A long-term project recently came to fruition when my book on the apostle Paul was published two weeks ago. The title of the book is Portrait of an Apostle: A Case for Paul’s Authorship of Colossians and Ephesians.
Over the course of my research I had a great time navigating my way through large sections of Colossians and Ephesians containing Paul’s direct description of his ministry (such as his calling to reach the Gentiles) and his personal circumstances (such as suffering and being imprisoned). My aim for the project was to respond to arguments that a later imitator of Paul wrote Colossians and Ephesians.
Most people are not even aware that many scholars dispute that Paul wrote these two letters. What I found is that while a number of scholars reject Paul’s authorship of the letters, their reasons for doing so are not convincing when subjected to careful analysis.
I decided that the easiest way to detect or rule out forgery (or pseudepigraphy, the more technical term) was to examine how Paul is actually portrayed in the letters. Someone who wanted to imitate Paul would need to describe his personal experiences and sense of calling in ways that are consistent with Paul’s depiction of himself in other letters. But if the imitator sounded too much like Paul, without any freedom or variety in expression, our suspicions would be raised that we were dealing with forgery.
There actually are two letters, from the 2nd or 3rd centuries, that are written under Paul’s name. The letters known as 3rd Corinthians and the Epistle to the Laodiceans are widely acknowledged as forgeries, and they give telltale signs that the author is someone other than Paul himself.
But with Colossians and Ephesians, we see fresh and unstudied articulations of Paul’s ministry and calling that nonetheless align comfortably with Paul’s description of himself in his earlier letters. Through a verse-by-verse investigation of relevant passages, I demonstrated that it makes much better sense to credit Paul himself with the authorship of Colossians and Ephesians.
Colossians and Ephesians are beautiful New Testament letters that point to the sacrificial love of Christ, his reign over all things, and God’s plan to bring reconciled people together as part of Christ’s body, the church. I hope that this study encourages Christians to be confident that God spoke powerfully to us through the apostle Paul in these letters, so that we can read the letters with attitudes of complete trust, worship, and obedience.
More information about the book can be found by following this link: Publishing info for Portrait of an Apostle.