Judith M. Lieu

in The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780199254255
Published online April 2009 |

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology


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The development and influence of the letter-form is one of the most striking characteristics of the New Testament: twenty-one of the NT writings are labeled letters from early in the manuscript tradition. This sets a pattern that is continued in the early Church, and which, by the networks created and by the implicit claims to and recognition of authority, can be seen as crucial to the development of what was to become early Christianity. This chapter argues that the study of biblical letters belongs to and contributes to broader debates, such as how NT literary forms are related to those of the wider Jewish or Graeco-Roman world; how their distinctiveness is to be identified and explained; and the hermeneutical problem of reading, and within the Christian tradition of treating as possessing authority, texts originally written for a specific readership and situation now accessible only through them. Ancient letters, literary letters, rhetoric, function of NT letters, Hebrew and Aramaic letters, and influence of the NT letter tradition are discussed.

Keywords: New Testament; letter-form; biblical letters; ancient letters; literary letters; rhetoric

Chapter.  4857 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies ; Biblical Studies

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