Paul after Empire: Contesting Scriptures, Rewriting America

“This project helps to examine the colonial wound inflicted by the apostle Paul’s migration to the Americas and to decolonize the reception and influence of traditional biblical criticism by documenting and centering colonial Nahua Christians and their scriptures and traditions apart from the apostle's gaze. ”

Team Members/Contributors

Horacio Vela University of the Incarnate Word Contact Me

About this first book grant for scholars of color

This monograph imagines what academic biblical studies would look like today if the early colonial encounters between Indigenous peoples of the Americas and Christianity were centered rather than the European Reformations of 1517. While Martin Luther and others debated Paul, Indigenous Americans also read, interpreted, and contested the apostle amidst the invasion and destruction of their lands and cultures. This monograph brings a borderlands approach to biblical studies and the broader reception and contestation of scripture in the Americas, with a particular focus on Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. It centers Nahua Christians in Mexico, their encounter with Paul, and their contributions to the study and creation of scriptures in America. This project strives to identify and heal the colonial wounds inflicted by Paul’s migration to the Americas and to decolonize traditional biblical criticism by documenting lesser known, lesser recognized forms of biblical study. As such, this project centers Indigenous and minoritized communities, who now form the majority of the church in North America, and imagines forms of inclusion in the Body of Christ beyond the borders and boundaries of conversion and assimilation. I explore the ways the apostle is implicated in the colonization of the New World and the destruction of Indigenous voices. At the same time, I also center the creative ways Indigenous readers interpreted and challenged him. Though Paul’s influence can be seen in the construction of the ideal convert, my project also reveals connections between the instability of Paul’s identity and the hybrid identities of Indigenous Christians and later constructions of Latinx/o/a identities. Ultimately, this study seeks to offer responsible hermeneutical approaches to racial, ethnic, and cultural difference in the Americas, free both from the gaze of the Paul of the Reformation and dominant forms of academic biblical studies.