Sources: I. Howard Marshall et al., Exploring the New Testament: A Guide to the Letters and Revelation (IVP, 2002); Raymond E. Brown, The New Testament: an Introduction (Doubleday, 1997); Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 3d ed. (Oxford, 2004).
We've Got Mail The middle of the New Testament is Paul's collected letters to churches.
They generally conform to the Hellenistic letter format:
opening formula (sender, addressee, greeting, health wish — 1:1),
thanksgiving to the gods (or God — 1:2-5?),
body or message (opening, middle, closing — 1:6?-5:22),
concluding formula (e.g., greeting, doxology, signature — 5:23-28).
'Form criticism' studies the way set forms shape and convey information.
What kind of community has a canon with so many of these kinds of letters?
What kind of information will be prominent in such a canon?
What are we supposed to do with it?
Turned to Serve and to Wait: 1 Thessalonians (Luke-Acts supplies supporting contextual material in Acts 17:1-15.)
What major 'moves' does Paul make?
The gospel received in the Spirit's power brings dramatic transformation.
This church's ethics are eschatologically shaped.
Christians still have to be on their guard against a number of dangers.
Faithfulness remembers the apostle's instruction.
Paul uses his characteristic "indicative-imperative" (1:6-3:13/4:1-5:22).
There is less use of Scripture than some other Pauline letters.
Not So Fast: 2 Thessalonians Paul repeats the first letter's thanksgiving and revisits its major themes.
He reminds of earlier apocalyptic teaching (unattested elsewhere in Paul) concerning the 'man of lawlessness' (1:5-12? 2:1-15).
He stresses again the ethics of eschatological faith: labor, obedience, welldoing (3:1-15).
The letter indicates problems with false teaching and discord.