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Paul Was Not a Christian: The Original Message of a Misunderstood Apostle

4.13  ·  Rating Details  ·  78 Ratings  ·  9 Reviews
Pamela Eisenbaum, an expert on early Christianity, reveals the true nature of the historical Paul in Paul Was Not a Christian. She explores the idea of Paul not as the founder of a new Christian religion, but as a devout Jew who believed Jesus was the Christ who would unite Jews and Gentiles and fulfill God’s universal plan for humanity. Eisenbaum’s work in Paul Was Not a ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published December 8th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published November 19th 2009)
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Sep 30, 2011 Naomi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bible
I'm recommending this for all my liberal and moderate religious friends' bookshelves. Why? Because Eisenbaum challenges generations of tradition that have permeated European spirituality and its philosophical and religious descendants. Her challenge provides a basis for greater appreciation of the varieties of Judaism in the first centuries of the common era, illuminates the early church before it was self-consciously a separate movement from Judaism, and shares greater understanding for student ...more
Jun 22, 2010 Ancient rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
Pretty good. Not as in-depth as I had hoped, but Eisenbaum has enough end notes to make this a good jumping-off point for further study.

Interesting to see how tradition, prejudice, subjectivity, and partisan ideology have shaped our understanding of ancient documents. Paul has been made into both hero and villain over the last 500 years. He's been used as a weapon first by Catholics against Jews, and then in turn, by Protestants against Catholics. Perhaps now that non-Christians like Eisenbau
Tonia Parker
Mar 01, 2010 Tonia Parker rated it it was amazing
This book examines the Biblical Paul from the perspective of his Jewishness - putting a new twist on some of his letters.
Oct 02, 2013 Blurp rated it really liked it
Spoiler alert: Paul was Jewish!
Michael Brady
A sophisticated argument, skillfully rendered...

πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ Romans 3:22

Could key elements of traditional Christian dogma - from Augustine to Luther - hinge on a choice between nominative and genitive case when translating a key phrase in Paul's letters from their original Greek? Does the bulk of the history of Christianity arise from distinction between the Christian notion of faith in Christ and Paul's expression the faithfulness of Christ? Wow! The concept rocks my world and I'm not
May 14, 2012 Mark rated it really liked it
Shelves: paul
It helps to understand what Eisenbaum means when she says what Paul wasn't. By 'Christian', she means 'a follower of Christ, as completely separated and distinct from the Jewish community'. Her driving point is that, whereas today we rarely think of 'Christianity' and 'Judaism' as being the same thing, in the time that Paul was preaching and writing his letters, there was no such thing as a non-Jewish Christianity. It was, in itself, a subset of Jewish beliefs... a 'denomination' competing for a ...more
Dec 20, 2012 Caitlin rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating revisionist work about Paul of the Bible, one of the major authors that helped cement Christianity as we know it. Eisenbaum gives a detailed history of Judaism, to help defend her thesis that Paul never gave up his Judaism, what we call a conversion was nothing of the sort. She provides compelling evidence that Paul recognized in his vision of Christ that Christ was a sign that the end of times is nearer than anyone thought and therefore it is time for Israel to be the 'lig ...more
John Otto
May 23, 2015 John Otto rated it it was ok
This book really is a waste of time. There is nothing remarkable in it, although the author insists that her thinking that Paul remained a Jew after his Damascus road experience is radical and "a new paradigm." Everyone already knew before this book that Christianity started out as simply a subset of the Jewish religion; there was not a dramatic break. The author thinks her idea that Paul thought both faith and works are necessary for salvation is revolutionary, but it is nothing I haven't heard ...more
Robert Sarles
Mar 06, 2012 Robert Sarles rated it liked it
I liked this book a lot. We part ways on the authenticity of some of Paul's letters which she uses to clarify her perspective on who Paul is. However, really I like the premise of the book and regardless of how she gets there, I agree with many of her conclusions.
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Pamela Eisenbaum is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies and Christian Origins at the Iliff School of Theology. One of four Jewish New Testament scholars teaching in Christian theological schools, she is the author of Invitation to Romans, a contributor to the Women’s Bible Commentary and the Oxford Access Bible, and has published many essays on the Bible, ancient Judaism, and the origins of Ch ...more
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“[F]rom the perspective of outsiders to the Christian tradition, Paul has sometimes been ridiculed for having abandoned monotheism. Such ridicule is part of a more general theological critique, advanced for centuries by Muslims and Jews, against the Christian doctrine of the incarnation, namely that God became human, and the notion of a triune God, namely that God is three-in-one, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. To reduce a long tradition of theological dialogue and debate to one sentence, Muslims and Jews believe that devotion to Christ renders the Christian claim to monotheism misguided at best and idolatry at worst, while Christians see no contradiction between their affirmation of the oneness of God and the doctrine of the Trinity.

But, to once again reiterate a point made several times already in this book, Christianity does not yet exist as an independent religious system in Paul’s time. Paul is not operating with the doctrine of the incarnation as it was defined in the Council of Nicea (CE 325) or the Christian doctrine of the Trinity as it was hammered out in the Council of Chalcedon (CE 451). At the same time, Paul’s letters already reflect a surprisingly high Christology that appears to anticipate later orthodox views. That is to say, Paul’s letters manifest a belief in Jesus’ divinity that came to characterize the full-out identification between Jesus and God of later official Christian doctrine. Jesus is clearly a divine figure of unique status in Paul’s letters, and this has led many historians to conclude that devotion to Christ as developed by Paul must have come from outside—that is, non-Jewish—influences.”
“Idolatry is the Jewish equivalent to the Christian concept of original sin in that it is the first and primary cause of every other sin.” 0 likes
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