Hermeneutics - Lesson 26

Hermeneutics and Epistles

In this lesson on Hermeneutics and Epistles by Dr. Todd Miles, we explore the interpretation of epistles, which are a form of letter writing in the New Testament. Dr. Miles emphasizes that understanding the genre of epistles is crucial, as it is one of the most straightforward literary forms to interpret. He compares biblical epistles to modern-day letters, highlighting the importance of considering their historical and cultural context.

Todd Miles
Lesson 26
Watching Now
Hermeneutics and Epistles

A. Introduction

B. Form of letters in Ancient Near East

1. Greeting

2. Thanksgiving and prayer

3. Body

4. Exhortation

5. Conclusion

C. Words

D. Argumentation

E. Authorship

F. Hermeneutical Keys

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Hermeneutics is the science and art of the interpretation of the Bible. It's a science because it is an orderly process based on rules you can apply. It is an art because of the nuances in communication and translation.



Dr. Todd Miles


Hermeneutics and Epistles

Lesson Transcript


We turn now to epistles, which is really probably the easiest of all the literary genres to interpret. I mean, if I was to ask you, what is the genre of a letter, you probably go, I, I'm not entirely sure how to describe it. I just have read a bunch of letters. I know how to interpret a letter because we all get them. Maybe they're text messages or maybe they're emails, and maybe some of you don't even remember what it was like to get a letter. But at any rate, we all recognize them, though. And so when it comes to interpretation, all of our previous general discussion applies. We have to do what we can to locate the epistle in its historical and cultural context. For example, we can gain insight into why Paul was so concerned about sexual ethics and First Corinthians when we learned from other sources some extra biblical sources that Corinth was the site of an enormous temple to Aphrodite that apparently at one time employed over 1000 sacred prostitutes. So sexual ethics in Corinth, it was a thing and Paul had to address it. Letters, of course, come in. Both. Personal variety and corporate variety. There's there's official business letters. There's there's personal friendship letters. And the scriptures are going to have have both of those. We need to recognize, though, that that in the early church, all the letters, even the ones that were addressed to say Timothy were were public in in nature. It was anticipated and understood that they would be read and circulated. The New Testament authors were aware their letters would be read in other area churches, even though they might have been specifically addressed to someone else. All that to say the apostles were very well aware of their apostolic position, and that's definitely the case with the Apostle Paul, who at times was very willing to pull out that apostolic trump card. We see that in in first Corinthians especially. What's the form of of a letter. And so I'm thinking here about the the epistles that we find in the New Testament from from Romans all the way to Jude. Well, generally, in ancient letters, particularly of the Greco-Roman variety, the letter would begin with some form of salutation. I think we all understand that. We usually say, Dear so-and-so, that the typical form, typical form was from person to person be. Greetings. Greetings. That would be a secular way to greet the. The salutations in Greco-Roman letters would often reflect social status. We have a couple secular type letters in the book of Acts. Well, one that's more of a religious nature and the other is definitely secular. In chapter 15:23, we have a letter that was written by the Jerusalem Council to the Gentile Churches, and we're told in verse 23 they sent Judas called Passerbys and Silas leading men among the brothers with the following letter. The brothers, both the apostles and the elders to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, in Syria and Cilicia. Greetings from person to person B Greetings, Acts Chapter 23 verse 26. We have a secular letter Claudius Lycius to His Excellency the Governor, Felix. Greetings. So that's your typical Greco-Roman form. Therefore, it's no surprise that when we get to the biblical letters, the New Testament epistles, we see the same thing. Consider James chapter one, verse one, for example. James from person is a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ to Person B to the 12 tribes in the dispersion. Greetings. Isn't it interesting how James introduces himself and consider whether you would have introduced yourself that way as well? I would probably not have said a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I probably would have pulled out my my half brother status with Jesus. At that point. I would have said, James, the servant of God. And oh, by the way, half brother of the Lord Jesus Christ. But he He doesn't do that. Sanctification will have its effect, I guess. Then your typical greeting Shalom would be a Jewish greeting. Paul's variation variation on this would be to say grace and peace. We see this in virtually all of his letters. Philippians would be a good example of that, where he says Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus to all the Christians in or all the saints in Christ Jesus, who are in Philip II. Grace to you and peace from the Lord Jesus Christ. So if you have material in a salutation that is extraneous, the author is probably setting the reader up to know what he's going to write. It's a bit of an introduction and it's