|Title:||Paul: The Mind of the Apostle|
|Authors:||A. N. Wilson|
|Publisher:||W. W. Norton & Company|
|Edition:||1st American Ed|
|Number of pages:||288|
"Wilson . . . does a tremendous job here of not only examining all that is known about Paul's life but also putting it into context with what was happening throughout the Roman Empire. As always, Wilson's insights fascinate and provoke."—BooklistIt begins on the road to Damascus, in a moment graven on the consciousness of Western civilization. "Saul, Saul," asks the crucified Jesus of Nazareth, "why persecutest thou me?"
From this experience, and from the response of the Jewish merchant later known as Paul, springs the Christian Church as we know it today. For as A. N. Wilson makes clear in this astonishing and gripping narrative, Christianity without Paul is quite literally nothing. Jesus, with the layers of scholarship and ceremony stripped away, is a fastidious and fervent Jew who will lead his followers into a stricter, purer observance of Judaism; it is Paul who will claim divinity for him, who will transform him into the Messiah, center of an entirely new religion.
In Wilson's astute narrative, we see Paul negotiating the dangerous political currents of the Roman Empire, making converts, and writing the great epistles that define our understanding of Christ and of the sublime paradoxes of his teaching. What drove Paul? What would he think of what his church has become? The answers lie in Wilson's extraordinary biography, which lays bare the psychological journey of Christianity's true inventor.
A.N. Wilson, who has written revisionist biographies of Jesus, Tolstoy, and C.S. Lewis, trains his critical eye on the first self-identified Christian writer in Paul: The Mind of the Apostle. Wilson's book may purport to be a biography of Paul, but it is really an argument about the origin and nature of Christianity. His premise is that "Jesus was a devoted Jew who did not seek to found a new religion, but to call his followers to a stricter observance of Judaism." It was Paul, not Jesus, who exemplified the central tensions of Christianity. ("Jewish or non-Jewish? Roman or anti-Roman? Apocalyptic or practical?") And according to Wilson, it was Paul who first claimed Jesus' divinity and called Jesus the messiah. Wilson's argument, though heterodox, is no hatchet-job. Paul may be "widely regarded as someone who distorted the original message of Christianity, by adding 'theology' to the supposedly simple message of love Jesus preached," but Wilson sees Paul as "a prophet of liberty, whose visionary sense of the importance of the inner life anticipates the Romantic poets more than the rule-books of the Inquisition." Wilson concludes that Christianity is "an institutionalised distortion of Paul's thought, the inevitable consequence of the world having lasted ... more than nineteen hundred years longer than he predicted." Wilson's prose is just this lively and provocative throughout, and his observations are always skeptical and forgiving: "Paul did not imagine that there would be such a thing as Christianity, or Christian civilization, any more than Jesus did." --Michael Joseph Gross