Having a greater familiarity with the writings of St. Paul has already enriched my understanding of Sunday readings. That seems to be the purpose of our current unit in Catholic Biblical School: To recognize the context and major themes of Paul’s letters. A quick overview is all we can manage in such a short time.
Here are the themes of Paul’s ten major letters, as outlined in our workbook. The letters are roughly in chronological order.
- 1 Thessalonians: Watchfulness in view of the imminent return of Christ. Concern about those who had died and whether they will be saved. Church life.
- Galatians: Justification by faith in Christ. Freedom from the Mosaic Law (in Christ). The different gospel of salvation preached by Judaizers.
- Philippians: Kenosis--the self-emptying of Christ. Warning against false teachers. Unity, joy.
- Philemon: Appeal to accept runaway Christian slave Onesimus.
- 1 Corinthians: Factionalism. Eucharist. Ecclesiology. Ethics. Gifts of the Spirit. Love. Resurrection from the dead.
- 2 Corinthians: Paul’s relationship with Corinthian church. The importance of reconciliation. Collection for the Jerusalem church. Paul’s apostolic authority.
- Romans: Justification by faith in Christ. God’s salvation. Israel in God’s plan—why many Jews have not become Christians. Ethical demands. Holy Spirit within us. Baptism.
- 2 Thessalonians: Signs that must precede the second coming of Christ. The necessity of working and not being idle. Ethical exhortation.
- Colossians: Christ’s place in the universe as supreme over all (cosmic Christ). Warning against false teaching. Household codes.
- Ephesians: Doxology—praise to God. Exhortation to unity. Ecclesiology–the universal church with Christ as its head. Household codes.