Less than many, especially women, I've never been a Paul-hater. As an organizer who tries to think about liberation at scale, I have found that what we know of this apparently effectual individual fascinates me. He is credited with somehow carrying the Jesus movement out of Palestine and across the Roman world, a very improbable trajectory for a little Jewish heresy.
Paul probably gets more and less credit than he deserves. All we have of his exploits are seven likely-genuine letters preserved in the Christian part of the Bible, other Biblical accounts that seem to have been constructed to advance intramural squabbles, and a further collection of letters that imitators with their own agendas wrote using Paul's apparently authoritative name.
What Armstrong does in this little book is put the apostle in his historical context. I'm going to excerpt at some length here as a sample of both her method and content. After early missionary efforts in cities such as Damascus and Antioch where there were many Jews, Paul apparently decided to carry his "good news" to the "land of Japheth" -- peoples in Asian Minor including Greeks, Macedonians, Phrygians, and Anatolians. And there he found exotic peoples, but also fertile ground.
Of course I've listened to frequent readings of Paul's famous injunctions to the Galatians, but this becomes much richer in the context which Armstrong provides.
Paul's life presents us a miracle very much like the miracle presented by the stories of Jesus: the true improbability is that we've ever heard of these obscure agitators at all. The Roman Empire was full of traveling troublemakers; it was also good at disposing of them. All we know (as attested history rather than legend) is that Paul led a delegation of non-Jewish Christians to the mother-congregation of Jesus followers in Jerusalem; neither the local congregation nor the Roman rulers were welcoming. Paul was seized by the Romans.
Yet the ideas of Paul -- and idea of Paul -- permeated much of the world that had known Rome and beyond.
This is a thought provoking little book.