*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Awkward questions for Pauline scholars

by
26 October 2012

John Court considers current approaches

Studying Paul's Letters: Contemporary perspectives and methods
Joseph A. Marchal, editor
Fortress Press £21.99
(978-0-8006-9818-8)
Church Times Bookshop £19.80 (Use code CT895 )

WHAT do new readers or students of Paul's letters need to know or do when beginning to study his writings? (This is a real question, not rhetorical or one with a simple answer that the author already has in mind.) What effect does the choice of study method have on our understanding?

This volume offers 11 chapters on a variety of critical methods or selective approaches to the texts. They originated in a Society of Biblical Literature conference in Atlanta in November 2010 on "Paul and the Politics of Introduction", and have been honed by use in seminars and group-teaching to become a course textbook on intro­ductory methods.

"Paul's words have been used for various modern social purposes such as telling slaves to obey their masters, Jews that they are no longer God's chosen people, women that they should be subordinate to men, and homosexuals that their rela­tionships are unnatural."

In contrast, contributors here advise on:

• Asking historical questions of Paul in relation to our own historical understanding, using archaeological evidence and sociological and economic theories to clarify Paul's world.
• Seeing Paul's letters as rhetorical exercises in the art of persuasion.
• Adjusting the priorities between word and image in studying the art of communication in a society that is only partially literate.
• Taking seriously the cultural and ideological perspectives of feminism, Judaism, and African-American, Asian-American, and "Queer" approaches, in order to reinterpret the text appropriately in these ways.

Many of these contributions advise radical methods of approach which are subversive of the post-Enlighten­ment traditions of academic biblical scholarship. But such awkward questions deserve serious attention in today's society, although the American orientation of these chapters (rhetorically trans­cendental and transatlantic?) may present some obstacles for the British reader.

Dr Court is Hon. Senior Research Fellow in Biblical Studies at the University of Kent at Canterbury.

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

6-7 September 2022
Preaching as Pilgrimage conference
From the College of Preachers.

8 September 2022
Church Times Cricket Cup: North v. South
Join us to watch the match at the Walker Cricket Ground, in Southgate, north London.

26 September 2022
What am I living for? God
Sam Wells and Lucy Winkett begin the St Martin-in-the-Fields autumn lecture series in partnership with Church Times.

More events

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)