The Letters of Paul as Rituals of Worship

By John Paul Heil

A reassessment of the role of Paul as a man of prayer and worship, placing his letters in their original context as epistolary rituals of worship.

ISBN: 9780227680070


Saint Paul is rightly considered a great missionary, evangelist, teacher, preacher, and pastor; but people often forget his role as a pre-eminent and paradigmatic liturgist. Similarly, our most direct access to Paul is through his letters; but we often forget their original function: rituals to be performed publicly in a liturgical assembly.

The author corrects this deficiency by focussing on worship in the letters of Paul the Apostle, analysing each of the thirteen letters attributed to him. The result is an innovative new approach that gives the reader a greater understanding of the original purpose and meaning to Paul’s letters. Using liturgical and ritualistic language Paul worships through the letters themselves, addressing the audience about theological concepts, particular problems and pressing concerns. Understood in the biblical tradition that dynamically combines liturgical and ethical worship, Paul’s letters transcend their immediate context and become meaningful for the moral worship of everyday lives outside the liturgical assembly.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 216

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

John Paul Heil is Professor of New Testament at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. He is the author of Ephesians: Empowerment to Walk in Love for the Unity of All in Christ (2007).


Introduction: The Letters of Paul as Rituals of Worship

1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
1 Timothy
2 Timothy
Conclusion: The Letters of Paul as Rituals of Worship

Scripture Index
Author Index


Endorsements and Reviews

When Heil calls the thirteen letters of Paul ‘rituals of worship’, he means that each is written as a script to be performed for a community gathered for worship over which Paul presides through the letter, thereby evoking and sharing in the prayer of his audience. Heil also explores how the language of the letters uses imagery from temple worship metaphorically, to interpret Christian life itself as worship. Heil manages to provide a fresh, pastoral reading of the Pauline corpus as a whole.
Dennis Hamm SJ, Department of Theology, Creighton University

Heil has provided a survey of these letters which clearly demonstrates the centrality of worship in Paul’s theology.
Daniel J. Hanlon, in Theological Book Review, Vol 24, No 2

… a clear and manageable survey of worship in the Pauline corpus that could serve as a helpful supplement to more traditional studies … [John Paul Heil] offers an important corrective to traditional readings of Paul’s letters as theology.
Tyler A. Stewart, in Reviews in Religion & Theology, Vol 20, Issue 2

Heil successfully demonstrates that worship was a primary motive for Paul and remains a framework in which the letters must still be read … Heil has given laypersons and ministers a helpful glimpse into Paul’s letter as conduits for worship, and has provided a necessary reminder to academics that Paul’s original literary intentions were that of worship.
Haley Goranson, in Theology, Vol 116, No 5

Heil reads through the corpus and looks for such passages and motifs that deal or are connected with aspects of a Christian gathering, above all, such formulas that express Paul’s sense for prayer and worship. … This is a successful attempt at reading the letters of Paul with an eye on what must have been their first impact – their first reception. And that impact must have been impressive, in any case sufficient to have the communities preserve the letters, have them circulate, and at one point even have them receive non-Pauline copies.
J. Verheyden, in Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses, Vol 89, No 4