Understanding The Bible
Introduction to The Pauline Prison and
Dr. Douglas B. MacCorkle, Th.D.
MacCorkle, Th. D.
Introduction to the Pauline Prison and Pastoral Epistles
Philadelphia College of Bible
INTRODUCTORY DATA – THE PRISON EPISTLES
Introductory problems facing the student of the Prison Epistles:
- The Date of writing in each
- The Place of writing
- The Addresses
- The Author
- The Epistles involved
- The Order in which written
- Ephesians, Colossians,
Philemon – appear to be written about the same time.
- Ephesians 6:21, 22;
- Had the same bearer –
- Position Philippians last?
- Time problem – sufficient
time must have elapsed from imprisonment to epistle writing:
- Allow for Philippi to
hear of imprisonment
- Allow for Epaphreditus to
travel with gifts
- Allow for news of
Epaphreditus’ illness to get back to Philippi
- Aristarchus (Colossians
4:10, 14) Philemon 24) is not mentioned in Philippians. Only Timothy
appears to be available as a messenger (Philippians 2:19-21).
- Appears only to prove it
was written late – but not necessarily later.
- Argument from silence is
- Position Philippians
- Philemon (22) Paul
speaks of hope of release with greater emphasis than in Philippians
- Place of Imprisonment
- From Prison
Ephesians 3:1; 4:1; 6:20
Philippians 1:12, 13, 14, 7
- From which Prison?
- Paul (2 Corinthians 11:23)
speaks of more imprisonments than the other apostles had.
- Yet, at that time, Acts had
only mentioned the Philippian imprisonment – Acts 16:23-34
- Church traditionally -
Roman imprisonment scene of writing of epistles.
Majority view today also.
- Internal Evidence
- Free to preach Gospel
though in chains – Ephesians 6:19-20; Philippians 1:12-13 Colossians
This was true of Roman imprisonment. See Acts 28:16.
- Abundant fruition of
the work – Philippians 1:13; 4:22.
- Expression “Caesar’s
Household” could only be tied to Rome.
- Hope of excursion to
Philippi and Colossae (Philippians 2:24; Philemon 22) as soon as set
When Paul was in Caesarea he turned in the opposite direction
(Rome-Spain, etc.) Acts 19:21; Romans 1:10-15; 15:23-28) This is true
of time immediately preceding Caesarean imprisonment (cf. Spain –
Romans 15:18) Note also that there is no mention of Phillip whose home
was in Caesarea (Acts 21:8).
- External Evidence
- Traveling companions
Luke (Acts 27-28) Colossians 4:14
Aristarchus – Acts 27:2; Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24
- Certainty of
imprisonment there – Acts 28.
- Ephesus Imprisonment?
- 2 Corinthians 11:28; 1
Corinthians 15:32; 2 Corinthians 1:8-10. But these references are too
general to make Ephesus a serious possibility.
- No mention of Ephesian
imprisonment in Acts.
- Contemporary Exception #1 –
Two year imprisonment in Caesarea – Acts 24:27
- External Evidence
- After escape from
Colossae, Onesimus would more likely take refuge in Caesarea than in
Rome, which would be distant.
- But this refutes itself
– a fugitive slave would tend to get as far away as possible. Cold get
lost in Rome, Furthermore Onesimus not so apt to gain access to Paul
in Caesarea as at Rome.
- Furthermore positive
evidence of Caesarea is the missing link.
- No promise of release
point to in Caesarea.
- Internal Evidence
- Really against the
view. Conditions in Rome differ from that described in Acts of
Caesarea, e.g., no preaching mentioned. See Acts 28:30-31.
- Fruitfulness of work in
Rome differs from description of Caesarea.
- No promise of release.
See Philemon 22 – “prepare us a lodging.”
- Positive evidence
- Contemporary Exception #2
Some scholars assign epistles wholly or in part to the Ephesian (alleged)
imprisonment in spite of the fact that Acts does not mention it.
