Orville Jenkins's Reviews > Rabbi Paul: An Intellectual Biography

Rabbi Paul by Bruce Chilton
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it was amazing

Chilton writes as a Bible historian and pastor. He is a professor of religion at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson in Barrytown, New York.

This was delightful and insightful portrait of Paul told through the stories of the book of Acts and Paul’s letters, in light of the cultural, geographical and ethnic factors of the Roman Empire in his day. He deals admirably with the differences between Paul’s testimonies and itinerary and those found in Acts, and paints a scenario that accounts for gaps in the text and the unmentioned events or factors that are hinted at in the texts.

This book is very helpful to bring to life the streams of thought and conflicts that arose between the Hellenistic Jews and Palestinian Jews, and between the three different categories of people who followed Jesus the Christ, the Jews, the God-fearer Gentiles that arose in Antioch and were the subject of a vision of Peter, and the new pagan converts to Christ in Paul’s concerted missions as a result of his personal visions.

He analyzes the dynamics of the core theme of Paul’s ministry and theology present in his letters that the pagan converts to Christ come into fellowship with Christ on a equal footing with the Jews, and are part of the more broadly defined Israel in Christ.


The author draws a detailed and vivid picture of the dispute over the different views within the new movement over the relationship of the three groups within the Boyd of Christ. He develops nuances that provide a strong alternative to traditional unanimity among all the apostles with Paul's view. I was not always sure, though, exactly what sources he was drawing upon, and his portrayals seemed at times somewhat strained.

But he deals with questions not commonly dealt with in Paul's ongoing conflicts with the judaizers, among whom this author includes James, the brother of Jesus who was the leader of the Jerusalem messianic group. In this portrait, Paul is always on the outs to some degree.

He goes through each letter of Paul and correlates that with pertinent sections of the stories of Paul in Acts, and develops a meaningful congregational portrait of the church in each city and how they related to Paul over the course of his ministry.

He makes better sense of the offering Paul collected for the Jerusalem Christians than most commentators. He analyzes which congregations contributed and which ones did not, related to their shifting attitude towards Paul.

He does an admirable job of analyzing the controversy over spiritual gifts in Corinth and Paul’s conception of the gifts and their practical implementation. He also makes sense out of the confusion in the Corinthian letters resulting from the missing first letter and the fragmentary nature of what we have as the second letter, which contains fragments of several exchanges. A stimulating and rewarding study from an apt and practical scholar.
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Reading Progress

May 5, 2019 – Started Reading
May 17, 2019 – Shelved
May 17, 2019 – Finished Reading

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