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What Paul Meant (Thorndike Press Large Print Inspirational Series) [Hardcover]

By Garry Wills (Author)
Our Price $ 26.31  
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Item Number 96401  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   245
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.6" Width: 5.6" Height: 0.8"
Weight:   0.9 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Jul 31, 2007
Publisher   Thorndike Press
ISBN  0786290099  
EAN  9780786290093  

Availability  0 units.

Alternate Formats List Price Our Price Item Number Availability
Hardcover (Large Print) $ 30.95 $ 26.31 96401
Paperback $ 15.00 $ 12.75 66088 In Stock
Item Description...
A brilliant synthesis of the Apostle Paul's thought and influence, written by a "foremost Catholic intellectual" (Chicago Tribune)

All through history, Christians have debated Paul's influence on the church. Though revered, Paul has also been a stone on which many stumble. Apocryphal writings by Peter and James charge Paul, in the second century, with being a tool of Satan. In later centuries Paul became a target of ridicule for writers such as Thomas Jefferson ("the first corruptor "), George Bernard Shaw ("a monstrous imposition"), and Nietzsche ("the Dysangelist"). However, as Garry Wills argues eloquently in this masterly analysis, what Paul meant was not something contrary to what Jesus meant. Rather, the best way to know Jesus is to discover Paul. Unlike the Gospel writers, who carefully shaped their narratives many decades after Jesus' life, Paul wrote in the heat of the moment, managing controversy, and sometimes contradicting himself, but at the same time offering the best reflection of those early times.

What Paul Meant is a stellar interpretation of Paul's writing, examining his tremendous influence on the first explosion of Christian belief and chronicling the controversy surrounding Paul through the centuries. Wills's many readers and those interested in the Christian tradition will warmly welcome this penetrating discussion of perhaps the most fascinating church father.

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More About Garry Wills

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Garry Wills is one of the most respected writers on religion today. He is the author of Saint Augustine s Childhood, Saint Augustine s Memory, and Saint Augustine s Sin, the first three volumes in this series, as well as the Penguin Lives biography Saint Augustine. His other books include Negro President: Jefferson and the Slave Power, Why I Am a Catholic, Papal Sin, and Lincoln at Gettysburg, which won the Pulitzer Prize."

Garry Wills was born in 1934 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Northwestern University.

Garry Wills has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Anthony Hecht Lectures in the Humanities
  2. Emblems of Antiquity
  3. Lives of Great Religious Books
  4. Penguin Classics
  5. Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions
  6. Penguin Lives Biographies
  7. Simon & Schuster Lincoln Library

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
What Paul Meant  May 3, 2008
Review of: "What Paul Meant"

By: Garry Wills

Paul was the first letter writer of Christianity.

His epistles are considered the most pessimistic writings of the early church.

Despite the pessimism of Paul's epistles, he guided the early church and aided the growth of the early church. The author, Garry Wills, calls the growth of the early church an explosion of belief. He says of Paul: "Paul was part of this explosion of belief." Garry Wills says that Nietzsche called Paul the "dysangelist" or the bad news bearer, and "a man with a genius for hatred." This is in contrast to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the "evangelists" or the good news bearers.

The author asks the question: "how much of this notoriety is deserved?" His answer: "very little."

This book uses seven of Paul's letters: "Letter to the Thessalonians", "Letter to the Galatians", "Letter to the Philippians", "Letter to Philemon", "First Letter to the Corinthians", "Second Letter to the Corinthians" and "Letter to the Romans." These are the letters whose authorship is not disputed.

Author Wills shows that Paul echoed and amplified the message of love spoken by Jesus. Paul had the same message of love as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John when he reports on the teaching of Jesus.

This book also gives details of the life of Paul and of the history of early Christianity.

See Also:

What the Gospels Meant


What Jesus Meant

This book is a very good amplification of the meaning of Paul's letters. It is clear and easy to understand and the reasoning is very sound.

I recommend "What Paul Meant" as a supplemental guide when reading the New Testament or as a stand alone text.

Part of a compelling series  May 2, 2008
I've now read all three of Wills' books in this series. He provides a very insightful analysis of the actual language of the New Testament in context, in sharp contrast to many commentators who pick and choose passages to suit their doctrinal perspectives. In this one, Wills is obviously an advocate intent on redeeming Paul in the face of historical criticism, which Wills readily acknowledges, but he makes it clear where he's making an argument and where he's making an objective observation. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of his translations from the Greek, but they pick up nuances that other translators have described in commentary or have expressed themselves in their own translations. I think this is essential reading for anyone interested in a close reading of the New Testament texts.
All you need is love  Apr 12, 2008
As the title makes clear, this book seeks to uncover what Paul really intended, stripping away subsequent interpretations and misinterpretations. Wills' first task is to clarify what Paul did not mean. Not surprisingly for a first-century Jew, Paul was not anti-semitic. He did not hate women - - or anybody else, according to Wills. The argument here often rests on pure assertion that nobody thinks that Paul really wrote Titus, 2 Thessalonians, or the two Timothy letters. Readers unfamiliar with historical-critical scholarship may be a little surprised by such assertions without argumentation, though Wills is right about the scholarly consensus.

