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Paul: A Biography

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In this definitive biography, renowned Bible scholar, Anglican bishop, and bestselling author N. T. Wright offers a radical look at the apostle Paul, illuminating the humanity and remarkable achievements of this intellectual who invented Christian theology—transforming a faith and changing the world. For centuries, Paul, the apostle who "saw the light on the Road to In this definitive biography, renowned Bible scholar, Anglican bishop, and bestselling author N. T. Wright offers a radical look at the apostle Paul, illuminating the humanity and remarkable achievements of this intellectual who invented Christian theology—transforming a faith and changing the world. For centuries, Paul, the apostle who "saw the light on the Road to Damascus" and made a miraculous conversion from zealous Pharisee persecutor to devoted follower of Christ, has been one of the church’s most widely cited saints. While his influence on Christianity has been profound, N. T. Wright argues that Bible scholars and pastors have focused so much attention on Paul’s letters and theology that they have too often overlooked the essence of the man’s life and the extreme unlikelihood of what he achieved. To Wright, "The problem is that Paul is central to any understanding of earliest Christianity, yet Paul was a Jew; for many generations Christians of all kinds have struggled to put this together." Wright contends that our knowledge of Paul and appreciation for his legacy cannot be complete without an understanding of his Jewish heritage. Giving us a thoughtful, in-depth exploration of the human and intellectual drama that shaped Paul, Wright provides greater clarity of the apostle’s writings, thoughts, and ideas and helps us see them in a fresh, innovative way. Paul is a compelling modern biography that reveals the apostle’s greater role in Christian history—as an inventor of new paradigms for how we understand Jesus and what he accomplished—and celebrates his stature as one of the most effective and influential intellectuals in human history.


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In this definitive biography, renowned Bible scholar, Anglican bishop, and bestselling author N. T. Wright offers a radical look at the apostle Paul, illuminating the humanity and remarkable achievements of this intellectual who invented Christian theology—transforming a faith and changing the world. For centuries, Paul, the apostle who "saw the light on the Road to In this definitive biography, renowned Bible scholar, Anglican bishop, and bestselling author N. T. Wright offers a radical look at the apostle Paul, illuminating the humanity and remarkable achievements of this intellectual who invented Christian theology—transforming a faith and changing the world. For centuries, Paul, the apostle who "saw the light on the Road to Damascus" and made a miraculous conversion from zealous Pharisee persecutor to devoted follower of Christ, has been one of the church’s most widely cited saints. While his influence on Christianity has been profound, N. T. Wright argues that Bible scholars and pastors have focused so much attention on Paul’s letters and theology that they have too often overlooked the essence of the man’s life and the extreme unlikelihood of what he achieved. To Wright, "The problem is that Paul is central to any understanding of earliest Christianity, yet Paul was a Jew; for many generations Christians of all kinds have struggled to put this together." Wright contends that our knowledge of Paul and appreciation for his legacy cannot be complete without an understanding of his Jewish heritage. Giving us a thoughtful, in-depth exploration of the human and intellectual drama that shaped Paul, Wright provides greater clarity of the apostle’s writings, thoughts, and ideas and helps us see them in a fresh, innovative way. Paul is a compelling modern biography that reveals the apostle’s greater role in Christian history—as an inventor of new paradigms for how we understand Jesus and what he accomplished—and celebrates his stature as one of the most effective and influential intellectuals in human history.

30 review for Paul: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jim Cooper

    #2 Best Book I Read in 2018 What a great book! Wright takes all the Bible's writings on Paul, puts the whole story in order, and then reveals it all in the larger context of what was happening in the Jewish/Roman world at the time. The result is enlightening (I've been studying Paul my whole life and I just now after reading this book that I have a grip on his story) and fascinating. Sometimes as Christians we make the mistake of assuming Paul was like a replacement Jesus, a perfect man whose #2 Best Book I Read in 2018 What a great book! Wright takes all the Bible's writings on Paul, puts the whole story in order, and then reveals it all in the larger context of what was happening in the Jewish/Roman world at the time. The result is enlightening (I've been studying Paul my whole life and I just now after reading this book that I have a grip on his story) and fascinating. Sometimes as Christians we make the mistake of assuming Paul was like a replacement Jesus, a perfect man whose example we can follow to live the best Christian life (he was, after all, writing the Bible as he went!). But not only was Paul not perfect, he was bossy, cantankerous, short-tempered, depressed, and error-prone. This, of course, is exactly what we as Christians need from Paul. Not someone to mimic, but someone like us to learn from as he follows Christ. Wright illuminates this perfectly.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paul Fulcher

