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Paul: A Critical Life

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Here Jerome Murphy-O'Connor presents a completely new, and much more vivid and dramatic account of the life of Paul than has ever previously been attempted. From his childhood in Tarsus and his years as a student in Jerusalem to the successes and failures of his ministry, this biography has no peer in terms of its detailed reconstructions of Paul's movements and motives. Traditionally, the Acts of the Apostles has provided the framework for the lives of Paul. In recent years, however, the historical value of the Acts has been called into question. Despite the accuracy of many details, they have been linked in ways which reflect the interests of Luke rather than objective reality. Critical assessment is called for if they are to be incorporated into a life of Paul. The prime source for a reconstruction of the Apostle's life must be his own writings. Recent advances in the study of the letters have brought to light new depths which enables them to be used for biographical purposes. The originality of this book lies in the combination of these two approaches, which are reinforced by close attention to the social and cultural aspects of Paul's ministry as revealed by archaeology and contemporary texts-and it transforms a fountain of theological ideas into a human being.
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Table of Contents


Promotional Information

Choice Outstanding Academic Book for 1997

About the Author

Jerome Murphy-O'Connor is Professor of New Testament at the Ecole Biblique et Archeologique Francaise, Jerusalem.


The foundations of many of the central doctrines of Christianity, such as original sin and justification by faith, can be traced to the letters of Paul of Tarsus. While the third-person historical narratives of the book of Acts describe Paul's dramatic conversion from the persecutor of the early followers of Jesus to tireless proselytizer for the Christian faith, his letters intimately reveal the psychological and spiritual complexities of Paul's character. Using historical and literary criticism, Murphy-O'Connor (The Holy Land) draws his account of Paul's life and work primarily from Paul's letters. After an opening section in which he establishes the chronology of Paul's life and ministry, the author then explores Paul's early life and religious training and its contribution to an understanding of his life and work. Murphy-O'Connor devotes the major portion of his study to an exploration of the ways in which Paul's life and theology intersect in his letters. Lucid prose and exhaustive coverage make this biography the standard by which future lives of Paul will be measured. (July)

fascinating reading Financial Times offers many refreshingly new insights Church Times

Murphy-O'Connor, a professor of New Testament studies who teaches in Jerusalem, has written an important scholarly biography of Paul based on an extensive analysis of his letters rather than on Luke's Acts of the Apostles, as is traditionally done. The first chapter of the book, "The Chronological Framework," compares evidence from the Pauline corpus with that of Luke's Acts and extant extrabiblical archaeological evidence, enabling Murphy-O'Connor to postulate a more precisely delimited chronology for Paul's entire life than does Günther Bornkamm's Paul (1971). The remaining 13 chapters, based on information extracted from the authentic Pauline letters, discuss in more detail specific events in Paul's life. One problem with this methodology is that of pure speculation due to the nature of the sources and the occasional lack of confirming extra-biblical evidence. In addition to Paul's biography, Murphy-O'Connor also treats the development in Paul's theological thought. Recommended for academic libraries.‘Pius Murray, Holy Apostles Coll. & Seminary, Cromwell, Ct.

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