Saturday, December 6, 2014

Paul and Musings about the Authorship of Ephesians

Inspired by my last blog post (which I shall post here without shame), I've continued reading various commentaries regarding Pauline authorship of Ephesians. I do this for several reasons, one of them personal, so I shall elucidate that reason right here.

In the past, I simply assumed a lot of things about Scripture and what she taught. For example, the one-sided submission of wives to husbands was one such idea that I assumed. In finishing up my first quarter at Fuller, I've begun to reconsider and reexamine many theological foundations I built my life upon. Scripture has always been (since I've come back to Christ) the primary authority over my life, theologically. So, I consider many doctrines to be thoroughly Scriptural i.e. a high Christology in many places (John, Phil. 2:6, Titus 2:13 and others) and the Doctrine of the Trinity. However, I've become quite impassioned to reconsider many theological options (regarding human anthropology and other ideas) based on going back to Scripture. So, frankly, I can no longer assume much of anything without careful study. Everything is on the table. This includes the option of authorship as it relates to Ephesians.

As per the rest of this post, I won't be offering every reason for or against Pauline authorship. I'd have to write an entire book on the topic, a project that I would love to do post-seminary. But that's another story.

So a few things that I'm thinking about:

1. This is the main one, and it concerns a single partial phrase: so what?

So what if Paul did or did not write Ephesians? Why is it important?

Fair enough. If it turns out Paul did not write Ephesians, then Ephesians must be relegated to secondary status when working through a Pauline chronology and theology. Perhaps Ephesians (and subsequently 1-2 Timothy and Titus, most likely) must be placed within a Pauline school (or schools). This would keep Ephesians canonical, but would not allow them primacy of place within the construct of Pauline theology. Similar to Acts, though it is not an exact analog. 

So the question of authorship matters to me, as an evangelical who is passionate about Paul and his theology. Ephesians would still be considered authoritative Scripture (as it is impossible to determine whether or not someone was of ill-will in writing in his name) in the same way that Second-Isaiah would be. It informs our understanding of the various texts, and God saw fit to include it in the canon.

2. The issue of historical criticism and the search for truth.

Simply put, truth matters. The questions of historicity within the biblical texts matter for dating and chronology and the influence of development within Pauline thought. It can also showcase the materials utilized by a Pauline author or school at a later date, thus illustrating similarities and developments within Pauline theology.

3. Some Authorship Issues and Musings

Many put the issue of women in ministry right here. Lincoln, for instance, alludes to this issue in his commentary (I forget the page number; can find it if someone is truly interested), citing the mutuality and equality in 1 Cor. 7:1-16 and Gal. 3:28. For my money, I see no contradiction between the historical Paul and "deutero" Paul in relation to his views on women. I fully support the ordination of women.

The textual issue in 1:1-2 includes the omission of "in Ephesus." Most commentators that I've read think this is strike one against Pauline authorship, relegating the epistle to a circular letter. Included in this discussion is the explicit relationship between Colossians and Ephesians. Proponents for or against authorship cite this and use it to try and discredit the other side. For my money, I think the utilization between the two is definitive but the relationship is not decisive, though if there are other factors that push one towards non-Pauline authorship, then the writer most certainly copied Ephesians. One could cite a similar method used by Matthew and Luke in their use of Mark, but this more relies on whether or not Q exists. For my money (a phrase I love and will happily beat into the ground), I doubt Q.

Another issue is that the writer of Ephesians seems somewhat ignorant of the state of the recipients of the letter (1:15; 3:1-6 esp. 1-2; 4:20-24 esp. 21-22). This is not a usual way for Paul to write, especially given the way he writes his epistle to Rome (a place he had never been), especially since Acts 19 reveals Paul's ministry to Ephesus. This is especially potent when one thinks about how much Paul wrote in Romans to a church he had never been; indeed, he writes about the state of the world in 1-4, the nature of grace and love in 5-8, Jew and Gentile 9-11, and practical issues in 12-16. That is a lot of writing to a place he had never been. Ephesians, some have said, feels more like a summary of Pauline thought. Especially with no controversy evident in Ephesians at all, compared to the rest of the Pauline corpus.

This is not definitive but it reveals a possible tension. A lack of facebook and email does make a correspondence difficult. Although, reading

So none of this is definite or conclusive for me. More thinking this true. Thanks for reading!


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