What Do We Mean by (Non-)Pauline Authorship, Part 2

In a previous post, I introduced a typology of authorial models for the corpus Paulinum that I intend now to discuss one by one. Here is the first installment.

1. IA = HA: Paul writes his own letters, using his own material entirely (1a) or incorporating some pre-formed (e.g., hymnic) material (1b). This might be termed the naïve or intuitive understanding of authorship, projected backwards from our contemporary experience of authoring texts. Modernity has often privileged the singular author, ranging from Rembrandt’s depictions of the lone apostle pondering his compositions in prison through the Romantic ideals of the solitary genius to 20th century auteurism.[1] While virtually all scholars acknowledge in theory that Pauline authorship is more complex than Paul simply putting pen to paper (or reed-pen to papyrus), it is difficult to sustain this acknowledgement and refrain from lapsing into anachronistic projections.[2] One could open virtually any volume on Pauline theology and adduce dozens of references to Paul ‘writing’ or to a ‘slip of the pen’ or other turns of phrase that betray a modern conception of authorship. This may be perfectly permissible for many settings; after all, who wants to read an inevitably tortuous circumlocution repeated ad nauseum simply for the sake of precision? But when the question of authorship per se comes into view, the usual conveniences of writing should be set aside for the sake of precision. It is notable, moreover, that even were one to conceive of Paul as solitary author, there are numerous places in which one would still need to reckon with ‘foreign bodies’ in the corpus: as many as a hundred citations of Scripture together with numerous allusions,[3] as well as the possibility of other pre-Pauline material of a hymnic,[4] confessional or catechetical[5] variety.


[1] Among many studies one could cite, for a brief but engaging study of the changing fate of the ‘author’, see Andrew Bennett, The Author (The New Critical Idiom; London and New York: Routledge, 2005); note also the collection of important primary texts in F. Jannidis, et al., eds., Texte zur Theorie der Autorschaft (Stuttgart: Reclam, 2000).

[2] An application, mutatis mutandis, of the observation in Morna Hooker, “In His Own Image?” in What About the New Testament? Essays in Honour of Christopher Evans (ed. M. Hooker and C. Hickling; London: SCM, 1975), 28-44.

[3] The precise number varies depending upon criteria used for determining citations; for two representative attempts, see the margin of the NA27 (or the appendix IV, “Loci citati vel allegati”) and H. Hübner, Vetus Testamentum in Novo. Band 2: Corpus Paulinum (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1997).

[4] Most famously, Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 1:15-20; but occasionally also 1 Tim. 3:16. Neither hymnic nor catechetical materials are as easily identified today as they were in the heyday of the influence of Form Criticism. For hymnic material, see the critical survey of previous attempts in Michael Peppard, “‘Poetry’, ‘Hymns’ and ‘Traditional Material’ in New Testament Epistles or How to Do Things with indentations,” JSNT 30 (2008): 319-42.

[5] For one recent, though problematic, attempt to assess 1 Timothy for catechetical material (inter alia) see Mark Yarbrough, Paul’s Utilization of Preformed Traditions in 1 Timothy: An Evaluation of Paul’s Literary, Rhetorical, and Theological Tactics (LNTS 417; London: Continuum, 2009), whose work especially follows Earle Ellis, The Making of the New Testament Documents (Leiden: Brill, 1999). For a survey and critique of attempts to discern pre-formulated tradition behind the New Testament, see Benjamin Edsall, “Kerygma, Catechesis and Other Things We Used to Find: Twentieth-Century Research on Early Christian Teaching since Alfred Seeberg (1903),” CBR 10 (2012): 410-41.

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