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Epistle to the Laodiceans

At a Glance
Treatise
Genre:
(5/5) *****
Reliability of Dating:
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Length of Text:
Greek
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Ancient Translations:
Modern Translations:

Estimated Range of Dating: 150-350 A.D.

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Information on the Epistle to the Laodiceans

Wilhelm Schneemelcher writes of the references to a text of this name, "in the Muratori Canon (cf. vol. I, p. 36) two Marcionite forgeries, an epistle to the Laodiceans and one to the Alexandrians, are mentioned and rejected. Apart from the suggestion that these books were 'forged in Paul's name for the sect of Marcion' (lines 64f.), the passage provides no sort of clue to any closer identification of this epistle. Tertullian reports (adv. Marc. V 11 and 17) that the heretics, i.e. the Marcionites, regarded Ephesians as the Epistle to the Laodiceans and that Marcionite himself had made this change in the title. This note is confirmed to some extent by Epiphanius of Salamis (Haer. 42.9.4 and 42.12.3), who, it is true, gives no clear information as to whether the source which he copies here (Hippolytus) recognised Ephesians as the Epistle to the Laodiceans or whether in addition to Ephesians an Epistle to the Laodiceans also stood in the Marcionite canon. Filastrius (Haer. LXXXIX), who briefly mentions the Epistle to the Laodiceans in the context of his discussion of Hebrews, likewise goes no farther. Other references (assembled in Pink, op. cit.) also contribute little to our knowledge of the Epistle to the Laodiceans. The so-called Speculum (ps.-Augustine, de Divinis Scripturis, 5th century or 6th century) is unambiguous: here verse 4 of the Epistle to the Laodiceans preserved in Latin is quoted (CSEL 12, 516); Gregory the Great must also be reckoned among the positive witnesses for this epistle handed down in Latin (Moralia 35.20.48; PL 76, 778C)." (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 2, p. 42)

Schneemelcher writes concerning the date of the text, "The dating of the Epistle to the Laodiceans is difficult for the reason that it depends on the question of the identity of this apocryphon with the one mentioned in the Muratori Canon, and this again is closely connected with the problem of its Marcionite derivation. Either the Muratori Canon means the Epistle to the Ephesians, the name of which was changed by Marcion into the Epistle to the Laodiceans (so Tertullian) - that, however, is unlikely, since Ephesians is mentioned in the Muratori Canon - or it had actually in view a separate Epistle to the Laodiceans, and then it must be the Latin Epistle to the Laodiceans that has come down to us, if we are not to assume several pseudo-Pauline letters to Laodicea. Certainly the Latin Epistle to the Laodiceans shows no sort of Marcionite character such as ought to be expected according to the statement of the Muratori Canon." (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 2, p. 43)

Schneemelcher reviews some arguments made by Harnack and Quispel to attempt to show the Marcionite character of the text known to us from Latin copies as the Epistle to the Laodiceans, "it may be said that the Marcionite origin of the Latin Epistle to the Laodiceans is an hypothesis that can neither be proved nor sustained. It is rather a clumsy forgery, the purpose of which is to have in the Pauline corpus the Epistle to the Laodiceans mentioned in Col. 4:16. Whether the Epistle to the Laodiceans mentioned in the Muratori Canon is identical with this apocryphon remains unsettled. With that possibility of an accurate dating also falls out. As the time of composition there comes into question the period between the 2nd century and the 4th." (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 2, p. 44)

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Kirby, Peter. "Epistle to the Laodiceans." Early Christian Writings. <http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/laodiceans.html>.