Reconsidering The Authorship Of Colossians -- By: Maria A. Pascuzzi
BBR 23:2 (2013) p. 223
Reconsidering The Authorship Of Colossians
St. Thomas University
The dispute over the authorship of Colossians only began in the 19th century with the modern critical investigation of its language and style. Since then, further objections have been raised against the letter’s authenticity, and today at least 50 percent of NT scholars consider the letter pseudonymous. Although it cannot be disproved that Colossians is pseudonymous, various considerations set forth in this essay converge to suggest that the argument for Colossians’ authenticity has greater plausibility.
Key Words: Colossians, deutero-Paulines, NT pseudonymity, authenticity, authorship
Despite assertions of certainty that Paul did not author Colossians,1 the debate over the letter’s authenticity, which began in earnest with the 1838 publication of Mayerhoff’s study, is ongoing.2 Scholars are now evenly divided on this issue.3 Regardless of position, most admit that the debate is beyond resolution. Given this impasse, it is understandable that the authorship question no longer dominates studies of Colossians. In fact, in any number of studies, the issues and the author’s response are studied apart from knowing the identity of Colossians’ actual author, which is
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considered inessential.4 This raises the question, why attempt to identify the author, especially as many scholars now assess pseudonymity, if not altogether positively, at least as a benign literary convention?5 Particularly influential in this regard is David Meade’s study that positively contextualizes NT pseudonymity within the trajectory of the OT/Jewish tradition of pseudonymous writing.6 However, even were one to concede that letter writing in Paul’s name grew out of an accepted OT/Jewish practice, or that NT pseudonymers were innocent impersonators with noble motives,7 or that pseudonymity does not compromise a letter’s canonical status,8 still there are at least two significant exegetical implications to consider with regard to authorship.9 First, the contested letters (2 Thessalonians, Colossians, Ephesians, 1–2 Timothy, and Titus) are usually segregated from the “genuine” Paulines, and their analysis often...
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