    Perhaps that is what “holy scripture” really is - not a calm, serene list of truths to be learned or commands to be obeyed, but a jagged book that forces you to grow up in your thinking as you grapple with it. Professor Tom Wright is one of our leading New Testament theologians, a former Bishop of Durham (but certainly not this one https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_J...) and now Chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the School of Divinity at the University of St. Andrews. His books Perhaps that is what “holy scripture” really is - not a calm, serene list of truths to be learned or commands to be obeyed, but a jagged book that forces you to grow up in your thinking as you grapple with it. Professor Tom Wright is one of our leading New Testament theologians, a former Bishop of Durham (but certainly not this one https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_J...) and now Chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the School of Divinity at the University of St. Andrews. His books are actually published under two different names, or perhaps brands is a better label - causing some confusion on Goodreads classification system - NT Wright for his heavier theological tomes and Tom Wright for his more entry-level books, such as the New Testament for Everyone collection. [In the US, to add to the confusion, NT Wright is used for both sets of books]. This wonderful new biography of Paul, the towering figure of the early Christian church is pitched somewhere between the two different strands of his writing, although the fact that it has come out under the Tom Wright name speaks to its wonderful accessibility. If at times - see below - it didn't answer all my questions, it certainly sent me in fruitful search of NT Wright's more detailed arguments. Wright's focus here is to attempt a historic reconstruction of Paul's life, work and his theological developments drawing on the available sources - of course, primarily, the New Testament - but also setting this in the context of what we know of the Roman and Greek world and philosophy (Jewish and secular) within which Paul lived and worked. He takes us on a plausible account of Paul's life, consistent with Acts (allowing for Luke's requirement to condense many years of travels into a short story) and how, why and when each letter was written, struggling only, on both logistical and textual grounds, to find an obvious place for 1 Timothy and Titus. And Wright is excellent at plunging us into the sights, smells, sounds and day-to-day reality of 1st century life, particularly emphasising that for all his brilliance - and one of Wright's key themes is that Paul taught the Church not so much what to think as how to think - that Paul was no ivory tower thinker, but a passionate, often too passionate, human being and a fiercely focused worker. When people in churches today discuss Paul and his letters, they often think only of the man of ideas who dealt with lofty and difficult concepts, implying a world of libraries, seminar rooms, or at least the minister’s study for quiet sermon preparation. We easily forget that the author of these letters spent most of his waking hours with his sleeves rolled up, doing hard physical work in a hot climate, and that perhaps two-thirds of the conversations he had with people about Jesus and the gospel were conducted not in a place of worship or study, not even in a private home, but in a small, cramped workshop. Saul had his feet on the ground, and his hands were hardened with labor. But his head still buzzed with scripture and the news about Jesus. [One minor bugbear in passing - while Wright's writing is generally excellent he is annoyingly overfond of analogies involving classic music, which clearly has some sort of quasi-religious significance to him] He is keen to emphasise that this is not psychoanalysis. It is history but also, more crucially in my mind, that this is a work (my words) of deduction but not of creative imagination. So for example, he makes no attempt to guess what Paul's 'thorn' might be, but can deduce that Isaiah 49 must have been a key foundation text for Paul's view of his own role and, somewhat more speculatively, that Paul may well have been meditating on Ezekiel 1 on the road to Damascus, but that when he raised his eyes to the figure on the throne, he saw not God but instead the Lord Jesus. Wright has had his particular, and somewhat controversial (although I think I generally agree with him), theological points to make, notably about his view of what Paul meant by justification and his view on what Paul would have meant by heaven. These are expounded in much more detail in 'NT Wright' works notably: Paul and the Faithfulness of God which is the more theological companion to this biography and Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church where Wright argues Jesus's resurrection is the beginning of God's new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. and Justification: God's Plan & Paul's Vision - see e.g. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/bl... A quote from another of his works (see below) What Saint Paul Really Said, links both: Justification is not how someone becomes a Christian. It is the declaration that they have become a Christian. And the total context of this doctrine, here in Philippians 3, is that of the expectation - not of a final salvation in which the individual is abstracted from the present world, but of the final new heavens and new earth, as the Lord comes from the heavenly realm to transform the earthly. Wright's main argument in both cases is that we often interpret Paul's teaching through the lens of the 16th Century reformers (for justification) and 19th century apocalyptic thinkers (for the end of the world view of the resurrection), rather than what Paul would have meant, and this book, while not getting into the theological detail, is excellent at setting Paul's developing theology in his 1st Century context as a faithful Jew. The other 'charges' which Paul often faces are that he, rather than Jesus, essentially invented Christianity, that, post the road to Damascus, that he despised his own Jewish religious origins (and implicitly may therefore be responsible for the later anti-semitism that sometimes stains the Church throughout history) and also that his teaching on matters like the role of women and homosexuality has echoes in modern day misogyny and homophobia. On the first - a view most associated with A N Wilson's Paul: The Mind of the Apostle - Wright provided a comprehensive and convincing demolition of Wilson's arguments in What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity?. Here he doesn't address the issue directly, but Wright clearly sees Paul's teaching as rooted in the life and teaching of the historic Jesus, and Paul's role, in his own mind, as well as a prophet in the line of Isaiah and Ezekiel: yes, to make the first attempt in turning what Jesus had done into a coherent way of life in response, for Jew and Gentile, but not to distort the teaching of Jesus but rather directly inspired by his encounter with the resurrected Christ. The second - of being ashamed of his Jewish origins - he addresses in much more detail here, indeed he argues precisely the opposite, that Paul's missions always started in the synagogue and that he had no concept of Christianity being a seperate or new 'religion', rather the fulfilment of the Torah and the prophets. And that Paul's key message was He was determined to establish and maintain Jew-plus-Gentile communities, worshipping the One God in and through Jesus his son and in the power of the spirit, ahead of the catastrophe. This is why Paul insisted, in letter after letter, on the unity of the church across traditional boundaries. This book is, though, a little disappointing on the last aspects, which receive little coverage. From what is said, on the role of women Wright believes Paul has been misunderstood, although in a key note speech on the topic (http://ntwrightpage.com/2016/07/12/wo...) he started by apologising that today’s topic has not been an area of primary research for me. He concluded that speech: I believe we have seriously misread the relevant passages in the New Testament, no doubt not least through a long process of assumption, tradition, and all kinds of post-biblical and sub-biblical attitudes that have crept in to Christianity. Just as I think we need radically to change our traditional pictures of the afterlife, away from the mediaeval models and back to the biblical ones, so we need radically to change our traditional pictures both of what men and women are and how they relate to one another within the church and indeed of what the Bible says on this subject. I do wonder, sometimes, if those who present radical challenges to Christianity have been all the more eager to make out that the Bible says certain things about women, as an excuse for claiming that Christianity in general is a wicked thing and we ought to abandon it. Of course, there have been plenty of Christians who have given outsiders plenty of chances to make that sort of comment. But perhaps in our generation we have an opportunity to take a large step back in the right direction. By contrast, Wright emphasis many times that sexual morality was a key cornerstone of Paul's teaching, and something that marked-out the early Christian churches inspired by his example. Here he claims to be even less of an expert but it is clear from conversation elsewhere that Wright doesn't believe Paul has a case to answer on his view of homosexuality, as he believes even life-long monogamous same-sex relations are not compatible with God's plan (http://ntwrightpage.com/2016/07/12/co... or https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/fir...). I can not help but feel he is on the wrong side of history here on gay marriage - but Wright has his rebuttal prepared for me: All the press is on-side, most of Parliament’s on-side, and people are saying—get this—that unless you support this, you’re on the wrong side of history. Excuse me. Did you see University Challenge last night? There was a nice question: Somebody said, who was it who said in 1956, “History is on our side and we will bury you”? One of the contestants got the answer right: It was Nikita Khrushchev. When people claim, “We’re going with the flow of history,” that’s just a rhetorical smokescreen. So, that’s where I am. But I don't want to end on a negative note, so I will end instead with a refrain that runs through Wright's account - 1 Corinthians 8:6 which, in Wright's account, becomes Paul's version of the Shema (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shema_Y...), "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Paul's version - which Wright has him repeating as he is lead to his likely execution (as Wright admits, frustratingly we actually know very little of Paul's ultimate fate) becomes, preserving the integrity of the one God, but allowing for Jesus as Lord: For us there is one God, the father, From whom are all things, and we live to him and for him; And one Lord, Jesus the Messiah, Through whom are all things, and we live through him.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Scott Wozniak

