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Paul: The Mind of the Apostle

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  294 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
It begins on the road to Damascus, in a moment graven on the consciousness of Western civilization. "Saul, Saul," asks the crucified Jesus of Nazareth, "why persecutest thou me?"

From this experience, and from the response of the Jewish merchant later known as Paul, springs the Christian Church as we know it today. For as A. N. Wilson makes clear in this astonishing and gri
Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 17th 1998 by W.W. Norton & Company (first published 1997)
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Jeremiah John
Mar 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This was an amazing book that transformed my limited perspective of Paul. As a secular historian, A.N. Wilson brings a skeptical eye to Paul that is refreshing.

Yet, even viewed through this lens, Paul is the innovator of Christianity. For instance, by removing the requirement of circumcision (punishable by death for the non-Jew under Roman law), Paul allows Gentiles to enter into Judaism. He is the universalizer of Christianity.

Paul gets a bad rap now-a-days. We forget his contribution and rem
Jun 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I finally made it through to the end of Paul and was left with a strange sense of anti-climax – the man just vanishes - one of the most influential thinkers in world history simply disappears leaving no trace of what happened to him. Very disconcerting. In a way though it is quite fitting because Wilson makes it clear that Paul expected the return of Jesus within months or, at worst, a few years. I can only imagine the sense of anti-climax he must have felt when he didn’t come.
If Paul had been a
Jan 30, 2017 rated it liked it
i learned a lot. I'm not sure i always understood his point, but he seems like a very good historian. i liked the secular approach, it seemed neutral.
Charles Gonzalez
Mar 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
As a lapsed but confirmed Roman Catholic, I have to admit my almost empty knowledge of Paul's story apart from the glimpses of him in Biblical passages appearances in a variety of books on Christianity and Roman history. I was therefore blown away by the reality of Paul's life as told by A.N. Wilson. Other reviewers have commented and appreciated the authors' secular approach to his analysis of Paul, directing his story to textual analysis and historical confirmation of various events and timeli ...more
Aug 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Currently stalled, more like it. This book basically confirms my sense (and that of many others) that Paul, not Jesus, invented Christianity. I'm reading it to figure out why he so often makes me angry. I'll let you know.
Apr 30, 2008 rated it liked it
Not as many interesting stories as Jesus, but still interesting...
Scott Holstad
Sep 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
I FINALLY finished this book! It took me forever because it's fairly dry and the content doesn't interest me as much as that in some other books. Still, this was a fairly interesting book to read. The author is apparently an agnostic or atheist and ensures one understands he believed Jesus was a Jew with no intention of starting a religion, and undoubtedly not the son of God or God himself. If you're a Christian and you can get past that, you're good to go. This book presents Paul as THE founder ...more
Andrew Davis
Oct 26, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
More info at my reviews site
An interpretation of Paul’s life and work based on his letters and four Gospels juxtaposed with the historical events and available historical data. Author suggests that Paul, and not Jesus, was the “Founder of Christianity”. He claims that there was nothing in the religious vocabulary of his tradition which would have enabled him to see his death as an atoning sacrifice. It is Paul’s letters which see Christ as the gateway to salvation.
Ginger Heskett
I registered a book at!
Aug 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jezus Christus was niet de stichter van het christendom. Het was in de gepassioneerde, enigszins getourmenteerde geest van de apostel die Hem nooit ontmoet had dat Jezus verlossertrekjes kreeg en uitgroeide tot een geestelijke Christus die weinig meer van doen had met de historische Jezus van Nazareth. Die Christus, de geestesbaby van Paulus, is de Christus die we tegenkomen in de brieven en daarmee deels in de evangeliën, die geschreven zijn na de brieven van Paulus. Dat maakt Paulus tot sticht ...more
Andy Alexis
Sep 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christianity
This book was very interesting; though it does tell the story of Paul, it does so with a historical critical viewpoint. The author is a secular historian, and if you accept the scriptures literally or at face value, you will not like this book. I learned a lot from this book. A big part of the book is a comparison between what is known from independent sources about the time or place or people, what is written in the Acts of the Apostles, and what is written in the letters of Paul.

The author do
Nov 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read Wilson's biography of Jesus when it came out. It was a refreshing look at the gospels, with the knowledge that Wilson says that writing this book turned him from agnostic into an atheist. I was more than prepared to be annoyed with him then, and was very pleasantly shocked to find Jesus: A Life to be really well-written and dispassionate.

So I came to Paul--my bête noire in the New Testament, as he is for many modern Christians, I think--with certain expectations. Wilson lived up to my hop
Edoardo Albert
Wilson writes with his customary verve and vivacity and where this book is good, it is very good: particularly in the author's appreciation of the revolutionary nature of Paul's thought, and its ineffability. As Wilson says, after quoting from Philippians: 'These are not the words of a philosopher. They are the testimony of the first romantic poet in history.' However, where the work falls down is its repetition of the old canard, first advanced by Wrede, that Paul, not Jesus, founded Christiani ...more
Jan 30, 2017 rated it liked it
I think the author probably did extensive research for this book, but I wish he had included some details about himself and his beliefs somewhere in the book. I generally read a book, then later research the author, and that is the big mistake I made this time.
The author was raised as a Christian and had begun studies to get ordained into the Church of England but left after one year and renounced religion.
I am currently reading the Bible one chapter a day and have almost finished, with this
Erik Graff
Jan 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christians & Jews
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: biography
This is a popular, yet intelligent and artfully well-written, speculative biography of Saul of Tarsus (aka Paul), arguably the most important figure in and writer of what have become the Christian scriptures. While superb in many respects, this book is seriously flawed by one very important error upon which much of its argument rests. This flaw has to do with the conflation of the two Jewish revolts in Palestine (there was a third, in N. Africa, rarely discussed), those of 66-73 and 132-135. By ...more
Agatha Nolen
Jul 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating book not for the wisdom that it imparts, but for the questions it raises. It is a well-woven story about the life and times of Paul from the context of the culture of the first century as well as the political struggles. Wilson helps us to understand what we do know of Paul (from Scripture) and what has become urban myths as the stories were re-told. He points out inconsistencies not to discredit the authors, but merely to illustrate that we all see events from where we sta ...more
Kristi Duarte
Mar 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'm going to be nice and give it four stars, because it does include a lot of information and I did learn something new. A.N. Wilson is very knowledgeable about the era, the Roman gods, the belief systems of the time, and the situation in Israel.

