If Ephesians Used Colossians…

I’m doing some digging about in Colossians these days, so you’ll probably find an unusual concentration of Colossians related throughts on the blog for the next few weeks.

One perennial question about Colossians is who wrote it. The letter speaks of church as a more universal entity than the localized communities we see in, say, the Corinthian correspondence. The letter seems to have a more realized eschatology (you are now raised with Christ) in contrast to the reserve evidenced in, say, Romans (we will also live with him).

And, Colossians seems to be a source for the writing of Ephesians, which shares much of the same material, theological bents, and interests. Ephesians is less widely accepted as Pauline than Colossians.

In reflecting on this use of Colossians by Ephesians, James Dunn suggests that the literary dependence is a slight mark on the “non-Pauline” side of the ledger for weighing who wrote Colossians. His argument: Colossians was a model for Ephesians of what a post-Pauline letter should look like.

But I’ve wondered if the use of Colossians by Ephesians doesn’t enter a mark on the other side of this great balancing act. If one was to choose a letter on which to model one’s one post-Pauline correspondence, wouldn’t one choose a letter that he thought to be from Paul’s own hand? If I wanted to further the thought of Paul by writing a Pauline letter, I would seek out the work of the master himself rather than the work of an apprentice.

There are lots of arguments for and against the authorship of various letters. But what do you think about this one? If someone copied Colossians as a model, to write a post-Pauline letter, does that indicate that the writer of Ephesians sees Colossians as Paul’s? or as a first, really strong effort to republish Paul’s thoughts under Paul’s own name?

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