Pauline theology has long been an interest to students of the Bible. With the interest in the New Perspective on Paul, there’s a renewed interest in Pauline exegesis and hermeneutics, though he’s been the subject of many-a-scholar’s focus for nearly 2000 years.
Kregel Academic has recently started a new series, Handbooks for New Testament Exegesis, that seeks to “offer the student of Scripture the basic skills for interpreting and communicating the message of the New Testament in the context of the various literary genres.” The first book in the series is John D. Harvey’s Interpreting the Pauline Letters: An Exegetical Handbook. Harvey is the Dean of the Seminary & School of Ministry and Director of Access at Columbia International University (bio here).
I’ve long been a consumer of all things Pauline. Not only have I read and loved all that Gordon Fee has put on on Pauline Pneumatology and Christology, I’ve loved the work of Dunn, Wright, and a host of other Pauline scholars. So while I’m not a Pauline specialist, I’ve certainly read a fare amount of material on the subject of Pauline theology, exegesis, and hermeneutics.
That being said, in my estimation, Harvey’s book should be included among the common works that scholars generally recommend as being necessities for students of NT exegesis. I’m thinking, for example, of Fee’s New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students & Pastors or even BDAG.
While Harvey’s audience is most certainly what I’d classify as either serious students of the Pauline corpus, it’d make a great first year seminary text. Harvey takes what I’d consider a “classic” evangelical approach to the Pauline letters regarding historicity, inspiration, and canonicty but those who disagree over the authorial issues related the Pastoral Epistles and/or issues related to textual criticism will still find this work helpful.
Interpreting the Pauline Letters is broken into eight comprehensive sections:
- The Genre of Paul’s Letters
- The Historical Background of Paul’s Letters
- The Theology of Paul’s Letters
- Preparing to Interpret Paul’s Letters
- Interpreting Passages in Paul’s Letters
- Communicating Passages in Paul’s Letters
- From Text to Sermon: Two Examples
- Selected Resources
As you can tell, this is wide ranging in scope. Entire books are dedicated to the many subsections under these sections too! And that’s one of the positive aspects of this book, under each of these sections are significant subjects covered. Issues related to semantics, synthesis, influence, and textual criticism are covered, and, helpfully, does an excellent job of conveying the variety of views upon debatable matters while persuasively arguing his perspective on the given subject.
Harvey is to be commended for providing students of Pauline such a rich, comprehensive, and relatively short (211 pages!) book. Highly recommended!
*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review*
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.