The Pauline epistles, also known as Epistles of Paul or Letters of Paul, are the thirteen books of the New Testament attributed to Paul the Apostle, although the authorship of some is in dispute. Among these epistles are some of the earliest extant Christian documents. They provide an insight into the beliefs and controversies of early Christianity. As part of the canon of the New Testament, they are foundational texts for both Christian theology and ethics.

Most scholars believe that Paul actually wrote seven of the thirteen Pauline epistles (Galatians, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Philemon, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians), while three of the epistles in Paul's name are widely seen as pseudepigraphic (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus).[1] Whether Paul wrote the three other epistles in his name (2 Thessalonians, Ephesians and Colossians) is widely debated.[1] According to some scholars, Paul wrote the questionable letters with the help of a secretary, or amanuensis,[2] who would have influenced their style, if not their theological content. The Epistle to the Hebrews, although it does not bear his name, was traditionally considered Pauline (although Rome questioned its authorship), but from the 16th century onwards opinion steadily moved against Pauline authorship and few scholars now ascribe it to Paul, mostly because it does not read like any of his other epistles in style and content and because the epistle does not indicate that Paul is the author, unlike the others.[3]

The Pauline epistles are usually placed between the Acts of the Apostles and the catholic epistles (also called the general epistles) in modern editions. Most Greek manuscripts place the general epistles first,[4] and a few minuscules (175, 325, 336, and 1424) place the Pauline epistles at the end of the New Testament.


Possible dates
of Pauline epistles
Captivity letters
Pastoral letters
36(31–36 AD: conversion of Paul)
48Epistle to the Galatians
50First Epistle to the Thessalonians
51Second Epistle to the Thessalonians
54First Epistle to the Corinthians
55Second Epistle to the Corinthians
57Epistle to the Romans
62Epistle to the Philippians
Epistle to Philemon
Epistle to the Colossians
Epistle to the Ephesians
64First Epistle to Timothy
65Second Epistle to Timothy
66Epistle to Titus
67(64–67 AD: death of Paul)
Beginning of the Greek manuscript by Huldrych Zwingli of the Pauline epistles, written in 1517, preserved in the Zentralbibliothek Zürich

Main articles: Authorship of the Pauline epistles and Pseudepigrapha

In all of these epistles, except the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author and writer does claim to be Paul. The contested letters may have been written using Paul's name, as it was common to attribute at that point in history.[5]

Pauline epistles is located in Mediterranean
Locations where Paul's letters were sent

Seven letters (with consensus dates)[6] considered genuine by most scholars:

The three letters on which scholars are about evenly divided:[1] If these letters are inauthentic, then the consensus dates are probably incorrect.

The letters thought to be pseudepigraphic by many scholars (traditional dating given):[1] The content of these letters strongly suggests they were written a decade or more later than the traditional dates.

Finally, Epistle to the Hebrews, although anonymous and not really in the form of a letter, has long been included among Paul's collected letters. Although some churches ascribe Hebrews to Paul,[7] neither most of Christianity nor modern scholarship does so.[1][8]


In the order they appear in the New Testament, the Pauline epistles are:

Name Addressees Greek Latin Abbreviations
Full Min.
Romans Church at Rome Πρὸς Ῥωμαίους Epistola ad Romanos Rom Ro
1 Corinthians Church at Corinth Πρὸς Κορινθίους Αʹ Epistola I ad Corinthios 1 Cor 1C
2 Corinthians Church at Corinth Πρὸς Κορινθίους Βʹ Epistola II ad Corinthios 2 Cor 2C
Galatians Church at Galatia Πρὸς Γαλάτας Epistola ad Galatas Gal G
Ephesians Church at Ephesus Πρὸς Ἐφεσίους Epistola ad Ephesios Eph E
Philippians Church at Philippi Πρὸς Φιλιππησίους Epistola ad Philippenses Phil Phi
Colossians Church at Colossae Πρὸς Κολοσσαεῖς Epistola ad Colossenses Col C
1 Thessalonians Church at Thessalonica Πρὸς Θεσσαλονικεῖς Αʹ Epistola I ad Thessalonicenses 1 Thess 1Th
2 Thessalonians Church at Thessalonica Πρὸς Θεσσαλονικεῖς Βʹ Epistola II ad Thessalonicenses 2 Thess 2Th
1 Timothy Saint Timothy Πρὸς Τιμόθεον Αʹ Epistola I ad Timotheum 1 Tim 1T
2 Timothy Saint Timothy Πρὸς Τιμόθεον Βʹ Epistola II ad Timotheum 2 Tim 2T
Titus Saint Titus Πρὸς Τίτον Epistola ad Titum Tit T
Philemon Saint Philemon Πρὸς Φιλήμονα Epistola ad Philemonem Philem P
Hebrews* Hebrew Christians Πρὸς Ἑβραίους Epistola ad Hebraeos Heb H

This ordering is remarkably consistent in the manuscript tradition, with very few deviations. The evident principle of organization is descending length of the Greek text, but keeping the three pastoral epistles addressed to individuals in a separate final section. The only anomaly is that Galatians precedes the slightly longer Ephesians.[9]

