Pastoral Epistles – A Conservative Perspective (4/4)

July 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

A Conservative Perspective

The theology of the Pastoral Epistles has been a subject in question by many scholars over the years. Many cite terms and ideas not seen elsewhere in Paul in order to support the idea of a pseudonymous author. However, Carson and Moo make it clear that these terms may be used differently, but are generally couched in Pauline terms. Besides, there are plenty of other terms that are used just as Paul used them in his uncontested letters. In short, the argument for a pseudonymous author on the grounds of theological terms and ideas is, at the best inconclusive, as it can be just as easily argued that the theology makes a claim for Pauline authorship.

Additionally on the subject of theology, it is proposed that the piety of the Pastorals is altogether divergent from Paul’s other authorial work. “There is a demand for “godliness” (1 Tim 2:2 etc.), correct teaching (1 Tim. 6:3), and, above all, “sound doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:3)” (Carson and Moo 2005, 565). Nonetheless, it is not impossible to think that Paul himself placed vested interest in such things as godliness, correct teaching and sound doctrine—all subjects covered to some degree in other letters he wrote. In the end, these theological points and more stand to make some look to pseudonymity while others are convinced by the same points that Paul himself made various developments for varying situations (ibid, 566). Carson and Moo finally assert the following: “All the historical references in these letters ring true as statements coming from the life of Paul, but the same cannot be said of a date quite a long time after he had died” (ibid, 568). Pauline authorship is simply not as ludicrous as some authors and scholars would have us to think.

Now we turn to the subject of dating the Pastoral Epistles. Beginning with 1 Timothy, we can adduce a date in the early 60s AD. Carson and Moo relate the following explanation:

If Paul was released from his imprisonment in Rome and wrote this letter (1 Timothy) during the course of his subsequent missionary activities, we should date it during the 60s, probably the early 60s. It has traditionally been held that the apostle was martyred under Nero (who died in 68). The chronology of his life is not absolutely certain but it is usually though that he arrived in Rome, as narrated in Acts, in 59 or 60. Allowing for the couple of years of his imprisonment there (Acts 28:30), he would have been released in 62. His letter to the Romans shows that he wanted to go to Spain, and he may have gone immediately on release and gone to Macedonia later. Or he may have gone immediately to the East and left a trip to Spain until a later time….Eusebius says Paul died in 67; if this is correct, we could put the writing of the letter at 65 or even 66 (Carson and Moo 2005, 572).

The second book of Timothy was most likely written during a second imprisonment of Paul in Rome. This imprisonment would be a later one that that described in the book of Acts. With this said, the letter had to be written in the early or mid-60s. Depending on the date of Paul’s death we can date the writing of 2 Timothy to either 66-67 or a bit earlier to 64-65.

The last of the Pastorals, Titus, is a bit trickier to date; however, Carson and Moo set forth two possible dates:

It seems better to think of this letter, like the other Pastorals, as coming from a time after Paul’s release from a first Roman imprisonment. In that case, it was written before 2 Timothy, and somewhere around the same period as 1Timothy—that is, not later than the middle 60s (583).


In summary, several arguments set forth on each side of this debate about the Pastorals seem noteworthy. Overall, I find those who argue for a pseudonymous author as stretching their theories into facts; they seem much too quick to press such theories as absolutes. In the end I ascribe to the conservative perspective. I find that one of the most appealing facets of this argument is the humility and the looseness with which it is held. Carson and Moo help the reader to understand that we know only in part and we should not force our ideas on the text but always seek to come to God’s word in humility while other authors seem to be force-feeding ‘fact’ that is really just theory in a fact-like coat! May we always approach the scriptures with humility and as learners.

Pastoral Epistles – A Conservative Perspective (3/4)

July 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

A Conservative Perspective

Carson and Moo ascribe to a Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles. The arguments adduced by atheists and moderates against Pauline authorship seem to diminish or—in the least—are no more possible than the conservative perspective when taking into scope all the evidence.

Beginning their discussion of the Pastorals by touching on their relationship to the other Pauline epistles, Carson and Moo inform the reader that the letters are all written to people who hold positions of pastoral responsibility and the undertaking of selecting pastors. “The three letters form a unit,” they claim, “in that they are the only New Testament letters addressed to individuals with such responsibilities” (Carson and Moo 2005, 554). However, they point out quickly that although this similarity may link these three letters, “nothing conclusively demonstrates that they were written at the same time or from the same place, or that the author intended them to be studied together” (ibid, 554).

