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Paul the Apostle
His Life and Legacy in their Roman Context


  • Date Published: November 2012
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521757805

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About the Authors
  • This book is a controversial new biography of the apostle Paul that argues for his inclusion in the pantheon of key figures of classical antiquity, along with the likes of Socrates, Alexander the Great, Cleopatra and Augustus. It first provides a critical reassessment of the apostle's life in its historical context that focuses on Paul's discourse of authority, which was both representative of its Roman context and provocative to his rivals within Roman society. It then considers the legend that developed around Paul as the history of his life was elaborated and embellished by later interpreters, creating legends that characterized the apostle variously as a model citizen, an imperial hero, a sexual role model, an object of derision and someone to quote from. It is precisely this rewriting of Paul's history into legend that makes the apostle a key transformative figure of classical antiquity.

    • A controversial new thesis about Paul's Roman cultural identity, which argues for continuity between the Jewish 'Saul' and the Christian 'Paul'
    • An interdisciplinary approach using biblical studies and classical studies, academic fields not normally combined
    • Looks at later legends about the apostle as part of Paul's 'life story'
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Harrill's book would serve well as a scholarly and accessible introduction to Paul and the Pauline tradition, especially for courses on the New Testament and early Christianity.' Bryn Mawr Classical Review

    'This is one of the very best books to appear that situates Paul's ministry in its historical context with subtlety and rigor across many disciplines of Pauline studies. This rich and lucid book will be a resource for graduate and undergraduate libraries alike. Indeed, Harrill is at his best conducting interdisciplinary research into the contexts of the early Jesus movement.' Review of Biblical Literature

    ''That Saint Paul. … He's the one who makes all the trouble.' Anyone who wants to understand that trouble would do well to take up this book, and anyone charged with teaching a course on the troublesome apostle will find it made for this purpose. That the author chooses this line from Hemingway for an epigraph tells us that he, too, wants to stir up a bit of creative trouble, in the classroom and in academic discourse about Paul.' Wayne Meeks, Church History

    'In this accessible and engaging introduction, Harrill brings his expertise in social history to bear on Paul's life and legacy … the book contains numerous insights that will be of interest to university students and scholars alike.' John K. Goodrich, Religious Studies Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2012
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521757805
    • length: 224 pages
    • dimensions: 226 x 152 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.37kg
    • contains: 1 b/w illus. 3 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. The Life:
    1. From Pharisee to Apostle
    2. Communities in the making
    3. Paul's life in its Roman context
    Part II. The Legend:
    4. Competing stories about Paul in Late Antiquity
    5. Paul the scriptural authority: contradictory discourses
    6. How the West got Paul wrong
    Conclusion: going beyond the epitaph.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Dead Sea Scrolls in English
    • History of Christianity
  • Author

    J. Albert Harrill, Ohio State University
    J. Albert Harrill is Professor of Classics at Ohio State University. A New Testament scholar, he is the author of Slaves in the New Testament: Literary, Social, and Moral Dimensions (2006) and The Manumission of Slaves in Early Christianity (1995). He has contributed to numerous reference works on the Bible and Christianity, and his articles have appeared in such journals as New Testament Studies, the Journal of Biblical Literature, Studia Patristica, and Religion and American Culture.

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