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on 24 February 2010
As a fairly conservative evangelical christian I am usually wary of secular books on biblical subjects. There tends to be a desire to shock; 'Jesus was really a woman', 'Noah was chinese', that sort of thing; and a thinly-disguised antagonism to any spiritual element. However, having previously read A.N. Wilson's account of The Victorians I decided to give this a go.

In general I found it a very worthwhile read; we christians are perhaps too quick to see people like Paul in their biblical context, and forget that they were part of history too; part of the politics and culture of the Roman Empire, a relatively well-documented era of history. Wilson's book looks at Paul from this historical standpoint, in particular shedding light on Paul's vital role as 'apostle to the gentiles' by bridging the gulf between the Jewish mindset and the philosophy and customs of the rest of the first century Roman world.

He clearly likes Paul, and finds him intriguing, and this book strikes me as a very open-minded and honest attempt to understand Paul's outlook and milieu. I may not agree with all his conclusions - in particular I think it is a pity that he generally dismisses Luke's account in Acts since there is so much biographical information here, some of it witnessed at first-hand - however this book doesn't claim to be a devotional study of Paul and I am willing to accept that this is his genuine opinion as a historian; there is no fervent anti-christian bias here. If we only read books we agree with 100%, then our understanding of the world will be very limited.

In fact A.N. Wilson is willing to take most of Paul's writings at face value, and is carried away with enthusiasm when he speaks of the book of Romans, a book many christians would see as the key book in defining the message of the Bible, although, understandably, he sees its appeal in intellectual, rather than spiritual terms.

For christian's who are open-minded enough to appreciate another view-point, this book is an intelligent, thoughtful book that will shed light on the world of the New Testament, and for non-believers this is a useful exploration of the life and thought of a man who, like it or not, shaped how we all think today.
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on 9 June 2010
A.N. Wilson creates a vivid picture of Paul, the man we like to blame for virtually everything we don't like about the Christian religion. He tells us about Tarsus (a city in what is now Turkey) where Paul grew up as part of a Jewish diaspora and gets us to think about the difficulties that Paul faced in making sense of his identity - an issue very familiar to us today.

Wilson also prompts us to think more sympathetically about Paul's personality. He was neither the "saint" of church history nor the demon of anti-church history, but instead a flawed and self-contradicting human being like us: conservative in some things, progressive in others; a man in which an idealistic light battled the darkness of fear and ambition. Wilson also reminds us that without Paul's relentlessness and conviction the nascent Christian movement might well have come to nothing; it takes a forceful man to set a force in motion.

Finally, it's interesting to compare this book with Wilson's biography of Jesus. As good as that is this is better. Thinking about why that should be the case it seems to me that there's an element of self-identification going on: Wilson feels (I think) a certain kinship with the hard-to-love but passionately intelligent apostle.
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on 18 February 2011
Wilson is simply a master at making the reader 'feel' a bygone era rather than merely describing it in dry, academic terms. He is also not scared about filling in the blanks, for example he says that if Paul was a temple gaurd then he might have been in place to actually witness the execution of Jesus. While there is not a shred of evidence to support this view, it's still fun to imagine to possibilities.

While this is a great book I would only, however, recommend it as a beginners guide to Paul. There isn't much of a discussion of the contradictions between Paul's own writing, and his biography in Acts. For that you will have to look elsewhere.

