Paul has always been kind of mysterious to me. He's the author of a huge amount of New Testament material, but I've always hated reading those parts, because I really didn't understand large parts of them. So when I was out visiting my sister last summer, I saw From Saul to Paul: The Road to Apostleship by William Victor Blacoe, and I was super excited about reading it. It's taken me a long time to get through it. Part of that is that I just don't have a lot of reading time. Part of that is that I can't seem to limit myself to just one at a time. And part of that is that the book is somewhat dense: there's a lot in there, and there's a lot of things to think about. More than once, as I read I went and grabbed my Bible and made some notes in the margins.
This morning, I finally finished the book. Love it. This first reading did something pretty amazing for me: it assembled the *story* of what Paul was doing in all those letters. I want to go back through the book again (though probably not immediately) and work through it side-by-side with my Bible, now that I have a better understanding of what the story is. I've always had a hard time assembling the story of what Paul is doing, after his vision on the road to Damascus. From that point, it's always been all mushy in my brain, and I didn't know anything about the various places that he's writing to. Now, I have a much more clear idea of what's going on. So understanding the story of his life (I knew that he was martyred, but I hadn't realized that he'd been decapitated), and some more about the culture of the time and place gives me a much better start the next time that I read Paul.
So that's what I did this first time that I read the book. What I'd like to do, next time, is sit with the book and my scriptures side-by-side, and go through Paul's writings very, very slowly. Probably also drawing his trips on a map as I go along. I think that would go a long way towards making things gel in my brain and helping me to be more comfortable with this section of the Bible. I'm looking forward to that project!