Book Notice: A Theology of Paul and His Letters

Moo, Douglas J. A Theology of Paul and His Letters: The Gift of the New Testament. Edited by Andreas J. Köstenberger, Biblical Theology of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2021. 784 pages. Hardcover. $54.

Another book on Paul? With countless books written about Paul and others on his theology, it may not seem as though a new volume is needed. However, what sets this volume apart is its detailed examination of Paul’s letters combined with a thorough synthesis of Paul’s theology. Douglas J. Moo (Kenneth T. Wessner Professor of New Testament, Wheaton College) brings more than thirty years of Pauline research to provide readers of the NT an up-to-date look at Paul and his theology.

This book is the fifth installment of the eight-volume Biblical Theology of the New Testament series, edited by Andreas J. Köstenberger. Dividing the NT into collections of writings by a given NT author, or a group of writings by multiple NT authors, the series aim is to dedicate a volume to each major corpus of the NT with a thorough examination of the biblical text and its theological themes and connecting those themes to the rest of Scripture (xxiii).

A Theology of Paul and His Letters is divided into four parts. Part One includes two chapters of introductory material: one chapter focuses on introductory matters related to Pauline studies, while the second outlines the methodological approach taken by the author. Part Two examines each of Paul’s thirteen letters in detail. A chapter is dedicated to providing a high-level view of Paul’s life and his letters. The next thirteen chapters focus on each of Paul’s letters in the following order: Galatians, 1 Thessalonians. 2 Thessalonians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Romans, Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 Timothy, Titus, and 2 Timothy. In each of these chapters, Moo sets forth the context of the letter, identifies the key issues, and concludes with a section-by-section analysis of the letter with brief but insightful exposition. In Part Three, Moo devotes the next eight chapters to the key theological themes that run throughout Paul’s thirteen letters. Moo sets the chapters in this section in relation to the “new realm” or new life in Christ, with each chapter focusing on a key element of the new realm: the center of the new realm; its inauguration; its contrast to the old realm; the blessings of the new realm; the way into the new realm; its consummation; the people in the new realm; and life in the new realm. Part Four closes with a chapter offering concluding remarks on the work as a whole and its limitations. 

Both scholars and pastor/teachers will find this volume helpful in understanding Paul’s letters and the theology that underpins them. It engages with current scholarship in Pauline studies to aid the reader in navigating contemporary trends. Admittedly, not all scholars will agree with Moo’s theological conclusions nor with his arrangement of material. Some may argue that a canonical approach to Paul’s letters would be better suited instead of a chronological approach since the dates of Paul’s letters cannot be conclusively stated. Acknowledging his own presuppositions and biases, Moo notes that he writes from an Evangelical perspective, drawing from his Reformed Baptist background (although he admits that his Reformed thinking has been modified over the years), and holds Paul to be the undisputed author of the thirteen letters in the NT canon attributed to him. In sum, A Theology of Paul and His Letters is a masterfully written work that makes a significant contribution to biblical theology and Pauline studies.  

This review was written by Steven Masters, a Ph.D. student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.


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