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Paul: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Paperback]

By E. P. Sanders (Author)
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Item description for Paul: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) by E. P. Sanders...

Paul is the most powerful human personality in the history of the Church. A missionary, theologian, and religious genius, in his epistles he laid the foundations on which later Christian theology was built. In his highly original introduction to Paul's life and thought, E. P. Sanders, whose research on Paul has substantially influenced recent scholarship, pays equal attention to Paul's fundamental convictions and the sometimes convoluted ways in which they were worked out.

Publishers Description
Missionary, theologian, and religious genius, Paul is one of the most powerful human personalities in the history of the Church. E.P. Sanders, an influential Pauline scholar, analyzes the fundamental beliefs and vigorous contradictions in Paul's thought, discovering a philosophy that is less of a monolithic system than the apostle's convictions would seem to suggest. This volume offers an incisive summation of Paul's career, as well as his role in the development of early Christianity. Both lucid and judicious, it is the most compelling short introduction to Paul now available.
About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Oxford University Press, USA
Pages   176
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7" Width: 4.46" Height: 0.41"
Weight:   0.35 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 7, 2001
Publisher   Oxford University Press
ISBN  0192854518  
ISBN13  9780192854513  

Availability  0 units.

More About E. P. Sanders

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E.P. Sanders is a Professor of Religion at Duke University.

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Reviews - What do customers think about Paul: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)?

E.P. Sanders - a man who doesn't think much of Paul  Jan 24, 2007
E.P. Sanders makes quite a few compelling and controversial arguments in this book. It has been hailed by many as a great work despite its brevity and I can see why, since it brings a lot of new insight on a pillar of the Christian church. His thesis: Paul is convinced he has received a message of salvation for humankind through Christ - this message frees us from the law and Paul is willing to use Scripture in flexible ways to validate that message and his own authority to proclaim it.
What specifically sets Sanders opinion apart is that he believes Paul's mission has much more to do with Paul's belief in himself and his message and much less to do with what Paul actually can pull from Scripture. In other words, Paul has an agenda that seems to go beyond just proclamation of God's Word and into proclamation of Paul's authority and the importance of validating his own mission (and conversion).
As a Pharisee, Paul's education in Scripture was paralleled by few. He was a walking Scriptural lexicon. E.P. Sander's argues that Paul used his mastery of Scripture to his advantage. He used `proof texts' from Scripture in order to prove his argument without regard to the original meaning of the passage. Paul was "not concerned with the meaning of the biblical passages in their own ancient context" (page 66).
Does this sound like the author who has a high view of Paul or Scripture? Is this the man you want teaching you about Paul? Not me, thus the 2 stars. I give it 2 stars because it's nice to see the "New Perspective on Paul" in all of it's glory and in E.P. Sanders' case, that "New Perspective" means a lower view of Scripture and a higher view of himself.
Interesting, but don't read it if you want an introduction.  Jan 21, 2007
Someone hoping to get a genuine "introduction" to an unfamiliar topic will be either disappointed or greatly misled by this book.

This book puts forth some ideas quite interesting in their own right. For example, Sanders asserts that Paul has been misunderstood by modern Christians who have read him through the eyes of Luther, and that Paul did not mean the claim "what I want to do, I do not," to apply to his own moral life, nor did he consider himself sinful.

But Sanders holds many views not accepted by the majority of biblical scholars and employs non-standard interpretations of many passages to make his points. He does not label these views as controversial, or provide any other competing views, but simply lays out his assertions about Paul as incontrovertible facts.

So this book is not really an introduction to Paul, but an introduction to E. P. Sanders. Someone wanting a truly general introduction to the life and thought of Paul should look elsewhere. Someone wanting an introduction to the thought of E. P. Sanders should probably look somewhere else too, though, because (I'll presume due to the shortness of the book), his arguments in this book are often quite weak, and the demonstrations given for his more interesting and controversial claims are quite inadequate.
Superbly scholarly for size and format. Buy It!  Nov 17, 2006
`Paul, A Very Short Introduction' by the leading American Pauline scholar, E. P. Sanders is a revelation to me it will also probably be a surprise to anyone not familiar with this Oxford University Press series. My first surprise is that an author of such great academic distinction should be doing this kind of treatment which looks, on the surface, to be a popular gloss, evoking images of `Cliff Notes' and `Paul for Dummies'.

