The Apostle Paul, considered by many scholars to have authored 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament, is so critical to Christianity that Pauline scholarship is a theological ocean. Every few years, a fresh wave of scholarly works sweeps in to expand on, burrow into, challenge, or critique those who came before them – and inspire their own students to join the next wave. Indeed, “I’d be surprised if there weren’t new books every year, says Anna Moseley Gissing, associate editor for IVP Academic.
The fascination with Paul is that he is a “curious and central figure in the development of Christian thought and doctrine on sin and grace, for example, “ says Trevor Thompson, who directs the New Testament project at Eerdmans. In his letters to churches and individuals, “Paul’s remarks about Judaism, God, Christ, the world, money, history, gender, and sexuality have, across the centuries, been catalysts for change and weapons of oppression. The significance of Paul’s voice in the Christian tradition—for good or bad—makes the man and his letters enduring objects of interest.”
Interest – and argument: New young scholars, including more Black and women voices, are raising fresh questions in age-old debates about Paul’s theology, says Zondervan Academic executive editor Katya Covrett. “Is Paul a covenant theologian (the traditional perspective where Paul looks at the people of God) or is he an apocalyptic theologian, who looks at God’s intervention in the lives of man?”
Some highlights from the current wave:
Paul and the Hope of Glory: An Exegetical and Theological Study
In his second book to a planned trilogy on Paul, Constantine Campbell, professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, “looks at the language, metaphors, and images in Paul and puts these ideas in conversation with contemporary debates on Paul,” says Zondervan's Katya Covrett. The books explores Paul's teachings as well as the debate over his theological framework—whether he is a "covenant" or an "apocalyptic" theologian. Addressing the argument between the covenant and the apocalyptic views of Paul, “Campbell replies Paul is both. These are not mutually exclusive ways to understand Paul," says Covrett.
African American Readings of Paul: Reception, Resistance, and Transformation
Lisa M. Bowens, an associate professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary, is one of a growing number of women and Black scholars in the Pauline field. She addresses one of the most difficult passages in his work, his call for the enslaved to obey their masters, and the ways Black Christians have interpreted and resisted those oppressive lines, says Trevor Thompson at Eerdmans.
Luke Timothy Johnson, a theologian and former priest, disputes those scholars who say Paul only wrote seven books. Johnson argues that all 13 books that bear Paul’s name reveal his thinking and teachings and that there are fresh insights for today in reading them all, says Thompson.
Paul and the Power of Grace
John M.G. Barclay, a historian of early Christianity and professor of divinity at Durham University, England, revisits and expands on his earlier book on Galatians, Paul and the Gift. “His goal is to bring out more fully the dynamic in Paul’s theology of grace and the resources it offers for practice today,” says Thompson. Paul remains not just a guru of the past but a significant (if under-recognized) voice in contemporary culture.”
N.T. Wright, the English New Testament scholar and retired Anglican bishop, is a major voice in Pauline scholarship. In this new look at Galatians, he offers reflections, verse-by-verse, drawing connections to Christian formation today. Thompson says this title will be the first in a new Eerdmans series, “Commentaries for Christian Formation.”
Voices and Views on Paul
Ben Witherington III, author of 60 books on the New Testament and the Gospels, teamed up with Jason A. Myers, associate professor of Biblical Studies at Greensboro College, to create “a field guide to the last few decades of Pauline scholarship, looking at the key thinkers, describing their unique contributions and adding brief critiques of their own,” says IVP's Anna Mosley Gissing.
Resurrecting Justice: Reading Romans for the Life of the World
Douglas Harink, professor of theology at The King's University College in Edmonton, stands his book on the premise that a word in Romans translated for centuries in English, as “righteousness” should be “justice” instead. “Justice is relational, sweeping, cosmic, and about God’s action in the world and the resurrection of Jesus,” says Gissing. Here is Paul telling the world that God breaks into history.