Charles L. Quarles. Illustrated Life of Paul. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2014. 300 pp. $29.99.
Whenever I’m asked the question of who I’d want to talk to first in Heaven besides God, I answer with “Paul.” For me there’s no biblical character more stimulating both intellectually and practically. I love studying Paul’s writings and theology academically. Yet his humility, Christ-orientation, missionary zeal, and courage and joy in the midst of unthinkable persecution and pain constantly drive me to prayer, imploring for these attributes to characterize my own heart and life in an ever-increasing measure.
Paul’s staggering influence on the church is undeniable and is surpassed only by that of the Lord Jesus Himself. He penned thirteen out of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament (comprising approximately one-fourth of the total volume), and an additional sixteen chapters in the book of Acts focus on Paul’s life. Working ever to preach Christ where He was not known and refusing to build on another’s foundation, Paul evangelized much of the known western world during his lifetime. His God-inspired writings went on to influence giants in the history of the faith such as Augustine and Luther, whose effects on the Church are still felt today.
In his latest book, Illustrated Life of Paul, Dr. Charles Quarles (perhaps best known for the New Testament introduction co-written with Andreas Kostenberger and L. Scott Kellum, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown) provides a survey of this amazing man and his incredible story, following “solid evidence in reconstructing Paul’s life without becoming the detached and disinterested historian that was the ideal of modernism” (ix). With over 150 color images including maps and photographs of artwork, artifacts, and modern-day sites, this book helps readers step inside the first century Greco-Roman world of Paul.
As it guides us from Saul’s pre-conversion background to his Damascus Road conversion experience through each of his three major missionary journeys to his final years and ultimate martyrdom, this book does more than just narrate a chronology of the events of Paul’s life. Quarles also provides much insight into the cities that Paul visited, which is vital background for studying Paul’s epistles. He illuminates the background and themes and purposes of the letters as well.
In addition, there are also points at which Quarles gets into Paul’s theology. For example, when describing Paul and Barnabas’s ministry in Antioch in Pisidia, he notes,
The doctrine of justification is an important hallmark of Paul’s message in books like Galatians and Romans. Already at this point in his ministry, teaching on justification was prominent. Justification meant that sinners who believed in Jesus were pronounced righteous by God on the basis of Jesus’s sacrificial death.
Quarles goes on to explicate five essential elements of Paul’s doctrine of justification: 1) no one could be judged righteous by God by the “works of the law”; 2) God freely justifies sinners who believe in Jesus; 3) justification is made possible only through the sacrifice that Jesus offered on the cross; 4) the free gift of justification requires faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ; and 5) justification by faith had been the means of salvation in the Old Testament era (51-53).
The last few pages of the book moved me deeply as Quarles reflects on Paul’s martyrdom, how the church’s loss was Paul’s gain (Phil. 1:21, 23), how his desire had been fulfilled at last, how his faith had finally become sight, how he had fought the good fight. Quarles reminds us that although those who study Paul’s life cannot help but be awed by him, Paul himself would be angered by such accolades because he lived ever to point to and boast in Christ.
Although this book has attempted to help readers better know the mind and heart of the apostle Paul, Paul himself would insist that this is not the point…Know him, Paul would say. Know Him…If knowing Paul stirs a yearning to know the One for whom he suffered, the One whose name he proclaimed, the One for whom he died, then Paul lived and died well
Many thanks to Chris and B&H Academic for providing a free copy in exchange for an unbiased review!
Download the first two chapters for free from the B&H Academic blog.
B&H accidentally sent me two copies of this book, which means that one of you could be the lucky (I mean predestined, what was I thinking) winner of the extra copy! Unfortunately my blog can’t host the fancy giveaway widgets, so you’ll have to work a bit harder. You can enter the following ways: 1) Comment with your favorite Pauline passage/epistle, and tell me why it’s your favorite; 2) Follow me on Twitter; 3) Tweet the giveaway; 4) subscribe to my blog; 5) share the giveaway on Facebook and/or any other form of social media. Each social media share can be a separate entry. If you’re already following on Twitter or the blog, comment saying so for entries.
Here’s the key: for each entry method, leave a separate comment telling me you did it – this will increase your changes of winning. I’ll use a random number generator to select the winning comment.
Open to residents of the US & Canada. Giveaway closes this Friday, June 27 at noon EST, at which time I will select and announce the winner. May Providence be ever in your favor!