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Writes his Letters



The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible states:
: "Paul's letters are the oldest Christian documents we have. The first of them was written within 25 years of Jesus' death, and the last may have been written before any of the gospels."


It lists the following letters in the New Testament as Paul's:
1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians,
1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.

The order of these letters in the New Testament is based on their length not on chronology.

These are the books:

1. Romans: Προς Ρωμαίους ,Epistula ad Romanos

2. First Corinthians: Προς Κορινθίους Α, Epistula I ad Corinthios

3. Second Corinthians Προς Κορινθίους Β, Epistula II ad Corinthios

4. Galatians: Προς Γαλάτας, Epistula ad Galatas

5. Ephesians: Προς Εφεσίους, Epistula ad Ephesios

6. Philippians: Προς Φιλιππησίους, Epistula ad Philippenses

7. Colossians: Προς Κολασσαείς, Epistula ad Colossenses

8 First Thessalonians: Προς Θεσσαλονικείς, Α Epistula I ad Thessalonicenses

9. Second Thessalonians: Προς Θεσσαλονικείς Β, Epistula II ad Thessalonicenses

10. First Timothy: Προς Τιμόθεον Α, Epistula I ad Timotheum

11. Second Timothy: Προς Τιμόθεον Β, Epistula II ad Timotheum

12. Titus: Προς Τίτον, Epistula ad Titum

13. Philemon: Προς Φιλήμονα, Epistula ad Philemonem

The Epistles are not in any chronological order, but are arranged according to their significance and magnitude of their circulation, and by the relative importance of the Church and its people to whom they are addressed.

The Epistles to the three individuals follow those Epistles to the seven Churches.

14. The Epistle to the Hebrews is last because it was the last to be authenticated.

Usually, Apostle Paul's Epistles are separated into two groups:
1) Epistles of a general Christian nature and
2) Pastoral Epistles.
(The Epistles to Timothy and Titus belong here as rules of good pastorship.)

There are indications to show that some of the epistles are lost to us. See 1 Cor. 5:9, and Col. 4:16. For example the correspondence with a philosopher Seneca, brother of pro-consul Gallio (as mentioned in Acts 18:12) is attributed to Paul.

Higher Criticism

These are the 7 letters that are considered by scholars as undoubtedly Pauline.

Romans (ca. 55-58 AD)

Philippians (ca. 52-54 AD)

Galatians (ca. 55 AD)

Philemon (ca. 52-54 AD)

First Corinthians (ca. 53-54 AD)

Second Corinthians (ca. 55-56 AD)

First Thessalonians (ca. 51 AD)

The letters thought to be pseudepigraphic by the majority of modern scholars include

Pastoral epistles

o First Timothy

o Second Timothy

o Titus


The letters on which modern scholars are about evenly divided are:


Second Thessalonians

An anonymous letter that nearly all modern scholars agree was probably not written by Paul is:


Unlike the thirteen epistles above, the Epistle to the Hebrews is internally anonymous. Moreover, scholars, have noted the differences in language and style between Hebrews and the other Pauline writings.

In considering the authorship we should remember that most of the time Paul used a scribe to write down what he has to say. As a result the style and presentation will be the edited by the scribe and will differ from the personal style of Paul. It was the practice in that case to add an end greeting by the original writer to give authenticity. We can see this in 1 Corinthians 16:20-23

"All the brethren send greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. If any one has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you."

This is the reason for most of the critical analysts see variations in style and dictum. However all through the collection the underlying theological emphasis are identical.

Then also this could be the result of the school of thought started by Paul. It is this school that started the movement in the first place, extending the field of work beyond the Jewish religion to the Gentile world. So any of these people could as well have written some of these epistles.

Lost Pauline Epistles

There are some indications that some of the epistles are lost to us. Here are some.

The first Epistle to Corinth referenced at 1 Corinthians 5:9

The third Epistle to Corinth called Severe Letter referenced at 2 Corinthians 2:4 and 2 Corinthians 7:8-9

The Corinthian letter to Paul referenced at 1 Corinthians 7:1

The Earlier Epistle to the Ephesians referenced at Ephesians 3:3-4

The Epistle to the Laodiceans[5]referenced at Colossians 4:16

Non-canonical Pauline Epistles

Several non-canonical epistles exist claiming or having been claimed to have been written by Paul. Most, if not all, scholars reject their authenticity. They include

Third Epistle to the Corinthians (canonical for a time in the Armenian Orthodox)

Epistle to the Laodiceans (found in Codex Fuldensis)

Epistle of the Corinthians to Paul (addressed to Paul, not written by him)

Epistle to the Alexandrians

Texts also exist which claim to have been written by (or about) Paul. These include

Acts of Paul and Thecla:

Acts of Peter and Paul

Apocalypse of Paul

Coptic Apocalypse of Paul

Prayer of the Apostle Paul

Epistle to Seneca the Younger

Some have also postulated the existence of a third epistle to the Thessalonians (second chronologically) forged in Paul's name, citing 2 Th 2:1-2, 3:17 as evidence.That hypothesis, has not gained acceptance


Example of Higher Criticism:
Summary of the reasons for thinking Ephesians is not by Paul

The language and style are different. Ephesians contains 40 new words, eg 1:3 "heavenly places"; "family, or fatherhood" (3:15). 1:19 has four different words for "power"; Eph & Col use a different word for "reconcile" from Paul's word (Col 1:20, 22;

Eph 2:16). And they both use many very long sentences, eg 1:3-14; 1:15-23; 3:1-7; 4:11-16; 6:14-20. Also Col 1:9-20.

Ephesians copies Colossians at many places. Ephesians has 155 verses, 73 of which are copied from Colossians: eg Ephesians 4:1-2 = Colossians 3:12-13. Ephesians 5:19-2 = Colossians 3:16-17, Ephesians 6:21-22 = Colossians 4:7-8.

