Saturday, June 1, 2013

Interpreting the Pauline Letters - John Harvey

Focusing on Paul's letters, but not on any one of his letters in particular, this book is basically a resource for studying Biblical letters. Harvey delves into proper methods of researching the text, its variants, and the historical background of the time of Paul.  He also gives recommended steps in studying the original Greek and advise as to how it can be presented.

I particularly liked Harvey's summary/overview of Paul's teachings throughout his letters.  When dealing with Paul's speaking of the change that takes place at salvation, quoting 2Cor. 5:17, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come' he explains, "That statement points to something far greater than a minor shift in belief or behavior; it describes nothing less than a total transfer from one sphere of existence to another."   I also liked his overview of the backgrounds of each place to which Paul wrote his letters.  

What I didn't like was that Harvey didn't seem like a big advocate for verse-by-verse/book-by-book preaching.  Not that he was absolutely against it, but he seemed to be advocating focusing on people's needs and applying the scripture to those, which might bring about more of a selective approach to the Scriptures.  Don't we discover our needs from God's Word? Not our felt needs necessarily, but our true needs, whether we feel a need for them or not. Perhaps I would add the word duties, and not merely "needs" but 'must-knows'(which isn't really a word), so how about 'imperatives'?  These things may be what Mr. Harvey meant, but isn't a verse-by-verse/book-by-book approach the best way to discover all of our needs and duties, in the correct order we're supposed to deal with them and all of the instruction pertaining to them?
But overall, I think that this is a good 'handbook'.  It gives a good amount of background information and summaries.   Also, the chapters on translating and interpreting the passages from the Greek are handy.  I think that it is a good overview of Paul's letters.

Thanks to Kregel Academic for sending me a free review copy of this book!(My review did not have to be favorable)

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