Lisa Bowens – African American Readings of Paul
Episode: Dru and Erin chat with Lisa Bowens about her groundbreaking work on African American reception of the Pauline epistles from the early 18th to the mid-20th century. In her book, Lisa sets out to answer the question “What happens when African Americans are at the center of Pauline interpretation,” and the results of her study are rich and rewarding. Join us for a conversation about this important book in the field of Pauline studies.
Guest: Lisa Bowens is Associate Professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary. Her first book, An Apostle in Battle: Paul and Spiritual Warfare in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, published by Mohr Siebeck, is an apocalyptic reading of Paul’s heavenly ascent. She is the author of numerous articles and chapters, including “God and Time: Exploring Black Notions of Prophetic and Apocalyptic Eschatology” in T&T Clark Handbook of African American Theology,” “Painting Hope: Formational Hues of Paul’s Spiritual Warfare Language in 2 Corinthians 10-13,” in Practicing with Paul: Reflections on Paul and the Practices of Ministry in Honor of Susan G. Eastman,” and “Spirit-Shift: Paul, the Poor, and The Holy Spirit’s Ethic of Love and Impartiality in the Eucharist Celebration,” in The Holy Spirit and Social Justice Interdisciplinary Global Perspectives: Scripture and Theology.”
Book (from the publisher’s website): The letters of Paul—especially the verse in Ephesians directing slaves to obey their masters—played an enormous role in promoting slavery and justifying it as a Christian practice. Yet despite this reality African Americans throughout history still utilized Paul extensively in their own work to protest and resist oppression, responding to his theology and teachings in numerous—often starkly divergent and liberative—ways.
In the first book of its kind, Lisa Bowens’ book African American Readings of Paul takes a historical, theological, and biblical approach to explore interpretations of Paul within African American communities over the past few centuries. She surveys a wealth of primary sources from the early 1700s to the mid-twentieth century, including sermons, conversion stories, slave petitions, and autobiographies of ex-slaves, many of which introduce readers to previously unknown names in the history of New Testament interpretation. Along with their hermeneutical value, these texts also provide fresh documentation of Black religious life through wide swaths of American history. African American Readings of Paul promises to change the landscape of Pauline studies and fill an important gap in the rising field of reception history.
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