Book Note: Twelftree's Paul and the Miraculous

Graham H. Twelftree, Paul and the Miraculous: A Historical Reconstruction (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013). (Amazon.com)

In 2015 I should have a full length review of this book published in the Journal of the European Pentecostal Association. This one here will not be as extensive, but I do think I should say something on this blog because (1) I want others to know about the book, but journal reviews aren't the best way to spread the word, and (2) I received a copy from Baker Academic with the understanding I'd mention it on my now retired biblioblog. Let me begin by saying this is a fantastic book. Personally, I've become a bit bored with Pauline Studies. Once the dust semi-settled between the New Perspective(s) and the Old Perspective(s) it seems like Paul had received enough attention for the time being, at least for me, but because of my roots in Pentecostalism I couldn't pass up the opportunity to read Twelftree's book.

The book is divided into five parts. The first (Part 1: Paul) asks and answers the question, "Who was Paul?" by way of introduction. The second (Part 2: Paul's Inheritance) establishes Paul's worldview as a Pharisaic Jew—part of a people whose self-narrative included the miraculous acts of their God, and a sect that affirmed the existence of the unseen world—wherein the idea of the miraculous wouldn't have been foreign. Similarly, the Christianity Paul inherited depicted Jesus as a miracle worker and the inauguration of the Kingdom of God as evidence by signs and wonders.

In Part 3: Paul's Testimony, Twelftree goes through each of Paul's authentic letters. This part reminded me a bit of Gordon D. Fee's God's Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul, but the focus is more specific: how did Paul view miracles as they relate to his ministry and message? Twelftree is also more critical than Fee who embraced all of the canonical Pauline Corpus as authentically Pauline. The most eye-opening aspect of this section for me was how Paul saw miracles as connected to his apostleship and proclamation, but he didn't see himself as a miracle worker. His miracles were done in the authority of Jesus Christ, or by Jesus Christ through Paul, by the Holy Spirit. That makes me want to revisit Jesus' depiction by the Evangelists were he assumes no higher authority than his own and where he does the miracles without the need of another authority.

Part 4: Paul's Interpreters, looks at Acts and the pseudepigraphal Paul. I didn't expect Twelftree to reach the conclusions that he does, but there are fascinating and insightful. Luke's Paul looks more like a super apostle, like Jesus, than Paul's Paul. Luke's Paul works miracles himself where Paul denies this power. Chapter 9, The Remembered Paul was the most interesting and fresh part of the book for me. In this chapter Twelftree visits the pseudepigraphal letters to ask if "Paul remembered" was a miracle worker. He also examines James and Hebrews as many believe these epistles interact with the Pauline tradition.

Part 5: Paul and the Miraculous summarizes the book's overall argument. As I noted above, Paul believed in the miraculous (which for Twelftree is more than signs and wonders where the "impossible" is done, like hearings, but instead anything where the Spirit is the source of the activity, including the other "normal" gifts like words of wisdom or administration. Twelftree's take on Luke's Paul was very intriguing and I will be interested to see how this has been received, especially by Pentecostals who see Acts as normative to their faith. Great book, provocative, well-researched and methodical in its argument. I highly recommend! 

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This book was received in exchange for an unbiased review courtesy of Baker Academic.

For older biblioblog entries on related topics see:
- Graham H. Twelftree
- Miracles
- Book Reviews
- Baker Academic