Books on the Apostle Paul that are readable, informed by top-notch scholarship and insightful are hard to come by. But Paul: Missionary of Jesus by Paul Barnett is just such a book.
Barnett does a masterful job of assembling a composite picture of Paul the man, the missionary and theologian. The book is animated by Barnett’s interest in demonstrating that Paul was a faithful missionary of Jesus in his ministry to the Gentiles. To make this case Barnett draws together the testimony of Paul’s letters, Acts and
information from Greco-Roman and Second Temple Jewish sources. And he does so in a way that is easy to read not just for scholar, seminary student, or pastor, but for the lay person as well.
Part of what makes this book unique is Barnett’s ability to incorporate the best of scholarship on Paul without overwhelming or boring the non-academic reader. Paul comes alive as a real human being, rather than the rather artificial image that many Christians have of Paul. And at a mere 200 pages, one does not need to commit the next six months to get through it.
My only gripe with the book is that Barnett does not deal with the early church tradition regarding Paul’s release from a first Roman imprisonment for further ministry before being re-arrested in the mid 60s and subsequently being executed. This may have to do with the dearth of sources that make reasonable certainty hard to attain.
In summary, this book deserves wide circulation and will likely become required reading in my New Testament Introduction courses.