Someone recently asked me what are the newish books to read for someone who wants to get back into Pauline studies. It made me think about what books in recent years have I liked, enjoyed, and learned from. Well, looking at 2014-19, here are the books I’d recommend:
1. N.T. Wright – Paul and the Faithfulness of God.
NTW’s magnum opus on Paul, now nearly 5 years old, quite the bombshell, a truly exhaustive attempt to explain Paul in his Jewish, Roman, and Greek texts.
2. John Barclay – Paul and the Gift
Another bombshell, yes, Sanders was right that Palestinian Judaism knows about grace, but grace was not a monolithic (Protestant) concept. It has different perfections and gifts can have all sorts of incongruities without denying the need for reciprocity. This is book people will still be talking about in thirty years.
3. E.P. Sanders – Paul: The Apostles’ Life, Letters, and Thought
Something of Sanders’s au revoire, a readable summary of Paul’s life, letters, and career, a distillation of Sanders’s mature analysis of Paul, very insightful in places, often comical too. And you catch a glimpse of Sanders’s own perspectives on topics of life and faith.
4. Patrick Gray – Paul as a Problem in History and Culture
This book will fly under the radar of many, but don’t be fooled, it is a terrific insight into how the reception of Paul tells you a lot about a person. I learned a lot in this book about all the strange and weird ways people can interpret the Apostle Paul. Highly recommended.
5. Stephen Chester – Reading Paul with the Reformers
Think you know the Reformers and their stereotypical and dour exegesis of Galatians, think again, Chester’s book shows that Reformed and NPP readings of Paul aren’t always at loggerheads and there is still much to be learned from the Reformers.
6. David Capes – The Divine Christ
Very good book summarizing the state of play on Paul’s “divine” christology.
7. Paula Fredriksen – The Pagan’s Apostle
Probably the most readable and lucid account of the “Paul within Judaism” school. Fredriksen is always clear and earnest, not always convincing, but informative and challenging nonetheless.
8. Jamie Davies – Paul Among the Apocalypses
A good summary of the Apocalyptic Paul and a thoughtful engagement with it. Read this before you read Doug Campbell or J.L. Martyn.
9. Garwood P. Anderson – Paul’s New Perspective
This book is a good survey of Pauline soteriologies between the Reformed, NPP, and Barclay. A very good orientating point for recent debates about justification and Anderson comes to some very sensible conclusions for my money.
10. Christopher Heilig – Hidden Criticism
Is Paul pro or anti-empire? Well, read this book to find about the best methodology to find out and get a good grasp of what people are saying about Paul and the Roman empire!
Mention in Despatches
Michael Gorman – Becoming the Gospel – part of a trilogy of books on Paul and soteriology, this one is in my view the best.
Wesley Hill – Paul and the Trinity – great book shows how a trinitarian hermeneutic brings clarity and coherence to Paul’s letters.
Michael Bird – An Anomalous Jew – please indulge a personal plug, this is my effort to engage anti-imperial, apocalyptic, and Paul-within-Judaism readings. A good entree into some recent Pauline debates.
C. Heilig, J.T. Hewitt, M. Bird – God and the Faithfulness of Paul – a truly fantastic collection of essays engaging with NTW’s PFG both critically and constructively. Several absolute gems in this collection.
Craig Keener, The Mind of the Spirit – On Paul’s approach to transformed thinking, Klassic Keener!
Popular Level Books
Beverly Gaventa – When in Romans – Great work by a brilliant scholar on how Romans matters and what you can learn.
Scot McKnight – Reading Romans Backwards – Forthcoming, but try to imagine if Romans 12-15 was the main point of the letter! Boom, mind blown!
Scot McKnight and Jo Modica, Preaching Romans: Four Perspectives – Just out, very good showing how different interpretations of Romans preaching differently.
E. Randolph Richard and Brandon J. O’Brian – Paul Behaving Badly – Cause, you know, Paul was obviously a homophobe and misogynist.