The more difficult task in this book is the positive one: what did Paul mean? Wills lays this out at a very high level of abstraction. He does not read verses or passages closely, and for the most part does not even discuss individual books (letters) as a coherent whole. Instead, he prefers to treat Paul's entire body of work, often leaping from one epistle to another. If you read Biblical texts closely, I suspect you'll be frustrated.

This approach is also a bit disingenuous, given Wills' (reasonable) criticisms of other interpretations. Paul's letters were written in widely scattered times and places, in response to different problems and circumstances. Wills knows all this, but lumping everything together tends to obscure the differences. It also lets Wills cherry pick his evidence more effectively than would a close reading of, say, Romans. (Incidentally, Wills has an interesting reading of Romans that any Protestant familiar with Luther will find challenging.)

Wills' core assumption is that we have to immerse ourselves in Paul's world to understand him. To help us do this, he uses non-standard translations of many key words - - "messiah" for "Christ" (khristos), "gathering" for "church" (ekklesia), "revelation" for "gospel" (euangelion), and so on. This can be jarring in familiar passages but Wills certainly has the right idea here. The Roman Mediterranean did not have a growing "Christian" church but an increasing Christian tendency within a minority Jewish diaspora scattered from a Jewish homeland.

In this environment, love for God and love for one another were central - - divisions among the Brothers over circumcision or dietary laws weakened the followers of Christ and created conflicts with the larger Jewish community. These conflicts weakened both Christian and non-Christian Jews in the wider Roman world. Following one's own heart while respecting others doing the same lies at the core of Paul's message as Wills sees it. It's not a bad lesson for the contemporary world.
A clean read  Feb 22, 2008
Wills doesn't go on and on and he cuts through the mire of modern translation to get on with it in simple, rough-cut Greek. This book is fast and punchy and leaves readers looking for more, rather than leaving them stumped and swamped. Readers can come away with a crisp picture of Paul and the experiences of the early gatherings in Messiah. He raises good and tough questions that others like to skip. A must read for those who want to know more, probably not so good for those who think they know everything.
In Clear and Simple Prose, Clears Up Popular Misunderstandings of Paul  Jan 5, 2008
Garry Wills' "What Paul Meant" is a short, simply-phrased, easy-to-read snapshot of early Christianity as seen through the career of the Apostle Paul and as uncovered by the best, most recent scholarship. Wills received his PhD in the classics and taught Greek. He offers his own, enlightening translations of key terms in Paul's letters.

For this reader, "What Paul Meant" was not a gripping book. To be honest, I found parts a bit boring. As will be the case with many readers who have read other books about early Christianity, or even just the marginal notes in their Bibles, I was already aware of much of the material here. Sometimes reading a book that restates facts the reader already knows can be a riveting experience, because of the author's style or organization, or some new, larger paradigm the facts serve. That isn't the case, here. Even so, given the clarity of Wills' prose, and the importance of the ideas he presents, the book deserves a relatively high rating.

In short chapters, Wills covers the following points: Paul's unearned reputation as a bad guy who distorted Jesus' teachings of love; Paul's relationship to Jesus; Paul's conversion experience; Paul and Peter; Paul and Women; Paul and conflict among early Christians; Paul and Jews, and, by extension, Paul and anti-Semitism; Paul and Jerusalem and Paul and Rome.

In an appendix, Wills offers notes on his translations of key terms. Where other translators have Paul saying "Christians," Wills uses "brothers;" in place of "Christ," "Messiah;" where others use "church," Wills uses "gathering;" etc. These translations are not arbitrary or minor. Wills argues that Paul, like Jesus, was a Jew, not a "Christian," and that Paul and Jesus both "opposed religion" (175).

In the "Paul and Women" chapter, Wills writes, "Paul believed in women's basic equality with men" (89) and cites Galatians 3:26-28. Wills writes of Paul's colleagues, prominent women in the early church, including Junia, Prisca, Chloe and Phoebe. Wills mentions how the later church, surrendering to a worldly, and un-Christian, misogyny, wrote Junia out of history, dubbing her "Junias," an invented male version of her name (92). Wills cites Paul's directive, found in 1 Corinthians, on how women should prophecy, and the contradictory directive, also in 1 Corinthians, that women should not prophecy. As do many scholars (and as do the marginal notes in the canonical Catholic New American Bible), Wills points out that it is likely that this contradictory passage was inserted by someone other than Paul, after the fact, in order to bolster encroaching, and un-Christian, misogyny. Again, if you've kept up with scholarship on early Christianity, nothing in this chapter will be new to you.

In response to the charge that Paul is the "father of Christian anti-Semitism" (125), Wills emphasizes what should be obvious: Paul was a Jew, writing from his own thorough grounding in Jewish tradition: "There is no more Semitic a Semite than Paul" (129). To Paul, Jesus was the promised Jewish Messiah. Paul denies that "the Jews" killed Jesus (125) and rejects the idea that Jews have lost God's blessing (126). Wills rejects the notion that Jews must convert before the end of the world (137) and says it is not what Paul says.

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