Letters of Paul

Course Code: RGB2708HF







Course Description

This course is an introduction to the ministry and theology of Paul the Apostle. We will examine persistent distortions of Paul’s theological and pastoral teachings as well as the various images of Paul the man. Beginning with Paul’s spiritual and theological roots, we will then focus on various theological and spiritual themes found in his authentic letters (1 Thessalonians, Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans and Philippians) as well as those whose authenticity has been questioned (2 Thessalonians, Ephesians, Colossians).



These themes include Paul’s calling, the resurrection of Christ, the Parousia, apocalyptic eschatology, salvation, hope, love, justification, the spiritual life, and Israel. The meaning of Paul’s teachings on Christian community life in contrast to Greco-Roman culture and Roman imperial ideology will be stressed.

Course Objectives

  • Thorough understanding of how the letters are shaped by the threefold context of the letters – apocalyptic expectation, the struggle for self-identity of the Christian movement, and opposition to the Roman imperial ideology/theology
  • A thorough understanding of the ad hoc and contingent nature of the letters and its implications for interpretation
  • Familiarity with the general outline of Paul’s life and ministry and the sequence and dating of his letters
  • understanding of the new perspective in Pauline scholarship and its theological implications
  • ability to exegete selected passages with regard to both context and rhetorical situation
  • These goals will be demonstrated in the exegetical assignments and the final paper

Course Schedule

A detailed course schedule is available for download.

Week 1

Images of Paul through the ages. Augustine – Luther – Stendhal.  Approaching Paul’s letters in a balanced way.  Various issues: How faithful is the theology of Paul to the gospel of Jesus? Does he proclaim Christ or is he the “founder of Christianity?” How consistent is Paul’s theology? The conversion of Paul; a general chronology of his life.

Week 2

The role Roman imperial ideology in Paul’s theology. The Parousia and the coming judgment; the importance of patient endurance.

Week 3

Paul’s spirituality: the cross, the Spirit, and the community. The values of Greco-Roman culture. In Christ Jesus there is no Greek or Jew, slave or free, male or female.

Week 4

Philippians: the kenosis of Christ; Christian humility. Philemon: relationships in the new age.

Week 5

Paul’s fractious and tumultuous church – 1 Corinthians; the cross as God’s wisdom; the nature of the community ethical life.

Week 6

1 Corinthians continued: marriage and sexual ethics; love; religious experience and worship.

Week 7

1 and 2 Corinthians continued. Communal worship and prayer. Paul and women.

Week 8

II Corinthians. Spirituality of imperfection and weakness. Paul’s boasting. Ambassadors of Christ.

Week 9

The just shall live by faith: Galatians. The Law and Christian freedom; struggling for the universality of the gospel; primacy of faith.  A new order. Is Galatians anti-Jewish?

Week 10

To shut every human mouth: Romans. God’s judgment of humanity; the origins of death; the role of Christ as the unifier; the tragedy of human sin and weakness; the inner struggle; the role of the spirit in liberating and reconciling the human person with God; justification by faith; the continuing place of Israel in salvation history; the law of love.

Week 11

Romans continued – chapters 9-16.

Week 12

The cosmic Christ: Colossians and Ephesians, witnesses to a Pauline tradition. Christ is the redeemer and reconciler of the cosmos, as well as the head of the church and ruler of the created order; aspects of the Christian life. Letters such as 1 and 2 Timothy; and Titus; are considered deutero-Pauline – they use the apostle’s authority and teaching to organize the structures of authority in the communities and to counter heterodox teaching.