Posted by: chuckbumgardner | January 21, 2016

Most Common Pauline Passages in pre-Nicene Christianity

An interesting work by Jennifer Strawbridge, The Pauline Effect: The Use of the Pauline Epistles by Early Christian Writers (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2015), has provided research based on a dataset of just over 27,000 references to Paul’s epistles in early Christian writings, grounded in a fairly exhaustive survey of pre-Nicene literary texts   (“This database will be available online as a searchable digital resource from September 2016” [p. 10, n. 30]). There is a lot that could be derived from a database like this. Here are a couple of things I found interesting:

(1) The Pauline passages most cited in these early literary texts were: 1 Cor 2:6-16 (691 instances); Col 1:15-20 (673); Phil 2:6-8 (568; very often found alongside a Col 1:15-20 citation); Eph 6:10-17 (466); 1 Cor 15:50-58 (404); 1 Cor 1:20-24 (382); Rom 8:14-17 (227); Eph 2:11-15 (159); Rom 8:30-39 (142) (p. 11, n. 38). This doesn’t necessarily mean that preachers preached on these texts more than any other, or that early Christians had these texts memorized more often than others, but does point to their general prominence in the early church.

(2) The vast majority of Paul’s epistles is cited in these literary texts; Strawbridge’s research found only 192 verses that weren’t represented (40 in Romans; 21 in 1 Cor; 32 in 2 Cor; 13 in Gal; 3 in Eph; 14 in Phil; 4 in Col; 12 in 1 Thess; 7 in 2 Thess; 14 in 1 Tim; 18 in 2 Tim; 9 in Titus; 5 in Phm) (p. 12, n. 39).

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