5 Essential Books on Paul

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Paul and His Letters (second edition). By Leander E. Keck. (Fortress, 176 pp., $17.00 paperback.) This is the best general introduction to Paul and to his writings. While accessible to beginning students, it reflects a depth of engagement with Paul's theology and soteriology to which mature students of Paul will return again and again. Keck's theological approach, shaped in part by his engagement with the work of Ernst Kasemann, to whom the book is dedicated, takes seriously Paul as a pastoral theologian and as one who responded to specific situations in his churches by referring them back to the pivotal event of Christ's death and resurrection.

The Writings of St. Paul. Edited by John T. Fitzgerald and Wayne A. Meeks. (Norton, 746 pp., $18.75 paperback.) This important collection of all things Pauline presents annotated texts of Paul's undisputed letters, subsequent works in the Pauline school, and pseudo-Pauline works, before turning to the complicated history of the reception of Paul through history. It is an invaluable resource for understanding views of Paul in the ancient church, patristic readings of Paul, and the 19th-century attack on the apostle that still shapes much of the current prejudice against him. The book provides short articles on selected topics, such as law and grace and Paul's relation to Judaism. It demonstrates exegetical strategies (using notoriously difficult passages from Romans 7 and Romans 13) and brings the reader up to date on some of the most pressing questions of interpretation.

Our Mother Saint Paul By Beverly Roberts Gaventa. (Westminster John Knox, 218 pp., $24.95 paperback.) Gaventa explores Paul's use of maternal imagery and shows that the maternal metaphors (apostles as infants and nurses, Paul as mother, ministry as mother's milk, the birthing of creation) lie at the very heart of Paul's theology of "the God who will not be taken for granted." For various good reasons, women have struggled with Paul. We are fortunate to have Gaventa and a number of other outstanding female Pauline scholars (Alexandra Brown, Susan Eastman, Cynthia Kittredge, Margaret Mitchell, Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, to name just a few) who are engaging Paul theologically and critiquing Pauline scholarship in useful ways. …