Perusing Pauline Parallels

Ryan NealExegesis, General, Preaching, Ryan NealLeave a Comment


The next time you teach from Paul’s letters, first buy a copy of an excellent “5-star” rated book. I’m recommending James Ware’s Synopsis of the Pauline Letters in Greek and English (Baker Academic, 2010) From here you can download an excerpt of the text and see its features.

Features:

  • A thematic arrangement of all Pauline passages & accompanying parallels in Acts
  • Left page: Greek text (following the Nestle-Aland Greek text);
  • Right page: English text (NRSV)

Want to know the key passages where Paul discusses justification or his advice on dealing with governmental authorities or food offered to idols? Ware has arranged the materials for you in one handy volume, in just over 300 pages.

The book is easily worth the money (about $35 online) for the arrangement of every Pauline passage, according to 177 topics. You can move through the book topically, picking a topic that you find interesting or you can – as I most often do – begin with one passage and see immediately where else Paul has made similar statements.

Ware’s text is arranged topically by theological theme and main theological ideas. But, if you are looking for a text, not a topic, the table at the beginning of the book is easy to use and points you to the right place quickly.

Surprises abound almost every time I look up a passage for study. Ware puts – in one place – more passages to consider than I would have looked up. For example when I think of Paul’s view of the function of the law (topic 66) I often think of a few places in Romans (chapters 3 & 7) and Gal (chapters 2 & 3), but when I go to Topic 66 in Ware’s volume I’m immediately staring at the Greek and the English passages of all of Paul’s comments on the function of the law and I can immediately see that I would have missed some key parallels and I’ve underestimated the diversity of locations of this topic. Indeed, Paul comments on the function of the law in Romans 3.19-20; 4.15; 5.20; 7.5-25 and in 1 Corinthians 15.56-57; 2 Corinthians 3.7-9; Galatians 2.17-19; 3.19-25; and in 1 Timothy 1.8-11.

One word of caution applies to any book of this type: reading a verse (or two or twelve) extracted from its wider context in a chapter or book can be hazardous; so though you’ll find yourself turning to Ware’s book a lot, you’ll want to follow up with the wider context as you develop a sermon or lesson. As your hermeneutics professor taught: you won’t want to read the passages in isolation from their epistolary context.

Two minor quibbles worth mentioning (but not worth downgrading it from its 5-star rating): there is a subject index at the back, which seems a bit understated and thin on subjects. Even worse is a glossary that can best be described as an afterthought, a tease at just one page and 22 terms. It’s not clear why these 22 terms were chosen, but the glossary should be deleted or expanded tenfold.

Though some would want it in a digital version, the book is only available in hardcover format, and due to the side-by-side Greek-English pagination it would lose a bit of its utility if it was available as a digital text.

Next time you are going to study, teach or preach through some of Paul’s writings be sure to buy this book and mark it up. It will pay dividends for your teaching ministry from day one.

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