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Interpreting the Pauline Letters: An Exegetical Handbook


The inaugural volume in the Handbooks for New Testament Exegesis series, Interpreting the Pauline Letters begins by exploring the components of narrative–setting, characterization, and plot–and then develops the foremost theological themes in each of the books traditionally ascribed to Paul. The method sets the task of exegesis within the literary context of first-century letters as well as the theological context of major themes present in Paul’s letters. The book goes beyond exegesis to discuss strategies for communicating the central truths of Paul’s first-century messages to a twenty-first-century audience. Each chapter includes a list of helpful resources to the step of interpretation discussed. A glossary defining technical words and samples of moving from exegesis to proclamation make this guide practical and user-friendly. Designed as a handbook for seminary and graduate students, the book provides a go-to guide that will also serve seminary-trained pastors, upper-level college students, and well-motivated lay people. As readers work through this handbook, they will begin to see and interpret the narrative writings as Paul intended them to be understood. (From the publisher’s website)


Written by the first great missionary church planter to the churches he planted and the co-workers with whom he labored, Paul’s letters breathe the spirit of the age in which he wrote. Yet the challenges his readers faced are eerily similar to the challenges the twenty-first-century church faces. It is necessary only to read 2 Timothy 4:3-4 to note the parallels (NASB): “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.” The advice and instruction Paul offered his readers continue to guide churches and individuals today. It is only natural that we turn to his letters to understand the significance of what Christ has done for us and how we can follow him more closely.


With so many doctrinal controversies invading the books we read and the pulpits of the churches we attend, it is vital that we know how to properly interpret scripture. I try to sharpen my hermeneutical understanding by reading two or three books on the topic every year. I was glad to see this book come along as it introduced me to a new series on interpreting the New Testament.

Paul’s letters have been the scene of controversial interpretation over the years and it is important that we have a firm grasp on this section of scripture. I believe Dr. Harvey has put together a veritable toolbox to help us in our task of interpreting Paul’s letters.

This book addresses such topics as the genre, historical background, and theology of Paul’s letters. The focus then shifts to interpretation and communication of the text with an emphasis on sermon construction. There is also a section on resources for further help and a useful glossary of terms in the back.

My overall impression of this book is that it is an excellent resource for those who want to dig in and digest a Pauline passage. I especially enjoyed the section on Paul’s theology. This will definitely be one of my go-to books when studying Paul. I will be acquiring the other books in this series. Thank you Kregel and Dr. Harvey for this valuable service to the Body of Christ.

Book Details:

  • Author: John D. Harvey

  • Publisher: Kregel

  • Format: Paperback

  • Page Count: 224

  • ISBN: 9780825427671

  • List Price: $22.99

About the Author:

John D. Harvey is Professor of New Testament and Dean of the Seminary and School of Ministry at Columbia International University. Harvey is the author of Listening to the Text: Oral Patterning in Paul’s Letters, Greek is Good Grief: Laying the Foundations for Exegesis and Exposition, and Anointed with the Spirit and Power: A Biblical Theology of Holy Spirit Empowerment. (From the Book)

Where to Buy:

Disclaimer: I received this book from Kregel in exchange for my unbiased review.

Categories: Kregel, Reviews
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