Review: @KregelAcademic’s Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul

Kierspel, Lars. Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul. Kregel Publications, 2012.

Color me impressed — and I am not usually impressed with theological cartography. I guess it’s because of the older charting of eschatology and other facets of (should-be-by-now) long forgotten theological pretensions. And to reach for perfect honesty in this moment, I have purposely avoided Kregel‘s other charting books because some implied (by me) simplistic notions of what these books would look like on the inside. However, I must admit that after spending some quality time with this particular book, again I say I am impressed. The author, ]], is the former department chair at Trinity College but now teaches at Shiloh University in Iowa.

There are 111 charts exploring all sorts of issues with Paul’s theology, letters, and life. The book is divided into two sections. The first section includes four categories of charts — Paul’s Background and Context; Paul’s Life and Ministry; Paul’s Letters; and Paul’s Theological Concepts. Included in the letters is the entirety of the Pauline corpus — Paul, Deutero-Paul, and Pseudo-Paul. Granted, these are modern break-ups based on historical criticism, and rightly so, given that “Paul” is identified as each author, we should not use Marcion’s scissors when discussing the corpus in a theological context. As a give to those who do enjoy historical criticism, several of the charts include issues such as the New Perspectives and a nice list of charts digging into language of Paul. For the intertextual critics among us, charts 43–52 are especially insightful, if not extremely important in exploring a literary critical model of these letters.

The second section of the book, the Chart Comments, gives the author’s view and commentary on each of the charts in the first section. Here, the author takes to the ground to describe what he sees in the chart and even to recommend how to use it. Again, I turn to what first drew me to this book in particular — the New Perspectives on Paul (NPP; Chart 111). Kierspel calls attention to needed understanding of the plurality of the paradigm shifting school (251). He summarizes without polemic the basic arguments of the NPP while equally summarizing the basic argument against the NPP, ending with a mediating position. This is a welcomed allowance for those of us who do hold to some form of the NPP. Unfortunately, no such mediating position is given on the authorship of the letters generally considered to be non-authentic (see charts 72–3 and comments on said charts, 235).

One of my favorite charts (and subsequent commentary) is chart 77 (141–4). In this chart, Kierspel gives Key Texts and Their Interpretations. They include Romans 1.17, Galatians 2.16, Colossians 2.18, and 2 Timothy 3.16. Along with each verse citation he gives several possible interpretations. For instance, at 2 Timothy 1.18, he gives two very succinct choices – either Onesiphorus is dead or he’s not and either way, Paul either prays for him or expresses a wish for him. In the commentary section (237), he provides suggestions for scholars who hold some of the divergent opinions he has listed. Weiser, for instance, in looking at 2 Timothy 2.18.

Over all, I am greatly impressed with the quality scholarship devoted to the charts as well as to the commentary section. This is a fantastic resource for the study of the Pauline corpus and highly recommended.

 

 

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