Letters of the New Testament is a historical and theological study of the New Testament Letters with emphasis on those by Paul and their importance for early Christianity and significance for the contemporary Church. Traditional, MTThF 2:00, 4 credits.
The letters of the New Testament are challenging to interpret, given that we’re generally listening to one half of a conversation. Further, although they presume stories — the stories of their authors and audiences as well as the great biblical stories of Israel and Jesus Christ — they are not stories as such, in which terms human minds are accustomed to think. Finally, much in the letters is simply hard. C. S. Lewis observes, “I cannot be the only reader who has wondered why God, having given [St. Paul] so many gifts, withheld from him (what would to us seem so necessary for the first Christian theologian) that of lucidity and orderly exposition,” while 2 Peter 3:16 states, “There are some things in [Paul’s letters] hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.” And finally: Is Revelation a letter?
In this course, we pay attention to the nature of letter writing in the ancient world as well as hypothetical historical reconstructions behind the letters, but we also go further, asking what role these letters play in the canon of Scripture as letters, how the Church has received them, and we might faithfully interpret them today.
The Holy Bible. Preferred translations are RSV and NAB. The Bible ordered for the class is The Ignatius Bible: Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition (ISBN 978-0898709360). This is an elegant, accurate translation suitable for study and for devotional and liturgical use.
Assignments include significant writing designed to encourage interaction with the material and the development of the liberal arts skills in reasoning and rhetoric as well as active participation in class in a seminar format.