Reinventing Paul

Reinventing Paul

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Throughout the Christian era, Paul has stood at the centre of controversy, accused of being the father of Christian anti-Semitism. But have we misunderstood the man and his teachings for 2000 years? This study challenges this entrenched view of Paul, arguing persuasively that Paul's words have been taken out of their original context, distorted and generally misconstrued. The author takes us in search of the "real" Paul, using Paul's own writings. Through an exhaustive analysis of Paul's letters to the Galatians and the Romans, he provides illuminating answers to the key questions: Did Paul repudiate the Law of Moses? Did he believe that Jews had been rejected by God and replaced as the chosen people by Gentiles? Did he consider circumcision to be necessary for salvation? And did he expect Jews to find salvation through Jesus? To all these questions, John Gager answers no. First, he puts Paul's proselytizing in context. Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles, not the more

Product details

  • Hardback | 208 pages
  • 162.8 x 240.8 x 22.4mm | 507.6g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195134745
  • 9780195134742

Review quote

"My Paul has always been a pious, pompous, and somewhat inconsistent Christian, alternately displaying the anger of Jeremiah, the vision of Isaiah, and the ego of Douglas MacArthur. Gager's Paul is pre-Christian, a Jew who believed in Jesus as the Messiah who came to fulfill, not to destroy, the Law. Pauls message, Gager contends, was written for Gentiles of the first century, not for the Church of Augustine, sixteenth-century Protestant reformers, or post-Holocaust moderns. Gagers argument from text and context is always careful, learned, clear, and courageous at times audacious. It will convince many thoughtful scholars and, at very least, will shake all serious readers, whether theologians, historians, or intelligent laity. I predict we shall soon have a new industry devoted to responding to Gager." --Walter F. Murphy Author of Upon This Rock"In his thoughtful, incisive, and lucidly written book, John Gager presents a radical challenge to the way that people have read Paul for 2000 years. Reinventing Paul is essential reading for anyone concerned with the history of religion and the relationship between Jews and Christians." --Elaine Pagels, author of The Gnostic Gospels and The Gnostic Paul: Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Lettershow more

About John G. Gager

John G. Gager is William H. Danforth Professor of Religion at Princeton University. The author of The Origins of Anti-Semitism and many other books and articles, he lives in Princeton, New more

Review Text

In this lucid overview of recent scholarship on the theology of the Apostle to the Gentiles, Princeton theologian Gager (The Origins of Anti-Semitism, 1983) challenges the received view of Paul as a convert from Judaism to Christianity who rejected the law of Moses and taught that God was replacing the people of Israel with a new Israel, the Christian church.Gager sees the traditional view as resting on a failure to locate Paul within rather than against the Judaism of his time (a Judaism anachronistically caricatured by later Christian commentators), on an inability to identify the intended hearers of Paul's message and the rhetorical strategies he used to persuade them, and on a tendency to illegitimately universalize the particular polemical contexts in which Paul wrote. The result was a series of fundamental misunderstandings of Paul and his gospel. A chapter on New Views of Paul surveys challenges to the traditional view from scholars like Krister Stendahl and E.P. Sanders (who made important contributions to viewing Paul within the context of first-century Judaism), and Lloyd Gaston and Stanley Stowers (whose work on Paul, the Torah, and the letter to the Romans are fundamental to Gagers argument). Gager concludes that the traditional wisdom about Paul is completely wrong: Pauls mission was only to the Gentiles, and his polemic against the Jewish law was directed at those in the Jesus movement who demanded that Gentiles be circumcised. Paul believed that Jews remained the people of God, in Gagers view, and although the calling of the Gentiles through Jesus was to play a role in the (imminent) salvation of Israel, belief in Jesus was not necessary for Jews. Gager puts these new views to work in detailed examinations of the letters to the Galatians and the Romans. Gager is attempting a very great deal in a very short space; as a result, assertions and quotations from other scholars (particularly Gaston and Stowers) sometimes take the place of arguments, and some serious exegetical difficulties (particularly in the discussion of Romans) are elided.Readers who want to explore the issues Gager raises will be well advised to turn to his sourcesand, of course, to Paul. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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39 ratings
3.46 out of 5 stars
5 15% (6)
4 31% (12)
3 41% (16)
2 10% (4)
1 3% (1)
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