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Liberating Paul: The Justice of God and the Politics of the Apostle

ISBN: 9780883449813

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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.

Resource Experts
  • Bibliographical references
  • Notes and indexes

Top Highlights

“It is just because the voice we have learned to accept as Paul’s is the voice of the sanctified status quo that continued efforts to reclaim Paul’s genuine voice are necessary. For centuries the apostle’s legacy has been systematically manipulated by human structures of domination and oppression, from the conservative interpreters of Paul who found their way into the New Testament itself, down to the legitimation of the ‘New World Order’ or the sonorous waves of antifeminist backlash in our own time.” (Pages ix–x)

“There are, so to speak, no intelligible Jewish reasons for Paul to have left Judaism behind.” (Page 69)

“to impel them rather toward mutual compassion and striving for the common good.” (Page 223)

“the spiritual roots of scapegoating violence against the poor” (Page 223)

“The heavenly journeys in these early apocalypses ‘usually begin after a crisis of human confidence about God’s intention to bring justice to the world, and they result in the discovery that the universe is indeed following God’s moral plan.” (Page 141)

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

  • Title: Liberating Paul: The Justice of God and the Politics of the Apostle
  • Author: Neil Elliott
  • Publisher: Fortress Press
  • Publication Date: 2005
  • Pages: 308

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.


2 ratings

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  1. Joel Landon Watts
  2. Ryan White

    Ryan White


    I wish someone had warned me before purchasing this book that the author is using it as a platform to push his socialistic agenda. I painfully read through the first chapter where he lambastes "right-wing Christians" for all sorts of atrocities and never once mentions the problems with the "left". He also displays a strong anti-American sentiment even though he himself lives in and enjoys the freedoms of America. He also seems to regularly quote Noam Chomsky, a man who aligns himself with anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism (according to Wikipedia). As icing on the cake, he also makes references to "Israeli-occupied Palestine". If you buy into this sort of communist theology, then this book may be great for you, but I am going to seek knowledge on this subject elsewhere from someone who can control his modern political agendas and simply present the facts.
Save 25% off during the Memorial Day Sale!


Digital list price: $23.99
Regular price: $18.99
Save $4.75 (25%)