Reviews - What do customers think about Paul of Tarsus: A Visionary Life?
Strolling along with Paul and his friend Jan 3, 2007
Edward Stourton's take on Paul is from a somewhat unusual stance. A well-known BBC personality, Mr Stourton is also 'a very publically Roman Catholic Cristian'. It shows. He takes the reader through the places and experiences of this sometimes opaque figure and shows us why Paul matters and why he can be so infuriating at the same time. It seems as if Paul's listeners had the same problem with him! Stourton explains the complexity of the man with charm and clarity. This reader continually found himself smiling, and wishing to reach over and tough Stourton and ask him to tell another interesting anectotes. He most have dozens more!
A heavily researched, in-depth, yet eminently readable biography of one of Christianity's most influential figures Jan 13, 2006
Award-winning UK broadcast journalist Edward Stourton presents Paul of Tarsus: A Visionary Life, a heavily researched, in-depth, yet eminently readable biography of one of Christianity's most influential figures. Following in the footsteps of St. Paul from his murky depiction in the New Testament to a fleshed-out personality, Paul of Tarsus reasoning, theology, and narrative skills into a fascinating and dramatic examination. A thought-provoking experience for lay readers and experienced theologians alike.
A Journalist's Investigation of Paul. Nov 12, 2005
Suppose you were a journalist and your boss called you in the office and said: "I've been hearing many things about this guy Paul; go find out who he is and write a story about him." This book might well be the result.
The book assumes no previous knowledge by the reader, all Bible references are quoted and annotated. Who was Paul? What did he do? Why did he do it? Where did he go? What did he say? What were his thoughts? Who were his friends? Who were his enemies? What were accomplishments? What were his failures? What was his contribution to history? These are many questions to answer, and just as you would expect in a short book, the answers are not exhaustive.
Paul's main ideas are discussed, foremost, perhaps, that faith lies in one's head and heart, not in the Law (something that was first said in Jeremiah 31:33, "I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts"), and compares it with the Hebrews' continuous application of their Law in the bedrooms, kitchens, pockets. Stourton considers Paul's instructions as ad-hoc rules for life until the second coming, something that was thought to be due soon. He contends that Paul was the first to start the gentiles vs. Jews arguments and that he destroyed the idea of Jewish identity by attacking their Law that made them different. His concept that the Church is the body of Christ affected the entire Christian thinking and theology.
The book is not large enough for the author to cover all of Paul's ideas, but being a journalist he does spend particular attention to scriptural inconsistencies: Paul's vision on the road to Damascus and what exactly it might have been; The differing descriptions of the Jerusalem Council in the Acts and in Paul's letters (he goes along with the letters); The astonishing attack on Paul at the Temple after he and all the money he had brought had been warmly received by James (he thinks it was a setup by his enemies); he examines possible reasons why the Acts stopped short of Paul's death. Although he discusses Paul's writings about homosexuality and his attitude towards women, he ignores most of the detailed, mystical theology: Christ's divinity and pre-existence, his victory against sin and Satan, the believers' becoming one with Christ through the rite of baptism, the resurrection of the dead and the rapture of the living.
All in all this is a very pleasant book to read, especially for those who don't know much about Christianity's beginnings. It would probably make an excellent book selection for discussions during the Lenten season. I would have preferred, however, if the author had given references for the non-Biblical quotes he includes. For instance, he quotes Shelby Spong as saying that Paul was probably gay. But where de he say it? Spong has probably written a dozen books.
(The writer is the author of "Christianity without Fairy Tales: When Science and Religion Merge.)
A Mystery from 2,000 Years Ago Oct 28, 2005
The author writes a brief resume of St. Paul:
Born: AD 5, Tarsus, Asia Minor Educated: University of Tarsus and School of Gamaliel, Jerusalem Profession: Tentmaker Nationality: Jewish with Roman Citizenship Career: Persecutor of Christians Vision: Sees Christ arisen, AD 34 Makes missionary journey to Cyprus and Galatia, AD 45-48 Meets apostles in Jerusalem, AD 49 Establishes first Christian Churches in Asia Minor and the Balkans, AD 49-56 Imprisoned in Rome, AD 59 Beheaded, late 60's Publications: 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament.
Fine, except that every single fact listed here are open to dispute. Mr. Stourton has written not exactly a biography, but an investigation into Paul's life. He reports not only on the facts, and possible alternatives, but also on the impact that Paul had on the writers of the gospels (which came much later than Paul's writings) and on the subsequent effects on Jewish and Islamic thoughts.
Mr. Stourton is an accomplished journalist and he has written this book in a style that makes it almost as impossible to put down as a good mystery. Then again, Paul's life has a lot of mystery.