Sunday, March 20, 2016

A short list of must-own books on Paul?

Ronaldo Ghenov asked a question on Twitter today:
I’ve pondered his question and realised that I would struggle to answer it. My own favourites are very personal affairs, those that address questions I have wrestled with in light of my own particular concerns. However, if I would like to suggest a well-rounded education in Paul which emphasises all of the best interpretive angels, it is difficult to point to one or two individual books. My own education was formed over many years, reading multiple articles and monographs, many of which I have forgotten. And there have been books not directly or exclusively on Paul that have influenced my reading of Paul rather profoundly. And my recommendations would be different for 1st year undergrads than for Masters level students, or even 3rd year undergrads, for that matter.

But if you are a pastor, as I believe Ronaldo is, who knew about some contemporary debates in Paul and wanted books on his or her shelf for growing in ability to preach Paul with clarity, I would suggest those that, to a greater or lesser extent of success, do two things:

  1. Give an account of the historical particularity of Paul’s letters and are, in this task, fluent with the methods and tools of (not necessarily only modern) historical criticism. This would also mean being aware of some, if not all, of the key interpretative debates, such as those relating to justification, chronology and such like.
  2. Give an account of the theological dynamic in reading Paul, to be clear that to read these texts aright in the church is to be encountered by the Word of God. That is to acknowledge i) that the proper way of reading this text is fashioned by the “object” of this knowledge, namely God. ii) That this knowledge of God is the result of gracious self-giving in the person of Jesus Christ and by the Spirit and so clarifies the importance of the living, Trinitarian God, and that iii) this implies a negative corollary, that any theological knowledge that proceeds in a way that undermines this gracious self-giving is to be repudiated as idolatry.

For sure, to see how this pans out in different readings of Paul needs skills and examples. So, to my recommendations which, to be honest, could all have been exchanged with others not listed:

  • Some of the chapters on Paul’s letters, plus the introductory chapters, in David A. deSilva, An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods & Ministry Formation (Leicester: Apollos, 2004). This would give a good foundation in issues relating to social-science (honour-shame and limited good in particular) and broader historical-critical issues.
  • David G. Horrell, An Introduction to the Study of Paul (London: T & T Clark, 2015) is probably the best overview of contemporary scholarly debates.
  • J. Louis Martyn, Galatians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, AB (London: Doubleday, 1997), which majors on the historical particularity of the text (at least as it relates to Paul’s opponents even if it ignores other issues) as well as brings to bear key theological concerns for careful reading.
  • Chapters 2 (“The Current Crisis: The Capture of Paul’s Gospel by Methodological Arianism”), 6 (“Connecting the Dots: One Problem, One Text, and the Way Ahead”) and 12 (“Rereading Paul’s ΔΙΚΑΙΟ-Language”) in Chris Tilling, ed., Beyond Old and New Perspectives on Paul: Reflections on the Work of Douglas Campbell (Eugene, Or.: Cascade, 2014)
  • Read something that annoys you. If you are more conservative, read something by a more liberal scholar and likewise, if you are more liberal, read something by a conservative. I learn so much from books that annoy me, even if it isn’t always what the author would have hoped.
  • Read and reread Ephesians!
Now if I were addressing a PhD student, I would mention many other names, such as Watson, Barclay, Wright, Campbell, Gaventa, Gorman, Sanders ... to mention just a few. 

Answering your question, Ronaldo, has not been easy!

Oh, and Paul's Divine Christology, go on then! 

4 Comments:

At 4/03/2016 2:33 PM, Anonymous William Axe said...

Lloyd Gaston's "Paul and the Torah" is a dated work, done in the 1980's, but definitely worth a read. It opened a completely new understanding of Paul for me, taking me beyond the issues of the 16th century consciousness to perhaps allowing Paul to be a first century Jew who had experienced something transforming through the Christian message. What he does is a consistent analysis of Greek, which sounds dull, but in doing it he opens the reader to the possibility of a totally new understanding of Paul and his writing. The book is the collection of his diverse essays that had been published here and there in various professional journals, so some of the essays are from the 1970's--I know, I know--it sounds "dated," but as I say, it is well worth the study it will take to digest.

 
At 4/03/2016 3:38 PM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Definitely, good recommendation.

 
At 4/03/2016 6:45 PM, Blogger Edward T. Babinski said...

Google Paul fanaticus extremis

There is some fine poetry in Paul (whether or not he may have composed it himself or borrowed it from others), i.e., "the greatest of these is love" in 1 Cor., and some practical moral wisdom in Paul, but much of the rest of Paul is hyperbole and fanaticism. Paul never even met and heard Jesus of Nazareth.

 
At 4/22/2016 11:32 PM, Blogger Allen jeley said...

nice

 

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