Paul: A Jew on the Margins

By Calvin J. Roetzel
Louisville : Westminster/John Knox (2003). xii + 116 Pages.

Reviewed by Paul Thorsell
17.1 (Spring 2006) : 126-126

My initial—and favorable—acquaintance with Calvin Roetzel, long-time scholar of Paul, came from his monumental work, Judgement in the Community (Brill, 1972). Although written prior to the revolution in Pauline studies set off by E. P. Sanders, Roetzel’s early tome was weighty and persuasive. The present volume is neither. Paul: A Jew on the Margins is a collection of four previously published articles. The best of the four (chap. three) reprises the old Bultmann/Käsemann discussion on Paul’s use of apocalyptic. Roetzel takes the chapter to explore Paul’s use and reworking of Jewish apocalyptic categories All four articles are reworked to emphasize Paul’s status as “marginal Jew.” Two new chapters are appended to these four: “Paul— A Jew on the Margins” (hence the title) and “Paul as Mother: A Metaphor for Jewish-Christian Conversion?” The first introductory chapter portrays Paul as living at the margins of both Judaism and Christianity; the second probes Paul’s use of feminine maternal imagery to embrace the humility of Christ. Neither is persuasive. Roetzel’s volume is, in my estimation, a sad example of what happens when socio-political rhetoric hijacks biblical studies.