Home > Kregel, Reviews > Interpreting the General Letters by Herbert W. Bateman IV

Interpreting the General Letters by Herbert W. Bateman IV


This handbook is designed as a step-by-step approach for analyzing and communicating eight letters of the New Testament: Hebrews, James, the Petrine Letters, the Johannine Letters, and Jude. Interpreting the General Letters provides important background material for the interpretation of these books by exploring the types and component parts of letter writing, the importance of an amanuensis; the historical background of the Greco-Roman world, and implications of each of these factors for interpreting the general letters.

This foundation is followed by a discussion of the theology of the general letters. Specific consideration is given to the era of promise in Hebrew Scriptures, the era of fulfillment as underscored in the general letters, and how the theology of each letter contributes to the overall canon of Scripture.

Finally, Bateman provides nine steps that move from interpretation to communication: three steps for preparing to interpret the letters, three for interpreting, and finally three for communicating the letters. All explanations include examples in order to develop a student’s or pastor’s skills for accurate interpretation and convicting communication of God’s Word. (From the Publisher’s Website)




The noun “slave” (δοῦλος) typically referred to the legal status of a per-

son in the Roman Empire. He or she was attached to a master; was an arti-

cle of personal property that one buys, sells, leases, gives, bequeaths, jointly

owns, and perhaps groups with the animals;18 and was “duty-bound only

to their owners or masters, or those to whom total allegiance is pledged.”19

The calculated use of the word “slave” (δοῦλος) by Peter, James, and Jude

tells us something about their attitudes as members of God’s Kingdom.

They present themselves as slaves who were “duty-bound” to Jesus, slaves

who were in servitude to and thereby labored for Jesus. Jesus was not just

someone they followed for three years (Peter) or a related sibling (James

and Jude). Though English translations tend to render “Jesus Christ”

(Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ) as though “Jesus” is his first name and “Christ” is his

last, the term “Christ” (Χριστοῦ) serves as a title that identifies “Jesus”

(Ἰησοῦ) as Messiah. Thus in their respective and expanded identifications

of themselves, it is not an elevated expansion as we see in Trajan’s opening

salutation (cited above). Rather Peter, James, and Jude present themselves

as slaves who belong to Jesus, who is the Christ (Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ).20 Jesus

is their King, and they in turn are his slaves in his kingdom. (This way of

describing oneself is radical when considering we today tend to emphasize

our friendship or perhaps even a sense of equality with Jesus.) (Chapter 1, Page 30)




 Kregel has put together an outstanding series to help the student of scripture properly handle the word of God. It is the Handbooks for New Testament Exegesis series. This is the second book that I have read in this series. I was very impressed with Interpreting the Pauline Letters by John D. Harvey and I was looking forward to reading this book, Interpreting the General Letters by Herbert W. Bateman IV. Having read some of Dr. Bateman’s work before, I knew I was in for a treat.

Dr. Bateman skillfully guides the student through the process of exegesis, particularly how it relates to the General Letters. Chapters 1 and 2 help the student understand how letters were written in the ancient world and the world in which these letters were written. The student is then treated to the theological themes evident in the letters. Dr. Bateman then prepares the student to approach the text. After learning how to interpret passages, the student is then instructed how to communicate his discoveries. Dr. Bateman rounds off this volume with a helpful list of book sources.

I recommend this book and this series to the serious student of the Bible. This book helps identify issues in the original text and teaches you how to work with the original Greek. Examples are given to help drive the lessons home. I look forward to reading the other books in this series as I study God’s word.

Dr. Bateman’s scholarship shines through in this valuable contribution to the Handbooks For New Testament Exegesis series. I will come back to this book often as I study the General Letters. Thank You Kregel and Dr. Bateman for this most useful book.


Book Details:


  • Author: Herbert W. Bateman IV
  • Publisher: Kregel
  • Format: Paperback
  • Page Count: 320
  • ISBN#: 9780825427688
  • List Price: $29.99



About the Author:

(PhD, Dallas Theological Seminary) has taught Greek language and exegesis for more than twenty years. He is the  Author or editor of many works on the General Epistles, including Charts on the Book of Hebrews, Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews, and a forthcoming commentary on Jude and 2 Peter. (From the Publisher’s Website)


Where to Buy:




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



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