“Except for the Lord Himself, no single figure has done more for the Christian faith.”
If you want to understand Christianity, you need to understand Paul. But with so many books on the apostle, where do you start?
Paul the Apostle is the ideal choice if you want a solid understanding of Paul's life, ministry, and writings without getting weighed down with minutia. Author Robert E. Picirilli, who taught college courses on Paul for over twenty-five years, found that most books on the apostle were either too technical or too basic, so he wrote a book that strikes a happy medium. It offers:
Useful for individual study or as a textbook (as it is in many universities today), Paul the Apostle is a great one-stop study of the man who wrote half the New Testament, spread the gospel to the heart of the known world, and gave his life for the Kingdom.
Besides our Lord himself, there are few men in history that have done more to spread Christianity through the known word than the Apostle Paul. This great man of God wrote thirteen books of the New Testament, went on numerous missionary journeys, and many leaders of the early Church were disciples of his.
Having a Masters Degree in Church History, and working on a second masters in Theology I have read much about the great Apostle. Those that I read are very academic and scholarly works that, though very beneficial, would not be volumes that the average layman in the pew would desire to read. The author, Robert Picirilli, does a masterful job of bridging the gap between a simple and scholarly work.
This book covers much about Paul’s life and covers his life and ministry in its proper historical context. There are eight chapters that range from his background in Judaism, to his last yeas, and everything in between. The book also has several pages, a treasure trove, really of recommended resources where one can learn even more about the Apostle Paul. Most importantly, this work assists one in understanding the letters of Paul in even greater detail. It is a great read, and I give it 5 out of 5 stars.
“Paul the Apostle” took quite a long time for me to review, and it was not for lack of interest in it. Instead, there was so much information to digest, cross-reference, and make notations of the information in my Bible margins. Wow, what a tremendous resource this book proved to be! There are so many positives to this book, so I’ll limit it to just a handful.
First, Picirilli provided excellent historical and cultural insight into the Apostle Paul’s life, from his pre-conversion days up to his martyrdom. So much of what he revealed about Paul helps to shed light on the context of scripture and his ministry.
Second, Picirilli made good use of breaks to place "insert" articles within the chapter bodies. I’ve read numerous books where side-bar comments and insert articles appear at some of the most inopportune times, causing me to lose focus on the paragraph or thought being read. But Picirilli inserted “insert” articles at logical places so that the reader could continue reading without having to skip around and return to the storyline somewhere else. These insert articles provide various nuances that add to the chapter’s information, but may or may not have necessarily directly applied to the particular text. They were simply extra insights. For instance, one good insert explained what political and military structures looked like during Paul's time, but that insert was not the primary purpose of the chapter. The insert articles could be skipped, if the reader desired, but their information added greatly to the rest of the text.
Third, a feature I liked in this book pertained to the brief handling of each of the Pauline epistles as they likely would have been written within the chronology of the unfolding storyline of the book of Acts. When handled, Picirilli treated Paul's epistles with a relatively quick, fly-by fashion, but with sufficient detail to explain themes and purposes of those letters. However, each epistle’s outline and general themes were provided. These would be phenomenal tools for digging deeper into the epistles in personal or group Bible study.
Finally, as I suggest for any book labeled and sold as “Christian”, it is always good to have a Bible open as you read this one. First, it’s crucial that Christians always be reading books biblically and critically, guarding against erroneous teaching. Second, have a Bible on hand is helpful for adding notes and cross-references in the margins.
While this book contained such a deep level of information about the Apostle Paul’s life, Picirilli made it easy to read and comprehend. This book would probably be a bit too much for a new / young believer, but would be greatly helpful for the more mature.
RATING: I give this book 5 out of 5 stars for its depth, insight, and usefulness.