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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 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 (First Timothy, Second Timothy, and Titus). Whether Paul wrote the three other epistles in his name (2 Thessalonians, Ephesians and Colossians) is widely debated. According to some scholars, Paul wrote the questionable letters with the help of a secretary, or amanuensis, 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 Origen, Tertullian and Hippolytus amongst others, 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.
The Pauline epistles are usually placed between the Acts of the Apostles and the catholic epistles in modern editions. Most Greek manuscripts place the general epistles first, and a few minuscules (175, 325, 336, and 1424) place the Pauline epistles at the end of the New Testament.
|36||(31–36 AD: conversion of Paul)|
|48||Epistle to the Galatians|
|50||First Epistle to the Thessalonians|
|51||Second Epistle to the Thessalonians|
|54||First Epistle to the Corinthians|
|55||Second Epistle to the Corinthians|
|57||Epistle to the Romans|
|62||Epistle to the Philippians|
|Epistle to Philemon|
|Epistle to the Colossians|
|Epistle to the Ephesians|
|64||First Epistle to Timothy|
|65||Second Epistle to Timothy|
|66||Epistle to Titus|
|67||(64–67 AD: death of Paul)|
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.
Seven letters (with consensus dates) considered genuine by most scholars:
The three letters on which scholars are about evenly divided: If these letters are inauthentic, then the consensus dates are likely incorrect.
The letters thought to be pseudepigraphic by many scholars (traditional dating given): The content of these letters strongly suggest 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, neither most of Christianity nor modern scholarship does so.
In the order they appear in the New Testament, the Pauline epistles are:
|Romans||Church at Rome||Πρὸς Ῥωμαίους||Epistola ad Romanos||Rom||Ro|
|First Corinthians||Church at Corinth||Πρὸς Κορινθίους Αʹ||Epistola I ad Corinthios||1 Cor||1C|
|Second 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|
|First Thessalonians||Church at Thessalonica||Πρὸς Θεσσαλονικεῖς Αʹ||Epistola I ad Thessalonicenses||1 Thess||1Th|
|Second Thessalonians||Church at Thessalonica||Πρὸς Θεσσαλονικεῖς Βʹ||Epistola II ad Thessalonicenses||2 Thess||2Th|
|First Timothy||Saint Timothy||Πρὸς Τιμόθεον Αʹ||Epistola I ad Timotheum||1 Tim||1T|
|Second 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 Έβραίους||Epistola ad Hebraeus||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 four pastoral epistles addressed to individuals in a separate final section. The only anomaly is that Galatians precedes the slightly longer Ephesians.
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.
The placement of Hebrews among the Pauline epistles is less consistent in the manuscripts:
Paul's own writings are sometimes thought to indicate several of his letters that have not been preserved:
Further information: Pseudepigrapha
Several other epistles were attributed to Paul during the course of history but are now considered pseudepigraphic:
David Trobisch finds it likely that Paul first collected his letters for publication himself. 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. 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.[page needed]