Monday, June 17, 2013

Anselm Academic: The Pauline Letters

When I was going through college, both for a BA and an MBA, I never read the textbooks. In fact, I stopped buying them my last few years, because you never got a fair price when they bought them back. Now that I have graduated though, I find myself reading more textbooks than I read in college. I attribute it to actually being interested in the subject matter. If I could do it all over again, I'd have gotten a degree in Theology. I'm not sure what I'd do with it, but I'd have enjoyed it more than my degree in Psychology. That's for sure.

Today, I am reviewing The Pauline Letters by Daniel J. Scholz. This book is a systematic study of Paul, his writings (both undisputed and disputed), and writings from the period after him. This book is divided into two main parts - the "Undisputed Letters" and the "Disputed Letters and Post-Pauline Writings." Before reading this book, I didn't realize that the authorship of so many of Paul's thirteen letters was disputed. However, only 1st Thessalonians, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, Philippians, and Philemon are undisputed.

Apart from just being rich in information, there are many aspects I like about this book. For starters, Dr. Scholz organized his book chronologically. It's always interesting to me to read about the historical context of a book of the Bible and arranging the letters chronologically enhances that for me. Another aspect I appreciated was the outlines of each letter. Each letter, undisputed or disputed, in this book comes with an outline of it's message. When you pair that with the PLETHORA of charts and tables in this book, it makes studying these works both enjoyable and rewarding.

There are also questions both for review and reflection at the end of every chapter. These questions help reinforce the author's main points and give the reader a chance to reflect on certain points. The reflection questions especially can make good dialogue in class or a group Bible study. They also would make good essay topics for all you professors out there. I think my favorite feature is the "Recommendations for Further Reading" at the end of every chapter. So many authors just tell you to read these extra sources; Dr. Scholz takes the time to tell you why to read them.

Just from a superficial reading of this work, I learned so much. As mentioned earlier, I learned that not all thirteen letters attributed to Paul are considered undisputedly written by him. I learned about post-Paul writings like the Acts of Paul and Thecla and the Apocalypse of Paul, which the author claims to have influenced Dante's Inferno. I also learned that Paul's ministry didn't begin until 33 CE (author's dating), but his first letter wasn't written until approximately 50 CE. It makes you wonder if he didn't write anything during this period of if Paul's earlier writings have been lost or destroyed.

No person, apart from Jesus, had a greater influence on the shaping of Christianity than St. Paul. If you want to know more about this great man and his writings, pick up this 5 star book and read it. Then, go back and study this book. Work your way through it systematically with a Bible next to you. Take time to reflect and answers the questions at the end of every chapter. Then, when you've finally done that, pick up Jesus in the Gospels and Acts.

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