    I thoroughly enjoyed this biography of the Christian apostle Paul. The author does a great job of sharing the cultural context, practical implications, and life choices of Paul. I've studied the scriptures for years and I still learned some cool things about his life that I hadn't heard before. It was written with humility (acknowledging where there is uncertainty or debate) and with honesty (not pretending that every choice Paul made was correct. Great read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    Really found this such a useful book in terms of providing context for the Apostle Paul's letters. Each chapter describes his life and shows his journeys in chronological order with a map showing where he went. Also describes Paul the person including all his fallibilities as well as his strengths. Like Tom Wright's "For Everyone" series (one on each book of the New Testament) this describes everything in very straightforward terms and relates it to its time while still being relevant to the Really found this such a useful book in terms of providing context for the Apostle Paul's letters. Each chapter describes his life and shows his journeys in chronological order with a map showing where he went. Also describes Paul the person including all his fallibilities as well as his strengths. Like Tom Wright's "For Everyone" series (one on each book of the New Testament) this describes everything in very straightforward terms and relates it to its time while still being relevant to the present day so that you don't need to be a theological student to follow it. An essential reference book and highly recommended.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    Delightful! Wright helps readers sort out all the pieces from Acts and Paul's letters to see a picture of the man, his motivations, his travels, and his life.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Summary: Wright translates his scholarship that gives a "new account" of Paul's life into a popular biography, tracing the life and thought of the apostle through the letters he wrote and narrative of his journeys. Over the last thirty years, perhaps no one has written more on the life and thought of the Apostle Paul than N. T. Wright, most notably his two volumePaul and the Faithfulness of God. Wright is associated with what is called "the New Perspective" on Paul. What he has done in this Summary: Wright translates his scholarship that gives a "new account" of Paul's life into a popular biography, tracing the life and thought of the apostle through the letters he wrote and narrative of his journeys. Over the last thirty years, perhaps no one has written more on the life and thought of the Apostle Paul than N. T. Wright, most notably his two volume Paul and the Faithfulness of God. Wright is associated with what is called "the New Perspective" on Paul. What he has done in this volume is distill his scholarship into a highly readable account of the life and thought of this apostle. Reading this, you will see some of the ways Wright casts the life of Paul in new perspective. We see this in his portrayal of Paul's Damascus road experience. He imagines Paul possibly reflecting on the vision of Ezekiel, perhaps praying the Shema, when suddenly he gazes upward...into the face of Jesus, whose followers he has been persecuting. Wright challenges us to see that this was not a conversion to a new religion, but the shattering and transforming realization that Jesus was the fulfillment of the scriptures Paul had studied so long--that he "had been absolutely right in his devotion to Israel and the Torah, but absolutely wrong in his view of Israel's vocation and identity and even in the meaning of the Torah." He then traces the travels of Paul from the formative years in the wilderness and Tarsus where he rethought everything in the light of Christ, and then his successive journeys taking the message of Christ into Asia Minor, then later into Europe in Philippi, Athens, and Corinth. In the Galatian controversy with Peter and his subsequent letter, we catch the first glimpse of Paul's transformed vision, where he sees both Jew and Gentile incorporated and included into a new people enjoying the blessing of Abraham's faith. It is this that explains his methodology of teaching in synagogues, and then to Gentiles who will hear him and seeking to form new communities made up of those who give allegiance to Christ, and share table fellowship. The biography offers some of Wright's distinctive judgments on matters scholars have debated, southern versus northern theories of Galatians (he opts for south), and the origin of the prison letters, neither from Caesarea or Rome, but during an imprisonment in the latter part of his time in Ephesus. Wright explores this as a nadir of Paul's ministry, both in the experience of prison, but also in the receipt of disturbing news from Corinth from those questioning his reputation. He proposes that this accounts for the somewhat disjointed style of 2 Corinthians, written after his release. He also believes that after writing this, he penned his magnum opus to the Romans, spelling out to a church where tensions existed separating Jew and Gentile, the purpose of God to include Gentiles with Jews as heirs of the promise of the covenant to make one new people. Throughout, Wright explores the character of this apostle, who he describes as "bossy" on the voyage to Rome, and often troublesome in jumping into the fray. Paul did not let sleeping dogs lie. But Wright also argues, that like many "angular" entrepreneurs, it was these very qualities that, on a human level accounted for the success of this apostle in establishing these new communities across the Roman empire. The work was a delight to read on many levels, as a reflection on the career of Paul and as an exploration of the relationship of Jesus and the hope of Israel revealed in Torah and the prophets. I savored his insights into each of Paul's letters, and the vision of the church Paul articulated, that would sustain a movement long after his martyrdom, even as it continues to do so to this day. Paul has often been maligned as a misogynist, as a heretic from his Jewish origins, and more. For others, we read him through Reformation glasses. Wright may or may not convince you otherwise, but this marvelous distillation of his scholarship will make you both think about, and hopefully rejoice in, what this apostle accomplished. And perhaps it will help you read his letters with new eyes.

