Epistle to the Laodiceans

Epistula Pauli ad Laodicenses

Clavis numbers: CANT 305.

Related literature: an “Epistle to the Laodiceans” is listed in the Muratorian Canon.

Standard abbreviation: Ep. Lao.

Compiled by: Philip L. Tite, Affiliate Lecturer, University of Washington (titep@uw.edu or philip.tite@mail.mcgill.ca).

Posted January, 2016.


The apocryphal Epistle to the Laodiceans is a short letter of approximately 20 verses written in Paul’s name. The letter may have been originally written in Greek, but has only survived in several Latin manuscripts (the most important being Codex Fuldensis, ca. 546 CE) and various medieval translations. Ep. Lao. enjoyed a degree of acceptance in the Western Church as an authentic letter of Paul, but was quickly rejected in the Eastern Church (since the Second Council of Nicea, 787 CE). In the West, the letter was finally omitted from the New Testament canon by the Reformers and the the Council of Trent. Until recently, modern scholarship has almost universally treated this pseudonymous letter with disdain, describing it as an inept forgery comprised of lifted phrases from the authentic letters of Paul, specifically Philippians and Galatians, in an attempt to supply the “lost letter” from or to the Laodiceans mentioned in Col. 4:16. Although this dismissal approach has dominated scholarship, a few scholars have utilized Ep. Lao. for other research projects, thereby granting the letter a derivative value where the letter may assist in some other, more important, area of study.



Tite, Philip L. “Rambling Religious Studies Scholar! The Apocryphal Epistle to the Laodiceans.” Online https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHIbuTigWz0 (September 20, 2015).


3.1 Manuscripts and Editions

3.1.1 Latin

Vulgate manuscripts containing Ep. Lao. are summarized in Berger 1893 and Backus 1998.

Berger, Samuel. Histoire de la Vulgate pendant les premiers siècles du Moyen-Age. Nancy 1893.

Backus, Irena D. “Renaissance Attitudes towards New Testament Apocrypha. Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples and His Epigones.” Renaissance Quarterly 51 (1998): 1169-97 at 1172-73.

Harnack, Adolf von. Apocrypha, IV. Die apokrphen Briefe des Paulus an die Laodicener und Korinther. Kleine Texte für theologische Vorlesungen und Übungen, 12. Bonn: A. Marcus und E. Weber’s Verlag, 1905, pp. 2-6.

Lightfoot, J. B. St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon. Revised edition. Reprint: Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978 [1879], pp. 274-300.

3.1.2 Slavonic

De Santos Otero, Aurelio. Die handschriftliche Überlieferung der altslavischen Apokryphen. 2 vols. PTS 20 and 23. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1978 and 1981, vol. 1, pp. 147-48.

3.1.3 Arabic

Carra de Vaux, B. “L’Épitre aux Laodiceans en arabe.” RB 6 (1896): 221-26.

3.3 Modern Translations

3.3.1 English

Ehrman, Bart D. Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make it into the New Testament. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, p. 165 (reprinting Elliott 1993).

Elliott, J. K. The Apocryphal New Testament. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993, pp. 543-46.

Hone, William. The Apocryphal New Testament. 4th ed. 1820. Repr., Philadelphia, Gebbie & Co., 1890, p. 94. Online.

James, M. R. New Testament Apocrypha. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924; reprinted: Berkeley: Apocryphile Press, 2004, pp. 543-45.

3.3.2 French

Migne, Jacques-Paul. Dictionnaire des Apocryphes. 2 vols. 1856. Repr., Turnhout: Brepols, 1989, vol. 1, col. 1285-90. Online.

Vouaux, Léon. Les Actes de Paul et ses lettres apocryphes. Paris: Letouzey, 1913, p. 315-26.

Backus, Irena. “Lettre de Paul aux Laodicéens.” Pages 1089-97 in volume 2 of Écrits apocryphes chrétiens. Edited by  Pierre Geoltrain and Jean-Daniel Kaestli. Paris: Gallimard, 2005.

