Comparative Commentary on 1 Timothy Return to Home
By Roland H. Worth, Jr. © 2020
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A Comparative Translation Commentary
On 1 Timothy
(Volume 1: Chapters 1 to 2)
Roland H. Worth, Jr.
Copyright © 2020 by author
In my Torah Commentaries on 1 Corinthians and James, I went into an in-depth analysis of the Old Testament roots for many of the sentiments that are expressed. A Comparative Translation on 1 Timothy, by and large, foregoes that option and limits itself to the meaning and interpretation of the apostolic text itself.
Instead of including an Alternative Translation and Paraphrase of the text, I will be utilizing as an introductory quote for each section the relevant part of the 20th Century New Testament and will give it the appropriate contraction of TCNT. This version marked the initiation of twentieth century translations and was released in three parts between 1898 and 1901. After giving several years to receive suggestions from readers, the final version was published in 1904 and is the text used here. It is often regarded as the first “modern speech” translation due to its willingness to seek out and embrace alternative wordings to those found in the KJV.
We will rarely cite it in our comparative translations discussion, intending it primarily as a “jumping off point”—providing the reader with a significantly different form than the traditional KJV style to help “jolt” the mind into a readiness to give a fresh examination of the meaning of the text. All too often it is so easy to get used to the words of our favorite translation, that we lose some of the zeal for understanding what those words intend to convey.
Our text for the commentary itself will be the New King James Version.
We have selected nine other translations to serve as our ongoing comparative versions—enough to provide a good sampling, without feeling overwhelmed by the pure bulk of material being used:
New International Version (NIV)
English Standard Version (ESV), one that was growing in popularity in the 2010s.
New American Standard Bible (NASB), very much in the ASV tradition and which I used for at least a decade as my standard study text. Then I found the NKJV: In my mind the NKJV provides an ideal synthesis of traditional reading with more modern language. Its footnotes have the admirable tendency to note the differences of the underlying KJV style Greek text with both the modern “critical text” and that of the “majority text.”
Holman Christian Standard Bible. The story is reported that repeated efforts to buy the rights to the NASB failed and the publisher decided to bring out its own version. Some fascinating use of punctuation in the Old Testament I find quite impressive for personal silent reading and understanding, but I’ll never again try reading it aloud. I just can’t make the transition “work.” When it was revised in 2009 it was then released under the name of Christian Standard Bible. It has been reasonably claimed that the title revision was due to many assuming that “Holman” in the title meant that it was aimed strictly at a Baptist audience.
International Standard Version (ISV)
God’s Word (GW), a modern speech version that I fell in love with both for its own merits and because it was to be the basis of the longest book I would ever have compiled--a topical Bible using it as the text. Alas, a sad story but I am far from the only author to find a good idea falter unexpectedly.
New English Translation (NET).
World English Bible (WEB), an effort to modernize the ASV.
Much of this commentary consists of comparing the various specific word/idea translations and utilizing our comparison to probe the fuller implications of what is said. We get so used to “hearing” the word pattern of our preferred translation, a comparative approach can help us better understand the underlying concept or idea being conveyed. It is an approach I don’t recall running into previously, but I think it is one we all can be benefited by.
These sections might well be called “commentary by comparative translation.” We have tried to “run in” these comparisons with the rest of the commentary text in a way that the shift will not be jarring to the ears, but upon occasion, it simply seemed easiest and best to set it apart in a separate section. Sometimes they are listed as “comparative translations” and after an intervening line the commentary remarks are provided. In other cases, the two are intertwined. All depending upon which approach seems less likely to interupt the natural “flow” of the text.
And if anyone should be curious why a commentary on First Timothy in particular? Truth be told, I wanted to study in-depth the qualifications of elders. That does seems to have escalated into an in-depth analysis of quite a bit more!
Roland H. Worth, Jr.
Special Note: Because of my age and my brain now having an increasingly difficult time blending together argumentation on certain complex matters, the commentaries on First Timothy are likely to be my last effort to do so on such a detailed and lengthy basis as this. I find that much harder to deal with than my declining physical abilities. It is a definite reality however. Yet there are many things of a less complex nature that still fall within my abilities and I anticipate engaging in those studies instead.
Among liberal denominational scholars the overwhelming consensus is that the three “pastoral epistles”—1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus—were not written by the apostle Paul but at some point after his death. This is the view overwhelmingly adopted by teachers in religious schools that are not “evangelical” and even more so in secular institutions.
The power of this consensus, which effectively implies any other approach is absurd and not worth considering is powerful. Luke T. Johnson came out of this background and only when he started teaching graduate theological students in 1976 did he begin to realize that the power of the position lay far, far more in the “unanimity” of its advocates than in a careful consideration of the actual arguments. As he puts it,
Among contemporary scholars—and those taught by them—the view that “the pastoral letters” are pseudonymous has the status of a virtual dogma. In the face of such overwhelming opinion few are willing to risk embracing them as authentic (our emphasis, rw). . . .
The main argument against authenticity today is the sheer weight of scholarly consensus. Many commentaries and New Testament Introductions don’t even bother arguing the case, contenting themselves with a short recitation of selected data that supports the hypothesis of pseudonymity with no consideration of counter-evidence; the position is not presented as a hypothesis or theory but as a scholarly dogma. Scholarly monographs simply assume the dominant hypothesis and build upon it as though it were solid rock.
