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Publisher's Summary

In this definitive biography, renowned Bible scholar, Anglican bishop, and best-selling author N. T. Wright offers a radical look at the apostle Paul, illuminating the humanity and remarkable achievements of this intellectual who invented Christian theology - transforming a faith and changing the world. 

For centuries, Paul, the apostle who "saw the light on the Road to Damascus" and made a miraculous conversion from zealous Pharisee persecutor to devoted follower of Christ, has been one of the church's most widely cited saints. While his influence on Christianity has been profound, N. T. Wright argues that Bible scholars and pastors have focused so much attention on Paul's letters and theology that they have too often overlooked the essence of the man's life and the extreme unlikelihood of what he achieved. 

To Wright, "The problem is that Paul is central to any understanding of earliest Christianity, yet Paul was a Jew; for many generations Christians of all kinds have struggled to put this together." Wright contends that our knowledge of Paul and appreciation for his legacy cannot be complete without an understanding of his Jewish heritage. Giving us a thoughtful, in-depth exploration of the human and intellectual drama that shaped Paul, Wright provides greater clarity of the apostle's writings, thoughts, and ideas and helps us see them in a fresh, innovative way. 

Paul is a compelling modern biography that reveals the apostle's greater role in Christian history - as an inventor of new paradigms for how we understand Jesus and what he accomplished - and celebrates his stature as one of the most effective and influential intellectuals in human history. 

©2018 Nicholas Thomas Wright (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

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Different type of writing for Wright is helpful

I have read a lot of NT Wright; none of the really big Paul books, but much of his books that are targeted outside of the academy. Because of how Wright thinks and writes, the same themes come up over and over again in slight variations. I find most of Wright’s books really helpful, but I was surprised how much I found this biography, in part because it was a biography and not straight theology, really helpful to understanding Wright’s project with Paul.

Our ability to know ancient figures is limited. But we probably know about as much about Paul as we do about almost any other ancient figure. First we have relatively large amount of his own writing. But we also have the book of Acts, which was written either toward the end of Paul’s life or soon after he died.

There is a clear limit to what we can and cannot know about who Paul was. Wright has to speculate about a number of things in ways that would not have to be done in a biography of a modern figure. But Wright is clear in the text when he is speculating and with what data he is speculating. And he is clear about what is fairly firm historical ground.

Much of the early discussion is about how Paul was at the center of the construction of Christian theology. Wright suggests that until the rough time when Paul started to come to leadership the church was mostly Jewish culturally, theologically and ethnically. But as the church expanded, lines started being crossed.

The church, as envisioned by Paul, was a group that would meet in a single city across class lines (which was like the Jewish synagogues). It was also across ethnic lines, which was similar to how Roman legions were able to work across ethnic lines. But it was also transnational; the church in Antioch supported the Christians in Jerusalem because they saw themselves as part of the same body. And the crossing of all three lines at the same time was something unique to the Christian church in that culture.

Much of Paul’s writing and life seems devoted to focusing on how to become such a body. It is in the practical working out of the issues that Wright suggests that Christian theology was developed, as a way to theologically understand what it means to be a Christian outside of the solely Jewish theological roots and culture of the early church.

The most helpful part of the book after the discussion of the make up of the church as a transnational, trans-ethnic and trans-class, was the historical relationship of Paul’s epistles to his life. That does require an attempt at dating them and placing them in context of Acts’ history. That work of history and then the theological work of processing the content of those books in light of the assumed history was very helpful in giving an overview to who Paul was.

Wright’s biggest irritating tic as an author is his hyperbole about what new thing he is bringing to the table. That was largely under control in this book. Maybe because Wright is outside of his standard writing style and field, or maybe he is trying to cut back. But regardless of the reason, it helps.

This biography makes me want to read something by John Barclay, probably Paul: A Brief History. Those that I know that are more knowledgable about the academic research into the New Testament have frequently cited his work as someone else that is worth reading on Paul.

