Friday, April 26, 2019

Pauline Authorship according to British New Testament Scholars

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Here’s a nice, concrete graph from a survey that Paul Foster took of attendees at the 2011 British New Testament Conference. What I like is that these data allow me to avoid having to say “most/many/some scholars think that Paul did/didn’t write...” in my classes. Instead I can show some hard numbers. Here is Foster’s explanation:
The survey was not rigorously scientific; only those who felt inclined returned their forms. My estimate is that approximately 70 percent of the audience participated. For each of the thirteen Pauline letters and also for Hebrews respondents were asked whether they considered each letter to be written by Paul, or not, or whether they were undecided. There were approximately 109 respondents, although two more cast an opinion only in relation to 2 Thessalonians, and one or two decided not to record their opinions in relation to the Pastoral Epistles. (p. 171)
This is limited to mostly British NT scholars, so it cannot simply be taken as representative of all NT scholars. But it certainly beats my own vague, general impression.


(Feel free to use the graphic but make sure that Paul Foster gets credit for the data collection.)

38 comments

  1. Very helpful for discussions online. Thank you.

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  2. Should "This is limited to mostly British NT scholars, so it can simply be taken as representative of all NT scholars." read "cannot be simply be taken..."

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  3. It is hard to separate the groupthink from the weight of considered opinion in things like this. I'd love to talk to the person who didn't accept Philippians and Philemon (presuming this was the same person).

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  4. Answers like these are why New Testament Scholars are rewarded with so little respect by Pastor-Teachers. Of course, my previous statement is as general as the question asked. There appears to be at least 20% of those who responded that accept 13 letters as Pauline.

    Tim

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    1. This leaves me wondering what a graph of German NT scholars would look like if posed the same question? Secondly, the contested letters (in the said graph), i.e.: eph.,Col.,2Thess.,1Tim.,2Tim. & Tit. All start with the word Paulos. Am I to suppose these are all areas of textual corruption which needs be corrected by way of conjectural emmendation? If every edition, manuscript,version or father,literally every scrap of evidence we have testifies to Paul as the author (as he identifies himself as such), then, what have we to do with the opinions of men and women like these? Lastly, how are we to give quarter to their various views on internal evidence when they cannot detect the Pauline style in epistles which bear his very name as the author? Logic and common sense has left the building along with Elvis. -M.M.R.

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    2. They weren't asked if they think the letters claim to be written by Paul, only if they believe they actually were. I assume that they would unanimously (or almost unanimously) agree that all except Hebrews do contain an attribution to Paul within their text, and that this attribution goes back to the earliest recoverable form of the text.

      Those who believe Paul did not write some epistles that include his name in them would not agree with you that Paul identifies himself as the author. They would say that whoever wrote the letter, and who was not Paul, identified the author as Paul.

      Hardly any NT scholars (none that I can think of) would treat this as a matter of textual criticism.

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    3. Mr. Rowe, Good day Sir. I understand that, the question was more of the rhetorical variety. I was questioning in a somewhat indirect manner the footing on which they base such assumptions. They are essentially stating that they believe such and such epistles are a fraud! Can they not tell (to some extant) that they are Pauline from cross examination with the letters they do believe came from Paul's hand (or lips)? The mss. evidence, the consistent evidence of the Church Father's along side Church history and universal tradition is all against their position/s,-The burden of proof is upon them.

      I have a hard time believing such opinions are those of Christian men and women. The audacity of the hypothesis(s) in question is contrary to history and science.-And is quite alarming (to me at least). I suppose those who deny the Pauline authorship of such books would say the same concerning myself were they to learn that I believe in the virgin birth, bodily resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. It seems that the world and the Church is (and has been for some time) going into a direction which pangs me. -M.M.R.

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    4. Textual critics make a bunch of judgements about the authorship of a letter based on a few criteria.

      1. Distance from Manuscript to proposed date of composition, the longer the gap the greater the likelihood that St. Paul was not the sole author or the primary.

