Book Review

Paul the Apostle: Missionary, Martyr, Theologian

by Robert E. Picirilli
Moody Publishers
Paul the Apostle, by Robert E. Picirilli

In his book Paul the Apostle: Missionary, Martyr, Theologian, Robert E. Picirilli accounts for the life and ministry of the apostle Paul, including textual criticism of his biblical writings.

The first two chapters are devoted to Paul’s early life, education, and trade. The third chapter recounts his conversion and the time shortly after—including his days in Damascus (Acts 9:19–21) and his time in Arabia (Galatians 1:15–17), which Picirilli admits we know almost nothing about: We do not know why he went there, where in Arabia his journey took him, or how long he stayed. Chapters Four through Eight cover Paul’s ministry work, including his New Testament writings.

The format of the book outlines Paul’s life and ministry chronologically as best as can be determined from Scripture, since that is the only source of personal information on Paul that we have. Picirilli mostly walks verse-by-verse through Acts, addressing Paul’s letters as he likely wrote them along his journeys.

Picirilli carefully reviews the origins and compositions of each of Paul’s canonical writings, linking the time and place of writing with Paul’s known history, mostly expounded from Acts. He points out that, notably in Paul’s longer letters, there are intervals in the writing that can be explained by interruptions in dictation, especially noted in 2 Corinthians. As Picirilli notes, Galatians may have been Martin Luther’s favorite book of the Bible and likely the foundation of the Protestant Reformation.

Galatians is the most difficult of all Paul’s letters to date or place, primarily because there are no references in the letter itself to tie in with what we know of Paul’s ministry.

Robert E. Picirilli, Paul the Apostle: Missionary, Martyr, Theologian

Paul the Apostle is a concise treatment of the life of Paul and the most highly recommended of the shorter biographies that I could find. The book was originally published in 1986, but it’s been updated and revised a few times since then. Picirilli said he wanted to adapt it for easy student and layman use, which made it perfect for me. I recommend this book to anyone wanting to better understand the life and ministry of the apostle Paul without committing to several hundred pages of reading.