The Letters of Paul
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Romans | 1 Corinthians | 2 Corinthians | Galatians | Ephesians | Philippians | Colossians
1 Thessalonians | 2 Thessalonians | 1 Timothy | 2 Timothy | Titus | Philemon

Paul wrote thirteen letters which are included in the New Testament. Some scholars add the letter to the Hebrews. Most disagree that Paul wrote it. Therefore, I am not including it in this essay.

A number of the Scriptures in our family library provide subject headings for these epistles. I have used a different version for each epistle to show the form that each follows.

Information about Paul, the places where the citizens lived (the first nine epistles), and the persons (to whom the last three are addressed) comes from Smith's Bible Dictionary. For the dates, my references are Edward Reese (Reese Chronological Bible); Frank Klassen (Reese Chronological Bible); William Smith (Smith's Bible Dictionary); J. B. Phillips (Phillips Revised Student Edition); Charles B. Williams (Williams New Testament). For the places of writing, my reference is Smith's Bible Dictionary. When Reese, Phillips, or Williams disagree, it is noted.


The Background of Paul

Known as Saul prior to his ministry, Paul was born of Hebrew parents about A.D. 5, or a few years earlier, in Tarsus, a city of Cilicia. He later became a Roman citizen and also became fluent in speaking and writing in the Greek language. He was brought up in boyhood in Jerusalem, where he was taught by Gamaliel. Before he became a Christian missionary, he was a Pharisee. His trade was tent-making.

After his miraculous conversion in A.D. 37, he participated in missionary expeditions. On the first journey (A.D. 45-47), Barnabas was his partner. On the second journey (A.D. 50-54), Silas (or Silvanus) was his partner. For part of the third journey (A.D. 50-54), Luke was his partner. Paul was imprisoned in Jerusalem in A.D. 58, in Cæsarea from A.D. 58-60, and in Rome from A.D. 61-63 and from A.D. 65-67.


Versions Compared

 

AAT An American Translation (Beck)
CEV Contemporary English Version
GW God's Word
NAB New American Bible
NAS New American Standard Version
NET New Evangelical Translation
NIV New International Version
NJB New Jerusalem Bible
NNT Noli New Testament
PRS Phillips Revised Student Edition
REB Revised English Bible
WNT Williams New Testament


Romans

Rome: It was the capital of the ancient world and was situated along the Tiber River in Italy, about fifteen miles from its mouth. Pompey brought many Jewish captives and immigrants to Rome. A special district was assigned to them. Julius Caesar, Augustus, and Tiberius showed them favor. It was in the time of Nero that Paul was martyred.

Date of Writing (C.E.): 57-58 (Reese); 42-45 (Klassen); 58 (Smith); 57 (Phillips); 57 or 58 (Williams).

Place of Writing: Corinth (Smith).

Outline (CEV):
Paul and His Message of Good News:
1: 8 A Prayer of Thanks
1: 16 The Power of the Good News
Everyone Is Guilty:
1: 18 Everyone Is Guilty
2: 1 God's Judgment Is Fair
2: 17The Jews and the Law
3: 9 No One Is Good
God's Way of Accepting People:
3: 21 God's Way of Accepting People
4: 1 The Example of Abraham
4: 13 The Promise Is for All Who Have Faith
A New Life for God's People:
5: 1 What It Means to Be Acceptable to God
5: 12 Adam and Christ
6: 1Dead to Sin But Alive Because of Christ
6: 15 Slaves Who Do What Pleases God
7: 1 An Example from Marriage
7: 7 The Battle with Sin
8: 1 Living by the Power of God's Spirit
8: 18 A Wonderful Future for God's People
8: 31 God's Love
What About the People of Israel?
9: 1 God's Choice of Israel
9: 19 God's Anger and Mercy
9: 30 Israel and the Good News
10: 5 Anyone Can Be Saved
11: 1 God Has Not Rejected His People
11: 11 Gentiles Will Be Saved
11: 25 The People of Israel Will Be Brought Back
How to Live the New Life of Love:
12: 1 Christ Brings New Life
12: 9 Rules for Christian Living
13: 1 Obey Rulers
13: 8 Love
13: 11 The Day When Christ Returns
14: 1 Don't Criticize Others
14: 13 Don't Cause Problems for Others
15: 1 Please Others and Not Yourself
15: 7 The Good News Is for Jews and Gentiles
Paul's Plans As a Missionary:
15: 14 Paul's Work As a Missionary
15: 22 Paul's Plan to visit Rome
16: 1 Personal Greetings
16: 25 Paul's Closing Prayer


