Understanding The Bible
"A General Intro to Paul and the Pauline Epistles"

J. Deering, AncientPath.net

A General Introduction to Paul and the Pauline Epistles

One Third of the New Testament was written by The Apostle Paul.

Twenty-one out of twenty-seven books of the New Testament were Epistles (letters).

"The apostles' use of the letter to convey their teachings was eminently suited to the nature of Christianity.  Christianity is basically a personal relationship between the individual and God through faith in Christ Jesus.... The needs and capacities of the readers governed the contents of the epistle directed to them and influenced the application of the Gospel truths contained in it.  In a letter Paul could treat important subjects with accuracy and fullness, and yet do so in immediate connection with actual life situations...." (D. Edmond Heibert, An Introduction to the Pauline Epistles (7th printing, 1972), p.14) "and were intended to meet real needs and answer vital questions... the ready outpourings of an alert, compassionate pastoral heart.  Again and again troublesome questions arose in the churches that called for Paul's help.  Frequently believers failed to understand the implications of Christianity for their lives and engaged in practices that demanded the rebuke and correction of apostolic authority.  Current heresies threatened inroads upon the young churches and called forth Paul's instruction and counsel.  These churches looked to him for help and cherished his assistance.  At other times Paul heard good news or received tokens of affection from these churches; this caused him to write and express his joy and to give encouragement and exhortation." (D. Edmond Heibert, Ibid., p.18)

How the Pauline Epistles can be grouped for study:

I.          Chronological / Theological
                (15 Year Period after the beginning of the 2nd Missionary Journey)
                        Eschatological (The Coming of Christ):
                                    1 Thessalonians - during the second Missionary Tour - Spring A.D. 50
                                    2 Thessalonians - during the second Missionary Tour - Fall A.D. 50
                        Soteriological (The Cross of Christ):
                                    Galatians - Second or Third Missionary Tour - Prob. Spring A.D. 52
                                    1 Corinthians - Third Missionary Tour - Spring A.D. 57
                                    2 Corinthians - Third Missionary Tour - Late Summer or Autumn A.D. 57
                                    Romans - Third Missionary Tour - February A.D. 58
                        Christological (The Character of Christ):
                                    Colossians - First Roman Imprisonment - Summer A.D. 62
                                    Philemon - First Roman Imprisonment - Summer A.D. 62
                                    Ephesians - First Roman Imprisonment - Summer A.D. 62
                                    Philippians - First Roman Imprisonment - Early A.D. 63
Ecclesiological (The Church of Christ):
                                    1 Timothy - After First Roman Imprisonment - Fall A.D. 63
                                    Titus - After First Roman Imprisonment - Fall A.D. 63
                                    2 Timothy - During Second Roman Imprisonment - Autumn A.D. 66

II.          Church / Personal / Length and Experience (Biblical Order)
The Nine Church Epistles
                        1.         Romans
                        2.         1 Corinthians - The Church at
            3.         2 Corinthians - The Church at Corinth
            4.         Galatians - Group of Churches
                        5.         Ephesians - Group of Churches or Circular Letter to Asian Churches (Prison)
                        6.         Philippians -
Church of Philippi (Prison)
                        7.         Colossians -
Church of Colossae (Prison)
                        8.         1 Thessalonians - Church at Thessalonica
                        9.         2 Thessalonians - Church at Thessalonica

The Four Personal / Pastoral Epistles
                        10.        1 Timothy - Addressed to Timothy (Personal & Pastoral)
11.        2 Timothy - Addressed to Timothy (Personal & Pastoral) (Prison)
12.        Titus - Addressed to Titus (Personal & Pastoral)
                        13.        Philemon - Addressed to Philemon (Personal but not Pastoral) (Prison)

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2023-09-04 update