New Fall Series: Thinking through Paul


Since this is an odd-numbered Fall, I am teaching Pauline Literature. For a textbook I will be I will be using Longenecker and Still, Thinking through Paul (Zondervan, 2014). This will be my second time using this this book for the class. Although some of my undergraduates found it challenging the first time I used it, the general consensus from student evaluations was that the book was very user-friendly and helpful a supplement for the class lectures.

Both Bruce Longenecker and Todd Still are top-notch Pauline scholars and the book is designed as college textbook with plenty of photographs, charts and sidebars. As far as I know there is no name for this textbook series, but I have used the New Testament volumes several times each (Mark Strauss, Four Portraits and Karen Jobes, Letters to the Church). All three are very good undergraduate or graduate level textbooks and have been popular with the students. If I was teaching at the graduate level, I would supplement the textbooks with additional monographs on specific issues.

What I have appreciated about this book in preparing for class this summer is the balance between the theology of Paul’s letters and the kind of introductory material these kind of textbooks usually are required to cover. It is easy to get bogged down in the details of authorship, destination and chronology and give less emphasis to Paul’s thoughts. Thinking through Paul emphasizes Paul’s theology over the more controversial (and tedious) aspects of Paul’s letters. That is not to say I will not dwell on the tedious from time to time as we move through the semester, but the textbook at least avoids the dismal swamp of typical New Testament introductions.

For the next few months on this blog I plan on “thinking through Paul” with Longenecker and Still. Although I will not always be interacting with them, I want to work my way through Paul’s letters, both in terms of content and theology. I recently finished Barclay’s Paul and the Gift as well as the second edition of his Pauline Churches and Diaspora Jews. Both were very stimulating as I prepared lectures this summer. I also read Michael Bird’s collection of essays Paul: An Anomalous Jew in preparation for this class and will integrate some of this articles as I work through the Pauline Letters.

One of the more fascinating books I read this summer was Bruce Winter’s Divine Honours for the Caesars. I have always been interested in so-called “anti-imperial” readings of Paul, and this book provides a great deal of fodder for how Gentile Christians dealt with the Roman Imperial cult. Material from this book will certainly turn up when we get to Corinthians, Romans 13, and likely as not Ephesians. I also have just about finished the collection of essays edited by Boccaccini and Segovia, Paul the Jew. There is much in this book which I need to integrate into my Pauline Literature class and will turn up with some regularity in future blogs.

I plan on full reviews of each of these books in the near future.

I am curious what regular readers of Reading Acts would like to see covered within this overall framework? Are there any elements of Paul’s theology are overlooked or under-emphasized? What about application of Pauline theology to mission? While I know a few regular commentators well enough that I can guess their response, I am curious to hear what others have to say as well.