Letters

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Just as letters today are personal communications between an author and a specific recipient so the letters found in the Bible are personal communications between authors and specific recipients with the added feature that they were most likely circulated to a wider audience either after the original recipients were finished with them or out of obedience to the wishes of the authors. Again, just as we read our own letters in their entirety, Biblical letters should be read, if at all possible, from start to finish in a single sitting to grasp the full impact of the purpose, or occasion, of the letter and the points that the author is making. More so than for any other genre of writing is the force of the letter destroyed if it is read in bits and pieces here and there. Larger letters, such as Paul's letter to the church in Rome, may not suffer as much as the smaller letters in being read in sections, but even these were received by their recipients as a single communication from someone who cared deeply for them. Imagine then how each letter would have been studied as we today would study a letter received from a loved one from whom we did not hear often enough. We would do well to approach the letters in the Bible in the same way, treating them as we would a letter from a distant and dear friend, poring over each word and working to understand the overall theme of this work that was the only way in which its author could communicate.