Luke Timothy Johnson
Eerdmans, 375 pages
If you want an exhilarating, fresh deep dive into Paul, this book is for you. If you appreciate first-rate biblical scholarship, this book is for you. If you appreciate careful attention to the ways history, culture, ancient rhetoric, tradition and theology inform one another, this book is for you. Luke Timothy Johnson, Woodruff Professor Emeritus at Emory University, has set a gold standard in this book (the first of two volumes) focused on what he calls the “canonical Paul.” By this description, he means the Paul whose voice has been heard in Scripture and for centuries guided teachers and preachers. Be forewarned, Johnson is a contrarian of the finest kind. He is fearless in overturning clichés, unsubstantiated claims and anachronistic arguments that have gathered around Paul. He is relentless in his pursuit of the Apostle Paul, whose life was utterly overturned by an experience of the risen Jesus Christ. It is this experience that Johnson argues is at the heart of Paul’s witness. Though often contrarian, Johnson’s purpose is always positively focused on the good news that so captivated Paul and motivated his letters to the churches. This is a brilliant work of biblical scholarship whose purpose is to strengthen preachers and teachers in announcing the astonishing good news of Jesus Christ through the lens of the Apostle Paul. I eagerly await volume two.