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Paul: A Biography Paperback – Feb 11 2020
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“An enthralling journey into the mind of Paul by one of the great theologians of our time, a work full of insight, depth and generosity of understanding.” (Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, author of Not in God’s Name)
“NT Wright takes the most controversial and influential author of scripture and does something remarkable: he humanizes Paul. I was hooked from the first page.” (Mike McHargue, author of Finding God in the Waves as co-host of The Liturgists Podcast)
“A compelling, erudite, and readable biography of the most seminal Christian theologian by one of today’s most celebrated Paul interpreters.” (Miroslav Volf, Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale University and author of Flourishing)
“The most winsome feature is the way Wright paints Paul as a . . . three-dimensional, many-sided, complicated human being. Paul: A Biography is a bright, provocative, imaginative, and often brilliant book.” (The Gospel Coalition)
“Paul is a compelling modern biography that reveals the apostle’s greater role in Christian history—as an inventor of new paradigms for how we understand Jesus and what he accomplished—and celebrates his stature as one of the most effective and influential intellectuals in human history.” (Englewood Review of Books )
“In eloquent and inviting prose, one of the world’s leading New Testament scholars retells the story behind the story, the story of the Apostle Paul. A master teacher here communicates Paul in language every reader can understand.” (Craig S. Keener, F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary)
“The life of one of Christianity’s founders is told by renowned biblical scholar N.T. Wright, who believes that in focusing on Paul’s letters and theology, scholars and pastors have not considered Paul as a person and in the context of his times.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Written with the usual Wright combination of erudition, intuition, mature wit, and wisdom, Paul should serve us well as we seek to unlock the keys to the first great Christian theologian.” (Dr. Ben Witherington, III, Amos Professor of NT for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary)
“Wright’s excellent book not only brings Paul to life but places that life in the complex and overlapping array of Jewish and non-Jewish communities, all set within the Roman empire.” (John Richardson, Emeritus Professor of Classics, University of Edinburgh)
“Brings alive not only Paul but also the communities where he formed churches and the religious ideas swirling around them. . . . This highly readable volume gives those interested in biblical history something to argue about and plenty to ponder.” (Booklist (starred review))
From the Back Cover
For centuries, Paul, the apostle who “saw the light on the Road to Damascus” and changed dramatically from zealous Pharisee persecutor to devoted follower of Jesus, has been one of the church’s most widely cited early teachers. Yet for leading New Testament scholar and Anglican bishop N. T. Wright, most Bible scholars and pastors have not fully grasped what Paul was actually doing and why.
In focusing on Paul’s letters and theology, Wright argues, they have, in short, overlooked the essence of the man’s life and the extreme unlikelihood of what he achieved. In response, Wright offers a new way of understanding one of the most famous Christian figures. Wright draws attention to Paul the man—the man who survived assassination attempts, imprisonments, and shipwrecks all while inventing new language and concepts for faithfully translating Jesus’s story for the Gentile world.
In this pioneering new account, Wright celebrates Paul’s humanity, arguing that this is the best context for understanding him and ultimately for appreciating how he invented new paradigms for how we understand Jesus. “The problem,” Wright explains, “is that while Paul is central to any understanding of early Christianity, we cannot understand him without taking full account of the pre-Christian Jewish beliefs and hopes that he believed had been fulfilled in Jesus.” Only when we consider Paul in this manner can we move on to understanding how he led the way for Christianity to conquer the Roman world.See all Product description
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One of his passions was the absolute unity of Jew and Gentile in the one body of Christ with no distinctions between them. He abhorred the idea of two churches, one for Jews and one for Gentiles. The is perfectly aware of the sensibilities of each group but insisted that they respect each other and have full fellowship - down to table fellowship - with each other.
He also maintains that, following the example of Jesus, Paul gave high value to women. He cites the number of women Paul greeted in his salutations to the house churches in Rome, for example, including one whom he recognizes as an "apostle." He argues that Paul is not a misogynist, but that he elevated the place of women in society.
His final summation of the success of Paul's work is priceless. To me, the highlight of the book was in the final chapter. There he contends that Paul;'s emphasis on love and an outward look in the churches he established and nurtured was responsible for Christians establishing hospitals in the 2nd & 3rd centuries, as well as the development of education for a population that was virtually illiterate prior to the work of Paul. Even the technological advance from books on scrolls to codex format he attributes to Paul's extensive use of the Old Testament Scriptures and the consequent need to be able to thumb through instead of scroll through.
I especially appreciated the way the Wright used Paul's letters to give more insight into Paul the Apostle, and Paul the Man.
This book definitely gives me a new insight into reading and understanding the Pauline letters.
But this is one of the most inspiring books I’ve read in a long time. The book turns on when Wright ties the themes of individual Pauline epistles to a reconstructed Pauline life behind them. The pathos of 2 Corinthians will never be the same—the account of 2 Corinthians is just where I fell in love with the book. Getting three or four pages on an epistle rather than two hundred seems to clarify and prioritise Wright’s style immensely. I understood much better how it all fits together, and I’ve read a lot of Wright (for instance, if you’re like me and waded through 1500+ pages of Paul and the Faithfulness of God but forgot on p. 1284 what was said on p. 1011, some repetition is a helpful aid to memory).
We need a biography of Paul, and this biography, not to reduce the Pauline epistles to autobiographical source material, but to reconstruct how the man lived out his own Christ-shaped theology and ethics, and to sense from that how we might. When Paul was alive, it wasn’t obvious who Christ was (or would be to believers in a mainstream or orthodox Christianity), or what it would be like to follow Him. The drama of Paul’s life is to see that meaning of a Christlike life contested in one of the first and most important Christlike lives. Christians have been living off the victories and clarities won in and through Paul ever since.