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Posted June 26, 2003

Book: Paul of Tarsus

Author: T.R. Glover
Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts, pp. 256

Excerpt from Introduction:

“He is certainly one of the great figures in Greek literature.” So say Mr. Gilbert Murry; and whether one judge the great writers by the number of their readers age after age, or of those whose minds they shape and whose lives they guide, whether we measure them by their gift of transcending their disciples and commentators, and suggesting perpetually new avenues of thought and experience to be explored, or whether we apply to them the test not merely of knowing what to say, but how to say it, Paul stands among the greatest of the Greeks. It might surprise him to find himself so placed; they too might be surprised; but who of them, apart from Homer and Plato, has had so wide and so long an influence, who has opened up more of the real world to men, whose words have lived more in the hearts of their readers”

He is no easy author. Homer is simpler, and Plato’s thought is plainer to follow. Paul can be simple and direct, but when he soars, it is into another region of beauty than Plato knew, and with wings uneven. A bilingual man pays for his gifts, and the Semite who thinks in Greek never quite forgets Jerusalem and the speech of Canaan; his genitives accumulate, his threads break, and it is in losing his way that he arrives. In any case, a man who, like the Greek Odysseus, has seen in the spiritual world so many cities of men and learnt their mind, who has wrestled with so many religious vocabularies, will not be easy to follow.

Excerpt from Book:

A Life of Obedience

As characteristic a sentence of Paul as any we have in his own writings or in Luke, is one in his speech to the King and the Roman governor. “Whereupon, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” “When it pleased God . . . to reveal his Son in me that I might preach the good news of him among the Gentiles, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood;” so he writes to the Galatians. A century and a half later, Tertullian describes conversation no less decisive: “Who is not stirred by the contemplation of it [i.e., the death of the martyrs’] “Every man who witnesses this great endurance, is struck with some misgiving and is set on fire to look into it, to find what is its cause; and when he has learnt the truth, he instantly follows it himself as well.” Et ipse statim sequitur. In both cases a martyrdom is a part-cause. To look with open face into the glory of the Lord (i.e., Jesus), as onto a mirror on which the sun is shining, is to be lit up oneself, to be transformed.

Why, we are asked does Damascus mean to him a new vocation? Why does the vision of Jehovah enthroned, high and lifted up, while His glory filled the temple, mean first a new sense of sin to Isaiah, and then a call to go on behalf of God, where God shall send him? Why is Jeremiah, if reluctantly, still irresistibly a prophet? Why has Amos to leave his flock in the South? Why must Buddha share his illumination? The instances might be multiplied to great length. Why can a man see Truth and not be able to leave it alone? “A man who can hold his tongue can hold anything, wrote the wittiest churchman of our day; but in philosophy, and poetry, and religion, to see is to speak. There is no alternative. “If I do this thing against my will, a stewardship is committed to me;” but Paul did not do it against his will, and by now he could act with an undivided will. He instantly realizes what is involved. All that has been pent up in him, all the instincts crushed by his resolve to be a thoroughgoing Pharisee, everything — love of men, Gentile memories, the craving for the largest-hearted God possible — is released at once and joyful. John Bunyan says that he himself under somewhat similar circumstances felt as if he could talk about the love of God to the crows by the wayside, and legend (or perhaps history) says that Francis of Assisi did. Paul and Bunyan had other game.

Table of Contents

1. Tarsus
2. Jerusalem
3. Damascus
4. “Not having mine own righteousness
5. The life of obedience
6. “The preparation of the Gospel
7. The Church
8. The human Paul
9. The love of Christ
10. The consumation