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Paul: The Mind of the Apostle Paperback – April 17, 1998

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st American Ed edition (April 17, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393317609
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393317602
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,356,711 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A.N. Wilson, who has written revisionist biographies of Jesus, Tolstoy, and C.S. Lewis, trains his critical eye on the first self-identified Christian writer in Paul: The Mind of the Apostle. Wilson's book may purport to be a biography of Paul, but it is really an argument about the origin and nature of Christianity. His premise is that "Jesus was a devoted Jew who did not seek to found a new religion, but to call his followers to a stricter observance of Judaism." It was Paul, not Jesus, who exemplified the central tensions of Christianity. ("Jewish or non-Jewish? Roman or anti-Roman? Apocalyptic or practical?") And according to Wilson, it was Paul who first claimed Jesus' divinity and called Jesus the messiah. Wilson's argument, though heterodox, is no hatchet-job. Paul may be "widely regarded as someone who distorted the original message of Christianity, by adding 'theology' to the supposedly simple message of love Jesus preached," but Wilson sees Paul as "a prophet of liberty, whose visionary sense of the importance of the inner life anticipates the Romantic poets more than the rule-books of the Inquisition." Wilson concludes that Christianity is "an institutionalised distortion of Paul's thought, the inevitable consequence of the world having lasted ... more than nineteen hundred years longer than he predicted." Wilson's prose is just this lively and provocative throughout, and his observations are always skeptical and forgiving: "Paul did not imagine that there would be such a thing as Christianity, or Christian civilization, any more than Jesus did." --Michael Joseph Gross --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Having produced a biography of Jesus (Jesus, LJ 9/1/92), Wilson now gives us a biography of Paul, who took Jesus's movement into the wider world. Paul's missionary activity spread Christianity to many places in the Roman Empire, and his writings occupy a significant portion of the New Testament. Wilson argues, as do many others, that without Paul there would be no Christianity. He reminds us that some of the greatest Christian thinkers?e.g., Augustine, Luther, Calvin?were especially dependent on Paul's theology. Wilson's book finds its place among the many on Paul because it effectively puts Paul in historical and social context and because of its probe of the psychological and social forces affecting Paul. Though scholarly, Wilson's book can easily be read by the informed. Highly recommended.?John Moryl, Yeshiva Univ. Libs., New York
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Wilson and Vermes also have done great historical accounts on the life of Jesus.
Daniel M. Paine
The extreme arbitrariness of Wilson's judgment and overt manipulation of relevant texts suggests to the reader that his argument is not to be taken seriously.
What I do now know however, is that A.N. Wilson does not like Jews or Christians, and Christians, and did I mention Christians.
Chris Cortes

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 51 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a fascinating study of the early Christian world, a period of time in which "Christianity" emerged from the struggles within the early Jewish Jesus-movement. Wilson's writing is effortless and his depiction of Roman and Jewish culture is insightful. Those who believe that Christianity is the religion Jesus founded will not agree with much of what Wilson has to say (or modern scholarship for that matter!), but for those seeking an understanding of how various strands of religious thinking took form following the death of Jesus, this is a book well worth reading.
I would say that the subtitle is a little out of place because the book is not really about "the mind of the apostle." This is something that we can never hope to grasp, and Wilson acknowledges as much in his book. But a coherent picture of who Paul was and what he was all about does emerge from its pages. The book clearly sets him in opposition to James and Peter and the Jerusalem Jesus-movement and clearly details Paul's unique (although unintended) contribution to the birth of Christianity. It is hard to put the book down.
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Not surprisingly, this book fails to satisfy both rigid historians and fundamentalist Christians. It is neither a rigorous biography nor a parrot of convoluted and contrived Pauline theology. In my opinion, A.N. Wilson's great contribution here is his examination of the Book of Acts and of Paul's New Testament letters through the eyes of someone primarily schooled in literature and not history. Those of us who hunger to know what REALLY happened back in the First Century are bound to be disappointed as no reliable "histories" (at least by modern standards) exist. The best we can do is some inspired detective work and make some educated guesses. Wilson does just that and while I don't necessarily agree with all his conclusions-and I would agree with a previous reviewer that some of his passages read like brainstorming-I think his book gets us tantalizingly (sometimes frustratingly) closer to the REAL Saul of Tarsus than anything else I've read (and I do not at all agree with the assertion that the portrait is "derogatory."). Wilson's insights on the division between Paul and the Jesus community in Jerusalem are particularly enlightening as is his rooting of early "Christianity" in the Jewish tradition. I would recommend it both to religious skeptics and to those who are not so insecure in their faith in God and Jesus as to feel threatened by anything that challenges conventional belief.
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Sam Simpson IV on March 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
Wilson's book is worth the price, if, and only if, it is part of a larger assemblage of material on Paul. Wilson provides some excellent (and some fatally flawed) insights into the social and political atmosphere of first century Palestine. However, his conclusions and assumptions are not based on a full survey of the available research. As a result he asks the reader to join him in a leap of faith to support his image of Paul as a psychologically unstable, opportunistic businessman, trying to deal with the guilt he felt for his part (yes Wilson says Paul may have been active in the trial of Jesus)in the death of a Jewish prophet. Schweitzer calls this: carrying water a great distance in a leaky bucket to water the garden that sits beside an abundant stream.
Several questions are not answered prehaps intentionally:
Why would Paul, a self declared Pharisee (Shammite) be in the employment of the Temple Guard, a group the Shammites viewed as compromised and corrupt?
Why did Paul speak of his Damascus experience as a resurrection citing, meaning physical body appearance, instead of using language to denote it as the "vision" Wilson suggests? Pharisees would have used language like angel or ghost to descibe a vision, Paul was transformed not because he had a vision of Jesus, but because he saw a resurrected Jesus. Wilson apparently misses the distinction, but it would not be missed by a Pharisee. Visions can happen anytime, resurrection carried a definate implication that YHWH was finally acting through the promised Messiah. This is what changed Paul's life.
I won't go into the other yarns (like Paul may not have even been Jewish) because I don't want to be too harsh on a book that deserves a critical read. Read it, but be sure to read some Marcus Borg, N.T. Wright, Meier, Schweitezer, Wenham, Witherington to round out the survey.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By DoctorD on August 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
Since the Catholic church declared "The year of Saint Paul" commencing in July, 2008, a lot of people will be wondering whether to buy this book. I say yes - with some caveats.

Wilson is an engaging writer and makes a lot of illuminating observations. For example, describing the Temple as an "abattoir" sounds disrespectful at first glance, until you consider just what was happening to all those doves, lambs, goats, and heifers people brought in. This is an easily read book that is hard to put down.

But far too often Wilson builds his arguments on decidedly shaky foundations. On one page he will openly speculate and 20 pages later he treats that speculation as proven truth. And this happens again and again. This habit constitutes a major flaw of the book.

Surprisingly, Wilson seems most comfortable analyzing the theology of the "authentic" letters. And, while he is sceptical of Jesus' divinity, he can not help but wonder how a "simple Galilean exorcist and faith healer" exerted such an influence on his countrymen.

Perhaps this is best read from the library or as a used book.
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