What Paul Meant

What Paul Meant

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by Garry Wills
     
 

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“If you think you knew Paul, get ready to have all sorts of cherished preconceptions exhilaratingly stripped away. If you've ever been vaguely curious, there is no finer introduction.” (Los Angeles Times)
 
In his New York Times bestsellers What Jesus Meant and What the Gospels Meant, Garry Wills

Overview

“If you think you knew Paul, get ready to have all sorts of cherished preconceptions exhilaratingly stripped away. If you've ever been vaguely curious, there is no finer introduction.” (Los Angeles Times)
 
In his New York Times bestsellers What Jesus Meant and What the Gospels Meant, Garry Wills offers fresh and incisive readings of Jesus' teachings and the four gospels. Here Wills turns to Paul the Apostle, whose writings have provoked controversy throughout Christian history. Upending many common assumptions, Wills argues eloquently that Paul’s teachings are not opposed to Jesus' message. Rather, the best way to know Jesus is to discover Paul. In this stimulating and masterly analysis, Wills illuminates how Paul, writing on the road and in the heat of the moment, and often in the midst of controversy, galvanized a movement and offers us the best reflection of those early times.
 

Editorial Reviews

Gary Wills
With this bracing book, Wills, who continues to call himself a Catholic, further cements his reputation as one of the most intellectually interesting and doctrinally heterodox Christians writing today. By argument or by implication, he manages to reject the legitimacy and authority not only of the papacy and the rest of the Catholic hierarchy but also of the early church councils, the church fathers and even, in many instances, the Gospels themselves. In their place he substitutes spontaneous devotion to God and neighbor — and commitment to the politically subversive view that “love is the only law.” So much for Christianity necessarily serving as a handmaiden of conservative politics.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Wills builds on the popularity of his bestseller What Jesus Meantin this audio version of his newest book. The apostle Paul's teachings have caused controversy almost from the minute he penned the letters to the first-century churches he helped found. His influence on church history and doctrine is incontrovertible, but his words have often provoked anger and dissension. Wills, who writes from the Catholic tradition, carefully reveals Paul's meaning by taking listeners back to the teaching of Jesus Christ to prove that Paul's words didn't contradict, but in fact explain and expound on Christ's. Wills's precise diction and preacherlike narration add to the listening experience. He sometimes moves too quickly between chapters and sections—listeners need a bit more time to adjust—and he occasionally reads quickly as well. But haste aside, listeners can't help appreciating Wills's voice, his scholarship and his conclusions. Simultaneous release with the Viking hardcover (Reviews, Sept. 11). (Dec.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal
Pulitzer Prize winner Wills (history, emeritus, Northwestern Univ.; Lincoln at Gettysburg) is a popular Catholic observer of religion. In What Jesus Meant, he ventured to spell out his reading of Christian origins. His new work follows on that book's heels, presenting Apostle Paul as the earliest and most reliable witness to the historical Jesus and his mission and constructing a chronology that views the New Testament Book of Acts as deeply flawed historically. For scholars, there will be few surprises, and the arguments for Wills's positions are too sketchy to be always persuasive. But for the general reader who wants to know what scholars are saying about Paul and early Christianity, the most important themes are highlighted the Jesus Movement's complex place within first-century Judaism; the pitfalls of harmonizing the Acts with Paul's letters; the ways Catholic/Protestant polemics have misread Paul's letter to the Romans and there are newer approaches to Paul's views on women and slavery. Wills hones in on what is at stake in complex arguments, makes the issues clear, and presents a compelling case for reading Paul with historical attentiveness. Recommended for all libraries. Steve Young, McHenry Cty. Coll., Crystal Lake, IL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
Praise for What Paul Meant:
  
“With characteristic clarity and insight, Garry Wills has given us a vital study of the earliest voice in the New Testament.”
Jon Meacham, author of American Gospel
 
“The best description of how the Jesus movement emerged.”
—Andrew M. Greeley, author ofThe Catholic Revolution

“A tour de force revision of what we thought we knew about the apostle who helped give the Christian faith its distinctive shape.”
Slate.com
 
“With this bracing book . . . [Wills] further cements his reputation as one of the most intellectually interesting and doctrinally heterodox Christians writing today.”
The New York Times Book Review
 
“Wills writes more gracefully and economically than scholarly authors in this gem of a book.”
The Boston Globe
 
“A fascinating read, worth examining by anyone with an open mind and an interest in Christianity and its most prolific early voice.”
BookPage
 
