Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The First Paul

Borg and Crossan are both impressively credentialed scholars, but neither has "gelled" with me particularly. The prospect of a book on Paul, however, piqued my curiosity. Sadly, I'm mightily unimpressed.

The Borg and Crossan Paul is an advocate for restorative and distributive justice, Spirit transplants, communities of caring and sharing, reconciliation between liberal and conservative Christians and suchlike. This is a Paul who opposes slavery (citing Philemon) and the prevailing domination system. He is Paul as many of us would wish him to be, but not as he undoubtedly was. Borg and Crossan have swept down to rescue the Apostle from Tarsus from the conservatives, and domesticate him for the kindly, liberal souls who sit in mainstream pews on Sunday mornings.

In short, this may be the way we should interpret Paul in Century 21, but it'll take more than Borg and Crossan to convince me that this is the way he actually was in the context of his own time and ego. The joy of encountering Paul is discovering that he was as much a jerk as a genius. Borg and Crossan's "radical Paul" is a sanitized, PC version, and as a result is less than believable - at least for this cynic.

The book isn't technically hard to read; you might even say it dummies things down to talk to the imaginary person in the pew, who apparently is none too bright. There are occasional insights - if you can manage to swim through the fizzing sugar-free sarsaparilla to find them. I persevered to the end, but I was going through the motions. Earnest, well meaning writing, but The First Paul is forgettable. Two stars.

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