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?

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    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
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    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
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    Well to me it was a rumour because I didn't verify it. So now that you've pointed out the scripture to me it's no longer a rumour - thanks for that. – Matt Dec 4 '13 at 22:48

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.

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    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? – Reinstate Monica - Goodbye SE Dec 9 '11 at 20:23
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    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. – Reinstate Monica - Goodbye SE 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.

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  • 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.


  • 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.

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The missing reference to the letter to Laodicea is found in Col 4:16

Col 4:16 And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. (ESV)

where "from" actually should be translated as "of", meaning "the one I sent there".

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The Apostle Paul spent many years in Rome, most of them as a prisoner of the Roman government. The evidence is that Paul arrived and was imprisoned in early 61 AD and liberated in 63 AD and that he was imprisoned again upon his return to Rome, possibly after returning from Spain. The thing that is noteworthy here is the amount of time he spent in captivity in Rome, most likely under a form of house arrest which allowed him to have regular visits from his contemporaries. No one will ever be able to say for sure how many letters he wrote from Rome to the Saints in Asia and the Roman Empire, but we can be sure this is how he spent most of his time while imprisoned, writing correspondence to the churches he had established throughout the Roman Empire.

As noted by others above, Paul himself speaks of other letters that had been written to other churches and individuals. It is important to understand here that Paul did not write his epistles or letters with the knowledge that they would one day be canonized and become a part of something we call the New Testament. These were letters and correspondence written to give clarification to unanswered questions and to inspire and uplift the specified reciepients. These letters, we know, were circulated among the brethren because of a statement made by the Apostle Peter in 2 Peter 3:15 when he speaks of Pauls many letters. Peter here also speaks of how difficult these letters were to understand by the average reader.

At any rate, the fact remains that Paul surely had written many more epistles than appear in the current New Testament cannon. The Roman Catholic Church is known to posses thousands of books and partial writings in the Vatican's library vaults. These books and parchments have been moved several times throughout history and the History Channel has a documentary showing the little seen writings. Within these writings there is undisputed truth of additional writings of the Apostle Paul. The big question now is what do these text contain? Would they give us any different insight into Christianity as we know it today?

Also consider this, if Peter speaks of Pauls writings in 2 Peter, and Peter was in Rome when he wrote this, most likely after Pauls death, then it would be very probable that some of Pauls writings were indeed being rewritten and collected by early Christians in Rome. I do not believe they were considered as equal to Scripture of the Old Testament, as we have no evidence of a Cannon any earlier than about 130 AD.

I know you like a lot of references when post are made to this sight but this is given as a reference to anyone who wishes to investigate further. CJKtheologian

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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.

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    Interesting information. Perhaps you have a source or two for some of this. Click edit to add them in. – fгedsbend 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.

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    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 May 24 '15 at 1:50

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

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    That's assuming the document is still extant. – Affable Geek Mar 9 '12 at 13:55

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