What Did Paul Write?

The Truth Is…

Paul’s Christ Is Very Different From the Historical Jesus

Paul’s letters are largely written to churches which he had visited; he was a great traveler, visiting Cyprus, Asia Minor (modern Turkey), mainland Greece, Crete, and Rome. His letters are full of expositions of what Christians should believe and how they should live. He does not tell his correspondents (or the modern reader) much about the life of Jesus; his most explicit references are to the Last Supper[1 Cor. 11:17-34] and the crucifixion and resurrection.[1 Cor. 15] His specific references to Jesus’ teaching are likewise sparse,[1 Cor. 7:10-11] [9:14] raising the question, still disputed, as to how consistent his account of the faith is with that of the four canonical Gospels, Acts, and the Epistle of James. The view that Paul’s Christ is very different from the historical Jesus has been expounded by Adolf Harnack among many others. Nevertheless, he provides the first written account of what it is to be a Christian and thus of Christian spirituality.

Paul Only Authored Seven of the Fourteen Letters Attributed To Him

Of the fourteen letters attributed to Paul and included in the Western New Testament canon, there is little or no dispute that Paul actually wrote at least seven, those being Romans, First Corinthians, Second Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, First Thessalonians, and Philemon. Hebrews (no relation to the Gospel according to the Hebrews), which was ascribed to him in antiquity, was questioned even then, never having an ancient attribution, and in modern times is considered by most experts as not by Paul (see also Antilegomena). The authorship of the remaining six Pauline epistles is disputed to varying degrees.

Authorship

The authenticity of Colossians has been questioned[65] on the grounds that it contains an otherwise unparalleled description (among his writings) of Jesus as ‘the image of the invisible God,’ a Christology found elsewhere only in John’s gospel. On the other hand, the personal notes in the letter connect it to Philemon, unquestionably the work of Paul. Internal evidence shows close connection with Philippians.[66] Ephesians is a very similar letter to Colossians, but is almost entirely lacking in personal reminiscences. Its style is unique. It lacks the emphasis on the cross to be found in other Pauline writings, reference to the Second Coming is missing, and Christian marriage is exalted in a way which contrasts with the reference in 1 Cor. 7:8-9. Finally, according to R.E. Brown, it exalts the Church in a way suggestive of a second generation of Christians, ‘built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets’ now past.[67] The defenders of its Pauline authorship argue that it was intended to be read by a number of different churches and that it marks the final stage of the development of Paul of Tarsus’s thinking. It has to be noted, too, that the moral portion of the Epistle, consisting of the last two chapters has the closest affinity with similar portions of other Epistles, while the whole admirably fits in with the known details of St. Paul’s life, and throws considerable light upon them.[66]

Non-Pauline Letters For Sure

The Pastoral Epistles, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus have likewise been put in question as Pauline works. Three main reasons are advanced: first, their difference in vocabulary, style, and theology from Paul’s acknowledged writings; Defenders of the authenticity note, that they were then probably written in the name and with the authority of the Apostle by one of his companions, to whom he distinctly explained what had to be written, or to whom he gave a written summary of the points to be developed, and that when the letters were finished, St. Paul read them through, approved them, and signed them.[66] Secondly, the difficulty in fitting them into Paul’s biography as we have it.[68] They, like Colossians and Ephesians, were written from prison but suppose Paul’s release and travel thereafter. However, Christianity was not yet declared a religio illicita at the time they were written, and according to Roman law there was nothing deserving of death against him.[66] Finally, the concerns expressed are very much the practical ones as to how a church should function. They are more about maintenance than about mission[citation needed].

2 Thessalonians, like Colossians, is questioned on stylistic grounds, with some[citation needed] noting, among other peculiarities, a dependence on 1 Thessalonians yet a distinctiveness in language from the Pauline corpus. This, again, is explainable by the possibility of St. Paul requesting one of his companions to write the letter for him under his instructions.[66]

One comment on “What Did Paul Write?

  1. Pixie says:

    this was helpful. thanks. =)

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