“Lucid . . . Wills is not a biblical scholar, but he is a voracious reader and an eloquent writer who makes judicious use of the best recent scholarship.”
The Washington Post

“Everybody should be as lucky as St. Paul. Not only did he have a transformative spiritual experience and become a founder of one of the world’s greatest religions, but two thousand years later he has Garry Wills to explain, interpret and defend him. . . . One could hardly wish for a more capable advocate than Wills.”
Chicago Tribune
 
“A bracing book of spiritual commentary [by] one of this country’s leading public intellectuals and American Catholicism’s most formidable lay scholar.”
Los Angeles Times
 

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781440621048
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/25/2007
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
579,321
File size:
209 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
Praise for What Paul Meant:
  
“With characteristic clarity and insight, Garry Wills has given us a vital study of the earliest voice in the New Testament.”
Jon Meacham, author of American Gospel
 
“The best description of how the Jesus movement emerged.”
—Andrew M. Greeley, author of The Catholic Revolution

“A tour de force revision of what we thought we knew about the apostle who helped give the Christian faith its distinctive shape.”
Slate.com
 
“With this bracing book . . . [Wills] further cements his reputation as one of the most intellectually interesting and doctrinally heterodox Christians writing today.”
The New York Times Book Review
 
“Wills writes more gracefully and economically than scholarly authors in this gem of a book.”
The Boston Globe
 
“A fascinating read, worth examining by anyone with an open mind and an interest in Christianity and its most prolific early voice.”
BookPage
 
“Lucid . . . Wills is not a biblical scholar, but he is a voracious reader and an eloquent writer who makes judicious use of the best recent scholarship.”
The Washington Post

“Everybody should be as lucky as St. Paul. Not only did he have a transformative spiritual experience and become a founder of one of the world’s greatest religions, but two thousand years later he has Garry Wills to explain, interpret and defend him. . . . One could hardly wish for a more capable advocate than Wills.”
Chicago Tribune
 
“A bracing book of spiritual commentary [by] one of this country’s leading public intellectuals and American Catholicism’s most formidable lay scholar.”
Los Angeles Times
 

Meet the Author

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.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
May 22, 1934
Place of Birth:
Atlanta, GA
Education:
St. Louis University, B.A., 1957; Xavier University, M.A., 1958; Yale University, Ph.D., 1961

