Monday, January 20, 2014

Book Review: Apostle of the Last Days: The Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul by C. Marvin Pate

­Apostle of the Last Days: The Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul by C. Marvin Pate
Book Review:

C. Marvin Pate is a well-known name in New Testament Theology, particularly in eschatology; having written and edited other books on the subject, this time he focuses his attention on Paul’s eschatology.

Pate rejects the New Perspective on Paul being advocated of late by some important Pauline theologians (e.g. N.T. Wright, Jamed D.G. Dunn) and opts for the traditional view. Because that view is highly controversial and is making big waves in contemporary Paul studies, a more detailed refutation of their basic convictions would have enriched Pate’s book.

Having in mind that Paul lived in a time where Greco-Roman culture and Jewish Theology were the “locations” where Christianity was born, Pate seeks to find a place of reconciliation between the vacuity of “realized eschatology” (a la Preterism) and the politically invested “consistent eschatology” (totally futuristic). The Bible seems to favor an “already/not yet” eschatology, especially in light of the reality of a first and second coming of Jesus. The term used to describe it is “inaugurated eschatology;” a middle-of-the-road view that takes into account both sets of Scriptures used selectively by the other two positions.

The many tables present to elucidate Pate’s views are a testament to the amount of work invested in preparing the book, although the inclusion of an annotated bibliography would have made the book immensely more valuable for Pauline research. Others will also miss an index of topics covered in the book.

A word of caution: It is somewhat problematic to use eschatology as the hermeneutical lens through which one reads Paul’s theology, and it may lead to selective use of evidence rather than an all-encompassing theological exploration of Paul’s convictions. Pate does his best to avoid this pitfall but readers may disagree on the level of his success/failure to do so.

The book packs a punch and is recommended as a decent theological primer to Pauline eschatology.

4/5 Stars

Disclosure: The book was received for free from Kregel Academic & Ministry book review program. The program does not require a positive review, only a truthful one.