Deeper Waters Podcast 12/17/2016: Jeffrey Weima

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We had some recording problems with a past show so once we get that taken care of, we will be uploading again. This could also be the last show of the year. I’m not sure, but I don’t think many people care for a new podcast on Christmas and New Year’s Eve both. So if this is it, let’s see how this year will end.

Letter-writing is today seen as a lost art. It’s certainly not one I partake in. It was done in the ancient world and one of our most prolific writers was Paul. Have we ever stopped to think not just about the content of what he said but the way he generally worked his letters? What is the style of Paul? What does he intend to do with openings and closings and everything in between?

We may not have, but someone has. That someone is Jeffrey Weima. He is the author of Paul: The Ancient Letter Writer: An Introduction to Epistolary Analysis. We will be talking to him about what all went into Paul writing his letters and recognizing the various parts of his letters, but who is Jeffrey Weima?

jeffreyweima

According to his bio:

Dr. Jeffrey Weima is Professor of New Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary, where he has taught for the past 25 years. He is a sought-after speaker who is able to communicate well the truths of the Bible in an interesting, contemporary and practical manner. Jeff has published five books (Neglected Endings: The Significance of the Pauline Letter Closings [1994]; An Annotated Bibliography of 1 and 2 Thessalonians [1998]; 1 & 2 Thessalonians [2002]), recently completing a major commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians (Baker Books: 2014). His fifth and latest book, Paul the Ancient Letter Writer: An Introduction to Epistolary Analysis, appeared in the fall of this year (Baker Books: 2016). Jeff is also the author of numerous scholarly articles, academic essays and book reviews. He has taught courses all over the world: Hungary, Greece, Italy, South Korea, Kenya, Taiwan, The Philippines, and South Africa. Jeff is an active member of several academic societies, lectures overseas, leads biblical study tours to Greece,Turkey, Israel/Jordan, and Italy, conducts intensive preaching seminars for pastors, and preaches widely in the Christian Reformed Church as well as many other churches in both the USA and Canada.
Jeff and his wife, Bernice, have been married for 33 years. They have four children and five very cute grandkids.

Many of us have studied the writings of Paul and read about them, but how many of us have studied the style of Paul and the importance of every single part of his letters? Is there really something significant in the introduction to Galatians for instance? You might be surprised. In fact, I hope you will be. Weima’s book is a fascinating work that I recommend greatly.

I hope you’ll be looking forward to this new episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. Please consider going on ITunes and leaving a positive review. You know I love to see them!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Paul The Ancient Letter Writer

What do I think of Jeffrey Weima’s book published by Baker Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Writing letters nowadays is a lost art. Very few people do anything like that with email being available now. In the digital age, it’s hard to think about what it was like in prior ages, especially in an oral age. When you wrote a letter, you had to use few words and say much with those words. It was timely and expensive.

Paul in writing would have to be a master and demonstrate masterful rhetoric to get his point across. Unfortunately, in our society we see that as a negative where rhetoric has in fact become a word to refer to talk without substance. In Paul’s day, it would mean making a great substance for a talk using keywords.

Also, we have to understand the mood of the day. Was Paul engaging in emotional blackmail to Philemon? Were Paul’s greetings or closings just throwaway material? Can there really be anything in a simple benediction or introduction? What difference does it make to list the names of people you were with as you start or introduce a letter?

Fortunately, we have Jeffrey Weima’s book to help with this. Weima goes through each section of a letter wrestling with the implications of what is meant. Of course, no thorough analysis of long letters like Romans or 1 Corinthians are available and we can only touch some of the¬†letters like Galatians or 2 Thessalonians. Still, what there is dealt with should be grabbed onto.

There is also looking as I said at the introduction and closings. For instance, Galatians 1 starts with saying “And all the brothers and sisters with me.” Is Paul just being friendly here? Nope. Paul is pulling weight. He is saying he is not just a lone wolf apostle. He is saying that he is backed by all of the brothers and sisters there. Not just some. All of them. Immediately the Galatian hearers would know that if they challenged Paul back, it would be a challenge against not just him, but several others.

When Paul lists who he is with, is there something to this? Yes. In his closings, Paul often makes some final appeals and usually has his autograph statement to show that it is his letter. Compare the names in Colossians with those in Philemon. Is Paul again pulling weight?

We often look at the body and can miss some of the main points Paul makes because we don’t think the way Paul did. We miss ideas like chiasms for instance, such as Paul speaking about sending Timothy in 1 Thessalonians. We also miss that if he sends Timothy, it’s a big deal, since Timothy is practically his right-hand man. We can miss that in the correspondence in 2 Thessalonians, Paul seven times refers to his audience as “brothers and sisters.” Let’s not get so caught up in the argument that we miss underlying points.

Weima wraps this up in the end by looking at Philemon as a case study. It’s a good and short letter and everything he mentioned is in it. When you finish it, you’ll get more out of Philemon than you ever did before.

This work will give you plenty to think about. I would have liked seeing some more interaction with the idea of secretaries. If we say Paul wrote the letter, just how much did he write. Was this the master craftsmanship of a secretary or of Paul? After all, we know some of his letters, and quite likely all, were written with the help of secretaries. Just how much did Paul influence?

This is a good book still that you will want to add to your library. It’s a wonderful look at the Greco-Roman rhetorical style for writing. Your reading of Paul’s letters will never be the same.

In Christ,
Nick Peters