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The Pauline letters make up about one-third of the New Testament and were composed by Apostle Paul to Christian churches during his period. These letters are the main and most credible sources of knowledge on today's Christian life, including information on early historical Christianity beliefs and movements. With the exception of a handful, the bulk of these letters were written in response to events that happened in the churches of which Paul was affiliated. They are well-known letters that are the authentic and oldest Christian documents that influenced Christian life. Even though these texts are known to be have been authored by Apostle Paul, many hot debates have been centered on the authenticity and authorship of the Pauline letters. Evidence from different scholars refuted the fact that the letters were entirely written by Paul. Therefore, the contentions and different arguments citing the authenticity and authorship of the Pauline letters will form the basis of the paper's discussion besides, the paper will.
The Pauline letters consist of the 14 books of the New Testament including "Romans, First and second Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, and Philippians" (Keck and Victor 18). Additionally, Collisions, first and second Thessalonians, and Hebrews along with the first and second Timothy are included in the Pauline letters together with Titus and Philemon. Being the earliest and the oldest Christian documents, these letters give insights into the controversies and the beliefs of the early Christianity. Furthermore, they are the canon of the New Testament providing foundational texts to the Christian ethics and theological beliefs. The Pauline letters are built on the Christian faith doctrine relating to the Christ salvation. Through these letters, Paul managed to spread his gospel expanding on aspects of redemption, sanctions, reconciliation and justification. They contain significant Christian teachings touching on theological issues and spiritual gifts and showed the relationship between God and His followers. Certainly, significant work of Paul on calling people to repent and follow Christ is highly manifested in his teachings having a profound impact on the today's Christianity.
Initially, all the 14 letters were thought to have been written by Apostle Paul for many years. However, since the 16th century, varied opinion have moved against Pauline authorship with many scholars ascribing to the style of writing and the content for form the underlining factors of their contention. Notably, the arguments have led to two theories of Pauline letters authorship which are the undisputed theory and the disputed theory (Keck and Victor 29). Numerous scholars use the variations of the language of the style used in the letters to form one of the elements of determining the authorship. The sentence structures, vocabulary, common phrases, and employment of idioms are the linguistic analysis which researchers have used as the center of differences in the disputed and the undisputed letters (Collins 5). Some of the letters fail to have consistency in their linguistic styles making them not to ascribe to Paul's works. Additionally, as Neumann documents, the contents of the theological doctrine consistency along with the development of the works prove to be different (Neumann 15). The mosaic theological themes are consistent in some of the works and fail to appear in other works. The unrelated teachings in some of the works imply that the letters were written by someone else apart from Apostle Paul. Furthermore, an analysis of the pastoral works including the first and second Timothy and Titus also present to have been written by somebody else.
These are letters that scholars agree to have been written by Apostle Paul. The authorship of Paul is ascertained through the consistency in the language used and the content of the theology. The undisputed Pauline letters include "Romans, First and second Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, First Thessalonians and Philemon" (Neumann 20). They have similar mosaic theological laws and there is no record of scholarly articles that present to doubt Paul's authorship. Undisputedly, the letters share the same vocabulary, common themes, have similar styles of writing and put emphasis on similar items (Neumann 28). Neumann indicates that the seven Pauline letters do exhibit uniformity of doctrine in relation to faith and Mosaic Law.
Paul's authorship of this text has found critics by people rendering it to being a disputed Pauline letter. The Ferdinand Christian Baur was the very first to dispute this letter and since then, criticism of Colossians on Pauline authorship have followed suit (Walker 36). Neumann also objects the letter to have been written by Paul noting that the text is evident to have differences in the vocabulary and style of writing (Neumann 19). Significant stylistic variations exist between the letter of Colossians and the other letters written by Paul due to the unusual genitive constructions. For example the texts in Colossians 1:27, 2:11, and 2:19 are in a way different to the undisputed letters. Furthermore, the widespread development of theology leads to skepticism in authorship as it does not relate to the Mosaic Law.
