Exd & Cnq












Paul's Undisputed Letters

[ intro  |  1Thess  |  1Cor  |  2Cor  |  Gal  |  Phlp  |  Phlm  |  Rom ]


  • Intro:

  • All of the letters follow a specific (and typical) format:

    • Greeting

      • names the sender(s) and receiver(s) of the letter, and also usually offers some indication as to what issue the letter is addressing.

      • [Rom: 'Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God...']

    • Thanksgiving

      • Paul praises the community for what they are doing right, or for the good news he has heard about them.

        • 1 Thess has longest; Gal doesn't have one.

        • [Rom: 'First, I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is heralded throughout the world.']

    • Body

      • Paul responds to the specific issues in the church to which he writes that have been brought to his attention.

        • typically, the longest section of the letter.

    • Exhortation

      • Paul offers general advice and encouragement, often an attempt to end on a positive note.

        • This section may also contain:

          • a description of Paul's travel plans.

          • discussion of Paul's collection for the Jerusalem church.

    • Closing

      • Contains final blessings/warnings, and often a list of people to whom Paul sends special greetings in the church to which he writes.

        • [2 Cor: 'Finally, brothers, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.]


  • προς θεσσαλονικεις α
    Paul's 1st Letter to the Thessalonians

  • Written 50-51 AD

  • earliest known piece of Christian literature.

  • Thessalonica was a major port city on the Via Egnatia,

    • Paul's church there was composed of converts from paganism.

  • The letter addresses two main concerns, both dealing with beliefs about the parousia (Gk. παρουσια, "arrival, return"):

    • Christians had stopped working, and the church had to support them.

    • Some had died before Jesus' return, which was apparently unexpected.

  • Paul's response:

    • Claims the Day of the Lord will come like a "thief at night"- in other words, unpredictably.

      • But Christians are "children of the light"

      • They know the truth of the gospel, and need not worry so long as they live acc to it.

    • "We who are alive will be taken up with the dead to meet the Lord in the air…"

      • Describes a literal resurrection of the dead on the Day of the Lord.

      • Paul indicates that the Day of the Lord will come when he is still alive.

    • The "Christian" or "Theological" virtues.

    • Recall that for Greeks, virtues were what enabled rightly-directed reasoning (courage, moderation, wisdom)

    • Paul often mentions these 3 key virtues in connection with one another:

      • Faith (πιστις)

        • Trust in the truth of the gospel & obedience to it,

        • Though it will not be "proven" until the parousia.

      • Hope (ελπις)

        • Seen as dishonorable (shameful) by Roman standards,

        • but Paul sees it as the necessary outcome of real faith,

        • & honorable b/c of the confidence Christians can have in its fulfillment.

      • Love (αγαπη)

        • Acting out of love is the essence of the gospel, and consistent with Jesus' teachings (the love command, mentioned in the letter) and actions (his death).

        • Love precedes knowledge, directing the intellect to Truth.


  • προς κορινθιους α
    Paul's 1st Letter to the Corinthians

  • Written 53-54 AD, from Ephesus

  • After Romans, 2nd most important & 2nd longest.

  • 1 of at least 5 letters between Paul & Corinthian church.

  • [Corinth had been a rival of Athens,

    • but destroyed by Rome in 144 BC.

      • Left dormant for a century;

      • resettled as a Roman colony by Julius Caesar 56-44 BC.]

    • The population was former soldiers, criminals, the poor, most granted Roman citizenship.

      • [A city for the "upwardly mobile," not composed of traditionally wealthy Roman families.]

    • reputation for immorality,

      • κορινθιαναζεσθαι ("to become Corinthianized") meant "to be an immoral and materialistic person."

      • [city had over 2 dozen pagan temples,

        • at least 1 dedicated to the cult of the emperor.]

    • Acc to Acts, Paul spent 18 months there establishing a church,

      • after his departure he received a letter from the community describing problems that had arisen there.

  • main problem = a church divided

    • Diff apostolic leaders visited w/ diff gospels:

      • Paul, 'Cephas' (Peter), Apollos, those 'in Christ'

    • Social class:

      • rich and poor celebrated the Eucharist at diff times.

    • Spiritual charisms:

      • some seen as more spiritually gifted than others.