This view is not a uniquely modern one however. In 1804, J. E. Schmidt worried in print as to whether 1 Timothy could be fitted into the known ministry of the apostle, but it was Freidrich Schleiermacher in 1807 that was the first to present the case for an explicit denial of the Pauline authorship. Strangely enough, part of the evidence consisted of alleged inconsistencies with 2 Timothy and Titus! By the 1890s the rejection of not merely one but of all three works as non-Pauline had become the most widely held view of them among the “educated.”
One oddity easily jumps into the mind when we are faced with such claims: Why in the world did the same man write three such epistles? (Or up to three different men if you prefer.) Especially both 1 Timothy and Titus, both written to “men in the field,” attempting to organize the congregation(s) where they were. Both going into detail on leadership requirements. Why in the world write two fake letters when one—a little longer than 1 Timothy standing alone—could so easily have done the job just as well?
Would not writing to two such different places (
A. Evidence Introduced for
the Pseudonymity Position
Is the Language Consistent with
Genuine Pauline Writings?
The case is made that the language found in the Pastorals (1, 2 Timothy and Titus) contain too many words not used by Paul at all in his other works. Ideas are expressed
differently than in the genuine writings. Furthermore the expressions he uses are sometimes very different from the type that Paul typically provides. Common words become uncommon. Concepts are introduced that are lacking or nowhere similarly developed in the other texts.
Although this argument can be effectively presented, it is wise to remind ourselves that equally creative minds are willing to also gut other Pauline works of all legitimate attribution as well. Men and women who happily discuss how that--when there are Pauline fragments present at all--they have been creatively rearranged from multiple sources: Take Second Corinthians for instance.
In short, though there are honorable scholars who argue the current point, there are at least as many—probably far more—to whom this is simply the next step in stripping the New Testament of any apostolic authority. For those who won’t go that far, substitute the words “much or most of the New Testament of its apostolic origin.” To them the battle is not to preserve the Pauline canon but to pulverize it into mere fragments often not even currently found in their original settings.
One significant problem with isolating the Pastorals and contrasting them to those Pauline epistles they embrace as genuine, is that similar destructive results can be developed if one assumes that a different set of books are the actual pseudonymous ones. Give me the authority to define which of the books are to be the standard of Pauline genuineness, it is extraordinarily easy to then prove that the books even liberals accept as genuine are really the counterfeits! In other words, one must tread extremely cautiously in erecting the kind of iron clad boundaries of genuineness that are often insisted upon.
Luke T. Johnson points out how easy this game could be played if one simply preferred, for theological reasons, to assault a different set of New Testament works:
While recognizing the distinctive character of these three letters among Paul’s letters, I do not regard their collective character as more distinct than that exhibited by any of the other obvious clusters within the Pauline corpus. If we were to segregate and treat separately—emphasizing at every point elements of discontinuity rather than of continuity—it would be child’s play to “demonstrate” that any of the groups that any reader of Greek can discern as stylistically and thematically discrete (Galatians/Romans; 1 and 2 Corinthians; 1 and 2 Thessalonians; Colossians/Ephesians) are not “authentic” when measured against a norm consisting of all the remaining letters. Indeed, I am as impressed by the way these letters differ from each other as I am by their clear similarities.
The differing amanuensis scenario to explain the “non-Pauline” elements. The generation coming to adulthood since shortly before the beginning of the 21st century need to make a “cultural leap” of understanding to a technologically far different world. Although handwriting is still done, efforts to do it well have plummeted since the keyboard permits one to produce quite readable communication that no one has trouble reading. (Laying aside, of course, quality of prose issues!)
Even after printing was invented in the late Middle Ages (1450s), it took yet more centuries before large amounts could be reproduced easily and at reasonable cost. During that interim, hand written communications circulated on a massive scale as well as printed ones. Before then everything was done in handwriting or it wasn’t done at all.
This carried with it two potential problems: (1) not everyone could organize their thoughts coherently and well as they wrote and (2) an alarming number had a difficult to read “hand”—you could tell they had written something, but exactly what was the problem. Hence, even when you could ably organize your reasoning as you “spoke,” your “hand” might well make it impossible to understand in the “ears” of the reader.
Both problems were dealt with through the amanuensis. The one with “delivery” problems could be rewritten; the one with less than crystal clear handwriting could be presented with a copy that any literate individual could easily read.
We know that, at least partly, Paul used an amanuensis.
We even know the name of one of them: “I, Tertius, who wrote this epistle, greet you in the Lord” (Romans ). Folk such as him played an important role in the ancient world, working on behalf of others.
More often their role in Paul’s life is proved by inference rather than explicit statement—Paul inserts the remark that certain words of the letter had been written by him personally, implying that someone else had done the rest:
“The salutation with my own hand—Paul’s” (1 Corinthians ).
“This salutation by my own hand—Paul. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Amen” (Colossians ).
[Even in the short epistle of Philemon we read:] “I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay—not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides” (Philemon, verse 19).
[He made his norm this personal attestation of his responsibility for the contents of a letter in writing to others:] “The salutation of Paul with my own hand, which is a sign in every epistle; so I write” (2 Thessalonians )
Some think he did this because of eyesight problems for he wrote rather large when he did the writing: “See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand!” (Galatians 6:11). This kind of reference would fit that quite well but a physical problem with his handwriting “hand” would as well.
This procedure of using an amanuensis was certainly not confined to him. We read of how the apostle Peter used it: “By Silvanus, our faithful brother as I consider him, I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand” (1 Peter ). At least one Old Testament prophet did so as well: “Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah; and Baruch wrote on a scroll of a book, at the instruction of Jeremiah, all the words of the Lord which He had spoken to him” (Jeremiah 36:4).