noteworthy. Pay attention. So, for example, if you want to turn over to the book of Galatians. Listen to what we get from Paul. Remember our standard form from person A to person B? Greetings. We have Paul, an apostle. Okay, that's personal. But then he adds in more language, not from men or by men, but by Jesus Christ and God. The Father who raised him from the dead. Who? What's all that? This is all part of the from person A. And all the brothers who are with me. There's probably something in that as well to the churches of Galatia. Grace to you and peace from God, the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. What's Paul doing? Why did he write to the Galatians? As as I've said a couple times already. All of the biblical material is occasional. The epistles definitely are occasional. That is something occasioned their writing. And if you know anything about Galatians, you know that Paul is writing because he's heard a report that these churches, really the first churches that he planted. So they're very dear to him. They're being troubled, troubled by by folk who are spreading something he understands to be contrary to the gospel. And so right off the bat in his introduction, he's already establishing his apostolic status. So they will listen well to what he's saying. Paul is an apostle and he got his apostleship not because certain people laid hands on him, not because he was in the room when certain decisions were made, not because he's friends with certain humans. Not from men or a by man, but by Jesus Christ and God. The Father, the one who raised him from the dead. And by the way, all the brothers who are with me. And so he's bringing all of the testimony of the church. To bring a criticism, a correction to the churches in Galatia. Pay attention to that, to the introduction. Don't just understand it to be a mere formality. It is a formality, but it's not merely a formality. And when they break in any way from the formal writing, then you know that something is up. So pay attention. Typically, after you get the greetings, you get some sort of Thanksgiving or prayer. This is found in all of Paul's letters, except when it's not there and when it's not there. You want to pay attention to that as well. Consider his letter to the Philippians, where he says, I thank my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now. That would be very typical of Paul. Galatians. We've read the introduction. Paul, an Apostle all along with the brothers to the churches of Galatia. Grace to you and peace from God, our Father and Lord Jesus Christ. This We didn't read verse four, but it is also part of the greeting who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to Him, be the glory forever and ever. Amen. There's His. He's already bringing theological critique to the situation in Galatia. Then you would expect immediately after that. I am so grateful for all of you, you churches in Galatia. I am so delighted with our partnership. I thank God every time I remember you always praying with joy for you. Nope. We don't get that. We get. I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel. Not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. And then he just goes on from there and it gets worse. And so if he if that had to be jarring to the people of the churches of Galatia because they're used to a certain form and Paul breaks form, it had to be a jolting. It's like, Whoa, what? You're supposed to be thankful for us. You're not praying for us. What's going on? Instead, Paul's like, What on earth is going on over there? What is happening. So pay attention to that. Pay attention to the words of Thanksgiving, because those will be consistent with what Paul or the other letter writers want to say throughout their letters and pay attention when they don't give a thanksgiving or a prayer. Then you would typically have the body of the letter. That's that's a highly technical term, the body of the letter. Maybe the main difference between an epistle and just a general letter is that an epistle oftentimes will read more like an essay while while a letter, the kind that we get would be more personal. But but there's personal stuff in in all of the biblical epistles that's examples of this. Well you open up your Bible to any sort of epistle and put your finger down and you'll land right in the body of it, probably. Romans 1:18 through Chapter 11 are probably a good example, First Corinthians one through Chapter four, probably good there. Then then there's there's different forms, though. And again, it's not that they come self-identifying. It's not that Paul says, for example, I'm going to write now to you Thessalonians a letter of exhortation, and to you Philippians, I'm going to write a letter of encouragement. And to you, Galatians, I'm going to write a letter of rebuke. And if they don't, they don't come that way. They just are what they are. So again, this is like a, a taxonomy or categories that we lay on top, but it's helpful to to walk through some of these just to demonstrate again, that there's no one size fits all letter of exhortation. First Thessalonians is a good example of this. Here Paul gives some moral instruction, and he does, of course, correct their theology, especially their eschatology at crucial points. But but he's very gentle. There's a tone there. That's the kind and patient he he moves toward exhortation tactfully. He he establishes friendship with the Thessalonians and then encourages them. There. There's there's other letters that read a bit more like a diatribe. And I don't mean diatribe in the