My reading of Pauline theology and exegesis is still a bit shallow; but I know enough already to see that while Sanders may just be covering the peaks, he is giving us a good enough look deep into some of the valleys to appreciate his stating that Paul is a difficult writer for modern readers. Not only was Paul not as polished a writer as his contemporary Philo in Alexandria, he used some Greek terms which simply do not easily translate into English. And, many important modern such as the RSV (Revised Standard Version) Bible translations don't help much when they mangle some of Paul's more important statements.

Since practically nothing is known about Paul's life with any certainty, Sanders takes little space for biography and no space on speculation on what Paul may have done, for example, during his early years in the Nabatean desert. Oddly, he does add to the question of where Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans. Some writers say he wrote in Miletus and others say he wrote it in Corinth. Sanders opts for Corinth.

Sanders is probably one of the very best writers from which to get the `non-Lutheran' interpretation of Paul, as he concentrates much more on seeing Paul concentrate on the membership of Christians in the body of Christ instead of Righteousness by faith. At the very least, he gives the two points of view equal importance.

While the book is organized primarily by theological topics, Sanders seems to get most of his quotes and references from Romans and Galatians (which happen to be the two letters most interesting to Luther in his early career).

There are two new aspects of Paul I get from this book. First, Paul is NOT an anguished soul, as we have come to view Luther or Kierkegaard or modern existentialists. The second is that for Paul, evil was a real, palpable force in the world. The evil of sin was not an outgrowth of simple guilt, depression, or other psychological phenomenon. Evil was REAL. This gives me a whole new perspective on interpreting the Gnostics, who made a big thing of the doctrine that the physical world was created by an evil demiurge.

I also get a reassurance on Paul's doctrine on free will. Unlike Luther in `Bondage of the Will', Paul firmly believed that humans have free will and can choose right or wrong and disbelief or faith.

As excellent as this book is, it may be a bit too technical for a younger teen that is new to problems of reading and interpreting ancient translated texts. If the student is, however, a student of Biblical Greek, then this is a book they should know!
Great Scholar, Easy Read  Nov 3, 2005
Great Scholar, Easy Read do not always go hand in hand. It is difficult to recommend some books to people, because you are not sure if they will be able to stay with it due to the heavy technical language, but E P Sanders has written a great book that will familiarize someone with the gist of Paul's thought, and he has done so in a very readable style.
I cannot say that you will agree with every conclusion that he comes to, especially if you are hyper conservative when it comes to Scripture, but you will leave the book with the right questions that one should be asking about some of the difficult issues in Paul's writing.

Sanders deals with Paul's working out living in the Spirit and being in Christ against keeping the Law. The strength of Sanders is that he has such a thorough knowledge of the Judaism of Paul's day. He brings out many of the challenges that Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles had to deal in light of his thorough Jewishness.

What I found most interesting in this book was Sanders view on Romans 7, and Paul's views on sexuality. Sanders allows that Paul wrote Galatians earlier than Romans and by so he sees Romans as being more fully developed than Galatians. Sanders allows that Paul's theology developed and was modified over time as Paul had to deal with various issues about what it meant to be in Christ and be a Gentile and how the Law of the Jews relate to this new position.

This book deals with being "righteoused by faith" in Romans and Galatians. It deals with the resurrection of the dead which is very interesting chapter that many folks would benefit from reading.

The section on behavior deals with the Greco-Roman worlds view of sexuality versus the Jewish view of sexuality. Sanders shows Paul as always struggling with his Jewishness over against his mission to the Gentiles. Paul was determined not to make them Jews, but in issues of sexuality there is not much bend. Sanders give informative historical data in a fun and easy to read format on Greco-Roman sexuality.

I highly recommend this book.
Paul in context  Feb 9, 2005
A good intro to the apostle Paul, emphasizing and explaining the Jewish context, and how important that is in interpreting Paul's letters.

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