Author: N.T. Wright
Publisher: Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Mich., 1997, 192 pp., $17 paper; 800-253-7521
Was St. Paul the "real" founder of Christianity? Was the gospel he preached about Christ so different from the message Jesus himself had preached that we have to view the Christian religion of today as Paul's invention?
Most Christians would find such a notion to be puzzling as well as false. Nevertheless, some modern biblical scholars have made precisely that claim, and it's commonly heard in university religion classrooms.
As author N.T. Wright notes, "Some people still regard Paul as a pestilent and dangerous fellow." They dislike certain aspects of his teaching or personality, so they try to place the apostle in opposition to Jesus, insisting that Paul failed to understand what Christ was all about. In doing so, they usually try to remake Jesus in their own image, offering their own version of the "real" gospel of Jesus as an alternative to that of St. Paul.
As an Anglican bishop who has taught New Testament at Cambridge, Oxford and McGill Universities, Wright has "lived with St. Paul as a more or less constant companion for more than 20 years." Beginning with his doctoral dissertation, he has scrutinized the apostle's life and work carefully, as well as the vast amount of Pauline scholarship produced in modern times.
Through a close reading of biblical texts, Wright brilliantly defends the Church's ancient, unwavering conviction: St. Paul was not "founding a separate religion ... a new ethical system ... a new mystery religion divorced from the real, human Jesus of Nazareth. He was calling the world to allegiance to its rightful Lord." The apostle was, as he claimed to be, a faithful witness to Jesus Christ.
Author: St. Thomas Aquinas; Fabian Larcher, O.P., trans.
Publisher: Sapientia Press, Naples, Fla., 2006, 118 pp., $12.95 paper; 888-343-8607
St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274) was one of the most brilliant of Catholic thinkers, whose theological and philosophical works remain widely studied after nearly eight centuries. Nevertheless, his scriptural commentaries have largely been neglected.
This insightful commentary reflects Aquinas' gifts as a biblical exegete and sheds light on one of St. Paul's richest epistles, the Letter to the Colossians. The apostle's teachings here are critical for understanding such matters as the nature of Christ and His relationship to the Church; what it means to live in Christ; how Christian families should live together; and the importance of prayer.
Author: Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J.
Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2008, 95 pp., $8.95 paper; 800-348-2440
What did St. Paul have to say about the sacraments? What can he teach us about these "efficacious signs" that bring God's grace to us?
Here's a short, easy-to-read Bible study guide for Catholics who want to explore the apostle's sacramental theology.
The author, Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J., is senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and a popular scriptural commentator.
He begins with a brief introduction to St. Paul's life, followed by a strategy for six study sessions, each one focused on one of the sacraments (anointing of the sick is not addressed).
Each session includes an overview of the relevant biblical texts, a place to make notes on each passage, key insights for study, and questions for discussion and application.
The guide concludes with a plan for reading through all St. Paul's letters in 98 days, plus the passages in the Book of Acts dealing with his life in another 36 days.
Author: Scott Hahn, Ph.D.
Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2008, 96 pp. $6.95 paper; 800-348-2440
"Trying to write 'A Pocket Guide to St. Paul,'" admits best-selling author Scott Hahn, "is more than a little like writing 'A Pocket Guide to Nuclear Physics,' or 'A Pocket Guide to Neurosurgery.'"
Nevertheless, the founder and president of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology has managed to do just that. The result is probably the best short introduction to the apostle you'll find anywhere.
The guide begins with a look at sources of information for St. Paul's life. Next follow brief chapters about his life, his thought, his biblical writings and his relationship to us today.
The book includes a section for "Quick Reference" to Catholic doctrines and practices in St. Paul's life and works. "The Quotable St. Paul" provides a treasury of his memorable sayings.
Two final chapters offer a collection of prayers to the saint and suggestions for further reading.
Hahn's guide is informed by extensive scholarship yet accessible to everyday Catholics -- perfect as an introduction to Paul or a quick refresher course.
Director/ program host: Stephen Ray
Distributor: Ignatius, San Francisco, Calif., 2007, 90-minute DVD, $24.95; 800-651-1531
In this fun, fact-filled educational DVD, best-selling author and Bible teacher Stephen Ray takes us on a great adventure through the places associated with the life of St. Paul, including Israel, Syria, Turkey, Greece and Italy.
Filming on location, Ray tells the compelling story of the great apostle's life and ministry, from zealous Jewish Pharisee to startled Christian convert to tireless missionary and martyr. Another fine audiovisual production in the Footprints of God series.
Author: Paul Thigpen
Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, Ind., 2008, 96 pp., $7.95 paper; 800-348-2440
To pray the Rosary with St. Paul might seem at first a puzzling notion. The apostle could not possibly have prayed the Rosary during his life on earth. The custom as we know it today developed a thousand years or more after his time.
Then, too, this particular kind of prayer is a supremely Marian form of devotion. Yet St. Paul had very little to say about Jesus' mother in those of his letters that became part of Scripture -- in fact, only a single, general reference in Galatians 4:4-5.
Nevertheless, this book's author insists we have good reason to pray the Rosary, with all its Marian prayers and meditations, in the light of Paul's words, especially in this special Year of St. Paul.
Mary was the first Christian, the model for all the rest. In her immaculate heart, her obedience to God, her devotion to her Son, and her heavenly destiny, we catch a vision of our own vocation to holiness.
Since the apostle has a great deal to teach us about all these aspects of the Christian life, it makes sense to ponder the Rosary's mysteries alongside his writings.
For each of the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries, this book provides a relevant passage from St. Paul's writings, notes a spiritual fruit of meditation on that particular mystery, and offers a reflection about how to apply the apostle's wisdom to our understanding of the mystery and its fruit.
The result is a compact guide for those who pray the Rosary to hasten on their journey to Jesus through Mary with the help of St. Paul.
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