Pauline epistles

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The Pauline epistles, Epistles of Paul, or Letters of Paul, are the thirteen New Testament books which have the name Paul (Παῦλος) as the first word, hence claiming authorship by Paul the Apostle. Among these letters are some of the earliest extant Christian documents. They provide an insight into the beliefs and controversies of early Christianity and as part of the canon of the New Testament they are foundational texts for both Christian theology and ethics. The Epistle to the Hebrews, although it does not bear his name, was traditionally considered Pauline for a thousand years, but from the 16th century onwards opinion steadily moved against Pauline authorship and few scholars now ascribe it to Paul, mostly because it doesn't read like any of his other epistles in style and content.[1] Most scholars agree that Paul really wrote seven of the Pauline epistles, but that four of the epistles in Paul's name are pseudepigraphic; scholars are divided on the authenticity of two of the epistles.

The Pauline epistles are usually placed between the Book of Acts and the General epistles in modern editions. Most Greek manuscripts, however, place the General epistles first,[2] and a few minuscules (175, 325, 336, and 1424) place the Pauline epistles at the end of the New Testament.


In the order they appear in the New Testament, the Pauline epistles are:

RomansΠρὸς ῬωμαίουςEpistola ad RomanosRomRo
First CorinthiansΠρὸς Κορινθίους ΑʹEpistola I ad Corinthios1 Cor1C
Second CorinthiansΠρὸς Κορινθίους ΒʹEpistola II ad Corinthios2 Cor2C
GalatiansΠρὸς ΓαλάταςEpistola ad GalatasGalG
EphesiansΠρὸς ἘφεσίουςEpistola ad EphesiosEphE
PhilippiansΠρὸς ΦιλιππησίουςEpistola ad PhilippensesPhilPhi
ColossiansΠρος ΚολασσαεῖςEpistola ad ColossensesColC
First ThessaloniansΠρὸς Θεσσαλονικεῖς ΑʹEpistola I ad Thessalonicenses1 Thess1Th
Second ThessaloniansΠρὸς Θεσσαλονικεῖς ΒʹEpistola II ad Thessalonicenses2 Thess2Th
First TimothyΠρὸς Τιμόθεον ΑʹEpistola I ad Timotheum1 Tim1T
Second TimothyΠρὸς Τιμόθεον ΒʹEpistola II ad Timotheum2 Tim2T
TitusΠρὸς ΤίτονEpistola ad TitumTitT
PhilemonΠρὸς ΦιλήμοναEpistola ad PhilemonemPhilemP

This ordering is remarkably consistent in the manuscript tradition, with very few deviations. The evident principle of organization is descending length of the Greek text, but keeping the four Pastoral epistles addressed to individuals in a separate final section. The only anomaly is that Galatians precedes the slightly longer Ephesians.[3]

In modern editions, the formally anonymous Epistle to the Hebrews is placed at the end of Paul's letters and before the General epistles. This practice was popularized through the 4th-century Vulgate by Jerome, who was aware of ancient doubts about its authorship, and is also followed in most medieval Byzantine manuscripts. With hardly any exceptions, though, the manuscripts do include Hebrews somewhere among Paul's letters.[3]

The placement of Hebrews among the Pauline epistles is less consistent in the manuscripts:


In all of these epistles, Paul does claim to be the author and writer. However, the contested letters may have been forgeries, as that seems to have been a problem among the early church as a whole[4]

Seven letters (with consensus dates)[5] considered genuine by most scholars:

The letters thought to be pseudepigraphic by about 80% of scholars:[6]

The letters on which scholars are about evenly divided:[6]

Lost Pauline epistles[edit]

Non-canonical Pauline epistles[edit]

Several non-canonical epistles claim or having been claimed to have been written by Paul. Most bible scholars reject their authenticity.

Texts also exist which, while not strictly epistles, nevertheless claim to have been written by (or about) Paul.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, publ. Geoffrey Chapman, 1989, chapter 60, at p.920, col. 2 "That Paul is neither directly nor indirectly the author is now the view of scholars almost without exception. For details, see Kümmel, I[ntroduction to the] N[ew] T[estament, Nashville, 1975] 392-94, 401-3"
  2. ^ Metzger, Bruce M. (1987). The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance. pp. 295–296. ISBN 0198261802. 
  3. ^ a b Trobisch, David (1994). Paul's Letter Collection: Tracing the Origins. pp. 1–27. ISBN 0800625978. 
  4. ^ Joseph Barber Lightfoot in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians writes: "At this point [Gal 6:11] the apostle takes the pen from his amanuensis, and the concluding paragraph is written with his own hand. From the time when letters began to be forged in his name (2 Thess 2:2; 3:17) it seems to have been his practice to close with a few words in his own handwriting, as a precaution against such forgeries... In the present case he writes a whole paragraph, summing up the main lessons of the epistle in terse, eager, disjointed sentences. He writes it, too, in large, bold characters (Gr. pelikois grammasin), that his handwriting may reflect the energy and determination of his soul."
  5. ^ Pheme Perkins, Reading the New Testament: An Introduction (Paulist Press, 1988), pp. 4–7.
  6. ^ a b New Testament Letter Structure, from Catholic Resources by Felix Just, S.J.
  7. ^ Also called A Prior Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians[1] or Paul’s previous Corinthian letter.[2], possibly Third Epistle to the Corinthians
  8. ^ Apologetics Press – Are There Lost Books of the Bible?

Bibliographic resources[edit]

External links[edit]