Prison Epistles: A Life Worthy of the Lord


Fall 2018
Mon 4:00 PM -5:50 PM

The letters to the Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon are often identified as a sub-corpus within the Pauline epistles. This grouping is not so much based on common content, but rather a similar context of composition, i.e. that Paul wrote these letters during his imprisonment (Eph 3:1, 4:1; Col 4:3, 10; Phlm 1, 9; Phil 1:7, 13–14, etc.). However, the admonition by Paul to “live a life worthy of the Lord” (Col 1:10) is used repeatedly in these letters (“… worthy of the gospel of Christ” Phil 1:27; “… worthy of the calling” Eph 4:1). This seems to suggest that the main concern of Paul in writing these letters is that the churches, in his absence, should collectively strive to live in a manner worthy of the gospel regardless of circumstances. In these letters, Paul encourages his readers to reflect on the many facets of Christian living: to live in unity and to be joyful during times of hardship; to live in concord with the wider society; to live harmoniously within the household; to live with a countercultural manner, that is, to live a cruciform lifestyle that is grounded in the salvific work of the Lord Jesus Christ. As modern readers living in vastly different social and cultural contexts, it is not uncommon to hear people say that we live in society that is materialistic, consumeristic, and obsessed with entertainment. The American Dream seems to be about chasing wealth and comfort for oneself at any cost. The goal of this course then, is to ponder together the question, What does “living a life worthy of the Lord” look like in the contemporary world?


  • To become familiar with the historical context and the text of the prison epistles for use in teaching and preaching ministry.
  • To gain an understanding of problems and issues in the controversial areas of the prison epistles.


  • To become competent interpreters of the text
    • To become sensitive to the historical and cultural environment of the early church.
  • To allow the prison epistles to motivate, form and transform our faith, worship and Christian way of life.


  • To develop skills in interpreting the epistles in terms of their theological, historical and social contexts.
  • To explain key topics and major exegetical issues related to the prison epistles.
  • To develop and practice responsible exegetical methods that draw upon the varied resources available (commentaries, bible software, etc.)