Interpreting the Pauline Letters: An Exegetical   Handbook  -     By: John D. Harvey
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Interpreting the Pauline Letters: An Exegetical Handbook

Kregel Publications / 2012 / Paperback

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The inaugural volume in the Handbooks for New Testament Exegesis series, Interpreting the Pauline Letters begins by exploring the components of narrative--setting, characterization, and plot--and then develops the foremost theological themes in each of the books traditionally ascribed to Paul. The method sets the task of exegesis within the literary context of first-century letters as well as the theological context of major themes present in Paul's letters.

The book goes beyond exegesis to discuss strategies for communicating the central truthes of Paul's first-century messages to a twenty-first-century audience. Each chapter includes a list of helpful resources to the step of interpretation discussed. A glossary defining technical words and samples of moving from exegesis to proclamation make this guide practical and user-friendly.

Designed as a handbook for seminary and graduate students, the book provides a go-to guide that will also serve seminary-trained pastors, upper-level college students, and well-motivated lay people. As readers work through this handbook, they will begin to see and interpret the narrative writings as Paul intended them to be understood.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 224
Vendor: Kregel Publications
Publication Date: 2012
Dimensions: 9 X 6 (inches)
ISBN-13: 9780825427671

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Product Reviews

4.6 Stars Out Of 5
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4.8 out Of 5
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  1. Englewood Co
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    The Art of Exegesis Clearly Evident
    September 2, 2013
    Englewood Co
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    One of my mentors Dr. Thomas F. Harrison made a profound statement concerning Hermeneutics and Exegesis. "He who seeks wisdom not just a knowledge of how to exegete but discovers how to make the text useful to others has discovered both the Art and Science of Exegesis."

    This book is a valuable demonstration of Dr. Harrison's statement. Building on the foundation of the authority of God's Word Dr. Harvey wisely explains and then uses the elements of exegesis, which are then demonstrated by useable examples.

    I was delighted with his section, "The Great Transfer" in the chapter on the Theology of Paul's letters. The transfer from the Sphere of Adam to that of ‘in Christ' is the best I have seen in detailing what is meant and how it is realized starting with 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Colossians 1:13-14 and then throughout Paul's letters.

    As a semi-retired NT Greek, Hermeneutics and Homiletics teacher I highly recommend this excellent work to anyone seeking to understand and make the meat of the Word available to all who follow or seek Jesus the Messiah. I received a copy of this book from Kregel Academic for an honest review.
  2. St. Paul, MN
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Help for busy pastors & an indispensable tool
    July 18, 2013
    Bob Hayton
    St. Paul, MN
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    The life of a pastor is busy. Hectic may be a better word. And in the 21st Century, the pace of life has quickened for everyone while the expectations for what a pastor must do have only increased. Fortunately, there is an abundance of books and resources designed to give the pastor or teacher a helping hand. "Interpreting the Pauline Letters" by John D. Harvey, will prove not only helpful but indispensable in the study of the Pauline Epistles.

    The book is an exegetical handbook designed to prepare the pastor, teacher or student for an intensive study through Paul's letters. But it doesn't stop there. Harvey's intent is not merely to educate about the historical background of these treasured NT epistles. He aims to facilitate a pastoral application of the Word for today's hearers. To that end, the book includes a section on how to craft an expositional sermon as well as two examples where Harvey walks through all the steps in preparing a sermon on a text from one of Paul's letters.

    The book begins with a study of the genre of Paul's letters, comparing Paul's writing with formal and informal letter styles from the ancient world. Harvey draws careful, balanced conclusions from a comparison of the structure of all of Paul's letters and explains the function of various sub-units of Paul's letters. In this chapter, I was introduced to the terms "apostolic parousia" and "apostolic apologia" which play an important role in Paul's letters and have commonalities with other ancient letters. He also looks at the role rhetoric plays in Paul's letters. I found his thoughts on the genre to be instructive and not overblown: a helpful survey to keep in mind as one approaches Paul's letters.

