"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)
2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)
Discuss the major hermeneutical principles for interpreting letters. When doing this focus on how you would exegete and resolve the tension that emerges in the theological diversity found between Paul and James on the role of works in salvation?
The letters which according to our lecture make “most of the New Testament”, have been the topic of much theology debate over the centuries. Part of the reasoning behind the debate is because these letters or epistles are often misunderstood because they are not interpreted in context. According to our lecture, there are four major factors to consider when interpreting the letters. These four include: “historical context, literary context, situational aspect, and the exegetical fallacies” concerning the epistles.
Historical context considers the historical factors that play into the writing of that letter. The letters are based on events that really happened. When secular history and science discredit the Bible, they do not realize that they are discrediting a significant historical source of information. We have to ask questions about the history such as, what was happening at that time to cause the author to react by writing this? What were the issues of history, and did the meanings change over time (such as the “illegitimate totality transfer fallacy”)? This goes hand in hand with the “situational aspect” as our lecture calls it.This factor considers that the letters where always written for a purpose or as our lecture states, “they were written at a specific time and in a specific place to address a specific set of questions and concerns.”
The “second most important exegetical step” according to our text would be determining the “literary context.” This also would go hand in hand with the many possible “exegetical fallacies.” Once the genre is understood (letters in this situation), we can then determine how we can interpret certain figures of speech, wording, etc. I have over time discovered as our text suggests, “ it is never sentences only but paragraphs and larger units of thought to which one refers.” Many cults and religions that branch off of Christianity have been started in good intentions, but were created due to either a fallacy or the wrong application of “literary context.”
After reading both the Pauline letters and James many times, I do not believe that these two apostles contradict each other as many would argue. They actually complement one another in their writings when you consider all of the factors such as those discussed in this posting. When examing James 2:14, it appears he isn’t arguing that faith can’t save us, but rather faith would cause us to do good works which shows the fruit of that faith. Paul is arguing the same point when he states in Romans 3:31, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” When taking the literary context into your understanding of the two letters, you will see the intention of the letters after reading them in their entirety. When only reading the letters and determining context based on each sentence, it would be easy to get the wrong understanding.
 Grand Canyon University, “New Testament Exegesis: Exegeting the Epistles” (lecture 7, Biblical Hermeneutics, Grand Canyon University, 2016). https://lc.gcu.edu/learningPlatform/user/users.html
 Grand Canyon University, “New Testament Exegesis: Exegeting the Epistles”
 The Holy Bible, KJV