Reviews - What do customers think about The Origin of Paul's Religion?
VERY difficult to read, but worth the effort Dec 23, 2008
This book was a little disappointing for me, because Machen spends about half of the book mentioning and disagreeing with the books written by liberal Christians with wacky ideas about Paul. Machen also has a manner of speech that is often difficult to follow, including long, wordy sentences. I think the meat of the book could have been reduced to a single chapter. I may have more gray hairs on my head after reading this one. If you are caught in a dispute over Jesus vs. Paul, then definitely get this book.
Even Bultmann was amazed Aug 9, 2005
I have never seen a secondary source reference to this, but years ago I read an English translation of Bultmann's German review of this Machen book. Bultmann generally ignored works written in English, especially by Americans, and he despised the theology that people like Machen stood for. And yet he gave a long review where he acknowledged this to be the best book of its kind to appear thus far.
Extremely insightful and thorough. And the balanced and fair tone will surprise those unfamiliar with Machen's more scholarly writings.
A real classi c still well worth reading.
Among the Best Books I've Read Nov 30, 2002
This book represents an exhaustive and outstanding treatise in Pauline studies by J. Gresham Machen. Even after the better part of a century after these lectures were given, the book represents a monumental feat and is still one of the best studies of Paul in print.
Machen's lectures that are presented in this book were given at a time when Biblical criticism that rejected supernaturalism, Bible inspiration, and Biblical historicity was in full blossom. Many competing schemes had been developed to naturalize the musings of the Apostle Paul and to separate the Pauline epistles in every possible way from the alleged 'historical Jesus' of the naturalistic scholarship fad that prevailed in Biblical criticism at that time. This book represents a comprehensive rebuttal to many of these theories. Machen's critiques are complete; and they are devastating. By so thoroughly destroying the naturalistic theories that were forced onto Christianity in an effort to discredit it, Machen not only discredits these theories, he strongly affirms the orthodox tenets of the historic Christian faith in a very scholarly manner.
Machen, with relentless logic, systematically tackles several main thrusts of criticism and finds each of them wanting to the extreme. In the process, Machen discredits efforts to separate the religion of Paul from the religion of Peter, and thereby discrediting the view that the Christianity of Jerusalem and the Christianity of the dispersion were somehow different. This section was simply masterful, in my opinion. Machen then discredits theories that tried to contrast Paul and Jesus. These theories suggested that the Jesus of Paulinism was different than the real Jesus of Palestine. Again, Machen is relentless in discrediting this argument. Machen moves on to perhaps his best section, which is discussing the alleged pagan influences and/or origins of Paul's thought. Two complete chapters, and a portion of a third, are devoted to tackling this subject. In the process, the theories of Bousset, Bruckner, Reitzenstein and others are demonstrated to be an embarassment. Machen's treatment of the pagan influence issue here was probably the most resounding rebuke written until Nash's 'Gospel and the Greeks' was written in the late '80s. At a number of points, Nash draws significantly from Machen here, and put together, the two works represent a devastating case against pagan influences upon early Christianity.
Throughout this book, I was simply amazed at how thorough Machen was in considering so many objections and nuances that impact on the central question of the origin of Paulinism. I was also amazed that even though these lectures were given so long ago, they are extraordinarily relevant today. Yesterday's Boussets, Bruckners, and Reitzensteins are today's Crossans, Funks, and Borgs. The arguments are strikingly similar, and fueled by similar motivations - ie: to find a way to desupernaturalize Jesus Christ, the words of the Bible, and the Christian experience. This book by Machen, therefore, is truly timeless because it thoroughly discredited such arguments when they were in fashion 100 years ago, and can likewise be used by believers today to discredit the Jesus Seminar and other like minded contemporary 'scholars'.
This is not a book that the reader will be able to rush through. I found each chapter so engaging and so deep in its analysis that I needed to stop after each chapter because Machen had given my brain a serious workout. This is Reformed scholarship at its finest. Machen brilliantly shows that in an effort to 'demythologize' the Bible, naturalistic scholars are engaging in a great deal of myth-building themselves. The orthodox Christianity of the Apostle Paul is demonstrated to be in comprehensive harmony with the other apostles, the Old Testament writings, and the sayings of Christ Himself. An outstanding example of solid scholarship!