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Why is it more difficult to interpret Paul’s letters than it seems? Essay

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Why is it more difficult to interpret Paul’s letters than it seems?

Paul’s letters are more difficult to interpret than they seem because they are occasional documents. They were written for a specific reason to a specific group with specific instruction for their situation. These letters contain valuable instruction for us, but only when we have an understanding of what the occasion was that these letters were written.

How does the fact that letters are occasional documents (as opposed to literary texts, which may be non-occasional) influence the reading of letters?

These letters are one side of a “conversation.” We must realize that we don’t have “all” of the information pertaining to the occasion or circumstances they were written for or to. The Fee and Stuart explain it as being similar to hearing one side of a phone conversation. We only hear one side of the conversation, we don’t hear the specific questions or the information on the other end of the phone.
Another important aspect of these letters is that they contain “task theology,” not “stated theology.” The epistles are not treatises.1 They are examples of how the writer’s of the Biblical letters apply their theological principles, beliefs convictions and standards but they are not explanations of the theology itself. The epistles, as explained by Fee and Stuart, are full of theology, but it is applied theology. (p 58)

Why do Fee and Stuart stress the importance of reading the whole epistle multiple times?

Fee ad Stuart stress the importance of reading the epistles multiple times and as a whole for a couple of reasons. One is to see the “big view” or the epistle in whole view. This allows for the reader to begin to see things like the “tone” tha...


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... Christians view the Old Testament narratives as intended to teach a “moral lesson.” The third reason listed that often the Old Testament narratives contain implicit teachings or affirmations of other explicit teachings found elsewhere in the Bible. (pp 92-93).

In various places of the text Fee and Stuart have spoken in the negative of attempts to “get around” various teachings to have them keep from contradicting their doctrinal beliefs or stances. Similarly, the Old Testament narratives can be used, poorly I may add, to support or enforce variable desires that a Christian would like to place on others. Fee and Stuart offered the example of the building of the temple as “proof” that God wants a church to build a new building; or the use of 2 Chronicles 7:14-15 as a politically rally cry to Christians as a promise explicitly to them, for their direct situation.


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