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Paul, Authorship, and Ephesians

March 30, 2008

In teaching Paul this past week issues of authorship loomed large. The order I chose to teach the epistles was dictated not by supposed date or authorship issues but by archaeological presentations that my students will be giving on various cities. Unfortunately, this caused some thorny problems when I taught Ephesians.

The order of the Pauline material I chose was Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Corinthians, Romans and then the pastorals at the end. My rational in this was that Gal and Eph had archaeological issues I wanted to address specifically before letting students give group presentation on the latter epistles. However, this caused problems.

First off, it entailed dealing with the problem of authorship before that of Colossians. While I consider both to be Pauline, my general rational has traditionally been the links between Colossians, Philemon and Ephesians. Doing Ephesians before Colossians messed that up. I was able to address authorship issues, but the argument for Pauline authorship is obviously not as strong when Colossians in left out of the equation.

Second, the recipient of Ephesians is far from clear. I’m of the opinion that the text-critical evidence points away from a specific church being mentioned in 1.1. It was slightly odd moving from a fifteen minute discussion of the archaeology of Ephesus and a ten minute discussion of Paul in Ephesus in acts and then begin explaining that neither Paul as author nor Ephesus as destination was certain.

I believe that Ephesus is at least one of the destinations for Ephesians, and probably the primary point of dispersion. My thoughts on this stem from the discussion of armor in ch.6. I’m becoming more of the opinion that the recently discovered gladiator and graveyard gives an adequate context for this (see earlier discussion of the graveyard here). Additionally, Ephesus leadership role in the province of Asia makes it a likely spot of distribution.

I’m still of the opinion that Ephesians was a regional letter written by Paul, but sending it to Ephesus for dispersal to the wider province of Asia seems likely.

  1. March 30, 2008 1:24 pm

    Sure, Ephesians as a distributed letter makes perfect sense. How did the students take it.

  2. March 30, 2008 2:25 pm

    I think you are correct, too, in thinking that Ephesus was one destination of the letter. I also agree that en epheso is not original.

    Sorry to hear that you had some complications. Hopefully it wasn’t as bad as you think. Pauline authorship can be argued without the help of Colossians.

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