1 Corinthians

Corinth: It is an ancient city of Greece, located on the Isthmus of Corinth and about forty miles west of Athens. Because of its geographical position, the city formed the most direct communication between the Ionian and the Ægean Seas. It was a place of great mental activity and commerce and manufacturing.

Date of Writing (C.E.): 57 (Reese); 54 (Klassen); 57 or 58 (Smith); 56 (Phillips); 57 (Williams).

Place of Writing: Ephesus (Smith).

Outline (NAS):
1: 1 Appeal to Unity
1: 18 The Wisdom of God
2: 1 Paul's Reliance upon the Spirit
3: 1 Foundations for Living
4: 1 Servants of Christ
5: 1 Immorality Rebuked
6: 1 Lawsuits Discouraged
6: 12 The Body Is the Lord's
7: 1 Advice on Marriage
8: 1 Take Care of Your Liberty
9: 1 Paul's Use of Liberty
10: 1 Avoid Israel's Mistakes
11: 1 Christian Order
11: 23 The Lord's Supper
12: 1 The Use of Spiritual Gifts
13: 1 The Excellence of Love
14: 1 Prophecy a Superior Gift
14: 20 Instruction for the Church
15: 1 The Fact of Christ's Resurrection
15: 20 The Order of Resurrection
15: 50 The Mystery of Resurrection
16: 1 Instructions and Greetings


2 Corinthians

Corinth: See 1 Corinthians.

Date of Writing (C.E.): 57 (Reese); 40-47* (Klassen); 57 or 58 (Smith); 57 (Phillips); 57 (Williams).
*Klassen dates 2 Corinthians before 1 Corinthians.

Place of Writing: Macedonia (Smith).

Outline (NIV):
1: 3 The God of All Comfort
1: 12 Paul's Change of Plans
2: 5 Forgiveness for the Sinner
2: 12 Ministers of the New Covenant
3: 7 The Glory of the New Covenant
4: 1 Treasures in Jars of Clay
5: 1 Our Heavenly Dwelling
5: 11 The Ministry of Reconciliation
6: 3 Paul's Hardships
6: 14 Do Not Be Yoked with Unbelievers
7: 2 Paul's Joy
8: 1 Generosity Encouraged
8: 16 Titus Sent to Corinth
9: 6 Sowing Generously
10: 1 Paul's Defense of His Ministry
11: 1 Paul and the False Apostles
11: 16 Paul Boasts About His Sufferings
12: 1 Paul's Vision and His Thorn
12: 11 Paul's Concern for the Corinthians
13: 1 Final Warnings
13: 11 Final Greetings


Galatians

Galatia: It was a Roman province in the central region of Asia Minor, bounded on the north by Bithynia and Paphlagonia; on the east by Pontus; on the south by Cappadocia and Lycaonia; and on the west by Phrygia. Its name was derived from the Gallic tribes who came to Thrace and Macedonia about 280 B.C.

Date of Writing (C.E.): 57-58 (Reese); 45 (Klassen); 57 or 58 (Smith); 56 or 57 or earlier (Phillips); 54 or 55 (Williams).

Place of Writing: Ephesus (Smith); Corinth (Reese); Corinth or Ephesus (Phillips); Antioch (Williams).

