Congratulations, Christoph Heilig

I told you this kid was a genius. Now we can call him an award winning genius. Congrats, Christoph.

Paul the uncritical apostle?

The Mercator Award in the field of arts and social sciences goes to Christoph Heilig. The doctoral candidate of theology investigated the extent to which the Bible can serve as a source of critical reflection on the power of the state. “Religion is a very important part of political discourse, especially in the US,” says Heilig. Particularly since the presidency of George W. Bush, the question of whether and how political programs can be criticized on the basis of the Bible is being hotly debated in the field of English-language theology.

The New Testament – the central document of Christianity – includes only a single section where the relationship between Christians and Roman state power is discussed: Paul the Apostle calling on Christians to submit to Roman state power and pay their taxes. But why wasn’t Paul more critical of the Roman Empire? Out of fear, or because it wasn’t relevant to him? In his research, Christoph Heilig looked for – and found – political criticism hidden in the writings of Paul. As one of only few to do so at the time, the apostle made critical allusions to a triumphal march of Emperor Claudius and thus to Rome’s imperialist politics. “The New Testament can therefore indeed be considered as a source for critically dealing with political power by Christians,” says Heilig, whose interpretation was published in the two monographs Hidden Criticism and Paul’s Triumph.