Paul Among the People

                                        PAUL AMONG THE PEOPLE



ISBN 978-0-385-52257-1

This is an intriguing read.  The author is a classical scholar, a Christian who is a Quaker and in some ways, an original thinker.  Her extensive expertise in ancient languages and knowledge of the Graeco/Roman world in which Paul lived his life and in which the churches were birthed has led her to careful reflection as to what the apostle was actually saying when writing his letters to the churches.  The sections in which he wrote about sexual matters, submission to the state, the place of women in the church and slavery are particularly examined.  Her insights are illuminating at times.  The descriptions of the world of the first century are sometimes extremely graphic and overall she writes with a certain ‘tongue in cheek’ style as she challenges certain other views of “what was Paul getting at when he wrote this and that.”  She captures something of the revolutionary nature of the Christian message and the communities of God’s people that came into being in the midst of a cruel and wicked society.  The church and her message was so incredibly ‘other’ to the prevailing culture.  The moral urgency in Paul’s language, its profound challenge to the prevailing habits and behaviour of the general population gets the attention of the reader and is food for serious consideration .   The underlying thrust of the whole book is the fact that Paul, writing his letters to the churches, some of which were not in the best of shape, brings to light the radical message of what it truly means to be human, to be free in Christ Jesus.  Whereas the average Graeco/Roman thought and acted in terms of people as objects of use, sexual use, slavery, the gospel of the Lord Jesus glories in the dignity of what it means to be a human being.  Sarah Ruden confesses to an early distaste for Paul, the picture painted by many has been that of a man who was legalistic and puritanical, that he was homophobic as well as antagonistic to the female.  She bought into this view but the more she studied and pondered she found herself moving away from this idea of Paul to one in which she began to see the richness of his message and that far from it being contrary to that of Jesus, it was a continuation in the same spirit and presenting the same realities that the Lord Jesus lived and spoke.  

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