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What Paul Meant 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
YoyoMitch More than 1 year ago
The Apostle Paul has been named as one of the 10 most influential thinkers of history. His writings have survived 2000 years of scrutiny, multiple interpretations and have influenced the leaders of reformations of the Church (Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, to name but three). These same writings have been used to support: Slavery, Male domination, misongyny, anti-Semitism, absurd dress codes and a host of ludicrous issues that he had no idea of given the culture and context of the age when he was penning majority of the Biblical New Testament. (Dr. Willis indicates, and supports, there being only seven letters in the New Testament which are authentically Pauline in origin.) It is because of these misleading interpretations that this Student had arrived at a place of distaste for this Saintly, early church leader. Actually, it was an idea that this small, but powerful, book would support his disdain (and it was in the sale bin at one of my dealer's) that this uneducated pupil purchased this book. I was wrong about the purpose of the book and am a better: Christ-follower, Biblically educated and have a renewed friendship with Paul after reading this volume. Dr. Willis has a Curriculum Vitae that is astounding (Ph.D. in the classics, Greek Professor at Johns Hopkins, Professor of History Emeritus at Northwestern University) but his passion and respect for the scripture is what gives this book about the Apostle Paul its authenticity. Dr. Willis has no agenda in writing this work beyond seeking to clarify what the title indicates, what did Paul mean in his writings? For those of us who have had the opportunity to formally study religion, it is doubtful we had anyone as qualified or as well researched into Paul's writings as is Dr. Willis. He reminds (or instructs) the reader that Paul's writings are dated the earliest in the New Testament and are therefore to be seen as having a large influence over the other writings contained therein. He uses the nine chapters to address the different issues causing the most confusion in the reading of Paul's writings. The most astounding for me was the discussion Dr. Willis has of the ongoing conflict Paul had with the early church leaders in Jerusalem and the contradiction Luke's account of Paul's life and activities had from Paul's account of his life and actions. This is a book filled with Scripture. Having been written by a Greek Professor, one can expect the interpretation of the various New Testament passages to be commonly unfamiliar. Dr. Willis changes nothing about what the scripture says, he only translates the Greek more closely to what was probably said. He is respectful to the Scripture, as reflected in his frequent references thereto and in the passion with which he "allows" Paul to speak. He understands Paul as an "emissary" of "the revelation (that God has arrived to redeem all humanity)" and all of his writings were directed toward getting that message to the entire world. To achieve this goal, he was called upon to address the conflicts present in those gatherings around the known world of which he was involved. After reading this book, I found the comfort of knowing that Church people have been fighting each other since approximately day one of the second month after the Ascension. This book confirmed for me, yet again, of the need for me to "let the Scripture say what it says, not what I want (or have been necessarily taught) it to say.
Guest More than 1 year ago
How's this? Paul was the first of the writers, not the Gospels, but Paul himself. He didn't borrow from the Gospels because they weren't written yet and his accounts are the closest we have to Jesus's life of all the material in the New Testament. Wills takes the seven books that are definitely written by Paul and analyzes what Paul meant. The book is fascinating and anyone with an interest in New Testament history and theology will enjoy reading it. Frank Scoblete: author of Golden Touch Dice Control Revolution! and Golden Touch Blackjack Revolution!
neiatze More than 1 year ago
This author told me things about the apostle Paul that I had never noticed before. Most books I've read about Paul portray him in a negative light, but Garry Wills will let you see Paul in a light comparable to how Luke portrays Jesus. Paul, in What Paul Meant, is seen as a friend and spokesperson for Jesus.
CCD-dave More than 1 year ago
Mr Willis sheds much needed light on St. Paul. In reading this book you will learn much about Paul the person. Why he was what he was. And some of the "mystery" about Paul is explained to better understand him. And Paul' teachings are given historical background and explanation to allow us to grasp a better understand of Paul. Anyone who wants to better understand Paul needs to read this book. It is written for everyone, Catholics and Protestants.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't recommend this book for those whose faith is easily threatened. I considered it an interesting read. I don't know that there was necessarily any cutting edge analysis, but it was a thoughtful review of Paul's letters and the context in which he wrote them. Other than Jesus himself, Paul is arguably the most influential Christian theologist. While the desciples focused efforts among Jews, Paul evangelized Christ's message to the Gentiles. But, he may very well be the most misunderstood. Accused of misogynism and homophobia among other prejudices, the collection of Pauline letters has been used to defend some questionable positions. But, accepting the first Pauline letters as the authentic letters, one can begin to isolate Paul's core message and interpret it in the context of the time. I recommend this book for those who are open to alternative perspectives and interpretations of Paul's theology.
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Christian_Catholic More than 1 year ago
Yes, according to the NYT review, I quote "By argument or by implication, he manages to reject the legitimacy and authority not only of the papacy and the rest of the Catholic hierarchy but also of the early church councils, the church fathers and even, in many instances, the Gospels themselves." So not only has Mr. Wills rejected the Gospels (hence the Words of Christ Himself) and the early church fathers who actually learned and were ordained, by the Apostles themselves, to supposedly bring us the true meaning of the teachings of Jesus. I guess we now have a new messiah in Mr. Wills since we do not need to actually know what Jesus himself said/did or His appointed successors taught. We have Mr. Wills to thank for reaching back in time and telling us what Jesus really meant. I have some ocean front property right in the heart of Oklahoma for sale too. Cheap and if you buy now, I'll throw in the Brooklyn Bridge. Wake up people! Snake oil salesman alert. He tickles your ears and tells you what you want to hear. That's not what Christ came to do nor what He Himself said He would do. Try reading the Bible for yourself with a good commentary (I'd recommend the Navarre Bible Commentary if you truly want to know what the texts mean). This stuff is only good for filling in when you are out of TP.
sheep More than 1 year ago
Wills, for all his good points and they are formitable, joins the growing body of persons who are eager to tell us that Paul doesn't mean what he says. (Why do these folks instantly discount that "Paul's gospel" was delivered to him personally by the Son of God.) This is more than can be said for this yarn spinning by so many so popular in the 21st century.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a Christian, I wouldn't recommend this book. It is to confusing and it makes the bible look like a big fat lie. I was so offended by this book that I couldn't read the entire thing. I choose to believe that Luke was not lying about his accounts of Paul but was stating what he perceived. It could be the enemy keeping me from finishing this book but unless God tells me to continue, I will not. As a matter of fact, I'm throwing it away.