Who Wrote Ephesians?

Tim Gombis, Associate Professor of New Testament at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary and author of The Drama Of Ephesians (IVP Academic), has some high praise for the Ephesians commentary in the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture by Peter Williamson (Baker Academic). He says it is an “excellent commentary–clear, concise, thorough, and theologically compelling.” In particular, he draws attention to Williamson’s discussion of the authorship of Ephesians. Gombis notes that Williamson’s discussion of the authoriship is brief but he points to a longer essay by Williamson available online. Gombis says it “is one of the better discussions I’ve found.”

Williamson concludes his essay by saying,

We must not underestimate Paul’s theological flexibility or circumscribe his literary skills too narrowly. Ephesians differs from the other Pauline letters in its use of an eloquent demonstrative and deliberative rhetoric to reinforce and deepen key points of Paul’s teaching in a circular letter directed to predominantly Gentile Christian communities. Which is easier to imagine: that a disciple or “school,” working with earlier writings, would be able to produce a work like Ephesians twenty years after the Apostle’s death or that Paul had the theological imagination to develop his own insights during the enforced idleness of his imprisonment and had the rhetorical skill to express them, assisted, perhaps, by literate coworkers such as Luke?

While the arguments proposed against the authenticity of Ephesians raise reasonable questions, they are not compelling separately or together. Nevertheless, the opinion that Paul himself authored Ephesians, like all literary-historical judgments, remains at best a probability rather than a certainty. For Catholics and most Christians, the point that is certain and that matters most is that whoever its human author was, the Letter to the Ephesians remains God’s word to us.


About Louis

I am a 1997 graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
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