Jan 6, 2014

Review of Apostle for the Last Days: The Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul

C. Marvin Pate, Apostle for the Last Days: The Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2013).

C. Marvin Pate is professor of Christian theology at Ouachita Baptist University and an author and editor of a number of books related to biblical studies including Four Views on the Book of Revelation, The Writings of John, Romans, and From Plato to Jesus. In this present work, Pate argues that, “Paul’s life, letters, and theology are unified by the theme of the overlapping of two ages—this age and the age to come.” The book is divided into two unequal parts. The first and larger part relates to the life and letters of Paul. The second and smaller part draws conclusions from the first part in an attempt to outline Paul’s theology. The book is well organized and there are numerous helpful tables and lists.

There are several reasons that I like this book. First, I appreciate the fact that this work seeks to understand Paul in both a Jewish and Greco-Roman context. While Pate often shows how Paul differed from both Jewish and Greco-Roman positions, his treatment frequently identifies the contingent links in Paul’s epistles. Second, Pate does not follow the critical tendency to pit the epistles of Paul against Acts. He tends to view Acts as a complimentary, rather than competitive, source for understanding Paul. Third and similarly, Pate rejects the typical critical position that there are only seven genuinely Pauline epistles. This is refreshing and of course affects the conclusions that one draws about Paul’s theology.

By way of critique, several points could be made. First, this is not an easy read. This is not exactly a criticism, but one should know that it is probably beyond the comfortable reach of most lay-readers. Second, the subtitle (The Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul) seems a bit misleading. There is comparatively little about the life of Paul and those seeking a discussion of Paul’s theology outside of eschatology will likely be frustrated. Third, and again not necessarily a critique, but I am not sure that eschatology is the center of Paul’s theology. Fourth, while this work is clearly well-researched, there are no indices or even a bibliography. Finally, there are a number of typos in the work. The most obvious one is the repetition of the author’s summary of his final chapter in the introduction (see pp. 31-34)

However, these critiques do not rob the book of its value. Those who have some academic training in biblical studies and an interest in Paul or eschatology will likely benefit from Pate’s treatment.

You can read an excerpt of the book here.

Thanks to folks at Kregel for providing the review copy utilized in this unbiased review.

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