Epistle to the Laodiceans

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An Epistle to the Laodiceans, purportedly written by Paul of Tarsus to the Laodicean Church, is, according to some, mentioned in the canonical Epistle to the Colossians. Several texts bearing this title have been known to have existed, but none are widely believed to have been written by Paul.

Contents

Origins

Paul, the earliest known Christian author, wrote several letters (or epistles) in Greek to various churches. Paul apparently dictated all his epistles through a secretary (or amanuensis), who would usually paraphrase the gist of his message, as was the practice among 1st-century scribes.[1][2] Many survived and are included in the New Testament, but others are known to have been lost. The Epistle to the Colossians states "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."[3] The last words can be interpreted as "letter written to the Laodiceans", but also "letter written from Laodicea." The NASB translates this verse in the latter manner, and translations in other languages such as the Dutch Statenvertaling translate it likewise: "When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter (that is coming) from Laodicea."[4] Those who read here "letter written to the Laodiceans" presume that, at the time that the Epistle to the Colossians was written, Paul also had written an epistle to the Laodicean Church.

Possible candidates

Some scholars have suggested that this refers to the canonical Epistle to the Ephesians, contending that it was a circular letter to be read to many churches in the Laodicean area.[5] Others dispute this view.[6]

The Marcionist epistle to the Laodiceans

The early believer considered heretic Marcion believed that Paul was the only apostle who truly understood Jesus's message. Marcion rejected three of the four Canonical gospels, constructing a canon consisting of only of an "altered" Gospel of Luke and some of the Pauline epistles. (These were also edited, in Marcion's canon, to remove passages that he did not agree with.) According to the Muratorian fragment, Marcion's canon contained an epistle entitled 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. [7] It is not known what this letter might have contained. Some scholars suggest it may have been the Vulgate epistle described below[8], while others believe it must have been more explicitly Marcionist in its outlook.[9]

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