Paul.jpgIt seems Christianity is taking sides. Some of it is overt and conscious while most of it seems unconscious and many are not even aware this is happening. On one side are Christians who think and believe like Jesus, and they take the Gospels as their primary (and sometimes only) source. On the other side are Christians who think and believe like Paul, and they take Romans (especially) as their primary (and sometimes only) source. 

As I said, many aren’t aware they are doing this, but here are some indicators: if the words kingdom and Jesus and Sermon on the Mount and justice are the major terms one uses, then one might be a Jesus-only Christian. If the words are justification and Christ and salvation and faith alone and atonement are the major terms one uses, then one might be a Paul-only Christian.
What do you see as the tell-tale signs of one or the other? Do you see this tendency today?
Hence, we need a good book that re-introduces us to the apostle Paul, and I think I’ve found that book. It is by Tim Gombis and it is called Paul: A Guide for the Perplexed (Guides for the Perplexed)
.  Recently I got a similar book by Mike Bird (Introducing Paul: The Man, His Mission and His Message
), and I almost did a series through Bird’s book but I’ll have to beg Mike’s forgiveness as I go through Tim’s.

Books like this have to do the introductory thing. So, Gombis gets us going by quoting one of my favorite Paul scholars in the world, Morna Hooker: The problem with Paul is that we know so much about him. Or at least we think we do!

Then we get the “how do we know Paul” issue: from his letters, and Gombis thinks (as do I) that arguments for non-Pauline authorship of the letters traditionally assigned to Paul are not as substantial as many think. So we know about Paul from the letters and from the Book of Acts, which Gombis takes as basically reliable.
Then Paul’s Life: born in Tarsus, educated some in Jerusalem, Paul (Saul) became a Pharisee. Which meant Israel was in an intolerable condition: unfaithfulness led to exile, and Israel’s current oppression meant unfaithfulness to the Torah. The Pharisee was committed to Torah observance. But Paul’s primary concern was the nation of Israel: sin was national, repentance was national, and therefore the hope (read: resurrection, new creation) was national. Paul cared about God’s relation to Israel.
On Jesus: Paul knew Jesus was not the Messiah; then he was converted. First mission, controversy, second and third missions.  Arrest, imprisonment, Rome and he sees a release of Paul with some further ministries.
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