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The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary behind the Church's Conservative Icon

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  • Posted March 8, 2010

    The Redemption of Paul

    Borg and Crossan display their scholarship by contrasting the power and identity of Caesar with the power and identity of Christ. They also redeem Paul by noting that Paul's 7 authentic letters show great respect for women as socially and spiritually equal to men. Much praise to them for their insights.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 23, 2009

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    Enlightening and Compelling Work.

    After reading Garry Wills' book What Paul Meant along with a couple of works by Bart Ehrman, I was really anxious to read The First Paul. I am very glad that I purchased the book for it has given me a detailed look at an apostle that I really did not understand.

    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

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 26, 2010

    Good News-Different Views

    First in proper deference to the authors for obviously an intense amount of research and labor, I acknowledge the scope of their writings to be a commendable task. I must say, I had looked forward to reading this book for perhaps a fresh view of the great apostle Paul, and was somewhat disappointed. The book appears to pit the apostle against the Roman-Greco empire as if that was what the gospel was all about, to replace the rule of Caesar and his kingdom with the rule of Christ and his kingdom. I think we must recall that Jesus said, "my kingdom is not of this world".

    To me, it was not a battle between Roman theology and Christian theology, it was a matter of the introduction of the good news to all the world whether Rome was the ruling power or not. The kingdom of God that Jesus spoke of came with power on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit of God entered those early believers, for Jesus had said regarding the kingdom that "it is within you". That fact continued to be confirmed in all believers from that time forward. I might add the fruits of the kingdom should reflect itself to the outside world and I think it has in a multitude of ways in a multitude of countries.

    I was a bit disappointed in the "twists and turns" over how many Pauls there were, referring to the epistles bearing his name. I don't think this will set well with most believers, they might prefer to interpret his statements about specific things elaborated on in different epistles in different ways to be based on both the circumstances of the times and the emphasis necessary for the moment. I also was quite saddened by the fact that the authors chose to attempt to dismantle the concepts of "substitution","justification by grace", and the meaning of the "atonement",by suggesting that their theology is a better interpretation than the prime figures of the Reformation. The authors almost wear out the word "misunderstanding" to refer to many of the doctrines so many believers hold dear and which has sustained their faith for centuries. The authors almost insist that they know exactly what Paul meant by what he said and others have been mistaken in their interpretaions.

    The matter of judgement, the authors say, has nothing to do with the gospel. I would venture to say it is precisely because of current and impending judgement that the gospel is addressed to the human race. Death is still the wages of sin and we are told there will be a final judgement. Christ crucified! cancels our debt. I will not go into other specifics of the faith that are challenged by the authors, I would simply say we should attempt to add to the faith, to bolster and strengthen it among believers and not tear it down. With all due respect, I would just say to the authors that they should follow their own admonition on page 159 "when all else fails,read the text". To me it is not theology or church history that holds the greatest relevence. it is "the text" itself. Thurman L Faison author To The Spiritually Inclined (Volume 1)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 26, 2009

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    Paul the Apostle Revisited

    In a thoroughly engaging and eminently enjoyable work, Borg and Crossan reconsider the Apostle Paul from the perspective of his own Epistles, Luke's "Acts of the Apostles" and other Christian and non-Christian writers of the first and second centuries. Their efforts provide remarkable insight into the man, the struggles of his early Church and his struggles with his early Church.

    The authors also suggest that Paul is a far more radical voice within the early Christian community than contemporary, conservative Christians would have us believe. They postulate that the Epistles can be divided into three classes; those clearly written by Paul, those clearly not and those about which the authorship is in doubt. The Epistles clearly written by Paul are the earliest and the more radical; those clearly-not are the latest and more conservative. Those, whose authorship is in doubt, are sandwiched between the extremes and subtly retrench from Paul's earlier radicalism.

    I wished that the authors had expended more effort to prove the validity of their doubts about the authorship of some of Paul's Epistles beyond asserting a "strong consensus" among theologians. I also wished that Borg and Crossan had speculated more on the motives behind the conservative shift in Paul's disputed writings. Perhaps a sequel will address these issues.

    My complaints, however, are minor. The book is an easy read, a fascinating study, and the reader learns a great deal about a man, who is more interesting and complex than the legends spun by Sunday sermons.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2009

    What Paul really meant

    I never really gave Paul much thought. I've spent a good deal of time studying the first five books of the Old Testament and the fisrt four of the New Testament and a little bit on the last book of the NT, but I never really saw the meaning of all those letters from Paul until I read this book. (Nor did I realize that he was so controversial in the Church, as he had not been in my church!) It is a quick read from an author whose books I always enjoy. If you really want a jolt, read Barrie Wilson's "How Jesus Became Christian" immediately after, as I did.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted February 11, 2010

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