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The Pauline epistles, also called Epistles of Paul or Letters of Paul, are the thirteen books of the New Testament attributed to Paul the Apostle, although authorship of some is in dispute. Among these letters are some of the earliest extant Christian documents. They provide an insight into the beliefs and controversies of early Christianity. As part of the canon of the New Testament, they are foundational texts for both Christian theology and ethics. The Epistle to the Hebrews, although it does not bear his name, was traditionally considered Pauline for a thousand years, but from the 16th century onwards opinion steadily moved against Pauline authorship and few scholars now ascribe it to Paul, mostly because it does not read like any of his other epistles in style and content. Most scholars agree that Paul really wrote seven of the Pauline epistles, but that four of the epistles in Paul's name are pseudepigraphic (Ephesians, First Timothy, Second Timothy, and Titus); scholars are divided on the authenticity of two of the epistles.
The Pauline epistles are usually placed between the Acts of the Apostles and the general epistles in modern editions. Most Greek manuscripts, however, place the General epistles first, and a few minuscules (175, 325, 336, and 1424) place the Pauline epistles at the end of the New Testament.
In the order they appear in the New Testament, the Pauline epistles are:
This ordering is remarkably consistent in the manuscript tradition, with very few deviations. The evident principle of organization is descending length of the Greek text, but keeping the four Pastoral epistles addressed to individuals in a separate final section. The only anomaly is that Galatians precedes the slightly longer Ephesians.
In modern editions, the formally anonymous Epistle to the Hebrews is placed at the end of Paul's letters and before the General epistles. This practice was popularized through the 4th century Vulgate by Jerome, who was aware of ancient doubts about its authorship, and is also followed in most medieval Byzantine manuscripts. With hardly any exceptions, though, the manuscripts do include Hebrews somewhere among Paul's letters.
The placement of Hebrews among the Pauline epistles is less consistent in the manuscripts:
between Romans and 1 Corinthians (i.e., in order by length without splitting the Epistles to the Corinthians): Papyrus 46 and minuscules 103, 455, 1961, 1964, 1977, 1994.
between 2 Corinthians and Galatians: minuscules 1930, 1978, and 2248
between Galatians and Ephesians: implied by the numbering in B. However, in B, Galatians ends and Ephesians begins on the same side of the same folio (page 1493); similarly 2 Thessalonians ends and Hebrews begins on the same side of the same folio (page 1512).
between 2 Thessalonians and 1 Timothy (i.e., before the Pastorals): ?, A, B, C, H, I, P, 0150, 0151, and about 60 minuscules (e.g. 218, 632)
after Philemon: D, 048, E, K, L and the majority of minuscules.
In all of these epistles except the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author and writer does claim to be Paul. However, the contested letters may have been written using Paul's name, as it was common to attribute at that point in history.
Seven letters (with consensus dates) considered genuine by most scholars:
Finally, Epistle to the Hebrews, though anonymous and not really in the form of a letter, has long been included among Paul's collected letters, but most scholars now regard it as not written by Paul.
Lost Pauline epistles
Paul's own writings are often thought to indicate several of his letters that have not been preserved:
The first collection of the Pauline epistles is believed to be that of Marcion of Sinope in the early 2nd century, although it is possible that Paul first collected his letters for publication himself. Paul's collection circulated separately from other early Christian writings and was later added to the New Testament.
^The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, publ. Geoffrey Chapman, 1989, chapter 60, at p. 920, col. 2 "That Paul is neither directly nor indirectly the author is now the view of scholars almost without exception. For details, see Kümmel, I[ntroduction to the] N[ew] T[estament, Nashville, 1975] 392-94, 401-03"
^Joseph Barber Lightfoot in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians writes: "At this point [Gal 6:11] the apostle takes the pen from his amanuensis, and the concluding paragraph is written with his own hand. From the time when letters began to be forged in his name (2 Thess 2:2; 3:17) it seems to have been his practice to close with a few words in his own handwriting, as a precaution against such forgeries... In the present case he writes a whole paragraph, summing up the main lessons of the epistle in terse, eager, disjointed sentences. He writes it, too, in large, bold characters (Gr. pelikois grammasin), that his handwriting may reflect the energy and determination of his soul."
^Trobisch, David (2001). Paul's Letter Collection. Bolivar, MO: Quiet Waters. ISBN978-0966396676. His thesis is that Paul himself collected and edited some of his own letters. (From the Foreword by Gerd Theissen, University of Heidelberg)
Carson, D.A. "Pseudonymity and Pseudepigraphy." Dictionary of New Testament Background. Eds. Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000. 857-64.
Cousar, Charles B. The Letters of Paul. Interpreting Biblical Texts. Nashville: Abingdon, 1996.
Deissmann, G. Adolf. Bible Studies. Trans. Alexander Grieve. 1901. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1988.
Doty, William G. Letters in Primitive Christianity. Guides to Biblical Scholarship. New Testament. Ed. Dan O. Via, Jr. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988.
Gamble, Harry Y. "Amanuensis." Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 1. Ed. David Noel Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
Haines-Eitzen, Kim. "'Girls Trained in Beautiful Writing': Female Scribes in Roman Antiquity and Early Christianity." Journal of Early Christian Studies 6.4 (1998): 629-46.
Kim, Yung Suk. A Theological Introduction to Paul's Letters. Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2011.
Longenecker, Richard N. "Ancient Amanuenses and the Pauline Epistles." New Dimensions in New Testament Study. Eds. Richard N. Longenecker and Merrill C. Tenney. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974. 281-97. idem, "On the Form, Function, and Authority of the New Testament Letters." Scripture and Truth. Eds. D.A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983. 101-14.
Murphy-O'Connor, Jerome. Paul the Letter-Writer: His World, His Options, His Skills. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 1995.
Richards, E. Randolph. The Secretary in the Letters of Paul. Tübingen: Mohr, 1991. idem, "The Codex and the Early Collection of Paul's Letters." Bulletin for Bulletin Research 8 (1998): 151-66. idem, Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition, and Collection. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2004.