Outline (GW):
1: 1 Greeting
1: 6 Follow the Good News We Gave You
1: 11 Jesus Alone Gave Paul the Good News He Spreads
2: 1 Paul Was Accepted As an Apostle by the Leaders in Jerusalem
2: 11 Paul Shows How Cephas Was Wrong
3: 1 God Approves of Those Who Believe
3: 15 The Relationship Between Law and Promise
4: 1 You Are God's Children
4: 12 What Happened to Your Positive Attitude?
4: 21 You Are Children of the Promise
5: 1 Live in the Freedom That Christ Gives You
6: 1 Help Carry Each Other's Burdens
6: 6 We Will Harvest What We Plant
6: 11 Paul Summarizes His Teachings About Circumcision


Ephesians

Ephesus: It was the capital of the Roman province of Asia and an illustrious city in the district of Ionia, nearly opposite the island of Samos. Because of the worship of the pagan goddess Diana there, manufacturing of portable shrines became a prosperous trade.

Date of Writing (C.E.): 63 (Reese); 52 (Klassen); 62 (Smith); 62 (Phillips); 62 or 63 (Williams).

Place of Writing: Rome (Smith).

Outline (WNT):
1: 1 God's Eternal Purpose Manifested
1: 15 God's Great Power Available for Believers
2: 1 God's Unmerited Favor
2: 11 Former Aliens to God's Promise
3: 1 Paul's Commission: To Reach the Heathen
3: 14 Christ's Love Surpasses Human Understanding
4: 1 The Proper Functioning of Christ's Body
4: 17 Union with Christ
5: 1 Live Like Children of Light
5: 15 Buy Up Opportunities: Live Subordinately
5: 22 Husbands and Wives
6: 1 Children and Parents
6: 5 Slaves and Masters
6: 10 God's Full Armor Available


Philippians

Philippi: Named after Philip of Macedonia, who built it, this Macedonian city was located about nine miles from the sea, to the northwest of the island of Thasos, and twelve miles from its port of Neapolis. It was situated on a plain between the ranges of Pangæus and Hæmus. It was on the main road from Rome and Asia.

Date of Writing (C.E.): 63 (Reese); 52 (Klassen); 62 or 63 (Smith); 62 (Phillips); 62 (Williams).

Place of Writing: Rome (Smith).

Outline (NNT):
1: 1 Introduction
1: 3 Thanksgiving
1: 12 Blessing in Disguise
1: 20 Life and Death
1: 27 Exhortation
2: 1 Unity
2: 3 Humility
2: 12 Salvation
2: 19 Timothy
2: 24 Epaphroditus
3: 1 Privileges
3: 7 Renunciation
3: 17 Followers and Opponents
4: 1 Harmony
4: 4 Divine Peace
4: 10 Appreciation
4: 21 Greetings


Colossians

Colosse (Colossae): It was a city of Phrygia in Asia Minor, in the upper part of the basin of the Meander, on the Lycus. Hieropolis and Laodicea were neighboring cities.

Date of Writing (C.E.): 61 (Reese); 62 (Klassen); 62 (Smith); 62 (Phillips); 62 or 63 (Williams).

Place of Writing: Rome (Smith).

Outline (TM):
1: 3 Working in His Orchard
1: 15 Christ Holds It All Together
2: 6 From the Shadows to the Substance
3: 1 He Is Your Life
4: 2 Pray for Open Doors


1 Thessalonians

Thessalonica: It was originally named Therma. Cassander, son of Antipater, rebuilt and enlarged Therma, renaming it after his wife Thessalonica, the sister of Alexander the Great. It was located on the Macedonian shore. In the first century, it was the most populous city of Macedonia.

Date of Writing (C.E.): 52 (Reese); 51 (Klassen); 52 or 53 (Smith); 50 (Phillips); 51 (Williams).

Place of Writing: Corinth (Smith).