popular sense, like an angry, angry argument. Like he went on a diatribe. No, a diatribe in in the epistles is where potential arguments and objections are introduced and then they're countered. It's like a state and defense sort of thing. And Paul does this all through the book of Romans, for example, in Romans chapter two, verse one in Romans, chapter two, verse nine and chapter four and six and seven. You get him raising objections and then. And then defending his gospel. In the light of those objections, there are letters of introduction or recommendation, and here that the letter will introduce the bearer of the letter to the audience and then will request a special favor, usually on behalf of that that letter bear. The best example of this, which of course would be the book of Philemon, where Paul asks Philemon to welcome back his runaway slave, Onesimus. There are apologetic letters of self commendation. Paul, for whatever reason, frequently engaged in a defense of his apostle ship. In doing so, he was engaging in a well-known Greco-Roman form of rhetorical self defense. And we some we see some of this in the book of Galatians. An excellent example, though, is second Corinthians, and this would explain, I think some of the they almost feel like boastful statements that we find in his correspondence with the Corinthians. He's probably engaging in in a very typical rhetoric where he's having to defend his apostolic authority. We get family letters as well. Here there would usually be a greeting, a prayer for the recipients, reassurances about the sender. We see this in the book of Philippians. Certainly a request for reassurance about the recipients. You know, hey, send word back. I want to know how you're doing then. Then some information that's relevant to whatever purpose they had in writing the letter. There's usually usually an exchange of greetings with others and then a closing wish for for blessing or even health. Now, there's nothing set in stone about any of those things. But but that's that's fairly typical. Ephesians is a good example of a letter that we can try to fit into all of those categories. But even as I say that we need to recognize that from start to finish, Ephesians is deeply theological, and even when Paul gets to more practical advice, he's still on message. And I'll talk about that in a moment here. Following the body, there's usually some form of exhortation and instructions. And so if if the body of the letter to the Romans takes us through Romans 11, then the exhortation and instructions would be chapters 12 through 15. In Galatians Chapter five and six or first Corinthians five through 16, the bulk of the letter might fit into that, and there's usually some sort of of wish for peace a a goodbye hanging up the phone sort of thing. Now, even as I break that down for you, you need to recognize that there's that the biblical authors, again, they're really good writers and they are on message from start to finish. If we were to look, for example, at the Book of Ephesians, we would find this Paul, who he's an apostle of Christ Jesus by God's will. He's writing his letter to the faithful saints in Christ Jesus at Ephesus. Then he gets the greeting. Then you have this this wonderful prayer for them that takes you through most of chapter one. Then you get to the body of the letter, and then you get to to chapter five. And that's where things get a bit more practical, or so it seems, in chapters two, three and four. Paul is amazed, and even in chapter one, he's amazed at the unity that the gospel brings. And he's he just rejoices in the fact that he is the one who gets to solve the mystery, that the mystery of how can Jew and Gentile be together in the people of God. And of course, the answer is the gospel, and Paul is the revealer of the mystery. Then we turn to chapter five, and it feels like, okay, now Paul's going to get practical. And so he has things to say about how we are to behave. He does some marriage tips in beginning in Ephesians chapter five, verse 22, talks to parents about their kids, talks to slaves, and Masters gives some closing words on, Hey, we're all in a battle and here's what you have at your at at hand. So you can you can fight the good fight. And then he that he shuts the letter down by saying farewell. So that's how it breaks down. Except Paul is on message from start to finish with that great theological point of unity. Consider, for example, the exhortation to wives and husbands that we find at the end of chapter five. Is this merely marriage tips by the Apostle Paul? I think it's something more than that. He he instructs the wives to submit to their husbands and do it as to the Lord. And the reason is the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church. So he takes it right back to Jesus. He's the savior of the body as the church submits to Christ. So also wives have to submit to their husbands and everything. Then he turns to the husbands. Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave her himself for her. And he's basically stopped talking to husbands at this point, and he's waxing on about Jesus to make her holy, to make the church holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to himself in splendor without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless in the same way. Oh, I better get back on task here. Right. It's supposed to be marriage tips, right? In the same way husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife, loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh, but for rights and carries for it just as Christ does for the church. Since we are members of his body. We might think Paul just can't stop talking about Jesus. Would you stick to the point which is marriage tips? Paul But then he goes and he says in verse 31, For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound. This one flesh relationship between husband wife is profound. But I am talking about Christ and the church. This unity that is found in Christ dominates the letter, even when he's getting into practical exhortations on how husbands and wives are to interact. Paul's on message from beginning to end, and so it and it's not that he's he just goes off talking off topic to talk about Jesus and he keeps interrupting his marriage tips. No marriage, in Paul's estimation, is a picture of the gospel. And as a matter of fact, the gospel logically precedes marriage. Even that is God set up marriage? Yes, because it was not good that the man should be alone. But more than that, to give the world a picture of the love that Jesus Christ would have for his people. And so that one flesh relationship that Moses talks about in Genesis chapter two. Paul says The whole entire time God was thinking about Christ and the church. Yes, it truly is all about Jesus and all about the gospel. So even at these places where Paul seems to be shifting from deep theology to practical living, he's still on message. From beginning to end. Also, when we consider how to interpret a letter, we we need to think about how words function. And of course we've thought about how words function already. And so everything that we have studied about words is absolutely crucial in the discourse, letter or literature. We need to think of the letters as presenting an argument as well. And this is this is really important because discourse operates through the presentation of a logical argument. This and when you say arguing, I'm not saying that the biblical authors are angry. What I do mean is that they have a structure and flow to their thought that is intentionally developed to take the reader from an initial premise to a desired conclusion. That is something occasions the writing of the letter. Paul, for example, hears about the Galatians and he wants to present to them enough information that will change their thinking. So they will move from this point here to a place where Paul wants them to get. So Axiom 25 I say, In discourse, an argument is being made. In the epistles, an argument is being made. Follow that argument. And there's a variety of ways in which biblical or apostolic arguments are built. You can go from a general truth to specific application. Paul does this in Galatians six when he says, let us not grow weary of doing good for in this do season we will reap if we do not give up. That's generally true. And then he says, So then as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Don't. Don't grow weary of doing good. Do good to everyone. That's the general truth. And then he specifically says, especially to those who are of the household of faith. Sometimes biblical writers will take a specific case and they'll expand it to a general truth, more of an inductive sort of approach. Romans Chapter eight Paul writes beautifully for I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ, Jesus, our Lord. He talks about very specific things, and then he just says, Oh, Baggett, just anything. Anything else? Anything else? Nothing. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. Authors will compare one thing to another. Paul in Romans chapter five. Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin. So death spread to all men because all sin so so that the language of just as suggests that there's a comparison being made of one thing to another. Sometimes a contrast is made. First Corinthians 14. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself. But the one who prophesies builds up the church. I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues. Unless someone interprets so that the church may be built up. So Paul here is contrasting tongues with prophecy, and in other times there will just be an appeal to authority. In First Corinthians chapter seven, if you want to turn to first Corinthians seven. Paul has a series of questions that it appears he is addressing. That had been asked of him. And he says in chapter seven, verse ten, he says to the married, I give this command, not I, but the Lord. A wife is not to leave her husband. Now, this creates some interesting questions. Who's talking here? Is there like second tier revelation? Because later on he's going to say, I not the Lord, say this. What's going on? Well, in first Corinthians seven, verse ten, there's a question that's been asked of him, Is it okay for a woman or a wife to leave her husband? And Paul addresses that by appealing to authority. No, Jesus said, don't do it. Jesus said, don't do it. So when he says, not I, but the Lord, He's quoting Jesus. Then verse 11 If she does leave, she must remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife. But I not the Lord, say to the rest, if any brother has an unbelieving wife and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And some people have read that and said, okay, so there's Jesus's words and there's Paul's Jesus. His words are more important than Paul's. And so there's maybe there's less apostolic authority, maybe there's less authority that's taking place here. But I don't think that's the case at all. I think when Paul says not I, but the Lord or I, not the Lord, what he's saying is he's appealing to the Jesus tradition and what Jesus said. And so