Reinventing Paul
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Reinventing Paul

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Throughout the Christian era, Paul has stood at the center of controversy, accused of being the father of Christian anti-Semitism. In this highly accessible book, John Gager challenges this entrenched view of Paul, arguing persuasively that Paul's words have been taken out of their original context, distorted, and generally misconstrued. Using Paul's own writings, Gager brilliantly sets forth a controversial interpretation of the apostle's teaching as he takes us in search of the "real" Paul. 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 His chosen people by Gentiles? Did he consider circumcision to be necessary for salvation? And did he expect Jews to find salvation through Jesus? Gager tells us that Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles, not the Jews. His most vehement arguments were directed not against Judaism but against competing apostles in the Jesus movement who demanded that Gentiles be circumcised and conform to Jewish law in order to be saved. Moreover, Paul relied on rhetorical devices that were familiar to his intended audience but opaque to later readers of the letters. As a result, his message has been misunderstood by succeeding generations.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 208 pages
  • 142 x 214 x 10mm | 281.23g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195150856
  • 9780195150858
  • 37,878

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 Jersey.show more

Review quote

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 Letter * 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. Paul's 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. Gager's 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. * Anti-Judaism has long served a fundamental role in the construction of Christian identity. As John Gager argued in his earlier study, The Origins of Anti-Semitism (1983), this identity resulted not from the missions of Jesus or Paul in the first century, but from the ways in which later Christians interpreted these figures during the second, third, and fourth centuries. Extending the trajectory of his argument, Gager dissolves the Paul of later Gentile theologies and constructs in his stead a first-century Jewish visionary and apostle of apocalyptic hope. Anyone interested in Christian origins, in New Testament interpretation, or in new possibilities for interfaith dialogue will find his essay compelling and convincing. * Paula Fredriksen, William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of the Appreciation of Scripture, Boston University, and author of From Jesus to Christ: The Origins Of The New Testament Images Of Jesus and Jesus Of Nazareth, King Of The Jews * It took the 20th century to see that Paul meant it when he said that he was Apostle to the Gentiles * and not to the Jews. When that sinks in, one sees a very different Paul. With zest and consistency Gager now presents that picture and tells us why it took so long to hear what Paul once wrote to his Gentile converts. * The argument makes sense, on both logical and intuitive levels. Only a post-hoc reading of Paul could have led to the conclusion that he was a fervent Christian bent on persecuting the Jews. By giving us instead a Jewish Paul bent on rescuing the Gentiles, Gager shows that 1st century Judaism wasn't an insular sect but a proselytizing faith. This interpretation effectively removes anti-Semitism from the Bible...In forcing a reconsideration of the second-most-pivotal figure in the history of Christianity, Gager has done a great service. * Los Angeles Times * In this lucid overview of recent scholarship on the theology of the Apostle to the Gentiles, Princeton theologian Gager 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. * Kirkus Reviews * Relevant beyond the precincts of Christianity and Judaism....Gager makes an important contribution to Jewish-Christian dialogue and offers a richer conception of Paul than the one that has guided many who have struggled with him over the centuries. * Booklist * A remarkable experience....Gager's careful rereading of famous texts is both mind-bending and eye-opening. One actually feels one's habits of mind changing as one reads Paul's writings over Gager's shoulder. * Providence Sunday Journal * In forcing a reconsideration of the second-most-pivotal figure in the history of Christianity, Gager has done a great service. * Los Angeles Times *show more

Rating details

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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