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The Third Letter to the Corinthians

The letter traditionally called 3 Corinthians is a pseudonymous reply of “Paul” to a letter from the Christians in Corinth, sent to him while he was in prison in Philippi. Both letters eventually came to be incorporated in the apocryphal Acts of Paul (see above). In some parts of the Christian church— for example, in Armenia—3 Corinthians was accepted as canonical Scripture. The letter from the Corinthians asks for Paul’s advice about the teaching of two heretics, Simon (Magus?) and Cleobius, who maintain, among other things, that (a) God was not the creator, (b) the Jewish prophets were not from God, (c) Jesus did not come in the flesh, and (d) the flesh will not be raised. All of these are clearly Gnostic ideas.1 The pseudonymous author of 3 Corinthians replies by refuting each of them in turn. In particular, he wants to stress the proto-orthodox doctrine that the flesh was created by God and that it will be redeemed, as evident in the resurrection of Jesus himself in the flesh. The letter concludes with dire warnings of eternal torment for those who embrace the heretical teachings of Paul’s opponents. Most scholars now think that these letters were originally composed and transmitted independently of the Acts of Paul and were then at a later time incorporated in the longer narrative. If so, they may well have been in circulation already by the middle of the second century.


For a discussion of Christian Gnosticism, see Ehrman, Lost Christianities, pp. 113–34.

Translation by Bart D. Ehrman, based on the Greek text in Michel Testuz, Papyrus Bodmer X–XII; Correspondance apocryphe des Corinthiens et de l’apoˆtre Paul (CologneGeneva: Bibliotheca Bodmeriana, 1959).


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