John Dominic Crossan, the eminent historical Jesus scholar, and Jonathan L. Reed, an expert in biblical archaeology, reveal through archaeology and textual scholarship that Paul, like Jesus, focused on championing the Kingdom of God--a realm of justice and equality--against the dominant, worldly powers of the Roman empire. Many theories exist about who Paul was, what he believed, and what role he played in the origins of Christianity. Using archaeological and textual evidence, and taking advantage of recent major discoveries in Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Syria, Crossan and Reed show that Paul was a fallible but dedicated successor to Jesus, carrying on Jesus's mission of inaugurating the Kingdom of God on earth in opposition to the reign of Rome. Against the concrete backdrop of first-century Grego-Roman and Jewish life, In Search of Paul reveals the work of Paul as never before, showing how and why the liberating messages and practices of equality, caring for the poor, and a just society under God's rules, not Rome's, were so appealing. Readers interested in Paul as a historical figure and his place in the development of Christianity *Readers interested in archaeology and anthropology
Their conclusions are interesting too: the book argues that Paul's ministry was not merely to pure pagans, as 'Gentiles' might imply, but rather pagans who were already interested in Jewish culture and beginning to pick up some of the lifestyle. These pagans were called God-fearers (not by Paul, but other writers); they might attend synagogue or keep the company of Jews without fully converting. So Crossan and Reed believe that Paul, when he proselytized to pagans, was primarily seeking out these people, as already having a familiarity and a connection to his message.
The only thing that fell short for me was the promise of the subtitle: "How Jesus's Apostle Opposed Rome's Empire with God's Kingdom." From this, I was anticipating a focused political argument, in the vein of Richard Horsley's work or even Crossan's own God and Empire. Instead, this is a very even-keeled and methodical history, a study of the "historical Paul" in his social context from a variety of angles.
While interesting, the archeological travelogue, which takes up a good portion of this volume, provides evidence in excess for Crossan's interpretation of Roman imperial theology and ideology. If the reader is basically interested in his interpretation of Paul's New Testament writings, s/he can skim through if not skip a good deal of this book.