One of the most intriguing letters forged in the name of Paul is his alleged letter to the Laodiceans.  As you’ll see, it’s intriguing both because some Christian churches accepted it as part of the New Testament for centuries and because scholars have never been able to figure out why a forger bothered to write it.  I have a theory about that though, which I laid out in my book Forgery and Counterforgery (Oxford University Press, 2013),  from which I have taken this discussion.

(I’ve edited it a bit to get rid of the weeds; here I explain the issues and my argument in accessible terms).


The Letter to the Laodiceans

The Letter of “Paul” to the Laodiceans is a pastiche of Pauline phrases with no obvious theme or purpose.  Apart from the opening line, drawn from Gal. 1:1, the borrowings are almost exclusively from Philippians.  About a tenth of the letter represents “filler” provided by the author, which is also without character or color.

Scholars have long vied with one another to see who could express the greatest contempt for the letter’s sheer banality.  Thus Leon Vouaux in 1913: “It is indeed as trivial as possible;[1]  Karl Pink in 1925: “The letter is a pitiful concoction without any kind of personal note on behalf of the author, without a trace of heresy, without bias or purpose”;  Adolf Harnack in 1931: “It is with regard to content and form the most worthless document that has come down to us from Christian antiquity”;1031 and most recently Régis Burnet, who moves the lament to the title of an article: “Pourquoi avoir écrit l’insipide épître aux Laodicéens?” (= “Why Was the insipid Epistle to the Laodiceans Written?”)  The letter nonetheless

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