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EPISTLE TO THE LAODICEANS (1st-4th century) Questions

Posted: Sun Feb 10, 2019 9:29 pm
by rakovsky
(Question 1) When Paul told the Colossians to "read the letter from Laodicea" (Col. 4:16), did Paul mean that (A) he wrote a letter to the Laodiceans, (B) he wrote a letter to others (eg. to the Ephesians) who sent it to Laodicea, and he wants the Laodiceans to share it with the Colossians, or (C) the Laodiceans wrote a letter to the Colossians?

Colossians 4:16 says in English and in Greek:
After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.

καὶ ὅταν ἀναγνωσθῇ παρ’ ὑμῖν ἡ ἐπιστολή, ποιήσατε ἵνα καὶ ἐν τῇ Λαοδικέων ἐκκλησίᾳ ἀναγνωσθῇ, καὶ τὴν ἐκ Λαοδικείας ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς ἀναγνῶτε.
(Option B) The opening of the Epistle to the Ephesians goes:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the holy ones who are [in Ephesus]* faithful in Christ Jesus...

* [In Ephesus]: the phrase is lacking in important early witnesses such as P46 (3rd cent.), and Sinaiticus and Vaticanus (4th cent.), appearing in the latter two as a fifth-century addition. Basil and Origen mention its absence from manuscripts. See Introduction. Without the phrase, the Greek can be rendered, as in Col 1:2, “to the holy ones and faithful brothers in Christ.”
The opening's lack of "In Ephesus" can explain possible confusion that arose. If it lacked that title, it could really have been an open encyclical that was received in Laodicea, and forwarded from Laodicea to the Colossians.

The Catholic Encyclopedia's article on the Epistle to the Ephesians and Pseudo-Ep.Laodiceans suggests that Paul wrote the letter to the Colossians before he wrote to the Ephesians, and that his "letter from Laodicea" is the same as the one to the Ephesians. The Catholic Encyclopedia's two main reasons for thinking that the letter to the Colossians was written first are that (1) Paul develops his justifications for his position on remarriage much more in his Epistle to the Ephesians than in the Epistle to the Colossians, and the Encyclopedia theorizes that this suggests that Paul worked out his ideas in more detail after presenting his thesis in a shorter form to the Colossians. And (2) it wouldn't make sense for Paul to send Greetings to the Laodiceans in Colossians 4:15 if he had already sent greetings to the Laodiceans through the Epistle to the Ephesians. Personally, I don't find either reason persuasive. Maybe Paul wrote his same opinions on remarriage to the Ephesians first, or simultaneously, and just chose to write out his fuller reasoning first and give it to the Ephesians. And maybe Paul wanted to send greetings to the Laodiceans in particular in his letter to the Colossians after having gotten them an encyclical that he sent to the Ephesians that didn't mention the Laodiceans in particular. Here is the Catholic Encyclopedia entry:
One thing, however, is certain, once the authenticity of the Epistles to the Colossians and to the Ephesians is admitted, and that is that they were written at the same time. They both show fundamentally and formally a very close connection of which we shall speak later on. Tychicus was appointed to convey both Epistles to those to whom they were respectively addressed and to fulfil the same mission in behalf of them (Col. 4:7 sq; Eph. 6:21 sq.). Verse 16 of chapter 4 of Colossians does not seem to allude to the letter to the Ephisians, which would need to have been written first; besides, the Epistle here mentioned is scarcely an encyclical, the context leading us to look upon it as a special letter of the same nature as that sent to the Colossians. If, moreover, Paul knew that, before reaching Colossae, Tychicus would deliver the Epistle to the Ephesians to the Christians at Laodicea, there was no reason why he should insert greetings for the Laodiceans in his Epistle to the Colossians (Col. 4:15). It is more probable that the Epistle to the Ephesians was written in the second place. It would be less easy to understand why, in repeating to the Colossians the same exhortations that he had made to the Ephesians, for instance, on remarriage (Eph. 5:22 sqq.), the author should have completely suppressed the sublime dogmatic considerations upon which these exhortations had been based. Moreover we believe with Godet that: It is more natural to think that, of these two mutually complemental letters, the one provoked by a positive request and a definite need [Col.] came first, and that the other [Eph.] was due to the greater solicitude evoked by the composition of the former."

