Thirteen letters in the New Testament bear the name of Paul. However, they were not the only correspondence written by the great apostle-missionary. We know by his own words, for instance, that he wrote a letter to the Corinthians prior to what we know as 1 Corinthians (1 Co. 5:9). Between what we know as 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians, he also wrote what he describes as a “painful letter” to this same church (2 Co. 2:3-4), and this letter is unlikely to be 1 Corinthians. We know he also wrote a letter to the Laodecians (Col. 4:16). Some have speculated that it may have been what we know as Ephesians, based on the fact that our earliest copy of Ephesians (p46 ca. AD 200) as well as several other early manuscripts do not have the words “in Ephesus” in the Greek text. Indeed, I have personally examined p46 at the University of Michigan where it is housed in the Hatcher library, and indeed, this early papyrus copy is missing those words. The Ephesian letter may have been a circular letter to several congregations, but then again, Paul may have written to the Laodecians completely apart from what we know as Ephesians. Ephesians also contains the intriguing parenthetical statement, “as I wrote before in a few words”, which might refer to what he said earlier in the same letter but might also refer to some other letter he wrote. All these are phrases actually appear in Paul’s known letters, and it is certainly not a stretch to suppose that he may have written other letters of which we know nothing.
raises an interesting speculative question. Though by this late date it is
unlikely, what if one or more of these other correspondences of Paul were
discovered? Would we consider them canonical? Would they be of merely
historical interest? I, for one, would be riveted by what other things he may
have written, but at the same time, I would be doubtful about including them in
the canon of the New Testament. I think the long canonical tradition of the
church is better left undisturbed, and at a more theological level, I am
content that the Holy Spirit has preserved through the vicissitudes of history
those writings which were necessary. Still, it is an intriguing idea!