Book Plunge: Rediscovering Paul

What do I think of the book by Rodney Reeves, E. Randolph Richards, and David Capes published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Paul. He’s a fascinating figure. Who is the man and what shaped him? What can we learn from him today? There are many fine books out there about Paul and many fine ones from a Christian perspective, but now we have an extremely thorough one that seems to hit Paul from all angles and the church owes Reeves, Richards, and Capes a debt of gratitude for this excellent gift. It is a book that is highly readable and with solid content. While it could be seen as a primer of sorts with further reading at the end of each chapter to encourage the reader to study further, it could easily be seen as a reliable guide in itself and one who reads this will have an excellent understanding of the world of Paul.

The book also includes several sidebar statements where the authors ask about a claim “So what?” Students often want to know what difference that something that can be often thought to be a tangential point. Isn’t this just something that nerdy scholars would care about? What difference will it make in my own life. The authors want you to know what difference it does make. There also are “What’s More” sections. In these, the authors add in additional details and sometimes even post ideas that would be challenging to our modernistic ways of thinking and say “Maybe we should take Paul a little bit more seriously here.”

It is incredible how thorough this book is. I particularly enjoyed the first part with reading about the honor-shame culture. This is a favorite area of mine to study and I wish more people spoke about it and I’m encouraged to know that NT students who are beginning their studies will be learning about this fascinating area. In fact, there are a number of times in the book I was thinking an area had been left out. For instance, when it comes to the section on the writing of letters I knew I was getting to the end and was thinking “What would be really nice is if they had included something on how much it cost to write one of these letters.” What do you know? Right towards the end there’s a section on the cost of writing the letters.

The authors also spend time going through each book of Paul’s. Some of these are handled in sections, such as the Pastorals. Some of them have their own chapters, which is fitting due to the influence of these books. The student who comes to the text will have a greater knowledge of all of the epistles of Paul as a result. It rounds off with a look at Paul’s theology as well as an excellent look at how it is that Paul’s letters came to be collected and made into a canon. The final section is on Paul’s legacy. What difference has Paul made? How has he been seen in history? What does he have to say to our world today?

It’s hard to think that a book could be so thorough on the life of Paul and his work and impact, but indeed, it is. I absolutely stand behind this book and hope that it is put into the hands of students going into ministry. The student who reads this book will be better equipped to understand Paul the man, the works of Paul, and be able to even make a defense for the works of Paul today. Even better, he will be able to take his own personal holiness much more seriously and consider how Paul is to have an impact on his life today. Hopefully he’ll have the same focus that Paul had, that God is in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.

This is a must read book for all interested in Paul.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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