      2. Development of theology. Christian theology is seen to have evolved, and there are judgements made about what the stages were and large volumes written to back up these judgements. Most of the books with later dates are apocalyptic in nature or have a very mature christology or (in their estimation) shows a logical derivative from a previous epistle or is contradictory.

      3. More polemical writings are generally taken to be spurious, especially if they find parallels in theological controversies of later times. Ie the Johannine Comma in St. John's epistle is considered spurious for it's heavy trinitarianism.

      4. The usage and grammar of the Greek, sometimes the grammar is so different that it leads to a conclusion that there is a different composer. Ie 75% of Mark is shared by Luke and Matthew who share about 50% of their content with Mark. But all have different styles, showing different authorship.

      5. Grammar, criticism and theology then gives a date of composition and this is compared with the known lifespan of the apostle.

      6. Though not written by Paul they do not regard them as fraudulent, it was common in the ancient world to write things in someone's name to show that you held their thoughts and you honored them. It was not seen as fraudulent, IE the Authors of the Didache were not saying verbatim what the Apostles believed, but the spirit of what they taught applied to their circumstances and so they could call it the Teaching of the Apostles.

      There are other reasons, but these are the major ones. I am a student of Textual Criticism and a conservative Evangelical minister. I don't agree with these men, but most of them are not Christians in the same sense that I am, so it is inevitable we will not share the same conclusions given the same data. Bart D. Ehrman, one of the top New Testament scholars is an atheist. So none of his findings are going to corroborate evangelical Christianity.

      Fundamentally, it is the pinnacle of human understanding. But the Wisdom of God is hidden to the wiseman, the scribe of this world. And the power of God cannot be duplicated or replaced. Forget these scholars and win people to Christ in your own life.

      Here is where I would criticise you. The resurrection is not scientifically provable and it does not rest on solid historical grounds. Human knowledge is just not that reliable, but we believe in the Risen Christ and the power of the Living Word, not the dead one. So put your faith in prayer and Christ's working power today and watch men's hearts be touched by God. There is the evidence for the truth of our claim, "I know that He is living, whatever men may say."

      Sincerely,
      JL

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    5. 6. is a widely believed myth. Check what the Church fathers say about spurious writings that bear the names of the Apostles. Besides, noone believed that the Didache was written by the Christ's Apostles. The work itself contains no such claim.

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    6. JL, thank you for the information, truly!-But I seem to have misled you. I was not expecting an answer to my rhetorical polemics. I was trying to insinuate how illogical the leaps are one would have to make if they intended to build their respective hypothesis(s) on actual facts and data. All the facts and data are against them. They must be content to mere guesswork and their own personal tastes. When that fails they can begin to lean upon the pseudo-science of higher criticism. Yet, the end result is the same, they will present assumption as fact and imagination as theory. My point is simple, they should be given no quarter. Nor should their degrees from apostate academia persuade Christian brethren nor send them into a trance of admiration. "I have said ye are gods, but ye shall die like men"

      Notwithstanding, I fully agree with you when you state "I don't agree with these men." and again "But the Wisdom of God is hidden to the wiseman, the scribe of this world. And the power of God cannot be duplicated or replaced. Forget these scholars and win people to Christ in your own life." To which I can only say Amen! Now I must part ways when you state that Bart Ehrman is one of the top NT scholars, although I think you are speaking in general and not of your own estimation. I personally do not consider him as such.


