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Hidden Criticism?

Hidden Criticism?: The Methodology and Plausibility of the Search for a Counter-Imperial Subtext in Paul

Author: 
Christoph Heilig (Author)
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Description

Paul has been regarded as being uncritical of the Roman Empire for a long time, not least because of his apparent call to obey the state in Romans 13:1–7. However, recent scholarship has questioned this assumption by pointing to "hidden criticism" in the letters of the apostle. But how can we decide, in a methodologically sound way, whether such a counter-imperial message lies beneath the surface of the text? On the basis of insights from the philosophy of science, Christoph Heilig suggests several analytical steps for examining this paradigm. He concludes that the hypothesis that we can identify critical "echoes" of the Roman Empire in Paul’s letters needs to be modified if it is to be maintained. In particular, the hypothesis of Paul’s concern that any overt criticism would be dangerous and lead to subsequent persecution of himself or his congregations is dubious and does not sufficiently justify this interpretative approach. Nevertheless, Heilig concludes that the search for a counter-imperial subtext in Paul could turn out to be heuristically fruitful, so long as the limitations of the approach are heeded. Hence, a reevaluation of Pauline passages in light of Paul’s engagement with ideas from his Roman environment is encouraged.

ISBN: 
9781506428123
Price: 
$39.00
ISBN: 
9781506432564
Price: 
$39.00
Release date: 
September 1, 2017
Pages: 
208
Width: 
6
Height: 
9

Reviews

Review by Michael F. Bird in his blog on Patheos

Endorsements

Anyone arguing for or against the notion that the New Testament contains ‘coded’ criticism of Rome will need to engage carefully with this thorough and thought-provoking book.

"Heilig here enters a significant debate about proposed ‘counter-imperial’ echoes in the letters of Paul with a degree of nuance and methodological sophistication that takes the conversation to a wholly new level. His careful consideration of literary, historical, and political factors in Paul’s letter-writing does not fully support either of the current polarized options, and will thus lead scholarship forward. Anyone arguing for or against the notion that the New Testament contains ‘coded’ criticism of Rome will need to engage carefully with this thorough and thought-provoking book."

John Barclay | Durham University

Hidden Criticism advances this conversation to a new level.

"Hidden Criticism is an academically demanding read — including a study of Bayes theorem of probability along with expertise in a few areas, including NT studies, Pauline studies, the Greco-Roman context, as well as a serious contribution to scholarship on empire criticism. This is the first methodologically rigorous examination of how to detect "echoes" of empire in Paul’s writings. At times NT scholars have walked somewhere between the adventurous and the reckless and, because the audience will be receptive, made claims that are not worthy of serious consideration. Hidden Criticism advances this conversation to a new level."

Scot McKnight | Julius R. Mantey Professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary, Lombard IL

Helps clarify the debate and distinguish between the plausible, the possible, and the impossible.

"In this valuable new study, Christoph Heilig addresses the bold and sometimes wishful views about a hidden criticism of the Roman Empire in early Christian texts. He introduces an innovative criteriology that helps clarify the debate and distinguish between the plausible, the possible, and the impossible."

Jörg Frey | Chair of New Testament Studies, University of Zurich

A must have book for anyone interested in how the early church tried to negotiate its place in the Roman Empire.

“Christoph Heilig’s volume Hidden Criticism is a game-changing exploration of counter-imperial themes in Paul’s letters. Heilig does a superb job of refining the methodology necessary for such an enquiry and then deftly demonstrates how Paul’s writings contained veiled or hidden counter-imperial resonances that sensitive readers would pick up on by creating an alternative narrative that undermines imperial claims. This is a must have book for anyone interested in how the early church tried to negotiate its place in the Roman Empire."

Michael F. Bird | Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia

Required reading for anyone studying ‘Paul and Politics’.

"As the question of Paul’s possible critique of imperial rule has taken an increasingly important role in scholarship, the proposal that some of that critique was 'hidden', a coded transcript for those with eyes to see, has won favor in some quarters though by no means all. Christoph Heilig here subjects this idea to important and telling analysis and scrutiny in what will be required reading for anyone studying 'Paul and Politics'."

N. T. Wright | University of Saint Andrews

This book will stimulate scholars to devise better criteria for discerning the counter-imperial intent in Pauline texts than we have seen to date.

"Counter-imperial interpretation of the NT appears to wax and wane with the flux of imperial hybris in the United States. With the inauguration of a new United States president, making Christoph Heilig’s book more widely available through this publication is to be welcomed. It will certainly stimulate scholars to devise better criteria for discerning the counter-imperial intent in Pauline texts than we have seen to date."

Seyoon Kim | Fuller Theological Seminary