A review by James Aageson for the RBL of Pervo’s new book The Making of Paul: Constructions of the Apostle in Early Christianity is now available online! I am anxious to pick up a copy of this volume myself. I have been waiting for someone to tackle this subject and Pervo’s scholarship is generally as spot-on as it is compelling. Here is a snippet:
This outstanding volume is the most current and complete book written in English on the development and diversity of Paul’s legacy in the early church, despite Pervo’s disclaimer to it being a comprehensive work. It is well-researched, thorough, insightful, and pleasingly written. The author’s desire for completeness results in an approach to the topic that might be described as a survey, in the best sense of that term, of authors and texts. It is well-organized, accessible, and devoid of unnecessary detail. Following the introduction, he addresses how Paul became a book, how the tradition was shaped in the pseudepigraphic Pauline letters, what became of Paul in early Christian epistolary and narrative tradition, and how he fared among the anti-Paulinists as well as those for whom he became an object of interpretation. The analyses in this book are based on serious attention to the texts but are at least one step removed from straightforward exegesis. Analysis and synthesis are the methodological order of the day, and in that regard the argument is well done. The breadth of learning that has gone into this study is impressive, and all those who follow Pervo into this field will need to reckon with his arguments and judgments.
The thesis of this book is that the only real Paul is the dead Paul. Even though some of Paul’s actual words undoubtedly survive, the entire Pauline corpus has gone through a process of selection and editing that served the needs of varied and diverse early Christian communities.
In the end, though, I must also agree with the reviewer who writes:
The realization that this process of development was extremely fluid and layered with complexity over time makes it difficult to make simple historical generalizations, let alone identify with confidence dependencies in the tradition. The hybrids and transmutations are too varied to move historically much beyond the notion of trajectories.