Introduction

The letters of Paul are the earliest texts in the Christian scriptures, written by a Jew at a time when the word “Christian” hadn’t yet been coined. What is the religious and political context into which they emerged? How were they first interpreted? How and why do they make such an enormous impact in Christian communities and in politics today?

Archaeological materials and ancient writings will help you to enter the ancient Mediterranean world and to think about religious groups, power, poverty, health, and the lives of elites and slaves in the Roman Empire. We’ll explore how immediately controversial these letters were, and how these letters are used today to debate relations between Christians and Jews; issues such as love, law, and grace; and topics such as charismatic Christianity, homosexuality, and women’s religious leadership.

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Whether you’ve been studying Paul’s letters for years or are merely curious about what Christian scriptures are, this course will provide you with information to deepen your understanding of the ancient contexts and present-day controversies about these texts.

Meet The Author

Laura Nasrallah

Laura Nasrallah

Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity

Nasrallah's research and teaching bring together New Testament and early Christian literature with the archaeological remains of the Mediterranean world. She also investigates how these texts make an impact in religious communities and in politics today. Her books include An Ecstasy of Folly: Prophecy and Authority in Early ChristianityChristian Responses to Roman Art and Architecture: The Second-Century Church Amid the Spaces of Empire, and two co-edited volumes, Prejudice and Christian Beginnings: Investigating Race, Gender, and Ethnicity in Early Christian Studies and From Roman to Early Christian Thessalonikē: Studies in Religion and Archaeology. She’s currently at work on a commentary on 1 Corinthians and a book titled Archaeology and the Letters of Paul. Her awards include a Henry Luce III Fellowship in Theology and a fellowship from the American Association of University Women.

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