The Apostle Paul ruled the roost on the blog in 2015, owing to the release of Bernard Brandon Scott’s new book The Real Paul: Recovering His Radical Challenge and subsequent resurgence of interest in The Authentic Letters of Paul, a new translation and reconstruction of the letters coming out of Westar’s Paul Seminar. By June we were launching the 30 Days of Paul reading challenge, and in November an all-star panel of Paul scholars was pushing into more nuanced questions. Is it possible Paul will have an even bigger 2016?

Top Paul Posts of 2015

  1. 5 Quick & Dirty Rules for Interpreting Paul
    A report on Scott’s presentation on The Real Paul, this is a fast-track approach to setting aside the Paul of tradition and beginning to let the first-century Paul speak for himself.
  2. How to Read Paul’s Letters Chronologically
    I asked Google for a chronological reading list of Paul’s letters and got entirely unsatisfactory answers, so I put together a reading list based on The Authentic Letters of Paul, which makes a good-faith effort to actually read the letters in the order they were likely written. This reading list launched 30 Days of Paul.
  3. In Closing: A Portrait of Paul
    At the conclusion of 30 Days of Paul, I wrote a final entry describing the Paul I found in the letters. The most surprising and gratifying discovery for me was the frequency with which Paul referred not only to Jesus’ death but also his life and teachings. Through years and years of church, nobody ever truly demonstrated that connection to me. Through Jesus, Paul was undone. I loved that.

Top Christian Origins Posts of 2015

  1. 8 Tips for Dating Early Christian Texts
    Disappointments in Google’s offerings once again led to me putting together a shortcut for people who want to understand where scholars come up with dates for when biblical and other early Christian texts were written. Geez, Google, improve those algorithms, will you?
  2. Historical Reasons Not to Limit the Contents of Your Bible
    This report on Jennifer Knust’s Spring 2015 lecture looks at early Christian texts that were popular all the way through the fifth, sixth, seventh centuries CE and beyond. Why on earth do so many of us today feel such a need to limit the contents of our Bibles when freedom reigned even after the biblical canon was supposedly “closed”?

Top Theology Posts of 2015

  1. Paul Tillich, 50 Years Later
    Well, he’s not the Paul, but this Paul is pretty interesting in his own right! This post introduced Tillich in preparation for the God Seminar’s celebration of his theology at the Fall 2015 national meeting. Expect more posts on Tillich and other theologians in 2016 as we continue to develop this new Westar Seminar. (I need to finish reading the pile of biographies accumulating on my office floor!)
  2. A Weak but Potent God
    This report on the God Seminar’s inaugural session celebrated radical theologian John D. Caputo, whose opening lecture inspired the recently released The Folly of God. Perhaps it won’t be surprising, given 2015’s Paul-fest, to learn that The Folly of God is a new reading of Paul’s God. Get it, read it. You won’t regret it.

Looking ahead to 2016, thanks to the God Seminar’s ongoing efforts I see more focus on the lives and times of the theologians that have deeply shaped modern thinking. Paul’s theology continues to play a crucial role in getting beyond the theist-atheist divide. Plus—and I think a lot of you will be gratified to hear this—I hear rumors that we may soon be delving into religion and science in earnest, kicking off with a lecture by Mary Evelyn Tucker.

Meanwhile the Christianity Seminar is continuing the very difficult work of orienting the enormous ship that is Christian origins around communities rather than individual figures like Jesus and Paul. Is this in tension with what I just said about our Paul-fest? Yes, in a way, although if you recall that Paul himself was deeply involved and totally dependent on communities to grant him any legitimacy, it makes more sense why this conversation is emerging at this time. The Seminar will be kicking off Spring 2016 by exploring early Christian communities’ experimentation with “family values” in the first and second centuries.

I can’t conclude this post without acknowledging with sadness the passing of Marcus Borg and Nigel Leaves in 2015. Marcus had lived a long and fruitful life, but it seemed his creative outpourings would ever continue to find new ways to reach people who weren’t ready to walk away from Christianity. Nigel Leaves was too young, far too young, to die, and I’m devastated that he wasn’t able to carry his good work further.

Westar welcomed many new Fellows in 2015 and I’m heartened by the thought that they will forward the legacy of these and other outstanding biblical scholars we lost in 2015. Thank you for supporting the blog and all of Westar’s activities over the past year. I’m a huge believer in Westar’s mission of religious literacy, and I think we still have a lot of good work to do together. Here’s to an even better 2016! Happy New Year!

Cassandra FarrinCassandra Farrin joined Westar in 2010 and currently serves as the Marketing & Outreach Director. A US-UK Fulbright Scholar, she has an M.A. in Religious Studies from Lancaster University (England) and a B.A. in Religious Studies from Willamette University. She is passionate about books and projects that in some way address the intersection of ethics and early Christian history.

Image by Fra Angelico entitled noli me tangerePublic Domain