Friday, May 10, 2024

Who wrote Ephesians?

Recently I heard a Bible teaching on Ephesians. When speaking of who is the author of the letter to the Ephesians, she suggested that Paul wasn't the actual author, that instead it may have been a disciple or someone closely working with him, and then she went on. . . without mentioning the option that it is not "settled" science and there are just as many arguments and scholars for Pauline authorship. When I got home I looked at what books I might have to explain that. Unfortunately, although I knew that line of thinking comes from "higher criticism," I no longer have any of those volumes. Here's what I do have, and also my own conclusions.

I have an IVP New Bible Commentary; Revised by Guthrie. He explains the higher criticism view of Ephesians, but completely debunks it point by point (p. 1106)

I have an NIV Archeological Bible, and its article "The Authorship of Ephesians" under subsection "The Reliability of the Bible," points out "some scholars" question Paul's authorship and then supports Paul's authorship with 8 bullet points with citations.

I have an NRSV Catholic edition which confirms that speaker, "It is unlikely that the Letter to the Ephesians was actually written by Paul. It is generally thought to be pseudonymous written after his death. The vocabulary, style and general content of the Letter do not resonate with the same expression and viewpoint articulated in the seven unquestionably Pauline letters." In other words, what most seminaries are teaching their new pastors and church workers. That's from the "Introduction to the Books of the Bible" ( p. lxxi), and it's difficult to say if the same wording is in the Protestant editions (this one contains the Deuterocanonical books removed in the 16th c.) It also provides the higher criticism view of 3 Isaiahs, and casts doubt on the authorship of other NT epistles.

So then I turned to my most scholarly title, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed. 1910 which I inherited from my grandfather Weybright. It really laid out in detail the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries research primarily by German Protestants beginning with the OT and working through most of the NT, until the rationalist, anti-supernatural, post-Christian theories had infected all the seminaries, and because of the date, did not include the rise of the fundamentalists and the major splits in Protestantism. Yet it would not fly the white flag and roundly defended Paul's authorship. Perhaps the most clever and witty paragraph was: "The view which denies the Pauline authorship of Ephesians has to suppose the existence of a great literary artist and profound theologian, able to write an epistle worthy of Paul at his best, who, without betraying any recognizable motive, presented to the world in the name of Paul an imitation of Colossians, incredibly laborious and yet superior to the original in literary workmanship and power of thought, and bearing every appearance of earnest sincerity. It must further be supposed that the name and the very existence of this genius were totally forgotten in Christian circles fifty years after he wrote. The balance of evidence seems to lie on the side of the genuineness of the Epistle.

From my point of view, I looked through some of the homilies of the early church fathers. They were much closer to the "real" author than German scholars who weren't even Christians. They did not doubt the authorship of Paul.

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