Authorship of Letters Ascribed to Paul
The purpose of these notes, completed for my students in India in 1973, is to indicate some types of approaches to the study of authorship of the letters (and also some bibliography) that lie behind the following working hypothesis which I have used ever since (dates are approximate):
|Letters by Paul:|
|Galatians||(ca. 52 CE)|
|1 Corinthians||(Spring, 52 CE)|
|2 Corinthians||(Autumn, 52 CE – this letter is composite)|
|Pauline School||(Deutero-Pauline, ca. CE 65-90)|
|2 Thessalonians||(dependent upon 1 Thessalonians and not as well attested)|
|Ephesians||(dependent upon Colossians, but showing knowledge of all the above letters, and thus not written until after the letters had been collected together, sometime between CE 70 and 90)|
|The Pastorals||(Trito-Pauline, ca. CE 95-105)|
|2 Timothy||(ca. CE 95 – B. S. Easton’s date)|
|1 Timothy||(ca. CE 105 – B. S. Easton’s date)|
"In general in antiquity
there were numerous pseudonymous writings; … the literary genus of
pseudonymous writings … was very widespread … precisely in the period of
Hellenism; … out of late Judaism as well as out of early Christianity there is
reliable evidence for it…." (W. G. Kümmel, Introduction to the New
Testament (SCM Press, London, 1966), p. 255.
Examples (drawn from Kümmel):
|Jewish Epistle of Jeremiah (late 4th century BCE)|
|Epistle of Aristeas (written ca. 100 BCE in Alexandria)|
|Wisdom of Solomon (written ca. 100-50 BCE in Alexandria)|
|Christian: Acts 23.26-30 (purported letter of Claudius Lysia to Felix )|
|Didache of the 12 Apostles (ca. 100-150 CE)|
|3 Corinthians (included in the Acts of Paul, ca. 180 CE)|
Note that 2 Thess 2.2; 3.17 indicates the possibility of ‘false’ letters in Paul’s name.
TESTS FOR AUTHORSHIP
Basically there are two kinds of tests:
|1.||Examination of the author’s conscious choice of|
|1)||Vocabulary and types of grammatical construction;|
|2)||Theological models, ideas and outlook;|
|3)||Literary structures (e.g., chiasmus, inclusio or parallel structuring)|
|Inclusio: A-B-C-D-A (i.e., the end returns to the beginning)|
|4)||We may also include here the apparent echoing or even paralleling of OT books, including echoing or paralleling of Jewish lectionary usage.|
|Judgements by scholars as to how much an author could or would vary in these things with changes of time and circumstance often differ widely, so these tests are often dependent upon the subjective judgements of the scholars involved.|
|The results seldom command universal assent among critical scholars. Two near-exceptions are P. N. Harrison’s work on the Pastorals (1921 and 1946) and C. L. Mitton’s work on Ephesians (1937).|
|2.||Examination of the author’s unconscious stylistic traits such as:|
|a.||Use and distribution of kai (‘and’, ‘even’, ‘also’) and de (‘and’ or ‘but’);|
|b.||Sentence length distribution;|
|c.||Use and distribution of various kinds of words with which to end clauses.|
Indication of authorship by unconscious stylistic traits
A partial bibliography in chronological order
|Wake, W. C.|
|"Sentence Length Distributions of Greek Authors," Journal of the Royal Society (London), Series A, Part 3, 1957, Vol. 120, pp. 331-346.|
|Morton, A. Q., and McLeman, James|
|Christianity and the Computer, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1964.|
|Morton, A. Q.|
|"Statistical Analysis and New Testament Problems," in The Authorship and Integrity of the New Testament, S.P.C.K. Theological Collections, No. 4 (SPCK, London, 1965), pp. 40-60.|
|Morton, A. Q.|
|"The Integrity of the Pauline Epistles," Journal of the Manchester Statistical Society, March, 1965.|
|Levison, M., Morton, A. Q., and Wake, W. C.|
|"Some Statistical Features of the Pauline Epistles," Journal of the Royal Philosophical Society (London), July,1966.|
|Morton, A. Q., and McLeman|
|Paul, The Man and the Myth, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1966.|
|Morton, A. Q.|
|The Authorship and Integrity of the New Testament Epistles, Edinburgh, 1971.|
|Michaelson, S. D., and Morton, A. Q.|
|"Last Words: A Test of Authorship for Greek Writers," New Testament Studies, Vol. 18, No. 2 (January, 1972), pp. 192-208.|
The following is a passage of Greek prose with the six commonest words translated, and with a hyphen (-) for each of the other words:
And he - - - - - - - - - and the - - - the - - - - the - - - - - - -.
