The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind The Church's Conservative Icon  -     By: Marcus J. Borg, John Dominic Crossan
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The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind The Church's Conservative Icon

HarperOne / 2010 / Paperback

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Hear the life-changing message of the radical and authentic Paul. Delving into the letters written by the apostle, as well as those attributed to him, Borg and Crossan show how later writers tried to transform Paul into something more "acceptable" by using his letters to justify slavery, subordinate women, condemn homosexuality, and more. Thought-provoking and controversial. 240 pages, softcover from HarperOne.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 240
Vendor: HarperOne
Publication Date: 2010
Dimensions: 8.00 X 5.31 X 0.54 (inches)
ISBN: 0061430730
ISBN-13: 9780061430732
Availability: In Stock

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Publisher's Description

Meet Paul Again . . . for the First Time

Continuing in the tradition of The Last Week and The First Christmas, world-renowned New Testament scholars Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan use the best of biblical and historical scholarship to expose the church's conspiracy to silence Jesus's most faithful disciple, the apostle Paul.

Author Bio

Marcus J. Borg is canon theologian at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, Oregon, and was Hundere Distinguished Professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University. Described by the New York Times as "a leading figure in his generation of Jesus scholars," he has appeared on NBC's The Today Show and Dateline, ABC's World News, and NPR's Fresh Air. He is the author of the bestselling books Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, The Heart of Christianity, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time, The God We Never Knew, Jesus, Speaking Christian, and The Evolution of the Word. His blog appears on the Progressive Christian Channel of Patheos.com.

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, God and Empire, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, The Greatest Prayer, and The Power of Parable. He lives in Minneola, Florida.

Editorial Reviews

“A refreshing and heartening exculpation of a still routinely maligned figure of the first importance to culture and civilization.”
“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.”
“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.””

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  1. Gender: male
    1 Stars Out Of 5
    After 2000 Years, the "Real" Paul
    August 28, 2012
    LifeVerse
    Gender: male
    Quality: 1
    Value: 1
    Imagine a book titled Why I Am a Vegetarian. Then imagine two clever scholars, both highly regarded, who write a book to prove that Why I Am a Vegetarian recommends eating meat. So people buy the book and say, "Wow, I'm glad they found the REAL meaning of that vegetarian book." That, in essence, is what this book try to do: deconstruct the apostle Paul and prove he was not only what he appears to be in the New Testament, but that he is (amazingly!) very like a modern liberal theologian.

    Paul, in case you didn't know already, is the Evil Beast in the liberal universe. He condemned homosexuality, told wives to be submissive to their husbands, told slaves to serve their masters faithfully, and told Christians to submit to the secular government. Heretofore, liberals chose to simply ignore Paul—after all, he was a sexist homophobe. But it was inevitable that, having written so many liberal books about the "real" Jesus, liberals would discover the "real" Paul that—surprise!—has gone unnoticed for two thousand years.

    The authors begin their deconstruction (or destruction) of the biblical Paul by discussing the New Testament letters that bear his name. They argue that of the thirteen letters, only seven are for certain by Paul. Scholars have been debating this for centuries, and a smart laymen would respond: so what? For these authors this is important, because the teachings they dislike are, you guessed it, not found in the seven epistles Paul actually wrote. The problem is, Paul's teaching on being submissive to the government is found in Romans, which they say is by Paul. But they are certain the "real" Paul was no pro-government reactionary—as proven by his use of "Lord" and other titles to refer to Jesus, titles that were also used for the Roman emperors. This is sheer nonsense. The Romans ruled over millions of people (including Jews) who referred to their gods as "Lord" and "Savior." The Romans didn't care who you believed in as long as you didn't stir up trouble. It is true that Paul and other Christians were more loyal to Christ than to Rome (as they proved by their martyrdom), but that doesn't rule out submission to Roman authority as a general principle. The authors also overlook the fact that titles like "Lord" were only technically titles for the Roman emperor, and hardly anyone really believed the emperors were divine (including the emperors). In fact, the authors are (like almost all liberal academics) obsessed with politics, yet if you read the New Testament, you see that the apostles hardly ever mention politics. I wonder how these authors interpret Jesus' statement "My kingdom is not of this world"? (He must've really meant "My kingdom IS of this world—let the revolution begin!") Incidentally, author Crossan is guilty of laziness in this section of the book, since he is simply restating ideas from his earlier book God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome. In both books he foolish overlooks the fact that titles like "Lord" were used by the Jews to refer to God, so he is dead wrong in claiming such titles were used only the Romans.

    So sure of their cleverness (and readers' gullibility), the authors at times are just plain silly. Paul often referred to "peace." For Borg and Crossan, Paul's "real" meaning was "redistributive justice." God is not, they say, "Father" (liberals hate that term, despite its constant use by Jesus and Paul), but God is a "householder" who in fairness gives an equal distribution of "rights." So, Paul was a socialist—something that somehow escaped the attention of Christians for two millennia. Psychologists call this "projection": the authors are politically liberal and see Christianity as useful in bringing about social change, so they assume Paul was of the same mind—despite what the New Testament tells us about him. (I wonder if they plan to write a book explaining how the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis "really" means that churches should allow same-sex marriage.)

    Regarding the "sexism" issue, the authors assure us that the "submit to your husband" passages can be brushed aside because they are found in two letters (Ephesians and Colossians) that Paul did not write. In the letters that Paul really did write (they say), he was a full egalitarian, seeing men and women as perfectly equal. (Logically, this Paul would have approved of co-ed showers in dormitories, right?) Also, these two "false" letters contain Paul's command for slaves to obey their masters—something "real" Paul would never have said.

    Not long ago I read Sarah Ruden's fine book Paul Among the People. She admits that, as a woman, she formerly had an unfavorable view of the "sexist" Paul. But, as her book reveals, she found that after much study she understood why Paul is so honored. Her book helps readers understand why this "sexist" attracted women (and slaves too) to Christianity. The difference between Ruden's book and The First Paul is that she isn't attempting deconstruction of Paul, and she didn't delve into the New Testament hoping to find Paul the Political Radical and Socialist. Borg and Crossan had an agenda, and it comes through on every page.
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