From Publishers Weekly
Wills builds on the popularity of his bestseller What Jesus Meant
in this audio version of his newest book. The apostle Paul's teachings have caused controversy almost from the minute he penned the letters to the first-century churches he helped found. His influence on church history and doctrine is incontrovertible, but his words have often provoked anger and dissension. Wills, who writes from the Catholic tradition, carefully reveals Paul's meaning by taking listeners back to the teaching of Jesus Christ to prove that Paul's words didn't contradict, but in fact explain and expound on Christ's. Wills's precise diction and preacherlike narration add to the listening experience. He sometimes moves too quickly between chapters and sections—listeners need a bit more time to adjust—and he occasionally reads quickly as well. But haste aside, listeners can't help appreciating Wills's voice, his scholarship and his conclusions.
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Lacking the distracting critiques of WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) buttons and Benedict XVI that bracketed the main text of What Jesus Meant
(2006), that book's companion gets right to the point. Is Paul "the bad news man," who corrupted the teachings of Jesus into an antisexual, antiwoman, anti-Semitic apology for oppression? Apocryphal second-century writings characterize Paul as an instrument of Satan, early critics called him the father of heresies, and to him has been attributed the most stringent, damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't predestinationism. Newly translating the seven epistles now considered authentic for his references, and arguing from historical discoveries about other New Testament references to Paul, especially in Acts, Wills begs to differ. Paul's writings are the earliest Christian texts and, Wills maintains, are as orthodox as their priority suggests. They attest that Jesus is the Messiah, preaches a gospel of love, and rose from death to redeem humanity. They uphold Jewish law, repeatedly acknowledge women's equality, and discourage sex and marriage only personally, not as a matter of faith. Like Jesus, and since his epistles predate them, more authoritatively than the Gospels, Paul taught that salvation comes from the Jews. To help clarify his exculpation, Wills avoids certain words, especially church, Christians, priests,
because nothing corresponding to their modern meanings was used by early followers of Jesus. The affect of that decision is revelatory and makes this explanation of Paul dazzlingly enlightening. Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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