The following is the same text with only the six commonest words omitted:
- - said, there was a man who had two sons - - younger said to – father, Father, give me – share of property that falls to me.
The second version is clear if inelegant, and is readily identifiable as the start of the parable of the Prodigal Son in the RSV (Luke 15.11-12). It is these fifteen rarer words that give interest and meaning to the passage; the other seven of the twenty-two words only help to provide a framework. The frequent use of these filler words means that they tend to become habitual in use, and so a good subject for stylistic studies. (Drawn from Paul, The Man and the Myth, p. 45)
The need for controls
If habitual stylistic devices are to be used as a test for authorship, then it needs to be shown (1) that they are habitual for writers of Greek prose, (2) that each writer has a distinctively characteristic pattern, (3) that that pattern remains stable over a wide range of time, and (4) the sample size (how long a passage?) for reliably determining this pattern has to be established.
To these ends A. Q. Morton and others have investigated various characteristics for: Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato, Philo, Diodorus Siculus, Lysias, Demosthenes, Isocrates, and Clement of Alexandria among others.
The results of this work show that the material must be homogeneous prose, without dialogue or commentary (such as a biblical commentary) or a long string of quotations. Morton’s basic approach is to take Galatians as being by Paul, and then seeing how well the other letters match its characteristics by means of various ‘closeness of fit’ tests, among which is the so-called "Chi-Square Test", but he also uses many other more sophisticated tests as well.
The letters he is able to check by these means are all the letters except 2 Thessalonians, Titus and Philemon, which are too short to provide reliable samples.
|Group 1:||Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, & Galatians, with anomalies in the first samples (150 sentences) of both Romans and 2 Corinthians.|
|Group 2:||Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, and Pastorals|
|Totally isolated epistles: Hebrews and Ephesians.|
Kai (‘and’, ‘even’, ‘also’):
De (‘and’, ‘but’)
Word-types used to end sentences
For this test ‘sentence’ is defined as that which editors of critical texts on the Greek NT end with ; (= ? in English), · (= ; in English) or . (= . in English). The word-types are distinguished in categories: (1) Nouns, (2) Aorist verbs, (3) Non-aorist verbs, (4) Other.
Some further arguments (drawn from A. Q. Morton, Paul, The Man and the Myth, pp. 96-97):
Corroborating Evidence from Tests Regarding Conscious Choices:1. Vocabulary, etc.:
Romans 1-15 plus 16.26-27 (the floating doxology) (work of J. M. Gibbs)
1 Corinthians (work of J. M. Gibbs, plus help of John Bradley)
2 Corinthians’ recognized three sections by Paul:
2 Cor 1.23-7.16 (minus interpolation of 6.14-7.1)
2 Cor 8-9
2 Cor 10.1-13.10 (all work of J. M. Gibbs)
Galatians (work of J. Bligh)
Philemon (work of J. M. Gibbs)
Conclusion: Chiastic structure overall is not an argument for Pauline authorship, but lack of it is probably an argument against it. This data thus argues against Ephesians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Colossians and the Pastorals as being by Paul.
Romans appears to echo the whole lectionary year, basically in
sequence (work of J. M. Gibbs)
1 Corinthians is anchored to Passover and scriptures of Nisan
(and perhaps up to Pentecost in Sivan) (work of J. M.
2 Corinthians: at least 2 Cor 3 appears to have a Pentecost
Galatians is anchored to Pentecost and scriptures of Sivan
Philemon appears to echo an Abraham-Isaac-God (Gen 22) and
Jacob-Benjamin-Joseph (Gen 42-43) setting, two
passages read at same time in the Nisan and Tishri
The very different way (a non-lectionary way) in which scripture is used in Philippians suggests it may not be by Paul.
4. Theological models and vocabulary
There are substantial shifts from "Paul’s" use to that of
some of the deutero-Paulines and the Pastorals with regard to the use of
such terms as ‘circumcision’, ‘to circumcise’ (Paul: negative or
neutral usage; positive in Phil 3.3; Col 2.11-12), and the Christian’s
resurrection (Paul: future passive; Col 2.12; 3.1: raised with
Christ in baptism, cp. Eph 2.6).