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12 Oct

Paul’s epistles fall into two categories: nine epistles written to churches (Romans to 2 Thessalonians) and four pastoral and personal epistles (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon).This is then followed by eight Hebrew Christian epistles (Hebrews to Jude).Back when I was asking Google how the Bible was written, I stumbled across a variety of supposedly “chronological” reading plans for the Bible.Nearly all of them were pious lists that emphasized reading in an order that reinforces a particular theology.The New Testament letters usually begin with a greeting including an identification of the sender or senders and of the recipients.Next comes a prayer, usually in the form of a thanksgiving.

And while we know of two letters from him to the Corinthians, it seems that he sent them at least two other letters that we do not have: a letter on the subject of immorality (1 Cor 5:9); and a certain 'tearful letter' which had caused the Corinthians much pain (2 Cor 2:4, 7:8).

Full disclosure: I was involved, albeit only slightly, in the editing process of this book, but I truly have yet to encounter another book that refuses to pull punches on this issue.

Why should it be difficult to find Paul’s letters arranged in some sort of chronological order? This sort of resource is the work of good historians, and that’s what I appreciate about it. I'd have loved to take a New Testament class that gave me a couple attempts like this and asked me to compare the portraits of Paul that emerged.

Stylistically and theologically it is altogether different from Paul; for example, in its interest in the sacrificial cult and high priesthood.

The 'canon', or authorized list, of Paul's letters was established some time in the late first or early second century.