Charts can be one of the greatest study tools. I use Zondervan’s Charts of Church History every year in my 11th grade class, if for no other reason than this: charts give readers a simple view of vast research. There are few ways to condense information as handily. That’s why I have been so glad to see Kregel Academic putting their own books of charts together. I have already reviewed their Charts on the Book of Hebrews here on my blog. While I haven’t had a chance to use it in class yet, I was so impressed with that volume that I have been making plans to do an in-depth teaching on Hebrews come this fall.
As Kregel continues to add to their stellar line up of books, they have also published another volume in their Charts of the Bible series: Lars Kierspel’s Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul. I was particularly excited for this text to arrive. Paul is such an important figure in the development of Church History and Christian Thought that I am always looking for new resources (I have Campbell’s Paul and Union with Christ sitting next to Zondervan’s Four Views on Paul and Zuck’s Teaching as Paul Taught on my book shelf). Kierspel’s work certainly does not disappoint. His research is staggering, and his methodology for putting the information together is commendable. I regularly put together charts for my own students, so I can testify that it is not always easy to decide what goes in and what stays out. Still, Kierspel deftly maneuvers such hurdles and has produced a fine work that any student of Paul should have on their shelf.
The first thing I examined, of course, was his Bibliography. I was looking for N.T. Wright’s name, and was pleased to find a substantial list of his works were used. On top of that, other names found in the back continued to build my confidence in the work: Kostenberger, Carson, Capes, Beale, House and Hays, just to name a few. Of course, no resources list is perfect. I would have liked to see more works from Wright, and the inclusion of Constantine R. Campbell’s recent tome. This exposes probably the only real shortfall of works like this: inevitably they become outdated. Kierspel’s work is nothing to shake one’s head at though, and his research is laudable. My own research pales in comparison to his, so while he may not include everything I would have, I will certainly give him the benefit of the doubt that he knows what he is doing.
The book is divided into four sections: A) Background & Context, B) Life & Ministry, C) Letters and D) Theological Concepts. While all of them are vital, I found Section C to be the most intriguing. Particularly, the charts connecting Paul’s writings to their references was outstanding. Kierspel separates out the different allusions and quotes, breaking them down by Old Testament sources. He even does a bang up job sourcing Paul’s extra-Biblical references to things like II Maccabees or the Wisdom of Solomon. These charts alone gave me much to review, and sent me to my own library to cross reference the material. Since this is what I think a book of charts is really supposed to do, I was thrilled when I realized Kierspel’s work had accomplished that goal.
In the end, I simply cannot recommend this book enough. I think students, both professional and lay, should have this by their side when digging deep into the writings of Paul. It’s simplistic in form and challenging in depth. What more could you ask for?