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Rabbi Paul: An Intellectual Biography [Paperback]

By Bruce Chilton (Author)
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Item description for Rabbi Paul: An Intellectual Biography by Bruce Chilton...

Chilton explains the changing images of Paul, from the early Church period when he was regarded as the premiere apostle to more recent liberal evaluations, which paint him as more dedicated to doctrine than to spiritual freedom.

Publishers Description
A brilliant new biography of Saint Paul, whose interpretations of the life and teachings of Jesus transformed a loosely organized, grassroots peasant movement into the structured religion we know today
Without Paul, there would be no Christianity. His letters to various churches scattered throughout the Roman Empire articulated, for the first time, the beliefs that make up the heart of Christian practice and faith. In this extraordinary biography, Bruce Chilton explains the changing images of Paul, from the early Church period when he was regarded as the premiere apostle who separated Christianity from Judaism to more recent liberal evaluations, which paint him as an antifeminist, homophobic figure more dedicated to doctrine than to spiritual freedom. By illuminating Paul's thoughts and contributions within the context of his time, Chilton restores him to his place as the founding architect of the Church and one of the most important figures in Western history.
"Rabbi Paul" is at once a compelling, highly readable biography and a window on how Jesus' message was transformed into a religion embraced by millions around the world. Drawing on Paul's own writings as well as historical and scholarly documents about his life and times, Chilton portrays an all-too-human saint who helped to create both the most beautiful and the most troublesome aspects of the Church. He shows that Paul sought to specify the correct approach to such central concerns as sexuality, obedience, faith, conscience, and spirit, to define religion as an institution, and to clarify the nature of the religious personality--issues that Christians still struggle with today.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Image
Pages   335
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5.5" Height: 8.25"
Weight:   0.65 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 15, 2005
Publisher   Image
ISBN  0385508638  
ISBN13  9780385508636  

Availability  3 units.
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More About Bruce Chilton

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BRUCE CHILTON is the Bernard Iddings Bell Professor of Religion at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson and priest at the Free Church of Saint John in Barrytown, New York. He is the author of many scholarly articles and books, including the widely acclaimed Rabbi Jesus.

Bruce Chilton has an academic affiliation as follows - Bard College, New York Bard College, USA Bard College, USA Bard Colleg.

Bruce Chilton has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Christianity and Judaism, the Formative Categories
  2. Fortress Introductions
  3. Signet Classics
  4. Studying the Historical Jesus

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > General
2Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Leaders & Notable People > Religious
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Biographies > Biography
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > History

Christian Product Categories
Books > Bible Study > General Studies > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about Rabbi Paul: An Intellectual Biography?

great book  Jun 13, 2008
this is a great book for people who enjoy engaging the real forces and faces in christianity. the prose is delightful. surely there is some conjecture and filling-in but it is all in good fun and indicative of chilton's love and high regard for his work. i have read several of his books and they are all imbued with a deep love of god and a tenacious passion for faith, truth and humanity.
Rabbi Paul  Mar 27, 2008
Rewarding experience and refreshing insights by Mr. Chilton's writing about Paul. Everyone in church authority should be required to read this little volumn, especially individuals who use mass media for their message and platform. I am rereading a second time. Thank you again Mr. Chilton.
Read several such books before settling on any hard and fast conclusions ...  Jan 11, 2008
Since there isn't much hard, first-hand information available about Paul of Tarsus and his activities, the best we can do is rely on scholars to (1) piece together what little there is, (2) integrate it with historical facts and second-hand information written by others (often several decades after the fact), (3) apply their best educated guesses while reading between the lines, to (4) compile a quasi-fictional account of what was probably going on.

My interest in Paul arose from a sense that what we Christians believe is the legacy of Jesus, is actually more the work of Paul, a Turk who never knew Jesus, yet was somehow able to create a Jesus-based tradition off the top of his head and sell it to a wide audience. The first book I happened to pick up was Hyam Maccoby's similar work, The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity. A minister-friend cautioned that I should read several such books before settling on any hard and fast conclusions. After reading a few, I understand his advice.

Bruce Chilton's effort is probably as credible and creditable as any other, and is recommended to anyone who is interested in learning what there is to know about Paul and the formation for the Christian faith. But, to paraphrase the all too familiar ADA statement, "Rabbi Paul has been shown to be an educational resource that can be of significant value when used in a conscientiously applied program of study and regular professional care." Read several such books before settling on any hard and fast conclusions about Paul and the formation of the faith.

Gene Warner, author of ...
Solutions for Secretaries of Small NPO's
The Manitou Passage Story

Engaging Popular Biography, scholarship in the background  Nov 22, 2006
`Rabbi Paul, An Intellectual Biography' by Professor of Religion, Bruce Chilton has a barely tautological title which is still capable of a hint of misdirection.