Unfortunately, A.N. Wilson goes to great lengths to convince the readers that Paul was a wonderful man and a religious genius, and that everyone who believes that Paul was a self-serving trouble maker must have misunderstood the Bible. Oh well. We weren'
Matt Ely
May 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, theology
An important book, certainly, in that it makes a conscious effort toward minimalism. If we assume the worst about Luke's propensity for truth telling and write off every letter we're not sure Paul wrote, what are we left with? On some level, this helps us see diversity in the Bible without necessarily losing anything. The drawback, of course, is that when we accept every extreme (though exciting!) possibility and excise every narrative that seems different from our presuppositions about authoria ...more
Jul 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Wilson falls in the middle of the spectrum between Michael Grant, who I believe accepts to much on faith and then interprets his history through that lens and John Crossan, who uses a specific methodology to decide what can be known, what can be supposed and what must be thrown out as historically indefensible. Regrettably, Wilson is not as persuasive of a writer as either of those two and so while his methodology represents something of a middle path, his arguments seem less compelling. Great o ...more
Mar 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
In my journey to understand my faith, Paul has played a significant role in the creation of Christianity. Wilson's approach is psychological. And in his study of Paul's life reveals a man driven by passion, commitment, guilt. Paul is a complex figure in Christian history. Wilson looks at the historical, political, and cultural aspects of life in Paul's time as well as Paul's relationship to Judaism to reveal a man who will transform the man Jesus into God Himself. Worth the time and effort to un ...more
Paul Fadoju
Mar 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A N Wilson brings us into the rich setting where Paul brought forth his revelation of Jesus. Linking him with the vibrant gnostic movement of the first century will get many Christians disagreeing with his historical picture of this Man.

The book was compelling, reading about this Paul makes you want to discover more of him and the revelation that turned his world upside down. Christianity and World History haven't done any justice to the man Paul but Mr Wilson has given us the key to investigat
Jun 22, 2008 rated it liked it
A.N. Wilson is back, this time turning from the Savior to the man most responsible for shaping the early Christian church. Building a biographical and psychological portrait of Saul-who-became-Paul makes for a gripping read. Although he never met Jesus in person, Paul became his greatest advocate, planting the seed of salvation by faith which, against all odds, reached out for thousands of years and around the globe.
Feb 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Found the book difficult to read, at times hard to tell what point it was that A.N. Wilson was trying to make. The book included some historical facts outside of the bible which was interesting but did not provide me with much more insight of who Paul was than what I already know about him. I was disappointed with some of his allegations toward Luke, it appears opposite of that which I have read by other scholars and biblical scholars. it was difficult to muddle through the book..
Pete daPixie
Apr 10, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: historical-jesus
The mind of the self appointed Apostle. Very strange dude was Saul of Tarsus, the itinerant tent maker, one time Pharisee and proclaimer of Jesus the risen Christ.
Wilson doesn't see the picture though, or fully understands Antioch.
However, I quite liked the thing as a travel biog through the Roman Empire.
Mar 21, 2016 rated it it was ok
I cannot recommend this book because the author writes from a non-believer's point of view which I did not like. He always refers to Jesus as a man, never as God, and is ridiculing the authors of the New Testament other than Paul. That being said, there is much interesting history here for those who like that.
Apr 13, 2010 rated it it was ok
Aweful book. He writes about a man who spreads the Christian message but doubts the Bible as a source and Paul as a Christian. He almost always puts what the Bible says about Paul or dates in quotations but never with other ancient sources. I couldn't finish reading a book about someone whom the author doubts the main source material we have about him.
Mike Beranek
Apr 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such a versatile author, Wilson here gets into the mind of Paul as he imagines it and left me the reader with an endearing affection for the flawed genius and source of the bulk of the New Testament.
Oct 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
A good book about Paul and how he shaped the beliefs of the Catholic Church. It is a scholarly book and not a religious treatise. Sometimes the author uses too much vocabulaire académique but otherwise it is well written and insightful.
Jan 13, 2013 rated it liked it
This book provides a lot of context that is helpful in understanding Acts and the letters. Mr Wilson has a clear point of view which is interesting. This book makes me want to read more about Paul and explore some different points of view.
J. Maximilian Jarrett II
Dec 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent. Cogently argued and vividly presented perspective on the "first" Christian. Highly recommended for fans and foes of Paul and his methods.
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Andrew Norman Wilson is an English writer and newspaper columnist, known for his critical biographies, novels, works of popular history and religious views. He is an occasional columnist for the Daily Mail and former columnist for the London Evening Standard, and has been an occasional contributor to the Times Literary Supplement, New Statesman, The Spectator and The Observer.
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