In the end, this book reads like a novel - and it is highly enjoyable and extremely well written. Wilson is a master of the English language.
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on 13 May 2001
This is a sort of companion book to Wilson's "Jesus" but is actually the better of the two. As a biographer, Wilson has great gifts, but as a Biblical exegesist he's just an enthusiastic amateur. This book, then, plays to Wilson's strengths, which are a profound ability to empathise with spiritual and psychological conflicts and a great imaginative grasp of the period. Wilson certainly brings the 1st century Mediterranean world to life and the book is full of interesting asides, anecdotes and literary allusion. Wilson also seems to _like_ Paul (something few Christians could boast of) and is content to explore and tease out the many contradictions in his personality and history without imposing some theological agenda on the matter. As with "Jesus" this is not a book for Bible-based Christians, who will dislike having the omissions, evasions or outright fabrications of Scripture pointed out to them, but it's a book terrifically sympathetic to Christianity, though refusing to be sentimental about its origins. Terrific.
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on 22 November 1998
Wilson has written an intelligent, lively and (to me at least) revelatory book about the crucial role Paul had in "inventing" Christianity. It is a fascinating biography of the man who dominates the New Testament and who can with very little exaggeration be said to be one of the most influential men who ever lived.
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on 20 September 2014
When wilson calls this book the mind of the apostle he means it..So tedious I think that even a rabbanical student
would give up on it..the same points made again and again as Wilson tries to show off his knowledge while telling one very little about paul's life..okay paul remained a jew!We already know!
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"Paul: The Mind Of The Apostle" is A. N. Wilson's attempt to delve into the mind of one of the most influential people world history. The theme of the book is that Paul, even more than Jesus, is the founder of Christianity. Wilson's method is to compare the writings of Paul and St. Luke with what is known about Paul's world and attempt to pick the truth from among any apparent inconsistencies. He succeeds in providing the reader with an insight into the world of the emerging Church.

The one thing which this book lacks is faith. Wilson subjects the first century to a totally secular analysis. He ascribes secular motivations to the writings contained in the New Testament. He concludes, for example, that part of the Acts of The Apostles is in the nature of a legal brief prepared for Paul's defense, not a theological narrative of the early Church. He seems to be couching the whole New Testament into a form of propaganda with the intent of convincing the Romans of the loyalty of the Christians, by shifting blame to the Jews. He claims that any Jew who was crucified by the Romans would have been a hero among the Jews, ignoring the accounts that Jesus was offered as a sacrifice to divert Roman punishment from the Jewish leadership.

Wilson makes several assertions which in direct contradiction to events recorded in Scripture and Tradition. He states, for example, that the concept that a first century Jew would invite his friends to drink my blood is "unthinkable." In other words, the Last Supper did not happen as reported in the Synoptic Gospels and by St. Paul. He points out that Paul claims that he did not get his information from the other Apostles, but directly from the Lord. Wilson characterizes Jesus as a simple, rural, Jewish preacher who desired nothing more than to encourage a greater fervor among his fellow Jews. He claims that the concepts that Jesus was God and intended to establish a Church are, among other things, concoctions originating in the unbalanced mind of Paul. He expresses amusement at those who pour over Paul's writings as if they were Scripture, which, to a person of faith, they are. He repeatedly asserts that St. Luke is a poor historian. He asserts that, because there is no solid evidence that St. Peter actually got to Rome, he did not. He expresses bewilderment at the failure of Acts to explain Paul's end. He chooses to believe, with no evidence as to what happened to Paul, that he left Rome and went to Spain, apparently to live out his helter-skelter life sans the crown of martyrdom.

The conclusion which the author seems to be suggesting is that Christianity is not a divinely established religion but merely an elaborate charade constructed by man. To the totally secular investigator, Wilson's theme may be attractive. To the person of faith, he is missing the whole point. It is true that Jesus did not lay it all out and that the discernment of His message took some time, just as the Resurrection sunk in slowly and it took Peter years to "really understand" that Gentiles were heirs along with the Jews. To Wilson, this all may be a case of the hijacking of the teachings of a long dead preacher. To the person of faith, the gradual discernment occurred under the guidance of the Holy Ghost throughout the Apostolic Age during which Sacred Truths continued to be revealed. A person of faith who reads carefully can get some insight into the Apostolic world from this book. Perhaps the best greatest benefit from a reading of this book is an appreciation of how different the story looks through the eyes of faith.
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on 4 January 2013
I was extremely disappointed by the tone of A N Wilson's biography of Saint Paul as I am a fan of Wilson. Wilson refers to Christianity throughout as 'the Christian myth'. I was looking for hard information about Paul, which this book does provide, but from an atheist perspective, so for believing Christians this book will come as a shock and a disappointment.
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on 29 January 2016
Brilliant service! 10/10
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on 3 September 2014
good concise book
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