We are seeing plenty of questions and answers that say things like "St. Paul wrote in Ephesians" or "St. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy..."

There is a large body of textual-critical scholarship holding that St. Paul himself most likely did not write many of the epistles attributed to him.

This was drilled into me pretty hard by my teachers and ordination board, to the point where I want to say "wait a minute" when I hear discussions of St. Paul's theology based on writings in those later epistles combined with writings in the undisputed epistles. For example, see Interpretation of the scripture "One Lord, one faith, one baptism?", see Raphink's answer.

To me, this conflating of undisputed and disputed Pauline writings makes for a theologically confused answer.

Now, I recognize that fellow Christians see St. Paul in those later epistles with their eyes of faith, whereas I follow a tradition that does not.

What's a fellow to do? Downvote with explanation? Ignore these questions and answers as adiaphora?

Edit: It occurs to me that I'm really asking this: how can people who subscribe to the doctrine that the Bible is the inspired word of God (me for example) make our pastoral and theological points clear while showing respect for our brethren who subscribe to the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy? Both points of view are worthy of respect, and sometimes yield different understanding.

  • Are there other examples? Have there been any discussions here about "St. Paul's theology" or have the discussions been about theology in general referencing material from letters generally attributed to Paul as in the example you cited? If the latter I would agree with @waxeagle in that it is fairly irrelevant, but any schollarly discussion of Paul's personal theology vs other NT authors must of course take this into account.
    – Caleb
    Commented Sep 1, 2011 at 11:49
  • For other books stay tuned to this question for discussion, but at least for the book of Hebrews I have proposed using "the author" in place of "Paul" as a generally accepted practice that can be used while editing posts: What is the generally accepted term for X?
    – Caleb
    Commented Sep 1, 2011 at 12:26

4 Answers 4


The same could go for John writing in revelation vs John writing in his letters vs John the Apostle whom Jesus loved, but St. Paul's works seem more contentious.

It's much more important that the Bible itself says all these things and the audiences they're writing to are almost more important than who is doing the writing.

I'd say down vote only if something disputed is central to the point the author is trying to make and please, please don't edit in 'The Author' or whatever. If someone did that to a question I answered, I would roll back the changes.

Chesterton sums up my feelings on the matter:

Many people have maintained the characteristic formula of modern scepticism, that Homer was not written by Homer, but by another person of the same name. Just in the same way many have maintained that Moses was not Moses but another person called Moses. But the thing really to be remembered in the matter of the Iliad is that if other people did interpolate the passages, the thing did not create the same sense of shock as would be created by such proceedings in these individualistic times.


I think it depends. My usual practice, when quoting the NT letters, is to use the name attached to the top of the letter. This is mainly to distinguish it from teachings found in the gospels, and not to make a case about its authorship, i.e., "Paul said" is meant to clarify that Jesus didn't.

It might make a difference for a question contrasting, say, a passage from Galatians with one from Titus. It might be beneficial in an answer to explain why many modern scholars dispute whether Paul wrote the letter to Titus.


Interesting question. I would say for the most part its fairly irrelevant who wrote what books of the Bible. It may provide some small historical perspective, but if you believe that the Bible is God's inerrant word, its largely unimportant who the actual author was.

I would say that if you feel that the author is believed to be in doubt by a wide swath of Christian beliefs (say for instance Hebrews) then its perfectly fine to edit in the word Author instead of Paul. If its less certain but you are truly convicted about it a comment mentioning the disputed authorship would be appropriate.

If it doesn't bother you severely or is not blatantly wrong, I would leave it alone and realize that some traditions hold to Paul as the author to most of the letters, even the ones that more modern scholars are pretty sure he didn't write.


I don't think we want to get hung up on questions about authorship. I understand that there are scholarly doubts about authorship, but for most Christians these questions are not relevant. I believe that if an answer says "St. Paul writes in Ephesians..." and it could be changed to "The author writes in Ephesians..." without changing the meaning of the answer, then we should let it stand. For most Christians the important thing is that it's written in scripture, not who wrote it.

If the answer would be invalid if the authorship were different, such as relying on the assumption of Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch to deduce something historic, that would be different.

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