book review: an introduction to the study of paul

Introduction to the Study of Paul

Written by Mark Lafler

B.A., Global University; M.C.S., Regent College I am currently serving as a youth minister at our church in Sarasota, FL. I am married to Tera (15 Years +) and we have 3 beautiful daughters.

June 27, 2012

Introduction to the Study of PaulIn An Introduction to the Study of Paul,[1] David G. Horrell introduces the reader to many of the current approaches and thoughts on Pauline studies.

The book includes subjects such as the influence and life of Paul (chapters 1-3), Paul’s undisputable letters (chapter 4), central themes in Paul’s letters (chapters 5-7), and disputable letters of Paul (chapter 8).  The book concludes with the importance of studying Paul (chapter 9).

For the size of the book, Horrell’s approach is thorough and seems to touch on most major areas of contemporary Pauline studies.  He does well at his stated purpose, “to serve as an introduction both to Paul’s life and work and to the varied interpretations of Paul… in modern scholarship.”[2]  The book’s strength is clearly in its overview of introducing the varied scholarship about the letters attributed to Paul.

Although the book is very helpful, there are two concerns that should be noted.  Throughout chapters 4 through 7, Horrell outlines major themes in Pauline scholarship with a clear focus on the undisputed letters of Paul.  Although his focus on the undisputable letters may be proper, Horrell fails to justly discuss the church’s tradition of the authorship of the disputable books and relegates these letters to a small chapter near the end of the book.  The relegation of the disputable letters to the eighth chapter and a failure to discuss a church-traditional view of authorship may show a bias in the author’s point-of-view.

The second critique concerns the content of the theological motifs covered in chapters 5 through 7.  The motifs that are covered explain the opposing interpretations with great care.  The chapter on Paul and the law is particularly well written, balancing the “new” and “old” perspectives on Paul.  His inclusion of Fiorenza and feminist criticism’s exposing of androcentrism is also appreciated.  Nevertheless, there is a clear absence of Paul’s view on creation.  The author does not mention creation, yet this motif may be found in the undisputable letters (e.g. Romans 8:18-25).[3]

Nevertheless, this is not a major contemporary study in Paul, but a brief mention would certainly be helpful.  Moreover, Horrell’s discussion on Pauline ecclesiology in the social criticism section might be misguiding.  Surprisingly, Horrell neglects Pauline ecclesiology in chapter 5.  All of the motifs in this chapter are supported by Paul’s letters which were written to the gathering saints – the church.

Church unity and practice was certainly Paul’s passion throughout the New Testament (e.g. 1 Corinthians or Ephesians) and his understanding of ecclesiology deserves to be mentioned first in a survey of Paul’s theological motifs.  Although social criticism has been influential, the study of Pauline ecclesiology should not be placed under the umbrella of social criticism.

Overall, this introduction by Horrell is very helpful by sharply explaining the different perspectives in contemporary Pauline study.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would recommend it as a useful introduction to the study of Paul.


[1] David G. Horrell, An Introduction to the Study of Paul, 2d ed. (London: T&T Clark, 2006).

[2] Horrell, Study of Paul, 3.

1 Comment

  1. Andy Carlson

    Whew…..the the “un scholarly” casual student…the reading appears to be daunting to the un initiated in that level of content constructive review, analysis and criticize. Tanks for showing me the “fog” of my own limited knowledge…and adding to its clarification…all in all…enjoyed your review


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book review: an introduction to the study of paul

by Mark Lafler time to read: 3 min