  7. 4 out of 5

    James Scott

    An excellent read. At times, it reminds me of a biography in the style of Ron Chernow. Wright goes to great lengths to tie together all we know of Paul from contemporary texts and the cultural, religious, and political contexts Paul worked in, while also avoiding some of the speculation that's often popular, and efforts to reconsider Paul first through medieval or contemporary understanding

  8. 4 out of 5

    stormin

    I really enjoyed this biography of Paul, as I've enjoyed pretty much everything that I've read from N. T. Wright. The most important things I learned were about the social context of Paul's teaching. Specifically, I learned a lot about the tradition of zeal among the Pharisees and--following along on that--a lot more about the incentives that led to so much conflict between the Jewish and Gentile factions of the early Christian church. A lot of the early Christians were Pharisees. It says that I really enjoyed this biography of Paul, as I've enjoyed pretty much everything that I've read from N. T. Wright. The most important things I learned were about the social context of Paul's teaching. Specifically, I learned a lot about the tradition of zeal among the Pharisees and--following along on that--a lot more about the incentives that led to so much conflict between the Jewish and Gentile factions of the early Christian church. A lot of the early Christians were Pharisees. It says that right there in Acts, but I don't read the New Testament as much or as closely as I should and so that hadn't really sunk in. The main concern of the Pharisees was in keeping the people religiously pure so that they'd be worthy of God's blessing. Obviously have a bunch of Pharisees shoulder-to-shoulder with uncircumcised gentiles with no comprehension of the intricate Mosaic law (or any interest in learning of following it) was going to lead to tension. This is especially compounded when you consider that even if the Jewish converts were happy to set aside the Law of Moses to seek unity with their new Gentile brethren, a lot of them were (1) still considered Jewish (by themselves and by others) and (2) still living in Jerusalem. So even if you had a Jewish-Christian-Pharisee who was willing to set aside the taboo on eating non-kosher food with gentile-Christians, the Jewish-non Christian-Pharisees were going to have a huge problem with that! I'm sure this is all old-hat to folks who have done a much better job of studying the New Testament throughout their lives than I have, but I learned a lot, and I really appreciated N. T. Wright's faithful, challenging perspective, as always.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Barry

    This is really very good. Wright gives great insight into the life and thinking of Paul. He persuasively shows that Paul did not “invent a new religion” as some critics claim, but instead preached a “radical messianic eschatology:” that Jesus is the “ultimate fulfillment of Israel’s hope—Messiah and resurrection,” and through the forgiveness of sins he brings salvation to both Jews and gentiles. “If we come with the question, “How do we get to heaven,” or, in Martin Luther’s terms, “How can I This is really very good. Wright gives great insight into the life and thinking of Paul. He persuasively shows that Paul did not “invent a new religion” as some critics claim, but instead preached a “radical messianic eschatology:” that Jesus is the “ultimate fulfillment of Israel’s hope—Messiah and resurrection,” and through the forgiveness of sins he brings salvation to both Jews and gentiles. “If we come with the question, “How do we get to heaven,” or, in Martin Luther’s terms, “How can I find a gracious God?” and if we try to squeeze an answer to those questions out of what Paul says about justification, we will probably find one. It may not be totally misleading. But we will miss what Paul’s “justification” is really all about. It isn’t about a moralistic framework in which the only question that matters is whether we humans have behaved ourselves and so amassed a store of merit (“righteousness“) and, if not, where we can find such a store, amassed by someone else on our behalf. It is about the vocational framework in which humans are called to reflect God’s image in the world and about the rescue operation whereby God has, through Jesus, set humans free to do exactly that.” I’ve read enough NTW that the so-called “New Perspective” on Paul is familiar enough to me, but I don’t think I’ve completely internalized it, as distinguished from the traditional reformed view. I think what I need to do is read this book again, but more slowly, along with NTW’s translation of Paul’s letters. Here’s a couple of good reviews: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    This is a masterwork about the life of the Great Apostle. I have read Paul's letters and the book of Acts many, many times. But even so, Professor Wright's insights, knowledge and wisdom have clarified them for me and tied them together as only a great teacher can. Warmly written, this is a must read for lovers of Biblical Studies, biography, history.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Miller

