Friday, September 28, 2007

J. Muddiman on the Authorship of Ephesians

One of the issues related to Ephesians I will have to eventually explore in my research is the thorny "question" of its authorship. This is, of course, only natural at this level of study. True, I could simply bypass the discussion by taking some sort of literary stance that obviates historical questions. But, while I do plan to employ a literary methodology (specifically, inter-textuality), I tend to think that my research on Ephesians might help us better understand statements in the "genuine" Pauline letters. At any rate, I just finished looking at the introduction to J. Muddiman's commentary on Ephesians and thought I would provide a little summary of his interesting proposal.

Muddiman begins by raising questions regarding the supposed dependence of Ephesians on Colossians. Muddiman notes that Ephesians is not as similar to Colossians as often argued and that if someone has created Ephesians by editing Colossians, then this really person "has transcribed only one short paragraph (6.21-2)" (pg. 32). Rather than outright accepting Pauline authorship of Ephesians, Muddiman basically proposes that a genuine letter of Paul has been edited and this document has become the canonical "Letter to the Ephesians."

While I can appreciate the historical problems raised by what one finds in Ephesians, I do have to wonder if it is stilll necessary to erect this chasm between the Paul of the "genuine" letters and the author of Ephesians. I do appreciate how close Muddiman comes at times to accepting Pauline authorship of Ephesians. For example, in discussing the theology of Ephesians, Muddiman states, "some theological emphases in Ephesians are sufficiently different and later than Paul . . . but they sit alongside authentic expressions of Paul's own distinctive emphases" (20). Muddiman seemingly sees the author of Ephesians as at once different from the "true" Paul (whoever that is) but at the same time quite faithful to Paul. No doubt Ephesians is unique. Yet, it is this uniqueness (possibly arising from its historical purpose) that while making it difficult to accept Pauline authorship, also makes it difficult to develop satisfactory alternatives. In the end, accepting Pauline authorship is at least as viable as any other proposal and should thus receive more credibility from the academy.


D. Timothy Goering said...

Thanks for the post. I too have wondered for quite some time about the authorship of Ephesians.
James Dunn takes up the traditional position, but very often seems to be able to 'sneak' in an Ephesians passage if it fits his argument (in his "Theology of Apostle Paul"). He seems more than willing to take it as an quasi-Pauline letter.
I also posted some VERY short thoughts from NT Wright, here.

Hope to hear more soon about the topic!

Anonymous said...

Great post. You're right about Muddiman.

His reconstructed letter to the Laodiceans seems a little too forced to me.

Although, I do give him the credit for taking a serious crack at the historical problem, which is a problem for everyone - Pauline or not.

Mark Owens said...

Thanks a lot for visiting my blog. It is interesting how scholars are willing to utilize Ephesians when helpful for their arguments but nonetheless relegate it to some "quasi-Pauline" status as you describe. In the case of Muddiman, I suppose he is moving a few steps closer in the right direction, but nonetheless is unwilling to take the grand leap towards accepting Pauline authorship.

Thanks also for visiting my blog. I haven't looked yet at his reconstruction of the letter to the Laodiceans. Another exercise for another day, I suppose.