Dear Paul...Am I the Only One? (by Bridget Plass)

Although her husband Adrian’s work is much better-known, and she has almost no internet presence on her own, Bridget Plass is a talented and thought-provoking writer too. Many years ago I bought and very much appreciated ‘The Apple of His Eye’, a book I have read as a devotional study three times over the past decade or so.

It was only recently that I discovered that Bridget Plass has written two other books, though I can’t find them anywhere in print. However, ‘Dear Paul…am I the only one?’ was available in Amazon Marketplace, so I recently acquired a copy, and then read it over the next few days. It’s not a big volume - only about 125 pages of paperback - but one which I found quite inspiring, and extremely interesting.

It’s written in an unusual way: as a fictional correspondence between people of a church and the Apostle Paul. Different members of a church have been struggling with some of Paul’s writing, and want to ask him questions - exactly the kinds of questions that I’ve heard many people, over the years, say that they would like to ask him.

There’s Madge, for instance, a retired headmistress who gets angry about the way Paul ‘counts everything as loss’. Or Jill, a perfectionist whose life is so busy with family and friends that she feels she cannot accomplish anything. And there’s Jerry, who asks why Paul gave the apparent restrictions on women in leadership. Some of the letters are somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but others ask serious and important questions.

The replies are, I thought, very cleverly composed. Paul, presumed sitting a table in his heavenly residence, replies in terms which reflect much of what he wrote, yet placing it in cultural context. The point is made, several times, that some of his admonitions and advice were written to specific people, and not necessarily intended for the worldwide church. In some letters - as with the one about women in leadership - there’s some historical context and explanation, the kind of thing that is often ignored by those who assume Paul’s letters can be taken as literal divine commands.

Fundamentalists and Biblical literalists might look askance at the book, which offers a variety of interpretations of some of Paul’s more difficult writing. But for those willing to look a little more closely at what was written, and the time in which it was written, this book could offer much to think about. It’s not an academic tome; the fictional and often light-hearted style ensures that it could be read by anyone with an interest in the topics.

I’d recommend this to anyone who would like to understand the New Testament better, and Paul’s writing in particular.

Review by copyright 2017 Sue's Book Reviews

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