "powers of this age"), just as he argued that "social conservatism" interpretations all hark back to a single misinterpreted passage (1 Cor 7:21).
Any specialist in Pauline studies should look at this book, but the general reader is likely to find it a difficult and at times not very interesting read.
If you buy into this sort of communist theology, then this book may be great for you, but I am going to seek knowledge on this subject elsewhere from someone who can control his modern political agendas and simply present the facts.
While this author may have some descent material in the book, he has ruined it for me with his manner of presentation. I purchased this book through Logos but thought I would warn anybody here on Amazon as well who may be offended by the manner of this author's presentation.