Thursday, May 25, 2017

What are the notes at the end of Paul’s epistles

Question: What are the notes at the end of Paul’s epistles? For example, after Galatians 6:18 in some Bibles there is a note that says “Unto the Galatians written from Rome”.

These notes are found in some Bibles at the end of each of Paul’s epistles, from Romans to Hebrews.[i] These notes have been called “postscripts,”[ii] “endnotes,”[iii] but probably more commonly “subscriptions.”[iv] The most important thing to know is that the subscriptions on these 14 epistles are not part of the original writings of Paul. Some scholars believe they were added by Euthalius, who was “a deacon of Alexandria and later Bishop of Sulca.” The subscriptions can be determined to be uninspired additional commentary by (1.) internal biblical evidence – by study of the epistles it can be determined that some of them are incorrect; for example, when the information supplied does not agree with the facts of the epistle; (2.) other factual oddities and inaccuracies, such as Paul writing “The first epistle to the Corinthians was written from Philippi…” when he did not yet know he would write a second epistle, or the description of Phrygia which was not current in Paul’s lifetime. Below is appended a longer statement on subscriptions from Thomas Hartwell Horne’s An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures.
“V. But the Subscriptions annexed to the Epistles are manifestly spurious: for, in the first place, some of them are beyond all doubt false, as those of the two Epistles to the Thessalonians, which purport to be written at Athens, whereas they were written from Corinth. In like manner, the subscription to the first epistle to the Corinthians states, that it was written from Philippi, notwithstanding St. Paul informs them (xvi. 8.) that he will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost; and notwithstanding he begins his salutations in that Epistle, by telling the Corinthian Christians (xvi. 19.) the Churches of Asia salute you; a pretty evident indication that he himself was in Asia at that very time. Again, according to the subscription, the Epistle to the Galatians was written from Rome; yet, in the Epistle itself, the Apostle expresses his surprise (i. 6.) that they were so soon removed from him that called them; whereas his journey to Rome was ten years posterior to the conversion of the Galatians. And what still more conclusively proves the falsehood of this subscription, is, the total absence in this epistle of all allusions to his bonds or to his being a prisoner; which Saint Paul has not failed to notice in every one of the four epistles, written from that city and during his imprisonment.3 Secondly, the subscriptions are altogether wanting in some antient manuscripts of the best note, while in others they are greatly varied. And, thirdly, the subscription annexed to the first Epistle to Timothy is evidently the production of a writer of the age of Constantine the Great, and could not have been written by the apostle Paul: for it states that epistle to have been written to Timothy from Laodicea, the chief city of Phrygia Pacatiana; whereas the country of Phrygia was not divided into the two provinces of Phrygia Prima, or Pacatiana, and Phrygia Secunda, until the fourth century. According to Dr. Mill, the subscriptions were added by Euthalius Bishop of Sulca in Egypt, who published an edition of the Acts, Epistles of Saint Paul, and of the Catholic Epistles, about the middle of the fifth century. But, whoever was the author of the subscriptions, it is evident that he was either grossly ignorant, or grossly inattentive.
“The various subscriptions and titles to the different books are exhibited in Griesbach’s Critical Edition of the New Testament.”[v]
“3. Paley’s Horaæ Paulinæ, pp. 378, 379.”

[i] All do not agree that Paul wrote the epistle to the Hebrews, but there is a note at the end of it, nevertheless.
[ii] “2. any addition or supplement, as one appended by a writer to a book to supply further information.”
[iii] “1. a note, as of explanation, emendation, or the like, added at the end of an article, chapter, etc.”
[iv] “10. something written beneath or at the end of a document or the like.”
[v] Thomas Hartwell Horne, An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, Volume 2, Philadelphia, PA: E. Littell, 1825, pp. 154-155

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