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3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 29 August 2009
As a relative newcomer to theology reading, I was very pleased with this book. It is laid out in a logical order and points are explained clearly. It starts by covering which of Paul's letters are generally considered to have been actually written by Paul, which are thought not to have been written by him, and which are questioned. The authors then go on to analyse parts of Paul's letters in detail, taking into consideration the times at which the letters were written and the places where Paul would likely have been when he wrote them. As a reader, you need to keep referring to the Bible as you progress through the book. The authors offer different ways for interpreting Paul's words, and they discuss the matters which Paul might have considered to be most important. Finally, they consider what might have happened to Paul at the end of his life.

Borg & Crossan are described in many places as liberal theologians, and their views might not fit with everybody's understanding of the Bible. However, they do not insist that any one interpretation of Paul is correct. This could have been a dry and boring read, but for me it wasn't; it brought Paul to life.
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on 10 November 2012
Marcus Borg peels back the centuries of accumulated assumptions about what Paul was saying. We so often read Paul through the eyes of Augustine, Anselm and Luthor, Calvin, and Barth, and fail to see how a construction has been structured more on the shape of the overlays than the foundations.
In this book we are drawn back into the world of Paul, to explore the meanings of his words within his contexts rather than the contexts of 4th, 11th and 16th century paradigms, and Paul suddenly comes to life, not as an obscure convoluted theologian but a direct and radical challenge to the powers of injustice, oppression and might that dominated his century.
Although intrinsically soteriological, Paul is portrayed as an ardent advocate of ecclesia rather than preoccupied with individualistic salvation.
It is an entertaining bit of theological interpretation, very readable.
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on 19 December 2010
Forget about the New Perspective on Paul (NPP). Here comes the Radically New Perspective on Paul. From the people who gave us the sound bite "Jesus was something of a party animal", no less. In other words: enter the Jesus Seminar!

Unfortunately, "The First Paul" is something of a disappointment. I expected it to be a historical-critical study of Paul. The first part of the book is. The second part, however, reads more like a theological treatise, expounding the particular religious viewpoints of the two authors, who turn out to deny substitutionary atonement, physical resurrection and justification by faith alone. No surprise there.

In the first part, the authors point out (correctly) that the historical figure Paul of Tarsus wasn't conservative, patriarchal, pro-slavery or pro-Roman. The message of the genuine Pauline epistles is surprisingly radical: Paul demands that Philemon sets his slave Onesimus free, he supports equality between men and women in both family, church and apostolate, and the whole notion of Jesus being "Lord" or "the Son of God" was subversive in an empire where the emperors were hailed as Lords, Sons of God, etc. Augustus was even called "Very God of Very God", "Redeemer", and so on! Later, this radicalism was muted in the deutero-Pauline epistles, and turned into its reactionary opposite in the Pastorals. In plain English: the church slowly but steadfastly adapted itself to the hierarchies of the empire which Paul had criticized. However, as they were doing it, phoney epistles were penned in Paul's name to justify the changes! The radical visionary was turned into a harmless, conservative icon.

The second part of the book, as already noted, contain Borg's and Crossan's private theological musings. They don't seem to believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus. Well, neither do I. But Paul most certainly did! That the resurrection body wasn't simply a resuscitated corpse misses the point. Did Jews or Zoroastrians believe that physical resurrection simply meant that a dead body would start walking again? I think not. Borg and Crossan adopt the later Gnostic position: the resurrected Jesus was a spirit. Indeed, it's unclear whether they even believe that, or whether it's simply a metaphor for healthy, happy, holy living. Alan Watts is the man, yes? Their view of atonement probably isn't Pauline either. However, they obviously have a point when claiming that Paul's view of justification had nothing to do with Luther.

Since I expected all of "The First Paul" to be a study of the apostle himself, I wasn't completely satisfied with the book. It's not bad, if you are primarily interested in the Jesus Seminar and their particular brand of liberal theology. But as a study of the radical apostle to the Gentiles, it feels somewhat derailed.

Three stars.

And now, let's party...
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on 8 January 2016
I didn’t find much that is new in this book. However, people who haven’t kept their reading up to date will find much to shock them. The trouble is that they aren’t likely to read these authors.

So much of the ‘received wisdom’ about Paul has been filtered through Augustine – anti-Judaism, and Luther, who pits law versus grace, which is eisegesis, not exegesis. We must cleanse out minds of such distortions in order to read Paul afresh.

The writings of E. P. Sanders and Tom Wright have done this for us. This book helps further their cause, though the authors are seen as somewhat heterodox.
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on 26 July 2010
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"
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on 12 April 2014
i bought this for my mum as i have a copy and love it. she was reading it and was so impressed with the historical and old testament background it gave to explain the new testament stories. if you want an anti imperial Paul who approves of women read this
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on 22 May 2010
The analysis of Paul's writings in the ear;iest part of the book was very helpful and clearly written. As Paul's theology developed I became increasingly alienated (not the fault of the authors). Leaves me with an enhanced understanding (and with mmore respect) for Paul. Worth reading from a non-CHristian point of view.
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on 19 April 2015
This was a very helpful book as we are studying the Letters of Paul .
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on 6 November 2014
Good - transported me to Pauls feet as read
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on 19 September 2010
I found this book rather poor. It appears to claim Paul as a revolutionary figure in many cases'forced' by the Jerusalem Church (the original church of Jesus, a purely Jewish sect) when in fact, most biblical research points to Paul being the one that broke away with the original teachings of Jesus by claiming that he spoke on behalf of the divine Jesus (after his 'vision' or heatstroke, you choose, on the way to Damascus) while James, the blood brother of Jesus and his successor, where only speaking on behalf of the earthly one, and his took precedence. Christianity as we know it is not the Jerusalem church, the original message was intrinsically Jewish, Paul, against the wishes of the Jerusalem Church, made it into a gentile message and even allowed it to borrow and morph with Hellenistic and roman values, something that would probably made the historical Jesus furious (a religion mainly fostered forward by the conquerors, deprived of its contextual Jewish values and turned into a symbolic mixture to appeal to the greco-roman gentiles bored with their Mitraism) This book tries to make Paul into what he was not. Paul was a great marketeer, a cunning businessman and a clever social strategist, but was the farthest from the spirit of the Jerusalem Church (and hence, the original message and intention of Jesus ministry) and basically 'created' a version of Christianity that he could sell to the roman masses. He believed his views and knowledge of Jesus was superior to those who knew him and walked the earth with him. It is impossible to conceive that at any point Paul's theological views on Jesus are above those who knew him and that of the successor and brother of Jesus; James.

This book paints Paul as the Albert Einstein of Christianity's founding, when all he was is the Steve Jobs of Christianity, with a big distortion field around him.
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