      • some behaved immorally, on the basis of mistaken assumptions about Paul's gospel,

        • esp. his teaching about the resurrection of the dead.

          • Some assumed it was not to be taken literally,

          • but referred to a spiritual change at baptism,

          • that saved the soul and meant that the body no longer mattered.

          • they could do what they wanted with their bodies ("everything is lawful"),

          • distorted Paul's teaching that the law was replaced by faith in Christ, so no longer needed to be followed.


  • How Paul responds:

  • 1:18-25- The Paradox of the Cross

    • gospel = 'foolishness' to those who are 'perishing'

      • those w/ no hope in a life beyond this one, who adhere to the pagan religions of the Empire.

      • they see salvation through the crucifixion of a Jewish peasant as ridiculous.

    • also a 'stumbling block' to Jews

      • they 'stumble' b/c they resist the idea of a messiah who does not conform to their expectations.

    • for Paul, expectations and values of this world (what is honorable or 'worthy of boasting') oppose God,

      • the rich/powerful/honorable in this world are such because they oppose God.

      • The weak/poor/powerless are w/ God ('divine reversal').

      • Jesus as suffering servant who dies on the cross out of love is therefore the perfect expression of obedience to God, of being his "son."

      • And seeking to be among the honorable in this world is contrary to the will of God and the gospel.

  • Ex: Paul's "Rights" as an Apostle

  • As a teacher, the extent to which Paul's followers provided for him indicated his honor and validated his teaching.

    • To work for a living was dishonorable by Roman standards.

      • [rich lived off of labor of poor.]

    • had Paul taken advantage of this 'right,'  he would have contradicted the message of the gospel by conforming to Roman standards of honor.

    • Instead he labors for himself.

    • he does expect to 'reap a spiritual harvest from his spiritual seed,' meaning his rewards will come at the end time (salvation) rather than through the material benefits of the here and now.

  • 11:23-26: earliest written account of 'Words of Institution' at the Lord's Supper.

    • Unique passage: "Do this in memory of me."

    • Also in the GLuke.

    • Part of Kerygma, core of the Christian message.

  • Ch. 12: metaphor of the unity of the body

    • The Corinthians judge one another acc. to the power of spiritual charisms, some worthy of more esteem than others.

    • Paul's response:

      • All Christians are parts of Christ's body; all are unified, though different.

      • Some body parts are more honorable than others, but useless when separated from the body as a whole.

      • [God's standards of honor oppose the world's,

        • those least honorable by the world's standards are most important to God.]

    The Hymn to Love in Chapter 13.

    • Most famous passage from Paul's letters, one of the most misunderstood.

    • love as virtue, not feeling.

      • ερος is the feeling we describe as love; the opposite of what Paul is talking about.

      • αγαπη is totally selfless love, directed at the 'building up' of others, rather than one's self.

        • not attraction/pleasure, even pleasure derived from doing good.

        • a choice, a commitment kept regardless of feelings, which change.

        • [Paul thinks following one's feelings = "enslaved to the flesh"]

    • αγαπη is the love Jesus demonstrated by dying on the cross,

      • to be 'in Christ' or to 'share in Christ's death' is to show the same love for others.

        • Anything the Corinthians do to build up the self over others is contrary to this.

      • Sharing in αγαπη foreshadows the k. of God, which we know partially now, but will know fully at the resurrection.

      • So, love is greatest of the virtues:

        • Faith requires accepting as true something 'unproven.'

        • Hope is confidence that God's promises will be kept.

        • when k. of God arrives, faith is proven, hope is fulfilled.

        • Neither of these is necessary any longer, but love is.

      • knowledge w/o love is like a 'resounding gong' or 'clashing cymbal'-

        • like knowing how to make noise, but not making music.

          • [which best fulfills the purpose of the instrument?

          • Is it possible to 'know how an instrument works' w/o knowing how to play music on it?

          • Think back to Plato's concept of the soul in harmony, rightly directed by the Good]

        • Love is the principal upon which the pursuit of knowledge is founded,

          • as opposed to knowledge for its own sake.

        • Again, love is virtue, so it perfects reasoning, by rightly directing the soul in the pursuit of Truth...

