–James McGrath, Butler University
“Paul’s life, of which we get snippets from his letters and also from the accounts of others about him, was a dramatic one. Robert Orlando takes those details, and the insights and interpretations of scholars, and weaves them together with the skill of a filmmaker to provide a compelling narrative of Paul’s life, his aims, his struggles. Often in the details of scholarly exegesis, the real life concerns, the intrigues, and the conflicts can end up seeming distant, vague, and theoretical. Orlando brings them to life, without failing to keep the sources and the scholars in view. In a field where one often has to choose between dry academic commentary on the one hand, and exciting, at times even sensationalist reconstructions that may bear at best a distant relationship to the evidence, Orlando does a skillful job of avoiding the extremes while bringing the best aspects of two worlds together, so that the genuine insights of scholars are allowed to become not merely information but a full-fledged and compellingly-told story of a key figure in the history of early Christianity.”
–Corrie Norman, University of Wisconsin
“At a time when the Academy touts “life-long learning” and “public humanities” and yet rarely takes independent scholarship seriously, professional scholars should not overlook Robert Orlando’s A Polite Bribe, the culmination of years of research sparked by a college course. He is a more than capable student of Paul and Pauline scholarship who ardently and articulately makes a plausible case for what might have happened to Paul. Readers new to Pauline scholarship will especially appreciate his accessible style and the ease with which he introduces them to diverse reads of Paul while positing his own soundly creative reading. Those who already find Paul intriguing will find him only more so in A Polite Bribe. As a companion to Orlando’s documentary, this is very useful introduction or follow-up. See the film. Read the book. “
“Robert Orlando combines the best traditions of historical criticism with an astounding knowledge of the history of research to provide an in depth look into Paul that I have not seen in scholarship during the last decades. I recommend His book, A Polite Bribe, with the utmost enthusiasm. A book where scholars and laypersons alike are given the unique chance to meet Paul again for the first time. This truly “new narrative” of early Christianity has my full endorsement.”
–The Rev. Jeffrey J. Bütz, S.T.M., Instructor of Religious Studies, Pennsylvania State University, and author of The Brother of Jesus
A Polite Bribe may be the most unique book ever written about the apostle Paul. Robert Orlando, a screenwriter, filmmaker, and communications specialist, has taken an innovative approach to producing a biography of Paul that he calls “narrative method,” an approach that utilizes insights from literary philosophy and psychology to try to achieve a more objective picture of Paul than traditional scholarly approaches. Orlando’s method pays off, resulting in what may be the most historically accurate picture of Paul ever written.
Orlando calls himself an “independent Pauline scholar,” and his work indeed adheres to the highest standards of biblical scholarship, and he supports his unique insights and contentions with the research of recognized scholars. That this remarkable work of scholarship has been achieved by someone “outside the academy” is noteworthy, as well as revealing of the state of much current biblical scholarship, which can often be myopic or slanted to a party line. With unfettered academic freedom and a unique methodology, Robert Orlando is able to achieve what traditional biblical scholars cannot.
Drawing from the work of many diverse scholars and theologians, Orlando opens the curtains to reveal the unvarnished picture of a first-century religious conflict hidden beneath centuries of theology and church politics. Writing with unique cinematic flair, Orlando engagingly reveals how from a volatile ethnic conflict between the apostles—a conflict largely created by Paul—a new world religion arose that would eclipse all others. Brilliant!
A Polite Bribe seamlessly blends cutting‐edge Pauline scholarship with narrative storytelling. It’s a human story that speaks to the broadest possible audience precisely because it doesn’t preach to any choir or address a specific faith tradition, but rather wrestles with the paradoxical story of Paul the man and his famously ambivalent relationship with the Judean Apostles, which was largely obscured by later generations. This portrayal will undoubtedly provoke and inspire dialogue both within Christian churches and across social and religious boundaries.”
Author, independent scholar, and creator of “The Paul Page” >>> For full review
– Elaine Merrill
As someone who knows little about biblical history but a lot about good writing, I found A Polite Bribe offered me double pleasure. First, I was excited to learn a great deal about St. Paul and his mission, and second, I was thrilled to find my history lesson presented in such energetic and entertaining prose. I’d recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the true history of Christianity, but also to anyone who enjoys a good, well‐crafted read.
Editor (formerly Senior Production Editor with Harper)