Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, “Paul: His Story” and “Paul: A Critical Life”

Just these notes on the latter:  The author is a fan of Paul; he’s critical of Luke’s reliability and Timothy’s performance as a leader.  I read just the beginning and end because I thought that these are the parts of Paul’s life that are not really covered in Scripture.  He sees Paul’s family as originally Galilean and relocated to Tarsus; he believes that the mission to Spain failed because Paul didn’t speak the inhabitants’ language (including Latin).

Notes re the former:  This is a very readable, clear, and enlightening biography.  I’ll note that I didn’t follow, and sometimes didn’t buy, all the theology.  The author, recently deceased, is a Dominican scholar and leading authority on Paul.  Some notes:

  • William Barclay is listed for “Further Reading” (251).
  • Paul reasoned that, since Jesus had superseded the law, Gentiles were an obvious target (e.g., 25).
  • Paul learned what Jesus was really like from those who knew Him, especially Peter (32 et seq.).
  • Antioch was the third most important city in the empire at that time, behind only Rome and Alexandria.
  • The author is sometimes skeptical of Luke/Acts.
  • The Golden Ass is the “best primary source for conditions under which Paul traveled” (49-52, 242 n. 11).
  • Paul had a special affection for Philippi (69).
  • Paul matter-of-factly treated the women in Philippi as full partners (68).
  • Sisyphus was a Corinthian king (!) (83).
  • Priscilla and Aquila made remarkable sacrifices (98 and 197).
  • Interesting discussion in chapter 7 re the struggle for the Galatians with the Judaizers at Antioch, who sent a delegation to challenge Paul’s authority there — and Corinth, Philippi, and Thessalonica.
  • The author views James as “fully committed to a law-observant version of Christianity” (213).
  • He believes some Pauline letters were written by others (236-37).