My First Book: Things Unutterable: Paul’s Ascent to Paradise is Now Available

My first book, Things Unutterable: Paul’s Ascent to Paradise in its Greco-Roman, Judaic, and Early Christian Contexts, was published in 1986–now 34 years ago, and long ago went out of print. Used copies, mostly paperback, have been selling for years on Amazon at the ridiculous price of $245 to $393–in “acceptable” to “very good” condition! Yes, you are reading those numbers correctly! And no, it is not a Brill book and is only 155 pages!

Over the years I have had scores of my students, colleagues, and readers ask me if I had any copies left. I think I only have three now–one hardback and two paperbacks–one of the paperbacks I gave to my mother years ago and got it back when she died. I do now own the rights.

The book was based on my Ph. Dissertation at the University of Chicago under the direction of Jonathan Z. Smith (History of Religions) as director, and Robert M. Grant (N.T/Church History) and Arthur Adkins (Classics) as readers. The focus of the book is Paul’s cryptic and mysterious account in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 of Paul’s report of his heavenly ascent to Paradise. I use that revelatory experience as an entre into Paul’s entire understanding of his mission and his gospel message, set within its Jewish and Hellenistic contexts. I think I might have been the first student to ever write a “New Testament” dissertation under Smith’s direction–and I was honored (and a bit terrified!) to have him as my director. I am publishing a little paper to appear in a forthcoming volume on Smith, that records my memories of some of those experiences, that you can take a peek at here, but do not circulate.

When the book came out it was widely reviewed and the Journal of Religion later rated it as one of the “ten best books on Paul” of the decade. My best-selling book, Paul and Jesus, that came out in twenty-six years later–in 2012–representing the spread of my career work on Paul, does not duplicate but complements this earlier work of mine. By the way, you can get a copy of that one for under $5.00–since it is still in print and continues to sell well–with a new copy under $12.00!

The original edition was in very small Times Roman type and back then we did not have the advantage of a copyeditor from the publisher. I produced camera-ready copy myself with my Compac portable computer using Xwrite. Some of you will remember those days.

This summer I decided to take advantage of my time at home, since I am usually in Israel, and have the entire manuscript retyped with corrections and revisions throughout. Years ago my student and lifelong friend, Judd Shaver, who got his Ph.D. at Notre Dame, where I was then teaching, graciously worked through the entire printed book and copyedited it for the first time, with countless suggestions and corrections of format and style. I have incorporated all of those in a new larger print version in 8.5 x 11 format, 120pp, plastic comb binding with a color cover and heavy plastic backing–so it lays flat. For now, due to Covid-19 and customs restrictions, plus very high international priority rates, I am only shipping to domestic addresses in the United States or territories.

I will have a few dozen copies printed up and bound and I am giving them away at cost–$35.00 each, which will for Kinkos/Fedex printing, binding, USPS Priority Mail postage with tracking, and handling–I am hiring someone to address, package, and get these out. If the demand is great I can have more made.

If you are interested I ask you to do two things.

1)Send $35.00 either through PayPal ( or by check made out to me: James D. Tabor mailed to: 2101 Sardis Rd North, Suite 110, Charlotte, NC 28227 and marked “Tabor book.”

2) Include your best mailing address either in a PayPal note or with your check as well as your email address so I can contact you if need be. Unfortunately, we are only mailing within the USA through USPS at this time.

Also tell me if you want the book signed or unsigned…

I also ask you to respect the copyright and not reproduce this book further, whether print or electronic.