Pauline Epistles
The DeuteroPaulines


In addition to the seven generally accepted Pauline Epistles (1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philemon, Philippians, Romans, and 1 Thessalonians), there is a second list of epistles generally thought to have been written after Paul, with the intent of modifying his image or extending his his influence. These are six (Colossians, Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus), to which we may as well add Hebrews, which was probably in origin a theoretical homily and not a pseudo-epistle, but was given Pauline credentials at some point (probably at about the point when the Epistle of Jacob acquired its two exiguous mentions of Jesus), in order to qualify it for the canon, whose emerging entry rule was that all texts included had to have Apostolic credentials. So considered, the "Pauline" tradition consists of seven genuine documents and another seven spurious ones.

The genuine Paulines can more or less be harmonized, in terms of evolving doctrine or or the trajectory of Paul's preaching career, but this is not true of the DeuteroPaulines, which indeed extend our knowledge of "Paul," but in different and partly incompatible directions. In many ways, the postApostolic period was eager to relate itself to the Apostolic period, in order to establish doctrinal continuity, and also to revise our impressions of what the Apostolic Age had been about in the first place. The churches (still plural, though the tendency toward unified structure is obvious) were working out their retrospective self-image. One interesting thing is that this was not done monolithically, but was an effort of many hands, working on sometimes incompatible agendas for the future of what was not yet the Church.

For specifics, see these pages:

Slightly to simplify, there are five foci of interest in Paul: (1) Paul himself, a person who must be glimpsed and inferred from his genuine letters, plus carefully evaluated hints in Acts; (2) The genuine letters, which take an increasingly shrill and divisive Beta view of doctrine; (3) the editorial interpolations in the the genuine letters, which in several ways seek to mitigate the Alpha/Beta tension and to reduce friction with the outside world; (4) the Deutero-Paulines, for which see above; and (5) Acts, a re-imaging of Paul's entire career from an Alpha, not a Beta, perspective; Acts thus serves as a sort of extraPauline counterpart to the efforts of Onesimus and Paul's other editors.What all this tells us is that Paul was a tempestuous figure, influential but also controversial, who needed to be somehow reimagined before he could usefully recede into the early period of perceived Christian history.

Mark and Paul together, along with a few Alpha documents, constitute our only contemporary evidence for the Apostolic Age. In real life (as Acts credibly tells us), Mark and Paul quarreled, and to this quarrel there were two real-life continuations: (1) Mark exited the Gentile Mission field and completed his career as a leading figure in Alexandria; and (2) the later Paul industry sought to annex Mark biographically, by including him in the personalia of several letters. So, in their way, did the Petrine branch of the post-Apostolic effort, which annexes Mark to Peter (in 1 Peter). All these annexations have Rome as their background, and are best seen as part of the evolving myth of Rome as the center of Christianity.


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26 April 2012 / Contact The Project / Exit to Alpha Home Page