Item description for The Paul Quest: The Renewed Search for the Jew of Tarsus by Ben Witherington III...
Overview In this paper edition of The Paul Ben Witherington examines the various profiles of the historical Paul that have been newly discovered or refurbished. One of the great gains of this quest has been a reencounter with Paul the Jew. The flood of new insight into Judaism of the first century has illuminated features of Paul that were previously obscured. In this timely work, a reacquaintance with the classical Roman world has filled in even more details of Paul's life and work.
Publishers Description A Christianity Today 1999 Book of the Year Who was the real Paul? Some of Paul's contemporaries seem to have asked the same question. For some he was Paul the tentmaker. For others he was Paul the heretic, Paul the peripatetic philosopher, Paul the would-be apostle, Paul the prophet, or Paul the founder of Christian communities and missionary hero. For more than a decade there has been a renewed quest for the real Paul behind the Acts of the Apostles and the collection of Pauline letters. Although this quest has not gained the visibility of the renewed quest of the historical Jesus, it is a thriving enterprise joined by Protestant, Catholic and Jewish scholars as well as those interested in Paul as a figure of the first-century Greco-Roman world. One of the great gains of this quest for the historical Paul has been a fresh encounter with Paul the Jew. The flood of new insight into Judaism of the first century has illuminated features of Paul that were previously obscured. A scholarly reacquaintance with the classical Roman world has filled in even more details. In this book, Ben Witherington III examines and evaluates the various profiles of Paul that have been newly discovered or recently refurbished. We encounter Paul as an ancient Mediterranean personality and watch him operate in a social environment where honor, shame, patronage and corporate identity are daily considerations. We discover new dimensions of Paul's epistles as we observe him dictating letters and gauging his rhetoric. We enter into the field of controversy where Paul the apostle and prophet meets his opponents. We reconsider the nature of the human body and Christian community as we meet Paul the anthropologist and champion of woman and slave. Paul, the man of the big idea, shows himself to be in truth a storyteller and interpreter of Israel's holy history. In and through all of these complexities, we discover Paul to be a consistent and coherent theologian and ethicist whose thinking reaches out across nearly two thousand years to engage men and women today. WithThe Paul Quest Witherington leads an exploratory tour and reappraisal of the historical Paul, a sweeping survey of the contemporary rediscovery of the Jew from Tarsus.
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Studio: IVP Academic
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.4" Width: 5.47" Height: 0.82" Weight: 1.14 lbs.
Release Date Nov 22, 2001
Publisher IVP-InterVarsity Press
ISBN 0830826602 ISBN13 9780830826605
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More About Ben Witherington III
Ben Witherington III has an academic affiliation as follows - Asbury Theological Seminary Kentucky.
Ben Witherington III has published or released items in the following series...
Reviews - What do customers think about The Paul Quest: The Renewed Search for the Jew of Tarsus?
Interesting research on Paul Dec 2, 2007
Anyone interested in Paul would enjoy this book. Among the points argued by Witherington:
Paul's position was clearly not of a lower class person in his world (p 14) even though he worked as a tent maker. The ancients believed personality was fixed at birth, unlike today, with our emphasis on psychology. The ancients were likely to believe a person could be judged by his appearance and it was right and proper to boast(p 18).
Marriage to a cousin was common (p 29) and since marriages were arranged rather than chosen, closeness was more likely to be shared by brother and sister (p 30). The body was considered a microcosm of the universe (p 37). People lived for the acclaim of others (p 45) and although the ancient Jews lived in an honor/shame society, shame had little to nothing to do with one what did in private (p 45). Throughout the ancient world, a system of patronage was very important (p 48).
Education was mostly based on memorization and the learning of oral skills (p 90). Paul's letters were meant to be read aloud (p 93) and they fit neatly into the style of rhetoric of persuasion(p 115). Jews found no shame in any kind of work, unlike the Romans (p 129).
The last half of the book is a more general overview of Paul's writings. Most interesting is the discussion of N T Wright's arguments starting on p 137 and the discussion of typology starting on page 256.
