Q. I would say that the last enduring life of Paul from our general neighborhood was F.F. Bruce’s Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free (American title). Bruce focuses far more on the historical particularly and context, but your biography of Paul, while not neglecting the essential historical framework and particulars, in some ways is a much more theological biography than Bruce’s. Were you consciously striving for a more theological approach to his life and work, perhaps with one eye on some of the shortcomings of earlier treatments?
A. I wasn’t really comparing this book with earlier treatments, but I did many times check back to F. F. Bruce (I reviewed that book when it came out in the 1970s!) even though of course I disagree with him quite a bit. Bruce wasn’t really a theologian so, yes, I wanted to draw out that side of course, but it still really matters that we understand the actual historical and cultural setting . . .
Q. How one assesses Paul’s life is certainly in part determined, or at least guided by how one arranges the chronological order of his letters, and how much weight one gives to these different letters. Perhaps the big change from the traditional ordering is your ‘guess’ (as you call it at one juncture in the book) that Paul was imprisoned in Ephesus and wrote the captivity epistles (Philippians, Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians) from there. What finally persuaded you this was a better option than his writing them later from Rome, and since the content of the letters is the same either way, how do you think this decision changes your view of Paul’s life? Does it change it in any important way?