The opening text of this letter claims Paul's authorship. However, a number of doubts exist and the text is quoted to have been written by another individual and not Paul himself. According to Keck and Victor, the style of the letter is formed with 50 sentences with 9 of them having more than 50 words. This is opposite to other Pauline letters such as Romans which only consists of 3 long sentences out of the 581 sentences. This infers that Paul was not used to employing long sentences in his writing. The linguistic analysis of the letter indicates the letter of Ephesians to diverge from the other works. Others scholars such as Fowl argue that the return of Christ is unmentioned which is contrary to the theological belief of Paul (Fowl 51). Ephesians' literary analysis is close to that of Colossians and evidently, more than forty passages in the text are an expansion of the Colossians passages. The two letters are therefore a derivative of one another. The language and style are entirely different with the letter containing 40 new words such as fatherhood and heavenly places that are not seen in any of the other works. Lincoln and Wedderburn state that "Ephesians shows that the Church is becoming an advanced and powerful universal institution rather like the Church today" (Lincoln and Wedderburn 47). Lincoln and Wedderburn further assert that during the time of Paul, no universal churches existed and churches were only characterized by informal gatherings in the spread of Christianity.
Criticism on the authorship of this letter also centers on the style of writing which is different from the first Thessalonians. The text is considered being narrow and whole rather than portraying lively discussion of Christianity as employed in many works of Paul. Collins condemns it to be a forgery of the first Thessalonians. Collins argues that "the eschatology of each letter to the Thessalonians is considerably different" (Collins 16). In reference to the First Thessalonians 3:13 and Second Thessalonians 3:5, Collins argues that the Second Thessalonians was written after the death of Paul. Authenticity analysis of the letter also points out the lack of consensus concerning the destination and date of the letter.
The Pauline letters of first and second Timothy and Titus are pastoral works of Paul and also form the majorly disputed letters of Pauline letters. The incompatibility in the passages is one of the reasons that renders them disputed. Walker notes that one-third of the vocabulary in the pastoral letters is not close to that of undisputed Pauline letters. He states that "The vocabulary and phraseology used in the Pastorals are often at variance with that of the other epistles" (Walker 58). Therefore, through linguistic analysis, scholars such as Neumann have challenged the style of writing in the pastoral works.
The book of Hebrews is termed to be anonymously written and many people claimed Paul to be the author. However, Lincoln and Wedderburn refute the idea citing the differences in the style of writing and the language used which is contrary to Paul's works. Lincoln and Wedderburn note the differences in the manner of theological and doctrine that the letter presents (Lincoln and Wedderburn 39). This has led to many speculations on the authorship of Hebrews with Fowl postulating it to have been written by either Barnabas, Silas or John the Baptist (Fowl 25). The diction used in Hebrews also does not rhyme with the other works and Collins firmly claims that "it is certainly not a work of the apostle" (Collins 33). The analysis presents the pastoral works and the letter to the Hebrews to have not been authored by Paul.
Indeed, the Pauline letters are critically significant forming the heart of the New Testament in the bible. Through these teachings, Paul managed to reach many people and converted thousands to the Christian faith. In today's Christian life, the gospel of Paul proves to be a fundamental factor in the ways of Christianity and many of the believers rely on them for various spheres of life including encouragement, spiritual strengthening, and understanding God. Through the analysis of Pauline letters authorship, it is clear that not all the letters were written by Apostle Paul. There are the undisputed and the disputed theories that explain the differences in authorship. These variations are presented in the linguistic style of writing and the theological content contained in the letters.
Collins, Raymond F. Letters That Paul Did Not Write. 1st ed., Wilmington, Delaware, Michael Glazier, 1988,.
Fowl, Stephen E. The Story Of Christ In The Ethics Of Paul. 1st ed., Sheffield, England, JSOT Press, 1990,.
Keck, Leander E, and Victor Paul Furnish. The Pauline Letters. 1st ed., Nashville, (Abingdon), 1986,.
Lincoln, Andrew T, and A. J. M Wedderburn. The Theology Of The Later Pauline Letters. 1st ed., Cambridge [England], Cambridge University Press, 1993,.
Neumann, Kenneth J. The Authenticity Of The Pauline Epistles In The Light Of Stylostatistical Analysis. 1st ed., Atlanta, Ga., Scholars Press, 1990,.
Walker, Ronald Raymond. An Investigation Of The Arguments Against The Pauline Authorship Of The Pastoral Epistles. 1st ed., 1976,.
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