Documents and Images for the Study of Paul (REVIEW)

When I got back from SBL, I was pleased to find this gem in my mailbox.

From Fortress Press, Documents and Images for the Study of Paul, edited by Mark Reasoner and Neil Elliott, is an excellent “backgrounds” and “sourcebook” for students of Paul. It was inspired by Cartlidge and Dungan’s Documents for the Study of the Gospels (a resource I just happen to have purchased at SBL!).

It is made up of 6 chapters that focus on various aspects of Pauline studies

1. Paul’s Self-Presentation – this covers the Pauline persona and identity, showing comparisons with Israelite prophets and Greco-Roman philosophers. It also deals with ancient views of “manual labor” and “weakness.”

2. Paul’s Gospels and Letters – here you will find all kinds of primary-source information on types of letters and key themes such as “The Word of the Cross” and “This Present Evil Age.”

3. The Gospel of Augustus – here you have an overview of Roman imperial ideology.

4. Paul’s People Israel – many important texts from Philo, Josephus, and some Rabbinic texts. There is lots of good stuff here that deals with the “New Perspective on Paul” – such as an explanation and excerpt from 4QMMT.

5. The Communities around Paul – looking at how Paul viewed his churches and how they should organize themselves, the quotes and sources that are focused on deal with purity/impurity and social order and organization.

6. Paul’s Legacy – The early reception history of Paul, especially NT apocryphal texts (extracts).

IMAGES – pictures are, as the title suggests, scattered throughout the book. Overall, they enhance the book as a teaching tool and bring some of the stories and texts to life through papyri fragments, coins, statues, frescoes, and other elements of material culture. Unfortunately, many of the pictures are dark and small (black & white only), making them less practical for the classroom.

END OF CHAPTER RESOURCES: At the end of each chapter, there are “Questions for Reflection,” which could be useful, but I don’t think will be utilized much. Better yet are the “Suggestions for Further Reading”. For example, in the chapter on Paul’s Israel, we find entries on 2nd Temple Judaism and Paul and the law by Feldman, Nickelsburg, Sanders, Schiffman, Stone, and Vermes; also Barclay, Boyarin, Gaston, Nanos, Tomson, and Westerholm. Bibliographies are quite up-to-date with an entries from 2009 and some from 2010. Annotations on bibliographies are rare, but not completely absent.



UNIQUENESS: 4.8/5 A great idea and a good implementation.

UTILITY: 4.5/5 Great for teaching prep and lots of useful examples of ancient-world attitudes and controversies.

ORGANIZATION: 3.5/5 Some of the topics covered in a chapter were peculiar to me and not as intuitive as I would have liked. There is a Scripture index in the back, which can be helpful. One wonders, in the end, how they decided which “parallels” or illuminating examples to leave in and leave out – the list could be endless…

OVERALL: 4.5/5 If you teach on Paul, this is a must-have! I have always advocated using Boring’s Hellenistic Commentary and the Dictionary of New Testament Background. These kinds of resources are extremely helpful for students.

Check it out!