Epistles and Revelation

NT508 The Epistles and Revelation

Epistles and revelation Internet Bible CollegeQuestion: "What is an epistle? What are the Epistles in the Bible?"

Answer: The word epistle comes from the Greek word epistole that means “letter” or “message.” Epistles were a primary form of written communication in the ancient world, especially during New Testament times. Since many of the New Testament books were originally written as letters to churches or individuals, they are referred to as the Epistles.

Epistles generally followed a familiar format. Most of Paul’s letters begin with an introduction that identifies his name and those of any associates, mentions his audience, and gives a greeting. The introduction is followed by the main body of the letter, and the epistles often conclude with a general blessing and personal notes to individuals within the recipient church.

The Epistles of the Bible are all found in the New Testament. They include 21 of the New Testament’s 27 books, extending from Romans to Jude. Thirteen of these Epistles were written by the apostle Paul: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Within this group of Pauline Epistles is a subgroup labeled the Prison Epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon) so-called because they were written during Paul’s two-year house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:30–31). The Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) were written to church leaders and include many teachings regarding practices within the early church.

Following these writings are eight General Epistles (sometimes called Catholic Epistles, since they were written to a “universal” audience) that include Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, and Jude. The author of Hebrews is unknown (though many have historically attributed it to Paul or one of Paul’s associates). James was one of the earliest New Testament writings and was written by James, the half-brother of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:7). The apostle Peter wrote 1 and 2 Peter. The apostle John (the same author of the Gospel of John and Revelation) wrote 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John. The short Epistle of Jude was written by Jude, another half-brother of Jesus (Jude 1:1).

I. Course Description

Correct theology is inseparable from correct living. The New Testament epistles reinforce this concept as they demonstrate both the why and how of Kingdom living. This course surveys the New Testament epistles and the Book of Revelation, examining both the introductory issues and the basic content each book. Students will wrestle with significant and challenging passages by exploring the major issues and then interacting with specific passages through inductive Bible study. The goal of the course is to gain an increased commitment to and capacity for applying these portions of God's Word to the world and Christian living today.

II. Course Objectives

1. Familiarity with the contents of the biblical books studied, including the ability to identify the texts' outlines, chronology of events, major teachings, sequence of topics, and most theologically significant chapters.

2. Ability to summarize the most important items of historical background for each book studied.

3. Acquaintance with the major critical views concerning introductory questions (i.e., authorship, date, settings, etc.).

4. Appreciation of the complexities of the more exegetically and theologically controversial passages surveyed:

  • via discussion of the major options held and arguments for each, and
  • via the opportunity to wrestle in detail with one such passage through an inductive Bible study.

5. Commitment to and capacity for applying these portions of God's Word in a fair and relevant manner to the world and Christian living today.

III. Course Texts

The New Testament (in a modern version); e.g., NRSV, NASB, NIV, or NCV (best choice--NIV).

Carson, D. A.; Moo, Douglas, J.; Morris, Leon. An Introduction to the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.

Longenecker, Richard N. The Ministry and Message of Paul. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971.

Metzger, Bruce M. Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation. Nashville: Abingdon, 1993.

Where these works are not available, reading comparable in perspective and scope may be substituted.

IV. Course Assignments

1. Reading:

  • To accompany each recorded lecture, read the corresponding portion of the New Testament covered in that lecture, along with the introductory material for each New Testament book in the appropriate chapters of Carson, Moo, and Morris, or the equivalent.
  • Read Longenecker in preparation for the midterm and Metzger in preparation for the final.

2. Study Questions:

Complete the study questions given at the end of each Lesson Outline.

3. Inductive Bible Study Paper:

Each student will perform an Inductive Bible Study on an important passage from one of the books we will study in this course. Students must secure approval for their passage from their seminary advisor, who may also chose to recommend additional specialized bibliography on that passage (in addition to the commentary and IBS bibliographies provided in this course). Typically, a manageable length passage will consist of 5-8 verses, following natural thought or paragraph divisions of the biblical text, and will be a passage of some theological or exegetical significance and controversy. Examples might include Colossians 1:15-20, Philippians 2:5-11, I Timothy 3:1-7, James 5:13-18, Hebrews 6:1-8, and 1 Peter 3:1-7.

Also follow these additional guidelines:

  • See "Inductive Bible Study" (by Dr. Craig Blomberg, et al), a downloadable file under Resources for a full description of the process for this paper. Follow this method unless your school instructs otherwise.
  • Use an approved academic form for writing the results (e.g., Turabian, MLA, etc.).
  • Length must be 12-17 double-spaced typed pages of text with standard one-inch margins.
  • Demonstrate familiarity with all the major exegetical options concerning the principal interpretive questions. A good balance between lexical-contextual analysis of key words and interaction with secondary literature is essential. List all relevant sources consulted in an alphabetized bibliography. Use proper footnotes or endnotes for all information directly obtained from sources other than your own initial study (not just direct quotations).

4. Examinations:

Exams will test material from the lectures by a variety of objective questions and readings from Longenecker and Metzger and by a selection of essay questions. The midterm will contain 15 T/F questions, 35 multiple choice, and 20 fill in the blank items based on the details of the lectures. All are worth one point. In addition, five 2 pt. questions test the application of various books and themes. Two 10 pt. essay questions will be selected from a list of four possible questions. Because of its level of difficulty, an open-book, open notes format is encouraged. It presupposes the student will have taken considerable, detailed notes on each lecture. The final contains the same format, covering only material not tested on the midterm. It also contains fifteen 2 pt. questions asking the student to identify from memory (no notes) the correct book and chapter in which certain key topics and themes occur.

Click here to download the course outline (PDF)

Order Subject