The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church’s Conservative Icon

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9780061430725: The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church’s Conservative Icon

“Borg and Crossan reveal a figure who, besides being neither anti-Semitic, anti-sex, nor misogynist, stresses social and political equality among Christians and between them and others. A refreshing and heartening exculpation of a still routinely maligned figure of the first importance to culture and civilization.” — Booklist (starred review)

John Dominic Crossan and Marcus J. Borg—two of the world’s top-selling Christian scholars and the bestselling authors of The Last Week and The First Christmas—once again shake up the status quo by arguing that the message of the apostle Paul, considered by many to be the second most important figure in Christianity, has been domesticated by the church. Borg and Crossan turn the common perception of Paul on its head, revealing him as a radical follower of Jesus whose core message is still relevant today.

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From the Back Cover:

Bestselling authors of The Last Week and The First Christmas, Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan join once again to present a new understanding of early Christianity—this time to reveal a radical Paul who has been suppressed by the church.

Paul is second only to Jesus as the most important person in the birth of Christianity, and yet he continues to be controversial, even among Christians. How could the letters of Paul be used both to inspire radical grace and to endorse systems of oppression—condoning slavery, subordinating women, condemning homosexual behavior? Borg and Crossan use the best of biblical and historical scholarship to explain the reasons for Paul's mixed reputation and reveal to us what scholars have known for decades: that the later letters of Paul were created by the early church to dilute Paul's egalitarian message and transform him into something more "acceptable." They argue there are actually "Three Pauls" in the New Testament: "The Radical Paul" (of the seven genuine letters), "The Conservative Paul" (of the three disputed epistles), and "The Reactionary Paul" (of the three inauthentic letters). By closely examining this progression of Paul's letters—from the authentic to the inauthentic—the authors show how the apostle was slowly but steadily "deradicalized" to fit Roman social norms in regards to slavery, patriarchy, and patronage. In truth, Paul was an appealing apostle of Jesus whose vision of life "in Christ"—one of his favored phrases—is remarkably faithful to the message of Jesus himself.

About the Author:

John Dominic Crossan is the author of several bestselling books, including God and Empire, The Historical Jesus, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, The Birth of Christianity and Who Killed Jesus? He lives in Minneola, Florida. Marcus J. Borg is Hundere Distinguished Professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University and author of the bestselling Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, The Heart of Christianity, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time, The God We Never Knew, and Jesus.

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