If you’ve been meaning to take the 30 Days of Paul challenge to read the letters of Paul in the order they were most likely written, and to complete the challenge it in just 30 DAYS, you’ve come to the right place. You can download a reading plan and read posts by all the stellar bloggers who took the challenge with me on the Start Here page.
Rising Light Podcast
I’m writing today to let you know about another resource for the Authentic Letters of Paul, the book that inspired the 30-day challenge. Ron Way, of Rising Light Media, conducted a thorough and wide-ranging two-part interview with authors Lane McGaughy, Roy Hoover, and Arthur Dewey.
The authors offer extremely helpful background information in this podcast about how the book was written, what it was like to live in the Roman Empire during Paul’s lifetime, what early Christians might have been like, and how the authors decided which letters to include and in what order.
Excerpt: Deciding which letters were written by Paul
Ron Way: Most Christians assume that all of the letters that are included in New Testament that supposedly written by Paul were written by Paul but that just isn’t true I think you will say. Which ones are in, which ones are out, and how do we know they’re authentic or non-authentic? How about you Lane?
Lane McGaughy: Well, what we’ve done in this book is to try to provide the arguments and the evidence that there are 7 letters in the New Testament that are attributed to Paul that were actually written by him, and that the other letters that are attributed to him are either written by his disciples or others later on who are followers of Paul or trying to somehow nuance his message for another generation. We identify the authentic letters of Paul as being—to put them in somewhat chronological order first—Thessalonians, Galatians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians. Those are the first four. Then we get Philippians, Philemon, and Romans in that order.
We’ve also tried to divide the authentic letters up into the individual fragments of letters that are combined in 2 Corinthians and Philippians. What that suggests is that Paul carried on an extended conversation, communication through letters with some of his churches, but when whomever it was at the end of the first century went around to the churches to collect copies, that individuals then stitched together several letters that Paul might have written to a particular community into one. They end up being composite letters in the New Testament. We both try to identify the authentic letters in order to try to recover the historical Paul but we’ve also then broken up the authentic letters into their various components.
You asked a question about how we identify these. There are various ways one goes about that. I would be happy to hear Art and Roy on this. My principal approach is structural. That is, I think Paul invented, based on the personal letter tradition of the Hellenistic Period, he invented a unique kind of structure for his letters. One can use that template then to sort out which letters attributed to Paul actually are written in the form in which Paul wrote his letters and which seem to be letters that do not contain the unique marks of a Pauline letter. That’s how I begin to make the distinction between authentic letters and pseudonymous letters. Let me hear from these other fellows.
On a Side Note
When you visit the Rising Light website, you can sign up for email notifications each time they post a new interview by filling out the simple pop-up form (name and email address only). Ron interviews not only Polebridge Press authors but also authors across the religion & spirituality spectrum. I appreciate many of his interviews, so I hope you’ll check out not only the Paul episodes but many others as well (a personal favorite of mine is the one with Jason BeDuhn on The First New Testament).
Last but not least, I am working on a new 30-day challenge related to early Christian women. Stay tuned for more news about that, and in the meantime, don’t let other people tell you what they think Paul said… Go out and read his letters for yourself! 🙂