David C. Hindley on the composite epistles of Paul.

An interpolated corpus?

David C. Hindley has long offered a novel breakdown of the Pauline epistles into original text and interpolated text to any who would email him requesting the relevant files. He has kindly granted me permission to host his Pauline Corpus Analysis files on ; I have converted his original .doc files to .pdf, and the following are available:

(Left click to read online; right click and save as to download to your PC.)

Hindley introduces these files as follows:

Years ago, when I first started reading the Bible seriously (at maybe 15 years of age), the first thing I noticed about the Pauline letters was that they were exceedingly hard to follow at times. Like most people, I attributed this to some sort of lost understanding about the age in which, and the people to which, the letters were written. As a result, I made diligent efforts to recover that context and tease out an outline of the knowledge that Paul seemed to be assuming his readers/listeners would already know.

Although I was raised an Episcopalian (the American version of the UK's Anglican Church), this process started while I was enthralled by the American version of evangelicalism (mainly Baptist or Reformed in orientation). At the time, I honestly believed the "scriptures" were inspired and should be taken literally. Obviously, this presented problems for interpretation. Being naturally inquisitive, I started looking "outside the box" and soon discovered the church fathers, the apocrypha, and the pseudepigrapha. It was then that I realized that more had apparently been going on in those formative years than I was learning about in Sunday school or Bible studies.

One of my frustrations with the Pauline letters was the way they seemed to digress from the point the author seemed to be making, and it was difficult to discern exactly when, or if, the point was ever returned to and concluded. Luckily, I had taken a year of NT Greek, and then an additional year of Classical Greek, to satisfy my foreign language requirement in college. As part of an attempt to sew up these disconnected parts of arguments, and with the help of a Greek-English NT, I started identifying themes and bracketing out material that I felt fell outside of the point being made.

In this process, I started noticing that the lion's share of these bracketed sections were Christ oriented. Not long into the process I also noticed that the bracketed and unbracketed material tended to have traits unique to one another but not common to both.

Essentially, bracketed material never used the definite article with QEOS (as in "the" God, i.e., of the Jews) while the unbracketed text almost always did, and bracketed material always used the definite article with KURIOS (where it was always used in reference to Christ, as in "the" Lord/Master) while the unbracketed part almost never did (using KURIOS as a circumlocution for the Tetragrammaton). Imagining that these might represent characteristics peculiar to different authors, I began to apply them as general rules.

Where the above words or phrases were not present, I used topical words to identify other sections of text that were related by subject or these with the already bracketed text. Gradually, I came up with the sets of bracketed materials you will see.

They seem to fall into three classes:
1) self-contained discourse units of sentences and even paragraphs, forming the "digressions" I had previously noted;
2) intrusive phrases that generally formed subordinate clauses in the Greek sentences that could be safely snipped out without causing much if any harm to the grammatical structure of the sentences, apparently intended to "explain" what the original text "really" meant; and
3) a whole lot of one to three word phrases liberally strewn about, such as "in Christ" or "of Christ," etc, apparently intended to redirect the subjects or objects of many sentences away from those that they originally referred to.

These characteristics were present in all 13 letters, but not in the general epistles.

Since the overarching theme in the unbracketed material was justification of gentiles by faith, and since it was coherent and constituted over 2/3 of the text, I considered it primary. As hard as I tried, I could not find any way to keep any text referring to Jesus, or Jesus qualified either as "Lord" or "Christ" in the primary group, due to clear cut keyword connections to subject themes that were common in the bracketed material. It was clear to me that the bracketed material was secondary, and the most natural explanation for the mixture was interpolation.

The "primary" material was quite Jewish in nature and thought. The secondary (bracketed) material was familiar with Jewish apocalyptic thought and Jewish scripture, but displayed a significant hostility toward Jews in general, and a tendency to gloat that God had chosen them instead of the Jews, which suggests to me that the interpolator's group was not closely related to the group from which sprang the primary texts. This also pretty much ruled out Marcion as the writer of the primary material. He may have had something to do with the interpolator, but the secondary material is never coherent enough to have formed the basis of the original letters.

Then there are the issues of just what kinds of historical events and sociological processes might have contributed to produce the Pauline letters as we have them today.

The interpolator(s), for instance, is/are of the opinion that the Jews justly deserved the misfortunes they were getting, slavery, etc., suggesting the interpolations post-dated the war of 66-70.

The interest of the primary author ("Paul") in women dishonoring her "head" and being shorn may have something to do with the Nazirite vow discharged by Queen Helena of Adiabene sometime in the late 40's to mid 50's CE. I can't shake the feeling that the "man of lawlessness" of 2 Thess. 2:3-7 is the Emperor Gaius, and the restraining entity is the Governor of Syria, Petronius, dating the events of that letter to around 40 CE. If these are really indicators of date, then the order of Paul's activities in Acts must certainly be wrong.

There is still much to do, and this process has been on hiatus since 2003 due to job changes. In some places the bracketing could be done different ways. I would like to formulate a set of formal criteria and then re-do the whole process in an open forum to see if interested parties can help identify methodological flaws or logical fallacies and lapses. Then I'd like to do something similar to the other NT letters and those of some of the apostolic fathers, then engage in some statistical analysis to see if the apparent stylistic differences are just an apparent phenomenon or a real difference in style.

Dave Hindley,
Newton Falls, Ohio, USA

Also available: Overlaps in Ephesians and Colossians.