A Comprehensive, Accessible Resource on Paul

I was pleased recently to get a copy of Lars Kierspel’s book Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul. It is one of the newest installments in Kregel’s Kregel Charts of the Bible series.

There are two words that come to mind when evaluating  Kierspel’s book – Comprehensive and Accessible. The book is comprehensive in scope, including 111 different charts. It covers background material on Paul, his life and ministry. It covers the letters Paul wrote, including brief synopses of the letters and technical data within each letter (key words, comparisons between letters with similar themes, etc.). It also covers key theological themes in Paul such as Paul’s writing/views on salvation, women in the ministry, etc. The book also covers contemporary issues in Pauline study such as “New Perspectives” on Paul. One other benefit of the book is the comprehensive nature of its bibliography, including some 31 pages of resources which will provide a wealth of information for further study of Paul.

As for its accessibility, the book could easily be used by those who preach or teach, whether they have a seminary education or not. Most of the places where a Greek word is referenced, the English word is also present (the primary exception to this is the comprehensive list of Hapax Legomena – words occurring only once in the New Testament – which are only listed in Greek).

Some of the features that were most appealing to me were the charts on Paul’s use of Old Testament Quotations and Allusions, and the charts comparing similar themes across Paul’s letters. While you could certainly access this information in other ways, Kierspel’s book saves the reader hours of looking for all of this material and provides it in neat, well-organized charts for easy comparison and review.

The primary weaknesses of the book are simply implications of what this book both is and is not. While the reader may want more depth of content on the particular issue under consideration, this book is not designed for that. It simply gives concise overviews or charts describing the issue at hand, for example, the “New Perspectives.” (Kierspel does suggest 6 different resources for further study on the “New Perspectives” if the reader is inclined to go deeper.) The other weakness, if it is one, is that Kierspel provides the available information on some of the issues without giving his perspective on which approach to the issue is correct. For example, in Chart 177, “Key Texts and Their Interpretations,” Kierspel lists the different ways of understanding these texts (for example, Paul’s instruction regarding women in ministry in 1 Timothy 2:11-15) without giving any indication as to which interpretation he believes is correct.

Overall, I believe anyone that plans to study, preach or teach on Paul’s writings would greatly benefit from this book. It will not serve as the only resource you will need, but it will certainly provide very helpful information as a part of your overall study.

(FTC Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing an unbiased review.)

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