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A man of vision

THE LIFE OF ST PAUL

Lawrence Boadt CSP; paintings by Linda Schapper;

Paulist Press, New York/Mahwah NJ, 2008; $24.95

Reviewed by Barbara Flynn

THE declaration by Pope Benedict XVI, of a Pauline Year (June, 2008-June, 2009) celebrating the 2000th anniversary of Paul’s birth, has stirred enthusiasm of theologians, historians, biblical scholars and others of literary bent, to hastily publish writings on St Paul’s life and his theology.

Among the enthusiastic is Lawrence Boadt, a respected scripture scholar and biblical historian, presently professor emeritus of Sacred Scripture at the Washington Theological Union, who writes with passion and simplicity.

Boadt’s very readable biography of St Paul is illustrated throughout by stylised, arresting paintings by Linda Schapper, a liturgical artist who had learned much of her craft while living in Beirut.

In 95 pages, Boadt writes with evident enthusiasm for his subject to tell one of the greatest stories ever told “of a man of vision, of great energy, and of absolute trust in the power of God’s Spirit at Work in and through him” for the benefit of others.

Boadt introduces his work by describing the socio-historical, socio-political, religious and geographical contexts in which Paul was immersed from his early life.

This device assists the reader to shape, for themselves, images of St Paul as a person of extreme courage and tenacity, a brave and persevering man, of unbelievable stamina.

On the other hand is the religiously conscientious Jew whose life was swept into unpredictable spiritual and physical circumstances by an encounter with the Risen Christ.

These unpredictable circumstances provide compelling reading as Boadt anchors his narrative into appropriate New Testament texts attributed to St Paul or references and discussions about his journeys.

“The Story of St Paul” is an adventure into teachings and sayings of St Paul. Boadt paraphrases and explains specific ideas from passages in both the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters attributed to St Paul and integrates these in the ongoing narrative.

Their insertion adds enrichment to understanding of St Paul as a great Christian teacher and theologian.

Of significance particularly is Boadt’s chapter on “Paul and The Spirit,” in which he discusses spiritual union with Christ as St Paul understood this.

The inclusion of 34 “unique icon-like paintings” by Linda Schapper which support the text may enhance one’s enjoyment of Boadt’s Life of St Paul.

At times they add a touch of humour, at other times, depending on personal perception, they challenge interpretation.

However, a discussion by the artist, who is passionate in her studies of St Paul and immersed in sharing his story, merits attention in the final chapter of this enjoyable book.

In 30 short chapters Boadt shares St Paul’s “tumultuous life”, and to assist interpretation and appreciation of the magnitude of St Paul’s activities, he includes maps of Paul’s journeys and a chronology of his life.

Additionally, for readers choosing to discover more regarding St Paul’s faith and knowledge of his life, Boadt’s bibliography is valuable.

A highly recommended book deserving of a wide reader audience.

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