Third Epistle to the Corinthians

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The Third Epistle to the Corinthians is a text under the name of Paul the Apostle. It is also found in the Acts of Paul, and was framed as Paul's response to the Epistle of the Corinthians to Paul. The earliest extant copy is Papyrus Bodmer X, dating to the third century.[1] Originally written in Greek, the letter survives in Greek, Coptic, Latin, and Armenian manuscripts.[2][1]

Content and theological background[edit]

The text is structured as an attempt to correct alleged misinterpretations of the earlier First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians, of which the author (usually called "pseudo-Paul") has become aware due to the (similarly dubious) Epistle of the Corinthians to Paul. According to the preceding part of the Acts of Paul, when the letter was written Paul was in prison, on account of Stratonice, the wife of Apollophanes.


In the West it was not considered canonical in the 4th century AD, becoming part of the New Testament apocrypha. In the East, in the Syriac Orthodox Church, Aphrahat (c. 340) treated it as canonical and Ephrem the Syrian (d. 373) apparently accepted it as canonical,[3] because he wrote a commentary on it. The Doctrine of Addai includes it, but it was not included in the Syriac Peshitta translation of the Bible (but nor were 23 John, 2 Peter, Jude, or Revelation, which are almost universally recognized as canonical, see also Antilegomena). Although part of the Oskan Armenian Bible of 1666, it was in an Appendix to the Zohrab Armenian Bible of 1805 which follows the Vulgate canon, and it is not currently considered part of the Armenian Orthodox New Testament.[4] It was not part of the canon list of Anania Shirakatsi in the 7th century but is part of the canon lists of Hovhannes Imastaser (11th century), Mekhitar of Ayrivank (13th century) and Gregory of Tatev (14th century).[5][6]

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The ancient Syrian (Edessene) Church revered as canonical a Third Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, which is accompanied by a letter from the pastors of that Church, to which it is an answer. But about the beginning of the fifth century the Syrian Church fell under the influence of the Greek, and in consequence the spurious letter gradually lost its canonical status. It was taken up by the neighbouring Armenians and for centuries has formed a part of the Armenian New Testament. Latin and Greek writers are completely silent about this pseudograph, although Greek and Latin copies have been found. It was obviously suggested by the lost genuine Pauline letter referred to in I Cor. v, 9; vii, 1. It was composed by a presbyter about 160–170, and is a disguised attack on some of the leading errors of Gnosticism. This correspondence long had an independent circulation, but recently it has been proved that the document was incorporated into the Acts of St. Paul (q.v.).


  1. ^ a b Charlesworth, James Hamilton (2014). Charlesworth; McDonald, Lee Martin; Jurgens, Blake A. (eds.). Sacra Scriptura: How "Non-Canonical" Texts Functioned in Early Judaism and Early Christianity. London: Bloomsbury. p. xix. ISBN 978-0-56714-887-2.
  2. ^ G. J. Reinink; Alexander Cornelis Klugkist (January 1999). After Bardaisan: Studies on Continuity and Change in Syriac Christianity in Honour of Professor Han J.W. Drijvers. Peeters Publishers. p. 53. ISBN 978-90-429-0735-5.
  3. ^ The Canon Debate, McDonald & Sanders editors, 2002, page 492, citing as reference Bruce M. Metzger's Canon of the NT, pages 219, 223; cf. 7, 176, 182.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-05-13. Retrieved 2008-05-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ Nersessian, V. (2001). The Bible in the Armenian Tradition. J. Paul Getty Museum. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-89236-640-8.
  6. ^ Canons & Recensions Of The Armenian Bible

External links[edit]