Book Review: Kregel Charts on Paul

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

Kregel hits another home run with this book! This follows the same approach as Charts on the Book of Hebrews, which I previously reviewed. Like that book, this one provides necessary information in a readily usable format, which makes it ideal for detail study as well as easy for quick reference. For a pastor/teacher this is an excellent resource.

Content

The charts are extensive, well organized, and logical. There are four major parts:

A. Paul’s Background & Context
B. Paul’s Life & Ministry
C. Paul’s Letters
D. Paul’s Theological Concepts

The largest parts are appropriately the last two. But we cannot ignore the first two (Note: I am using shortened chart titles). Charts 1 (Roman Emperors), 4 (Roman Military Structure), and 5 (Greco-Roman Religions) are well worth having available when questions arise, but which the serious studies may not provide in summary form. Likewise Charts 7 (1st Century Judaic Groups) and 8 (1st Century Judaism Characteristics) provide more detail than some table formats permit. But in this case the format works well.

In Part B, Chart 11 (Parallels Acts and Pauline Corpus) is helpful. But I found the table a little confusing regarding the relationship between Acts 11 and 15 with Galatians. This might be one area in which the table/chart format fails to convey the challenges of such matching. Charts 13 (Jesus in Luke, Paul in Acts) and 14 (Peter and Paul in Acts) are excellent. I remember Robert Hoerber teaching using the same kind of tables 30+ years ago at seminary. Excellent charts! Chart 18 (Missionary Journeys) is another superb summary of critical information related to Paul’s ministry. Chart 19 (Coworkers) is helpful, but it seemed incomplete. That is, the author divides the references into Male and Female. The missing part would be to look at the various terms used and how that is used relative to male and female. I found Chart 28 (Names, Titles, etc.) very helpful, information often needed, but not often put together in one place. Likewise Chart 31 (Sufferings) is essential because suffering influences so much of Paul’s life and writings.

Part C For those using the Greek, Chart 35 (Manuscripts) sets forth an easy to understand and use reference list, in conjunction with Chart 41 (Arrangement of Letters). Chart 42 (Structural Comparison) is one of the best in the entire book! Charts 45-50 show the quotes and allusions of the Old Testament. Chart 47 also provides whether the quote is MT or LXX; Chart 50 gives the OT order of the allusions. Charts 51-52 extend the same for Intertestamental writings. In Charts 53-76 the author sets forth the snapshot of each letter, followed by a listing of key words in the longer letters. I was pleased to see Chart 62 (Ephesians and Colossians) because often this parallelism is overlooked; but both deal with the Church from two perspectives (Body of Christ and Christ the Head). The author uses Charts 68-73 to address the pastoral epistles and similarities as well as authorship issues (72) and relationship to Paul’s ministry (73). Excellent tools.

Part D is perhaps the most intense part of the book. That is, theology can be systematized and condensed, but this section assumes the most background knowledge. This is not a criticism at all. After all, this is a tool for serious students and pastors/teachers. I commend him for doing so in an easily understood manner (with the above caveat), organized, and compiled for maximum usability. For me the most important Charts are 81 (Christological), 82 (Pneumatological), 84 (Soteriological: Objective), 85 ( Soteriological: Subjective), 90 (Eschatological), and 92 (Ecclesiological). One area which I have just begun studying in detail is “Faith of Jesus” (Chart 89) and the controversy of translation as either objective (NAS) or subjective (NET). Helpful starting point for identifying the issues and texts. So also, Chart 111 (New Perspectives on Paul). Charts 96-107 present ethics and related topics as addressed by Paul.

In the Comments part at the end, Dr. Kierspel offers reasoning for decisions and how he understands the issues. And he provides specific bibliographic references for further study. This section is worthwhile for gaining insight into the whole enterprise.

Formatting

Titles of charts should continue on each page with the same chart (I.e. Charts 5 and 8, and throughout book). But interestingly in Chart 98-100, the headings continue on each page.Many of the charts have vertical lines that help guide the eye through the material. But some charts that could benefit from this do not have the vertical dividers (Charts 22, 23, 25, etc.). There is not Chart title/heading for pages 86-88.

These formatting issues are indeed minor and do not detract from this valuable resource.

