Through a detailed examination of the historical shaping and final canonical shape of seven oft-neglected New Testament letters James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2, & 3 John, and Jude, this text introduces readers to the historical, literary, and theological integrity of this indispensable apostolic witness. While most modern scholars interpret biblical texts against the diversity of their individual historical points of composition, Robert Wall and David Nienhuis make the case that a theological approach to the Bible as Scripture is better served by attending to issues that occasioned these texts’ historical point of canonization—those key moments in the ancient church’s life when apostolic writings were grouped together into collections designed to maximize the Spirit’s communication of the apostolic rule of faith to believers everywhere.
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In this groundbreaking book David Nienhuis and Robert Wall show that the New Testament collection called the ‘Catholic Epistles’ has a structure and a rationale that profoundly impact the way its individual texts should be read. Like the fourfold canonical Gospel, this collection represents a decisive intervention in the process of creating a well-ordered Christian scripture out of the mass of early Christian writing.
—Francis Watson, professor of New Testament Exegesis, University of Aberdeen
In this eloquent challenge to current exegetical communis opinio, the authors argue forcefully for a reading of the seven Catholic Epistles as a canonical unit, which then reveals their common theology, their collective role in the scriptural canon as balance to the Pauline letters, and their cogent apostolic instruction on Christian discipleship and community both in antiquity and in today’s world.
—John H. Elliott, professor of theology, University of San Francisco
David Nienhuis and Robert Wall argue that if we shift our focus from the point of composition to much later matters of canonization, we can begin to see that the Catholic Epistles as a group round out and enrich the theological emphases of the Gospels and Paul’s letters in ways that form a more complete and even more attractive canonical whole. . . . Nienhuis and Wall present a challenging argument sustained by detailed theological attention to the canonical process and by close and lively readings of the Catholic Epistles. If taken up, their views can dramatically alter the interpretive patterns and concerns the church and the academy bring to these letters.
—Stephen E. Fowl, chair of the department of theology, Loyola College
Robert W. Wall is the Paul T. Walls Professor of Scripture and Wesleyan Studies at Seattle Pacific University. In addition to his commentary on Revelation, he has authored numerous journal articles and several books, including commentaries on Colossians/Philemon, James, Acts, and the Pastoral Epistles.
David R. Nienhuis is associate professor of New Testament studies at Seattle Pacific University.