Pseudo-epistle to the Laodiceans
In the genuine Epistle to the Colossians, Paul, after instructing them to send their Epistle to Laodicea, adds: "read that which is from the Laodiceans." This most probably regards a circular letter, the canonical "Ephesians"; but it has been held to be a lost letter to the Laodicean Christians.
(Question 2) Is the Vulgate "Epistle to the Laodiceans" (A) the one that Paul possibly wrote to the Laodiceans, (B) Marcion's forged Epistle to the Laodiceans, or (C) another's forgery?

You can find the text of the Vulgate Epistle to the Laodiceans here: ... odicea.htm

Wikipedia says about it:
The oldest known Bible copy of this epistle is in a Fulda manuscript written for Victor of Capua in 546. It is mentioned by various writers from the fourth century onwards, notably by Pope Gregory the Great...
However this epistle is not without controversy because there is no evidence of a Greek text.[15] It contains almost no doctrine, teachings, or narrative not found elsewhere, and its exclusion from the Biblical canon has little effect.
The Vulgate version is at least from the 4th century since Jerome knew of it.

(Option A) First, it doesn't appear likely to have been written by Paul. Michael Marlowe writes:
There is no extant Greek text for this epistle. It is not listed as a canonical book or cited as Scripture by the Church Fathers, and it was explicitly rejected by Jerome and others in ancient times. 1 Most scholars today think it was first composed in Latin, during the fourth century, although J.B. Lightfoot gives some reasons to suspect that it was translated from a Greek original. It appears to be a patchwork of phrases drawn from Paul’s authentic epistles, put together by someone who wished to provide a plausible text for the Laodicean epistle mentioned in Colossians 4:16. ... ceans.html
The Vulgate Epistle to the Laodiceans' two references to "good works" and its silence on "faith" seem un-Pauline. It's also quite short for a Pauline epistle.

(Option B) Wikipedia notes about Marcion's version:
According to the Muratorian fragment, Marcion's canon contained an epistle called the Epistle to the Laodiceans which is commonly thought to be a forgery written to conform to his own point of view. This is not at all clear, however, since none of the text survives.
So Marcion could have either made up a copy of the Epistle to the Laodiceans or have altered it.

The Russian theologian Lopuhin theorized that people in Pontus got Paul's letter to the Ephesians sent to them from Laodicea, and since Marcion was from Pontus, Marcion considered Paul's letter to the Ephesians to be the one that Paul said was from Laodicea. Lopuhin proposed that Marcion then took the Epistle to the Ephesians and edited it into his own "Epistle to the Laodiceans", just as Marcion had fraudulently edited other Biblical books. ( ... blija_69/4)

The Early Writings website notes that the Muratorian canon recognizes the Epistle to the Ephesians, as well as an "Epistle to the Laodiceans" that was in Marcion's canon:
Tertullian reports (adv. Marc. V 11 and 17) that the heretics, i.e. the Marcionites, regarded Ephesians as the Epistle to the Laodiceans and that Marcionite himself had made this change in the title. This note is confirmed to some extent by Epiphanius of Salamis (Haer. 42.9.4 and 42.12.3), who, it is true, gives no clear information as to whether the source which he copies here (Hippolytus) recognised Ephesians as the Epistle to the Laodiceans or whether in addition to Ephesians an Epistle to the Laodiceans also stood in the Marcionite canon.
Schneemelcher writes ... "Either the Muratori Canon means the Epistle to the Ephesians, the name of which was changed by Marcion into the Epistle to the Laodiceans (so Tertullian) - that, however, is unlikely, since Ephesians is mentioned in the Muratori Canon - or it had actually in view a separate Epistle to the Laodiceans, and then it must be the Latin Epistle to the Laodiceans that has come down to us, if we are not to assume several pseudo-Pauline letters to Laodicea. Certainly the Latin Epistle to the Laodiceans shows no sort of Marcionite character such as ought to be expected according to the statement of the Muratori Canon."

