Who wrote the letter of Paul to the Ephesians looks like one of those easy questions:
- Who wrote Beethoven’s ninth symphony.
- In which city is York Minster.
- In which county are the Yorkshire Dales?
Easy, isn’t it?
Except that it isn’t that easy. A commentary on the letter to the Ephesians says that Paul did not write it. He cites a few reason’s for saying this:
In ancient times there was no concept of plagiarism or intellectual property. It was common for people to continue writing in someone’s name in order to sat that their teachings were still relevant to a new generation. For instance the followers of Pythagoras used his name in their later writings.
Many biblical scholars say that the letter wasn’t written by Paul.
Ephesians talks about the Resurrection where the rest of Paul’s writings about the passion of the Christ talk about the crucifixion.
There are many words used in the letter to the Ephesians that are not used in his other writings, which would suggest a different author.
This, says the writer of the commentary, is evidence that Paul did not write the letter.
I used to be convinced by this: Now I’m not that sure. Here’s the breakdown…
It’s true that people used the names of others at this time, but people also used their own names to. On its own it is inconclusive.
The theologians that say Paul did not write Ephesians are not named. Not good, how am I going to check this out? What about the earlier theologians who were much closer to the writing of the letter, have we not to assume that what they said about about the letter are not true? There seem to be two groups as far as the provenance of Ephesians goes. Those who say that what those closer to the writing said have greater provenance are opposed by those who prefer modern scholarship. Me? I don’t want to get into either camp.
Paul does talk about the passion from the aspect of the crucifixion in most of his writing, but he also talks about what the resurrection means. To concentrate of one aspect of the teaching is typical of Paul.
The third aspect is more interesting, The question of words Paul used nowhere else remains. But other letters where there is no dispute also have unique words. What Paul does is when talking about something he disagrees with he uses the words used by those he disagrees with. When this approach is used with the letter to the Colossians we find that the unnamed heresy Paul is writing is an early form of gnosticism. Ephesians though uses more unique words than Colossians, the number is still a problem.
Until you come to even more recent research than that used by those who deny the authorship. Computer analysis shows there are more similarities in style between Paul’s other writings and Ephesians.
Which leaves the problem of Tychicus. Why would someone who was the messenger who took the letter to the Colossians be mentioned in a letter not by Paul written at a later time. It makes more sense if the letter is genuinely by Paul.