I’ve already put a post up with some suggested resources on Jesus and the land he lived in. I thought it would be fitting to offer some suggestions on Paul as well. Its kind of interesting to track who uses what scripture in their ministry. For instance more traditional churches spend a great deal of their preaching/teaching time in Paul, whereas a lot of the younger hipper churches spend the majority of their time in topical studies or in the gospels.
I’m not sure why this is the case other than the fact that there’s an anti-institutional spirit in our time that thinks the older, less structured a thing is the more “authentic” and “genuine” it is. But the reality is that sometimes structure and form come because of growth. For instance none of us would want to use the ancient roman roads for our everyday travel (pictured above).
Paul is in many ways the blossoming of Jesus ministry and mission, and his letters are invaluable for our understanding of the growth of the Christian faith. After all he was the one who spread the faith across the metropolises of the ancient world and set the tone for the growth and expanse of the Christian faith felt even today.
So here are a few resources to help you wrap your head and heart around the man and the cities he loved:
Introducing Paul: The man, his mission, and his mission. by Michael Bird. Its hard to pick just one overview of Paul but if I had to pick one I’d pick Bird’s. I have found his scholarly essays on Paul to be very level headed which is saying a lot in todays politically charged climate among biblical scholars. Bird will help you see Paul, his social setting, and the struggles each of us has as we try and come to grips with the mans message. Most of all Bird will help you appreciate how difficult and encompassing a task it was for Paul to re-read the old testament story he had come to love in light of the death and resurrection of Christ.
The First Urban Christians: The social world of Paul. by Wayne Meeks. This book opened my eyes to just how developed the world was that Paul ministered to. Many of us assume that the Roman world while more technologically advanced than others before it was still very barbaric. But in fact it was a world bustling with commerce, trade, education, technological advance, and urbanization. A world much of Western society has been modeled from. Meeks will take you into this world and help you understand what it was like to be a new Christian in this world.