All this is true and well worth knowing, but the problem arises because what we have in the “pastorals” goes far beyond being a mere professional copyist. It would envolve altering the text itself and substituting or replacing vocabulary; not copying but modifying. In that case: Who is inspired—Paul or the copyist? The inerrancy of the apostle I can “get my mind around,” but since the words that have been preserved are those of the copyist is he inspired as well? If not, how can we speak of the authoritativeness of the epistle?
But is there the need to introduce the scenario of an amanuensis rewriting Paul’s verbal dictation into something considerably different in written form? I think not. Paul was quite capable of finding adequate words in other correspondence--ones that many / most / nearly all (depending upon the epistle) admit are his real words. Why in the world did this wide ranging capacity suddenly fail when writing Timothy and Titus? So I find great difficulty in this well meaning scenario, for it creates just as big a problem—probably substantially bigger—than any it might resolve. If the scribe worked, essentially, as a stenographer that is a very different story but the wording and contents would still have been the responsibility of Paul himself.
The issue gets a bit more complicated when we raise the related question: Did his theoretical “co-authors” actually “co-author”? After discussing the use of penmen for Paul’s letters and raising the question of what degree of modification of the spoken dictation—if any—they were granted, Luke T. Johnson raises the question of individuals Paul mentions that could be regarded as, in some sense, co-authors of the epistles along with him:
Texts mentioning “co-authorship” with Timothy:
Corinthians 1:1: Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and
Timothy our brother, To
Philippians 1:1: Paul
and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To
all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in
Colossians 1:-2: Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse.
Philemon, verse 1: Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer.
Texts mentioning “co-authorship” with both Timothy and Silas:
1 Thessalonians 1:1-2: Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 1:1: Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Texts mentioning “co-authorship” with Sosthenes:
1 Corinthians 1:1: Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.
Texts mentioning “co-authorship” with a multiple number of people:
1:1-2: Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through
Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), and all the
brethren who are with me, To the churches of
After citing these texts (rather than quoting them as we have done) he comments: “Only Romans, Ephesians, and the three Pastorals are ascribed to Paul alone. Once more we do not know how to assess the fact: Was co-sponsorship simply formal, a way of honoring Paul’s associates? Or did co-sponsors also contribute to the thought and style of a letter?”
At least some of these individuals surely had miraculous gifts of one kind or another! Yet “miraculous gifts” and “the gift of inspired writing” are not one and the same! Such gifts could take multiple forms that did not involve writing at all (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). The irony of the issue provides me with a considerable amount of humor: Rather than the style of the “pastorals” representing a non-Pauline style, one could reasonably argue that only these and Romans and Ephesians provide pure Pauline style--his writing without linking the composition to others as well! (I think we could call that “standing on its head a potential liberal argument and throwing it back at them with a vengeance!”)
But let us examine the various types of mentions and see if and where they actually may rise to “co-authorship” status.
the four types of texts, the easiest to dismiss as simply “courtesy greetings”
is the fourth, which vaguely mentions “all the [unidentified]
brethren who are with me.” This is
simply a courteous manner of informing the churches of
There is also the possibility that the lack of specification lies in the fact that the epistle heavily stresses his personal interactions with the Galatians, some of them surely controversial at the time (and in retrospect with a few?)--especially his confrontation with the apostle Peter. To “drag” these friendly souls into a conversation that might be taken ill could simply land up with certain Galatians being needlessly mad with them as well. There was no need to run the risk, so why run it at all?
The third type of text mentions Sosthenes joining Paul in greetings (1 Corinthians 1:1). The only Sosthenes we know of is found in Acts 18 at the time of a major attack on the apostle Paul. “Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized” (Acts 18:8). A Jewish mob grabbed Paul and pulled him before the Roman proconsul, demanding that he be punished. Their justification was the claim that Paul “persuades men to worship God contrary to the law” ().
The pronconsul wouldn’t even give Paul time to defend himself, but immediately accused his enemies of trying to drag the governor into matters of their local law rather than dealing with matters under his actual jurisdiction--i.e., the Roman law (18:14-15). The local Gentiles were so outraged at this refusal to provide a legal veneer and official sanction for vengeance, that “all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. [Which clearly implies that he was hauled in along with Paul.] But Gallio took no notice of these things” ().
If he had been converted since then—and we have no real way of knowing whether he had been—his mention in a letter to the city would be called for because of his close connection with the community. More than a “courtesy mention” if this was the case, but something far short of asserting some role in the composition of the letter.
If he was someone else, we don’t have the foggiest notion of who he was or why he would be mentioned at all. Although not provable, the “conversion option” makes the most sense.
The second type of text mentions both Timothy and Silas (Silvanus) in the greeting. Since Timothy gets separate treatment next, we’ll talk about Silas/Silvanus alone at this point. Silas first comes to our attention at the time of the Jerusalem Conference on whether circumcision and observance of the Mosaical Law should be binding on Gentile converts. To carry back written confirmation, he was one of those chosen:
it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men
of their own company to
30 So when they were sent off, they came to
it seemed good to Silas to remain there.