As normal for me, I listened to this as an audiobook and then I will reading it in print later for a second take. I have found that I can get bogged down on Wright if I start with print. I need to get the overview of the argument to see how the pieces work together and then I can read the pieces again to catch any details I may have missed in the first take.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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An important read for church leaders

I love N.T. Wright, but I was confused when I first saw the title of this book. Was Wright trying his hand at fiction and trying to tell back the story of Paul from a first person view? If not, how much could he really say in a biography of Paul based off of the information we have today?

It ends up that there is a lot you can say about a person’s life by reading their mail and by working with all the other sources and studies out there. Wright takes us deep into Paul’s life, noting what we can firmly understand and what we can at times only speculate upon. It makes for a great read—in fact, an essential read for church leaders to truly understand the author that wrote so much of the New Testament.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Perfect

This is one of the greatest books on Paul that I have ever read. Wright’s insight based upon his years of study has produced a page turner, where you hate to put the book down because you want to know what happened next and why. His ideas and reasoning into what motivated Paul is sheer brilliance.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Fine Narration

Wright’s work needs no introduction, but Langston’s fine narration also deserves credit. He perfectly captures Wright’s brand of scholarly prose with occasional first-person digressions and handles theological terminology and Greek and Latin quotations with aplomb. First rate performance.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Impact

Wright presented Paul and I tasted Christ. Plausible reasoning about how Paul’s genius and energy helped the story of Jesus as Messiah of Israel take hold across the Roman Empire as

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Another wonderful Wright work.

This volume is an excellent intro into Paul, particularly for the New Testament novice or for the longtime Christian who has little theological exposure. Wright obviously forecasts his perspective (new) on Paul’s life and teaching. But his view happens to be, in my opinion, the accurate historical assessment of the subject.

Paul may be, as Wright ventures, the most important public intellectual of all time. He accomplished the evangelization of much of the known world while paying his own way, making tents. His vocation compelled him to navigate toxic cultural and ethnic divides, for the ultimate goal of preaching the unity of Jew and Gentile. What an inspiration he continues to be in our current, divisive epoch.

Wright is one of the finest theologians of our time, and while this work is highly accessible, it is also educational, intricate, and nuanced.

All would be better having read this book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A disappointment, my fault for wrong choice

What would have made Paul better?

I should have got Paul and the Faithfulness of God, perhaps. 'Paul' is much too chatty, a bt like listening to hours and hours of BBC's Prayer for the Day. Christian history 'popularisers' have a standard lifeless rhetoric they use for the 'faithful', an attempt to be over sweetly reasonable. Wright tries to fill in the gaps in what pieces of the Paul jigsaw puzzle we have and it becomes over guessy. Not surprising since if the portrait of Paul is a jigsaw of 2,100 pieces and we have only 500, there's lots of space for surmising. I have gone back to the incomparable H.V.Morton 'In the Steps of St Paul' (1936). Morton doesn't have 2018 state of the art Pauline scholarship but his picture of pre-WWII world gives a better 'feel' about 'what makes Paul tick' (N.T.Wright's often used phrase)..

Would you ever listen to anything by N. T. Wright again?

Not if N.T.Wright writes interminable 'Prayers for the Day'.

Any additional comments?

Did Paul invent 'Jesus'? I'm sure N.T.Wright would have an interesting answer to this.

10 of 16 people found this review helpful

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Long, boring and not a focused book

This book is the opinions of mr. wright. His view on why Paul did this and that. This book reminds me of a college paper. Dry, scrambled and. Not a good readd

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Must read

There are books that speak to what happened. This book tells both what happened and why. Paul taught people how to think differently and this book sets the stage for how that change in thinking changed history. And the narrator, Jame Langton, does a fantastic job. His enthusiasm engages the listener. Maybe the best I have listened to.

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One And NOT Done

Wright's biography on Paul is full of so much information that reading it just one time will not suffice. It has helped me understand Paul's letters in the New Testament so much better than I did prior to reading this book. Part of what gives the book so much life is that Wright engages all the possibilities surrounding the unknown parts of Paul's life while explaining why he concludes what he personally concludes.