They first address the argument of vocabulary (as mentioned in earlier perspectives of atheist and moderate). The following is said to counter such arguments:

The arguments sound impressive, but they are not as convincing as they seem to be at first sight. Those who put them forward do not always notice, for example, that most of the words shared by the Pastorals and the second-century writers are also found in other writings prior to A.D. 50. It cannot be argued that Paul would not have known them, nor can it be argued that Paul’s total vocabulary is the number of words in the ten letters (2,177 words). It is not necessary to argue that Paul produced hundreds of new words in his old age, for if he could use 2,177 words, there is no reason for supposing that he could not use another 306 words, most of which are known to have been current in his day. That some of the words are used with different meanings signifies no more than that the contexts are different. Paul also uses words with different meanings in different contexts in the ten letters (Carson and Moo 2005, 556).

They add to this the fact that the three letters we call the Pastoral Epistles differ from one another just as much as they differ from the uncontested Pauline letters. What’s more, the vocabulary statistics do not necessarily point to a single author for the compositions. “If the figures show that the three Pastorals were written by one author, they also show that that author may well have been Paul,” they comment.

In discussing rhetorical style, Carson and Moo pose this question: “One wonders whether the difference in style between the Pastorals and the ten Pauline letters is greater than the difference that might legitimately be expected between private letters to trusted fellow workers and public letter to churches, letters usually addressing specific difficulties” (Carson and Moo 2005, 559). These complexities increase as we consider the influence of an amanuensis.

Looking further into the literary style of the letters, Carson and Moo site the work of Johnson in naming both I Timothy and Titus as “mandate letters” and 2 Timothy as “testament”, both of which would correspond with Paul’s situation while they would be hard to match up with later writers. Therefore, careful study and thought on the genre of the letters promote apostolic authorship. However, knowing the genre does not lock-in Pauline authorship.

They also address the historical problems—i.e. reconciling historical facts written in Acts and other Pauline letters with the information in the Pastorals. Many scholars have endeavored to prove that the historical data of the Pastorals indeed fit within Paul’s ministry. Carson and Moo say, “We simply do not have enough information. Especially if we do not take the Pastorals as a unit but consider the letters individually, historical data pose no insuperable difficulty to Pauline authorship” (Carson and Moo 2005, 562). In short, there is no insurmountable obstacle to the historical prospect of Paul’s release from prison and ministry in the East for a length of time, followed by re-arrest, imprisonment and subsequent martyrdom.

Certain details of content in the Pastorals make one question how they could be written by anyone other than Paul. These include details that link them to the other Pauline corpus such as mention of Paul’s cloak and scrolls in 2 Timothy, leaving Timothy in Ephesus as he traveled to Macedonia, mention of Onesiphorus searching for Paul and finding him in Rome, etc. Could we expect for such detail to be of any significance if not linked by Paul to his other letters? “It is not easy,” Carson and Moo point out, “to see what to make of these and other such references on the theory that the letters come from the end of the first century or the beginning of the second, and from an author who did not know Paul’s situation” (2005, 563). The bottom line: “The Pastorals are much more akin to the accepted letters of Paul than they are to the known pseudonymous documents that circulated in the early church” (Ibid 563).

“There is nothing in the way of false teaching as described in these letters,” assert Carson and Moo, “that does not fit into what is known during the time of Paul’s ministry” (Carson and Moo 2005, 564). They explain that the “teaching called knowledge” that they speak of is not—as many would have us think—speaking of the full-blown Gnosticism which would be characteristic of the second century. These letters simply do not belong into the second century. They further comment on the false teachers in the Pastoral Epistles and how these teachers aren’t necessarily the same in all of the three letters.

Addressing the assertion made by many scholars that the ecclesiastical organization described in the Pastorals was too advanced for Paul’s time, Carson and Moo draw us to the fact that the epistle to the Philippian church included a salutation from Paul that addressed the overseers or bishops and deacons at Philippi, along with the believers. And, in the book of Acts we read of Paul and Barnabas in Antioch: “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord…”.(Acts 14:23).

Adding to the discussion of ecclesiastical organization, we must recognize that 2 Timothy must be excluded, as it does not address ordained ministry as the other two Pastorals do. Both Titus and 1 Timothy address the offices of elders (bishops) and deacons, but we have no real reason to suggest that the organization was greater than or beyond these specific offices, both of which could certainly have materialized in the very early church. This organizational argument against Pauline authorship does not seem to stand.