[Omitted by most manuscripts but implied by what comes later in the
chapter.] 35 Paul
and Barnabas also remained in
39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted
from one another. And so Barnabas took
Mark and sailed to
was among the “leading men” in the large congregation of
That doesn’t prove co-authorship, but would certainly make the possibility far more “comfortable” for those who take concepts like inspiration quite seriously. However it still leaves open the question of whether “co-authorship” actually took place. His name might well be mentioned simply because he was an important co-worker who was with Paul at the time and the place being addressed had known him.
The first type of text introduced in defense of the “co-authorship” option is Timothy. Mentioned six times, this far outnumbers anyone else. However his prolonged work both together with--and separately on behalf of Paul--would be quite adequate to explain his mention. Those being addressed in the letters either had known him or had known of him and his reputation. Both would justify the inclusion of his name in the introductory “greetings.”
But did Timothy have a miraculous gift as well? The two obvious proof texts are:
1 Timothy 4:14: “Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership.”
2 Timothy 1:6; “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”
We go into the issue in great detail in our discussion of and it is far too long to duplicate here. Much as I would like to argue that it was inspiration, prophecy, or some similarly important miraculous gift—the evidence is simply too illusive. On an emotional level I feel like it should be there—but it persistently dwells “just beyond the finger tips” of fully confident exegesis.
Certainly a case can be made against Timothy having the gift of inspiration from the existence of First Timothy itself. Would he have really needed to be told by Paul those things when the Holy Spirit, via inspiration, had already demonstrated its ability to reveal truth to him independent of apostolic teaching? By its very nature, when do inspired men and women need to receive inspired teaching from such external sources--and under what circumstances?
I suppose one could try to argue from the varied miraculous gifts referred to in 1 Corinthians—but there those gifts are clearly limited in the form they take and not of such an authoritative nature that a person must speak them. (Remember the admonition to be quiet so that others might speak? 1 Corinthians 14:29-30.) In other words, we seem to move into a clearly different category when we get into the subject of extensive and prolonged revelatory messages such as the apostolic epistles.
The Lukian Scenario. A subject that has intrigued a number of scholars is the similarity in language between Luke’s writings and the word usage within the “pastorals” as a group--1Timothy in particular and the other two to a lesser degree. Throughout them a significant number of words and phrases are shared in common. They have “some grammatical and lexical preferences,” including “a marked preference for compound [Greek] words,” that are not found in the undisputed Pauline works. Such evidence causes Ben Witherington III to conclude:
One perhaps could minimize some of this data on the grounds that some of these terms are common in earlier Greek literature, but it is simply impossible to ignore all of this. The case for Lukan involvement in the Pastorals, including in 1-2 Timothy, is a strong one, and the best explanation thus far found for this linguistic phenomenon, when taken into consideration with issues of content and historical probability, is that Luke composed these documents for Paul, with more direct wording from Paul at some junctures, and in some places with less. As I have already suggested, the voice is the voice of the apostle to the Gentiles, but the hand is the hand of a Gentile Christian named Luke.
If one is going to go the amanuensis route, one can hardly hope for a more appealing choice. We know Luke lived. We know he was a close companion of Paul. We know (Luke 1:1-4) that he researched and wrote the only two volume part of the New Testament, Luke-Acts.
We further have an authoritative affirmation that that volume is fully reliable: we read of how the “laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Timothy ) is a quote from what Paul calls at the beginning of the verse “scripture.” This quoted text is found in Luke 10:7 (in Matthew the wording is slightly different). The correlation here would be that if Luke was the amanuensis, he is one that we know was gifted with inspiration. Could there possibly be a better scribe? (We know full well that there is a passionate debate around both the meaning of 1 Timothy 5:18 as well as the dating of the gospels, but if we simply deal with the texts as we have them, it sure does give every indication of supporting this conclusion.)
If there was an amanuensis “co-author” envolved at all in Paul’s “pastorals,” it had to be in regard to 2 Timothy for we read the clear cut words in that epistle that “only Luke is with me” (4:11). The only other Pauline epistle he is mentioned in is Colossians, where we read “Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you” ().
The “Recycled” Use of “Pre-Formed” Language. Movements develop a vocabulary and one suggested scenario is that 1 Timothy contains a large amount of this phenomena. If the “pastorals” are from late in Paul’s life, one could easily imagine such having developed over a period of years and that Paul is invoking the now “established language tradition” (for lack of a better term) where it seemed appropriate. It doesn’t necessarily sound like Paul because the expressions did not necessarily originate with him; he is “re-channeling” commonly accepted language because it is both true and appropriate to what needs to be said.
As far as it goes this makes full sense. That it will derail the claims of those who are fervent and emphatic that it is post-Pauline is something else again. Furthermore, elements such as church leadership guidelines would still remain; these would be emphatically endorsed by “late daters” as exhibiting post-Pauline church development—thereby discrediting the entire epistle by a different tool. There seems an undeniable correlation among interpreters both pro- and anti-genuine: to the extent that one finds the language compatible with a Pauline origin, then church structure does as well . . . and vice versa. To the extent that either is embraced as evidence of a post-Pauline date, then that person inevitably considers both factors as evidence of a post-apostolic origin.
The Old Age Scenario. Whatever other explanations we may accept for certain differences, Vincent effectively argues against the private versus public nature of the writings and the old age explanation for the Pastorals when he pens these words:
By way of explaining away these facts we are reminded that these are private letters; but even in his private letters a man does not so entirely abjure his literary peculiarities, and the letter to Philemon exhibits no lack of distinctive Pauline characteristics.
