Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Book Review: Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul

Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul (Kregel Charts of the Bible). By Lars Kierspel. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications. pp. 288. 2012. (List Price $26.99 Paperback)

3 out of 5 stars
Information is powerful, you just have to know how to use it. Lars Kierspel has a trove of information on Paul in this installment of the Kregel Charts of the Bible series. It’s up to readers to make use of it. Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul is unlike most books because it is made up primarily of tables of organized data. To the analytical ones among us, this is a book that’s been longed for. For everyone else, it’s a novel idea that is worth looking into.

Whereas biblical commentaries are very helpful in providing background information on a book, passage, verse, or individual word, they can be quite verbose and limit the ability of the reader to come to his own conclusions. This book offers charts with information that help readers understand the life of Paul and the cultural and historical background of his time, as well as his letters and teachings, but does so in a way that allows the reader to do his own research.

Charts 45-49 all deal with Paul’s quotations of and allusions to the Old Testament, giving the passages in both the New Testament order and the Old Testament order. These charts could be used in a number of different ways, such as considering Paul’s use of the Old Testament in Ephesians, or Paul’s use of the Psalms in his letters. His charts on the parallels or similarities between some of Paul’s letters, such as between Ephesians and Colossians (62), 1 and 2 Thessalonians (67), or Colossians and Philemon (75), would all make for some interesting studies. In addition to these, some of my favorite charts included:

  • Parallels and Differences between Acts and Paul’s Letters (11-12)
  • Parallels between Jesus in Luke and Paul in Acts (13)
  • Paul’s Missionary Journeys (18)
  • Speeches of Paul in Acts (24)
  • Paul’s Prayers (27)
  • Key Texts and Their Interpretations (77) | A listing of key passages in Paul’s letters and a brief summary of the various ways those passages are understood.
  • The “Already”and the “Not Yet” (91) | A comparison of verses where Paul considers something as being part of the present experience of believers and then considers it as something which we will experience after Christ’s appearing.
  • Paul and Jesus (108) | A comparison of verses where Paul either says something very similar to what Jesus said in the Gospels, where he quotes or alludes to something Jesus said or did that is not mentioned in the Gospels, or where he speaks on the same subject as Jesus.

One of the charts lists the various groupings of Paul’s letters, such as the prison letters, the pastorals, etc. He includes in this list “pseudepigraphical,” which means “written by others in the name of Paul.” After reading the comments on this section, I believe Kierspel is solidly orthodox and accepts the letters of the Paul as authentic, but included references to liberal scholars and their teachings so as to inform his readers of the various positions and teachings that are out there.

The main drawback I found had nothing to do with the style of the book, but rather it’s typos and formatting errors at the beginning of the book. I didn’t find as many later on, but I’m not sure if that’s because I stopped looking as hard or if the errors were all up front. I’ve included a few photos below to illustrate what I mean. Although a book of charts may not immediately appeal to non-analytical people, it is definitely worth perusing.

I received this book for the purposes of writing a review. The opinions expressed are my own.

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