Epistles, Spurious Of these many are lost; but there are several extant, of which the following are the principal (see Jones, A new Method of settling the Canon, volume 2). SEE CANON.
1. The Epistle of Paul to the Laodiceans. — There was an "Epistle to the Laodiceans" extant in the beginning of the second century, which was received by Marcion, but whether this is the same with the one now extant in the Latin language is more than doubtful. "There are some," says Jerome, "who read the Epistle to the Laodiceans, but it is universally rejected." The original epistle was most probably a forgery founded on Col 4:16. "And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the Church of the Laodiceans, and that ye likewise read the Epistlefrom Laodicea." The apparent ambiguity of these last words has induced some to understand Paul as speaking of an epistle written by him to the Laodiceans, which he advises the Colossians to procure from Laodicea and read to their Church. "Some," says Theodoret, "imagine Paul to have written an epistle to the Laodiceans, and accordingly produce a certain forged epistle; but the apostle does not say the epistle to, but the epistle from the Laodiceans." Bellarmine among the Roman Catholics, and among the Protestants Le Clerc and others, suppose that the passage in Colossians refers to an epistle of Paul, now lost, and the Vulgate translation — eam quae Laodicensium est — seems to favor this view. Grotius, however, conceives that the Epistle to the Ephesians is here meant, and he is followed by Hammond, Whitby, and Mill, and also by archbishop Wake (Epistles of the Apostolic Fathers). Theophylact, who is followed by Dr. Lightfoot, conceives that the epistle alluded to is 1 Timothy. Others hold it to be 1 John, Philemon, etc. Mr. Jones conjectures that the epistle now passing as that to the Laodiceans (which seems entirely compiled out of the Epistle to the Philippians) was the composition of some idle monk not long before the Reformation; but this opinion is scarcely compatible with the fact mentioned by Mr. Jones himself, that when Sixtus of Sienna published his Bibliotheca Sancta (A.D. 1560), there was a very old manuscript of this epistle in the library of the Sorbonne.
This epistle was first published by James le Fevre, of Estaples, in 1517. It may be found in Gr. and Lat. in Fabricius, Codex Apocr. 2:871; and translated in Hone's Apocryphal N.T. page 94. SEE LAODICEANS (EPISTLE TO).
2. The Third Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians. — It was the opinion of Calvin, Louis Capell, and many others, that the apostle Paul wrote several epistles besides those now extant. One of the chief grounds of this opinion is the passage 1Co 5:9. There is still extant, in the Armenian language, an epistle from the Corinthians to St. Paul, together with the apostle's reply. This is considered by Mr. La Croze to be a forgery of the tenth or eleventh century, and he asserts that it was never cited by any one of the early Christian writers. In this, however, he is mistaken, for this epistle is expressly quoted as Paul's by St. Gregory the Illuminator in the third century, Theodore Chrethenor in the seventh, and St. Nierses in the twelfth. Neither of them, however, is quoted by any ancient Greek or Latin writer (Henderson, On Inspiration, page 497. The passages are cited at length in father Paschal Aucher's Armenian and English Grammar, Venice, 1819. Lord Byron's translation of them is given by Stanley in his Commentary on Corinthians, 2:303). SEE CORINTHIANS (FIRST EPISTLE TO).
3. The Epistle of Peter to James is a very ancient forgery. It was first published by Cotelerius, and is supposed to have been a preface to the Preaching of Peter, which was in great esteem among some of the early Christian writers, and is several times cited as a genuine work by Clement of Alexandria, Theodotus of Byzantium, and others. It was also made use of by the heretic Heracleon, in the second century. Origen observes of it that it is not to be reckoned among the ecclesiastical books, and that it is neither the writing of Peter nor of any other inspired person. Mr. Jones conceives it to be a forgery of some of the Ebionites in the beginning of the second century. It is given in Gr. and Latin by Fabricius, Cod. Apocr. N.T. 2:907. SEE PETER.
4. The Epistles of Paul and Seneca consist of eight extended Latin letters from the philosopher Seneca to the apostle Paul, and six from the latter to Seneca. (See Fabricius, Cod. Apocr. N.T. 2:872; and the translation in Hone's Apocryphal N.T. page 95 sq.) Their antiquity is undoubted. St. Jerome had such an idea of the value of these letters that he was induced to say, "I should not have ranked Seneca in my catalogue of saints, but that I
was determined to it by those epistles of Paul to Seneca and Seneca to Paul, which are read by many... . He was slain by Nero two years before Peter and Paul were honored with martyrdom." St. Augustine also observes (Epistle to Macedonius) that "Seneca wrote certain epistles to St. Paul which are now read." The epistles are also referred to in the spurious "Acts" of Linus, the first bishop of Rome after the apostles. But these Acts are a manifest forgery, and were first alluded to by a monk of the eleventh century. The letters do not appear to have been mentioned by any other ancient writer; but it seems certain that those now extant are the same which were known to Jerome and Augustine. The genuineness of these letters has been maintained by some learned men, but by far the greater number reject them as spurious. Mr. Jones conceives them to be a forgery of the fourth century, founded on Phillipians 4:22. Indeed, there are few persons mentioned in the New Testament as companions of the apostle who have not had some spurious piece or other fathered on them. SEE SENECA.
5. Among the apocryphal letters now universally rejected are the well- known Epistle of Lentulus to the Roman senate, giving a description of the person of Christ (Orthodoxographia, page 2, Basil. 1555; Fabricii Cod. Epig. 1719), and some pretended epistles of the Virgin Mary. One of these is said to be written in Hebrew, and addressed to the Christians of Messina in Sicily, of which a Latin translation has been published, and its genuineness gravely vindicated (Veritas Vindicata, 1692, fol.). It is dated from Jerusalem, in the 42d year "of our Son." nones of July, Luna 17, Feria quinta. The metropolitan church of our Lady of the Letter, at Messina, takes its name from the possession of this celebrated epistle, of which some have pretended that even the autograph still exists. An epistle of the Virgin to the Florentines has been also celebrated, and there is extant a pretended letter from the same to St. Ignatius, together with his reply. (For three of these spurious letters, see Fabricius, Cod. Apocr. N.T. 2:842.) SEE JESUS CHRIST.
For other spurious epistles, SEE APOCRYPHA.