It is further urged that Paul’s style had developed, and that, in his advanced age, he had lost the vivacity once peculiar to him. One is tempted to smile at the suggestion of a development of style in the easy commonplaces of these Epistles over the nervous vigor of Romans, the racy incisiveness of Galatians and 2nd Corinthians, and the majestic richness of Ephesians.
As to a decline on account of age, Paul, on this showing, must have aged very rapidly. He styles himself “the aged” in Philemon verse 9. Colossians was written at the same time with Philemon, and Philippians and Ephesians shortly before or after. The Pastorals (assuming Paul’s authorship) cannot have been written more than three or four years later than these; but the Epistles of the Captivity certainly betray no lack of vigor, and exhibit no signs of senility; and the differences between these and the Pastorals are far greater than between the former and Paul’s earliest letters, written ten years before.
The production of an old man may indeed exhibit a lack of energy or a carelessness of style, but an old writer does not abandon his favorite words or his characteristic turns of expression. After following Paul for a dozen years through ten Epistles, all marked by the essential features of his style, one finds it hard to believe that he should suddenly become a writer of an entirely different type, ignoring his own characteristic and favorite modes of expression.
Not easy to dismiss is the fact that wording and style hinge upon who one is writing to and the circumstances. We would expect a modern author to do so, why not ancient ones? For a modern audience compare the similarities and differences between the same writer when consciously writing for an “adult” versus a “juvenile” audience—at least through the 1960s. For something more recent, Dean Koontz wrote the children’s book Santa’s Twin, which obviously “sounded” both similar and considerably different from his adult writings.
Ancients felt quite free and justified in varying their language according to their audience and topic as well. As Luke T. Johnson sums it up,
The premise that an ancient author should reveal a consistent Greek style—to be determined by word—statistics or use of particles—not only flies in the face of common sense (diction alters according to subject matter) and the actual evidence (Lucian’s Satires reveal a wide spectrum of styles, Luke-Acts demonstrates distinct styles in different settings, there are real differences within the undisputed letters), but ignores the fact that in ancient rhetoric, the stylistic principle of prosopopolia (writing in character or according to circumstance) was paramount.
So why would we expect Paul to address issues of church organization in the same manner and language as, say, moral issues. Different language for different needs.
To illustrate from personal experience, what follows is a complete list of all my commercially published books—not “vanity press” books, but “real” books. (I have absolutely no problem with self-published, but I simply never had the money for it)
I. World War II books
Hearings (1945-1946) and Prior Investigations of the Events Leading up to the
* No Choice but War: The
Eruption of War in the Pacific (1995)
* Secret Allies in The Pacific: Covert Intelligence and Code-Breaking Prior to
* World War II Resources on the Internet (2002)
II. Biblically related books
* Old Testament Roots of the Sermon on the Mount (1998)
* The Seven Cities of the Apocalypse and Roman Culture (1999)
* The Seven Cities of the Apocalypse & Greco-Asian Culture (1999)
* Biblical Studies on the Internet: A Resource Guide (2002)
* Biblical Studies on the Internet: A Resource Guide (Second, Expanded
* Alternative Lives of Jesus : Noncanonical Accounts through the Early Middle
III. Religious history works
(thin line between above and some of those that follow)
* Bible Translations: A History through Source Documents (1992)
Monarch and Bible in Sixteenth Century
Context of Biblical Translation (2000)
* Messianic Movements until 1899 (2005)
* Shapers of Early Christianity: 52 Biographies, A.D. 100-400 (2007)
IV. Other works
* This Day in American History (Third edition, 2008); original editor deceased;
took over and updated the new edition
* This Day in American History (Fourth edition; 2012)
Barring something truly incredible, this will be the complete list of my commercially published works. As I explained to my main editor, I simply lack the health and energy I once had. I must admit that annoys me. There are at least two World War Two books that, if the situation were different, I would no doubt complete—and there would be a very good chance that the publisher would be happy to accept both. In the case of the other company, however, the editor has literally died and I was always way different than the type of writer they normally published.
I haven’t said this as mere bravado, though I am quite proud of the work the good Lord has given me the strength to do. What I’m doing this for is to give the reader “a real life” jumping off point. Would you expect my World War Two works to “sound like” and even use much of the same vocabulary appropriate to the religious volumes? There would be both much overlap and much different. Many words would be found in either the religious or the historical or Biblical that would not be found in the others--or, at least, found uncommonly.
Even if we limit ourselves to the “Biblically related” volumes, do you really expect to find either the same prose style and words between the Sermon on the Mount and the Book of Revelation analyses? Would you not—rightly—expect a combination of similarity and “unique words and phrases”? Even more so when you contrast the religious history works and the Biblical ones!
Shouldn’t similar variances be expected in the apostle Paul or do we hold him to a stricter standard of uniformity that we would never think to hold a contemporary of ours?
Furthermore words that don’t appear elsewhere aren’t that uncommon in Paul’s non-“Pastoral” epistles either. Mounce, in his commentary on the Pastoral Epistles “points out that of the 2,301 words of the [ten] undisputed letters, 969 words occur only once (36 percent), and he asks, ‘If we have so little of Paul’s writing that fewer than half the words occur only once, what is the possibility of doing reliable statistical work?” In all fairness it should be noted that the percentage of single time usage is higher in the Pastorals than in the other individual Pauline epistles: 9% in 1 Timothy and 8 percent in both 2 Timothy and Titus. The highest of a work of roughly the same length as 1 Timothy would be Colossians, with a yield of 4% unique usages.
