Authorship of Epistles

[left]What is the Church’s teaching on the ‘growing scholarly opinion’ that St. Paul may not have been the author of 2 Thessalonians, Colossians, and Ephesians, and that they may have been written by others in the ‘Pauline school?’ I’m participating in a Little Rock bible study, kind of on a whim, and I wanted to ensure that it was orthodox as far as the Church’s teachings. [/left]

Pax Christi
SJ Howe

I’m not sure the church has an official position on the question. But I will say in regard to Ephesians in particular that the questions raised by “scholars” are evidence of a clearly anti-Catholic bias in their thinking. The primary argument against Pauline authorship of Ephesians is the very high ecclesiology found in the epistle - Paul’s asserting that Christ and the church are one as man and women are one and so forth. Since Protestants assume the hierarchy was never instituted by Christ Himself, but evolved in the Second Century as men asserted themselves to positions of power, the idea that Paul could have had such an institutional vision of the church is inconceivable. But of course, if Christ did establish the church, and it wasn’t the creation of men in the Second Century, then there’s no reason to doubt the universal tradition that attributed the book to Paul.

[quote=SteveT]I’m not sure the church has an official position on the question. But I will say in regard to Ephesians in particular that the questions raised by “scholars” are evidence of a clearly anti-Catholic bias in their thinking. The primary argument against Pauline authorship of Ephesians is the very high ecclesiology found in the epistle - Paul’s asserting that Christ and the church are one as man and women are one and so forth. Since Protestants assume the hierarchy was never instituted by Christ Himself, but evolved in the Second Century as men asserted themselves to positions of power, the idea that Paul could have had such an institutional vision of the church is inconceivable.
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Actually, a lot of Protestants have a high ecclesiology - Anglicans and Calvinists spring to mind: and many of them, particularly the conservative evangelical Protestants among them, are as firm sticklers for traditional Biblical ascriptions of authorship as any conservative Catholic could desire - the difference here, on the matter of authorships, between conservative Catholics, conservative Protestants and conservative Anglicans, is frequently non-existent.

It’s a mistake to think all Protestants have a “low” view of the Church - Calvin and his theological heirs do not.

The ecclesiology of Ephesians is problematic, not because it is too “Catholic”-like, but because it is so developed so early if St.Paul wrote the letter - the development is so quick, that is seems to have no history: that, is the big problem. Which is not to say the questionings of those puzzled by this lack of history are unanswerable, but that they are not unfounded: there are questions to answer about the history and theology of the Church’s development, and that of Paul, and how well (if at all) Ephesians with the rest of his thought. After all, this is the man who is the theologian of God’s grace - is Ephesians the sort of letter he would write; does it agree with what he is known to have believed ? How well does it fit with 1 Corinthians, also on the Church ? Is it anachronistic ? And so on.
And Catholics ask the same questions - without questioning the Divine foundation of the Church in the first century. ##

But of course, if Christ did establish the church, and it wasn’t the creation of men in the Second Century, then there’s no reason to doubt the universal tradition that attributed the book to Paul.

We are all “the Church” :slight_smile:

If what is meant is the Magisterium: it tends to “wait and see” before intervening - the point that cannot be negotiated, is the inspiration and canonicity of the books; whereas the human authorship is less important, especially as some of the traditional authorships of NT books include “apostolic men” (rather than Apostles) in any case: such as Luke. And it is only a short step from moving an attribution of authorship from an Apostle such as Paul (who is not an Apostle in the same way as the Twelve were anyway) to an “apostolic man” belonging to Paul’s circle or influenced by him or his ideas: even if the “apostolic man” is anonymous (as could be the case with the author of “Ephesians”); so he would be, not Paul, and probably not one of the Twelve, but a member of Paul’s circle. ##

Michael:

IMHO, the ecclesiology reflected in the letter the Ephesians is entirely consistent with the well developed view of the institutional church reflected in the writings of Ignatius and Clement of Rome, both of whom knew Paul personally, writing +/- 30 years after Paul’s death. That being the case, I think the burden of proof that Ephesian’s ecclesiology is too developed to reflect Paul’s thoughts lies on those who would assert the church’s views changed radically in the half generation between his death and these very early writings by his contemporaries. I have never seen any serious attempt to make that case. On the contrary, the idea that this changed radically in that short period of time is taken for granted. What is lacking is not historical support for the early ecclesiology of Ephesians, but the historical support that the ecclesiology of Ignatius and Clement was radically different from that of Paul and the Apostles.

"
The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done sol from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus says the Scripture a certain place, “I will appoint their bishops s in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.” …
“Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry.” 1 Clement 42-44

The most common arguments against St. Paul’s authorship of the Epistle to the Colossians are not, to my understanding, based upon its ecclesiology, but rather upon:
its grammatical constructions, literary style, and vocabulary,
all of which are said to differ substantially from those of Paul evident in his undisputed writings.
Another argument is against the letter’s
alleged anti-Gnostic polemic.
Since the Gnostic crisis did not develop until two generations after Paul’s death, it is felt that he could not have penned it.
None of these critiques stand up to scrutiny.
Beginning with the Apostolic Fathers (e.g., Ss. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria), the Epistle was universally acknowledged to be Paul’s work - until the rise of 19th-century rationalistic hypercriticism.

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