- Arguments urged for
Ephesus PRO (Imprisonment in Ephesus would have been 55-56 AD)
- Paul speaks of many
imprisonments not in Acts (2 Corinthians 11:23)
- He fought with beasts
at Rome (literally thrown into the arena) – 1 Corinthians 15:32
- 2 Corinthians 1:8 –
Severe trial (gk-thlipsis) which he passed through in Adia.
- Priscilla and Aquilla
risked their lives for Paul (Romans 16:3-4) most likely at Ephesus.
- Clement of Rome
mentioned seven imprisonments of Paul (2 Corinthians 5:6).
- Traces of tradition say
Paul met a lion. Identify this act as happening at Ephesus.
- Building in Ephesus
being shown as prison of Paul.
- Marcionite prologue to
Colossians states it was written from Ephesus.
- Testing of such evidence
- The DYING of 1
Corinthians 15:32 is metaphorical. Roman citizens and lions an
impossibility. (not fierce wolves in sheep’s clothing).
- THLIPSIS – we
could be many things – data does not require an imprisonment in
Ephesus. Must have happened after conflict of 1 Corinthians 15:32
- No word of Priscilla –
Aquilla in Ephesus after Paul’s arrival there. Not impossible but
highly doubtful support.
- Prison of Paul in
Ephesus without history of origin or course.
- Colossian prologue
written by a heretic. Independent tradition but solitary as well.
The kind of imprisonment reflected in Prison epistles is distinctive.
2 Corinthians 11:23 could only have passed Philippian imprisonment at
time of writing.
- Date of Epistles (based upon
No absolute chronological system can be established for Pauline Epistles, thus
no precise dates (cf. Guthrie, p. 13).
- Generally – between 61-63
- specifically – (based upon
- Colossians (61 AD),
Philemon (61 AD), Ephesians (61 AD), Philippians (63 AD) (MacCorkle’s
- Philippians, Ephesians,
- Philippians, Colossians,
*Canonical arrangement has merit for study purposes and for development of
- Introduction to Ephesians
- Authenticity of Epistle
- Traditional View (until
- Salutation (1:1-2)
identical with 2 Corinthians and Colossians. Claims to be Paul,
Apostle by the will of God.
- 3:1 (as in 2
Corinthians 11:1; Galatians 5:2; Colossians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians
2:18; Philemon 9).
- First person statements
abound in 3:1 ff. Gives picture of the Apostle and author reader
- External attestation
- Marcion – who accepted
only Paul (although to him it was Laodices) - 140 AD
- Muratorian Canon – 180
- Allusions to Epistle in
Fathers. Therefore must have preceded Clement of Rome (AD 95).
- Its Pauline Structure
Typical Pauline sequence: opening, greeting, thanksgiving, doctrinal
exposition, ethical exhortations, concluding salutations and
benedictions. Epistolary pattern. Basing of moral appeal on
doctrinal-theological ground. Integral part of Apostle’s approach.
- Its Language and Literary
Vocabulary common to other Pauline epistles.
Paradoxical antithesis (6:15; 20)
Free citations from OT (4:8-11)
Adaptation of OT language (1:22; 2:13, 17; 4:25; etc.)
- Its Historical Data
(Ephesians 2 – three arguments – silence)
- No reference to fall of
Jerusalem – in light of argument of dividing wall – 2:4 ff.
- No reference to
persecution of readers.
- Absence of
Summary: Impression of early setting.
- Theological Affinities
- Only new emphasis on
- Identical developments
of Father, Son, and Spirit
- Cast Against Pauline
- Linguistic and Stylistic
- Linguistic –
diabolos is not in other non-Pastoral Pauline letter. Also other
- Stylistic –
Goodspeed – reverberating and liturgical, not at all direct, rapid,
Mitten – artificial eloquence, which Paul elsewhere seems to avoid
deliberately. Also some redundant expressions.
- Literary Arguments
- Maintained that over ¼
of words of Ephesians are borrowed from Colossians. More that 1/3 of
words in Colossians reappearing Ephesians. No parallel in any other
- Frequency of parallel
terms used in a completely different sense. Mystery in Colossians is
Christ; in Ephesians the mystery is the Church.
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