Paul surely knew and used more words than are found in the undisputed epistles. Paul had available at least 125,000 from the classical Greek. Would not time, circumstance, and personal temperament affect which of these were invoked at a given time? In light of different subject matters, we would expect major differences in word selection.
That Paul intentionally varies his vocabulary in various epistles is demonstrated by a consideration of key words in his known vocabulary. Eckhard J. Schnabel says it well when he writes:
The difference in distinctive subject matter accounts for vocabulary clusters with unusual words in all Pauline letters. Vocabulary that is generally acknowledged as “characteristically Pauline” occurs in a very erratic manner throughout Paul’s letters.
For example, the term “righteousness” (Greek, dikaiosyne) occurs twelve times in Romans, seven times in 2 Corinthians, five times in Galatians, three times each in Ephesians, Philippians, and 2 Timothy, and once in 1 Corinthians, 1 Timothy, and Titus, and is missing from Colossians, Philemon, 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians.
The term “law” (Greek, nomos) occurs seventy-two times in Romans, thirty-one times in Galatians, eight times in 1 Corinthians, three times in Philippians, twice in 2 Timothy, and once in Ephesians, and is absent from 2 Corinthians, Colossians, Philemon, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, and 2 Timothy.
Applying this principle to 1 Timothy, wouldn’t we expect an epistle with a heavy emphasis on organizational structure of the church to differ from other epistles where it is conspicuously absent?
Is there enough text to make better than the crudest guess whether this epistle differs from the ten generally accepted Pauline epistles? Even if we add all the Pastorals together, this provides us with just 3,488 words; the desired minimum for a comparative statistical analysis is 10,000 words—almost three times more--and the problem is even worse if we separate the three epistles (1, 2 Timothy and Titus) and analyze them separately. Statistical comparisons have their inherent difficulty and they are maximized when dealing with this modest an amount of text.
Another stylistic objection is that Paul sometimes “spins off” in an unexpected tangent from what he has been saying. Alfred Plummer responded to this line of reasoning by arguing that, odd as it might sometimes sound to us, this was actually quite in line with the style of writing Paul is known to have used:
[Another] class of difficulties has arisen from the numerous digressions of the author of these Epistles. It is stated that, without warning, he departs from the matter in hand to introduce broad statements of Christian principle or compendiums of truth; and 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Timothy 2:4-6; 1 Timothy 3:16, are cited in illustration.
This peculiarity is sufficiently marked, but not more so than it is in the Epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians, and Corinthians. Thus in Galatians 2:1-21, Paul digresses to recount portions of his own life; and in stating what he said to “Peter before them all,” he unfolds the whole doctrine of justification by faith. In the Epistles to the Corinthians, the digressions run into whole chapters, and it becomes difficult in consequence to follow the argument. Compare also Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 4:1, for a similar idiosyncrasy of style.
Are the Heresies Criticized Different from
Those the Genuine Apostle Faced?
To his credit Vincent concedes, “Before it can be decisively asserted that the heresies treated in these Epistles are later than Paul’s time, it must be settled what these heresies were, and this, with our present knowledge, is impossible. There are almost as many different views as there are critics. In the Epistles themselves the statements regarding heresies are general and sweeping, and, taken together, do not point to any particular system.”
Even though at least the bulk of the denunciations seem aimed at Gnostic-style deviations, “The moral developments of the heresies, rather than their doctrinal errors, are treated. Their representatives are wicked men and impostors: they are deceiving and deceived: they are of corrupt mind, destitute of truth, with their consciences seared: they lead captive silly women, laden with sins, led away by divers lusts: they are greedy of gain.”
Vincent argues that this is very different from the normal procedure of Paul “who defines what he assails, demonstrates its unsoundness, and shows the bearing of the gospel upon it.” In other words he guts the system itself rather than its results.
Of course, if Paul is addressing a minister working in a place where there are a number of varying, possibly small and rival cliques who are propagandizing their competing (and conflicting) theologies, but they share in common the same moral consequences, would it not be natural to emphasize the evil results that flow from embracing any of them? If one is dealing with a swarm of flies, does one carefully specify what is undesirable about each type or does one simply grab the fly swatter and remove the problem?
Paul is doing much the same when he emphasizes the immoral results regardless of the specific and particular theological structure that gives it birth. And at least some of these sources rose nowhere near the level of seriousness of a “theological structure” in the first place: for example, the “profane and old wives’ fables” (4:7) sure sound like a variety of silly ideas that don’t even rise to the level of a formal “system” of belief in the first place.
Furthermore this is not the only place where Paul far more targets the results of twisted theological and moral assumptions than the theoretical structure(s) they spring from. Philippians 3 is an excellent example:
17 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as have us for a pattern. 18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
Their behavior is held up as quite legitimate and proper subjects of rebuke independent of the underlying theology(ies) it may spring from. Indeed, they go unmentioned while in 1 Timothy we get at least vague hints of the roots of them. But if specificity is not required in Philippians, why should it be in Timothy?
It seems to often be assumed that Gnosticism is a Gentile phenomena. Paul wrote of how “Jews request a sign and Greeks seek after wisdom” (1 Corinthians ). For the educated and philosophically inclined, what higher “wisdom” could there be but an exotic and little known “wisdom”--that which they had reached through careful thought and meditation? Those “Jews” only had Torah; “we” have enlightenment!
