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The Particularity of the Pauline Epistles as A Problem in The Ancient Church

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Chapter Summary

In one of his brilliant, smaller essays, Oscar Cullmann has dealt with "The Plurality of the Gospels as a Theological Problem in Antiquity". As he points out, the plurality of epistles caused no difficulty: "It was easy to grasp the fact that Paul had written to number of Churches". The theological problem raised by the Pauline Epistles, was not their plurality, but their particularity. An answer was found in the observation, that Paul, like John in Revelation II-III, had written to seven Churches, and, thus, to the whole Church. Obviously, this answer is closely akin to the theory of Irenaeus that there has to be four Gospels, corresponding to the four regions of the world, the four living creatures, etc. The theory of the seven churches of Paul found its first literary attestion in the Muratorian canon, but is not likely to be an invention of its unknown, anti-Marcionite author.

Keywords: Church; Gospels; Oscar Cullmann; Pauline Epistles; theological problem

10.1163/9789004265837_024
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