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At the Heart of the Gospel: Suffering in the Earliest Christian Message
A book full of rich exegetical and spiritual insights into Paul’s writings on human suffering
Suffering, while a part of the human condition, is a state of being we would rather ignore. L. Ann Jervis here presents a convincing argument that human suffering is worth considering, and she offers the words of Paul as proof.
Paul’s insights into the predicament and significance of suffering provide the foundation for some of Christianity’s most profound and unique contributions to understanding human life. Examination of three of his letters — 1 Thessalonians, Philippians, and Romans — reveals his important reflections on accepting the suffering of believers with the conviction that, even as we suffer, God’s plan for creation does not include suffering, and God will ultimately banish it.
Jervis hopes that hearing Paul’s words on suffering in a fresh light may allow readers to be deeply marked, like the saints and shapers of Christianity, by the power of a gospel of which it is not necessary to be ashamed, precisely because it is not easy but transformative.
Praise for At the Heart of the Gospel
“This deeply compassionate book, deceptively simple in its elegant presentation, grapples with Paul’s gift of faith for a suffering world. It does so powerfully, honestly, and responsibly. Combining exegetical care with deft theological and wise pastoral focus, Jervis leads the reader through a consideration of Paul’s understanding of suffering as it touches Christian believers, unbelievers, and the wider experience of humanity and creation. Through a balanced selection of material, she demonstrates how Paul’s location of Christian suffering within the luminous life of Christ’s resurrection uncovers the powerful reality of God’s love within the sorrow and evil of the world and she shows how this reality equips the believer to resist evil through the gifts of faith, hope, and love. At the Heart of the Gospel is a book to learn from, be nourished by, and offer to the church for her witness.”
— Ephraim Radner
Rector, Church of the Ascension, Pueblo, Colorado
More praise for At the Heart of the Gospel
“Is Christian suffering simply part of the lot of fallen humanity as a whole? Or is there suffering that is specific to Christians? If so, what is the relation between these types of suffering? On the basis of clear and patient readings of Paul’s treatment of the topic in three of his letters and through sensitive reflection on the implication of those readings, Ann Jervis grapples with these and other questions about the experience of suffering. Both students of Paul and those seeking theological resources for facing suffering will find Jervis’s lucid discussion highly illuminating.”
— Andrew T. Lincoln
University of Gloucestershire
“This book by a responsible Pauline scholar derives from a personal ‘collision’ between her ‘naïve understanding’ of the Christian faith as promising happiness and her experience of suffering. In an inspiring manner Ann Jervis shows that while suffering derives from the power of sin, which aims ‘to separate humanity from God’s love by causing the sufferer to question God’s character,’ we can share Paul's faith that ‘God’s love surrounds us and will eventually liberate us.’ An excellent, uplifting study that belongs on the bedside table of sufferers all over the world.”
— Robert Jewett
University of Heidelberg
“In At the Heart of the Gospel Ann Jervis brings both pastoral and exegetical insights to bear on the question of human suffering. Readers will find her conversations with the apostle Paul to be instructive, comforting, and encouraging. This is a wise and gentle book that will be useful for pastors and for their congregations.”
— Beverly Roberts Gaventa
Princeton Theological Seminary
Ann Jervis is an Anglican priest and Professor of New Testament at Wycliffe College, Toronto School of Theology, with a cross-appointment as Professor of New Testament at Trinity College, also part of the Toronto School of Theology.