    Really enjoyed this. N.T. Wright writes this as part of the so-called “new perspective of Paul”, which as a Catholic I find to just be the original perspective. Although no doubt there are lots of nuances to this I am ignorant of. The audiobook version was also good.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Supimpa

    4.5/5 A very interesting and mature work presenting the life and thought of the most important Christian thinker in ancient history: the Apostle Paul. As a result of a whole research life on the figure, Tom Wright deals with confidence and—most of the time—with clarity about Paul in his historical context. Although aware of both Jewish and Roman backgrounds, Wright emphasizes—way more, one should say—the former as the matrix through which Paul is trying to read and explain the Christian faith. 4.5/5 A very interesting and mature work presenting the life and thought of the most important Christian thinker in ancient history: the Apostle Paul. As a result of a whole research life on the figure, Tom Wright deals with confidence and—most of the time—with clarity about Paul in his historical context. Although aware of both Jewish and Roman backgrounds, Wright emphasizes—way more, one should say—the former as the matrix through which Paul is trying to read and explain the Christian faith. The second chapter, on the significance of "zeal" for the young Saul was very helpful for me. The question of change of style in some of Paul's letters (esp. from 1 to 2 Corinthians) as a result of experiences of deep suffering in Ephesus is also quite thought-provoking. However, I still bring some important questions concerning the whole work. The main ones are: 1) It seems like Wright speculates too much about Paul's prayer life. For instance, according to Wright, the significance of Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus is directly related to the Jewish practice of prayerful meditation in key passages, especially Ezekiel 1. Although a fascinating suggestion, it has very little biblical-historical basis. No direct scriptural echo is pointed. But for Wright, relating Ezekiel 1 to the Damascus experience explains why Paul suddenly understood why the One God Creator was present in Jesus Christ. Interesting, but too thin. 2) Wright is not clear concerning the Pauline authorship of the Pastoral letters. He spends several pages for Galatians and Romans, but Titus and 1-2 Timothy are briefly overviewed in 3 paragraphs, with a question mark on the chronology. Not that this position is exclusive to Wright—several Pauline scholars affirm that these letters were not penned by Paul—but he gives little clue to the questions. Maybe this is not the book for that, but a straightforward position, either pro or against Pauline authorship, could have been taken. 3) Wright does not get to more complicated issues concerning Paul in his historical context. A good example is the longe-debated affirmations of Paul about women in church. Wright explores the democratic statement of Galatians 3:28, and how this was attractive for women in the Roman World (check the chapter "The Challenge of Paul"), but how can we set passages such as 1 Corinthians 14 or 2 Timothy 2 in Paul's life and historical backdrop? Again, we're dealing with a biography, not a theological introduction to Paul, but it would be at least interesting to consider these passages as part of Paul's influence, in order to answer one of the book's big question "Why was Paul's ministry successful" in spite of such limitations to the female gender? All in all, this is a consistent book, and some paragraphs can make you rediscover the power of Paul's legacy (See the closing of the book on pp. 430-2). Even the way Wright explores Paul's insistence on the unity of Jews and Gentiles in Romans and in the last chapter is highly elegant, way far from dead academic halls we can find elsewhere. Here's an author in love with Paul, and who might make you have a "road to Damascus experience" with the apostle's life.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Drake

    This was excellent. Wright does a fantastic job describing Paul's first-century world and the challenges he would have had to overcome to preach the gospel in both Palestine and the wider Greco-Roman world. The way he weaves together the various passages in Acts and Paul's letters into one narrative of Paul's life is not only helpful in understanding the "big picture" of Paul's career but also very enjoyable to read; this, along with the best biographies, is a genuine page-turner (it also helps This was excellent. Wright does a fantastic job describing Paul's first-century world and the challenges he would have had to overcome to preach the gospel in both Palestine and the wider Greco-Roman world. The way he weaves together the various passages in Acts and Paul's letters into one narrative of Paul's life is not only helpful in understanding the "big picture" of Paul's career but also very enjoyable to read; this, along with the best biographies, is a genuine page-turner (it also helps that the apostle himself lived a very dangerous and exciting life!). Even when he engages in historical speculation (as every biographer of Paul has to do at some points), his theories come off as well-thought-out and provide some interesting food for thought at least (even if they're not always convincing). I didn't agree with every one of his interpretations of Paul's theology (most notably, his view of "justification by faith" and his incomplete view of the atonement), and the way he would sometimes pit Paul against the Jerusalem church/leaders was more annoying than helpful. But those gripes are overshadowed by the quality of the book as a whole, which does a wonderful job painting the apostle Paul as both a real human being (with his own struggles, fears, joys, and quirks) and as a servant of Jesus Christ whose love for his Master drove him all over the map, preaching the message of Christ's victorious death and resurrection and forming communities made up of the new humanity that Christ has brought into existence by His Spirit. This is an inspiring read, one that I'd easily recommend.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    A really fun (and at times very imaginative) read about Paul’s life. I realize this was written for a popular level audience, but I really do wish Wright cited references to his claims (especially since he has many fascinating insights). Interviews here: http://paulcastpod.libsyn.com/nt-wrig... https://omny.fm/shows/the-eric-metaxa... http://ntwrightpage.com/2018/03/11/th.... Some commendations (with much to appreciate) and critiques (with cautions) here: Andrew Wilson: A really fun (and at times very imaginative) read about Paul’s life. I realize this was written for a popular level audience, but I really do wish Wright cited references to his claims (especially since he has many fascinating insights). Interviews here: http://paulcastpod.libsyn.com/nt-wrig... https://omny.fm/shows/the-eric-metaxa... http://ntwrightpage.com/2018/03/11/th.... Some commendations (with much to appreciate) and critiques (with cautions) here: Andrew Wilson: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/re... David E. Briones: https://tabletalkmagazine.com/posts/2... Ben Witherington (Part 1): http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleand..., (Part 2): http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleand..., and (Part 3): http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleand... Wyatt Graham: http://wyattgraham.com/review-of-paul... Susan Grove Eastman: https://www.christiancentury.org/revi....