he says this. Okay, So there's this question, Is it okay for a woman to leave her husband? And he says, Jesus already talked about this. We have it in red letters, in our Bibles, Right? Jesus talked about it. No. She should stay with her husband. Okay, well, what if there's an unknown? There's a believing husband and an unbelieving wife. Is it okay, then, for the believing husband to leave her? To leave his wife? And Paul says, okay, Jesus didn't specifically address this, but I am. And I'm an apostle. Dang it. Which is what he's going to say later on. Basically, he says, but I not the Lord say to the rest. And then he gives some some instruction there. I don't think there's any difference in authority of what's being said. Remember our doctrine of inspiration. And and later on, Paul is going to say, Am I not an apostle? If anyone is spiritual, he'll recognize I am an apostle. Paul. Throughout the letter, First Corinthians pulls out that apostolic trump card and says, Listen to me, what I say is of the Lord. So appeal to authority. Now, later on in First Corinthians, we have some other interesting things that that take place. But in each instance, Paul gives clues as to what how best to interpret it. So he says later on, when he's talking about the unmarried and the widows, he says in verse 25. Now about virgins or the unmarried. I have no command from the Lord, but I do give an opinion as one who, by the Lord's mercy, is faithful because of the present distress. I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife, not seek to be released? Are you released from wife? Do not seek a wife. However, if you do get married, you have not sent. And if a Virgin Mary she has not sent. But such people will have trouble in this life. And I am trying to spare you. In this section. Paul is not saying anything with any less authority, but he's he's shifted genres, if you will. He has he has moved from Apostolic Command to apostolic proverb or apostolic advice. It still is as authoritative, but it's a different sort of thing. I'm not giving you a command. I'm giving you some advice. You might want to listen to it. It's wise advice, probably best if you don't get married, because when you get married, you have to think about someone else. But if you're not married, you can just serve the Lord. Full stop. It's just as authoritative, but it's a different kind of genre. Like the difference between law and proverb. Paul had been giving law. Now he's giving proverb and he signals to us. He says he he said that he goes, I give an opinion. As one who, by the Lord's mercy, is faithful. So. Paul. Paul gives clues as to the best way to understand him. He's not saying anything. He's not saying that anything he is writing is more or less authoritative than something else. It's all authoritative. It's just different in nature. Some is authoritative advice. You haven't sinned if you don't do it. Some of it is command. You have seen if you just if you disregard what he's saying. Okay. How how do we recognize these logical relationships? And so I'm going to run you through some some details here. For a lot of people, this is just very intuitive. How do you recognize these logical relationships? How how are these arguments being built? Well, sometimes there are alternatives that are offered. And the key words here are either or neither nor, however, whether or. So, for example, Philippians chapter one, verse 18, What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed. And in that I rejoice. Yes. And I will continue to rejoice. So. So Paul gives a couple of alternatives. Some people are preaching the gospel from good motives. Some people are preaching the gospel from false motives. Okay, so whichever it doesn't matter to him, whichever the alternatives either is fine. He just wants Christ proclaimed. Sometimes authors will compare one thing to another in the words to look for here are as or even as in the same way, or like first Corinthians nine, 13 and 14. Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? Okay. So there's one thing he's brought up. Then he says, In the same way the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the Gospel should get their living by the gospel. So Temple service should get paid for that. And he compares that to. Gospel ministry. And he uses the term in the same way. So his argument is comparing this to that. Sometimes the biblical writers will concede something and the key words to look for are although or despite or even though nevertheless. Second Corinthians chapter four, verse three. Paul's defending is apostolic ministry. But some people say to him, Yeah, but there's people who don't believe your message. Paul concedes that fact. He says, even if our gospel is veiled. So I'll concede the fact that our gospel is veiled. It's veiled only to those who are perishing. It's veiled only to them. And why are they why is that? Because the God of this world has blinded their eyes. So sometimes they'll concede a point. To to further their argument. There are condition and result or if then sort of statements, if any of you have done any computer programing before. If something is the case, then something else will follow necessarily the words to look for here. Consequently, if sense or therefore so, Paul says in Corinthians 5:17. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, So if you are in Christ, he is a new creation. So if then if you're in Christ, then this is the case. You are a new creation. The oldest passed away. Behold the newest come, That's a condition. And if the condition is met, then the result will follow. Other times there's a contrast at work. Contrast is signaled by words like although. But however, on the contrary. Take, for example, Ephesians chapter two, verse 19. