Literary Context

How does this work fit into the whole of the Bible? (See Table of Contents/Biblical Timeline)

In what style (genre) was it written (& how does that affect my reading)? 

Situational Context

Who is writing?  – 1:1-7, 4:7-18

To Whom is he writing? – 1:2, 4:16

Why was it written? – 1:9, 1:27-28, 2:8, 4:12

What is the overall emphasis? –  1:15-20

Social Context

When was it written? – (See ESV Study Bible/Map/Timeline)

Where did this take place? – (See ESV Study Bible)

Three Steps to Reading an Epistle

1. Identify Arrangement: How is this letter arranged?

Epistles are usually arranged into four parts. Look for these parts in your text:

– Greeting: introduces who is writing and to whom

– Opening: usually prayer/poem, why writing, and main message/theme

– Body: “Therefore” of the letter, focused on exhortation and instruction

– Conclusion: closing greetings / instructions / blessing

2. Study Opening: What is the writer want to emphasize as the main message / purpose of the letter? Look for words that are repeated / patterns, big ideas

3. Isolate Thoughts: Go paragraph by paragraph in your Bible to summarize ideas

– Look for repeated words/patterns/big ideas

– Look for cross references to Old Testament, look up and summarize

– Highlight statements that relate/support opening thought/main message