A Pseudonymist

Ephesians 4:25-5:2 – The 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for August 12, 2012

“Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us…” (Ephesians 5:1)

Thrice I read these verses from Ephesians:

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us…
(Italics added by me…not the bleary-eyed NRSV editors.)


First reading. Confident from long-ago seminary studies that Paul didn’t write Ephesians, I hurried through the words, barely paying attention. Pseudonymity is one of the fancy descriptions for Ephesians. A book or article appears to be written by a particular author—in this case the apostle Paul—but it’s false or pseudo, since another author created the actual work. He (more unlikely than she in the first century) claimed Paul’s name, developed insights from Paul’s ideas, but wasn’t Paul. Why stay alert to fake Paul? Most Biblical scholars I’ve read would say pseudonymity was a common practice in ancient times. Hey, it’s common today. You could find many cleverly named blogs that honor—or dishonor—the pseudonymity tradition.

Second reading. Whoever wrote Ephesians, why couldn’t s/he slice and dice those longish run-on sentences? If I’d read Ephesians 4:31 aloud, I’d have to gulp a gallon of air and then hope to make it to the end before turning blue. Sure, sure, I could pace myself, take a breath or two, and not be troubled. But still, give me an oxygen break, and edit out a few the four “ands” in verse thirty-one. Even though I know it’s a Greek to English translation, I’d prefer a little more responsible sentence structuring, thank you very much. Brevity has value. Right?

Third reading. Reality smacked me.

Why babble about pseudonymity and this really, really not being written by Paul? Because that attitude provided an excuse to ignore or downplay the veracity of Ephesians’ challenge to my faith.

Why whine about sentence structure? Again, it’s an excellent excuse for avoiding thoughts that rattle my soul. It’s always easier to complain than listen, to identify your faults rather than admit my fears. (And thus I live a lie: when you change, I’ll be better.)

Therefore be imitators of God.

In the third reading, when I shed at least some excuses, and a smidgen of my vulnerable faith and honest fears were present, those five words roiled me. Continue reading →