'I would like to introduce you to Paul from Tarsus. You may have heard negative things about him, but I want to assure you that he is a fine man and a committed follower of Jesus Christ.' Such might well have been the gist of what Barnabas said to the apostles, when introducing Paul to them after Paul's conversion (Acts 9.27). The apostles and other Christians in Jerusalem were very nervous about the man who had been the arch-persecutor of the Church, but Barnabas believed in Paul and made the important introduction.
This book might be thought of as a twenty-first century attempt to do what Barnabas did. Many people today have a negative view of Paul: he is often accused of not being a faithful follower of Jesus, but a freelancer who did his own thing with the Christian religion. He is accused of changing Jesus' good ideas, and of introducing all sorts of bad ideas (for example, about women and sex); and he is often seen as an arrogant, self-opinionated man, with a rather tortuous theological mind. His failure to refer much to Jesus' earthly life and teaching in his letters has been thought to confirm that he was not really interested in the real Jesus, only in the quite different Jesus of his own theological imagination. I am convinced that this is a mistaken view of Paul, and in this book I hope to introduce him, and to tell something of 'the true story' of Paul and Jesus.
Our main sources of information about Paul are his own letters, which are found in the New Testament, and also the book of Acts, which is traditionally thought to have been written by Luke, one of Paul's companions. Modern scholars have had doubts about the New Testament documents and their reliability: some of the letters that are supposed to have been written by Paul are thought by some scholars to have been written by followers of Paul, not by Paul himself. As for Acts, some scholars see it as a romantic portrayal of the early Church rather than a reliable historical account. This book is not going to discuss these scholarly questions in technical detail; but we will need to bear them in mind when thinking about Paul's life. And indeed, if one main question being addressed in this book