Reader Appeal: Seminary Professors and Students
Genre: Biography / History
FBSN Rating: C+
As far as biographies go, the Illustrated Life of Paul can seem a bit dry. It comes off as more of a “travel guide to the life of Paul” than an actual story of Paul’s life. Author, Charles L. Quarles, is a seminary professor writing for other seminary professors, which explains his deliberately academic, sometimes inaccessible writing style. He clearly expects this book to be used as a textbook in Bible schools across the nation, which is fine except for the fact that his knowledge of the Apostle Paul’s life presented in this way obscures it from millions of “pew-sitter” Christians who would otherwise love it. That kind of purposeful academic exclusivity feels elitist and shortsighted to me…but I digress.
From an academic perspective, this “dry” reading of the Apostle’s life is a treasure trove of detail and history that’s hard to match anywhere else. Quarles clearly enjoys his subject matter, and he’s delivered a well-researched, thorough exploration of what we know about Paul and his writings. And that’s a big deal, considering that roughly one-third of the New Testament is either about Paul or written by him. And as time has proven, Paul was the most influential Christian theologian in all of history. Deepening our understanding of his life, times, and letters is not only a worthwhile pursuit, but a necessary one for any true Bible Study Nerd. In that way, the Illustrated Life of Paul is a true gem of a resource, though it might take a little digging to get to the real treasures herein.
Additionally, this book contains over 150 color illustrations (maps, photos, charts, illustrations) which really do help break up the text and offer unique visual insights into the content. Background information on every one of Paul’s New Testament letters is invaluable, as is Quarles’ chronological approach that places those letters within the context of the Apostle’s missionary journeys and other life events.
In all, though I’d prefer that this were a book I could share with non-academics, the Illustrated Life of Paul still offers a wealth of history that any serious student of Scripture will find rewarding.
Illustrated Life of Paul by Charles L. Quarles
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