Was Paul silent on the injustices of the Roman Empire? Or have his letters just been misread?
The inclusion of anti-imperial rhetoric in Paul’s writings has come under scrutiny in recent years. Pressing questions about just how much Paul critiques Rome in his letters and how publicly critical he could have afforded to be have led to high-profile debates—most notably between N. T. Wright and John M. G. Barclay.
Having entered the conversation in 2015 with his book Hidden Criticism?, Christoph Heilig contributes further insight and new research in The Apostle and the Empire, reevaluating the case for Paul hiding his criticism of Rome in the subtext of his letters. Heilig argues that scholars have previously overlooked passages that openly denounce the empire—for instance, the “triumphal procession” in 2 Corinthians, which Heilig discusses in detail by drawing on a variety of archaeological data.
Furthermore, Heilig takes on larger issues of theory and methodology in biblical studies, raising significant questions about how interpreters can move beyond outdated methods of reading the New Testament toward more robust understandings of the ways ancient texts convey meaning. His groundbreaking work is a must-read for Pauline scholars and for anyone interested in how one of Christianity’s most important teachers communicated his unease with the global superpower of his day.
Table of Contents
Foreword by John M. G. Barclay Introduction 1. The Classical Subtext-Hypothesis 2. Beyond Hidden Criticism 3. Rediscovering Contemporary Contexts 4. Reconstructing Unease 5. Sharpening Our Exegetical Senses Conclusion Bibliography Indexes
Christoph Heilig is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Basel, Switzerland. He has studied theology and biblical studies in Germany and Scotland and received a doctorate from the University of Zurich. His other publications include Paul's Triumph: Reassessing 2 Corinthians 2:14 in Its Literary and Historical Context, Hidden Criticism? The Methodology and Plausibility of the Search for a Counter-Imperial Subtext in Paul, and God and the Faithfulness of Paul, which he coedited with J. Thomas Hewitt and Michael F. Bird.
“The Apostle and the Empire contributes a nuanced reading to vital discussions of the relationship between Paul, his letters, and empire. Utilizing 2 Corinthians as a test case, he calls attention to previously ignored references to the Roman Empire of Paul’s day. Heilig not only offers insight into a specific historical event and a specific New Testament text but also refreshes our hermeneutical senses so that interpreters can use the vast amounts of data currently available with care.” —Amy Peeler, Wheaton College
“Challenging both sides of the debate, Heilig summarizes and further refines his views on Paul’s stance toward the Roman Empire, his use of triumph language, and the subtle political relevance of his letters. Beyond that, Heilig provides valuable insights on how methods of exegesis can be improved by drawing on recent insights from linguistics and the philosophy of science.” —Jörg Frey, University of Zurich
“Christoph Heilig does a sterling job of explaining the debate about whether Paul embedded a covert critique of the Roman Empire in his letters. He presents sober and sensible judgments about the topic that need to be heard and will no doubt influence discussions about Paul and empire in the future. Irrespective of how ‘hidden’ Paul’s protest against the Roman Empire is said to be, Heilig convincingly demonstrates Paul’s inherent unease with Rome’s disposition toward Christ-believing communities. A great contribution to Pauline scholarship.” —Michael F. Bird, Ridley College
“Does Paul say critical things about the Roman Empire in his letters? How could we, centuries later, even tell if he did? In this book Christoph Heilig makes a rigorous and informed case for looking more closely at the evidence and paying attention to issues of methodology. The result is a nuanced, thoughtful, and provocative contribution to an enduring debate in Pauline studies.” —Sean F. Winter, Pilgrim Theological College, University of Divinity
“Heilig’s sophisticated theory of interpreting anti-imperial echoes in Paul’s letters just got better. The refinement of his method and Heilig's adroit use of Greco-Roman sources, especially inscriptions and Greek and Roman iconography, demonstrating his modified theory make this book essential reading for anyone engaging with Paul, his letters, and the Roman Empire.” —D. Clint Burnett, author of Studying the New Testament Through Inscriptions: An Introduction
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