  • Ch 15: More Kerygma:

    • Christ died for our sins

    • In accordance w/ scripture

    • buried

    • raised on the third day in accordance with scripture

    • appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the 12

      • [appeared to more than 500 brothers at once, most of whom were still living at the time Paul wrote the letter.

      • appeared to James, then to all the apostles.]

    • Last of all, 'as to one born abnormally,' he appeared to Paul.

      • Paul mentions his former life as a persecutor of Christians, claiming this is why he is not fit to be called an apostle.

      • See Mt 5:17-20

  • Disputed Passage:

    • Ch 14:33b-35, Paul says women should be silent in church.

    • contradicts ch 11,

      • women can pray and prophesize if their heads are covered.

    • an interpolation (editorial addition from a later scribe)

      • [Probably written when the church was confronting the heresy of Gnosticism.]

  • Jesus & Adam, and the resurrection (ch 15:20-58):

    • Paul understood 'resurrection of the dead' as a literal, future reality

    • the Corinthians were pagans,

      • saw the resurrection as a spiritual reality, involving freedom from the body,

      • assumed it took place in the present, at baptism.
        ['realized eschatology']

    • Paul points out what is at stake:

      • no literal resurrection = Christ was not resurrected.

      • Paul's preaching and faith are false.

        • [believers are all still 'in their sins.'

        • to 'hope' in the gospel is to be pitied- victim of a hoax.

        • no reason to endure suffering; hedonism is the only way to live.]

        • But, Christ has been raised; Paul knows from experience.

      • compares Christ to Adam, who brought death into the world by disobeying God.

        • Christ's obedience undoes this; his resurrection proves it.

        • He brings 'grace': God gives to us that which we cannot achieve- He 'justifies' us.

  • nature of the Resurrection:

    • analogy of a seed:

      • People in the ancient world believed a seed had to die to come to life as a new plant.

      • Similarly, we must die to be resurrected into a new life:

      • We are transformed, with a new 'spiritual body.'

        • σαρξ: Flesh, corpse.

        • σομα: spirit and body.

  • [Ends with a debated Aramaic term, either:

    • Marana tha (O Lord, come!) or

    • Maran atha (Our Lord has come!)]


  •  [προς κορινθιους β
    Paul's 2nd Letter to the Corinthians

    • Most personal of Paul's letters, and most difficult of the undisputed letters to understand.

    • Probably a composite of at least two letters.

      • Refers to a "painful" or "tearful" letter that Paul had previously written, that may be found in 2 Cor 10-13.

    • Passages to know:

      • 3:12-18, 4:7-11, 6:1-10, 10:9-11, 11:21-29, 12:2-10]


  • προς γαλατας
    Paul's Letter to the Galatians

  • [Written to where?

  • 2 Theories:

    • Northern Galatia

      • can refer to an ethnic region in upper Turkey

      • if true, likely early (48-50 AD)

    • Southern Galatia

      • can refer to a Roman province in lower Turkey

      • if true, usually dated later (55-57, from Ephesus)]

  • Only undisputed letter w/o a thanksgiving.

  • [Written to a church Paul probably did not originally intend to found

    • He got sick while passing through,

    • introduced the Galatians who aided him to the gospel.]

  • Written in response to two problems caused by "Judaizers" who came to Galatia after Paul claiming:

    • Paul is not a true apostle

    • His gospel is not complete b/c he did not teach the need to accept the Mosaic Law.

  • Written as 'απολογια' or 'defense' of Paul's gospel and his claim that faith alone is necessary for salvation.

  • Letter is explicitly anti-Law, often contrasted with Romans.

    • Had an important impact on Reformation Theology.

    • [Luther referred to Galatians as his "wife."

      • used Paul's teaching on "justification by faith" to argue against Catholic system of indulgences.

    • misinterpretations of the letter have also been responsible for Christian anti-Semitism.]

  • Key Themes/Passages:

    • Ch. 1 = Paul's experience of the risen Christ and its aftermath.

      • [3 years after it Paul first visited Jerusalem to meet James and Peter.]

    • Ch.2 "The Jerusalem Council"

      • ["four years later" Paul met with them (and John) again to discuss his mission to Gentiles.

      • permitted by the apostles, but not exactly approved.

      • Paul records a disagreement w/Peter at Antioch over eating with Gentiles.]

