Thursday, July 2, 2009

Lucky numbers...

        Two particularly popular "lucky numbers" are 7 and 13, which also happen to be the number of undisputed Paul letters (7) and total 'Pauline' letters in the Bible (13). Most scholars probably agree that Paul wrote Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. On the other hand, Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus are seen as 'Pauline,' but not written by the apostle Paul himself.
       We just started talking about the issue of pseudepigraphy in class (My professor wrote his dissertation under I. Howard Marshall on Ephesians, so I think this was a particularly important subject for him.) and one interesting question came to mind: if the supposed 'Pauline' school was writing under his name to honor his memory and to encourage the church, what would be the reaction of the recipients? I'm not sure if I'm looking at this too simply, but, if I were to receive a letter under the name of my friend, yet knowing full well that this friend could not have written the letter, what good would it be? I would think this highly diminishes the importance of the content based on authorship.

Anyway, I was reading through Peter T. O'Brien's Ephesians commentary and this is what he concludes:

"We conclude that although pseudonymity was a widely practised literary convention in the ancient world among Greeks, Romans, Jews, and Christians, there is no certain evidence that any document which was known to be fraudulent was accepted as religiously and philosophically prescriptive. Further, the widespread phenomenon of pseudonymous writings does not demonstrate their presence within the New Testament, or show that Ephesians, for example, was part of an ongoing pseudepigraphal tradition... Finally, some have claimed that the pseudonymity of Ephesians does not in any way detract from its canonicity, or from the validity and authority of its message. Whether it was written by Paul or by one of his followers, Ephesians stands within the canon... However, there appears to be some confusion in the argument here. The claim is made that because Ephesians is in the canon it is therefore authoritative. But for the early church the argument went the other way: Ephesians was recognized as apostolic and authoritative, and as a result it was accepted into the canon."1


1Peter T. O'Brien, The Letters to the Ephesians, Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 44-45.

3 comments:

Ben said...

dude you don't know footnote or citations!

Mike S. said...

Ben: Hah! Just because you're already in a PhD program doesn't mean you get to look down on me...

Mike S. said...

This is not to say I particularly agree with everything O'Brien says! Just my initial thoughts...