Aside from Jesus, the Apostle Paul had the greatest formative influence on the early Christian movement. Yet who was this passionate missionary who carried the message of Christ throughout the Mediterranean world? The New Testament writings give us not one but two portraits of Paul. We read numerous details of Paul’s life and relationships in the Book of Acts, and we find an additional set of details about Paul’s activities in his letters. Yet how consistent are these two portraits? And which one gives us the most accurate picture of the historical Paul? In this volume, Thomas E. Phillips examines the portrayals of Paul in recent biblical scholarship in light of these two major New Testament portraits. Believing the apostolic conference at Jerusalem to be a watershed event, Phillips draws conclusions that help contemporary readers get a more accurate picture of Paul.
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Here is a helpful, detailed compilation of all the historical data that can be gleaned from Paul’s letters and from Acts in the attempt to determine whether the emerging pictures of Paul and his mission are compatible or otherwise. The author concludes that the pictures are somewhat divergent with Acts presenting a later, more attractive Paul, but he presents the evidence with such care and impartiality that readers are free to make their own decision on this complex issue.
—I. Howard Marshall, emeritus professor of New Testament exegesis, University of Aberdeen
In this carefully written and accessible book, Thomas E. Phillips shows that portraits of Paul vary widely according to how they see the relationship between Paul’s own letters and claims about Paul made in the Book of Acts. Some scholars discount what Acts says, while others use Acts to correct Paul’s statements. Phillips argues that, while Acts develops its own perspective on Paul, it also provides crucial information.
—Bruce Chilton, Bernard Iddings Bell Professor of Religion, Bard College
In this lively book Phillips revisits an old bone of contention in Pauline studies—relating the Paul of the letters to the Paul of Acts. Eschewing oversimplified and preordained responses, he carefully tabulates data sets from both sources, working through comparisons of Paul’s travels, broad cultural background, and relationships with other early church leaders and members to reach a final balanced and judicious weighting of the two sets of sources. The result is the crafting of a careful methodological and biographical trajectory that proponents of both sides of this frequently polarized debate will be able to trace through to arrive at a more reasoned and reasonable position. The main text is clear, with numerous jaunty analogies and metaphors; students in particular will benefit from its narratives, while scholars will profit further from the extensive annotations that Phillips supplies. Overall, Phillips is to be commended for bringing this critical set of questions within Pauline studies back into the foreground, and for engaging it with such sustained, disciplined, and frequently insightful enthusiasm.
—Douglas A. Campbell, associate professor of New Testament, Duke Divinity School
This book is particularly helpful . . . in showing many of the main issues on which debate over the compatibility of Acts and the Pauline letters focuses.
—Theological Book Review
Phillips has shown how a careful methodology can provide clearer data (e.g., the different images of Paul’s social status). This book . . . can serve as a good introduction to some issues that surround the relationship between the image of Paul in Acts and the historical Paul.
—Catholic Biblical Quarterly
Well-written and accessible. It will be of high value to advanced undergraduates, seminarians, pastors, and new scholars on Paul.
—Religious Studies Review
Thomas E. Phillips is a professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Point Loma Nazarene University. He is the author or editor of several books, including Contemporary Studies in Acts and Acts and Ethics.