However much that may have become the case at a later date, it has reasonably been argued that what Paul denounces is of Jewish rather than Gentile origin. Truth be told, extreme Jewish speculation certainly gave birth to what might well be called Jewish Gnosticism: It allowed the untamed imagination of the supposedly skilled interpreter to “draw out” of the text what no one else would imagine was even there.
F. Godet insists upon a strictly Jewish root of what Paul rebukes and introduces an effective amount of evidence in its behalf from the Biblical text itself:
The second characteristic of the heresies referred to in the Pastoral Epistles is their Jewish origin. The doctors who propagate them are called “teachers of the law, though they understand neither what they say nor whereof they confidently affirm.”
They are Judaizing Christians (“they of the circumcision,” Titus 1:10), raising foolish contentions about the law (Titus 3:9), and teaching “Jewish fables” (Titus 1:14), to which they add “endless genealogies,” evidently also Jewish, for they are classed by the writer with “fightings about the law” (Titus 3:9; 1 Timothy 1:4), and form part of the teaching of those who call themselves “teachers of the law” (1 Timothy 1:7).
The natural solution presents itself, if we accept the Pastoral Epistles as closely connected with the Epistle to the Colossians. There we read of teachers who were trying to bring the Church into legal bondage, advocating the law as a higher means of sanctification and illumination; making distinctions between days and meats, like the weak Christians spoken of in Romans 14:1-23, and taking up the worship of angels, in order to obtain from them revelations as to the celestial world (Colossians 2:16-18).
One step further in the same direction will put us in touch with the false teachers of the Pastoral Epistles, who only represent a further stage of degeneracy in the direction of Judaism. They are the precursors of the [medieval] Cabbala, which is a natural outgrowth of their doctrine.
As someone else has suggested, any form of Gnosticism that was in existence within the apostle’s actual lifetime almost had to be Jewish. For one thing, the percentage of Jews within the church would provide a large “seed bed.” For another, a significant faction of its religious leadership cultivated the art of making fine distinctions in what the Torah intended or permitted.
Working within a Gentile society in the Diaspora, one can easily imagine this mind frame seeking out not merely “hidden” Torah truths, but cosmic ones as well. It would become a bridge between Jewish and Gentile “dreamers” (to be kind to them) that would ultimately permit the substitution of vain speculation for the firm teachings of the gospel of Christ. Speculations not even rooted in Torah but in abstract theoretical formulations.
Did the Church Organizational Structure
of Elders and Deacons
Actually Exist during Paul’s Ministry?
The anti-Pauline argument is that, “The names Bishop and Deacon designate functions and not official titles” in the genuine writings of the apostle. From this root assumption the exegesis of texts hostile to the assumption must grow. In particular . . .
1. How does one explain the existence of bishops
and deacons in
The church polity of the Pastorals is of a later date than Paul. Within the circle of the Pauline Epistles there is no trace of formally constituted church officers. The greeting to Bishops and Deacons in Philippians is unique, but it does not imply a polity differing substantially from that exhibited in 1st Corinthians and 1st Thessalonians. The greeting is to the church first, and the special mention of Bishops and Deacons by way of appendage is explained by the fact that the letter was cancel out by the pecuniary contribution of the Philippian church to Paul, of the collection and sending of which these functionaries would naturally have charge. [The strange wording “cancel out” is found in two different online reproductions of the text, clearly originating from different sources rather than being duplicates of a single one]
We know that this congregation sent help to Paul on multiple occasions (-17), but no mention is made of any special role of bishops and deacons in carrying out the preparatory work. We could (probably rightly) assume that the bishops suggested it and the congregation enthusiastically embraced the idea—since assistance was sent on multiple occasions. Likewise we can imagine deacons (as “servants” of the church) being in charge of maintaining the collected materials safely until the materials (or their value) was sent.
But why do we assume that these were de facto rather than de jure positions? The concept fits amiably with the role of deacons, since they are set apart to do the “leg work” of church projects. True, one can function in such a role whether doing such on an on-going (official) basis or in carrying out a temporary project for the congregation.
But how in the world do bishops become a de facto status? The man who originates the good idea of helping Paul is automatically regarded as a “bishop”—and, presumably, anyone else coming up with a popular idea that is adopted by the congregation? I have immense trouble grasping how the terminology could come to apply to any temporary function.
if in “to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in
Furthermore it is not a post holder (do facto or de jure) that Paul wishes to hold up for special honor in regard to the contribution. Rather it is the man who carried it to him, stayed with him, and worked with him:
Philippians 4: 18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.
Philippians 2: 25 Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; 26 since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. 27 For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful. 29 Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; 30 because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me
In light of this heavy emphasis on who Paul wished to give special recognition to in regard to directly providing his needs, surely the reason that “bishops and deacons” are mentioned is not because they had some key role in the matter but because they were “authority figures” within the congregation. Involved, to one degree or another, in that project and everything else the congregation did.
2. Rather than holding positions they have been appointed to by their co-religionists, the historic Paul regarded church officer holders as having a direct supernatural appointment to their role. Vincent argues the case in these words,
In the formal list, in Ephesians 4:11, of those whom God has set in the church, neither Bishops, Elders, nor Deacons occur; and yet that Epistle was written within a short time of the writing of the Philippian letter. The offices in the Pauline church were charismatic. The warrant of leadership was a divine, spiritual endowment. Paul recognizes certain functions as of divine institution; and those functions are assumed in virtue of a special, divine gift in prophecy, speaking with tongues, teaching, healing, or helping, as the case may be (see 1 Corinthians 12). There is no recognition of official distinctions, or of formal appointment to definite offices, in the Pauline Epistles. Apostles, prophets, teachers, powers, helps, healings, kinds of tongues, do not represent offices resting on the appointment of the church.
