Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul by Lars Kierspel
Thanks to the kind folks at Kregel for this review copy, which I received free of charge in exchange for an unbiased review.
For many readers in the fields of theology and biblical studies, the juxtaposition of “charts” and “theology” in a book’s title may conjure images of elaborately composed end-times scenarios or depictions of history’s progression toward that end. Thankfully, we need not entertain such possibilities here, for Kierspel has done a fine job amassing a wealth of material and condensing it all into a single reference volume. In fact, it’s really rather stunning to consider how much work must have gone into this volume when you begin poring over its pages. While it’s a bit overextending to say that Kierspel has left no Pauline stone unturned, it’s not far from the truth to say that he has indeed surveyed the landscape that is Paul and has put together a map of sorts to help students navigate his eventful life.
This review was a bit of a challenge simply because Kierspel covers so much ground. Thankfully, he organizes the book into four main sections: Paul’s Background & Context, Paul’s Life & Ministry, Paul’s Letters, and Paul’s Theological Concepts.
In the first section, Kierspel covers the ever-important topics of Roman rule before and during Paul’s lifetime and the Judaisms before and during Paul’s life that have been the subject of intense study over the last several decades. Given this tendency to focus on Paul’s Jewish roots, it is a tad surprising to see that Kierspel actually devotes a bit more space to Paul’s Greco-Roman context. That’s not to say that the Jewish culture in which Paul lived and preached is in any way diminished, but simply a statement of fact concerning the author’s choices.
The second section concerns Paul’s life and ministry and covers many important topics, including a chronology of Paul’s life, parallels between Paul and Acts, autobiographical information, a comparison of Paul’s conversion accounts, his missionary journeys, and a host of other geographical and historical information.
The third section concerns Paul’s letters and it is here that many will find perhaps the most useful collation of data. Kierspel charts 40+ topics related to the Pauline corpus, including introductory information for the disputed and undisputed letters of Paul, the issue of amanuenses, manuscripts, OT allusions, quotes, and parallels, hapax legomena and a handful of other entries.
The fourth section concerns the many theological concepts on which Paul wrote. This chapter, as was the third, was/is immensely helpful. As you should expect with book of charts, there are no elaborations or scholarly discussions here, at least not in the sense that you would find in a commentary or NT intro. These topics include various references to God, Christological concepts (humanity, divinity), pneumatology, sin, death, and judgment, soteriology, salvation metaphors (!), eschatology, and a variety of other theological topics.
Some will register their disagreements here and there, particularly with matters of dating (Paul’s missionary journeys, the dating of various epistles, etc.), which one should expect any time dates and timelines for historical figures and/or events are the subject of discussion. Some will also quibble with the discussion of various theological themes, as in whether or not Paul was as specific about a particular topic as perhaps Kierspel suggests. However, these minor issues aside, Kierspel has put together an immensely useful volume that will serve as a welcome guide for many. This book may be likened to a map, in a way, in that it provides a general orientation to the Apostle Paul in his primary contexts. This will be a great resource, particularly for those who need a quick reference to a particular detail about Paul’s life that perhaps had not been cemented in their memory.
Additionally, this volume will prove to be beyond handy for those who wish to study a particular letter, concept, or theme of Paul’s. With so many issues concisely covered and topically arranged, this will be a go-to guide.
This is a wonderful tool and I look forward to other volumes that Kregel has in the works!
Αυτω η δοξα
Vincent Branick comments,
In pointing out Paul’s apocalyptic thinking, Beker joins K. Stendahl, J. Munck, and other great Pauline scholars who correctly eschew a modern ‘privatized’ and anthropocentric interpretation of Paul. Paul is not wrestling with the question, ‘How can I experience a saving God?’ or ‘How can I assure my personal salvation?’ Paul’s task is rather to understand what God is doing for his creation, how God has overcome and is overcoming the powers of death in the universe (“Apocalyptic Paul?” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 47 , 666).
*just noticed the page number*
Αυτω η δοξα
I was reading through Anthony Thiselton’s The Living Paul: An Introduction to the Apostle’s Life and Thought this morning and something caught my eye. The portrait of Paul used on the cover art bears a rather strong resemblance to Gerard Butler, better and forever known as King Leonidas from 300.
What do you think?
Αυτω η δοξα
One of the books that I’ve been reading for a paper this semester is Paul and His Theology. It’s a collection of essays from various scholars on, as you have brilliantly deduced, various aspects of Pauline theology. In fact, I would love to own a copy of this book, but because it is published by Brill, it’s outrageously expensive. $196 for a single book? I don’t think so. Not even Amazon offers this bank-busting volume at their signature discounted rate! I could, however, get a used copy for a mere $192!
Guess I’ll pass on this one.
Or, maybe Jim will buy a copy for me–he’ll do anything to support Brill!
Αυτω η δοξα
In preparing for this Sunday’s message (1 Cor. 3:1-4), I find myself still not totally convinced of an interpretation in the passage. The question I had was/is, “What exactly does Paul mean in his reference to milk and meat in 3:2?” Here’s the verse: “I fed you milk, not solid food, because you were not yet able to receive it. In fact, you are still not able” (HCSB).
My initial reading was a reference to the level of teaching Paul sought to impart to the Corinthians. Upon their conversion Paul would have started them on some of the basic truths of the faith, and, as they matured, they would be taught more advanced concepts. After all, Paul says that they were not ready and are still not ready. Persuing the notes in the NET in BibleWorks, the same interpretation was given there.
However, both Fee and Garland argue for a different interpretaion. Rather than seeing a reference to beginner vs. advanced teachings of Christian faith, they read a misperception of Paul’s teaching on the part of the Corinthians. Essentially, both Fee and Garland see “milk” and “meat” as synonymous; it was only the Corinthians’ misperception of Paul’s teaching that led him to say this. The Corinthians, then, perceived Paul’s teaching as “milk” due to their spiritual immaturity, when it was spiritual “meat” all along.
Sorry for not posting reference info (works cited, contextual indicators, etc.), but it’s late and I wanted to post this before I retired for the evening.
I’d be interested in your thoughts. Have a blessed Lord’s Day!
Αυτω η δοξα,