Sunday, February 9, 2014

Paul Was Not a Christian

A sophisticated argument, skillfully rendered...

Could key elements of traditional Christian dogma - from Augustine to Luther - hinge on a choice between nominative and genitive case when translating a key phrase in Paul's letters from their original Greek?  Does the bulk of the history of Christianity arise from distinction between the Christian notion of faith in Christ and Paul's expression the faithfulness of Christ?  Wow!  The concept rocks my world and I'm not even a Christian.

Professor Pamela Eisenbaum is a practicing Jew who teaches in a Christian seminary.  Tough duty; I imagine watching her work would be a treat. Paul Was Not a Christian: The Original Message of a Misunderstood Apostle is as thought-provoking as it is accessible.  A skilled writer, Eisenbaum is methodical but never plodding.  As she guides us through her challenging thesis there are moments when tells us she needs to slow down to carefully spell out a complex concept in detail.  Heed her warning and you will be rewarded.

I don't read Greek (of course neither do most Christians...okay, other than those who live in Greece I suppose) so I'll be sending this book along to some fine friends who do.  I look forward to hearing what they - a retired Roman Catholic priest and a 20-something evangelical minister - think of Professor Eisenbaum's approach to the pivotal role Paul played - whether intentionally or accidentally - in the early church.

Fun stuff. Paul Was Not a Christian should be on every Christian theology nerd's reading list.

PS I recommended the book and its author to Justin Brierley at the Unbelievable radio program and podcast.