Evaluation

In sum, this book should be in every pastor’s and teacher’s library. Any student of the Bible and Paul’s letters, in particular, will benefit from Dr. Kierspel’s meticulous and thorough work. Well done to Kregel and Dr. Kierspel for a top notch book.

Note: Thanks to Kregel Academic & Professional for the review copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

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A better new day

Over the past several decades I have mentioned that the “good old days” were not necessarily good for many, if not most, people. This morning I read the following in Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore:

No one needs to be told that we live in a time of materialism and consumerism, of lost values and a shaft in ethical standards. We find ourselves tempted to call for a return to old values and ways. It seems that in the past we were more religious as a people and that traditional values had more influence throughout the society. But whether or not that is a blurry, nostalgic view of the past, we want to keep in mind Jung’s warning about dealing with present difficulties by wishing for a return to former conditions. He calls this maneuver a “regressive restoration of the persona.” Societies can fall into this defensive strategy, attempting to restore what is imagined to be a better condition from the past. The trouble is, memory is always part imagination, and tough times of another era are later unconsciously gilded into the “good old days.” (pp. 231-2)

And by extension we deal with the same temptation in the Church. There is that which is good — remaining or returning to a previous status in the Church. Obviously in regard to a solid Biblical basis, a doctrinal foundation, etc. remaining or returning are good, healthy, encouraging for the Church. The Scriptures never change, our confession of the faith should not change. Remaining on that foundation derives from THE Word, namely Jesus Christ,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  (John 1:1)

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine. (John 8:31)

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15)

And Paul wrote,

holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. (Titus 1:9)

But often the call for the “good old days” refers to outward actions, or perceived “real way of doing things.” But as Moore reminds us, “memory is always part imagination.” In the church, that may be a prescribed time to worship, length of worship, specific order of worship, etc. This is not to say that anything was necessarily wrong with the past in each of those cases, but they may not achieve what had been taken for granted in the past.

Notice that desire to return to the good old days may be well intentioned. But often it misses the mark. As a young boy in church in the early-mid 1950’s, sometimes sitting alone (parents would drop us off), the adults behind us would snapp our ears if we turned in the pew to look around. This happened more than once! I was curious who I could see (most the of time there would be 250-300 in each worship service). I shudder if that is the good old days!! I suspect today’s children would wholeheartedly agree. I suspect parents would be more than a little disturbed if that happened now. It ain’t the good old days.

Moving forward without reaction to the past

So how do we address this “good old days” view in the Church? We can start by acknowledging that the Church has never been perfect or ideal. Consider how many of Paul’s letters address problems in the first century. And it didn’t change in later centuries. Sometimes the 4th century is heralded as the “Golden Age” but remember that the Council of Nicea (AD 325) had to deal with the heresy of Arius and his followers. And that battle actually got worse after the Council, for about 100 years. If anything, what makes it “golden” is that the Church fought for its life, a struggle that took its toll on people and churches. The Church was continuing to be formed in a sinful world.

Thus, our congregations today are still being formed in a sinful world. We can’t look back and wish for the good old days of our memories. We can cherish the past of the Church and of our congregation, yet we recognize that we live in the present, not the past. The Church of the past is what God did then among those people, yes, sinful people, just like us. But the Church of our memories doesn’t exist.

Thus, we look at how we live out the reality of “Christ in us” individually and as a congregation. What remains of the past should not change: Our faith is in Jesus Christ, as with the Church of all ages. Our doctrines come from Scripture, as they must and have throughout the Church. Our confessions summarize those truths. We hold fast to these.

In the present day of the Church, we use technology when it can help us, or open new avenues of reaching people with the Gospel. This includes the digital life we inhabit with all the opportunities and challenges that it offers. But there may be changes in worship because of that. New translations of the Bible come on the scene. Liturgical wording changes. After all, we don’t read the Scriptures or sing the hymns on Sunday morning in Hebrew and Greek, or Latin, or …

Our view of the past, present, and future is formed and guided by Scripture. We let Scripture speak to us and others on its own terms. That is challenging, but also refreshing. God speaks to us through His Word, but it is a fresh Word, a life-giving Word, a life-generating water in the Word, a life-sustaining meal in the Word. And that is not just a memory, it is a present reality that never changes. That guarantees the hope that we have:

This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.
The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:21-23)

[Jesus said] Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (Matthew 25:34)

It is a better new day!