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Paul: An Outline of His Theology [Paperback]

Herman Ridderbos
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 11 1997
In many ways this is the most comprehensive and thorough exposition of the teaching of the apostle Paul. Here we find sound exegesis, perceptive analysis, profound insight, and a humble listening to the voice of Paul. This comprehensive study is not only highly recommended; it is a must for every student of the New Testament and its message.

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Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
It is not surprising that with respect to so profound and complicated a phenomenom as the manner in which the Apostle Paul has given form and expression to the gospel of Jesus Christ, a great variety of conceptions is to be traced in the history of Pauline investigation. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Paperback
I first read this book in 1980 as part of my Bible school curriculum. I bought another copy because my old one was deteriorating from so much use. This is the only book I've found that explains Paul's Revelation from a theological standpoint, but without making it stiff and difficult to understand. A must for any Christian who shares Paul's desire to "comprehend the One by whom he has been apprehended."
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5.0 out of 5 stars Breath-taking in its scope and depth. Nov. 25 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is the classic modern exposition of Paul's thought and theology. Topically arranged, Ridderbos exposes the structure and Paul's system and sheds a calm, thorough light on such matters as Paul's meaning of law/grace, flesh/spirit, present age/age to come. Ridderbos is in line with Geerhardus Vos' biblical theology without being dependent on the great Princeton theologian.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breath-taking in its scope and depth. Nov. 25 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is the classic modern exposition of Paul's thought and theology. Topically arranged, Ridderbos exposes the structure and Paul's system and sheds a calm, thorough light on such matters as Paul's meaning of law/grace, flesh/spirit, present age/age to come. Ridderbos is in line with Geerhardus Vos' biblical theology without being dependent on the great Princeton theologian.
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect scholarly complement to E. W. Keyon's books. Aug. 9 1998
By Kelly M. Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I first read this book in 1980 as part of my Bible school curriculum. I bought another copy because my old one was deteriorating from so much use. This is the only book I've found that explains Paul's Revelation from a theological standpoint, but without making it stiff and difficult to understand. A must for any Christian who shares Paul's desire to "comprehend the One by whom he has been apprehended."
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Errors in Kindle Version Jan. 21 2013
By Carl D. Jacques - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
There are numerous sloppy errors in the Kindle edition. While reading Section 3 (which is pages 47-91 or so in the printed version, but pages 47-76 in the Kindle version, which makes me wonder if sections are missing) I came upon numerous mistakes. Lines are broken in the middle of sentences, spaces are placed inappropriately (l i k e t h i s) and in one case 2 or 3 sentences had been moved and placed a paragraph later than they should have been. I also found words that were spelled incorrectly (like 'hab' instead of 'had'). Bad form! If I handed in a paper like this for my grad classes I would have been docked quite a bit!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent resource, but a slow read Dec 8 2013
By Michael Drew - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
In Paul: An Outline of His Theology Ridderbos is concerned with gaining insights in to the fundamental structures of Paul’s preaching and doctrine. Beginning with the Reformation he shows the doctrine of justification by faith as being primary to interpreting Paul, even when , as in Calvin’s case, it was not the center. The author moves through history showing the different interpretations that have come to light. Highlighting F.C. Baur’s antithetical motif of the Spirit and the flesh being in opposition. Moving to the liberal interpretation where man must gain a rational victory over the sensual flesh. Then in the history of religions approach, he illuminates how scholars turned away from philosophy and towards syncretistic religious views of the Hellenistic period as the basis of understanding Paul. In the eschatological interpretation he writes of Schweitzer’s work of seeing Paul’s doctrine as resting on Jesus’ preaching of the kingdom. In more recent times, Bultmann has written that Paul’s theology is not about the redeemer who dies and come to life, but a cosmic drama of which the mythology of gnosis speaks. Ridderbos holds that the content of Paul’s preaching is of the eschatological time of salvation inaugurated with Christ’s death and resurrection. By the resurrection, Jesus as the first born from the dead and the second Adam will raise a new and justified humanity.