3.3.3 German

Schneemelcher, Wilhelm. “Der Laodicenerbrief.” Pages 41-44 in Neutestamentliche Apokryphen in deutscher Übersetzung, Bd. 1. Evangelien und Verwandtes. Edited by Wilhelm Schneemelcher. 6th ed. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1990. English translation: ““The Epistle to the Laodiceans.” Pages 44-46 in New Testament Apocrypha. Volume 2: Writings Relating to the Apostles; Apocalypses and Related Subjects. Revised edition. Translated by R. McL. Wilson. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press/Cambridge: James Clarke & Co. Ltd, 1992.

3.3.4 Italian

Erbetta, Mario. “La Lettera ai Laodiceni (160-190?).” Pages 63-67 in Gli Apocrifi del Nuovo Testamento. Volume 3: Lettere e Apocalissi. Turin: Marietti, 1981.

Firpo, Luigi. Apocrifi del Nuovo Testamento. Classici delle Religioni. Editrice Torinese, 1971, pp. 1720-23.

Moraldi, Luigi. Apocrifi del Nuovo Testamento. 2 vols. Turin: Unione Tipografico-Editrice Torinese, 1971, pp. 1720-23, 1733-34, 1737-38.

3.4 General Works

Note: works marked with § engage the problem of the “Letter to the Laodiceans” mentioned in Colossians 4:16.

Anderson, Charles P. “Epistle to the Laodiceans.” ABD 4.231-233.

§ Anderson, Charles P. “Who Wrote ‘The Epistle to the Laodiceans’?” JBL 85.4 (1966): 436-440.

Anger, Rudolph. Ueber den Laodiceans. Eine biblisch-kritische Untersuchung. Leipzig: Verlag von Gebhardt & Reisland, 1843, pp. 155-65.

Bacon, B. W. “St. Paul to the Laodiceans.” Expositor 17 (1919): 19-35.

Backus, Irena. Historical Method and Confessional Identity in the Era of the Reformation (1378-1615). Studies in Medieval and Reformation Thought, 94. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2003, pp. 276-86.

Backus, Irena. “New Testament Apocryphal Writings: Jacques Lefèvre d’Etaples and His Epigones.” Renaissance Quarterly 51 (1998): 1169-98.

Bardenhewer, Otto. Geschichte der altkirchlichen Litterature. Bd. 1: Vom Ausgange des apostolischen Zeitalters bis zum Ende des zweiten Jahrhunderts. Freiburg: Herdersche Verlagshandlung, 1902, pp. 459-62.

Barry, Alfred. “Ephesians.” In Galatians, Ephesians, and Philippians. New Testament Commentary. Edited by Charles John Elliott, 120-231. London/Paris/New York: Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co., 1879. (See esp. pp. 123-26.)

Blackman, E. C. Marcion and His Influence. London: S.P.C.K., 1948, esp. pp. 61-62.

§ Boismard, Marie-Émile. “Paul’s Letter to the Laodiceans.” In The Pauline Canon. PAST, 1. Edited by Stanley E. Porter, 45-57. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2004.

§Boismard, Marie-Émile. La Letter de Saint Paul aux Laodicéens : Retrouvée et commentée. Cahiers de la Revue Biblique, 42. Paris : J. Gabalda, 1999.

Burnet, Régis. “Pourquoi avoir écrit l’insipide épître aux Laodicéens?” NTS 48 (2002): 132-41.

Cosgrove, Charles H. “Laodiceans, Epistle to the.” In the Mercer Dictionary of the Bible. Edited by Watson E. Mills, 500. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1990.

Donelson, Lewis R. Pseudepigraphy and Ethical Argument in the Pastoral Epistles. Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1986, pp. 42-43.

Ehrman, Bart D. Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, pp. xiii, 213-15.

Goodspeed, E. J. “A Toledo Manuscript of Laodiceans.” JBL 23.1 (1904): 76-78.

Goodspeed, E. J. “The Madrid MS. of Laodiceans.” AJT 8 (1904): 536-538.

