Thursday, March 04, 2021

Nasrallah, Archaeology and the Letters of Paul (OUP)

Archaeology and the Letters of Paul

Laura Salah Nasrallah

  • Illuminates the social, political, economic, and religious lives of those to whom and with whom the apostle Paul wrote
  • Uses archaeological materials to consider specific, local contexts and the cities of the Roman Empire
  • Engages in the imaginative work of history, amassing more and more details from archaeology to build cases of the rich, complicated, embroiled lives of those adelphoi, the brothers and sisters whom Paul addressed
  • Tells six stories which emerge from local contexts, from a particular stone or building, from a pathway or an obelisk
  • Presents a methodology for the use of archaeological materials in the study of the New Testament and lives out that methodology with its case studies focused on cities and regions of the Roman Empire
  • Contributes to the ongoing work of New Testament interpretation

Archaeology and the Letters of Paul illuminates the social, political, economic, and religious lives of those to whom the apostle Paul wrote. Roman Ephesos provides evidence of slave traders and the regulation of slaves; it is a likely setting for household of Philemon, to whom a letter about the slave Onesimus is addressed. In Galatia, an inscription seeks to restrain the demands of travelling Roman officials, illuminating how the apostolic travels of Paul, Cephas, and others disrupted communities. At Philippi, a list of donations from the cult of Silvanus demonstrates the benefactions of a community that, like those in Christ, sought to share abundance in the midst of economic limitations. In Corinth, a landscape of grief extends from monuments to the bones of the dead, and provides a context in which to understand Corinthian practices of baptism on behalf of the dead and the provocative idea that one could live "as if not" mourning or rejoicing. Rome and the Letter to the Romans are the grounds for an investigation of ideas of time and race not only in the first century, when we find an Egyptian obelisk inserted as a timepiece into the mausoleum complex of Augustus, but also of a new Rome under Mussolini that claimed the continuity of Roman racial identity from antiquity to his time and sought to excise Jews. Thessalonike and the early Christian literature associated with the city demonstrates what is done out of love for Paul-invention of letters, legends, and cult in his name. The book articulates a method for bringing together biblical texts with archaeological remains. This method reconstructs the lives of the many adelphoi ——brothers and sisters—— whom Paul and his co-writers address. Its project is informed by feminist historiography and gains inspiration from thinkers such as Claudia Rankine, Judith Butler, Giorgio Agamben, Wendy Brown, and Katie Lofton.


Published: 15 January 2021
336 Pages | 20 Half-tones; 13 Line drawings
ISBN: 9780198842026

The hardback edition was published late in 2018. The book just came to my notice with the announcement that it is now in paperback. For notice of a recent article by Cavan Concannon on the same subject, see here.

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