    • letter contains 6 arguments intended to respond to the controversy over the role of the law:

      • [3:1-5

        • The Galatians received the spirit from Paul when he was with them through faith, not from following the law, so why would they need it now?]

      • 3:6-14

        • God's judgment of Abraham as righteous preceded his covenant with him (and the law) and was based on his faith.

      • [3:15-25

        • A ratified will cannot be annulled by a later addition, and the law came 430 years after the promise to Abraham.

        • The law was intended as a temporary "disciplinarian" until Christ arrived.

      • 3:26-4:11

        • The Galatians were slaves to the "elemental powers,"

          • but through the spirit became adopted "sons" of God,

            • entitled to the freedom of sonship.

          • why become slaves to the law?

      • 4:12-20

        • The Galatians had treated Paul well when he was with them- how could he become an enemy to them, as the Judaizers suggest?]

      • 4:21-31

        • Paul reinterprets the story of Abraham and Hagar and Sarah as an allegory:

          • Hagar represents the "earthly" Jerusalem and the Mosaic Law.

          • Sarah, a free woman, represents the heavenly Jerusalem and God's promise to Abraham

    • [Passages to know:

      • 1:1-5, 1:13-24, 2:6-14, 3:1-6, 3:23-29, 4:21-31, 5:14, 6:7-8, 6:14-15]



Captivity Epistles: Philippians & Philemon

  • considered 'Captivity Epistles,'

    • (along w/ Colossians and Ephesians)

    • At some point in each, Paul claims he is writing from prison.

  • Both undisputed.

  • Both probably written from Ephesus, 54-56 AD.

    • Paul mentions several imprisonments in this area in 2 Cor.

  • [In the Roman Empire, imprisonment was not typically used as a long-term punishment for serious crimes.

    • Exile or execution instead

    • Prisons used to hold the accused while awaiting trial.

    • Rome did not provide for a prisoner's basic needs,

      • so a prisoner relied on family and friends.]


  •  προς φιλιππησιους
    Paul's Letter to the Philippians

  • [Philippi named after Philip of Macedon (father of Alex. the Great)

    • Refounded as a Roman colony 31 BC by Augustus

    • citizens received privileges in return for their loyalty to the empire.

  • Church Paul founded there underwent suffering and persecution for loyalty to the gospel.

    • Despite this, it provided for Paul's needs while he was in prison.

    • main purpose of the letter is to offer thanks for support.]

  • Key Themes/Passages:

    • [greeting of the letter mentions 'episkopoi kai diakonoi,'

      • trans here as 'overseers and ministers.'

      • indicates some sort of leadership in Paul's absence.]

    • 1:12-26= Paul's imprisonment:

      • he considers it possible that he will die/be executed.

      • view of death differs from 1 Thess

        • no longer assumes Christ will return first.

        • believes in union w/ Christ after death

        • but b4 end time resurrection (sep. of body/soul?)

    • 2:6-11 (VERY IMPORTANT) 'The Hymn to Christ'

      • the heart of the letter (like ch 13 of 1 Cor)

      • Early Christian creed that predates the letter and offers a glimpse into the earliest Christian beliefs:

      • 'he was in the form of God [but] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped'

        • 2 possibilities:

        • early reference to Jesus' divinity (there are actually few in the NT)

        • Another contrast w/Adam,

          • who was created 'in the image of God,'

          • but DID seek to be equal with him (tree of knowledge..)

      • 'he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave…he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross'

        • The Suffering Servant in Isaiah

    • [Paul's Autobiography (3:4b-6):

      • Circumcised on the eighth day

      • Of the race of Israel

      • Of the tribe of Benjamin

      • A Hebrew of Hebrew parentage

      • In observance of the law a Pharisee

      • In zeal I persecuted the church

      • In righteousness based on the law I was blameless.

    • 3:7-11= Paul's life before Christ.

      • He uses the Gk word σκυβαλον, variously translated as "rubbish, dung, garbage."

      • "for his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…"]

    • [4:3= Paul's 'Yokemate'

      • Paul asks his "true yokemate" to help those in Philippi (Euodia and Syntyche) to come to a mutual understanding.

      • Gk συζυγος, can refer to a comrade or spouse.