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jerome

    A refreshing stream in contrast to the stagnant pool of typical evangelical readings of Paul.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Frank Peters

    This is an excellent book. Prior to starting it, I wondered how NT Wright would write a biography, since he seemed unlike his normal style. Well he has proved me both wrong and right. This biography is completely unlike a normal biography. The author certainly tells a story but uses the story to provide theological lessons to the reader based on the chronology of Paul and the letters he wrote. I found myself moved at times while reading the book; a testament to how Wrights text was seeping into This is an excellent book. Prior to starting it, I wondered how NT Wright would write a biography, since he seemed unlike his normal style. Well he has proved me both wrong and right. This biography is completely unlike a normal biography. The author certainly tells a story but uses the story to provide theological lessons to the reader based on the chronology of Paul and the letters he wrote. I found myself moved at times while reading the book; a testament to how Wrights text was seeping into my soul. The book was also highly educational. Since Christian history is a hobby, and since I had already read most of FF Bruce, I wondered if I would learn anything. The short answer was, yes: I learned more than I expected. This even includes learning things that were not written. How? The very methodology in the book encouraged me to use my brain in evaluating interesting questions I had not thought about before – typically finding answers that I found rather exciting. Now, as a biographer, Wright is filling in gaps and extrapolating beyond any existing histories (including theological extrapolations). All these extrapolations are his best guesses and are intriguing. I don’t think he expects his readers to believe everything that was written in this vein, and I appreciated the honesty and style that can admit the extrapolation rather than pretending that he knows everything. Ultimately, while biographical in style the book is a book on theology, with a healthy component of applied theology. Very much recommended for anyone who has appreciated the writings of NT Wright.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Paul Ataua

    I feel I needed to know and understand more about two crucial major religious figures who effected a major transformation in religion, St Paul and Luther , and I saw this book as a chance to have an introduction to Paul. It was readable and quite interesting in parts. There was an excellent warning at the outset about projecting modern interpretations onto past times, but I sensed that there were times when the author did not really heed his own warning. I think that is always going to be so I feel I needed to know and understand more about two crucial major religious figures who effected a major transformation in religion, St Paul and Luther , and I saw this book as a chance to have an introduction to Paul. It was readable and quite interesting in parts. There was an excellent warning at the outset about projecting modern interpretations onto past times, but I sensed that there were times when the author did not really heed his own warning. I think that is always going to be so difficult. I was also quite taken by a different understanding of heaven, which made a lot more sense than the one I grew up with. It was well written, but sadly I wanted less life and story and more ideas and discussion and the way they fitted into the world at that time. Yeah I know, what should I have expected from a biography? I think the real problem was not the book but the fact I chose that as the first venture into a world I knew so little about. For this reason, I will refrain from lowering its excellent ratings.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Joe Morovich

    Wow! Just. Wow! Probably NT WRIGHT'S best book; and as those that read NTW's works that is saying a lot! Having read his big books on Paul, this is more accessible and a lot more interesting and personal. The climax is the last chapter. That section of writing alone is worth the price of admission. I think I almost highlighted the whole thing. You could almost start there and THEN read the book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin

    Terrific book! I've never studied Paul seriously and didn't think I'd be interested in a biography about him, but wow, Wright is amazing. He made Paul come to life as a person in a way that will fundamentally change the way I read his (Paul's) writing. One of Wright's main points is that Paul, a devout Jew, wasn't rejecting Judaism in favor of Christianity, but rather saw Christ's coming as a fulfillment of Jewish teaching. That may not be a new insight for Bible scholars, but I found it really Terrific book! I've never studied Paul seriously and didn't think I'd be interested in a biography about him, but wow, Wright is amazing. He made Paul come to life as a person in a way that will fundamentally change the way I read his (Paul's) writing. One of Wright's main points is that Paul, a devout Jew, wasn't rejecting Judaism in favor of Christianity, but rather saw Christ's coming as a fulfillment of Jewish teaching. That may not be a new insight for Bible scholars, but I found it really interesting. Lots of fascinating insights into the New Testament.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Willis

    Very readable. N.T. Wright did an excellent job introducing readers to Roman and Jewish culture, as well as telling Paul's life story chronologically. It all gives some insightful context to Paul's writings.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Laurel Hicks

    Wright’s literary biography of Paul the apostle is eloquent, scriptural, and thought-provoking. By giving it five stars I do not mean to say that I agree with everything in in (his eschatology is missing some links, for instance), but that it is an astounding book. I shall be reading it again.

