Sarah Ruden's Paul Among The People

1407 words - 6 pages

In Sarah Ruden’s book, Paul Among the People, Ruden strives to disprove modern society’s common belief that the apostle Paul was a man strongly against women and homosexuality. She makes the claim that he was actually fighting for more equality and love than what Roman society allowed in Paul’s time and even before his time. Ruden compares the words Paul wrote around the middle of 50 A.D. and into the early 60 A.D.’s against other popular literary works of the Roman first and second century an effort to challenge contemporary negative thoughts regarding Paul. Despite the negative opinions that a majority of modern society hold about the apostle, Sarah Ruden does a remarkable job of refuting the claims that Paul was a misogynist homophobe by putting Paul in perspective inside the society that he lived in. She claims that Paul was offering equality and a better life for the people of his time. By doing this, Ruden attests that Paul was not the negative man that most people believe but that he actually fought for more equality and compassion than what he is given credit for by most people today.
Firstly, Ruden gives Paul partial credit for the growing popularity of Christianity because of the equality and compassion that he preached to others. He offered every person a sense of belonging no matter what background they came from, she claims (Ruden 37). Paul was offering a sense of belonging to a community as well as a life full of eternal riches and glory for people to inherit after death. The rising Christian population was inevitable as Paul and others in the Christian faith were offering this inheritable heaven to those who had no claims to any of these things. Paul even offered a better life for the slaves of the community. He compared the runaway slave, Onesimus, to being deserving of love and forgiveness, like a brother or a son would be, from his master (Ruden 160). Due to the extreme differences in social classes between a master and his slaves, this comparison was entirely unheard of in Roman society. Sarah Ruden includes a description written by Petronius of how runaway slaves were considered vermin, had their crimes written on their heads, and were treated with disgust (Ruden 157).Thus, Paul suggests an equality and belonging for each and every person, even the slaves. Ruden writes, “the inheritance fantasy probably wasn’t founded on greed. It was likely also a fantasy of belonging fully…” (Ruden 37). The idea of inheriting an eternal life after death was what Paul was offering and what Romans, especially underprivileged and unfortunate Romans, desired immensely.
Women had few more rights and respect in the social sphere of Roman society than slaves. Ruden argues that Paul was actually proposing a better life for the women contrary to the misogynist reputation that is often given to him. Women were not citizens of Rome and they were often forced into marriages; the marriages were arranged and, most of the time, to men much...

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