Gregory, Andrew. “Non-Canonical Epistles and Related Literature.” Pages 90-114 in The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Apocrypha. Edited by Andrew Gregory and Christopher Tuckett. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015, esp. pp. 97-98.

Günther, Matthias. “Laodiceans, Letter to the.” Page 326 in Religion Past & Present: Encylopedia of Theology and Religion, Vol. 7: Joh-Mah. Edited by Hans Dieter Betz, Don S. Browning, Bernd Janowski and Eberhard Jüngel. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2009.

Hall, Thomas N. “Aelfric and the Epistle to the Laodiceans.” Pages 65-84 in Apocryphal Texts and Traditions in Anglo-Saxon England. Edited by Kathryn Powell and Donald Scragg. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2003.

Harnack, Adolf von. Marcion, das Evangelium vom fremden Gott. 2nd edition. Leipzig, 1924, pp. 134-49; ET: Marcion: The Gospel of the Alien God. Translated by John E. Steely and Lyle D. Bierma. Durham, NC: The Labyrinth Press, 1990.

Harnack, Adolf von. “Der apokryphe Brief des Apostels Paulus an die Laodicener, eine Marcionitische Fälschung aus der 2. Hälfte des 2. Jahrhunderts.” Sitzungsberichte der preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Jahrgang 1923. Philosophisch-historische Klasse. Berlin: Verlage der Akademie der Wissenschaften/Walter de Gruyter, 1923, pp. 234-245.

§ Hermann, Leon. “LÉpitre aux Laodicéens (Laodicéens et l’apologie aux Hebreux).” Cahiers du Cercle Ernest Renan 58.2 (1968): 1-16.

Holloway, Paul A. Consolation in Philippians: Philosophical Sources and Rhetorical Strategy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001, pp. 9-11.

Holloway, Paul A. “The Apocryphal Epistle to the Laodiceans and the Partitioning of Philippians.” HTR 91 (1998): 321-325.

Hutter, Elias. Polyglott New Testament. Nuremberg, 1599.

Jülicher, Adolf. An Introduction to the New Testament. Translated by Janet Penrose Ward. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1904, pp. 502, 543-44, 548, 556.

Kelhoffer, James A. Miracle and Mission: The Authentication of Missionaries and their Message in the Longer Ending of Mark. WUNT II.112. Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 2000, pp. 150-51.

§ Knox, John. Philemon Among the Letters of Paul: A New View of Its Place and Importance. Revised edition. New York: Abingdon, 1959, pp. 38-47.

§ Knox, John. Marcion and the New Testament: An Essay in the Early History of the Canon. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1942, pp. 40-41.

Longenecker, Bruce W. and Scott C. Ryan. “Presenting the Pauline Voice: An Appreciation of the Letter to the Laodiceans.” New Testament Studies 62.1 (2016): 136-48.

Mackay, Thomas W. “Content and Style in two Pseudo-Pauline Epistles (3 Corinthians and the Epistle to the Laodiceans).” Pages 215-40 in Apocryphal Writings and the Latter-Day Saints. Religious Studies Monograph Series, 13. Edited by C. Wilfred Griggs. Salt Lake: Brigham Young University, 1986.

MaGee, Gregory S. “Exalted Apostle: The Portrayal of Paul in Colossians and Ephesians.” Ph.D. dissertation, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 2009; Published version: Portrait of an Apostle: A Case for Paul’s Authorship of Colossians and Ephesians. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2013, especially chapter 3.

Meeks, Wayne A. and John T. Fitzgerald. The Writings of Paul: Annotated Texts, Reception and Criticism. 2nd edition. A Norton Classical Edition. New York/London: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc, 2007, pp. 141-48.

Metzger, Bruce M. The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origins, Development, and Significance. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987, pp. 182-83, 239-40.

Moorehead, William G. Outline Studies in the New Testament: Philippians to Hebrews. London/Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1905, pp. 47-48, 136-37.

Moreschini, Claudio and Enrico Norelli. Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature: A Literary History. 2 volumes. Translated by Matthew J. O’Connell, 1: 29. Peabody, MA: Hendricksen, 2005 [1995].