Pastoral Epistles – An Atheistic Perspective (2/4)

July 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

An Atheist Perspective

B. D. Ehrman, in his Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, paints quite a different picture of the books of the Bible that have traditionally been called the Pastoral Epistles. Ehrman asserts that while the same author penned all three epistles—1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus—, that author was not Paul. He founds his position nearly completely on facets of the letters that date them to the late 1st century to early 2nd century—a post-Pauline date. Arguments he puts forth include one of non-Pauline vocabulary, varying word usages for “righteous” and “faith”, the problems addressed by the letters involving a more advanced gnosticism than Paul’s day, and the author’s basic orientation as one more like a ‘proto-orthodox’ position that developed into the second century.

Ehrman’s first argument countering Pauline authorship is that of vocabulary:

With the Pastoral Epistles…we do find an inordinate number of non-Pauline words, most of which do occur in later Christian writings. Sophisticated studies of the Greek text of these books have come up with the following data: apart from personal names, there are 848 different words found in the Pastorals; of these, 306 occur nowhere else in the Pauline corpus of the New Testament (even including the Deutero-Paulines). This means that over one-third of the vocabulary is not Pauline. Strikingly, over two-thirds of these non-Pauline words are used by Christian authors of the second century. Thus, it appears that the vocabulary represented in these letters is more developed than what we find in the other letters attributed to Paul (Ehrman 2000, 357).

Secondly, Ehrman asserts that we should give heed to different usages of words. Paul gives one meaning to words in all of his other work, while differing meanings are assigned to like words in the Pastoral Epistles:

As brief examples, Paul’s word for “having a right standing before God” (literally, “righteous”) now means “being a moral individual” (i.e. “upright”; Tit. 1:8) and the term “faith,” which for Paul refers to a trusting acceptance of the death of Christ for salvation, now refers to the body of teaching that makes up the Christian religion (e.g., Tit 1:13) (Ehrman, 2000, 358).

Together, asserts Ehrman, these considerations about vocabulary point the reader to conclusion of post-Pauline authorship.

In addition, we must look at the problems addressed by these epistles: false teaching in the guise of Christian Gnosticism, etc. Such Gnosticism was not developed until after Paul’s death. Could Paul then have addressed this himself in these letters? The answer must be, “no”.

The conclusion of non-Pauline authorship and post-Pauline authorship is quite clear in light of the vocabulary and the issues the church was facing—namely false teaching of Gnostics. Unlike Paul who was concerned with the imminent coming of Christ and the end of the word, these proto-orthodox Christians—as Ehrman calls them—were concerned with pressing issues of heresy and church organization and order, signaling the fact that they expected to be around for a while. Thus, the conclusion according the Ehrman is as follows:

An unknown author within a church that subscribe to Paul’s authority took up his pen, perhaps some thirty or forty years after the apostle himself had died, to do what some Pauline Christians had done before him and what others would do afterwards: compose writings in the name of the apostle to address the crushing problems of his day (Ehrman 2000, 362).

Pastoral Epistles – A Moderate Perspective (1/4)

July 22, 2011 § Leave a comment


An attempt has here been made to interact with just a few of the vast selection of arguments set forth on the subject of the Pastoral Epistles—with specific attention paid to their authorship and dating. Beginning with a moderate perspective, we find that authenticity is adduced as ludicrous as evidence clearly informs the reader that Paul did not pen these letters. From here, we take a look at an atheist perspective that evinces much the same outlook on the Pastorals. Finally, we try these arguments by standing them up against conservative counterarguments that set forth Pauline authorship.

A Moderate Perspective

Udo Schnelle brings a moderate’s perspective to the table on the discussion of the Pastoral Epistles. He finds several reasons for rejecting Pauline authorship of these three letters; these include countless extraordinary linguistic features, historical inconsistencies with Acts and the other Pauline letters, reflection on issues facing third generation Christians, and lastly, the Pastorals exhibit sizable differences from the theology found in letters of undisputed Pauline authorship.

Schnelle’s first argument demands that the records in Acts and those of the authentic Pauline letters cannot be reconciled with what we find in the Pastoral Epistles. He says the following rather matter-of-factly about Titus:

Paul cannot be considered a candidate for the authorship of Titus, since the mission on Crete and Paul’s spending the winder in Nicopolis (Titus 3:12) is found neither in the authentic Pauline letters nor in Acts (Schnelle 1998, 329).

