For centuries the apostle Paul has been invoked to justify oppression—whether on behalf of slavery, to enforce unquestioned obedience to the state, to silence women, or to legitimate anti-Semitism. To interpret Paul is thus to set foot on a terrible battleground between spiritual forces. But as Neil Elliott argues, the struggle to liberate human beings from the power of Death requires "Liberating Paul" from his enthrallment to that power. In this book, Elliott shows that what many people experience as the scandal of Paul is the unfortunate consequence of the way Paul has usually been read, or rather misread, in the churches.
In the first half of the book, Elliott examines the many texts historically interpreted to support oppression or maintain the status quo. He shows how often Paul's authentic message has been interpreted in the light of later pseudo-Pauline writings.
In Part Two, Elliott applies a "political key" to the interpretation of Paul. Though subsequent centuries have turned the cross into a symbol of Christian piety, Elliott forcefully reminds us that in Paul's time this was the Roman mode of executing rebellious slaves, a fact that has profound political implications.
Under Elliott's examination, a startlingly new image of Paul begins to emerge, liberated from layers of false interpretation, and free to speak a liberating and challenging word to our world today.
In Liberating Paul, Neil Elliot shows how modern interpreters have become accomplices in the ancient campaign to portray Paul as an acolyte of the prevailing order and its values. By penetrating exegesis and sharp political acumen, Elliot reinstates Paul as the agitator and martyr that he really was.
—Walter Wink, Auburn Theological Seminary
A comprehensive political analysis of Paul from the point of view of the oppressed. As the ambiguous title suggests, he is liberating Paul from centuries of misinterpretation by offering a fresh analysis that shows how liberating Paul really was. . . Liberating Paul is an impressive rethinking of Paul.
—David Rhoads, Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago
Honest, provocative, and persuasive. . . This is an important study, worthy of serious consideration.
—Vincent L. Wimbush, Claremont Graduate University
Neil Elliott received his doctorate from Princeton Theological Seminary and has taught New Testament for more than fifteen years, chiefly at the College of St. Catherine and United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. He is biblical studies editor at Fortress Press and author of The Rhetoric of Romans. An Episcopal priest, he is also a frequent contributor to The Witness, the online social-justice journal.