      Now your statement;
      "Here is where I would criticise you. The resurrection is not scientifically provable and it does not rest on solid historical grounds." Is a bit of a riddle. True it is, that the resurrection (nor the virgin birth or ascension for that matter) is not scientifically provable, but neither are their opinions concerning the Pauline authorship of such books. I would however contend that the resurrection does rest on as equally solid historical grounds as any other event in history that was witnessed by upwards of 500 witnesses. Many of which were persecuted, shunned by family and friends and "loved not their lives not unto the death" -MMR

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    7. It is not a myth, it's even explicitly stated in the Canon Mauritorianus by the Church Father Caius, where it states explicitly that the Gospel of John was written collectively by a group of people (including him) but bears only his name:

      The fourth Gospel is that of John, one of the disciples. When his fellow disciples and bishops entreated him, he said, "Fast now with me for the space of three days, and let us recount to each other whatever may be revealed to each of us." On the same night it was revealed to Andrew, one of the apostles, that John should narrate all things in his own name as they called them to mind.
      (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0510.htm)

      Though in this sense it is not a myth, the scholarly community takes it too far I would say. But they are not ignorant of the Church Fathers, it is a long argument one I don't want to reproduce here.

      To your point on the Didache, that's just not true, the opening line of the Didache is: "The teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles (or Nations) by the twelve apostles" and then it goes "Chapter 1". If you read the original Greek Text the title of the work and the subscript is part of the manuscript, considered original to the work itself. So yes.

      And it is explicitly called so by Athanasius in Festal Letter 39 where he identifies it in a list of non-canonical but useful books and obviously not thinking it was actually written by the apostles and equivalent to Scripture. So a case of false-attribution viewed positively.

      The the Didascalia Apostolorum is another one.

      Though in this sense it is not a myth, the scholarly community takes it too far I would say. But they are not ignorant of the Church Fathers, it is a long argument one I don't want to reproduce here.

      The question is to what degree (if at all) it applies to Scripture. Bart Ehrman definitely makes mountains out of molehills in bis book "The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture", but his is a scholarly treatise on this topic. Widely accepted. Don't buy it, borrow it. Better off not reading it. All the best.

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    8. It seems we are saying the same thing with different words. But I would say, they are logical, euridite, brilliant, but they start from a false premise. No God. And so all their theological conclusions are worthless, though some of it can be helpful in the critical sense.

      It's a shame, Brooke F. Westcott who collated the first critical edition of the New Testament was as orthodox as they come. How far we have gone.

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  5. It's odd that the results for all three pastoral epistles are not identical.

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  6. Peter, would it be possible/appropriate for you to administer such a survey to the IBR membership? ~Jeff Miller

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  7. Another interesting question to ask these scholars,
    "Did you mark the pastorals (or other Pauline letters) as pseudepigraphal because you see "most scholars" rejecting Pauline authorship?"
    It would be interesting to compare with the results.

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    1. It would also be nice to ask them if they believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and if salvation alone came by the sheading of His blood unto death. For how can one tell what the Holy Spirit inspired if he hath not the Spirit of God within him? -M.M.R.

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    2. This reminds me of a baptism service I once led down at a public lake. After the service a man who had been just walking by came to talk to me. At first he seemed happy to meet me, but when I told him my degree was in textual criticism, he immediately asked me when I had lost my faith in Jesus Christ!

      You know what I think would be nice MMR? I think it would be nice if you didn't leap to conclusions about people's faith based on their academic conclusions.

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    3. Ryan,
      Equally nice would be if people’s academic conclusions represented their faith.
      I would suggest that they actually do, or their faith is in something other than historic orthodox Christianity.

      Tim

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    4. Ryan, what conclusions did I leap to? When or who put a dichotomy between what one believes in the academic field and their religious views. They are,in fact, inseparable. I'm sorry if you have been given the notion that I believe Textual Critics are by default unbelievers. That would be a fallacy. But if I cannot draw conclusions concerning what any particular individual believes from their own stated stance, upon what grounds am I to base such conclusions pray tell? Or, are you of the opinion that a man can rejected nearly half of the Pauline canon as spurious and yet still be accounted among the flock of God? It seems as if you intended to caricature my position (via strawman no less) and then correct me for the sake of correction. How very odd not to just deal with what I actually said and then disprove what is amiss. -M.M.R.

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  8. Does anyone know of a resource providing the evidence for and against Pauline authorship of 1 and 2 Tim?

