The Forgotten Creed: Christianity's Original Struggle Against Bigotry, Slavery, and Sexism

Oxford Univ. Oct. 2018. 184p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780190865825. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780190865849. REL
What animated the first Christians? Patterson (George H. Atkinson Professor of Religious and Ethical Studies, Willamette Univ.; The Lost Way) contends it was not the divinity of Jesus nor the theory of atonement but rather an egalitarian vision of God's rule. Patterson starts with a meticulous reconstruction of Christianity's earliest creed based on Galatians 3:28 (there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female), which he argues the Apostle Paul adapted from a preexisting baptismal formula. He then examines how this creed shapes Paul's theology. Paul was most animated in there being neither Jew nor Greek in a way that managed to affirm each. This analysis is followed by an explanation of early positions of authority, and how Christianity drifted into a more conventional Roman social structure.
VERDICT Patterson's overall analysis helps resolve a number of aspects of Paul's writings that appear to be in tension. It also provides a positive and nuanced approach to addressing issues of power and diversity.

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