Published by Baker Books on August 17, 2021
Genres: Academic, Non-Fiction, Theology
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The life and ministry of the apostle Paul was a sprawling adventure covering thousands of miles on Roman roads and treacherous seas as he boldly proclaimed the gospel of Jesus to anyone who would listen, be they commoners or kings. His impact on the church and indeed on Western civilization is immeasurable.
From his birth in Tarsus to his rabbinic training in Jerusalem to his final imprisonment in Rome, An Illustrated Guide to the Apostle Paul brings his remarkable story to life. Drawing from the book of Acts, Paul's many letters, and historical and archaeological sources, this fully illustrated resource explores the social, cultural, political, and religious background of the first-century Roman world in which Paul lived and ministered. It sheds light on the places he visited and the people he met along the way. Most importantly, it helps us understand how and why Paul was used by God in such extraordinary ways.
Pastors, students, and anyone engaged in Bible study will find this an indispensable and inspiring resource.
One of the most important lessons that seminary taught me was how critical it is to read Scripture in its appropriate context. Because of the didactic nature of Paul’s letters, they can often be read separate from the context into which Paul is writing. The result is a very one-dimensional interpretation that can range from the anemic to the downright deadly. Putting Paul and his letters into context—into the world in which Paul lived and wrote—is crucial for accurately interpreting and applying his letters into our modern context. An Illustrated Guide to the Apostle Paul is a solid attempt to do just that, helpfully bringing together history, geography, and culture to give context to Paul’s life and ministry.
Our tour guide on this journey is Alan S. Bandy, professor of New Testament and Greek at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Though much of Bandy’s previous work has skewed academic, he aptly transitions to more layperson level and writes very accessibly to the average reader. One of the greatest strengths of the book is its chronological formation of Paul’s life, enabling readers to connect Paul’s various epistles to distinct points in his ministry as written in Acts. There’s nothing in this book that someone with a Bible and some time couldn’t figure out, but Bandy’s done the hard work—making it easy for pastors developing sermons or laypeople doing independent studies.
The illustrated aspect of the book is reasonable, but nothing really stands out as exceptional. There’s a lot of modern photography of ancient sites and a lot of maps and there isn’t much interplay with Bandy’s text. It’s the same maps that you would see in most study Bibles, nothing that I hadn’t seen before.
I would have liked to have seen more historical/cultural background than Bandy gives, instead opting for a chronological reading of Paul’s journeys in Acts with some commentary. I was hoping for more information that I can’t get just by reading the Bible, namely how the culture and history of various places are reflected in Paul’s writings. So while it’s a little elementary for my needs, it’s still a very useful volume for putting Paul in chronological context.