  22. 4 out of 5

    George P.

    I intend to write a longer review of this book at some point. For now, however, and despite my disagreements with aspects of Wright's arguments, I will simply say, "Wow!"

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tristan Sherwin

    For me this is not only one of N.T. Wright’s best books to-date, but also one of the most insightful books I’ve read about the Apostle Paul. It’s clear, thorough, it has historical depth, and it’s very readable (the flow and energy of the writing is perfect). For those who have ever read Wright’s *Simply Jesus*, the style is similar here, and, I guess, this is his *Simply Paul*. Like it’s counterpart, this book will be revolutionary for many; offering a view of Paul that will (hopefully) help For me this is not only one of N.T. Wright’s best books to-date, but also one of the most insightful books I’ve read about the Apostle Paul. It’s clear, thorough, it has historical depth, and it’s very readable (the flow and energy of the writing is perfect). For those who have ever read Wright’s *Simply Jesus*, the style is similar here, and, I guess, this is his *Simply Paul*. Like it’s counterpart, this book will be revolutionary for many; offering a view of Paul that will (hopefully) help others to grapple with his motivations and theology. Of course, there will be the some people raising the questions, ‘Where’s the cultural evidence? Where’s the source criticism? Where is the actual historical research? etc. Well, Wright’s been an avid world-leader in that field of historical research for a few decades now; and has caused quite a stir as a result. For those who want that deeper study, you’ll have to delve into Wright’s four-part *Christian Origins and the Question of God* series. What Wright has produced here however, is an accessible and illuminating reading of the life and mindset of Paul. It’s still stocked full of historical insights, which help us to place Paul and his writings within context, but the language is clear of research-heavy abstractions. Or, to put that another way, reading this is like listening to someone simply relaying the story, with the right amount of clarification here and there, and not like listening to someone giving a university lecture. Overall, I think it’s simply brilliant. A must read, and a much needed biography. Bravo, Mr Wright. Bravo! —Tristan Sherwin, author of *Love: Expressed*

  24. 4 out of 5

    Chris Baik

    One of my friends described this book as a way of seeing the Bible differently, not in a "flat" view but a more 3-dimensional view of understanding that there are fluid decisions being made, sociopolitical and not just theological implications to Paul's writings, etc. That's largely what I appreciated most about this book. There's definitely a lot of speculation happening, but given that most readers of the Bible engage in this kind of speculation in a more underhanded and unguided fashion One of my friends described this book as a way of seeing the Bible differently, not in a "flat" view but a more 3-dimensional view of understanding that there are fluid decisions being made, sociopolitical and not just theological implications to Paul's writings, etc. That's largely what I appreciated most about this book. There's definitely a lot of speculation happening, but given that most readers of the Bible engage in this kind of speculation in a more underhanded and unguided fashion anyhow, I felt that Wright's reasoning for various events in Paul's life were fairly convincing. I walk away very clearly knowing and understanding N. T. Wright's view on what "the gospel of the kingdom" is - not primarily focused on atonement for sins and removal of guilt so that we can be "saved" and given an entry pass to "heaven", but more on the implications that Christ will be made King of a new heaven and new earth with believers as its citizens and called to live out good works in reflection of that identity though the kingdom has not yet fully dawned. He reiterates this point again and again (and about 5-10 times in the final chapter of the book), and while these two views of the "gospel" are not mutually exclusive, Wright's explanations are extremely helpful in framing the context behind some of Paul's contexts in a fresh way. All in all, would recommend that people read this; there are so many helpful nuggets that have provided a new way of looking at much of the New Testament and at the Apostle Paul himself.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Terese

    I enjoyed this, it was engaging and learned, created a narrative without glossing over the fact that there are gaps and things we simply don't know, and won't know, in Paul's story. I found it well-argued and presented in a non-dogmatic fashion. It's simply a good description and story about Paul, based largely around his letters (and Acts). Now, I will say this, I did decide to listen to the audioversion of this book. In one of my more questionable moments of decision-making I thought it would I enjoyed this, it was engaging and learned, created a narrative without glossing over the fact that there are gaps and things we simply don't know, and won't know, in Paul's story. I found it well-argued and presented in a non-dogmatic fashion. It's simply a good description and story about Paul, based largely around his letters (and Acts). Now, I will say this, I did decide to listen to the audioversion of this book. In one of my more questionable moments of decision-making I thought it would be a good book to listen to while I forced myself outside, to walk my dog, while recovering from a broken foot. I'm pretty sure I blacked out from focusing on the book at times, due to my pain and with a little help from my painkillers. Though the audiobook was good, and the narrator did a good job, I think this is one of those books that's better when read. Because it occasionally jumps back and forth between different letters, or discusses particular verses, I think it's probably more beneficial and more clear (unless you have great focus and lots of Bible knowledge right at the tip of your tongue) to have it right before your eyes. It is easy to miss a number and get confused. I might come back to this in the printed format actually, though not right now. Also, don't read/listen to it while on painkillers. Silly me.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Katedurie50

