In Search of Paul: How Jesus' Apostle Opposed Rome's Empire with God's Kingdom

In Search of Paul: How Jesus' Apostle Opposed Rome's Empire with God's Kingdom

by John Dominic Crossan, Jonathan L Reed

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John Dominic Crossan, the eminent historical Jesus scholar, and Jonathan L. Reed, an expert in biblical archaeology, reveal through archaeology and textual scholarship that Paul, like Jesus, focused on championing the Kingdom of God––a realm of justice and equality––against the dominant, worldly powers of the Roman empire.

Many theories exist about who Paul was, what he believed, and what role he played in the origins of Christianity. Using archaeological and textual evidence, and taking advantage of recent major discoveries in Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Syria, Crossan and Reed show that Paul was a fallible but dedicated successor to Jesus, carrying on Jesus's mission of inaugurating the Kingdom of God on earth in opposition to the reign of Rome. Against the concrete backdrop of first–century Grego–Roman and Jewish life, In Search of Paul reveals the work of Paul as never before, showing how and why the liberating messages and practices of equality, caring for the poor, and a just society under God's rules, not Rome's, were so appealing.

Readers interested in Paul as a historical figure and his place in the development of Christianity

•Readers interested in archaeology and anthropology

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061960642
Publisher: HarperOne
Publication date: 08/11/2009
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 464
File size: 658 KB

About the Author

John Dominic Crossan, professor emeritus at DePaul University, is widely regarded as the foremost historical Jesus scholar of our time. He is the author of several bestselling books, including The Historical Jesus, How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian, God and Empire, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, The Greatest Prayer, The Last Week, and The Power of Parable. He lives in Minneola, Florida.

Jonathan L Reed is a leading authority on the archaeology of early Christianity and has excavated in Galilee since 1987. He has conducted research at the Albright Institute for Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, the American Academy in Rome, and the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. He is author of Archaeology and the Galilean Jesus and has co-authored with John Dominic Crossan two bestselling books, Excavating Jesus and In Search of Paul. He is professor of New Testament at the University of La Verne and is on the research council of Claremont Graduate University's world-renowned Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, where he is directing their Galilean Archaeology and the Historical Jesus project.

Read an Excerpt

In Search of Paul

How Jesus' Apostle Opposed Rome's Empire with God's Kingdom
By John Crossan

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 John Crossan
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060816163

Chapter One

Jewish Faith and Pagan Society

The influence of Judaism on non-Jews in the Roman Empire was profound and lasting. This is paradoxical. For the exclusiveness of Jewish worship, and the strictness of the Jewish food laws, served as a barrier between Jew and gentile. Moreover the Jews do not as a rule appear to have actively propagated their religion. So evidently there was something in the nature of Jewish religion, and of the Jewish community, which satisfied a need felt by many within and even beyond the frontiers of the Empire.

-- Wolf Liebeschuetz, "The Influence of Judaism Among Non-Jews in the Imperial Period" (2001)

Judaism throughout the Hellenistic and Roman periods and even after the triumph of Christianity showed tremendous vigor not only in strengthening itself internally with the development of that remarkable document, the Talmud, but also in reaching out to pagans and later to Christians and winning large numbers as proselytes and as "sympathizers." ... Even after the three great revolts of 66-74, 115-17, and 132-35, the Jews were hardly powerless and indeed continued to win proselytes and especially "sympathizers." In short, the lachrymose theory of Jewish history, highlighting the weakness and suffering of the Jews, would not, on the whole, seem to apply to the ancient period. -- Louis H. Feldman, Jew and Gentile in the Ancient World (1993)

Judaism, by the early third century, may well have been a more popular religion among the pagans, and therefore a more powerful rival to Christianity in the race for the soul of the Roman world, than we have had any reason to think until now. This helps us understand the tension between the Church and the Synagogue in the first few centuries A.D.

-- Robert F. Tannenbaum, "Jews and God-Fearers in the Holy City of Aphrodite" (1986)

In the City of Aphrodite


You come to Aphrodisias on a full-day visit from Denizli, in southwestern Turkey. As you leave that city its innumerable modern textile factories continue the area's ancient importance for the manufacture of cotton, linen, and woolen garments. So also do the flocks of sheep and goats that take right-of-way across the narrow roads as you shortcut through the mountains off the main Denizli-Antalya road. It is a beautiful mid-September day in 2002, cool and cloudy, with an odd shower early and late, so not really inconvenient.

Two thousand years ago, Octavian, the not-yet Augustus, said, "Aphrodisias is the one city from all of Asia I have selected to be my own," and the citizens carved that accolade on the archive wall of their theater. Since the Greek goddess Aphrodite was the Roman goddess Venus, from whom the Julian line was allegedly descended, the city was most fortunately named at that precise historical moment. Millennia later, in Aphrodisias: City of Venus Aphrodite, the frontispiece poem by L. G. Harvey says,

when all paper words
are turned to ash
there will remain
one scarred hillside
beautiful enough to last

Kenan Erim, of New York University, the city's Turkish-born excavator and that book's author, spent his professional life there and is now buried most appropriately beside the reconstructed gate to Aphrodite's temple. He said that "of all the Graeco-Roman sites of Anatolia, Aphrodisias is the most hauntingly beautiful" (1). Agreed.

The hamlet of Geyre once sat atop the ancient site, but was removed and rebuilt in its nearby location after an earthquake in the 1960s. That opened the site for archaeology, but the old village square still underlies the new entrance plaza ringed by restrooms (very elegant), a restaurant (very limited), and a museum (very beautiful). You get there around 11:30 a.m. and have the site almost totally to yourself. The morning tour buses heading west from Hierapolis and the hot-spring pools of Pamukkale are just leaving, and those reversing that itinerary will not arrive until much later. You sit high up in the once thirty-thousand-seat theater, eat a quiet picnic lunch, admire the stands of stately poplars amid the marbled ruins (Figure 7), and look east to where the seven-thousand-foot tip of Baba Dag emerges periodically from scudding cloud cover. At the foot of that mountain are the marble quarries that gave the city ready material for sculpture or inscription and made its products famous far beyond its own borders. The Dandalaz tributary, fed from the snows of that eastern mountain range, circled the city's south side and took sculptures northwestward to the ancient Meander, the modern Buyuk Menderes, which carried them westward to the coast and the world.


What text do you read to see most clearly Paul's life, and what site do you visit to see most clearly Paul's world -- even, or especially, if Paul himself neither wrote that text nor visited that site? In this chapter two chosen sites, the city of Aphrodisias, now in southwestern Turkey, and the island of Delos, now in mid-Aegean Greece (Figure 8), frame two contradictory aspects of the chosen text, Luke's Acts of the Apostles, now a prelude to Paul's letters in the New Testament.

We begin this chapter at Aphrodisias because it illustrates most forcibly two major themes of this book, the relationship of Paul to Roman imperial theology and to his Jewish religious tradition. The former theme focuses here on the Sebasteion, or Augusteum, whose elegant gate, three-storied facing porticoes, and high-stepped imperial temple celebrated the Roman Julio-Claudian divinities by inserting them among and above the ancient gods and traditions of Greece. The latter theme focuses here on a Jewish inscription that explicitly distinguishes Jews, converts, and a third category of "God-worshipers," with rather surprising numbers in each category ...


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