Reinventing Paul

John G. Gager, Author Oxford University Press, USA $30 (208p) ISBN 978-0-19-513474-2
In this slim book, Princeton religion professor Gager aims for nothing short of a revolution in Pauline studies; he maintains that Paul was not the founder of Christianity, did not condemn works in favor of faith, never claimed that Jews must accept Jesus as their savior and never criticized Judaism or the Jewish law. Paul's sole concern, Gager argues, was announcing God's intention to save gentiles through Christ. Gager wants to dispel what Paul Meyer has called the ""dark Manichean shadow across the pages of Paul and his commentators""--that is, the use of Paul to justify Christian anti-Semitism. He says that once one has crossed over to the new paradigm, every aspect of the old seems incredible--and therein lies the book's central weakness. Gager strains to make contradictory passages fit, resorting to the alleged presence of rhetorical strategies such as the ""unreliable author"" and a fictive ""fellow Jew"" in order to disassociate Paul from statements that undercut the new paradigm. The raw truth, as most readers will acknowledge, is that Paul's ad-hoc, hastily written letters are not fully consistent. Yet Gager has still accomplished something important, sketching a new way of reading Paul that, if not always fully persuasive, nevertheless helps us see the man more clearly for what he was: a first-century Jew on fire with the belief that God through Jesus had opened salvation to all people. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
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