Yep kids, it’s time for another layman’s review of the scholarly…. That said, the book does a fine job of addressing the content, as well as some of the lesser-known exegetical points, of the apostle Paul’s letters in one pretty concise overview—and as such, could be a great resource for pastors, teachers, and even small-group leaders who want to dig a little deeper.
John D. Harvey. Interpreting the Pauline Letters: An Exegetical Handbook. 216p., $22.99, Kregel Academic.
This book, the second in a series of four books (the others being Gospels/Acts, General Letters, and Apocalypse) helps us to better understand both the thoughts and heart of Paul (although admittedly, it’s more about the thoughts :)). John Harvey helps us to take Paul’s (and Pauline scholars’) denser thoughts and get to a place where we can put them into use today.
Before getting into the theology, the opening chapters discuss the genre of letter writing and the letters’ historical background, and take each letter through that grid to prepare readers for the theological/textual issues that come later.
Pastors and teachers will find Section 7, “From Text to Sermon,” especially helpful. In this, the longest of the book’s eight chapters, Harvey takes us through Colossians 3:1-4 and Philippians 3:12-16, respectively, and walks us through textual criticism, analysis, and finally synthesis and “homiletical packaging,” so that pastors (and congregants) move from understanding to application.
The final chapter provides a variety of resources that readers can use to dig in further, to both help readers understand the overall interpretation of Paul’s letters (concordances, dictionaries, etc.) as well as specific commentaries on each of Paul’s 12 letters. A glossary of terms is also provided, and again will prove helpful to non-scholars trying to tackle what’s here.
Because Paul’s letters range from the systematic to the pastoral to the personal, there’s a lot to take in here. Harvey’s role here is to reveal the threads that hold them all together, and that’s what changes this from simply a useful resource to an interesting read.