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Paul: The Mind of the Apostle Paperback – 5 Feb 1998

3.8 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico; New Ed edition (5 Feb. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 071266663X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712666633
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 154,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"One of the greatest strengths of Wilson's book is that it reveals the extent of our ignorance about the origins of Christianity" (Karen Armstrong The Times)

"Characteristically clever and urbane, informed and entertaining" (Daily Telegraph)

"[Wilson] has read widely and exhaustively, and it is particularly strong on the political and historical background. He writes vividly and well and brings his novelist's gift to bear what is, in part, a detective story" (Sunday Times)

"Brilliant...his knowledge of the first century AD is prodigous" (Spectator)

"A.N. Wilson - novelist, ex-Anglican and unrepentant agent provocateur - spares no pious blushes in his new study of Saint Paul. His theory is stated in confrontational style but elegantly and accessibly put... This book is designed to raise eyebrows, but its resounding success at translating high-minded and often opaquely phrased ecclesiastical debate into a popular format should be applauded" (Independent)

Book Description

'A splendidly readable book, and one which will find many readers' Daily Telegraph

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3.8 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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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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