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Rediscovering Paul: An Introduction to His…

Rediscovering Paul: An Introduction to His World, Letters and Theology

by David B. Capes, Rodney Reeves, E. Randolph Richards

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David Capes, Rodney Reeves and Randolph Richards collaborated upon a textbook that could be utilized within the undergraduate setting with two primary goals. First, due to the plethora of textbooks on Paul and the New Testament writings, the authors desired one textbook that would concisely cover the key aspects of Paul, including his background, his letters, his ministry and his theology (p. 15). Second, there was a personal desire of the authors to rediscover Paul within the proper socio-historical setting of first-century Judeo-Christian faith, so as to “imitate him as he imitates Christ” (p. 20). The chapters accomplish the outset of these intended goals well, with the exception of a few conservative assumptions made in the beginning and an improperly arranged chapter placement which will be discussed further.
In the beginning chapter, the authors attempt to un-package the Westernized mindset of readers upon Paul and his writings, and introduce the reader to the first-century Mediterranean world in which Paul existed. In doing so, this writer was introduced to the plurality of gods, a “dyadic personality”, an honor and shame society and the importance of rituals within the first-century culture (pp. 25-35). This sheds light on a proper exposition of Paul’s opposition with Peter in Galatians 2 in regards to an honor and shame battle.
In the following chapter, the authors give an extensive treatment of the practice of letter writing within the culture discussing a standard outline of a letter, the use of secretaries and the communal technique of writing letters. An assumption made within this textbook that must be understood is the traditional conservative view of Pauline authorship. These authors believe that all thirteen of the letters are from Paul, assuming Paul utilized secretaries for his writing. This undergirds the defense of Pauline authorship and forces the uses of secretaries to account for the stylistic and grammatical differences used in Paul’s books (pp. 72-77). It is interesting to note that the section concerning “Paul’s Legacy” which deals with the canonization of Paul’s letters is placed after the analysis of his letters and not coupled with this chapter. Perhaps this sheds light upon a careless assumption of Paul’s use of secretaries to account for stylistic, grammatical and even chronological discrepancies in the text.
The chapter on Paul’s conversion, call and chronology was by far one of the most intriguing and challenging chapters of the text. In particular is the conclusion of the authors that Paul did not have a conversion experience in Damascus, but a call to a new vocation (pp. 84-87). This is supported by the fact that Paul did not leave his Judaistic faith, but now “believed Jesus to be God’s Messiah” (p. 93). A helpful section of this chapter is the chronological analysis of Paul’s writing in an attempt to date Paul’s life and ministry within the book of Acts, and connecting it with key primary dates given for external evidence. There is little discussion upon the conflicting views of the North and South Galatia debate, though it is apparent from the text that an early date is favored for the book of Galatians. The conservative mindset has again attempted to place all of Paul’s writings in an exact chronology of Acts to confirm Pauline authorship. This difficulty forces one to overlook the distance and time that would have to be maintained to assume Pauline authorship in such a chronology.
In the following chapters of the textbook, the authors do a good job at giving a good introduction to each of Paul’s writings and synthesizing the key elements of each of the books. The ordering of the chapters is upon Paul’s itinerant ministry and his imprisonment, which are those addressed to the churches and then those addressed to individuals. The authors pick up on several key elements and discussions that are noteworthy for students and debatable issues within the text, examples like the interpretation of Galatians 2:16 (Galatians), discussion of rapture (Thessalonians), baptism (Romans), the household code (Colossians), etc. Throughout the text, there are many sidebars dispersed to help the student dig deeper into thought and discussion on topics, such as the key elements of the Colossian Heresy (p. 221). The text seems to build upon itself, in that it utilizes the early concepts of the Mediterranean world in its discussion of the chapters. One example is the explanation of 2 Thessalonians 3, when the authors state that “the apostle is using social pressure to shame them into compliance, a good technique in a dyadic culture but no so effective in our modern individualistic one” (p. 140). This emphasizes the use of honor and shame society and the dyadic culture introduced earlier in the discussion.
In the final chapters of the book, there is an emphasis upon the theology of Paul and the implication of his writings to our present day society. The authors conclude that the center of Paul’s theology is “Christological monotheism”, but the chapter would have been better aligned at the beginning of the text where the students could see how Paul’s theology affected his writings throughout the period (p. 272). One of the most beneficial chapters for applying the Pauline corpus was the contemporary analysis of Paul’s writings upon the issues of race, division, poverty, politics and sexuality.
The text is a good introduction for the undergraduate student and will provoke thought and question one’s previous interpretation of Paul in regards to the socio-historical setting, but fails to challenge the conservative mindset seen by so many different authors. All of the suggested reading at the end of the chapters leans to the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, which doesn’t give much variety as to the outside authorship of non-conservative thought. This reviewer would like students to be challenged to make his or her own interpretation of the Pauline corpus by being presented the two differing views of conservative and non-conservative scholarship. ( )
  dive222 | Mar 6, 2009 |
At the end of the day, I am unsure whether to recommend this as a textbook or not. My guess is that some professors considering adopting this as a textbook will be bothered by some of the same issues mentioned in this review, particularly the ambiguities and overly provocative statements that appear occasionally in the text. I think others will really like and want to use this book. Those who adopt it as a textbook will appreciate the broad coverage of Paul's environment and writings, the engaging analysis of many important issues in Paul, and the commitment of the authors to allow Paul to speak an authoritative word to our generation.
added by Christa_Josh | editJournal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Kenneth Berding (Jun 1, 2008)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David B. Capesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Reeves, Rodneymain authorall editionsconfirmed
Richards, E. Randolphmain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0830825983, Hardcover)

For some of us, the apostle Paul is like a distant uncle. We've heard he's pretty important. We've read the good parts of his letters. But sometimes he comes across as prickly and unpredictable. Not someone you'd like to hang out with at a coffee shop. He'd raise his voice, try to convert the barista, and we'd want to slink out the back door. For a mid-afternoon latte, we'd prefer Jesus over Paul. But actually, this is the guy who, from Ephesus to Athens, was the talk of the marketplace and the raconteur of the Parthenon. Maybe it's time to give Paul a break, let go of some stereotypes and try to get to know him on his own terms. If that's where you are, Rediscovering Paul is your guide. This is a book that helps us find Paul again--holding forth in the marketplace of Corinth, working with a secretary in framing his letter to the Romans, or pastoring the messy emerging churches of Philippi and Thessalonica. Drawing on the best of contemporary scholarship, honed by teaching and conversing with today's students, Rediscovering Paul is a textbook that rises above the rest.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:38 -0400)

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