Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to talk back, not to pilfer, but to show complete and perfect fidelity … Titus 2:9-10a NRSV
How can these words of Paul that were used to justify slavery a century and a half ago be excused as part of “Reclaiming the Radical Visionary”?
[W]omen should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes … Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent … 1st Timothy 2:9-12 NRSV
And how do these misogynist words of Paul reflect the thinking of a “Radical Visionary”?
According to Borg and Crossan, the answer is simple; these were not the words of Paul, but were in fact the words of anonymous, later authors who intended to correct Paul’s radicalism.
[T]he post-Pauline, pseudo-Pauline letters are anti-Pauline with regard to major aspects of his theology. They represent … a taming of Paul, a domestication of Paul’s passion to the normalcy of the Roman imperial world in which he and his followers lived. p. 15
This is a major premise of The First Paul, but Borg and Crossan are not breaking new ground. They are merely restating what has long been the scholarly consensus, i.e. that only half of the fourteen NT letters attributed to Paul were genuinely written by him. Others, including the Pastorals, were “pious frauds” that falsely claimed Pauline authorship (the scholarly community refers to such writings as “Pseudepigrapha”). Borg and Crossan further suggest that onerous passages within the authentic Pauline letters were later accretions added by editors.
So much for the inspired nature of the canon. Since Borg and Crossan merely report the scholarly consensus, the importance of The First Paul for this issue lies in the authors’ popularity beyond the academy and with the laity in the pews.
Borg and Crossan effectively argue that genuine Pauline thinking is a “justice of equality” that derives from being “in Christ” and capsulized in his famous words of Gal 3:27-29.
As many of you were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
In Part 3, I will discuss the view of Borg and Crossan as to the identity of Paul’s perceived foes and the underlying conflict that drove his activity and his theology. In this, the authors attempt to break new ground and their thesis is central to an ongoing scholarly debate.
Originally posted in Spirit of a Liberal blog.