Jouette M. Bassler. Navigating Paul: An Introduction to Key Theological Concepts. Westminster John Knox Press, 2007.
We have no shortage of short, accessible, clearly-written, and thoughtful books on the theology of Christianity’s most important theologian–Paul the Apostle. However, since Paul’s thought is so fascinating and complex, and because Pauline theology remains so relevant to the life of faith today, and because one’s interpretation of Pauline theology is such an indicator of one’s views of so many other things, we should welcome all attempts to help us with such important material.
So, I feel compelled to welcome this book by Bassler. However, I would rank it well below recent similar books such as those of N.T. Wright (Paul: A Fresh Reading) and Michael Gorman (Reading Paul). She engages contemporary scholarship in an accessible way in a series of short studies on various Pauline themes (e.g., grace, the law, and the “future of Israel”). However, I found very little here that made Paul come alive. Bassler’s book especially pales in relation to Gorman’s Reading Paul–a book that helps us see why Paul remains so relevant for our quest for faithfulness to the way of Jesus today. In Bassler’s telling, Paul seems more like a kind of boring first-century Christian.