Outline (AAT):
1: 2 The Good News
2: 7 You Are Dear to Us
3: 1 We Long to See You
4: 1 Live to Please God
4: 13 Your Dead Works Will Rise
5: 1 Watch!
5: 12 Some Last Words


2 Thessalonians

Thessalonica: See 1 Thessalonians.

Date of Writing (C.E.): 53 (Reese); 51 (Klassen); not long after First Thessalonians (Smith); 51 (Phillips); 3-6 months later than First Thessalonians (Williams).

Place of Writing: Corinth (Smith).

Outline (NET):
1: 1 Opening Greetings
Thanksgiving and Encouragement:
1: 3 Look to God in Suffering
Instructions About the "Last Times" and Christ's Return:
2: 1 The "Man of Sin"
2: 13 God Has Chosen You
Prayer and Discipline:
3: 1 Pray for Us
3: 6 Work
Conclusion:
3: 16 Farewell


1 Timothy

Timothy: His father, whose name is unknown, was a Greek. His mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois, were Jewish and gave him an emphatically Jewish education. From childhood, he learned the Holy Scriptures daily. Timothy and his mother received the gospel message from Paul and Barnabas with unfeigned faith. When he became a man, Timothy was set apart to do missionary work and became one of the companions of Paul.

Date of Writing (C.E.): 64 (Reese); 45 (Klassen); 65 (Smith); 66 (Phillips); n/a (Williams).

Place of Writing: Macedonia (Smith); Rome (Phillips); Philippi (Williams).

Outline (REB):
1: 3 Paul's Charge to Timothy
2: 1 Christian Conduct
4: 1 False Teaching
5: 1 Church Discipline
6: 3 Final Instructions


2 Timothy

Timothy: See First Timothy.

Date of Writing (C.E.): 67 (Reese); 46 (Klassen); 67 or 68 (Smith); 67 (Phillips); 65 or 66 (Williams).

Place of Writing: Rome (Smith).

Outline (PRS):
1: 3 I Thank God for Your Faith; Guard It Well
1: 15 Deserters -- and a Friend
2: 1 Above All Things Be Faithful
2: 14 Hold Fast to the True: Avoid Dangerous Error
2: 22 Be Positively Good -- and Patient
3: 1 A Warning of What to Expect
3: 10 Your Knowledge of the Truth Should Be Your Safeguard
4: 1 My Time Is Nearly Over: You Must Carry On
4: 9 Personal Messages
4: 19 Closing Greetings


Titus

Titus: He is emphatically spoken of as a Gentile, meaning that both of his parents probably were Gentiles. He would seem to have been specially a representative of the church of the uncircumcision. He was also in close association with Paul and Barnabas at Antioch and with Paul on Crete.

Date of Writing (C.E.): 64 (Reese); 39 (Klassen); 67 (Smith); 67 (Phillips); 65 (Williams).

Place of Writing: Ephesus (Smith); Rome (Phillips).

Outline (NAB):
Address:
1: 1 Greeting
Pastoral Charge:
1: 5 Titus in Crete
Teaching the Christian Life:
2: 1 Christian Behavior
2: 11 Transformation of Life
3: 8 Advice to Titus
3: 12 Directives, Greetings, and Blessing


Philemon

Philemon: He was probably a native of Collosse. He became bishop of that city and died as a martyr under Nero. He was a man of property and influence and of noblest character.

Date of Writing (C.E.): 61 (Reese); 62 (Klassen); 64 (Smith); 62 (Phillips); 62 or 63 (Williams).

Place of Writing: Rome (Smith).

Outline (NJB):
1: 1 Address
1: 4 Thanksgiving and Prayer
1: 8 The Request About Onesimus
1: 22 A Personal Request. Good Wishes


Commentary

 

You will have noted that the style for each of these outlines is different. Each translator has his own interpretation of the subjects as well as the divisions. Some will divide more than others. There is a difference with regard to the dates and the places of writing. Frank Klassen, who is recognized in the field of Biblical dating, gives dates which are earlier than the others. However, this should be no problem for the average Bible reader.