Bomar, David. Journeys of the Apostle Paul. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2019. 154 pp.; Hb. $29.99 Link to Lexham Press
The essays in this volume are collected from a five-part series on Paul’s missionary journeys originally published in Bible Study Magazine, edited by David Bomar. After a brief section on the Paul’s Damascus (including two short essays on Acts 9:1-22), the book is divided into units based on the three missionary journeys and the trip to Rome.
Since the front cover of the book puts Craig S. Keener at the head of the contributor list, it is disappointing to find only two brief contributions at the beginning and end of the book: “Who Was Saul of Tarsus?” And “Rome: To the Empire and Beyond.” Keener suggests Paul was motivated to preserve his Jewish traditions by nationalistic zeal modeled by the Maccabees and Phinehas (Numbers 25:11). Keener explains why the book of Acts ends so abruptly by pointing out Luke’s narrative reaches a climax in Rome, but it also ends with a foretaste of the continuing mission to the nations.
Five essays on Paul’s ministry are scattered throughout the volume. First, Eckhard J. Schnabel “Paul the Missionary: Preaching to Everyone, Everywhere” (p. 46-49), including a chart of sixteen phases of Paul’s ministry suggested by Schnabel in his Early Christian Mission (IVP Academic 2004).
Caryn Reeder’s “Paul the Traveler: A Day’s Journey with Paul” (p. 61-61) Braves what it might have been like for Paul and his companions to travel 18 to 20 miles a day. As she points out, staying in an in was always dangerous; they were well known for lice, fleas, robbers and prostitution. During the second missionary journey put often stayed with members of the Christian community.
James W. Thompson’s “Paul the Pastor: Cultivating Faith, Nurturing the Church” touches on themes from his 2006 monograph, Pastoral Ministry according to Paul (Baker). For many of his churches, Paul focused on nurturing church is like a family. He considered the members of his church his children, and he took it upon himself to raise them in the faith.
Randolph Richards contributed a section to Rediscovering Paul (Second Edition, IVP Academic, 2017) on Paul’s letter writing, summarized here as “Paul the Writer: Spreading the Gospel through Everyday Letters” (p. 96-101). While admitting it is difficult to place into a timeline, he lists Galatians is the earliest letter in his chart of the Pauline letters (although the date range overlaps with 1-2 Thessalonians). He discusses letter writing as a collaborative effort, since most of Paul’s letters reflect the ministry team. The section briefly discuss is the process for writing letters, and there are illustrations of papyri documents (although not a letter, the editors chose to use p46 as one of the oldest New Testament manuscripts).
Brian M. Rapske distills his monograph Paul in Roman Custody (Eerdmans, 1994) int two pages, “Paul the Captive: Even in Chains, He Remained Christ’s Ambassador” (p. 131-35). According to Rapske, “Imprisonment, far from being an interruption to or disqualification from ministry, was a true expression of it” (p. 132).
The book includes four essays each from Caryn A. Reeder, Joseph R. Dodson and Timothy Gombis. In addition to her essay on Paul the Traveler, “Who Were the Pharisees,” “Who Were the Christians Saul Persecuted?” and “Thessalonica: Turning the World Upside Down.” Two of these sections were entitled “backdrops.” Unfortunately, these are the only two background essays in the book. Joseph R. Dodson contributes “A New Hope and Divine Direction,” “Lystra: A Visit from the Gods?”, “Troas & Philippi: Who’s Calling?” and “Mediterranean Sea: A Tale of Two Storms.” Gombis wrote “The Jerusalem Council: The Good News Crosses Ethnic Borders,” “Philippi: Defamed & Vindicated in a Roman Colony,” “Miletus: Paul’s Emotional Farewell,” and “Caesarea: Threat, Trial, and Vindication.” Since he has four essays like Reeder and Dodson, I wonder why Gombis was not on the front cover of the book.
David B. Schreiner, has two essays, “Antioch: Paul’s Gateway to the West” and “Corinth: Paul’s Boomtown.” Stephen Witmer also contributes two essays, “Pisidian Antioch: The Good News of Salvation,” and “Troas: A Life-Giving Miracle” as does Andrew Sutherland, “Athens: Preaching Christ in a Place with Many Gods” and “Jerusalem: Receiving the Unexpectedness of God.”
There are single essays from Matthew D. Aernie, “Transformed by the Messiah,” Thomas W. Davis “Cyprus: A Turning Point in the Apostolic Mission” John Barry, “Paphos: The Gospel Advances with Power, Susan Wendel, “Jerusalem: The Challenge of the Gospel.” The essay on “Tyre and Caesarea: ‘The Lord’s Will Be Done’” appears to be anonymous.
Four other essays deserve mention. In “Ephesus: Shaking the Foundations,” Lynn H. Cohick suggests “Paul’s years in Ephesus revealed the typical pressures he faced in several common results of his gospel message” (p. 95). Preaching the gospel provokes opposition, whether this be from Jews who have a different understanding of Judaism than Paul, or Gentiles who simply fail to understand the life-changing power of the gospel.
Ruth Anne Reese Focus his attention on The Collection (“Macedonia & Achaia: Paul’s Collection for the Jerusalem Church”). She points out that without Paul’s letters, we would not know about this collection for the poor with a generous giving of Paul’s churches (p. 104). In fact, her essay focuses on the importance of generous giving to the poor in Paul’s letters. She does not deal with the perplexing question of what happens to the collection once Paul finally reaches Jerusalem.
Holly Beers deals with Paul’s testimony before the Sanhedrin in Acts 22:30-23:11 (“Jerusalem: Testifying About the Messiah”). By claiming that the real reason that he was on trial is his believe in the resurrection of the dead, Paul is able to argue that the Messiah Jesus makes the reality of God’s kingdom available to everyone.
Joshua W. Jipp contributes on “Malta: Stranded, Shipwrecked, and Still Sharing the Gospel.” This episode is central to the thesis of his recent Saved by Faith and Hospitality (Eerdmans, 2017). According to Jipp, Paul is does not demonizing the locals he encounters on Malta, but rather he operates “within the pagan culture and religious mindset” in order to reach them with the message of the risen Christ (p. 147)
Conclusion. This book is beautifully published as an 9×11 inch hardback with rounded corners. Text pages have large margins with are occasionally used for quotations from the text on the left margin and a running geographical timeline (locations, not dates) on the right margin. Map pages use the whole page and new units have a fold-out page tracking that leg of Paul’s journeys. The individual essays are no more than two or three pages each including illustrations. This is something like a coffee table book in the best sense possible.
By way of criticism, the illustrations are good but could have been improved. The photograph of Saint Paul’s columns at Paphos is beautiful, for example. But I would have preferred to have more full-sized photographs of locations associated with Paul’s travels. There is no real need for a 9×11 print of a David Roberts illustration from 1839 (p. 53) or a seventeenth century painting of Paul (p. 85) while including no photographs of Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea or Athens. I suspect part of the reason to keep the cost of the book low. The image credits at the end of the book indicates all illustrations are public domain except for seventeen, and seven of the image credits listed are from wikicommons.org.
Nevertheless, this is an intriguing book which will be helpful for tracking Paul’s missionary journeys as one reads through the book of Acts.
NB: Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.