Second Generation Paulinists

By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Early Christianity

  • The “Deutero-Pauline” letters include Colossians, Ephesians, and 2 Thessalonians. The letters most likely date back to 70-90 CE. (1& 2 Timothy and Titus are thought to date back to 100-125 CE.)
  • All of these letters, though attributed to Paul, were written pseudonymously (under a false name).
  • This style of writing was very common in antiquity. (Generally, it was because they venerated the person whose name was used. They were not concerned about “intellectual property” issues.)
  • Their ability to write documents using the name of Paul attests to his continuing influence in the early church.
  • These Paulinists were undoubtedly students of Paul; they possessed his writings and meditated upon them.
  • They might have been the ones who collected and saved his “authentic letters.”
  • The Paulinists had concerns that were not part of the first generation.
  • One major concern of the Paulinists was how to explain the delay in the Parousia, or Jesus’ return.
  • 2 Thessalonians was drafted to explain this delay as well as to deal with issues of persecution, which began to occur after 64CE.
  • Another challenge was the rise of Gnosticism.
  • The authorities responded to Gnosticism by creating a canon and a creed – rooted in the authority of the original apostles, something that the Gnostics could not duplicate.
  • During this period, there was also a lot of reflection regarding the nature of Jesus – the development of Christology.
  • They began attributing to Jesus what others had previously only attributed to God.
  • They also began thinking of Jesus as the redeemer.
  • Those who were interested in the universal church began thinking of Jesus as the great reconciler. By the time of Colossians and Ephesians, this was considered to be fact not metaphor.
  • In a similar fashion, Paul uses the concept of the body of the church to mean the believers; later developments place Jesus as the head of this body. He is what gives it power and life.
  • Paul preaches equality for all, unlike later writers who propound on the household codes, wherein the model of male dominance provides the norm and stability for Roman society.
  • When Paul speaks of a church, he means the one in someone’s house. When later writers speak of church, they are referring to the universal church.
  • By this time, Christianity had grown from being a series of small groups meeting in houses to a broader movement.
  • The later writers saw the Church as representing the unity of the Jew and Gentile as people of God.
  • But, by this time, the temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed; the Jews had scattered and no one was asking how Jewish the Gentiles had to be. Those battles were over.
  • This period is also when authors state that the church was “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.”
  • These are all signs of a church preparing for its future, for a time beyond when the original apostles (authority figures) are passing away.
  • Indeed, the church is carefully evolving, providing structure and policy that will enable it to survive for centuries.


Duling, Dennis and Norman Perrin. The New Testament. Proclamation and Parenesis, Myth and History. Philadelphia, PA: Harcourt Brace College Publishers. 1994.

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