It’s quite easy to read a book written 2,000 years ago and view it from my own cultural viewpoint. It’s probably more instructive though to seek to understand the cultural context within which it was written.
This book does this with the writings of Paul (or St. Paul, Saul), a significant contributor to the New Testament. Some modern readers look upon Paul with horror, especially with his writings about women, homosexuality, and slavery. But how would his audience have taken his letters on these topics?
Turns out that his ideas were quite revolutionary for their time. He used words in contexts that had never been used before. He professed equality where the concept wasn’t even a sparkle possible in that time. According to the author, Paul, properly understood within the cultural context, would be marveled at by those who most hate him today.
I loved the book’s style. First, Sarah Ruden is hilarious and I found myself laughing quite often. Second, she immerses the reader in the culture of the time through vast references to contemporary literature. She’ll quote entire sections of plays, books, and accounts of the Greco-Roman world. It was a relatively quick read. I am appreciative of any book that can help me understand the Bible.