I have been thinking deeply about “Paul’s Ascent to Paradise” for the past forty years. When I first suggested a dissertation on two verses of Paul’s letter we called 2 Corinthians back in 1975 at the University of Chicago, Jonathan Z. Smith, my soon-to-be advisor smiled and said, “You just put your finger on the pulse of what is most central and characteristic about the Jesus movement from its earliest and most direct witness.” At the time, I had little inkling of what he meant, as I was just beginning to understand what J. Z. Smith called “the dynamics of persistence and change” in understanding the religions in the ancient Mediterranean world in the Hellenistic period.
And yes, it did take me five years to finish my dissertation, which is considered “fast” by University of Chicago time! And another four years to turn the dissertation into a book, published in 1986 my first year teaching at the College of William and Mary. My dear friend, the late Alan Segal devoted a special session of the SBL to that forthcoming book in 1984, and I have often thought that is why I got the job at Wm&Mary–as the chair of the Religion Dept. Hans Tiefel, was there listening and I think quite impressed.
This past Sunday I announced on my blog that I was making a revised 2nd edition of my long out-of-print first book, Things Unutterable: Paul’s Ascent to Paradise available in a very limited edition for interested readers, see “My First Book Things Unutterable Now Available.” I am not selling this new edition or publishing it formally but am sending it at cost of printing, comb binding, US priority mail shipping, and handling to anyone interested. See link above for details. I have been asked for years by students, colleagues, and readers whether they can somehow get a copy–since original sells on Amazon for $245 and up! This new edition is far better, copyedited, and updated with comments and additional notes.
I assumed there might be a couple dozen people who would want a copy but I have been pleasantly surprised at the rush of requests, so much so that I am going to wait until Friday, the end of the month, to put in the print order. So, if you are interested the detailed instructions for ordering are in the previous post, linked above. If any of you have the original you can compare the first page in terms of both content and style, to get an idea of the kinds of revisions I have included.