The Gospel According to Paul: The Creative Genius Who Brought Jesus to the World

The Gospel According to Paul: The Creative Genius Who Brought Jesus to the World

by Robin Griffith-Jones
     
 

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In this compelling portrait of Paul the man, his message, and his world, Robin Griffith-Jones reveals the apostle as a brilliantly entrepreneurial witness to the transforming presence of Jesus himself. This groundbreaking book unlocks Paul's letters, revealing their purpose and power as never before.

Overview

In this compelling portrait of Paul the man, his message, and his world, Robin Griffith-Jones reveals the apostle as a brilliantly entrepreneurial witness to the transforming presence of Jesus himself. This groundbreaking book unlocks Paul's letters, revealing their purpose and power as never before.

Editorial Reviews

Doctor - Frances Flannery-Dailey
"One of the sharpest and most provocative readings of Paul that I have ever encountered."
Huston Smith
“This is the most helpful book on Paul I have ever read. I am deeply indebted to its author.”
Dr. Frances Flannery-Dailey
“One of the sharpest and most provocative readings of Paul that I have ever encountered.”
BookPage
“Entertaining and enlightening ... sheds important light on the man and his times.”
Publishers Weekly
Famous for his controversial teachings on the role of women in the church, his views on homosexuality and his harsh words for the Jews, Paul of Tarsus remains a bit of an enigma for modern Christians. Converted on the road to Damascus while on his way to persecute Christians, Paul became the most faithful follower of the risen Jesus and the most vigorous proselytizer of non-Christians. In a rather workmanlike and repetitious spiritual psychobiography of the Apostle, Griffith-Jones searches for the reasons for Paul's mission and the explanations for his teachings. As he argues over and over again, Paul was a seer, much like Isaiah, Ezekiel and Enoch. Paul famously experienced an apocalyptic moment of insight when he was taken up into "the third heaven," as recounted in 2 Cor. 12:2. This experience, according to Griffith-Jones, became the filter through which Paul understood his entire life and work. For Griffith-Jones, Paul "re-presents" the Anointed (Jesus) and his glory, and thus the members of Paul's churches were transformed by the Anointed's re-presentation in Paul. Griffith-Jones's writing can at times be convoluted ("The re-presentation of Jesus, the life of heaven and the transformation of converts within the course of the letter itself" is one verbless and opaque complete sentence). His tendency to shift between present and past tense and his unremarkable insights about Paul combine for a tedious exercise in spiritual biography. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The significance of Paul in the early Church's theological reflections on the meaning of Jesus of Nazareth has become a prominent area of study in recent New Testament scholarship. In this impressionistic study, Griffith-Jones (Master of the Temple Church, London) examines Paul's contribution to the development of early Christian Christological thought by placing Paul in his ancient historical, religious, and intellectual milieu. Unlike other commentators on Paul, who primarily seek to elucidate the theological content of the Pauline letters, Griffith-Jones considers Paul's theological thought as an integral part of the primitive Church's deepening understanding of the meaning of Jesus's death and resurrection, with its concomitant influence on the early Church's proclamation of the Gospel. The author examines the influence of various strains of ancient literature and thought on Pauline ideas, then interprets the theological message of the seven authentic Pauline letters in light of Paul's intellectual background. The final chapter shows how Paul's broad eclectic intellectual formation made him uniquely able to preach the Gospel of Jesus. The meditative, devotional writing style is easy to read and obviously aimed at a wide general audience. Recommended for popular religion collections.-Charlie Murray, White Plains, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060730666
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
02/15/2005
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
544
Sales rank:
705,204
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.36(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Gospel According to Paul
The Creative Genius Who Brought Jesus to the World

Chapter One

"Caught Up to Paradise"

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was invisible and unformed. And darkness was over the deep. And the breath of God was borne above the water. And God said, "Let there be light." And there was light.
The Beginning [Genesis] 1:1–3, Greek Version

"As I was going to Damascus, in the middle of the day on the road I saw from heaven a light shining around me with a brightness greater than the sun's."
The Mission [Acts] 26:12–13

The story of this book does not start with Paul's conversion or with Jesus' death. It opens at the start of all things in The Beginning when God spoke over the chaos on day one of creation and said, "Let there be light." This is not the light of sun or moon, created on the fourth day, but the light with which God dispelled the darkness at the very start of creation with his first word of command. For six days, says the Old Order, God created. And when he came to the sixth day he said, "Let us make man -- adam -- in our image." And in his image he created him (1:26–27). (The Hebrew word adam means "human being"; Hebrew has no capital letters.) Adam was the crown of creation. His heel, said rabbis, outshone the sun; far brighter still was his face. But Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were expelled from Paradise. At this Fall, said the rabbis, Adam lost the glory of God, and only at the last times will he recover it.

