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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Laodiceans, Epistle to the.

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"In the conclusion of the Epistle to the Colossians (Colossians 4:16), the apostle, after sending to the Colossians the salutations of himself and others who were with him, enjoins the Colossians to send this epistle to the Laodiceans, and that they likewise should read the one from Laodicea (τὴν ἐκ Λαοδικεαίς ). It is disputed whether by these concluding words Paul intends an epistle from him to the Laodiceans or one from the Laodiceans to him. The use of the preposition to favors the latter conclusion, and this has been strongly urged by Theodoret; Chrysostom, Jerome, Philastrius, (Ecumenius, Calvin, Beza, Storr, and a multitude of other interpreters. Winer, however, clearly shows that the preposition here may be under the law of attraction, and that the full force of the passage may be thus given: that written to the Laodiceans, and to be brought from Laodicea to you (Grammatik d. Neutestamentl. Sprachidioms, page 434, Lpz. 1830). It must be allowed that such an interpretation of the apostle's words is in itself more probable than the other; for, supposing him to refer to a letter from the Laodiceans to him, the questions arise, How were the Colossians to procure this unless he himself sent it to them? And of what use would such a document be to them?

To this latter question it has been replied that probably the letter from the Laodiceans contained some statements which influenced the apostle in writing to the Colossians, and which required to be known before his letter in reply could be perfectly understood. But this is said without the slightest shadow of reason from the epistle before us; and it is opposed by the fact that the Laodicean epistle was to be used by the Colossians after they had read that to themselves (ὅταν ἀναγνωσθῇ, κ . τ . λ .). It seems, upon the whole, most likely that the apostle in this passage refers to an epistle sent by him to the Church in Laodicea some time before that to the Church at Colossae." The suggestion of Grotius (after Marcion) that it is identical with the canonical Epistle to the Ephesians has substantially been adopted by Mill and Wetstein, and many modern critics: see, especially, Holzhausen, Der Brief an die Ephesen (Hannover, 1834); Baur, Paulus (2d ed. Lpz. 1866-7), 2:47 sq.; Rabiger, De Christologia Paulina (Breslau, 1852), page 48; Bleek, Einleitung in das N.T. (2d ed. Berlin, 1866), page 454 sq.; Hausrath, Der Apostel Paulus (Heidelb. 1865), page 2; Volkmar, Commentar zur Offenb. Joh. (Zurich, 1862), page 66; Kiene, in the Stud. u. Krit. 1869, page 323 sq.; Klostermann, in the Jahrb. fur deutsche Theol. 1870, page 160 sq.; Hitzig, Zur Kritik Paulinischen Briefe (Lpz. 1870), page 27. The only supposition that seems to meet all the circumstances of the case is that the Epistle to the Ephesians, although not exactly encyclical, was designed (as indeed its character evinces) for general circulation; and that Paul, after having dispatched this, addressed a special epistle to the Colossians on occasion of writing to Philemon, and recommends the perusal of that to the Ephesians, which would by that time reach them by way of Laodicea. This explains the doubtful reading ἐν Ε᾿φέσῳ, and the absence of personal salutation in the Epistle to the Ephesians, and at the same time the allusion to a letter from Laodicea; while it obviates the objectionable hypothesis of the loss of an inspired epistle, to which particular attention had thus been called, and which was therefore the more likely to have been preserved. (See EPHESIANS, EPISTLE TO).

Wieseler's theory (Apost. Zeitalter, page 450) is that the Epistle to Philemon is meant; and the tradition in the Apostolical Constitutions that he was bishop of this see is adduced in confirmation. But this is utterly at variance with the evidently personal nature of the epistle. (See PHILEMON, EPISTLE TO). Others think that the apostle refers to an epistle now lost, as Jerome and Theodoret seem to mention such a letter, and it was also referred to at the second general Council of Nicaea. But these allusions are too vague to warrant such a conclusion. The apocryphal epistle, now extant, and claiming to be that referred to by Paul, entitled Epistola ad Laodicenses, is admitted on all hands to be a late and clumsy forgery. It exists only in Latin MSS., from which a Greek version was made by Hutten (in Fabricius, Cod. Apocr. N.T. 1:873 sq.). It is evidently a cento from the Galatians and Ephesians. A full account of it may be found in Jones (On the Canon, 2:31-49). The Latin text is given by Auger (ut inf.), and all English version by Eadie (Comment. on Colos.). We may remark in this connection that the subscription at the end of the First Epistle to Timothy (ἐγράφη ἀπὸ Λαοδικείας, ἣτις ἐστὶ μητρόπολις Φρυγιας τῆς Πακατιανῆς ) is of no authority; but it is worth mentioning, as showing the importance of Laodicea. On the general subject of the Laodicean epistle, see Michaelis, Introd. 4:124; Hug, Introd. 2:436; Steiger, Colosserbr. ad loc.; Heinrichs, ad loc.; Raphel. ad loc.; and especially Credner, Geschichte d. N. 7. Kanon (ed.Volkmar, Berlin, 1860), p. 300, 313; Auger, Ueb. d. Laodicenerbrief (Lpz. 1843); Sartori Ueb. d. Laodicenerbrief (Lü beck, 1853); Conybeare and Howson, Life and Epistles of St. Paul, 2:395 sq.; Huth, Ep. ex Laodicea in Encyclica and Ephesios odservata (Erlangen, 1751); and other monographs cited by Volbeding, Index Programmatum, page 85. (See PAUL).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Laodiceans, Epistle to the.'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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