Book: Interpreting the Pauline Epistles

Nerd Alert: This is a deep water book. You are going to need a basic knowledge of Koine Greek to really dig into the meat of this book.

Today’s book is part of Kregel’s Handbooks for New Testament Exegesis series. It is Interpreting the Pauline Letters and is by John D. Harvey. Harvey, at the time of writing, is Professor of New Testament at Columbia International University.

Harvey’s Interpreting the Pauline Letters is set as “an exegetical handbook,” although it could be seen as a supplemental textbook instead. Harvey approaches the academic issues that envelop all of the traditional Pauline Epistles of the New Testament. While some of the authorship debates are visited, Harvey precedes to treat all of the epistles as Pauline rather than cut and paste from the text.

It is important to note that Interpreting the Pauline Letters does not attempt a thorough treatment of Paul’s biography. Rather, Harvey leans on the traditional understanding of Paul and his life. The focus here is on interpreting the Biblical text of the Pauline Corpus.

This requires that one put Interpreting the Pauline Letters on the desk with a good Greek lexicon and perhaps a theological dictionary—or have your Bible software open to help out. However, that is not all bad. This is not meant to be the only resource as you dig into Paul.

A few issues present themselves in Interpreting the Pauline Letters. The first is that a knowledge of Greek is necessary, and the more certain your knowledge the better off you are. One can find half-measures, such as interlinears, and still use this book, but you are far better off to have run through your Greek learning first.

An additional issue is in the Greek, as Harvey presents some methods of diagramming Greek structure in Interpreting the Pauline Letters. I have a feeling it matches his Greek is Good Grief, but it doesn’t match, exactly, other Greek textbook methods so there is a modicum of confusion there for some folks. Like me.

However, having just finished a similar volume on Paul for a Greek class, I found Harvey’s Interpreting the Pauline Letters quite informative. He does not address the newer issues in Pauline studies but provides useful tools for the serious reader to dig into the text itself.

I have no qualms about recommending Interpreting the Pauline Letters to you as a resource for New Testament Studies. (except this: at the time of the review, is out of it. I don’t know if it can be found elsewhere!!)

Please note: Kregel Academic offers me free books. I tend to accept ones that look good, and so often find that I chose well. They do not require a positive review in exchange for the book, only a review. This is that review.


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