Saturday, February 27, 2010

The apostle in context

Rod Dreher is enthusiastic about a book that could help us understand Paul in the context of his times:
The most exciting book of historical analysis I've read in ages — indeed the most exciting book period — is the Classical scholar and translator Sarah Ruden's Paul Among the People (Pantheon) which attempts to defend St. Paul against his modernist critics (e.g. those who consider him an impossible troglodyte for his views on women and homosexuals) by explaining the Greco-Roman social and cultural context in which he composed his letters. It's quite eye-opening, and remarkable in part because Ruden is a research fellow at Yale Divinity School (no bastion of Christian conservatism), as well as a Quaker pacifist. What makes reading Ruden such a pleasure, aside from the quality of her thinking and her prose, is her willingness to question settled truths, and to do it with such a lightness of spirit. She doesn't cast herself as a culture warrior, as such, but as someone who simply thinks that Paul gets a bad deal from contemporaries, who judge him by the standards of our own time, heedless of the cultural realities of his era, that the Apostle addressed in his letters. In short, she's sticking up for a man who in some leading circles is an underdog. .... [more, including an email exchange between Dreher and Ruden]
Thanks to Ross Douthat for the reference.

Sarah Ruden, a joyful iconoclast - Rod Dreher