Book Plunge: The Living Paul

What do I think of Anthony Thiselton’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Paul is always an interesting figure to discuss and opinions can be very divided on him. Still, if you are going to talk about the New Testament and the rise of early Christianity, it is essential that you talk about Paul. Thiselton’s book is an aim to bring an easily readable work to the layman audience to better understand Paul. He takes a number of issues and looks to see what Paul says about them.

The book starts with simply looking at the life of Paul. What is the relationship with Paul and Jesus? For instance, a number of people think that Jesus could have very well had this great idea and then Paul came along and messed everything up. Was this true? What did it mean for Paul to be an apostle to the Gentiles? Who was the man Paul and what was his methodology for going through the Mediterranean world and spreading Christianity? There are many of us that like to look at the teachings of Paul without considering Paul the man. We could perhaps better realize how seriously he took the teachings of Jesus if we realize how much he went through to share them.

But of course, doctrine has to be there. We in the West do tend to like that. Thiselton takes a number of issues. Some of them are ones that we would expect to see regularly, such as the Holy Spirit and the person of Jesus and looking to see if there’s Trinitarianism in the writings of Paul. Others are definitely worth mention but sometimes ones we don’t emphasize enough, though there are no doubt groups out there in Christianity that do. These would be his views on baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Thiselton also writes on the ethics of Christianity especially including our sexual ethics and Paul was well ahead of his time with those.

Naturally, there are issues related to salvation, the nature of the church, and eschatology. These are all big debates today and Thiselton does present some of the latest work and speaks about it, such as looking at the idea of justification that is presented by N.T. Wright. He also deals with some objections such as the idea that Paul uses the term “we” in 1 Thess. 4 to describe what happens when Jesus returns and asks if Paul was off on his timing.

Some might be surprised that the last section in the book is a look at Paul and postmodernism. There were ideas back in the time of Paul that could be considered postmodern or at least pre-postmodern (There’s an odd concept to think about) just like there was a proto form of Gnosticism going around in Paul’s day. Thiselton looks at some of the postmoderns today and sees what Paul would have to say in relation to their claims about reality.

Thiselton’s read is one that will help inform the layman on the life of Paul. There were times I would have liked a little bit more and the pace seemed to move a bit slowly for me, but much of the information is quite good and would be helpful to any student wanting to study Paul.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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