Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul by Lars Kierspel
This new book of charts on the life, letters, and theology of Paul by Lars Kierspel is an extraordinary resource for students. The charts are broken up into four sections: Background and context, life and ministry, letters, and theological concepts. Each section is replete with biblical verse citations, ancient source references and short commentary on the various concepts that are introduced. Not only do you get a thoughtful and well-presented chart on Paul but you also are encouraged to learn more about Paul through the references.
Dead Aim Focus
It would be very easy to produce a selection of charts on Paul and overwhelm the student trying to engage the whole of Paul’s thought. Yet, Lars is very careful to bring to the surface those details that are most pertinent to Paul’s theology and ministry. In the section of background, Lars provides us with a chart on First-Century Judaisms that is to the point but also very illuminating. Looking at the Pharisees, he writes,
“Thought not without discussion, the Psalms of Solomon (1st century BC) are frequently regarded as an expression of Pharisaic beliefs” (24)
I worked through the Psalms of Solomon in seminary many years ago, but was unfamiliar that this book was regarded as an example of Pharisaic beliefs. Lars here gives his readers a specific focused text that relates to the way of life that Paul was brought up in and helps us understand how this belief system affected his ministry. Further along in the book, Lars outlines letter by letter the arguments that Paul’s opponents took against him in some detail. Often, you get a glimpse of the divisive and ugly situations Paul is in but miss out on the whole story of his interactions with his opponents. Lars carefully highlights in bold the key opponents against Paul and what they said in order to eradicate his ministry. This kind of dead aim focus is very helpful in writing a paper, developing a sermon, and in personal study.
The very last section in the book is Kierspel’s comments on each section that displays a chart. I was noticeably encouraged that Lars was very balanced in his comments regarding some very volatile issues. Regarding the “New Perseptives” on Paul, Lars identifies how both approaches (old perspective found that Paul was speaking of evil inside the heart while new perspective identifies Paul ‘addressing the Jewish insistence on outside boundary markers that keep Gentiles out’) bear a particular weight in the Scriptures. Quoting from Galatians 5:3 and 2:12, Lars indicates that the first half of 5:3 points to the ethnic interest of Israel in keeping Gentiles away through circumcision while also noting that the last half of the verse deals with obedient behavior (251-252). Lars is quick to point out that Paul is careful to point to his Jewish contemporaries that their boasting inherently condemns them because they fail to follow all of the Law’s requirements.
Broad Range of Uses
Lastly, these charts provide an immense amount of material that can be used for a broad range of ways. I think the charts elucidating each book written by Paul would be very beneficial for a small group going through a book written by Paul. The way Paul uses certain words to bring out his eschatology and Christology is a helpful resource in preaching. The comments in the back section alongside the references throughout the book make these charts ideal for study in a college or seminary. Finally, I believe these charts actually promote a deep sense of biblical literacy that can lead to gospel saving faith, which glorifies God and magnifies Jesus Christ.
Thanks to Kregel Academic for the review copy of this book in exchange for review.