But humanity, once created in the likeness of God, did not lose that image at the Fall. This likeness fueled the thought and visions of the prophet and seer Ezekiel. Ezekiel is granted a vision of the chariotthrone of God. He writes cautiously of what he saw. At the heart of a dazzling light he saw the likeness of a throne. Upon this throne he saw the likeness as the appearance of a human being -- or of adam (1:26). God had made humankind in his own image and likeness; conversely, his own image would have the appearance of humankind. Here was the form in which a human, an adam on earth, could know just something of God. This was not a specific, individual person to be recognized as such -- that thought would have been grotesque and tantamount to blasphemy -- but, rather, the assurance that something of God is accessible to human knowledge. For like knows like; and we who are made in the image of God are offered just a glimpse in ourselves -- however sullied and distorted -- of that image in which we are made.

Paul too, centuries later, was a visionary, trained in the ways of the Jewish seers. He himself, he believed, was once taken up to the third heaven, to Paradise. On such a journey a seer would be shown the secrets of heaven; and as he drew nearer to the presence of God, the seer would be transformed into the glory of the inhabitants of heaven.

But the journey is for us less important than the long training that made it possible. This was an intense study of scripture and in particular of the visions recorded by earlier seers. Visions, that is, of the court of heaven and of the one seated on God's own throne who had the likeness as the appearance of adam. Paul journeyed to Paradise years after his conversion. The training, however, that would eventually lead to that journey had already borne fruit on the road to Damascus -- in the vision that changed Paul's life.

Enter the followers of Jesus. They were making grand claims for their leader. This Jesus too had been a seer -- and, as they would have it, far more than a seer. It would be one thing for Jesus to be a human who visited heaven and saw there the glory of God; quite another, to be an inhabitant of heaven who had visited earth to unveil that glory here among us. The first follows the tradition of unveilings familiar for centuries; the second turns that tradition upside down. Jesus' followers were already, before Paul, developing the second claim out of the first. There had been angels enough, in the Old Order, who implemented God's will on earth and represented him. These could offer a template against which to measure Jesus and refine claims made for him. But what status had this Jesus now that he had gone or returned to his heavenly home? Jesus' following was increasingly confident that Jesus' status was far higher than the status of any agent or subordinate. These followers seemed close to seeing in their leader a second, human god. The greater these claims for Jesus became, the more appalled and angry the visionary Paul would be. A seer squares up to the followers of another seer. Their abhorrent error must be fought at every turn.

Unless those followers were right. Unless the seer Paul must abandon every expectation vested in the appearance of adam upon the throne -- and see there the features of a particular individual Adam. Unless, more devastating still, the features were those of the false seer Jesus. Here is the core of the explosion in Paul's thought.

What happened, then, on the road to Damascus, when Paul was struck blind by a dazzling light and heard the voice of Jesus? This was no bolt from the blue. It was the result of many years' work. Intellect and imagination, nurtured and disciplined in the traditions of the seers, bore fruit in a single overwhelming insight. The premises and categories of the ancient traditions inherited by Paul had to be overturned. In defiance of all the conditions that made thinkable any thought of God, Paul was convinced that the one seated on the throne of God in a human likeness -- was Jesus.

The Gospel According to Paul
The Creative Genius Who Brought Jesus to the World
. Copyright © by Robin Griffith-Jones. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are saying about this

Huston Smith
“This is the most helpful book on Paul I have ever read. I am deeply indebted to its author.”

Meet the Author

Robin Griffith-Jones taught New Testament for several years at Oxford University and is currently a visiting lecturer at King's College, London University. He serves in one of the most historic positions in the Anglican Church, that of Master of the Temple in London, the famous church of the Knights Templar (www.templechurch.com). Griffith-Jones is the author of The Four Witnesses (on the four gospels), The Gospel According to Paul, and The Da Vinci Code and the Secrets of the Temple.

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