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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

ST. PAUL: THE APOSTLE WE LOVE to HATE (audiobook) by Karen Armstrong

Published in 2015 by Brilliance Audio.
Read by the author, Karen Armstrong.

Duration: 5 hours, 21 minutes.

Karen Armstrong is a multiple award-winning author of more than 25 books, the great majority of them exploring religion. She is particularly interested in Islam, Christianity and Judaism. 
Born c. AD 5. Died c. AD 64-67

This book is aimed at the informed layman - not at other historians or religious experts. I read A LOT of history and have gone to church my entire life, but I can get lost in the weeds pretty quickly if too much professional jargon is used. Armstrong assumes a basic knowledge of the Christianity and of the New Testament. Nothing too complicated or deep and most of my Bible knowledge comes from Sunday school and small group Bible studies led by layman with a workbook. Armstrong takes care to explain things along the way because she is not out to impress the intellectuals - she has written a history for regular folks.

Paul has always been interesting to me. His writings have always seemed to me to be the first real attempt to move Jesus' teachings into a formal religion. There are times when I find his writings to be quite inspirational. At other times, he strikes me as obtuse and misogynistic. But, I wanted to get into the book to have a better understanding of what he was teaching and when he taught it.

The first thing that surprised me was the concept of Deutero-Pauline letters. Many scholars are now assuming that nearly half of the New Testament letters from Paul were not actually written by Paul, but by writers that came after him and used his name. This was a fairly common practice in Roman times - if you liked an author, you just borrowed his name. The evidence for this comes from analyzing the vocabulary used, the writing styles and changes in theology.

For me, this mostly cleared up one of my major frustrations with Paul - his inconsistencies. I say mostly because he still had some, but not nearly as many.

Her biography of Paul was interesting, but a bit skimpy since the audiobook was only a little over 5 hours long. But, it does hit the main points and I ended up feeling much more informed than I was before I started. I wish she had added more about his impact on the development of the Church over the nearly 2,000 years since his death.

This audiobook was read by the author. Sometimes, that can be a problem because being a great author is not the same thing as being a great audiobook reader. However, Armstrong has considerable experience with public speaking and her performance was quite good.

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: ST. PAUL: THE APOSTLE WE LOVE to HATE (audiobook) by Karen Armstrong.

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