In this post, I want to point you toward some of my favorite introduction level books on Paul. This isn’t an exhaustive list, and I do not have the seminary student in mind. I do have a person in mind that has some background in the study of Paul in a general sense, but even if you don’t, these books can catch a person up.
I also invite your feedback. What other books could I add to this list. Of course, I’m only going to get as “reformed” as my friend Michael Bird, so I may not add too many classically “reformed” or Lutheran-type introductions here. Yes, I’m naming my bias. And Mike, that comment is meant in love and respect, hahaha! But please, do give suggestions in the comments, from any perspective. Just because I might not be willing to recommend them, doesn’t mean that they aren’t worth engaging and knowing about.
Here are some of my favorite introduction level books on Paul:
- The New Perspective On Paul: An Introduction (Kent Yinger)
- In this short little book, readers learn what “new perspective” means in a quick way. Highly recommended first step to understanding an important issue.
- Introducing Paul: the Man, His Message, His Mission (Michael Bird)
- I like Mike. He’s an excellent writer and a great guy. His book on Paul is a great introduction to important issues when studying his letters.
- Four Views on the Apostle Paul (ed. Michael Bird)
- This is the best book out there to understand the broad conversation happening with Paul. The chapter on “The Jewish View” (by Mark Nanos) is by far my favorite.
- Through the Eyes of N.T. Wright: A Reader’s Guide to Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Derek Vreeland)
- The most important book that has been written on Paul in the last few years is NT Wright’s big book. This book summarizes the big book for those who want to know the main arguments without reading 1700 pages!
- Paul Was Not a Christian: The Original Message of a Misunderstood Apostle (Pamela Eisenbaum)
- This book is from the Paul within Judaism or the Radical New Perspective on Paul approach. It is excellent. Flat out. Written by a Jewish scholar of the New Testament. I nuance certain things differently, but appreciate its overall vision of Paul.
- The Paul Debate: Critical Questions for Understanding the Apostle (N.T. Wright)
- Imagine that NT Wright took his 1700 page book and condensed it into 200. That is this book. Excellent give for the theology nerd in your life.
- Paul: A Very Short Introduction (E.P. Sanders)
- E.P. Sanders’ big book, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, singlehandedly changed the landscape of Pauline studies by reframing Judaism as a religion of grace. This very short book summarizes his views of Judaism and Paul.
- Reinventing Paul (John Gager)
- The radical perspective on Paul is outline here in a very helpful way. John Gager builds on the work of Lloyd Gaston (Paul and the Torah) and other early “within Judaism” scholars.
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