The virtually obvious aspect of the title is the fact that so little is known with certainty of the hard details of `Paul of Tarsus' life that a 332 page book must, by necessity, spend a lot of time on the intellectual content of Paul's Epistles which make up the most robustly theological portion of the New Testament. There are two facts about this book that can be slightly misleading. First, I believe the title of `Rabbi' applied to Paul may be just a bit of a stretch. `Rabbi' is a strictly Jewish title which, I believe, is only applied to a teacher of `the law' as laid out in the Torah and explicated in the Talmud. The main thrust of Paul's Christian theology was to make the Torah irrelevant to being a Christian. Second, while this book does deal with Paul's theology, I find it very odd that the author devotes less space to discussing the Epistle to the Romans than he does the two Epistles to the Corinthians. `Romans' is commonly believed by everyone from Augustine to Martin Luther to Jonathan Edwards to Albert Schweitzer to 21st Century commentators to be Paul's greatest theological work. Professor Chilton appears to give that honor to the Corinthians letters, which probably have somewhat more gossip than `Romans', so they provide more material for the narrative. Even some of his statements on the provenance of `Romans' seem shaky. He claims the letter was written in the Greek Asia Minor city of Mellitus, while most other reliable Biblical commentaries say it was written while Paul was in Corinth (See `The Oxford Bible Commentary', page 1108).

In one sense, this book can be seen as an exegesis to the Book of Acts of the Apostles, as this part of the New Testament provides most of the hard factual material upon which Chilton builds his speculations on the events in Paul's life. One example of `speculation' is the author's surmises on what Paul did during the years he spent in the desert of the Nabatean Kingdom south of Judea. The author's reasonable guess is that he made tents, as he came from a prosperous family of tent-makers in Tarsus. Aside from `Acts', `1 Corinthians' and `Galatians', there is relatively little material taken from the other Epistles.

This is not to say the book has no scholarly credentials. The end of the book includes about fifty pages of notes and comments on sources. But Chilton is certainly aiming his narrative at a popular audience, since his main text is singularly free of the impedimenta to smooth reading found in scholarly works on Paul, of which there are thousands. This includes words, phrases, and sentences quoted in Aramaic, Greek, or Latin; long footnotes in barely readable fonts; and indecipherable references to six volume works in German, Latin, or French. Thus, while most of those thousands of works have no value for the average interested reader, this volume had interest aplenty. I almost wish Chilton had done just a bit more referring to his sources in the main line of his text. Chilton firmly subscribes to the belief that Paul was influenced by the Stoics, but he doesn't connect Paul's beliefs with concrete Stoic works quite as well as I would like. I would like to know more about the Paul, the Stoics, and `eastern' mystery religions of this period, because I suspect Paul's Stoic `doctrines' could have come from other sources; but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt pending more reading on my part.

If this work achieves nothing else, it will give Paul a human personality, combining all known biographical facts we have about him with reasonable hypothesizing about his character and his interactions with his congregations in Asia Minor and Greece. One interesting question it answers is why Paul planned to travel to the ultimate West (the Roman province of Hispania, modern Spain) when it is highly unlikely that Christianity had yet been brought to all cities in the eastern half of the Mediterranean. The answer seems to be that Paul simply wore out his welcome with the good citizens of Asia Minor, Greece, and his home bases of Antioch and Jerusalem.

Since Paul's most important interpreter for our times was Martin Luther, an opinion Chilton firmly endorses, it is easy to think of Paul as having the same kind of constantly doubting `existential' personality. Chilton shows this was not even close. Paul was nothing if not sure of his positions and his beliefs. In fact, he may have been just a bit too self-assured as when he held positions contrary to the young church leaders in Jerusalem, especially Jesus' brother, James, the leader of the Jewish Christians.

It is easy to discount James in the history of Christianity. This book firmly establishes that James was certainly one of the `big three' among Christian apostles around 45 - 55 CE together with Peter and Paul. The problem with James is that while the Catholics lionize Peter and the Protestants promote Paul, James has no strong advocate among modern Christian groups.

One problem with writing a book for a popular audience is that you let yourself slide on some details; as when Chilton refers to an Asia Minor location as being in Turkey. The term `Turkey' didn't exist until the Ottoman Empire, and even then, it was probably not common until after the end of the First World War. At any rate, it certainly was NOT the name used by the natives or their Roman governors!

This book is a great commentary to be read in conjunction with a study of the book of `Acts of the Apostles'. It is also a superior `popular' treatment when compared to `The Gospel According to Paul' by Oxford (Lincoln College) don, Robin Griffith-Jones. If you wish to study Paul's theology, stick with the scholarly commentaries on his Epistles.
Pseudo scholarship  Aug 15, 2006
An engaging prose masks a serious lack of bona fide scholarship. The author glibly asserts as facts numerous details that are not amenable to verification ... and often in conflict with generally accepted scholarly postions. Similarly, unsubstantiated assumptions are made about influences in Paul's development, motivational factors behind Paul's actions, etc. The book reads like a novel; unfortunately, it claims to be a biography. As scholarship, it is pure whimsy.

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