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An American "myth of Innocence" and Contemporary Pauline Studies

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Richard Hughes discusses the "Myths America Lives By," including myths of national innocence and national destiny. Hughes' discussion is particularly relevant to the American context of Pauline studies after the Shoah, where "American" values of inclusiveness and "universalism" are opposed to ethnic intolerance. Ironically, in some versions of the so-called "new perspective on Paul," the latter is usually identified with the "Jewish exclusivism" that Paul opposed.

Increasing criticisms have been raised against this construal of Paul's theology. Efforts to rehabilitate Paul by opposing him to Jewish ethnocentrism rely on caricature and stigmatize fundamental Jewish identity and observance. In contrast, an explicitly political reading, attending to aspects of counter-imperial dissent in Paul's letters, however uncongenial to the mythology of American innocence and destiny, may provide deeper insight into the contours of Paul's interaction with alternative Jewish discourses under Roman rule.


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