Solid May 9, 2006
The Paul Quest is a solid book - commendable; and while not in the "turn your world upside-down" strain of theology, it talks about a lot of really important issues, and is certainly helpful for familiarizing oneself with the vocabulary and landscape of the study of Paul. Given his depth of insight, Ben Witherington III is astoundingly readable (a friend of mine remarked, "I have conversations with people while I'm reading Witherington; while we're running"). While his conclusions aren't universally agreeable, Witherington never compromises the nuance and complexity of issues for the sake of readability. For this reason, The Paul Quest is a quite congenial introduction to the world of discussion centered on Paul. The premise of The Paul Quest, as laid out in the Introduction, is that "an understanding of social context, of Paul's world, often reveals the meaning of content in the New Testament" (13). Witherington's task, then, is twofold: first, to offer a sketch of the social backdrop against which Paul wrote, and then to showcase how an interpretive approach to the text itself should look in light of this historical research. Whether this sort of hermeneutical approach is in fact the most beneficial means of engaging the text is a serious question, albeit for another venue. Nevertheless, Witherington is successful in his goal of tentatively situating Paul in his particular first century context, and I thoroughly embrace his following the lead of such scholars as Krister Stendahl in cautioning the modern reader against the anachronistic assumption that "Paul as a human being was basically just like me" (17). There is a long history behind our understanding of the way things are (Augustine, Luther, Frued, Jung, etc.), and it is important to recognize that the problems occasioning Paul's correspondence are not those of "the introspective conscience of the west." The book really functions in two overarching ways, one explaining things work in general in the ancient world, the other explaining how Paul engages his world according to these norms. In the first two chapters, Witherington deals first with the peculiarities of ancient personality in general (the socially constructed self, the nature of the body, and the honor code), and then addresses in Chapter two "The Trinity of Paul's Identity" (Jew, Roman and Christian). Building on this, the next two chapters address the different modes of engagement that Paul employs in order to carry out his vocation. Chapter three examines Paul as "Writer and Rhetor," explaining the norms for first century letter writing, and how Paul used the available rhetorical strategies to reach his Greco-Roman audience. Chapter four shows Paul as "Prophet and Apostle," basically looking at the source and outworking of Paul's authority in the Church. It is in chapters five and six where Witherington's method really begins to function in an interesting way, yielding a great deal of substantive investigation with which to engage. This is essentially Witherington's take on Paul's social ethics: what happens when this world he has been re-constructing for the reader is engaged by the message of the gospel. Chapter five, "Paul the Realist and Radical" addresses the social force of Paul's message as it engages the status quo of violence, patriarchal family relationships, and slavery. Witherington shows Paul holding out the church as both salt and yeast in the midst of the earth: both preserving the earth from being swallowed up in decay, and also actively subverting the existing structures of oppression through its witness of justice. Chapter six, "Paul the Anthropologist and Advocate," runs down Paul's understanding of body and spirit, and the implications of the newfound "oneness in Christ" for restructuring roles for women, slaves, and minorities (Gentiles) in the church. Paul sees the church as the medium by which God's grace intervenes on the corruption of the existing social structures, as it witnesses to reformed relationships between husbands and wives, slaves and masters, etc. While this treatment of the Household Codes is not original (see, notably, John Yoder's chapter "Revolutionary Subordination" in The Politics of Jesus), it is a lucid and to the point presentation. One of the most influential of Witherington's twenty-odd books? Paul's Narrative Thought World, is essentially an expanded, full length treatment of the subject matter of chapter eight, "Paul the Storyteller and Exegete." Perhaps, I should have inverted that statement, since The Paul Quest was written four years after Paul's Narrative Thought World, but you get what I'm saying. Having dealt with the sociological background that Paul presumes upon, Witherington here moves on to address the Old Testament textual background of Paul's letters. This is necessary because "Paul's allusive handling of Scripture shows that he believed one needs to know the whole story to appreciate the parts." Witherington explains Paul's understanding of the metanarrative in terms of five interwoven stories: (1) the story of God; (2) the story of the world gone wrong in Adam; (3) the story of God's people in that world, from Abraham to Moseds and beyond; (4) the story of the Jewish Messiah, Christ; (5) the story of Christians, which arises out of stories 2-4. Paul's hermeneutic, then, is two sided, first seeing the Scriptures through the lens of the Christ event (Christ as the hermeneutical key) and second, understanding it as it applies to its ultimate audience, the church. In chapter eight, "Paul the Ethicist and Theologian," there is a nice discussion on the problems that come along with the modern need for systematization when Paul's letters are occasional, and thoroughly unconcerned with finding the center, or whatever. Thus, Witherington contends that there is no theology of Paul, but only his theologizing, and in light of this, the student should focus not only on what Paul says, but on how he goes about applying the reality of Christ's death and resurrection to specific problems within his body.
Amazing Pauline Book May 2, 2006
Witherington structured this book into 8 nearly equal chapters dealing with what he sees as the essential elements of a quest for the historical Paul. Along with a very brief introduction and conclusion, he includes a very informative appendix, "Timely remarks on the life of Paul," which attempts to devise with a timeline for Paul's life. The eight areas that Witherington considers foundational are as follows: 1) On Constructing an Ancient Personality, 2) The Trinity of Paul's Identity, 3) Paul the Writer and Rhetor, 4) Paul the Prophet and Apostle, 5) Paul the Realist and Radical, 6) Paul the Anthropologist and Advocate, 7) Paul the Story teller and Exegete, 8) Paul the Ethicist and Theologian.
This book is second in sequence to The Jesus Quest and, in some ways, is also a continuation of Paul's Narrative thought World. As Witherington states the quest for this historical Jesus, leads us to Paul since he is one of our greatest sources about Jesus. It is, therefore, logical to leave The Jesus Quest and embark on a new search that leads to The Paul Quest. As a result, it has many aims and goals. Those goals are best summed up as follows: a short study on the four sources for Paul, exposing readers to new developments in the quest for the historical Paul, and an examination of Paul's different roles and how those would have shaped him. Witherington also proposes to sample relevant Pauline literature in each of his eight foundational areas.