    Thanks

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    1. If you are asking about the scholarly perspective, the evidence "against" Pauline authorship is nicely summarized by Bart Ehrman in his books "Forged" (for a lay audience) and "Forgery and Counterforgery" (for scholars). The evidence "for" unfortunately is dispersed and not elaborated well enough. You can check some of it in Mike Licona's article "Review Of Bart Ehrman’s Book “Forged";in Ben Witherington's series of replies to "Forged", starting with "FORGED"– Bart Ehrman's New Salvo— The Introduction" (some of Witherington's arguments are based on his own weird theories, so take him with a grain of salt); in J.P. Holding's book "Trusting The New Testament"; in Carson-Moo's book "An Introduction To The New Testament". These are the ones known to me.

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    2. Thanks for the info. I tend to avoid Ehrman's lay work as he generally interjects more opinions than in his scholarly work. I'll try to gather some of the "for" resources and see how they all add up.

      Thanks!

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    3. Just to clarify, I don't think that Christians should build their confidence that the NT books are authentic upon academic scholarship. The testimony of Christ's Church is more than enough in regard to this matter.

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    4. There are lots of good resources on both (or rather all) sides of this question. Any decent NT introduction or commentary on the pastoral epistles is bound to have a thorough discussion of it.

      My personal top recommendation is Fee's commentary on the pastorals.

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    5. I took NT intro years ago. Later I bought Brown's intro. I only have Fee's less academic work like "How to Read the Bible…". I do have an extensive reference library in Accordance. I just didn't know if there were any single-volumes that covered the issues.

      Thank you for the input.

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    6. https://www.academia.edu/36657071/Pauline_Language_and_the_Pastoral_Epistles

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  9. "the Johannine Comma in St. John's epistle is considered spurious for it's heavy trinitarianism."
    The CJ's verbiage doesn't scare me. I would think that the CJ would be considered spurious due to its absence in every single one of nearly five hundred Greek manuscripts whose first hand didn't undergo assimilation to the Vulgate text.

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  10. 'Paul and First-Century Letter Writing' by E. Randolph Richards is an excellent book that shows that some of the objections raised to Pauline authorship fail to take into account normal practices of 1st Century letter writing. More generally, C.S.Lewis' essay 'Fern Seeds and Elephants' highlights many issues with the suppositions often made by such scholarship (see http://orthodox-web.tripod.com/papers/fern_seed.html).

    Will Marshall.

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  11. It always seems to me that the reactionary demand that we acquiesce to the claims of texts subsequently added to the circulating canon imagines that if they are not in fact original to Paul, they are not in fact scripture. Which is a failure of imagination predicated on refusing the logic by which any of the canonized texts came to be canonized in the first place!

    The only reason we call any of these texts "scripture" is because people were fond of them, because people used them more than any others. Their authority is not about who wrote them.

    Only far in the wake of that canonization, receiving what amounts to the average Protestant canon as though it were an absolute given and not a purely human decision made on the basis of purely human usage, do we began to forcibly and ahistorically compact the development of those texts over 2 centuries (and the organic processes of canon collation over several more) into as small a period of time as we could finagle in order to imagine them all as directly connected to the lifetime of Jesus and eyewitnesses (who would all have been functionally illiterate!). Nice round numbers that even let us weld multiple historical figures into single individuals living within a lifespan of Jesus and no longer.

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  12. The circulating Pauline canon of seven original manuscripts is collected after his death, and is the collection of manuscripts that are already not original, but as valued by their communities, have already been subject to transmission in order to maintain and share them.

    Paul did not compose these addresses, to be delivered by an orator who could travel in his place, as texts to be circulated; they were not general epistles! They were direct and personal interventions in real circumstances most of which do not appear explicitly because they were known—and we do not therefore know them. The realia of a genuine Pauline address are his unique character and message, and the problems of real people in a real community in a real place in the Hellenistic world.

