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Paul: A Very Short Introduction Paperback – June 7, 2001
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"An incisive summation of the essentials of Paul's career and role in development of early Christianity. Sanders highlights key elements in Pauline thought."--Harry Rosenberg, Colorado State Univ.
"This book is lucid and judicious. It's the most concise introduction to Paul I've seen, and it is excellent as a quick intro at the beginning of a course, preparing the students for further study of Paul's letters themselves."--Jeffrey A. Trumbower, St. Michael's College
"This short readable volume is packed with the wisdom and insights of a scholar whose contribution to the field of Pauline studies is respected around the world."--J. Samuel Escobar, Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary
"Written clearly, and the focus is on the most important issues. The 'participation' business is treated well."--David P. Efroymson, La Salle University
About the Author
E.P. Sanders is a Professor of Religion at Duke University.
Top customer reviews
My reading of Pauline theology and exegesis is still a bit shallow; but I know enough already to see that while Sanders may just be covering the peaks, he is giving us a good enough look deep into some of the valleys to appreciate his stating that Paul is a difficult writer for modern readers. Not only was Paul not as polished a writer as his contemporary Philo in Alexandria, he used some Greek terms which simply do not easily translate into English. And, many important modern such as the RSV (Revised Standard Version) Bible translations don't help much when they mangle some of Paul's more important statements.
Since practically nothing is known about Paul's life with any certainty, Sanders takes little space for biography and no space on speculation on what Paul may have done, for example, during his early years in the Nabatean desert. Oddly, he does add to the question of where Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans. Some writers say he wrote in Miletus and others say he wrote it in Corinth. Sanders opts for Corinth.
Sanders is probably one of the very best writers from which to get the `non-Lutheran' interpretation of Paul, as he concentrates much more on seeing Paul concentrate on the membership of Christians in the body of Christ instead of Righteousness by faith. At the very least, he gives the two points of view equal importance.
While the book is organized primarily by theological topics, Sanders seems to get most of his quotes and references from Romans and Galatians (which happen to be the two letters most interesting to Luther in his early career).
There are two new aspects of Paul I get from this book. First, Paul is NOT an anguished soul, as we have come to view Luther or Kierkegaard or modern existentialists. The second is that for Paul, evil was a real, palpable force in the world. The evil of sin was not an outgrowth of simple guilt, depression, or other psychological phenomenon. Evil was REAL. This gives me a whole new perspective on interpreting the Gnostics, who made a big thing of the doctrine that the physical world was created by an evil demiurge.
I also get a reassurance on Paul's doctrine on free will. Unlike Luther in `Bondage of the Will', Paul firmly believed that humans have free will and can choose right or wrong and disbelief or faith.
As excellent as this book is, it may be a bit too technical for a younger teen that is new to problems of reading and interpreting ancient translated texts. If the student is, however, a student of Biblical Greek, then this is a book they should know!
However, as I review over my notes and highlights in writing this brief review, and having now read Paul’s letters, I now realize that Sanders actually does a pretty thorough job of covering the essence of Paul’s thought. And yet, at times his thoroughness borders on redundancy as particular Pauline topics are explicated numerous times in different places of the text (e.g., Paul’s understanding of “the law”; Paul’s understanding of how grace operates; etc.). Ironic for a book series that is built on the idea of being short and concise.
I would recommend this book as a supplementary aid to someone who is currently reading or, preferably, has read and is readily familiar with Paul’s writings. I fear it may be too technical for someone who has either not read Paul recently or much at all.