Paul is arguably one of the most controversial biblical figures outside of Jesus himself. It is confusing for some readers to reconcile some of the things that Paul writes; especially in the time period which these writings came about. What did it look like for Paul to write a letter in the Ancient world? What was Paul’s theology? What did Paul intend for his letters written to individuals?
“Rediscovering Paul”, both first and second editions, brings Paul to us. This book places Paul within his own context but also allows us to understand him. The authors guide the reader first through Paul’s world and what the socio-political and religious landscape would have looked like to an ancient Christian. With this in-depth look, the reader receives a glimpse into a world from which we are far removed. This deservedly is the first chapter because to understand Paul the writer, you must understand the world of the writer. Once the reader has a grasp on the world of Paul, the reader can thus be guided through Paul’s life; call, conversion, and chronology. Now we can begin to understand how Paul becomes the writer we read. From zealous persecutor of the church to one of the most beloved apostle’s, we now journey into the letters of Paul.
You will notice a few things in the structure of each chapter. First, the brief overview. The authors start with the “occasion” for the letter. It is paramount before we read any biblical text to understand why the author wrote the text to begin with. Second, a birds-eye view of the book. Without specific sub-headings to guide the reader through portions of the text, such as one might find in a commentary, the headings themselves distinguish what portion of Scripture the authors are writing about and (generally) follow along with headings found in Bibles themselves. Thirdly, you will notice many “so what” and “what is more” boxes”. Stated in the introduction to the first edition (included in the second), the authors note that these are for; the “so what” answers the question of why this topic matters, and the “what is more” presents additional information that “supplements our discussion, gives further background, or explores related issues.” Finally, you will notice each chapter ends with a section “Read More About It.” The purpose for this is simply to provide resources for the curious scholar, pastor, or student who desires to dig deeper into Paul or a specific letter.
The first edition of “Rediscovering Paul” is a fantastic resource, and this only quantifies the usefulness and will draw you in further to the writings of this beloved apostle.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from InterVarsity Press. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and a positive review was not required. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.