We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Select Bible Use this Lookup to open a specific Bible and passage. Start here to select a Bible.
Make selected Bible the default for Lookup tool.
Book: Ch.V. Select book from A-Z list, enter chapter and verse number, and click "Go."
:
OR
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result

The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Was the Letter Written by Paul?

1.

The traditional view, from the second century onwards, is certainly in the affirmative. The writer names himself as Paul in both 1:1 and 3:1 . But for the past 200 years the issue has been disputed, and though several prominent contemporary scholars still hold to Pauline authorship (e.g. Barth 1974 and Bruce 1984 ), the majority have concluded that it was most probably written by someone else. In addition to the considerations already noted, two other features have carried weight.

2.

The perspective seems to be second generation: ‘the apostles’ are looked back to as the foundation period ( 2:20 ) and designated as especially ‘holy’ ( 3:5 ). The self-reference in 3:1–13 at first looks to be strong evidence of Pauline authorship, but as we read through the paragraph the measure of boasting goes well beyond what Paul had previously claimed for his own role, and sounds more and more like a eulogy penned by an ardent admirer (cf. 1 Tim 1:15–16 ). Even with 3:1 and 4:1 , the addition of the definite article turns the humble self-designation of Philem 1 and 9 (‘a prisoner of Christ Jesus’) into something more like a title (‘the prisoner of Christ Jesus’, ‘the prisoner in the Lord’).

3.

The theological perspective also seems to have moved beyond that of the earlier Paulines, and even that of Colossians. In particular, the cosmic Christology of Col 1:17–19 seems to have developed into the cosmic ecclesiology of Eph 1:22–3 . The ‘church’, characteristically the local church (in house, city, or region) in the earlier Paulines, is now (for the first time) understood consistently as the universal church. The talk of grace and faith in 2:5, 8–9 , certainly has a Pauline ring, but the characteristic Pauline concern regarding the law in such talk is missing: the reference in 2:9 is to ‘works’, not ‘works of the law’; the law is mentioned only briefly in 2:15 . And the eschatology is more consistently ‘realized’: ‘salvation’ is an accomplished act ( 2:5, 8; 6:17 ); they are already raised and seated with Christ ‘in the heavenly places’ ( 2:6 ); there is no reference to Christ's coming again (contrast 4:15 ).

4.

All in all, the evidence is most consistent with the hypothesis that the letter was written by a disciple of Paul some time after Paul's death, presumably writing to celebrate Paul's faith and apostolic achievement and using Colossians in part as a kind of template. If, alternatively, it was Paul who composed it, we would have to envisage a Paul who had so modified his perspective and style that it comes to the same thing; that is, in effect, ‘the late Paul’ is little different from ‘the disciple of Paul’.

  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2020. All Rights Reserved. Cookie Policy | Privacy Policy | Legal Notice