cover image God’s Ghostwriters: Enslaved Christians and the Making of the Bible

God’s Ghostwriters: Enslaved Christians and the Making of the Bible

Candida Moss. Little, Brown, $30 (448p) ISBN 978-0-31656-467-0

Moss (The Myth of Persecution), a theology professor at the University of Birmingham, argues in this erudite outing that enslaved people played a vital role in fashioning the gospels and Paul’s epistles. She cites evidence that the apostle Paul may have had “enslaved attendants” who helped him master his “raw material into conventionally acceptable forms” by “elevating and clarifying” his writing, and that gospel writer Mark himself may have been enslaved and taken dictation from the disciple Peter. Elsewhere, Moss posits that enslaved messengers in the first and second centuries served as “interpretive guides,” performing the scripture they delivered to audiences across the Roman Empire to Galilee, translating texts “into different cultural registers,” and validating and “answer[ing] for the message itself.” Links between scriptural content and sociohistorical background intrigue, including how the “relentless violence of hell” depicted in the Bible “makes sense in the context of an ancient social order and system of justice that fiercely punished the socially disenfranchised.” Acknowledging that “all reconstructions of the ancient writing process are necessarily imaginative, Moss draws on primary sources and studies of enslavements in other periods, including the antebellum U.S. South, resulting in a work that leans heavily on speculation. Still, students of Christian history will find plenty to appreciate in this innovative reinterpretation. (Mar.)