Many strands of modern biblical scholarship assert that the apostle Paul did not really write the so-called Deutero-Pauline epistles (Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, and 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus). The case against Pauline authorship is complex, but it is certainly not airtight. What follows is the second part in our series on biblical scholarship and the Deutero-Paulines, an examination and evaluation of the case against Pauline authorship of these letters.
Thus far we have considered the arguments against Pauline authorship based on differences in vocabulary between the Deutero-Pauline letters and the letters that biblical scholars of all persuasions see as actually having been written by Paul. Nearly everyone acknowledges that arguments based on vocabulary are the most flimsy, and as we saw in our previous article, these arguments do not really support the case against Pauline authorship of Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, and the Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus). Let us now continue our examination of the reasons why some representative of modern biblical scholarship doubt that Paul actually wrote the “Deutero-Paulines.”
The argument that the Deutero-Paulines differ in style so significantly from the acknowledged Pauline epistles carries some more weight than arguments based on vocabulary. Stylistic arguments are used especially against Ephesians and Colossians because, unlike some of Paul’s other letters, they contain very long sentences in the Greek text. Again, we answer this point by noting how it is exceedingly naïve to assume Paul was limited to one style of writing alone. Every great writer is able to vary his or her style from composition to composition, and we should expect no less from the apostle. Furthermore, Paul used an amanuensis or secretary to help him write most of his letters. If Paul gave these secretaries/scribes the points he wanted to cover and then let them have a fairly free hand to write, then stylistic variation is easily accounted for. Each different scribe necessarily had a slightly different writing style, and Ephesians would be stylistically different from, say, Romans if different secretaries were used for each epistle. Paul certainly read each letter before it was sent, but he would not have completely altered the writing style. So those representatives of modern biblical scholarship who have denied that Paul wrote the Deutero-Paulines have not made their case based on stylistic variation.
More to Come
Those who are interested in following up on the points made in this article should consult An Introduction to the New Testament by. D.A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo or another work by a conservative, evangelical publisher that argues against the view that Paul did not write all the letters ascribed to him. Raymond E. Brown’s work An Introduction to the New Testament is a helpful summary of the view that would deny Pauline authorship of all the Pauline epistles.
The last and most convincing arguments on the part of many representatives of modern biblical scholarship against the Pauline authorship of the Deutero-Paulines have to do with the theological emphases of the various letters. In our next installment we will begin our evaluation of these arguments.