The attention to historical detail by which our author begins the book makes for a helpful introduction and context for what lies ahead. There is not only a summary of the key lines of interpretation, but the philosophical influences that undergird these positions. For example, in discussing Baur’s view of the Spirit and flesh in antithesis, Ridderbos provides insights into Baur’s conception of the Spirit, stating, “Baur’s conception is entirely governed by a Hegelian view of the history and the idea of the Spirit” (R. 17). Without this sort of commentary it is hard to know what an author means, as words are often used in ways different than how an evangelical reader would understand them. Next, in pouring over the fundamental structures of Paul’s theology it was plain that these structures were anchored in biblical theology, as the abundance of scriptural references attest. In some paragraphs nearly every point is either a biblical quote or marked with a parenthetic reference. For example, in discussing Paul’s theology on Christ as the firstborn of every creature (R. 78), he quotes nearly one third of a page of text from 1 Corinthians 8, Ephesians 1 and Colossians 1 and proceeds draw out his theology from there. This makes his points much more compelling as you don’t feel like you have to buy into a particular tradition to follow along. Another excellent point is the detail in which he interacts with the biblical text. He is not merely offering proof texts upon which to draw his own conclusions, rather he interacts with other writers on these texts, especially one’s with whom he does not agree. In this sense, sections where he is developing his position often have the feel of reading a good exegetical commentary, as when he interacts with Cullman who finds a human pre-existence of Christ in Philippians (R. 76). Ridderbos proceeds to interact with this position for one paragraph and then offers a solution to what he finds as Cullmann’s untenable position. This degree of thoroughness without going down rabbit trails or venturing on to endless hairsplitting and qualifications helps to tie down theological loose ends that might otherwise develop.

For all the book’s usefulness in combining history, exegetical thoroughness and logical structure, there was a sense in which reading it was like driving a high performance sports-car which, while having great performance, is tiring to drive for more than short bursts down the track. One of the main issues that leads me to this conclusion is the shear length of some of the writer’s sentences (I counted some that were over 70 words in length). I understand this is a translation and that some things are difficult to distill down to 10 or 15 words, yet there are good reasons for doing so. Whatever is gained in fidelity by stretching the sentence to such lengths is lost in other places, namely the reader’s ability to hold onto the author’s point from beginning to end. At times, reading this reminded me of hours spent reading the works of Augustine—insightful, but highly taxing. While more an annoyance than anything else, the regular inclusion of German, Latin and transliterated Greek in the (otherwise) English text, made for unnecessarily difficult reading. I understand the inclusion of Greek in a book written for seminary students, pastors and researchers, but the Latin and German without parenthetic translations or footnotes? It may prove an only minor issue, but sometimes even knowing what the title of someone’s work is, helps in understanding what follows. This seemed like a small issue that could have at least been handled in footnotes. The last critique I have is that application was sorely missed in this reading. It’s not that the work itself wasn’t applicable, but the writer didn’t set any application forth plainly. Surely for all the brilliant insights into the theology of Paul, he could have brought our minds to a greater grasp of how these truths apply in the church and seminary today. I’m reading this book, presumably to understand Paul’s theology, but I would like to have learned from the author how the application springs from this theology. I’m certain this question could have been answered with great insight.

I would recommend this book to a seminary student for research. This book goes into detail, handling the minutia of Paul’s theology in a manner consistent with what a researcher might hope to discover. I view this as a resource for specific topics. If you are studying Christ as “First born”, begin reading on page 78. If you are studying Christ as the “Image of God”, start on page 68. There is much to be gleaned in Ridderbos’ examination of these topics. I do not see the researcher necessarily needing to commit to reading the entire book in order to be assisted by it. I would also recommend this to anyone preparing to spend time preaching through Paul—there’s no need to begin a systematic expository series apart from a thorough knowledge of how Paul’s theology is understood (and how it’s been understood by others). In such a case this would probably prove better for preparation in laying a solid foundation, rather than something to consult while working on a sermon outline. I would not recommend this book to a Sunday school class or someone who is, in their personal devotion time, trying to make sense of something Paul discusses in one of his letters—I would recommend a commentary in that case. Yet for the researcher or exegete who has the time to delve into some of the nuances of Paul, this would be helpful.
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars KINDLE VERSION ONLY - Missing a page Jan. 24 2013
By Benjamin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Hopefully they will fix it soon, but I just thought I would let anyone thinking about buying the Kindle version that it is missing an entire page. Apparently they forgot to scan it, and didn't even notice that the footnotes skipped a few numbers. I'm only about 30 pages into the book, so I can't report on any other issues yet.

As to the book itself, it's been great so far, but I thought it would be good to let people know about this.

UPDATE: The page turned up a page later, out of place. It seems whoever scanned the Kindle version did a poor job. There have been other minor problems. All in all, if you're going to buy this book, it's a much better choice to get the Print edition until they update the Kindle version. (as of 3/22/13)
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