In addition, examples are given of this mismatch of information found in the Pastorals and other Pauline work. “Timothy,” states Schnelle, “had for years been a close coworker with Paul, yet according to I Timothy 1:3 he is expressly warned once again before Paul’s departure to struggle against the heretics. What function would the letter have had in view of the brief absence of Paul? What themes and problems are addressed with which Timothy would not have long since been familiar from his long years of service as a co-worker in the Pauline mission?” (Schnelle 1998, 329).

A second argument adduced is that of the milieu of the letters: purportedly 3rd generation Christians that would necessarily be after Paul’s lifetime. Here, Schnelle compels the reader to look at the high organization of the church receiving these letters; this is more advanced than the charismatic churches Paul founded. Such organization necessitates time for such change to occur and be set in place. The house church model of Paul’s day has been replaced by a system that involves office holders. The letters are, after all written to instruct the churches how to carry out church order and give descriptions of just who should fill the offices of the church. Paul’s circumstances would not have called for such direction and instruction. In addition, Schnelle asserts that there is a shift in concern from a debate with Judaism to the Christian community amongst pagans.

Third, Schnelle argues against Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles based on linguistic features. He notes: “The Large number of hapax legomena is striking: 66 in I Timothy, 60 in 2 Timothy, and 32 in Titus. The Pastorals also have a distinctive vocabulary in comparison to the other Pauline letters. ‘The Pastoral epistles…with their total of 3484 words would normally have a distinctive vocabulary somewhere between that of 2 Corinthians and Galatians, i.e. around 130 distinctive words. In fact, however, they have 335 words not found elsewhere in Paul, a good 50 more than Romans, which is twice as long! That is a number, of course, which speaks very strongly against the authenticity of the Pastoral Epistles” (Schnelle 1998, 330). Schnelle obviously sees these linguistic details as red flags to the authenticity of these letters.

A final argument against Pauline authorship involves theological divergence from the uncontested Pauline epistles. “Lacking (from the Pastoral Epistles),” notes Schnelle, “are concepts such as the ‘righteousness of God,’ ‘freedom,’ ‘cross,’ ‘son of God,’ and ‘body of Christ.’ A reflection of the specific Pauline doctrine of justification is found only in Titus 3:4-7; the antithesis ‘flesh/spirit’ does not occur at all. In addition, there are shifts in the manner in which the same subject are treated. While in Paul ‘faith’ is the means by which salvation is appropriated, in I Timothy the dominant meaning is the content of faith as doctrine to be believed” (Schnelle 1998, 330).

Another theologically significant divergence involves the parousia of Christ; in the Pastoral Epistles the parousia turns into an epiphany, something that will arrive at the proper time and is suggestive not of imminence, but of a futuristic time. This differs from Paul’s immanent view of the coming of Christ.

After belaboring the point that Pauline authorship of the Pastorals is ludicrous, Schnelle gives the following statement on who he feels authored this body of letters:

The author of the Pastorals was an unknown member of the Pauline school who wrote and circulated the letters ‘in the course of a new edition of the previous corpus’ of the Pauline letters (Schnelle 1998, 332).

“The Pastorals are intended,” says Schnelle, “to overcome an internal crisis in the church caused by false teaching, to implement appropriate official structures in circumstances that had changed and to secure the continuing influence of the apostle Paul in the whole church” (Schnelle 1998, 332). In short, it is asserted that the author was a Hellenistic Jewish Christian, most likely educated, lived somewhere in Asia Minor, and was writing with nearby churches in mind.

Schnelle discusses the location and date of composition in relation to the concerns voiced in the letter: “The Letters to Timothy are concerned with the church situation in Ephesus and so probably originated there” (Schnell 1998, 333). Timothy, he points out, appears as promoter of Paul’s theological perception in Ephesus. And, although purportedly written in Rome, the second letter to Timothy also takes as fact Timothy’s prior presence and work in Ephesus. The internal affinity between the other Pauline letters and the Pastorals also point to Ephesus as the location of composition.

As for the dating of the Pastoral Epistles, Schnelle gives the following reasons why they must be dated around 100 CE:

(I) The tradition about Paul’s own life and person is still drawn from the living tradition of the church. (2) The structure of church offices in the Pastorals is different from the church order presupposed in Ignatius and Polycarp for the time between 110 CE and 130 CE. (3) The Pastorals belong within the process of the formation of the Pauline corpus. (4) The early from of a Christian Gnosticism, the type of false teaching opposed by the Pastorals, points to the period around 100 CE (Schnelle 1998, 333).

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