Schneemelcher reviews some arguments made by Harnack and Quispel to attempt to show the Marcionite character of the text known to us from Latin copies as the Epistle to the Laodiceans, "it may be said that the Marcionite origin of the Latin Epistle to the Laodiceans is an hypothesis that can neither be proved nor sustained. It is rather a clumsy forgery, the purpose of which is to have in the Pauline corpus the Epistle to the Laodiceans mentioned in Col. 4:16. Whether the Epistle to the Laodiceans mentioned in the Muratori Canon is identical with this apocryphon remains unsettled. With that possibility of an accurate dating also falls out. As the time of composition there comes into question the period between the 2nd century and the 4th." (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 2)
An argument in favor of the Vulgate version being one forged by Marcion is that naturally, a Marcionite version would be rejected by the Church; thus Jerome could be talking about Marcion's version when he says that the Vulgate's version was rejected. Further, there is no need for Marcion to have forged it in a form that would clearly teach Marcionism as distinct from orthodox teachings. Rather, Marcion could have just forged it in the course of making his own Bible. Further, there are other cases where Jerome (the Vulgate's compositor) translated or used apocryphal, or often-rejected writings like the Gospel of Hebrews, Shepherd of Hermas, and 4 Esdras. One might imagine that Jerome translated Marcion's Epistle of the Laodiceans into his own Vulgate.
Like Marcion's gospels, the Vulgate's Epistle to the Laodiceans doesn't have much reference to the Old Testament.

On the other hand, the Marcionite Epistle to the Laodiceans seems to have been a reworked Epistle to the Ephesians, whereas the Vulgate's Epistle to the Laodiceans only takes some of its elements from the Epistle to the Ephesians. Besides that, Jerome opposed Marcionism and gnosticism, so it would seem very unlikely that Jerome would have included what he considered to be a forged Marcionite Epistle in the Vulgate.

While the first two lines of the canonical Epistle to the Ephesians has some resemblance to those of the Vulgate's Epistle to the Laodiceans, the Epistle to the Philippians bears much greater resemblance to the Vulgate's Epistle to the Laodiceans (as this line by line comparison shows: ... odicea.htm).

(Option C) Wikipedia notes about the possibility that someone else forged the Vulgate's Epistle to the Laodiceans:
The text was almost unanimously considered pseudepigraphal when the Christian Biblical canon was decided upon, and does not appear in any Greek copies of the Bible at all, nor is it known in Syriac or other versions.[16] Jerome, who wrote the Latin Vulgate translation, wrote in the 4th century, "it is rejected by everyone".[17] However, it evidently gained a certain degree of respect. It appeared in over 100 surviving early Latin copies of the Bible. ... The apocryphal epistle is generally considered a transparent attempt to supply this supposed lost sacred document. Some scholars suggest that it was created to offset the popularity of the Marcionite epistle.
There could even be two forged "Epistles to the Laodiceans", one forged by Marcion and another forged to compete with Marcion's forgery.

But to posit a third Epistle to the Laodiceans seems to go against Occam's razor, since at most only two are ever clearly mentioned (Paul's and Marcion's) by the historic Church writers.

Thus, when Jerome writes in "Lives of Illustrious Men" (Chapter 5) that Paul, "wrote nine epistles to seven churches... Some read one also to the Laodiceans but it is rejected by everyone", then Jerome could have in mind the Marcionite one. That is, Jerome doesn't say whether this rejected one is the one that other Church writers found in Marcion's canon, but nor does Jerome mention any others. And so one might guess that Jerome is talking about the same one as in Marcion's canon, and that he put it in his own Vulgate version.

(Question 3) Is the reference to "perfect knowledge" in verse 5 of the Epistle to the Laodiceans gnostic or unusual for the New Testament?
"5. And now may God grant that my converts may attain to a perfect knowledge of the truth of the Gospel, be beneficent, and doing good works which accompany salvation."

The only place in the NT the phrase appears is Acts 24:22:
"And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way, he deferred them, and said, When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter."

Re: EPISTLE TO THE LAODICEANS (1st-4th century) Questions

Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2019 5:39 am
by Ben C. Smith
I have a bilingual version with textual references and notes posted here: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1936.

Re: EPISTLE TO THE LAODICEANS (1st-4th century) Questions

Posted: Wed Feb 13, 2019 9:23 pm
by rakovsky

Re: EPISTLE TO THE LAODICEANS (1st-4th century) Questions

Posted: Wed Feb 26, 2020 9:28 pm
by rakovsky
In your list, the Church fathers made a good point that Paul referred to the letter "from" Laodicea, not to a letter "to" Laodicea. One option therefore is that someone in Laodicea wrote a letter to the Colossians. I suppose that besides options A-C that I gave in the OP, there is also an option (D), that Paul could be referring to a letter that he wrote in Laodicea and that would be sent "from" Laodicea to the Colossians.