Take the 2-minute tour ×
Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I've heard it said that Paul wrote other letters that didn't make it into the Bible, including at least one more letter to the church at Corinth, and a letter to the church at Laodicea. What is the source for these claims, and what might have happened to these letters?

share|improve this question
1  
There were many written works by the apostles and other early church leaders that did not "make the cut" when the Bible was canonized a few centuries after Christ's death. However, since I am a poor historian and cannot cite the source for this general claim nor the specific ones you mention, I leave this as a comment and not an answer. –  Daniel Standage Sep 1 '11 at 5:05
    
You might rephrase the question and ask if any theologian of standing thinks that Paul did not write the letters attributed to him. –  Waeshael Jun 22 '13 at 21:35
    
@Waeshael: That's an entirely different question, but it's probably worth asking. –  Bruce Alderman Jun 22 '13 at 23:22
1  
I've heard it said that the original letter to the Corinthians was lost. Making 1 Corinthians actually 2 Corinthians etc. It's only a rumour –  Matt Nov 27 '13 at 4:35
    
@Matt: it's not a rumour, see my answer. –  Wikis Nov 29 '13 at 21:18

6 Answers 6

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Paul certainly wrote other letters, but they were either lost or were not theological. For example, 1 Corinthians 16:3:

Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.

Regarding one more letter to Corinth, that is the implication in 1 Corinthians 5:9 when he refers to an earlier letter:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people.

Finally, it is worth noting that all genuine letters by Paul could be identified by people at the time as he ended them in his own writing (rather than dictating). 2 Thessalonians 3:17 says:

I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write.

share|improve this answer
1  
We have no extant letters of Paul that are not part of the canon (regardless of theological content) - that could be more explicit in your answer. –  gmoothart Sep 1 '11 at 17:59
    
@gmoothart: I don't know what you mean. Is that not covered by my first sentence? –  Wikis Dec 9 '11 at 20:23
1  
The "or" in your first sentence implies that some of Paul's letters which were not lost were nevertheless excluded from the canon because they were "not theological". This is not the case. –  gmoothart Dec 10 '11 at 18:45
    
@gmoothart: ah, I understand now, thanks. How about, "...they were lost and were therefore probably not theological."? BTW, apologies for the delay in responding, I just missed your original comment. –  Wikis Dec 10 '11 at 19:26

According to John MacArthur in his sermon titled Saved or Self-Deceived (available on YouTube here), he says Paul wrote two more letters to the church of Corinth (about 19 minutes into the sermon).

He explicitly says that they were not included in the Bible. "..a church to which by the time he writes 2nd Corinthians he's already written three other letters, 1st Corinthians and two other letters that aren't in Scripture." John Mac Arthur. As one of the most authentic bible scholars of our time, I would take his word for it.

share|improve this answer
    
This is pretty good. Can you add a link or footnote to your reference? –  David Stratton Nov 26 '13 at 22:30
    
Hey David, please follow the link and hear the sermon. MacArthur makes the statement after 20 minutes of play but to get a clear picture start from 19 minutes. Or you can just listen to the whole sermon if you wish. youtube.com/watch?v=0lRkU4KrURI –  Chisomo Tembo Nov 27 '13 at 0:00
    
Thank you. I edited that into your answer. By the way, welcome to the site! This next has nothing to do with the quality of your answer, it's just standard to help new visitors avoid misunderstanding the site (as I did at first.) As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": help page and How we are different than other sites? –  David Stratton Nov 27 '13 at 0:20

Jerome Murphy-Oconnor says:

The intensity of Paul's relationship with the Corinthians is illustrated by the fact that he wrote more letters to them than to any other church. The New Testament contains only two letters, but these mention two others, the Previous Letter (1 Cor. 5: 9) and the Painful Letter (2 Cor. 2: 4). Hence, four in all.

From the end of the eighteenth century, however, doubts have been raised regarding the integrity of both i and 2 Corinthians. 2 The division of 2 Corinthians into two originally independent letters was postulated in 1776. It took a hundred years for the integrity of 1 Corinthians to be called into question. From that moment hypotheses became ever more complex as fragments from one letter were associated with those from another. This trend in New Testament research reached its climax with the thesis that originally the Corinthian correspondence consisted of nine distinct letters.

Sources

  • Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, Paul: A Critical Life, 1st edn (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).p.252

  • See also Schmithals (1973). For a survey of the various modern partition theories, see Sellin (1987), 2965-8.

share|improve this answer
    
Welcome to the site. We are glad you decided to participate. Here are some meta posts about this site to help you learn how we do it here: What Christianity.StackExchange is (and more importantly, what it isn't) and How we are different than other sites Please also take the tour and see the help center. I hope to see you post again soon. You're doing good so far. –  fredsbend 2 days ago
    
On this answer, do you have links for those sources? Not that it's required, but it is a great boon for readers like me who don't have access to the book. –  fredsbend 2 days ago
    
Why the dig at John Piper? Why even bring him into this discussion??? I will edit out that irrelevant statement. –  curiousdannii 7 hours ago

If he did, it would probably have been listed on newadvent's Patristic writing's page alongside:

share|improve this answer
2  
That's assuming the document is still extant. –  Affable Geek Mar 9 '12 at 13:55

Most modern scholars will point to some letters that were not written by Paul contributed to him and the other respondents above have pointed out there were letters that were not included. It is very possible there are Vatican controlled archives that contain letters attributed to Paul that were probably too late to have been of his authorship like Timothy letters. These pseudo Paul letters likely supported ideas that the canonical fathers did not want circulating about anymore. There is a real possibility that there are somewhere extant letters Paul dictated that would be intriguing to find, but I doubt they would really do nothing more than give a little insight as to some specifics of what was happening in the early churches or Paul's evolution? of thought and faith.

share|improve this answer
2  
Interesting information. Perhaps you have a source or two for some of this. Click edit to add them in. –  fredsbend Oct 12 '14 at 23:16

Third Corinthians "has been included in the Armenian New Testament canon since at least the third century AD."1

1) Third Corinthians (Ancient Gnostics and The End of the World" by Ken Johnson, Th.D.

share|improve this answer
1  
Welcome to Christianity.SE! I hope you'll spend some time browsing the questions and answers here. Thanks also for offering an answer to this question. We generally prefer longer answers that give a little more explanation and background. Could you provide some more detail about how and why Third Corinthians came to be included in the Armenian New Testament? For some tips on writing good answers, please see, What makes a good supported answer? –  Lee Woofenden 5 hours ago

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.