Book: Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul

Today’s book is brought to you by Kregel Academic and Ministry Resources. They provided this book in exchange for the review. Which was a blessing, because it saved me $20 on a book I intended to buy in the first place.

We live nearly 2000 years after the composition, compilation, and canonization of the letters of the Apostle Paul. His writings comprise the bulk of the New Testament and his expression and thought intents are so deeply imprinted in the life of the Western Church and its traditions that he has almost eclipsed the dozen Apostles of the beginning of Acts.

Of course, this makes him the frequent target of study and scholarship. In consideration of this, there is almost a better case to be made for “no more Paul books!” than there is for “More Paul books!”

Into this comes Lars Kierspel’s Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul, published by Kregel Academic in their Kregel Charts of the bible series. I have the Hebrews volume in the same series, and have just about worn it out doing a series on Hebrews.

Kierspel has taken the task of summarizing the major scholarly work that already surrounds the Pauline corpus and presenting the major views that exist. He does so by presenting charts in four categories: background, Paul’s life and ministry, Paul’s letters, and Paul’s theological concepts. This is followed with actual written descriptors to go alongside each of the 111 charts. These explanations help extend the context of the chart to clarify sources and terms.

Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul presents a rounded picture of Pauline scholarship, including a brief summary of the ‘new perspectives on Paul’ that is, by necessity, too short but worth consideration. Kierspel provides multiple viewpoints on such issues as actual authorship of Pauline writings and dating of the various letters. In a few cases, this leaves the reader to seek final guidance elsewhere to help determine which view is accurate, however this work is a summary of views and so satisfies in that regard.

I was surprised to see no mention of theories of Pauline authorship for Hebrews, but as I don’t think he wrote Hebrews either, that’s no fault. I think being surrounded by traditional Baptists, that view has not gone away and so I am used to seeing it.

Charts is finished with a 31 page shopping list for the serious student of Paul. Oh, wait, that’s a 31 page bibliography. It is thoroughly fleshed out with resources from the highly technical to the popularly accessible, and includes both books and journal articles. If I could make one change to this book overall, I would organize the bibliography by focus and reference type, helping separate the summaries from the technical articles on single Greek words.

Greek does factor in Kierspel’s presentation, but most of it is placed alongside English glosses, allowing an English-only use of all but a few of the charts in the text. Admittedly, the charts on hapax legomena are less useful if you are not doing Greek, but the major looks at theology are useful in either language.

Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul will not replace a good commentary on specific letters, nor will it replace a comprehensive reconstructive biography of Paul, but this is a great tool to put on the shelf for seeing snippets of all the information in one place. Get one. Or two, and pass one on…

Yes, I am enthusiastic about this book. No, it is not just because I was given a book in exchange for the review. In fact, the only requirement was that I put the review up, not that the review be favorable. But it’s still a worthwhile investment for your New Testament studies.

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