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. You are not this, but you are that. So he's contrasting one thing with another, not who they might have been, who they think they are, but who they actually are if they are in Christ. Sometimes there's words of explanation given in an argument, and you might see words like for or you see or that is so first Corinthians chapter ten, verse four all drink the same spiritual drink, for they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them and the rock was Christ. And so Paul is talking about the Israelites wandering around in Old Testament times in the wilderness, and he says they all drank from the same spiritual drink. What was that spiritual drink? And Paul explains, for they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ. So those are words of explanation. He explains what that spiritual drink was. Occasionally an author will just interrupt himself, which is like a break in the logic. So there's no key words here. They'll just start doing something else that it's almost like a parenthetical statement. Sometimes your Bible translators will stick like a dash in there or, you know, like a dot, dot, dot sort of thing. So Romans Chapter five, therefore, just a sin came into the world through one man and death through sin. And so death spread to all men because all sinned. And you're expecting like in the same way or so it is. But instead, Paul, like, breaks up the thought and he says for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given. But sin is not counted where there is no law. It's like he doesn't complete a stop You're expecting him to compare because sin came through this one man. So in the same way or something like that. But instead he goes, Oh, I better start talking about how how sin was in the world even before the law. But sin is not county where there is no law. And so then he has to explain why people died when there was no law. How can people die for sin when there is a law and he goes and goes on to explain? It's because people are in Adam. People are in Adam that Adam sinned. Therefore, everyone died. Even before the law. Once the law comes, then people don't have to blame it on them. They just blame it on themselves. I sin because I die because I said okay. Series is another way that arguments are made. And here's just it's like a list of things. You'll find words like finally or first or next. Peter, for example, writes in chapter three per se. Finally, all of you have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, a humble mind. It's a list of things that he wants the his recipients to to have to be characterized by. And as you look at them, it doesn't appear that there's any order to them. It's just it's just a a grouping that's a series. But other times, that series, there might be a progress to it. And so I call this progression in your notes. You'll see words like again or also or and further. So in Romans chapter eight, verse 30, those whom he predestined, he also called and those whom he called, he also justified. So there's a progress, a progression going on here and those whom he justified, he also glorified. And so you start with the predestination. You move all the way to glorification. Probably the strongest way of arguing that we find in the epistles is purpose statements. These are huge. Purpose statements are indicated by words like because or for or for this reason or in order that or that. So. Romans Chapter 6 verse 6. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing. There's there's purpose there so that we would no longer be enslaved since we have like double purpose statements in this one verse. We know that our old self was crucified with him. Why? What was the purpose of our crucified crucifixion with Jesus? So that the body of sin might be brought to nothing? Our body of sin. Why should our body of sin be brought to nothing so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin? So these are what we call purpose statements, and they are huge. And in the New Testament, epistles pay close attention. Whenever you find a purpose statement. Sometimes the Bible biblical authors will use quotation that they'll just quote someone, usually authoritative. So they'll say as it is written or as the Scripture says, or they might say, this was to fulfill. Romans 1:17, Paul writes for in it, the righteous in it. That is the gospel. The righteousness of God is revealed from faith. For faith. As it is written. The righteous shall live by faith. So Paul quotes the Old Testament authoritatively to make his point. And then finally, on the list that I give you, sometimes the the biblical authors will ask rhetorical questions. And a rhetorical question is a question that needs no answer. You don't need to supply an answer to it. It's supposed to be obvious. There's no key words here. The author just starts a question. Paul in Chapter six is talking about this great grace that abounds, where sin abounds, and he says, Well, what shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? I mean, it's really kind of a dumb question, right? Or is it? Paul ends up answering his own question by no means no. Never let it never be. He just heaps together all of these these negative statements. No, don't even think it. These are these are rhetorical questions, even though oftentimes the author does answer his question. So those are some ways that at looking at