I have often heard it asked, "Why another book on Paul?" With the quantity of books published yearly, it appears that no one in the publishing industry is asking the same question. However, I would say this is a book of great value to the large canon of Pauline literature. It is a very good book written in a fun and engaging style. Witherington tends to present a few of the different opinions on each topic and then states his personal view. He uses the Scriptures as his primary starting point, but then supports his views and premises from a historical perspective.
I found it invaluable to have Witherington begin with his study of the ancient personality, specifically in regards to the three aspects of Paul: Paul as Jew, Paul as Christian, and finally, though of lesser import, Paul as Roman citizen. This sets all readers on a level playing field for the rest of the work. Each reader has a very clear view of how Witherington is approaching Paul, why, and where he intends to lead us as we search for the historical Paul.
In presenting his different topics, Witherington draws upon numerous sources that include both modern and ancient. When criticizing an outside source, he does so in a fair way, evaluating both the strengths and weaknesses of a particular book or theory. He then goes on to support his opinions with Pauline sources or other contemporaries.
I believe this would be an ideal book for a new student to Pauline studies. It has a strong historical approach. It includes a valid use themes and archetypes; not those of modern psychology, but instead those of the ancient world, Prophet, Storyteller, Jew, Greek, etc. It raises many of the contemporary issues in Pauline theology, as well as those necessary for an understanding of the man himself. It deals with the opposing views in a balanced way, presenting both sides of an argument fairly. For example on women, it presents both views of Paul as liberator and feminist, and Paul as the patriarchal repressor of women.
In Paul's Narrative Though World (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1994), Witherington was hard to read and even harder to understand. However, in this effort he is a masterful wordsmith who leaves you hungering for more. It was hard to put the book down; it is such a compelling read. Through its many referenced sources, it also allows you to continue further into any area that piques your interest in an easily accessible way.
The greatest strength of the book is its balanced approach and equal treatment of the different topics and views. I was very impressed that he did not over-focus on the storyteller or "narrative thought world" given his previous writing in this area. The greatest weakness is the last chapter. In my opinion, Witherington does not do a good job of presenting Paul the theologian, or of presenting a clear view of Paul's theology. It appears that Wirtherington does not wish to tackle this issue, or that he has not come to his own conclusion. The other possibility is that he things that a quest for Paul, or the historical Paul is not the place for this issue. Since he has made such a strong presentation in every other section, I would still say that this is an excellent book which is a good read, and well worth anyone's time and money to pursue it.
I believe this book achieved its stated aims. Much like a gemologist working with a raw diamond cuts and shapes the stone into a beautiful thing that radiates and reflects light from its many facets, so too has Witherington shown each of the differing views of the separate facets of Paul, and through them brings clarity, light and vision to the reader.
Good Survey Mar 19, 2004
This author does what he set out to do with this book. He gives you a very in-depth look at most of the available research on the life of Paul. He focuses on Paul's heritage as a Jew, Christian and Roman Citizen. Then he turns to the theology of Paul, and is, for the most part, on point.
This book reads a bit like a lecture, but it still moves along at a decent pace. Witherington helped me look at Paul's letters as a whole, and how they fit in the overarching metanarrative of God's redemptive plan. So, for that he deserves high praise. If you want to know more about Paul, probably more than you will ever need to know unless you are going to be a PhD in the New Testament, this is the book for you.
An Interesting Read With Some Unique Conclusions May 22, 2003
It might be said that in writing The Paul Quest, Dr. Witherington embarked upon a quest impossible to complete in a satisfactory fashion: to identify and characterize Saul of Tarsus in such a way as to make him accessible to the average person. This is a lofty aim, to say the least, but one that I think Dr. Witherington nearly arrives at. His aim is not solely to present a theology of Paul, but rather to introduce the reader to the person of Paul the apostle. He does so by analyzing various aspects of the man, from his identity as an apostle and theologian, to his training in rhetoric and his ability as a letter-writer. The end result is a balanced work that achieves Dr. Witherington's primary goal almost flawlessly.
If there is a weakness to Dr. Witherington's approach, it is simply that the book begins with some very poignant arguments regarding Paul's use of rhetoric in his speaking and writing, but seems to taper off toward the end when the discussion has turned to Paul's theology. Dr. Witherington also does not really include the Pastorals in his discussion of Paul's theology, due to the controversy surrounding the authorship of those letters. This is understandable; however, whether one subscribes to the Pauline authorship side of that debate or not, the Pastorals could provide another perspective on Pauline theology that should earn them a place in any discussion relating to that topic. Other than this, Dr. Witherington has crafted a very balanced treatise of Paul the man. It is a fine introduction and tribute to the second most influential person in Christian history.