I recently read The Amazing Colossal Apostle by Robert Price, from 2012. It is always a pleasure to read a book by a real scholar. Price is often dismissed as a fringe figure, but to me he has that special combination of feisty aggressiveness and being well-read that marks someone that demands to be reckoned with. It is no longer fashionable to take Baur or van Manen seriously, but Price does, and it is refreshing to see a lengthy analysis of the Pauline corpus that refuses to yet again reinforce the middle of the road.
The general thesis is twofold. First, all the Pauline letters – even the four Baur admitted as authentic – are also forgeries, and that any historical Paul is more or less lost. Second, typical Pauline scholarship unfortunately resembles historical Jesus work in that the Paul that critics find is the Paul they want to find – thus the title, where an essential fictitious Paul often is a more convenient place to place one’s theological flag than the more radical Jesus. The Paul of Romans, then, is just another layer of early church development. There are also some interesting sub-theses, such as Marcion being the likely author of many of the “authentic” letters.
This is what biblical studies should look like – pushing, prodding, challenging, and thoughtful. I have mentioned before that academics tend to defend, but scholars almost always attack; this is yet another example of this law (let’s call it the Law of Scholarly Aggressiveness) in effect.