Cross-Cultural Paul: Journeys to Others, Journeys to Ourselves

Cross-Cultural Paul: Journeys to Others, Journeys to Ourselves

Cross-Cultural Paul: Journeys to Others, Journeys to Ourselves

Cross-Cultural Paul: Journeys to Others, Journeys to Ourselves

Synopsis

The apostle Paul was a cross-cultural missionary, a Hellenistic Jew who sought to be "all things to all people" in order to win them to the gospel. In this provocative book Charles Cosgrove, Herold Weiss, and K. K. Yeo bring Paul into conversation with six diverse cultures of today: Argentine/Uruguayan, Anglo-American, Chinese, African American, Native American, and Russian. No other book on the apostle Paul looks at his thought from multiple cultural perspectives in the way that this one does. From the introduction outlining the authors' cultural backgrounds to the conclusion drawing together what they learn from each other, Cross-Cultural Paul orients readers to the hermeneutical struggles and rewards of approaching texts cross-culturally.

Excerpt

The apostle Paul was a cross-cultural missionary, a Hellenistic Jew who sought to be “all things to all people” in order to win them to the gospel (1 Cor. 9:19–23). He may have been at least modestly trilingual, fluent in Greek but also able in a rudimentary way to read and communicate in Hebrew and Aramaic. He became such a champion of the gentiles that some of his Jewish compatriots accused him of disloyalty to his own people. He gave up Jewish dietary laws and Sabbath observance and thought other Jewish followers of Jesus should also accommodate to gentile ways rather than pressure gentiles into “living like Jews” (i.e., into becoming Jewish proselytes as a way of becoming Christians). He carried out missionary journeys throughout Asia Minor and as far as Rome, dying with a mission to Spain on his unfinished agenda.

But Paul was not cross-cultural in a modern sense. The modern concept of “culture” refers to an integrated pattern of beliefs and practices. Cultures, by this definition, are symbolic worlds with their own inner logic. Ancients who reflected on the question of how and why peoples differ recognized that language and “customs” were elements of ethnic identity, often attributed moral personalities to ethnic groups, and sometimes explained differences as a result of environment. But we find nothing in

1. The expression “live like a Jew” (a single verb in Greek that has often been translated “Judaize”) appears in Gal. 2:14, where Paul reports how he criticized Peter at Antioch for living like a gentile but pressuring gentiles to live like Jews.

2. On Paul’s biography, see Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, Paul: A Critical Life (Oxford: Clarendon, 1996). On Paul’s sense of his own identity, see James D. G. Dunn, “Who Did Paul Think He Was? A Study of Jewish-Christian Identity,” New Testament Studies 45 (1999): 174– 93.

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