Mirror-Reading a Pseudepigraphal Letter

in Novum Testamentum
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This study investigates the implications of pseudonymity for the interpretative process, arguing that we need to take into account the pseudepigraphal attempt to achieve a “reality effect” by employing tropes and concerns from authentic Pauline letters to lend the forged writing an air of verisimilitude. But in this way our ability, if we judge a text pseudepigraphal, to discern reality from appearance is severely problematized, and we should therefore consider the possibility that pseudepigraphal letters should be treated more as rhetorical compositions than as epistolary literature, since all the ostensive elements of epistolarity are fictionalized in a pseudepigraphal letter.

Mirror-Reading a Pseudepigraphal Letter

in Novum Testamentum




T.W. MartinBy Philosophy and Empty Deceit: Colossians as Response to a Cynic Critique (JSNTSup 118; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press1996) 16-17 n. 4; 20. The assumption that the question of authorship is not substantially related to determining the false teaching envisaged by the letter is widespread; see further R.E. DeMaris The Colossian Controversy: Wisdom in Dispute at Colossae (JSNTSup 96; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press 1994) 11-12.


Barclay“Mirror-Reading” 73-74.


M.D. Hooker“Were There False Teachers in Colossae?” in Christ and Spirit in the New Testament: Essays in Honour of C.F.D. Moule (eds. B. Lindars and S.S. Smalley; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1973); repr. in her From Adam to Christ: Essays on Paul(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press1990) 121-136. She writes “Paul’s teaching in Colossians then seems to us to be quite as appropriate to a situation in which young Christians are under pressure to conform to the beliefs and practices of their pagan and Jewish neighbours as to a situation in which their faith is endangered by the deliberate attacks of false teachers; in view of the absence from Colossians of any clear reference to the supposed error or hint of distress on Paul’s part this explanation seems far more probable” (134); see also N.T. Wright The Epistles of Paul to the Colossians and to Philemon (tntc; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1986) 23-30.


P. Müller“Gegner im Kolosserbrief: Methodische Überlegungen zu einem schwierigen Kapitel,” Beiträge zur urchristlichen Theologiegeschichte (ed. W. Kraus; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter 2009) 365-394: “Die Frage ist also nicht wie wir ein mirror-reading vermeiden können. Wir können es nicht vermeiden (jedenfalls nicht so lange wir die Frage nach einer Bestimmung der Gegner nicht generell aufgeben)” (373). The article offers a perspectival reading in that Müller attempts to take into account the varying perspective of the authors and the opponents and so to arrive at a clearer understanding of the nature of the opponent’s teaching and the author’s concerns. See also the methodological reflections in K. Berger “Die impliziten Gegner: Zur Methode des Erschliessens von ‘Gegnern’ in neutestamentlichen Texten” in Kirche: Festschrift für Günther Bornkamm zum 75. Geburtstag (eds. D. Lührmann and G. Strecker; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 1980) 373-400 (Berger is wide-ranging but perhaps less cautious than some); and J.L. Sumney Identifying Paul’s Opponents: The Question of Method in 2 Corinthians (JSNTSup 40; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press 1990) esp. 13-120.


Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress 1985.


E.T. MayerhoffDer Brief an die Colosser mit vornehmlicher Berücksichtigung der drei Pastoralbriefe (Berlin: Hermann Schultze1838); Evanson The Dissonance of the Four Generally Received Evangelists and the Evidence of their Respective Authenticity Examined (Ipswich: G. Jermyn 1792) 263. Mayerhoff himself seems ignorant of Evanson’s work (“Da nun der Brief an die Colosser bisher noch gar nicht angezweifelt ist” 5).


KileyColossians as Pseudepigraphy46-51; so rightly J.M.G. Barclay Colossians and Philemon (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press 1997).


For surveys of research see M. JanssenUnter falschem Namen: Eine kritische Forschungsbilanz frühchristlicher Pseudepigraphie (Frankfurt: Peter Lang2003); Meade Pseudonymity and Canon; N. Brox ed. Pseudepigraphie in der heidnischen und jüdisch-christlichen Antike (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 1977).


H.O. Maier“Reading Colossians in the Ruins: Roman Imperial Iconography, Moral Transformation, and the Construction of Christian Identity in the Lycus Valley,” Colossae in Space and Time: Linking to an Ancient City (ed. A.H. Cadwallader and M. Trainor; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2011) 212-231 here 222; the concrete identification in the Lycus Valley is also found for example in M. Trainor “Excavating Epaphras of Colossae” 232-246 in the same volume; so also Royalty “Dwelling on Visions” 336.


Trebilco“Christians in the Lycus Valley: The View from Ephesus and from Western Asia Minor,” in Colossae in Space and Time180-211.


See rightly O. LeppäThe Making of Colossians: A Study on the Formation and Purpose of a Deutero-Pauline Letter (Helsinki: The Finnish Exegetical Society; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht2003) 12-14. See also now independently V. Balabanski “Where is Philemon? The Case for a Logical Fallacy in the Correlation of the Data in Philemon and Colossians 1.1-2; 4.7-18” jsnt 38 (2015) 131-150.


A.H. Cadwallader“Refuting an Axiom of Scholarship on Colossae: Fresh Insights from New and Old Inscriptions,” in Colossae in Space and Time151-179. He offers a rousing critique of the majority line in New Testament scholarship stemming from Lightfoot and Ramsay.


F.C. BaurDie sogenannten Pastoralbriefe des Apostel Paulus aufs neue kritisch untersucht (Stuttgart: Cotta1835).


See Stettler“The Opponents at Colossae,” 170 n. 4, citing D.J. Harrington, “Christians and Jews in Colossians,” in Diaspora Jews and Judaism: Essays in Honor of and in Dialogue with A.T. Kraabel (eds. J.A. Overman and R.S. MacLennan; South Florida Studies in the History of Judaism 41; Atlanta: Scholars Press1992) 153-161here 154.


EhrmanForgery and Counterforgery182.


Standhartinger“Pauline School” 588; in more detail Standhartinger Studien zur Entstehungsgeschichte.


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