Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

All We Are Saying, Is Give Paul a Chance

I am so very impressed with John Dominic Crossan's God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now. Crossan has not only been helpful to me in understanding Jesus and the language used to describe him by his followers, but also in understanding Paul. Crossan does a pretty good job with that:
Once, after a lecture, when I was autographing In Search of Paul, the purchaser asked me to write: "All we are asking is give Paul a chance." Exactly. (p. 146)
Thirteen letters in the New Testament are attributed to Paul. Of those, there is scholarly consensus that seven are certainly by Paul. These seven are Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, I Thessalonians, and Philemon.

Three letters are probably not from Paul: II Thessalonians, Ephesians, and Colossians.

The last three: I and II Timothy and Titus are certainly not from Paul.

Crossan writes:

The reason for these judgments is the difference in style, tone, vocabulary, and content between the latter six and former seven letters. Those six post-Pauline letters were written in his name by later tradition but are actually anti-Pauline on certain subjects, such as slavery and patriarchy. We are dealing in other words, with a series of letters in which a radical Paul is transformed first into a liberal Paul and then into a conservative or reactionary Paul as we move from the seven certainly authentic letters through the three probably not authentic letters and finally into the three certainly not authentic letters. (p. 145)
More on specifics later.


  1. I loved Crossan's distinction between the three Pauls. Like Crossan, I like the radical Paul and don't much like the conservative one.

    Just the other day, the Methodist minister who writes the Peaceable Kin-dom blog wrote about the need of recovering the radicality of Christianity. I think this relates to what Crossan was saying.

  2. Thanks for the blog link. I think of radical in terms of the root message. The root message of both Jesus and Paul, according to Crossan, is peace through justice in opposition to peace through violence.

  3. Paul was such a good guy before the church meanies got a hold of him. I hope that in recovering the historical Saul, you'll be able to point us to the Cosmic Paul...maybe offer a little New Perspective on things.

    Am I wright?