Paul as Pastor demonstrates the critical nature of Paul’s pastoral care to his identity and activities. Despite the fact that Paul never identifies himself as a pastor, there is much within the Pauline letters that alludes to this as a possible aspect of Paul’s vocation and commitments, and this has been a topic of relative scholarly neglect. The contributors to this volume consider the household setting of Paul’s pastoral practice, the evidence of Acts and a survey of themes in each of the letters in the traditional Pauline corpus. Additionally, three chapters supply case studies of the Wirkungsgeschichte of Paul’s pastoral practice in the pastoral offices of the Anglican Communion in the denomination’s Ordinal, and in the lives and thought of Augustine of Hippo and George Whitfield. As such Paul as Pastor provides a stimulating resource on a neglected and critical dimension of Paul and his letters and an invaluable tool for those in pastoral ministry and those responsible for their training.
Bloomsbury have kindly supplied a review copy. First off, might I recommend that you visit the link above in order to see the table of contents.
On the whole the collection is quite good, with a variety of engaging essays and a couple which are rather sub-standard in terms of the whole work.
The excellent essays are Paul’s Pastoral Sensitivity in 1 Corinthians – Matthew R. Malcolm, and Pastoring with a Big Stick: Paul as Pastor in Galatians – Michael F. Bird. The bulk of the rest are quite good and it is just these two which would probably have improved the collection had they been left out: ‘He Followed Paul’ Whitefield’s Voice: Heroic, Apostolic, Prophetic – Rhys S. Bezzant and Mother, Father, Infant, Orphan, Brother: Paul’s Variegated Pastoral Strategy Towards His Thessalonian Church-Family – Trevor J. Burke.
So, for instance, on the excellent side of things, Mike Bird colorfully writes
… in Galatians Paul is engaging in some intense pastoral care for the Galatian churches by using his epistolary crook to scrape off some theological dung that has attached itself to the flock in Galatia… (p. 71).
The two excellent essays are characterized by clearly demonstrably scholarly research whilst the two weakest are characterized by overly idiosyncratic interpretations of the data. They seemed, to me at least, plodding and over worked. In short, they tried too hard to say too much with too little information.
So, for instance, Burke writes, whilst discussing ‘Paul as infant’…
As regards the former [i.e., concerning Paul describing himself as an infant- J.W.] the NIV, for example, translates… (p. 134).
Using the NIV (or any translation, to be fair) as the basis for an exegetical novelty (which is what Burke’s reading is) is less than sensible and to say more of it would be uncharitable, so I will move ahead…
Reviews are always subjective enterprises, though, and it may be that others will find the two strongest essays weak and the two weakest strong. But they would be wrong to do so. The volume is genuinely weakened by these two weakest links.
My advice to readers- if you wish to truly enjoy this genuinely enjoyable volume, skip the two essays which I have described above as the least helpful and you will find the work very, very insightful. My warning- if you read the two least helpful of the essays you’ll experience what can only be likened to eating a fine dinner at a lovely restaurant and only discovering at the end of the meal that there’s a hair or five in your dessert. You will have enjoyed it all up to that point and then your disposition will instantly sour.
In sum- read this book. But skip the cheesecake filled with hair parts and you’ll like it more than you will if you don’t skip the cheesecake filled with hair parts.