In Search of Paul : how Jesus's Apostle opposed Rome's empire with God's kingdom : a new vision of Paul's words & world

by John Dominic Crossan

Other authorsJonathan L. Reed
Hardcover, 2004




[San Francisco] : HarperSanFrancisco, c2004.


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… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member the_awesome_opossum
In J.D. Crossan's The Historical Jesus, he makes a case that speaking of the socio-political or historical 'background' of Jesus is incorrect. Backgrounds are distanced and separated, with little impact on the subject of the scene. Instead he suggests the term 'matrix' - a mutual interaction between the historical subject and context, more complex than a 2D background. This is the approach he also takes for In Search of Paul. With co-author Jonathan Reed, he traces Paul's ministry through Asia Minor and to Rome, methodically describing the archaeology and city layout, power structures, social tensions, and how Paul situates himself among it all.

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.
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LibraryThing member aevaughn
Initially I was not inclined to agree with Crossan, due to his interactions with NT Wright over the physicality of Jesus' resurrection. I still disagree with Crossan on various issues, such as whether 1/2 Timothy, etc. were written by Paul. Yet in the end, he renewed my faith that we can disagree on much, and come together to celebrate our risen Savior. I also appreciated his emphasis on the archaeology, and the contrast between the good news of the Imperial Rome and the good news of Christ. I also appreciated his comment about retributive justice vs. distributive justice.… (more)
LibraryThing member LloydLeeWilson
Rome's Empire and God's Kingdom, as revealed by textual exegesis and archaeology
LibraryThing member Jotto
Although I disagreed with some of Crossan's exegesis - specifically his interpretation of Romans 13, his basic thesis I find unassailable, namely Paul's understanding of how humankind is to be unified was consciously proposed in direct opposition to that envisioned by the leadership and, for the most part, the people of the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire, not unlike the latter day empires of our world including the American Empire, sought and seek peace through the defeat of all who dare stand in opposition. The "New Creation" of Paul on the other hand was understood by him to be a quest for peace through justice gained by non-violent struggle. Crossan also does a good job of explaining the Pauline dialectic between "faith" and "works" by insisting the basic conflict in the thought of Paul was not between faith and works but between two kinds of faith both of which generate their own particular kinds of works.

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.
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