    Next Harvey surveys the historical background of Paul's writings. This section was perhaps the most fascinating. The conservative pastor will be appreciative that the arguments for and against Paul's authorship of all the traditional Pauline epistles are briefly surveyed and a defense of Pauline authorship - even of the pastoral epistles, is presented. He defends Pauline authorship well but in a cursory manner. He then argues for the integrity of the epistles as we find them in Scripture - 2 Corinthians and Philippians in particular are discussed. He then attempts to build a chronology of the historical background for Paul's letters from a study of just the letters themselves. He compares this with what we find in Acts and finds complementarity not disharmony. He presents an interesting argument for Philippians being the last of Paul's letters, but presents the traditional view as well. He is careful not to base too much on historical reconstructions where the evidence is slim. Harvey shines in this section as he navigates the reader through the ins and outs of Pauline scholarship.

    The handbook continues with a section on Paul's theology, which emphasizes "the great transfer" from darkness to light, from being in the world to being in Christ, from Satan's dominion to the power of God. He traces a theology of each of the letters as well. He only briefly discusses "covenantal nomism" and the New Pauline Perspective, arguing for a traditional view. This in my view is the book's biggest weakness. By only briefly surveying that issue, and by brief I mean about a half page, the handbook is perhaps more acceptable by a wider audience, but it is less helpful for the busy pastor who wants to know more about this important Pauline question.

    The book then moves away from a laser focus on Paul's epistles to a more generic approach to studying Scripture. Textual criticism and translation are discussed, with several approaches for busy teachers - from comparing translations to doing you own translation from the Greek text (advocated as the best approach). In this section I was pleased to see the Majority Text view of Byzantine priority given equal treatment with the prevailing preference for Alexandrian manuscripts. Most works of this scholarly nature hardly give the Byzantine perspective any mention at all. It is almost a certainty that for conservative pastors, the question of Byzantine priority will come up. Harvey attempts to be even-handed even while ultimately siding with the majority scholarly opinion. After focusing on translation and defining the text to be studied, he gives a general study of how to interpret passages synthetically. He focuses on historical, lexical/linguistic, and theological analyses in a brief but helpful way. The historical analyses was redundant for this book and a bit distracting in my perspective, but everything else was quite useful.

    In the next section, Harvey focused on homiletics and how to build a sermon using deductive or inductive patterns. Like the previous sections on translation and interpretation, the examples were from Paul's epistles but the content was broad and applicable to all of the New Testament. It is here that he also focuses on applying the text to the 21st Century.

    In the final section he provides two case-studies applying all the tools, starting with textual criticism and translation of the text, to historical study, literary/linguistic analysis, syntactical study, theological analysis, appropriation, and homiletical packaging. Walking the reader through his method helps bring the whole book together.

    I was impressed with how useful and accessible this handbook was for the average reader. It will benefit lay teachers and pastors alike. While it doesn't cover everything I would like, it is a fine resource which stays faithful to a conservative approach to Scripture. This book is one of a series produced by Kregel Publications: the "Handbooks for New Testament Exegesis." There is also an OT set of handbooks as well. I'll be wanting to collect the entire set after my time spent reading through this example. I encourage you to check out this helpful series as well.

    Disclaimer: This book was provided by Kregel Publishers. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a positive review.
  3. Rochester, MN
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: male
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Roll up your sleeves; it's time to get to work
    June 28, 2013
    A Cluttered Mind
    Rochester, MN
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: male
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    In a previous review, I commended that book, but not to everyone. Kregel Academic, along with author John Harvey, let you know right from the start that Interpreting the Pauline Letters: An Exegetical Handbook is not for everybody. It is primarily for a first year seminary student or beyond. It will take at least a first year Greek student's best work to have a working knowledge of the Greek language to benefit most from Harvey's work.