    Colossians and Ephesians do not share these marks; they are grounded in the post-Pauline existence of this collation of letters never meant to be sent anywhere but their addressed communities. The realia of Philemon, as the odd one out of the otherwise community-oriented collection, become the justification for this consecutive pair of pastiche exhortations to the author's own community in terms that, as believers for whom the circulating canon is valued and deeply familiar, will ring true as Pauline. And yet the prose style is a train, 2 bus rides and a long walk away from even the most elevated prose of the originals. As faithful efforts to project Paul's thought, they are still what amounts to the discovery of previously unknown case descriptions by one John Watson, M.D., "found" after the death of Arthur Conan Doyle.

    Hebrews everyone should know isn't Pauline. If all of the Fathers knew it, you should, too. And the fact that it was collected with the others very early on, and that we have no collection manuscripts that lack it, just means that we can't do much but make up stories about it on the basis of its text. However, once we acknowledge that the Pauline padding was added later, we have every reason to exclude that padding from our accounting for the origin of the text in much more basically Judean and Temple-oriented faith than Paul ever demonstrated.

    The "Pastorals" also lack the realia of an addressed real community, like Col. and Eph., but their addition to the canon does not serve a desire to extend Paul's message by making pastiche of his own collected words. Instead, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (perhaps in the wake of the combination of the Pauline canon with some experience of the Lukan apostolic fiction that is Acts) seek to police the behavior of people in their own religious communities, and use Paul's name and a fiction of his ostensible Judaism to justify it in ways his words never did. But you can get there if, with the sloppy redactions to 1 Corinthians, you go by way of Colossians and Ephesians, and also don't realize that the Judaism of Hebrews has nothing whatsoever to do with Paul's free Pharisaic novelties for his gentiles who should find their own ways before God in the Spirit.

    And 2 Thessalonians bears no resemblance to any of this; it exemplifies a form of apocalyptic that Paul, living in a time when the seige of Jerusalem was unimaginable and fighting against earlier versions of the fundamentalism of the very zealots that would rise up to occasion it in the late 60s, had no use for.

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    1. Matthew Frost, you wrote "Paul did not compose these addresses, to be delivered by an orator who could travel in his place, as texts to be circulated;" and again "Colossians and Ephesians...are grounded in the post-Pauline existence of this collation of letters never meant to be sent anywhere but their addressed communities."

      How would one who holds such views explain Colossians 4:16 "And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea."? -MMR

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    2. Matthew Frost, you wrote "Paul did not compose these addresses, to be delivered by an orator who could travel in his place, as texts to be circulated;" And again "Colossians and Ephesians...are grounded in the post-Pauline existence of this collation of letters never meant to be sent anywhere but their addressed communities."

      How would one who holds such views explain Colossians 4:16 "And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea."? -MMR

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    3. I think you are connecting Matthew Frost's phrase beginning with the words "never meant to be" to the wrong part of the sentence.

      MF is saying that the epistles he considers genuinely written by Paul were never meant to be sent anywhere other than their addressed communities, whereas Colossians and Ephesians (which he believes were not genuine epistles of Paul) were. The verse you quoted is evidence of that.

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    4. Eric Rowe, after reading it a few more times I think your right. It was a bit hard to follow the argumentation. Now all is clear! I was truly wondering how he (MF) could say (what I thought he was saying ) that Col. and Eph. where not intended to be circulated. Thank you for the clarification. -MMR

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  13. The question of why these letters, composed in the wake of the post-mortem collation of Paul's direct personal addresses, trade on his authority should not be subjected to the flat argumentation of justifying the practice or condemning it.

    Each of the post-Paulines that trades on his authority does it for specific goals, to advance specific agendas. And if we would understand these letters at all, much less understand Paul instead of replacing him with an upholder of restrictve authoritarian orthodoxy, we need to read for why they do what they do with the thing they imagine is his authority in their own contexts.

    Understanding this aspect of Paul's reception history, which we are fortunate enough to have canonically available to us, is extremely important!

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    1. MF,
      You write as if you were there when these letters were collected, were you, if not, I would suggest a bit more reading and a whole lot less bravado.

      Tim

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