Friday, May 19, 2006

NTW and the Authorship of Ephesians

Here is another choice "morsel" from Wright's "Paul: In Fresh Perspective."

"[I]t may be high time to enquire about some of the supposed 'fixed points' of scholarship which, growing as they did out of a very different era to our own, may perhaps have been allowed to remain more by fashion (and the fear of being thought unscholarly if one challenges such fashion) than by solid argument. Take, for example, the widespread assumption still common in many quarters that not only Ephesians but also Colossians are not written by Paul himself, even if they may contain some material that goes back to him. There are, of course, many interesting points to be made on this subject. But our suspicions ought to be aroused by the fact that such consensus as there has ever beeon on the subject came from the time when the all-dominant power in New Testament scholarship lay with a particular kind of German existentialist-Lutheranism for whom any ecclesiology other than a purely functional one, any view of Jesus Christ other than a fairly low Christology, any view of creation other than a Barthian 'Nein', was deeply suspect. The false/either or, as I would see it, of justification or the church, of salvation or creation, hovered as a brooding presence over the smaller arguments (which are in any case always unconvincing, given the very small textual base) from style. The extremely marked stylistic difference between 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians is far greater than that between, say, Romans and Ephesians, but nobody supposes for that reason that one of them is not by Paul. In particular, the assumption that a high Christology must mean later, and non-Pauline, authorship has been brought to the material, not discovered within it. And the argument recently advanced (in North America particularly) that Ephesians and Colossians are secondary because they move away from confrontation with the Empire to colloboration with it is frankly absurd" (18-19).

I certainly have not read everything written on the authorship of Ephesians. However, I do feel confident enough to suggest that the consensus view (non-Pauline authorship) does not seem to have the strong support that some would imagine. By the way, given my interest in "anti-Imperial rhetoric" in Ephesians, I certainly appreciate Wright's final sentence [for a helpful analysis of the relationship between the Ephesians household-code and traditional Graeco-Roman thought, see T. Gombis, "A Radically New Humanity: The Function of the Haustaufel in Ephesians," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 48 (2005): 317-30].


tony siew said...

Hi Mark,

How's your application to Otago? Any luck? Soory because my notebook crashed and now I am using my old deskstop. But I have created a blog. Anyhow, I don;t think authorship issue should be a big thing as it is better to understand the contents (I firmly believe Paul wrote Ephsians). I will write more on my blog when I find time. Best wishes to you and your quest for doctoral study.

Tony Siew.

Dim Bulb said...

Hi, Mark,

I came across a reference to your site on another blog. I'm a thirteen year old Catholic who hopes someday to be a Scripture scholar. I've always thought the arguments for non-pualine authorship of the 'disputed letters' was kind of empty. I think that's because my oldest sister, who majored in philosophy and now teaches it, told me how Plato's early (undisputed) writings, and his later (undisputed) writings, show remarkable changes in style and, also, remarkable developements in thought. She tells me this is not unusual among philosophers. She thinks much of the nonsense in biblical studies is the result of scholars trying to justify various theses rather than anything else. Bye.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I laugh sometimes at some of the nonsense some biblical scholars support. Peter O'Brien refreshingly argued for Pauline authorship in his recent excellent commentary on Ephesians.

Mowens said...

Dim Bulb,
Thanks for visiting my blog. Wow, thirteen and an interest in biblical studies. That's awesome. I wish I had the sense of direction towards biblical studies when I was thirteen. Back then, I guess I was too interested in making money:-)
Sounds, like you've got a smart sister. You should read the discussion about secular vs faith oriented biblical studies on Alan Bandy's blog. Blessings.

I took a quick glance at J. Muddiman's recent commentary on Ephesians (BNTC) and it looks like he also supports pauline authorship. Since it was a very quick glance, please don't quote me on that. M. Turner also seems to support pauline authorship and his NIGTC volume should be a must have when it comes out. Blessings.


Christopher Shell said...

Logically, Pauline authorship of Ephesians is by far the main contender. (1) Ephesians does not fail to fit what we know of the epistle to the Laodiceans in any particular whatsoever, *despite* the fact that every other letter fails to fit it in several ways. (2) Paul's entourage for Philemon and Colossians is the same, and Ephesians looks like it was delivered on the same trip and as part of the same project as Colossians. So the advocate of pseudonymity has to take either one of two absurd positions: either Philemon is a pseudepigraph or a private letter like Phiklemon was used as the basis for a pseudepigraph.

Yet again the realisation that [pseudepigraphy is possible (ie at least 0.1% likely) has transmuted without warning or justification into the view that it is probable (ie at least 50% likely). Does nobody realise that (especially with faulty methodology like this) the more famous and scrutinised a given work is, the more likely it is to be adjudged a pseudepigraph?