Chronological order of Paul's letters[10]
Date Name Location of authorship
c. 48 Galatians Antioch (uncertain)
c. 49–51 1 Thessalonians Corinth
c. 49–51 2 Thessalonians Corinth
c. 53–55 1 Corinthians Ephesus
c. 55–56 2 Corinthians Macedonia
c. 57 Romans Corinth
c. 62 Ephesians Rome
c. 62 Philippians Rome
c. 62 Colossians Rome
c. 62 Philemon Rome
c. 62–64 1 Timothy Macedonia
c. 62–64 Titus Nicopolis
c. 64–67 2 Timothy Rome

In modern editions, the formally anonymous Epistle to the Hebrews is placed at the end of Paul's letters and before the general epistles. This practice was popularized through the 4th century Vulgate by Jerome, who was aware of ancient doubts about its authorship, and is also followed in most medieval Byzantine manuscripts with hardly any exceptions.[9]

The placement of Hebrews among the Pauline epistles is less consistent in the manuscripts:

Lost Pauline epistles

Paul's own writings are sometimes thought to indicate several of his letters that have not been preserved:

Pseudepigraphic epistles

Further information: Pseudepigrapha

Several other epistles were attributed to Paul during the course of history but are now considered pseudepigraphic:

Collected epistles

David Trobisch finds it likely that Paul first collected his letters for publication himself.[23] It was normal practice in Paul's time for letter writers to keep one copy for themselves and send a second copy to the recipient(s); surviving collections of ancient letters sometimes originated from the senders' copies, at other times from the recipients' copies.[24] A collection of Paul's letters circulated separately from other early Christian writings and later became part of the New Testament. When the canon was established, the gospels and Paul's letters were the core of what would become the New Testament.[23][page needed]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e New Testament Letter Structure, from Catholic Resources by Felix Just, S.J.
  2. ^ Richards, E. Randolph. Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collection. Downers Grove, IL; Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press; Apollos, 2004. [page needed]
  3. ^ The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, publ. Geoffrey Chapman, 1989, chapter 60, at p. 920, col. 2 "That Paul is neither directly nor indirectly the author is now the view of scholars almost without exception. For details, see Kümmel, I[ntroduction to the] N[ew] T[estament, Nashville, 1975] 392–94, 401–03"
  4. ^ Metzger, Bruce M. (1987). The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance (PDF). pp. 295–96. ISBN 0198261802. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-06-01.
  5. ^ Joseph Barber Lightfoot in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians writes: "At this point [Gal 6:11] the apostle takes the pen from his amanuensis, and the concluding paragraph is written with his own hand. From the time when letters began to be forged in his name (2 Thess 2:2; 3:17) it seems to have been his practice to close with a few words in his own handwriting, as a precaution against such forgeries... In the present case he writes a whole paragraph, summing up the main lessons of the epistle in terse, eager, disjointed sentences. He writes it, too, in large, bold characters (Gr. pelikois grammasin), that his handwriting may reflect the energy and determination of his soul."
  6. ^ Robert Wall, New Interpreter's Bible Vol. X (Abingdon Press, 2002), pp. 373.
  7. ^ Arhipov, Sergei, ed. (1996). The Apostol. New Canaan, PA: St. Tikhon's Seminary Press. p. 408. ISBN 1-878997-49-1.
  8. ^ Ellingworth, Paul (1993). The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Epistle to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eardmans Publishing Co. p. 3.
  9. ^ a b Trobisch 1994, p. 1–27.
  10. ^ ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway. 2008. pp. 1806–1807. ISBN 978-1-4335-0241-5. Archived from the original on March 21, 2023.
  11. ^ Digital Vatican Library (DigiVatLib), Manuscript –
  12. ^ "Lost Books of the Bible?". Archived from the original on 2006-06-23. Retrieved 2006-06-29.
  13. ^ a b Apologetics Press, Are There Lost Books of the Bible?, Reason & Revelation, Volume 23 #12, published 1 December 2003, accessed 12 June 2023
  14. ^ 1 Corinthians 5:9
  15. ^ 2 Corinthians 2:4
  16. ^ 2 Corinthians 7:8–9
  17. ^ Ephesians 3:3–4
  18. ^ Colossians 4:16
  19. ^ Charlesworth, James H.; McDonald, Lee Martin (2014-04-24). Sacra Scriptura: How "Non-Canonical" Texts Functioned in Early Judaism and Early Christianity. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-0-567-29668-9.
  20. ^ Olshausen, Hermann (1851). Biblical Commentary on St. Paul's First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians. T. & T. Clark.
  21. ^ a b c Ehrman, Bart (2012). Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics. Oxford University Press. p. 452–458. ISBN 9780199928033.
  22. ^ "Letters of Paul and Seneca". Retrieved 2021-05-26.
  23. ^ a b Trobisch, David (1994). Paul's Letter Collection. Minneapolis: Fortress. ISBN 978-0800625979.
  24. ^ Reece, Steve. Paul's Large Letters: Pauline Subscriptions in the Light of Ancient Epistolary Conventions. London: T&T Clark, 2016.[page needed]

Bibliographic resources