TCR & JFM have recently offered some comments on knowing Paul. This has reminded me that one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve read in the last year (although it’s not new) is The Making of the New Testament Documents, by E. Earle Ellis.
Ellis argues that assumptions about the origins of the New Testament documents that have been held since F.C Baur need to be seriously challenged. In particular, he argues that the various parts of our NT canon arose from the work of 4 different, but cooperating, apostolic missions – those associated with Paul (incl. his letters, the book of acts, and the gospel of Luke); James (incl. the epistle, and the gospel of Matthew); Peter (incl. the epistles and the gospel of Mark); and John (incl. the epistles and the gospel of John). This, he argues, accounts for the similarities and differences between these documents – in a way that fits better than the Baur-inspired critical orthodoxy.
I’m not convinced by everything in the book – in particular, he realpushes too hard for a significant amount of “pre-formed materials” in the books of the NT – but still, this is a very worthwhile read in thinking about the New Testament as a whole, and Paul’s portion of it in particular.