    That said, Interpreting the Pauline Letters is a fine book. It will prove helpful, not only to seminary students, but to pastors who take their study of the Word seriously. It's not always easy, as a solo pastor of a church, to find the time to dig deep like this. However, it helps when a book such as this comes along, laden with tools, charts and graphs. The organization of the book is quite helpful in this regard. Each chapter gives a strong overview of the need to understand_

    • the genre of Paul's letters

    • the historical background of Paul's letters

    • the theology of Paul's letters

    • the interpretation of Paul's letters

    • the communication of Paul's letters through preaching

    Then, along with two texts (Colossians 3.1-4 and Philippians 3.12-16), Harvey shows how to 'put it all together' and get the pastor ready to preach from Paul's letters. Each chapter begins with 'A Glance at the Chapter', ends with a summary of what the chapter has covered, along with another chart that reviews the primary aim of that chapter.

    Having been long since removed from the seminary classroom, this work pressed me a bit, but all in a good way. Harvey shows why it's important to be serious about the exegesis of Scripture. Interpreting the Pauline Letters is good motivation to keep my sleeves rolled up as I prepare to preach each Lord's Day.

    If you're a third- or fourth-year college student or a seminary student with at least one year's worth of Greek language study under your belt or a pastor who needs to refresh his knowledge and understanding of such subjects, this book is for you.
  4. 5 Stars Out Of 5
    June 7, 2013
    Ron Starcher
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    John D. Harvey offers a helpful volume for anyone who desires to understand and teach the letters of the apostle Paul. Interpreting the Pauline Letters is a brief guide (210 pages including glossary) that leads the reader from the text to proclamation. The book flows logically from genre to theology to text critical issues to exegesis and exposition. While it certainly is not exhaustive, Harvey includes every issue that the student of Paul needs to research while embarking upon such a study.

    Particularly helpful is the chapter titled "Preparing to Interpret Paul's Letters." This is a quick study on textual criticism and translational issues. Harvey indicates that prior to interpreting the text, it is wise to review the textual variants and arrive at the likely form of the text one wishes to understand. I found myself resurrecting the Greek I had allowed to mold in my mind to get the most from this section. It is not necessary to know New Testament Greek, however, to profit from this volume.

    This book indicates that it is part of the Handbooks for New Testament Exegesis series. If the other volumes in the series are as helpful as this one, the series would be a welcome addition to any library.

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Kregel Publications as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising
  5. Maricopa, AZ
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Helpful & Worthwhile
    June 4, 2013
    Pastor Jim
    Maricopa, AZ
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 5

    This is the first of a series on interpreting the New Testament. In addition to the Pauline letters there will be one on Apocalyptic Literature, Gospels and Acts, and the General letters.

    Harvey does a good job on the Epistles of Paul and adds a good persprctive to their understanding. There are five features of this work that I like:

    1. It guides the reader from background, interpretation, to application from text to sermon.

    2. Each chapter begins with a overview, and ends with a conclusion of the chapter. This aids the reader in knowing where the chapter is going and where it has been with a brief conclusion.

    3. There are very usable charts within the chapters that are understandable.

    4. Interspersed in the chapters are listed sources for the reader to consult. For example on translation of the text he gives a number of sources including Greek text, lexicons, and even software. At the end he list his bibliography in an unusual way—instead of one long lists, he breaks it down into sections, such as: Editions of Greek New Testament, Resources for Textual Criticism, New Testament Commentary Series, Commentaries on Paul's Epistles, with each book listed and resources listed under each book. I find this refreshing and easy to use. However, his bibliography is somewhat limited, and is one weakness of the book.

    5. He also has a glossary at the end for terms an average reader may not understand.

    As to the content of the book, I found it reader friendly and easily understandable. He upholds a high view of Scripture. While I enjoyed the book, there were some areas that I found especially worthy: The chapter on The Genre of Paul's Letters gave me a better understanding of Paul and his epistles in the light of first century communication. His chapter on The Theology of Paul's Letters centers upon the overall idea of two spheres of human existence—"In Adam" and "In Christ." For Paul, faith is the means of transferring from one sphere to the other. Then, the chapter on From Text to Sermon should be read by every Pastor. It gives great examples of how to handle the Biblical text for sermons. His guidance is very helpful on how to integrate interpretation into hermetical usefulness.

    This book will be a valuable addition to any library.

    [Thanks to Kregel for providing a free copy of this book for my honest review.]
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