Book Reviews

The Living Paul

An Introduction to the Apostle’s Life and Thought

Anthony Thiselton Downers Grove, IL 2010-02-18

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.

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J. Lanier Burns
Dr. Burns is research professor of theological studies and senior professor of systematic theology at Dallas Theological Seminary. He enjoys staying actively involved in administration in Christian and secular organizations. He devotes his time to writing, conferences, and pastoral leadership. He has been involved in post-doctoral research at Harvard and Oxford Universities and has served as president of the Asian Christian Academy in Hosur, India, for over forty years. He has participated in numerous neuroscientific activities for about eighteen years. His research interests include Trinitarianism, anthropology, sin, eschatology, the relationship of science and religion, and issues in social justice. He loves his wife, Kathy, and spends his spare time with his family and enjoying sports.
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