Ephesians takes many key ideas from Colossians. Wisdom, mystery. The word of truth. Gospel of salvation. Saints of God.

Ephesians also refers to most of the other letters of Paul. In many ways it seems like a summary of Paul's ideas, written by a disciple of his, and brought up to date for the Church of his own time.

Metaphors, or illustrations in Paul are turned into actual objective realities in Ephesians (and sometimes in Colossians also). Eg faith, gospel, word of God, reconciliation, salvation, our resurrection and glorification, the Church as the Body of Christ, Minister, Saints of God.

Ephesians shows that the Church is becoming an advanced and powerful universal institution (rather like the Church today). In Paul's time there was no universal Church in that sense, but only informal gatherings of individual believing communities.

Ephesians contains no mention of charismatic gifts. It looks as if they have disappeared from the church, to be replaced by ordained ministers.

Ephesians shows Jesus acting on his own account and by his own authority. In Paul's letters, Jesus always acts on God's behalf and with God's authority.

Stylometry Analysis

Stylometry is a statistical study of the words used by an author in In order to discover what word frequency patterns the various books shared. It was originally conceived in 1900. However with the advent of computers the analysis has become a powerful tool in order to establish the possible authorship of various book by an author. I present the a principal components analysis (PCA) of residuals as performed by Johan Mchael Linacre.( Who wrote Paul's Epistles? Linacre J.M. Rasch Measurement Transactions, 2001, 15:1 p.800 -1)

Figure 1 shows a distinct difference between word frequencies patterns in the 6 narrative books (Gospels, Acts, Revelation) and the 21 Epistles. See Fig 1



The 6 narrative books were then dropped from the analysis. There remained 3400 active words, which were rescored to maintain positive correlations. Figure 2 shows the second factor in an analysis of their word frequency residuals.

We can see that all of Paul's Epistles recognized by scholars are close together within an oval. The two books Colossians and Ephesians whose authorship are questioned by some also falls within the oval assuring that it is written by the same person who wrote the other Epistles of Paul. Outside the oval are Hebrews, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus which indicates that they were influenced by scribes who copied the dictation or Paul or written by others in the Pauline School of thought. However 2 Timothy could be attributed to Paul's direct authorship.


Chronology of Pauline Epistles 

1 Thessalonians
c.52 AD
From Corinth, during an 18 month stay, during his 2nd Journey, after a visit to Athens (3:1-2)
2 Thessalonians
c.53 AD
From Corinth, towards the end of his stay, on his 2nd Journey
1 Corinthians c.57 AD From Ephesus, near the end of his 3 year stay, during his 3rd Journey (1 Cor..16)
2 Corinthians
c.57 AD
From somewhere in Macedonia, on his way to Corinth, on his 3rd Journey
Galatians c.55-57 AD From Ephesus, during a 3-year stay (see Acts 20:31) on his 3rd Journey (the second official visit to Jerusalem, described in Galatians 2:1-14, taking place in-between the 2nd and 3rd Journeys c.54 AD)
Romans c.57 AD From Corinth towards the end of his 3rd Journey
Titus c.57-58 AD From somewhere between Corinth and Nicopolis, on 3rd Journey (Titus was in Crete, having been sent there by Paul from Corinth - 1:5). Some suggest that this letter was written later, after Paul's release.
C AD 60-62
From Rome
Paul was under house arrest for 2 years when he wrote these letters
1 Timothy c.57 AD From Corinth on his 3rd Journey, while Timothy was back at Ephesus (1:3-4)
2 Timothy C AD 64-68 From Rome
Paul was released after his trial before Caesar, during which time he revisited many of the ecclesias that he had established on his previous Journey's. He may have visited Spain, which he had been planning on doing for many years. But he was eventually imprisoned again, during which time he wrote this final epistle to his beloved brother and fellow apostle, Timothy. Shortly after, according to tradition, Paul was beheaded)

A more accurate description with the possible error of estimation is given by Kevin P. Edgecomb in Berkeley, California as seen in the following quote.

Kevin P. Edgecomb in Berkeley, California Chronology of Paul's Letters gives the following enlightening chart and correlation;

"The data can be represented by this chart:


Each time span begins with a black dot (when the date is known) or a black bar (when only a range of possible dates are available) to indicate the foundation of a church or the conversion of an individual. (In the cases of Rome, Timothy, and Titus, the beginnings of the time spans are off the scale.) The end of the time span indicates the point at which the letter to the church or person was written, with the date represented by a black dot (when the date is known) or a yellow (will appear white in b/w) bar (when only a range of possible dates are available). The small red bars (will appear grey at the end of the white bar)indicate the likely period of Paul's martyrdom. .."+


"Time spans between founding/conversion and letter-writing:

:  about 4 years
Philippians:  about 8 to 10 years
Thessalonians:  a few months
Corinthians:  1: about a year  2: about 4 years
Ephesians:  about 6 to 8 years
Colossian:  about 4 to 8 years
Philemon:  about 4 to 8 years
:  about 8 to 26 years (founding date unknown)
1Timothy:  about 19 (Johnson's date) or 25 to 27 years
2Timothy:  about 27 years
Titus: about 12 to 15 or more years

Some Conclusions

We can gain several things from this information, in connection with the character of Paul's letters themselves:

1.)  Length of time converted corresponds to theological complexity in the letters:
      a.)  Romans, the longest and most theologically complex of the letters, ..

2.)  The "problem churches" of Galatians, Thessalonians and Corinthians are all those with the shortest lengths of time from their dates of conversion to dates of the letters being written to them.
      a.)  The Thessalonian correspondence occurred very soon after Paul founded the church . "