Have you ever wanted a resource that you could easily turn to in order to get a detailed overview of specific details related to Pauline theology? Most of us are aware of Fee’s work on Pauline Christology and Pauline Pneumatology, but what about something a bit more broad? Where can one turn in order to understand Paul’s perspective on soteriology and eschatology while paying attention to the historical story-line of Paul’s life? Robert Reymond’s Paul, Missionary Theologian was an excellent step in that direction, but isn’t as comprehensive as some NT scholars and students will like.
Along comes Lars Kierspel with his latest contribution to the Kregel Charts of the Bible series, Charts of the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul. Like the other contributions in this series, it’s extremely user-friendly. The author covers four sections of Pauline issues:
- Paul’s Background & Context
- Paul’s Life & Ministry
- Paul’s Letters
- Paul’s Theological Concepts
Each section includes many short charts and lists. For example, in the first section, Kierspel introduces readers to life in the Roman Empire during the first century. There is also helpful information regarding the Greco-Roman religions, cults and philosophical frameworks, as well as a chart listing the various Jewish groups during Paul’s day (did you know there were more than the Pharisees and Sadducees?!?!). In the second section, a helpful chronology of Paul’s life is provided, a detailed chart on Paul’s conversion(s) is given, and much more. The third section covers just about every issue one could raise regarding Paul’s letters. This covers manuscripts, authorship issues, and overviews of his books. Finally, the four section deals with his theological treatment of subjects ranging from the sources for Paul’s theology to Pauline eschatology and the gifts of the Spirit. The topics covered are quite diverse.
On the positive side, I think this would be an indispensible resource for NT scholars and pastors. It’s quite broad and covers so many different topics that it can’t help but be helpful. This is basically what you would get if you locked up a super-human or a robot in a room for a couple years and told them not to come out until they had a summary of all-things Pauline. It’s ridiculous.
I especially appreciated his coverage of the “already” and “not yet” eschatological emphasis of the apostle Paul. I think the chart is quite helpful in that it makes such a theological concept clear in just pointing to the various ways in which the “now” and “not yet” are seen in Paul’s writings.
This isn’t a work to be considered in any sense as a “final say” on any subject. As readers will observe by Kierspel’s excellent bibliography, this is just a starting place. If you are looking for detailed exegetical and theological commentary, take a look at the title of the book again. It’s full of charts, not commentary. Yet it has plenty of helpful notes throughout. I would certainly recommend that scholars utilize it as a reference in their academic writing! After all, Charts was written with an awareness of the ongoing discussion regarding the New Perspective(s) on Paul (a section covers it).
The only somewhat frustrating thing about the book is related to editing. There were several places where there were some grammar or punctuation issues. For instances, on page 20, when writing on the subject of “Miracles of Healing” in relation to Greco-Roman Religions, Cults, and Philosophies, there are two sections that should have been one. The sentence gets cut off and continues in a separate box. It’s something I would think an editor should have caught.
But, that’s minor.
I would highly and will heavily recommend this book.
*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review*