      • Eusebius takes this as a reference to Paul's wife…

      • but 1 Cor 9:5 might be taken to contradict this.

  • Passages to know:

    • 1:1-2, 1:20-24, 2:3-4, 2:5-11, 2:14-16, 3:7-11, 4:8-9, 4:11-12]


  • προς φιλημονα
    Paul's Letter to Philemon

    • Only undisp. letter written to an individual.

    • Captivity Epistle- written while Paul was in prison.

    • Philemon = wealthy Christian converted by Paul.

    • Letter is about Philemon's slave, Onesimus ("Useful"), whom Paul has met in prison.

      • Controversial because it does not explicitly condemn slavery-

      • this is b/c Paul thought apocalyptically,

        • did not think there was time left to change social institutions like slavery.

    • Final greeting refers to "Mark" and "Luke"- traditionally thought to be the authors of those gospels.


  • Written from Corinth @ 58 AD

  • longest and most important of Paul's letters.

    • only undisp. letter written to a church Paul did not establish.

    • Written as a letter of introduction

    • and to request $ for a journey to Spain

    • often called the "Gospel of Paul."

  • contrasted w/ Galatians b/c of differences regarding the role of the Mosaic law in salvation history.

    • context is essential:

      • Galatians was written to a completely Gentile church,

      • Romans is written to a mix of Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians,

        • possibly founded by Peter,

        • and aware of Paul’s reputation.

Key Themes/Passages

  • "All stand condemned before God"

    • both Jews and Gentiles have sinned before God, and

    • both will experience his wrath at the end-time judgment.

    • Jews:

      • given the law, but failed to follow it.

      • those who think they have followed it zealously have actually used it to sin- they have used it to separate themselves from others.

        • [ex. food purity laws (recall conflict w/Peter at Antioch)]

    • Gentiles:

      • Though not given the law, they could have known God and his "just decrees" by studying his creation.

        • From Greek philosophy- a Natural Law, or inherent purpose in nature intelligible by the human mind.

  • 'the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law...'

    • the law does provide a path to the right relationship with God,

      • but sin causes us both to break the law,

      • and to distort it- to actually follow it in a sinful way.

      • Judaism should have been the example for Gentiles to follow,

      • instead it used the law to sin.

  • 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness'

    • Abraham was seen as righteous b/c of his trust and obedience (i.e. faith), not b/c of the law (there was none)

    • Abraham's 'heirs' (inheritors of the covenant) are those who have faith- not those who follow the law.

  • 'hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out..

  • In the letter Paul uses two models for explaining his understanding of salvation:

  • A Legal Model

    • In this model, God is a judge who has found all mankind –Jew and Gentile- guilty of transgression or law breaking (sin)

      • Gentiles, because Paul believes that knowledge of God has been made accessible to all, evident in the things he has created.

        • This is the basis for the Catholic concept of natural theology-

        • The idea that knowledge of God is knowable from creation independent from scripture.

        • Paul probably drew this from the platonic idea that creation manifested the characteristics of purposeful design, and that by studying the design one could come to know the designer, apart from the revelation of scripture.

      • Jews, because although the law had been given to them revealing the will of God, they had failed to follow it.

        • Therefore, all stand condemned before God.

        • Acc to this model, Christ took upon himself the penalty for these transgressions,

        • And is resurrection proves that his death was a sufficient price, therefore those who have faith in the saving power of his death are seen as righteous by God (without sin), even though they are not.

  • A “Participatory” Model

    • Paul also sees sin (and death) as a cosmic power that has enslaved humanity, and influences our judgment.

    • Adam allowed this power to enter the world by disobeying God, and as a result the rest of humanity is enslaved to it.

    • But Jesus, by means of his death and resurrection, has proven that he has defeated death, therefore Paul thinks he has defeated sin as well.

    • Believers therefore can participate in his victory over sin and death by means of their baptism, through which we die with Christ and are resurrected with him.

  • Mentions an "Erastus the city treasurer," whose existence has been confirmed by archaeology.

  • Passages to know:

    • 1:1-4, 1:16, 1:20-23, 2:13, 4:13, 5:1-5, 5:19-21, 7:15, 7:19, 7:21-23, 8:22-25, 8:38-39, 13:8-10