What I’m Reading: Sailing Acts

I ran across a review of this book in an old magazine and thought it would be an interesting read for a couple of reasons.  First, my next project has to do with Paul’s letters in the New Testament.  Second, I hope to travel to Turkey in the near future.  So when I read about a professor who bought a boat and retraced Paul’s missionary journeys throughout the Mediterranean, my interest was peaked!

To be honest, when I began reading Sailing Acts, it wasn’t fully what I expected.  I was looking forward to the many cultural insights the author, Linford Stutzman, might have extracted from visiting sites like Corinth, Ephesus, Miletus, Malta, and Crete.  A couple of chapters into the book Stutzman was still trying to purchase his boat and bring together all the details of his trip.  But what the book lacked in detailed scriptural commentary, it made up for in drawing the reader into he and his wife’s year and a half adventure on the Mediterranean.

Stutzman does infer some interesting insight from his travels and succeeds in drawing the reader a little more into the outlook of the Apostle Paul.  He writes often how the experience changed him personally and notes that the Paul that arrived back in Jerusalem had to have been quite different from the Paul who set off several years earlier.  It was an interesting observation that in Italy, so much revolved around the person of Peter, while Paul’s legacy was celebrated in Greece.  Sadly, most in modern-day Turkey – the land where Paul arguably focused much of his attention – know little, if anything, of the Apostle Paul.

Stutzman only scratched the surface at what I believe are a plethora of cultural layers present in Paul’s letters, yet he affirms my belief that those layers are there waiting to be uncovered.  I’ll conclude with one of Stutzman’s own observations regarding Paul’s message and methods:

I began to recognize a pattern of communication for Paul as he traveled throughout the pagan world.  He spent very little time condemning the brutality and debauchery of paganism, or the oppression and injustice of the Roman system.  Instead, recognizing the inadequacies of religion and empire, Paul offered an attractive message of hope, morality, and life – the good news of the abundant and eternal life of the living Jesus.

Good words, even for today!  Paul may have been on to something.


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