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Paul: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 22 Feb 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New Ed edition (22 Feb. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192854518
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192854513
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 1 x 10.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 57,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Sanders makes one think afresh about all sorts of issues ... read this book ... (Hebrew Christian)

About the Author

E. P. Snaders is Arts and Sciences Professor of Religion at Duke University. He was formerly Dean Ireland's Professor of Exegesis in the University of Oxford and Fellow of The Queen's College. His books include Paul and Palestinian Judaism (1977), Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People (1983), and Jesus and Judaism (1985).

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52 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Julian Gardiner on 14 Jan. 2004
Format: Paperback
In this short book E. P. Sanders provides a lucid account of St Paul’s theology. Paul’s life was a dramatic one: having been a Pharisee who had persecuted Christians he underwent a dramatic conversion in which he felt himself called to be Christ’s apostle to the Gentiles. This brought him into conflict with those Jewish Christians who believed that Jesus’s message was for the Jews only. Sanders explores Paul’s thought as it is developed in the letters he wrote (the New Testament books of Romans, Corinthians, Galatians etc). Paul emerges as a passionate and inspired theologian, above all a practical theologian. He was not concerned with theology as a dry academic discipline but with solving the problems of the young churches which he had helped to set up. (Should Christians be circumcised? Did salvation from Christ exempt Christians from the law? Is speaking in tongues more important than charity?) The tensions, and occasional contradictions, that Sanders highlights in Paul’s thinking reveal a depth and creativity that later Christian thinkers who have strived harder for consistency often lack. This is an excellent introduction to one of the most remarkable and influential figures in the history of Christianity.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By S. Meadows on 20 Sept. 2012
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Sanders begins by looking at the person and character of Paul, contrasting the different sides of him as seen through Acts and through Paul's own writings. From this platform, he begins to look at Paul's theology, with a look at belief in resurrection and Jesus' return. This is a fairly brief overview, possibly too brief.

From here, he moves onto the theological background in which Paul was writing. The two main themes here are monotheism and providence. He touches on the issue of predestination and free will, noting that Paul and his contemporaries did not think of them as mutually exclusive, thus circumventing the debates that have ranged since the issue was emphasised during the Reformation.

Sanders then goes into some detail on the book of Galatians. Here, he tries to wrest back the idea of `righteousness by faith' from Luther, who Sanders thinks didn't grasp the issue properly. This section is intensely fascinating, though quite dense.

From here, his focus switches predominantly to the book of Romans, contrasting the different audiences that Paul was writing to and his imperative for doing so. Here, he does get quite technical and nuanced but it is well worth reading through it with due care.

Although the book may be called "A Very Short Introduction" one should not be fooled into thinking this means "a very simple introduction." There is some meaty theology in here, along with discussions on Greek grammar and some fairly detailed reasoning. But don't let that put you off. His writing style is very accessible and he makes a good job of explaining the difficulties involved, especially on the difficulties of translating Greek to English.

Sanders then moves on to how Paul viewed behaviour. Here, Sanders' own views come to the fore, somewhat.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By SS on 26 Aug. 2012
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This is a great book if you are new to Christology, especially Justification through Faith and the Augustinian or Lutheran Post Reformation View of St. Paul and the pre-conversion Paul. The book is easy to read and understand and well laid out. Highly recommend this book if you wish to acquire a little knowledge but do not want anything too in-depth.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Elginson on 24 Oct. 2013
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I came to this book with a reasonable knowledge of the New Testament but wanting to know more of the man who wrote so much of it: to understand the grand themes and doctrines that saturate his writing. E.P. Sanders succeeds magnificently. Short this book may be, but it isn't superficial. He has a way of explaining the truths Paul preached and yet providing challenging insights into them. I learnt to see passages and concepts in new ways; and through it all Paul's over-arching mission to be the apostle to the gentiles, who were going to be brought into God's promise ('righteoused' as Sanders puts it) by faith. The author shows us the evident and surprising tensions between Paul and Peter, based in the Jerusalem church. Sanders looks in depth at the books of Romans and Galatians, exploring in detail Paul's developing teaching about righteousness and faith. The author also examines Paul's theology, his relationship to the law and his teaching about Christ's return and the resurrection.
This Very Short Introduction may have only 150 pages but I learned a lot, especially how to look at familiar pages with fresh eyes. If you want a concise guide to Paul and the writings which have done so much to shape the church through the centuries, you could do no better than this.
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By J. Mann VINE VOICE on 23 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback
The thought of Paul is one of those areas where you can get lost in a sea of commentary. The "New Perspective on Paul" promoted by Tom Wright and James Dunn was hugely influenced by EP Sanders, the author of this book.

I was surprised to not see any references to Wright or Dunn in this book - but then realised it was written in 1991 and only made into a "Very Short Introduction" in 2001, however having tried reading Wright and Dunn I feel this book is much clearer. For some reason although both Dunn and Wright can be very readable, and cover a lot of interesting topics, I never find them able to get to the point and make clear what it is they are trying to say, something this book does very well.

Sanders makes Paul very clear - and Paul is a very difficult thinker to make sense of.

One of the very clever things Sanders does is to explain that Paul doesn't always express himself particularly clearly. Paul is writing letters - and just as we might if we were writing a letter he develops his thought as he goes along. Sometimes that means he gets to a point that he didn't realise he was going to - and has to back track and re-direct his argument. This means he can contradict himself, and we just have to accept that. However through Sanders we can also see where Paul wanted to get to, and why in some ways it doesn't matter too much if he takes more than one way to get there.

There are three important points to take away from this book.

First - Paul isn't concerned with "good works" meriting our salvation. This has often been how he is read, particularly by Luther - and ignores the many passages in which Paul clearly links "good works" with salvation.
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