Saturday, August 3, 2013

Book Review: Interpreting the Pauline Letters

Interpreting the Pauline Letters: An Exegetical Handbook (Handbooks for New Testament Exegesis). By John D. Harvey. Kregel Publications: Grand Rapids, Michigan. pp. 211. 2012. (List Price $22.99 Paperback)

4 out of 5 stars 
This first volume of the Handbooks for New Testament Exegesis series by series editor John D. Harvey, is a useful introduction to the writings of Paul. This series is intended for seminary students and pastors who are already familiar with New Testament Greek, although most of the book would be useful for people who have yet to take a class on the language.

Harvey is well qualified to write on this subject, and has written much on both New Testament Greek and Paul. As such this resource is a welcome addition to my shelf and a guide for both understanding and working through the Pauline epistles. His introductory chapters on genre and historical background give the reader a basic understanding of how Paul's letters and letters of his day are both similar and different, and Harvey masterfully traces out a timeline of Paul's life, first using only the letters themselves, and then adding in the details found in the book of Acts. This timeline works like a Holmesian deduction and is quite interesting.

His chapter on Paul's theology seems brief compared to the massive volumes available on the subject today. However, this book is intended to aid in interpretation, and a full theology of Paul is beyond its scope. He does point out some of the major themes which will surely aid the reader in developing a basic framework for reading and understanding Paul's writings.

The last few chapters of the book get into the details of interpreting and communicating specific passages in Paul's letters. This section is where a knowledge of Greek is helpful, and in the last chapter, essential. I recognize the Greek can be a put off for some people, but the section on preparing a sermon is very helpful, especially for young seminarians.

In all I would recommend the book mostly for its introductory materials. The last third of the book will not be as useful for those without any Greek training.

I received this book from the publisher for the purposes of review. The opinions expressed are my own.

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