Harper One, 2009
Reviewed by Karyl Davison, Pilgrim Learning Community and Rural Ministry Coordinator for the Central Queensland and Mary Burnett Presbyteries
Paul is arguably only second to Jesus in importance in the origins of Christianity, particularly for Protestants. Yet many of us have a bit of a love/hate relationship with him.
His writings are difficult to read and understand, his letters address the narrow concerns of local communities and he is often seen as endorsing slavery and the subordination of women.
The First Paul seeks to uncover the re-expose the radical vision of Paul, faithful disciple of the radical Jesus.
By comparing those letters generally recognised as Paul’s, with those thought not to be authored by Paul, Crossan and Borg argue that Paul’s message and passion is gradually domesticated to reflect the normalcy of the Roman imperial world.
The authentic letters of Paul reveal a message that is remarkably consistent with the message of Jesus. They challenge the dominant culture with an alternate vision of life on earth.
For example Crossan and Borg argue, Philemon, accepted to be authored by Paul, portrays Paul’s radical teaching on slavery. Yet by Ephesians we see the sanitised advice “slaves, obey your earthly masters”.
The First Paul is a fresh and engaging portrait of the apostle Paul who, after his experience on the road, chose the Jesus way as a counter cultural alternative to the Roman Empire’s way.