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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 the authorship of some is in dispute. Among these epistles 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 (although Origen, Tertullian and Hippolytus amongst others, questioned its authorship), 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 actually wrote seven of the Pauline epistles (Galatians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Romans, Philemon, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians), but that three of the epistles in Paul's name are pseudepigraphic (First Timothy, Second Timothy, and Titus) and that three other epistles are of questionable authorship (Second Thessalonians, Ephesians and Colossians). According to some scholars, Paul wrote these letters with the help of a secretary, or amanuensis, who would have influenced their style, if not their theological content.
The Pauline epistles are usually placed between the Acts of the Apostles and the Catholic 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:
|Romans||Church at Rome||?||Epistola ad Romanos||Rom||Ro|
|First Corinthians||Church at Corinth||? ?||Epistola I ad Corinthios||1 Cor||1C|
|Second Corinthians||Church at Corinth||? ?||Epistola II ad Corinthios||2 Cor||2C|
|Galatians||Church at Galatia||? ?||Epistola ad Galatas||Gal||G|
|Ephesians||Church at Ephesus||?||Epistola ad Ephesios||Eph||E|
|Philippians||Church at Philippi||?||Epistola ad Philippenses||Phil||Phi|
|Colossians||Church at Colossae||? ?||Epistola ad Colossenses||Col||C|
|First Thessalonians||Church at Thessalonica||? ?||Epistola I ad Thessalonicenses||1 Thess||1Th|
|Second Thessalonians||Church at Thessalonica||? ?||Epistola II ad Thessalonicenses||2 Thess||2Th|
|First Timothy||Saint Timothy||?||Epistola I ad Timotheum||1 Tim||1T|
|Second Timothy||Saint Timothy||?||Epistola II ad Timotheum||2 Tim||2T|
|Titus||Saint Titus||?||Epistola ad Titum||Tit||T|
|Philemon||Saint Philemon||?||Epistola ad Philemonem||Philem||P|
|Hebrews*||Hebrew Christians||?||Epistola ad Hebraeus||Heb||H|
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.
The placement of Hebrews among the Pauline epistles is less consistent in the manuscripts:
|36||(31-36 AD: conversion of Paul)|
|50||First Epistle to the Thessalonians|
|51||Second Epistle to the Thessalonians|
|53||Epistle to the Galatians|
|54||First Epistle to the Corinthians|
|55||Epistle to the Philippians|
|Epistle to Philemon|
|56||Second Epistle to the Corinthians|
|57||Epistle to the Romans|
|62||Epistle to the Colossians|
|Epistle to the Ephesians|
|64||First Epistle to Timothy|
|Second Epistle to Timothy|
|Epistle to Titus|
|67||(64-67 AD: death of Paul)|
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:
The letters on which scholars are about evenly divided:
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. Although some churches ascribe Hebrews to Paul, neither most of Christianity nor modern scholarship do so.
Paul's own writings are often thought to indicate several of his letters that have not been preserved:
Several others epistles were attributed to Paul during the course of history, but are now considered apochryphal:
David Trobisch finds it likely that Paul first collected his letters for publication himself. It was normal practice in Paul's time for letter-writers to keep one copy for themselves and send a second copy to the recipient(s); surviving collections of ancient letters sometimes originated from the senders' copies, other times from the recipients' copies. A collection of Paul's letters circulated separately from other early Christian writings and later became part of the New Testament. When the canon was established, the gospels and Paul's letters were the core of what would become the New Testament.[page needed]