- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 751 KB
- Print Length: 464 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins e-books; Reprint edition (28 July 2009)
- Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B002JB3EDS
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Not Enabled
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #313,812 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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In Search of Paul Kindle Edition
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|Length: 447 pages|
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Crossan let a little of his own beliefs slip into the text. I used to think he was a scholar without "faith." I believe differently now.
Like an earlier reviewer, I too began skipping the detailed bits about archaeological finds and the material culture of the Roman Empire, though I stayed with any discussion of what these revealed about social stratification, the production and distribution of social influence, and the living arrangements of people in the "insula" (suburbs and blocks of dwellings) and residences of people at the time, because I thought that would tell me something about the structure and practices of the early "house churches" - Paul's audiences. Which it did.
I think the book is very helpful at revealing the political, social and physical context in which Paul worked. It also has a powerful political and theological message that the authors believe is crucial for America in her attempts to impose and defend Pax Americana throughout the world.
Crossan proposes that Paul understood the death and resurrection of Jesus as significant because Jesus was executed violently by imperialist forces. This was seen as necessary to defend the Pax Romana in Judea. Jesus' resurrection, therefore, in Paul's view was an act of triumph over violence and over the imperial belief that peace can be achieved through victory and conquest. It wouldn't have had the same significance had Jesus died peacefully at home and then rose from the dead. Paul confronted the Empire with a model based on faith (surrender to God's will), justice (carrying out God's laws) and equality (within the Christian community at least). This model opposed the Augustan one of piety (cultic devotional practices), victory (violence), consolidation and peace. The latter may be interchanged in sequence, but they rest on continued actual or threatened violence, foundation of the cult of the Emperor as divine and the establishment of patronage and hierarchy - also interchageable - where the pecking order and the privileges attending it were based on access to powerful patrons. There was not much place for women, slaves or minorities in this hierarchy until they had broken through the hierarchical barriers (ceilings?) by one means or another, but Paul's vision of the Christian community itself was egalitarian ("neither male nor female, slave nor free, Jew nor Greek", etc). (The Pauline texts cited in favour of sexism and the like are insertions or from the pseudo-Pauline letters written after his death.)
Something the Publishers' Weekly review seems to have not picked up, but which is a critical component of Crossan's thesis is that Paul was not in fact preaching primarily to the Jews, or to the gentiles. Rather he was trying to capture the constituency knows as "God-fearers" or "believers". They were the pagans attached to synagogues, converted to the monotheism and laws and ethics of the Jews in their towns, but the males were not circumcised, they may not have observed kosher and they probably joined in with other citizens in performance of the sacrifices that were built into much civic ritual. They were sometimes relatively wealthy and perhaps able to provide a degree of protection to the Jewish community. Paul saw them as potential and valuable converts and addressed them as such. As you could imagine, this aroused much hostility to the apostle from the Jews in the cities he targeted.
This review has gone on too long - perhaps an indication of how helpful the book might be. I found it worthwhile and reasonably easy to read. Crossan's message to America is Paul's, that peace through victory does not liberate. It doesn't work, at least in the long term. That philosophy brought us the Pax Romana for a while, but, after centuries of war and destruction, it culminated in 19th century imperialism, 20th century totalitarianism and 21st century terrorism.
The first one is a travelogue through the lands where Christianity and its preceding pagan religions originated. Probably written by co-author Reed, it presents interesting glimpses of archaeological sites in Pompeii and Delos, Corinth and Ephesus, to name a few. It details the construction of pagan temples and Jewish synagogues, of the aqueducts and roads that crisscrossed the land. It is also one of the explanations given regarding the reason for writing "yet another book about Paul." We are told that it helps the reader "be there," that it places Paul in context to his time and environment and hence helps the reader understand him better. Frankly I am not much for travelogues, and I just flipped through the pages whenever I got to them.
The second booklet inside the main book, deals with the sociology of the time. The five story apartments where the poor Jews lived in Rome, the villas where the rich people lived, the combination rich house, rental apartments, and shops which would have allowed Paul the craftsman access to rich patrons. The patronage system through which everything got done in those days, moving downwards "from divinity, through royalty, priesthood, aristocracy, and citizens, to the freed, the servile, and the enslaved." This part of the book discusses in detail how Caesar, Augustus, and the other Roman emperors were awarded divinity, and what it meant to the average Roman subject to know that the emperor who governed him was god. And how the Roman government and army had only two purposes: to keep peace and collect taxes. I have to admit that although I was aware that Caesar was apotheosized after his death, I did not appreciate that Augustus and some others were turned into gods while they were still alive, and that the populace believed it. (Try to think of George Bush as a god instead of just a president.)
The third part of this book, and probably the main reason why most people buy it, deals with Paul and his ideas. Here we find Crossan's newest conjecture: Paul was a direct antagonist to the Roman Empire, and this was why he had been prosecuted, not because he had threatened the Hebrew or the nascent Christian system of his day. He justifies this by his definition of two Greek words: kyrios, and parousia. Crossan maintains that when Paul referred to Jesus Christ as kyrios he was directly attacking the Roman emperor, because kyrios meant lord, and only the Roman emperor was lord. So the kyrios Jesus Christ, meant the emperor Jesus Christ, a direct confrontation to the Romans. (One can point out, however, that throughout the Gospel of John the word kyrios has been translated variously as lord, master, sir.) Today, in modern Greek kyrios means sir or boss.
Crossan also defines the word parousia to mean the visit of the emperor to the provinces and cities, and only that. So when Paul talked about Jesus' pending parousia, he was referring to Jesus as an emperor. This nomenclature, kyrios and parousia, thus directly antagonized the Roman authorities and caused them to persecute Paul. It was the Romans, therefore, and not the Jews who were against Paul, and this is the subject of this book. (Crossan does not say why when Paul was arrested in Jerusalem for fomenting trouble, he was escorted out of the city by a force of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred auxiliaries to protect him from the Jews he had antagonized. I suppose, however, that he could always respond that the army was there to make sure Paul's anti-imperial followers would not attempt to free him.)
To summarize, this is an enjoyable book, but I don't buy Crossan's argument that the Roman Empire felt threatened by Paul and persecuted him. I have a feeling that the book was written just in order to write and sell another book, and perhaps to expense the cost of the authors' trips through the area.
(The writer is the author of Christianity Without Fairy Tales: When Science and Religion Merge.)
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