Back in the good, old days in the heyday of biblical scholarship (especially those German schools of scholarship) lots and lots of people were doing computer analyses on Paul’s epistles and said,
Well, we don’t think Paul wrote all of his epistles. We think he may have written Galatians and a couple of others. Actually, there are fewer scholars these days who do that. They’re beginning to understand the fallacy of it. In fact, I knew it right from the get-go. When you understand that a man dictated these letters to a scribe, and the scribe was scribbling all this stuff down, it’s easy to see how his style might vary from letter to letter. Not only that, but when you have been writing as long as I’ve been writing, and you go back and read some of the junk that I wrote in previous years…Somebody, one of these years, if they ever cared enough, would run mine through a computer and say,
No, no, no, no. Ron wrote that early stuff, but there was some better writer doing this later stuff.
Now, you should know this about all that: scholars have to publish or perish, and they have to somehow establish their alleged objectivity. That means they can’t take the approach of a believer and get published in scholarly journals. They not only have to do their master’s theses and please a professor, their doctoral dissertations and impress a committee, they have to publish more than that in journals and in books. And they can’t just say the same thing over and over again. Remember, scholars are like city buses downtown: if you don’t like where this one is going, just wait—there’ll be another one along shortly going somewhere else. Fortunately for us, though, that system has worked remarkably well in some aspects, because if a scholar gets way out on a limb somewhere and says,
Oh, no, Paul didn’t write Romans or didn’t write this or didn’t write that, another scholar will come along and hold his feet to the fire, and he can make his bones by showing how the other scholar was wrong. And over time they have done a credit-worthy job of putting the original documents into our hands in a language we can understand. And we ought to salute and say,
Thank you, guys, but we should not elevate them or put them on a pedestal.
Now, not long ago I was watching a biography of Thomas Jefferson, and the narration of the story was being done by a lineup of historians and scholars—one after another. It was actually seamlessly put together and was a pretty good job. But as I listened, I slowly came to wonder,
Why am I listening to these fellows tell me what Jefferson thought when I could have Jefferson tell me himself. So I turned the thing off, got up on the internet, and ordered Jefferson’s autobiography. I was kind of shocked when I got it. It is easily the shortest autobiography I have ever read, and from a man I really would like to know a lot about—a truly remarkable man. So I could spend a lot of time telling you what scholars have said about Paul. But, hey, we have his letters right here in our hands. Just like we can get a hold of Jefferson’s letters, maybe we should go right to the source. At the Feast [in the sermon Romans 9–11], I thought I recalled that Paul had written Romans from Ephesus. As it happens, the best information we have suggests it was written from Corinth. Although I don’t think that’s certain at all. He may have written it on the boat, going from one place to another. I tend to be a little impatient with lectures on the background of New Testament books, but let’s take just a moment to acquaint ourselves with the likely time and place. Acts 18, verse 1…