    This is a big book in eveery sense and much of it is superb. I particularly like the way the portrait of Paul is cleared and cleaned of all those layers of varnish that other ages and theologies have imposed upon it to freshly reveal a man who believed less in heaven hereafter and more in heaven-on-earth now with a new reality already present. It's also very good on Paul's - and early Christianity's -Jewish rootedness as a fulfilment not repudiation of the Law. Insofar as it is possible to do so This is a big book in eveery sense and much of it is superb. I particularly like the way the portrait of Paul is cleared and cleaned of all those layers of varnish that other ages and theologies have imposed upon it to freshly reveal a man who believed less in heaven hereafter and more in heaven-on-earth now with a new reality already present. It's also very good on Paul's - and early Christianity's -Jewish rootedness as a fulfilment not repudiation of the Law. Insofar as it is possible to do so with someone who lived so long ago, Wright humanises Paul, though sometimes, inevitably, he has to speculate about what was going on. 4 and 1/2 stars then. My only hesitations are that it got a little bogged down (for me) in the middle and that Wright assumes - he touches on this- a much wider Pauline authorship of epistles than I think (I'm no expert) the consensus of scholarship agrees, so taking in the Pastoral epistles, Ephesians, Colossians and 2 Thessalonians. He may be right but I wasn't convinced. But there's no doubting the breadth of his biblical knowledge.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Josh Cheng

    This book is great! The most valuable parts of the book are probably the cultural insights into 1st century Jewish and Roman society, and the way N. T. Wright walks through Paul's letters in context, explaining the themes of each book based on that context. I read this book with some friends, and we all felt that after reading it, we came away with a much more vivid view of who Paul was, what he was writing for, and what issues the early church was facing. Many of us felt that before reading This book is great! The most valuable parts of the book are probably the cultural insights into 1st century Jewish and Roman society, and the way N. T. Wright walks through Paul's letters in context, explaining the themes of each book based on that context. I read this book with some friends, and we all felt that after reading it, we came away with a much more vivid view of who Paul was, what he was writing for, and what issues the early church was facing. Many of us felt that before reading this book, we would just pick out sentences or passages from Paul's letters and read them how we thought they ought to be read, but that after reading this book we have much more of a foothold into understanding why some of the letters say what they say based on history. The writing makes Paul's story interesting and even maybe sometimes overly dramatic, but it was fun to read regardless.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Clinton Hutchings

    Kind of surprising that I know so little about Paul, who could probably be rightly described as the Father of Christianity. I don't know how you can make a book about someone we don't really know a lot about into such an extraordinary read. The narrator was great too. Almost from the beginning of the book, I knew this would be one I would be sad when it ended. Wright's analysis and synthesis of scriptures within context of the time period is amazing. Surprisingly approachable read. I really Kind of surprising that I know so little about Paul, who could probably be rightly described as the Father of Christianity. I don't know how you can make a book about someone we don't really know a lot about into such an extraordinary read. The narrator was great too. Almost from the beginning of the book, I knew this would be one I would be sad when it ended. Wright's analysis and synthesis of scriptures within context of the time period is amazing. Surprisingly approachable read. I really enjoyed learning about the differences between Paul and the Jerusalem apostles had and how some of those were resolved. And the view that Paul wasn't intending to create a new religion but rather preach that this was part of Judaism. A few times I pulled out the New Testament and read along with the relevant letter, but thankfully, that didn't seem to be required to still be engaged in the book. Although next time I dive into the New Testament, I may take a second read of this book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ian Hammond

    Wright is brilliant at popularizing deep theological and historical analysis, which he does here. What I really like about this work, in particular, is that he really humanizes Paul and invites readers into the first-century world. He does this by utilizing an informed imagination by seeking to think the thoughts of Paul after him and by describing the sights and sounds of Paul's context. A major weakness of this work would be his recurrent polemic against the Reformed tradition. One reviewer Wright is brilliant at popularizing deep theological and historical analysis, which he does here. What I really like about this work, in particular, is that he really humanizes Paul and invites readers into the first-century world. He does this by utilizing an informed imagination by seeking to think the thoughts of Paul after him and by describing the sights and sounds of Paul's context. A major weakness of this work would be his recurrent polemic against the Reformed tradition. One reviewer said that Wright has an "anti-Reformational, idiosyncratic reading of Paul." I tend to agree with that evaluation.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Johnny Peebles

    Zeal. If you’ve only ever thought of the Apostle Paul from a Western, Theological perspective, brace yourself for this: Paul was a first-century Jewish Pharisee, zealous for the One God and for the Torah. See how profoundly Paul’s tradition and upbringing will color your thoughts of his writings and ministry. A beautiful, historic portrait of Saul of Tarsus: a loyal Christ-follower and a loyal Jew. Tom Wright takes us on a deep excavation of the depth of change that occurred because of Paul’s Zeal. If you’ve only ever thought of the Apostle Paul from a Western, Theological perspective, brace yourself for this: Paul was a first-century Jewish Pharisee, zealous for the One God and for the Torah. See how profoundly Paul’s tradition and upbringing will color your thoughts of his writings and ministry. A beautiful, historic portrait of Saul of Tarsus: a loyal Christ-follower and a loyal Jew. Tom Wright takes us on a deep excavation of the depth of change that occurred because of Paul’s encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. I’ve read many of Wright’s books, and even in his weightier reads his pastoral heart shines through. He helps the reader to navigate complex issues and to arrive at the heart of what it means to follow the Lord Jesus.

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