When I left seminary with my degree in hand five (5!) years ago, I felt fairly confident in my grasp of the gospels. This is in thanks to NT Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God, Dr. Scott Hafemann’s remarkable course on the book of Mark, and Dr. Sean McDonough‘s Jesus class. Without question, I still had (and continue to have) much to learn about the gospels, but I believe I had a decent working knowledge, let’s say.
This has not been the case with Paul. Although I took courses on Romans and Philippians as a seminarian, I did not leave the academy with a solid basis for understanding the apostle. My feelings of Pauline inadequacy were likely exacerbated by the fact that I do not hail from a Reformed background and the common atonement theologies associated with Calvinism (and other traditions) never sat well with me. I’ve never felt they adequately encapsulated Paul or his core message.
But this isn’t a rant against Reformed theology or atonement theories. Who needs another one of those? AMIRIGHT?
No, this is a post about a quest to remedy my Pauline deficiencies. This is why I took WAY too long to finally read EP Sanders’s Paul and Palestinian Judaism. This is why JRD Kirk’s Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul? is on my “to read” pile. This is why I’ve pre-ordered NT Wright’s forthcoming Paul and the Faithfulness of God (coming Nov. 1). This is why I’ve enrolled in Dr. Laura Nasrallah‘s edX offering, The Letters of the Apostle Paul (beginning in Nov.).
I suppose I’m searching for a narrative behind Paul. I’m looking for a historical setting to place him. You see, I’ve never been comfortable reading Paul’s letters as systematic theology, picking out individual sentences or phrases as though Paul were some mystic scribbling eternal aphorisms. I want to better know his story and the stories of those vibrant and messy churches so I can better understand the one sided correspondence we possess today.
I’m out to get to know Paul. I’ll try to display him here, as I meet him this autumn.