the arguments, let's let's clean up a few other things here. I'll just mention a couple of things about the authorship of the Epistles. It seems very evident in a number of the epistles, especially by Paul, that he was using a scribe, that if you want to like, wow, people on Jeopardy, someday you can use the word amanuensis, which is the fancy word for a biblical scribe. So because because Paul will will basically dictate a letter and then he'll sign it with his own name or something like that. And and some people have thought, well, is in Paul's letters, is some of it from Paul and others from the scribe. And is there less authority to describe because we know Paul was an apostle, but maybe the other people weren't. And there's little evidence to suggest that the scribes had freedom to reproduce the epistle. Is it possible they did some word smoothing? Oh yeah, sure. But at that point I would. I would appeal to inspiration and and and argue for inspiration of the final form that what we've been given to us is what we're supposed to have. So some people will argue that there's some style difference in the letters, different letters by the same person, and they suggest, well, maybe that's why. Or maybe that's due to a scribe or an amanuensis. And, you know, for my money, I think what we have is what we've been given. And I'm not going to try to establish a canon within the canon or try to say that what Paul wrote is authoritative and what a scribe wrote is not the final form is what's important to me, and that's what's been given to us. Okay. How do we interpret the epistles? Well, I just spent some time talking about arguments, so study the logical development of the argument. We might want to study the situation behind the statement. And here I'm not arguing for trying to get into the consciousness of the author, the subconsciousness, anything like that. I'm really just asking what was going on at the time that they would write what they wrote. And usually there's adequate background within the the Bible itself to answer that question. When we understand what was going on at the time, that helps us then apply it to ourselves in our situation, even if our situation isn't exactly like theirs was. Paul writes in First Corinthians chapter three verses 16 and 17, he says, Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God Temple, God's Temple God will destroy Him. For God's temple is holy and you are that temple. This and then other passages like this, if we were to keep reading as universally extended, been universally extended to refer to, say, harmful foods or harmful behaviors, even though the meaning probably had absolutely nothing to do with that, This is probably talking more about about destroying the temple, especially through through illegitimate relationships. Those are what I would call extended applications there. There are some non comparable particulars, though, where it's difficult to extend the application too far. Maybe, but for some people, maybe there isn't anything relevant. So, for example, this there are some situations in the episodes that that no longer occur or are unlikely to occur today. For example, first Corinthians eight through ten. Now I say this, and now I'm going to take away from it immediately afterwards. First Corinthians 8:13 talks about food, sacrifice to idols. And that's usually not a problem for most people, at least in America. We typically aren't offered food sacrifice to idols. We don't have state mandated idolatrous temples. We have to try to seek an underlying principle and then apply it to an analogous situation. But boy, it's very difficult to come up with a with something that's comparable that the best that most people can do is to is to argue, well, we shouldn't do things that are a stumbling block to others. Or maybe don't be legalistic. But even then, I would say that as the world changes, that we might very well be be put in situations like this. I remember when I was a seminary student, we were renting our house from an individual. It was a it was a Vietnamese lady. And she was Buddhist and and she wanted us to bring our check or our money to her house was just a kindness on her part. She wanted some sort of relationship with us. And one one time we went there, my wife was pregnant with our third child, and we went to to give her the money. And she went to a family shrine or an altar with candles and incense and photos of her family. And there was a fruit basket there. And she she grabbed an apple off of it and gave it to Camille and said, this has been blessed. This will help your baby grow. And we got in the car with this apple, not knowing what to do with it. It's like we're like, is this is this food sacrificed to idols? I don't know. And so we gave it to our other kids and it was it was all fine. So. But so. I think for the most part, though, the the the biblical epistles of the New Testament are very straightforward and very easy to interpret. All of this, all of the content that we have studied to this point bring that to bear both in the first half of the course with context, literary, historical, cultural, with the different genre analyzes that we've we've performed already because there's subgenres too to all the the the epistles. Not everything you get in the Epistles is just merely a letter. But there's going to be poetry, there's going to be proverbs, there's going to be some prophecy. There's all manner of of subgenres within the Epistles. So bring to bear everything you've learned. And, um, and I think you will find that the Epistles are very straightforward.