Polaski, Sandra Hack 1964-

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Polaski, Sandra Hack 1964-


Born November 25, 1964, in Louisville, KY; daughter of John Albert and Joyce Elaine Hack; married Donald Charles Polaski, August 17, 1991; children: Hannah Catherine. Education: Furman University, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1987; Vanderbilt University, M.Div., 1990; Duke University, Ph.D., 1995. Hobbies and other interests: Shape-note singing.


Office—Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, 3400 Brook Rd., Richmond, VA 23227. E-mail—[email protected].


St. Mary's College (now St. Mary's School), Raleigh, NC, instructor, 1994; Elon College, Elon, NC, instructor, 1994; Furman University, Greenville, SC, assistant professor of religion, 1995-96; Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, Richmond, VA, assistant professor, 1996-2000, associate professor of New Testament studies, 2000—.


National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion, American Academy of Religion, Society of Biblical Literature, Phi Beta Kappa.


Received Wabash Center Program Grant.


Paul and the Discourse of Power, Sheffield Academic Press (Sheffield, England), 1999.

A Feminist Introduction to Paul, Chalice Press (St. Louis, MO), 2005.

Inside the Red Tent, Chalice Press (St. Louis, MO), 2006.

Great Sayings of Paul, Westminster John Knox Press (Louisville, KY), 2008.

Also contributor of numerous articles to journals. Member of editorial board, Perspectives in Religious Studies; book review editor, Interpretation, 1998.


Baptist Theological Seminary professor Sandra Hack Polaski is the author of two books about the writings of the apostle Paul and about his relationship with the emerging Christian church: Paul and the Discourse of Power and A Feminist Introduction to Paul. Paul and his writings have been particularly problematic for women in the Christian tradition, in part because of his contradictory attitude towards them. For instance, in the first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul calls for women to remain silent in the congregation; but in the same letter he also acknowledges by name Priscilla, an early teacher of Christian theology, in the founding of the church. Many feminists reject Paul's teachings on the grounds that his attitudes and instructions cannot be strictly followed in the modern world.

In Paul and the Discourse of Power, Polaski examines the ways in which modern thinkers interpret Paul's relationship to others in the early church, including his understanding of his role in spreading the teachings of Jesus. "There is for Paul an, at times, self-contradictory tension in which he regards himself as servant and father to the same congregation, is both weak and yet authoritative, and he uses the injunction of imitation, viewed by some interpreters as a power strategy which privileges him over against his ‘followers,’" wrote Andrew D. Clarke in the Evangelical Quarterly. "This assessment is somewhat skewed, however, by the working assumption that, within his congregations, Paul has no leaders other than himself."

Paul calls for obedience to the word of God as revealed in the life and teachings of Jesus, but he never makes plain his right to make that demand. The question is, what makes Paul's authority better than that of other interpreters of Jesus? "Polaski argues that Paul's identification of himself as a master builder in 1 Cor. 3 is reserving a privileged position for himself," Clarke continued. "The relationship between power and this unique grace given to Paul is explored at length, especially in regard to both 1 Cor. and Rom. Paul goes in order to minimise distinctions between his own role and that of Apollos, and his identification of both of them as servants and as ‘nothing’ in relation to God."

A Feminist Introduction to Paul examines the specific issues that modern feminist thinkers have with Paul's writings. "Polaski's introduction to Pauline studies is unlike any other introduction currently available," wrote Pamela Thimmes, in a review for the Catholic Biblical Quarterly. "Rather than simply surveying or synthesizing current scholarly debates on Paul and arranging those ideas with new packaging, Polaski reviews the current consensus on Pauline subjects but frames the entire study with Paul's use of the phrase new creation (Gal 6:15; 2 Cor 5:17), which she argues is the core of his theology." In an analysis of Paul's language, Polaski shows that the ways in which Paul describes the "new creation" symbolically evokes ideas associated with women and femininity—especially birth. "New creation is a process (a birthing)," explained Thimmes, and because of this it calls for a "revelatory experiences of change," and that change can (and, over time, of necessity, will) include a new and different way of living and understanding.

Those experiences of change, Polaski argues, provide modern thinkers a justification for interpreting the theology of Paul in a feminist context. "Sandra Hack Polaski has given us an introduction to Paul that will be of considerable interest to a particular group of feminists, ‘those who function and expect to function within the Christian tradition with some notion of biblical authority,’" declared A. Katherine Grieb in her Interpretation review of the volume. "What she has already achieved here suggests that her subsequent work will be even more liberating."



Catholic Biblical Quarterly, April 1, 2006, Pamela Thimmes, review of A Feminist Introduction to Paul, p. 344.

Evangelical Quarterly, July, 2005, Andrew D. Clarke, review of Paul and the Discourse of Power, p. 267.

Interpretation, January 1, 2006, A. Katherine Grieb, review of A Feminist Introduction to Paul, p. 107.


Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond,http://www.btsr.edu/ (May 29, 2008), "Sandra Hack Polaski."