The Apostle Paul – volumes have been written on his life, writings, and theology. One may rightly ask where there would be a need for yet another book that engages the works of the man responsible for writing most of the New Testament. Is there really anything else that can be discussed about Paul or his works that has not already been covered in some commentary, scholarly work or journal article throughout the years? While the works on the life, times, and writings of Paul are certainly voluminous, Lars Kierspel’s “Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul” fills a void, that of providing an overview of Paul in chart form.
One may rightly ask how the life, letters, and theology of Paul can be reduced to a book full of charts while also asking how a book full of charts on these aspects of Paul would be of any service to layman and scholar alike. As noted in the salient comment on this book by Professor John Polhill, “Kierspel provides us with a treasure trove of information on Paul’s world, life and ministry, churches, letters, and thought. All of this is condensed into a format of some 111 charts, each covering a different topic related to Paul and his epistles.” Providing this type of information in chart form is invaluable to the student of Scripture, the Apostle Paul in particular. The ability to access both the level of broadness and detail provided in Kierspel’s book is something not found in most commentaries, scholarly tomes, or journal articles. This one stop shop if you will of information allows the student of Paul and his writings the ability to quickly note a variety of important issues that define the life, letters, and theology of Paul.
This book of charts is divided into four main sections: 1) Paul’s Background and Context; 2) Paul’s Life and Ministry; 3) Paul’s Letters; and 4) Paul’s Theological Concepts. Each of these four sections contains a treasure trove of information that further engages matters of historical importance, those who interacted with Paul, the cities he visited, snapshots of each of Paul’s letters, and a deep dive into the multifarious theological concepts that are found throughout the Pauline corpus.
Each chart is each to read, replete with valuable information and is obviously very well researched providing a useful tool for not only the seasoned student of Pauline thought, but also those who are not as familiar with the various aspects of Paul’s life and writings. While it is difficult to pinpoint exactly which section was the best, if forced, this reader found the section on Paul’s Theological Concepts to be the most useful. The Apostle Peter noted in 2 Peter 3:15-16 the following:
“and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.”
It is apparent that even Peter believed some of Paul’s theology was “hard to understand” while still noting Paul’s works to be inspired by God. Thus, a section, the largest section to boot in this book, devoted to engaging the theological concepts found in Paul’s writing is of the utmost service to the student of Scripture. Being able to study Paul’s theological approach in chart form helps break down the many difficult concepts found in Paul’s writings into an easily viewable and more understandable study tool. Kierspel provides a chart for every major theological topic discussed by Paul with the term listen in English and Greek followed by a list of references to the Pauline corpus where that term is used. This serves the purpose of having this information available in one book as opposed to searching through a concordance, then a Greek lexicon or another language/reference tool to find the same level of information.
Anyone who is interested in studying the desires of the flesh or the fruits of the Spirit, a concept repeated throughout Paul’s writings, will find pages of charts listing the vice or virtue, the Greek word and again, a list of Scripture references. Often, scholars, in particular liberal scholars try to paint a conflict between the Pauline corpus and that of Jesus or other New Testament authors such as James, most notably with the subject of faith and works. Kierspel’s helpful charts outline the statements made by Jesus or James and the corresponding comment on a particular subject made by Paul. This demonstrates the consistency of Scripture on matters such as faith and works to include exactly what each individual, whether that be Jesus, Paul, or James was noting in their respective statements.
Even beyond the helpful section on Paul’s theology, Kierspel also includes a section that provides additional commentary on each chart. This is quite simply a wonderful addition to this already excellent book. For any student who may not be familiar with the information on a different chart, for example the Roman Political Order outlined on Chart 2, Kierspel cogently and clearly provides additional detail on what he was trying to convey with that particular chart. For each of the 111 charts in this book, there is an accompanying commentary. The bibliography is also most impressive demonstrating the scholarly and well researched nature of this book. Providing a bibliography also allows the reader to engage in further research. With such an extensive bibliography, one can find numerous other quality books to continue their engagement of Paul, his life, his letters, and his theology.
This is truly a remarkable tool for both scholar and layman alike. I truly wish Kierspel’s “Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul” would have been available during my journey through Bible College and Seminary. It certainly would have made access to information on Paul more easily available, something of vast importance when studying and researching the Pauline epistles. With the quality track record of Kregel Publications series of charts on the Bible, I wait with anxious expectation for future volumes in this series.
I received this for free from Kregel Publications for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”