Norelli, Enrico. “La Lettre aux Laodicéens: essai d’interprétation.”Pages 45-90 in Il Mosaico della Basilica di S. Colombano in Bobbio e altri studi dal II al XX secolo. Edited by F. G. Nuvolone. Archivum Bobbiense 24. Bobbio, 2002.

Obolensky, Dmitri. The Bogomils: A Study in Balkan Neo-Manichaeism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1948, pp. 39, 47.

Penny, Donald N. “The Pseudo-Pauline Letters of the First Two Centuries.” Ph.D. dissertation, Emory University, 1979.

Pervo, Richard I. The Making of Paul: Constructions of the Apostle in Early Christianity. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010, p. 105-109.

Pink, Karl. “Die Pseudo-Paulinischen Briefe II: (2) Der Laodizenerbrief.” Biblica 6 (1925): 179-193.

Quispel, Gilles. “De Brief aan de Laodicensen een Marcionitische vervalsing.” Nederlands Theologisch Tijdschrift 5 (1950/51): 43-46; ET: “The Epistle to the Laodiceans: A Marcionite Forgery.” In Gnostica, Judaica, Catholica. Collected Essays of Gilles Quispel. NHMS, 55. Edited by Johannes van Oort, 689-693. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2008.

Ranke, Ernst, ed. Codex Fuldensis. Novum Testamentum Latine Interprete Hieronymo, ex manuscript Victoris Capuani. Marburg and Leipzig: Sumptibus N. G. Elwerti Bibliopolae Academici, 1868.

Richards, E. Randolph. Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collection. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004, pp. 291-92.

Rudrauff, Kilian (and Johannes Henricus Leuslerus). Exercitatio academica de Epistola Laodicensium ex Coloss. IV.16: nec non epimetris subnexis de habitus theologiae qualitate. Doctoral thesis, evaluation. Giessen: Ex Typograph. Academ. Ordinar. B. Kargerii, 1680.

Rutherford, John. “St. Paul’s Epistle to the Laodiceans.” ExpT 19.7 (1908): 311-14.

Sartori, August. Ueber den Laodicenserbrief: Eine exegetisch-kritische Abhandlung. Lübeck: Verlag von A. Dittmer, 1853.

Sellew, Philip. “Laodiceans and Philippians Revisited: A Response to Paul Holloway.” HTR 91 (1998): 327-29.

Sellew, Philip. “Laodiceans and the Philippians Fragments Hypothesis.” HTR 87 (1994): 17-28.

Smith, Geoffrey S. Guilt by Association: Heresy Catalogues in Early Christianity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015, chapter 1.

Thompson, Trevor W. “Epistles, Apocryphal.” Pages 1084-86 in volume 7 of Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception. Edited by Hans Josef Klauck, et al. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2013.

Tite, Philip L. The Apocryphal Epistle to the Laodiceans: An Epistolary and Rhetorical Analysis. TENT, 7. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2012.

Tite, Philip L. “Dusting Off a Pseudo-Historical Letter: Re-Thinking the Epistolary Aspects of the Apocryphal Epistle to the Laodiceans.” Pages 289-318 in Paul and Pseudepigraphy. PAST, 8. Edited by Stanley E. Porter and Gregory P. Fewster. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2013.

Tregelles, Samuel Prideaux. Canon Muratorianus: The Earliest Catalogue of the Books of the New Testament. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1867, p. 47.

Vouaux, Leon. Les Actes de Paul et ses letters apocryphes: Introduction, texts, traduction et commentaire. Les Apocryphes du Nouveau Testament. Paris: Librairie Letouzet et Ané, 1913.

Watson, Duane F. “Laodiceans, Letter to the.” Page 790 in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Edited by David Noel Freedman. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000.

Wescott, B. F. A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament. 5th ed. Cambridge/London: Macmillan and Co., 1881.

Zahn, Theodor. Geschichte des Neutestamentlichen Kanons. 3 Volumes. Leipzig, 1890, pp. 2: 566-85.