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Paul and Human Rights
A Dialogue with the Father of the Corinthian Community
Adrian Long

Unless biblical studies in any generation engages with the concrete issues and concerns of its day, it is likely to paint itself into an irrelevant scholarly corner. In a world shaped by the rhetoric and structures of 'human rights' (though struggling to accept and apply them) it is surprising that biblical scholars have largely failed to engage rights notions. Paul and Human Rights brings a biblical perspective to human rights by constructing a dialogue between them and the Paul of the Corinthian correspondence on key issues of power, equality and social structure.

The concept of human rights would have been alien to Paul, yet his Corinthian letters provide evidence of a sustained interaction with the kinds of issues we talk of in human rights terms. Long here explores Paul's emotive, manipulative language of mimesis, apostleship and fatherhood in conversation with human rights values. Similarly, Paul's social engineering and instructions regarding women and slaves are examined against the backdrop of human rights ideas about social structure and equality.

Unlike some other writers, Long's aim is neither to laud nor denigrate either Paul or human rights. His purpose is to build a dialogue where both can be heard and each can contribute to thinking about the other. In particular, the cruciform, other-orientation of Pauline servanthood provides a framework within which to consider how human rights ideas might continue to shape readings of Paul, and how Pauline perspectives might offer a critical alternative to the limited agenda of much contemporary human-rights thinking.

Adrian Long is Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham.

Series: Bible in the Modern World, 26
978-1-906055-76-9 hardback
Publication October 2009

Long’s study of Paul’s theology in view of human rights is a fresh idea, deserving attention from biblical scholars. Methodologically, Long’s intertextual or intercontextual reading of Pauline material in view of contemporary human rights theory is legitimate and works well … A dialogue between Paul and human rights is much needed in contemporary life. Yung Suk Kim, Biblical Interpretation.

Paul and Human Rights provides a new discussion concerning the Corinthian correspondence, ministry, and theology. Long … reminds the reader that Paul (like many other rights activists) was a pastor first, rather than a social activist … While Paul may seem to avoid taking cultural issues to task, he saw rights as the beginning of change, not the end of it. Ronald R. Clark, Review of Biblical Literature.