David B. Capes, Rodney Reeves, and E. Randolph Richards, Rediscovering Paul: An Introduction to His World, Letters and Theology (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2007), 350 pages, ISBN 9780830839414.
The life and letters of Paul are often an enigma to modern Christians; why did he say that – and moreover, why did he say it like that? Is what he meant merely applicable to his own locale? Or should it be translated to our modern times? Herein, Capes, Reeves, and Richards place Paul within his own world aptly, but also translate his importance for today. In their reconstruction of the life and times of Paul, the authors rely on the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Paul, both found within the New Testament. The author’s goal in producing this text is to present an overview of Paul that gathers together context, content, and theology, with the goal of answering the age-old question that both students and laity alike have: ‘So what?’
The authors begin by describing the ancient Mediterranean world in which Paul lived. After describing Paul’s world, they then look into how he wrote his letters, as well as placing them in the context of his ministry. In an interesting admission and application, the authors trust the Lukan Paul over and above what Paul seems to note of himself. This, I contend, is somewhat questionable, and is one of the qualms I have with this text. Why are second-hand accounts more reliable than firsthand? Nevertheless, the authors present an overview of the ministry of Paul. His life is presented in three general stages: his conversion and call, his itinerant ministry, and his prison ministry.
In the authors’ opinion, the letters of Paul present a common mind, and therefore they reject the view that there are so-called pseudo-Pauline letters (i.e. the contested letters of Paul). They accept both the internal evidence and the church’s early witness to their authenticity. The final part of the book looks beyond Paul’s immediate context and impact and into his ongoing legacy in today’s church. Even though Paul wrote his letters for the early churches, they have proved valuable for today’s churches. Therefore, this book closes looking at the continued relevance of Paul and his letters for today’s Christians.
Included within each chapter are text boxes that ask, ‘So what?’ These text boxes serve to elucidate the ongoing relevance of Paul’s theology today. Moreover, there are several ‘What’s More’ text boxes within each chapter. These serve to present additional information that supplement the presented material, give further background information, or explore additional related issues that enable one to rediscover Paul. All in all, this is a fine text, and well worth the price.
Reviewed by Bradford McCall
Publisher’s page: https://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/book.pl/code=3941
Read Martin Mittelstadt’s review of the 2015 book by Capes, Reeves, and Richards: Rediscovering Jesus.