This review appeared in the Jul-Sep 2011 vol. 168 no. 3 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.Subscribe Today
The Living Paul: An Introduction to the Apostle’s Life and ThoughtIVP Academic, Downers Grove, IL February 18, 2010
Thiselton, professor of Christian theology at the University of Nottingham, is known for his work on hermeneutics. This book is a surprisingly complete summary of the apostle Paul’s life and thought that is saturated with biblical references and scholarly views on particular problems and issues. The treatment of “hindrances to a true understanding of Paul” is followed by chapters on the “apostle to the Gentiles” as a missionary, pastor, and letter writer. Paul’s theological emphases were on the Trinity with Christological focus, sin and salvation, and the church. Throughout the book Thiselton opts for community over individualistic interpretations; salvation, for example, places the believer in the body of Christ, and salvation is not just for individual benefits. In a final chapter on postmodernism the author writes, “To subject him [Paul] to the criteria of present-day reception or reader-response theory would be to turn his ideas on the subject upside down. . . . His gospel is by revelation and by apostolic tradition, not by human construction (Gal. 1:11–23)” (p. 161, italics his).
The book has two distinctive strengths. First, its supplementary materials include a timeline of Paul’s ministry, a lengthy bibliography, and indexes for biblical references, authors, and subjects. Second, the author commendably relates Paul’s Damascus Road conversion to the various aspects of his theology.
Some readers will object that this academically oriented book on the “living Paul” neglects his pastoral struggles and the role of suffering and prayer in his epistles. Nevertheless Thiselton has given students a fine introduction to the extensive literature on Paul.
—J. Lanier Burns