Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
SBJT 5:3 (Fall 2001) p. 90
Paul and His Letters. By John B. Polhill. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1999, vii + 485 pp., $29.99.
John B. Polhill has provided students of the New Testament with a brilliantly researched and highly readable volume on the life and letters of Christianity’s great apostle. Building on the widely used work of F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, and his own outstanding exegetical commentary on the Book of Acts in the New American Commentary series, Polhill has given us a comprehensive treatment of the Pauline materials. There is no question that this new volume will serve as a standard textbook and resource for years to come.
The author makes clear that he is not writing a “life of Paul.” At the same time, the book is laid out chronologically, following the order of the events and travels of the apostle as they are presented in the Book of Acts. Given the disjunction between Paul and Luke often proposed by contemporary Pauline scholars, Pol-hill’s coherent work is a welcomed contribution to the field of New Testament studies.
Polhill is at his best in the early chapters as he surveys the background material behind the life and thought of the apostle Paul. As a citizen of two cities, the apostle’s background in Tarsus and Rome is ably portrayed. Next the reader is introduced to the significance of Paul the Jew, Paul the Pharisee, and Paul the Persecutor. By correlating the Pauline materials with the Book of Acts, Polhill sketches the events surrounding Paul’s conversion followed by a proposed (rather traditional) chronology. The apostle’s conversion is dated at 32 A.D. and the first missionary journey from 45/46–47/48, with the “silent years” falling in between this period. The second mission is dated from 48–52 and the third mission from 53–57. The Caesarean imprisonment is identified during the years of 57–59, the house arrest in Rome from 60–62, and Paul’s martyrdom prior to 68 (see pp. 78-80).
In dealing with the hotly debated Pauline issues, Polhill adopts a “north Galatian” setting for the Epistle to the Galatians (contra F. F. Bruce’s strong case for south Galatia). Polhill defends the integrity of the Thessalonian letters, dating both early in Paul’s ministry. Contrary to the traditional position of placing Paul in Rome (60–62) for the writing of Philippians, Polhill leans toward an Ephesian imprisonment (52–55). Capably discussing the issues surrounding the Corinthian correspondence, Polhill is especially helpful in dealing with the challenges of 2 Corinthians. He presents Ephesians as a circular letter from the apostle to the churches of Asia Minor. This feature plus the doxological language explain the “non-personal” nature of this...
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