If we have come anywhere close to interpreting Philippians correctly, then the above argument self-destructs. We know that Paul does not mention the offices in Ephesians but he does in Philippians. Does Paul have to mention everything in any one text or book for it to have been part of his belief system?
Hence one needs to find some alternate explanation for the lack of these posts being mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. Might not the reason be that, as Vincent argues, that Paul is concerned there with supernatural endowments? In contrast the posts of elder/bishop and deacon are those obtained by appointment from one’s local brothers and sisters in the Lord?
in the case of
Hence there would be good reason to leave things very “unorganized,” leaving it to the actions of the Holy Spirit intervening in any given church service as the Spirit deemed best. Organizing into an “official structure” could be postponed to a more advantageous stage of the congregation’s development.
There Is No Clearly Obvious Point
in Paul’s Ministry to Place
the Three “Pastoral Epistles”
This, in part, ties in with the questions of (1) whether Paul had the opportunity he wished for of a Spanish missionary journey and (2) the assumption that the Pastorals were written after his re-imprisonment. The apostolic age dating is typically based upon the assumption that this missionary tour did, indeed, turn out to be possible. And on a second assumption as well, that during the re-imprisonment these three epistles were written. That option we’ll discuss further a little later in our introductory remarks.
It should be noted that Paul could easily have been
released and events took him elsewhere than
It is certainly the case that these letters are difficult to “fit into Paul’s ministry”—especially Titus—but the same can be said of the majority of letters ascribed to Paul, and the analysis is not made easier by the insistence that all the letters have to come from the same setting. Using Acts and the entire Pauline corpus, we can with some degree of certainty locate 1 Thessalonians and (if authentic) 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and Romans. Galatians is notoriously difficult to locate either spatially or temporally. And the captivity letters (including Philemon, Philippians, 2 Timothy, Colossians and Ephesians) are all capable of being placed in diverse times and places.
Wording the same basic negative argument in a different manner—we have no way to adequately fit in the writing of these epistles with the information provided by Acts. Of course, Acts provides not one single reference to the writing of any Pauline epistle—to anyone. As already noted, when we attempt to juggle Acts and the epistles to come up with approximate interlocking dates for the letters, we arrive at a reasonable certainly for only five of them.
The simple truth is that Acts, though providing much data on the apostle, leaves out a tremendous amount of information. Consider Paul’s summary of his sufferings in 2 Corinthians 12 and contrast that with Acts—thinking about how much of this is left out:
24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 25 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.
It wasn’t anything conspiratorial that caused this to be omitted by Luke. There was simply only so much space available if one wished to keep everything within the realm of one scroll length. To get a better idea of what we are talking about, let us approximate two dates from estimates that have been made: Let us place his conversion at 34 A.D. and the writing of 2 Corinthians in 56 A.D. (the range runs 55-57). That gets us into Acts 20 or the first part of Acts 21 (though verse 14), with the Acts narrative continuing through sometime in 62 (ending the two year period referred to in Acts 28:30-31 with either his release or death).
In other words some 22 years are
covered between Acts 9 (his conversion) and the writing of Paul’s second letter
So our failure to convincingly interlock the “pastorals” with Acts should come as no great surprise—and that is whether you consider them genuinely apostolic (such as myself) or if you don’t.
Timothy Did Not Need Key Information
Provided in the First Epistle
Although one could probably say this in regard to other areas of teaching found in the letter—much of it, at least; perhaps even most of it—one particular theme does seem worthy of special attention. Walter F. Taylor, Jr., raises the question, “Why would Paul need to set forth basic church regulations when he had just seen Timothy, who was a trusted, close companion of many years? Similar questions can be raised about Titus.”
He goes on, to elaborate at length, on Paul’s spiritual “battle experience” (our language) in contrast to the youthful—even “child” language—that is used of both Timothy and Titus in their respective epistles. Under heavy pressure, having endured so much and facing the extremely high probability of death, having played “father figure” to them both was it not natural for the apostle to fall into such language?
As to repeating things that were already known--Why did your preacher repeat something in last Sunday’s sermon that he had preached six months ago? Could it be that it served a useful purpose, a needed purpose—even though it was a repetition? Why should it seem odd for Paul to have done the same? It also provided written proof that, for example, the prerequisites for church office were unquestionably those the apostle wanted.
Timothy was young, he was potentially subject to pressure from the locals to “second guess” any standards he laid down. (“Why that young whipper-snapper!” to use the indignant language of a generation now not that far in the American past.) When the letter was shared with the congregation—it was hardly intended to be confidential and secret after all!—there could be no doubt that the standards Timothy already knew could not be denied to have Paul’s backing. Not to mention Timothy’s right to take the initiative in overseeing the selection process. (The same reasoning of reinforcing his leadership status and as acting upon Paul’s instructions would exist in regard to Titus as well.)
Basic Data Not Mentioned in the Epistle
This is the “flip side” of the previous objection. There it was information was needlessly included; here that such already known information was not included! In all fairness the issues are different—such things as the fundamental role of faith in producing salvation (think Romans in particular).
Some things a preacher feels need to repeat (and we gave reasons in regard to church office holders in our remarks above) and there are things that he does not feel the need to repeat on this specific occasion. Timothy (and the congregation) needed reaffirming guidance on how to secure the proper organization and functioning of the local church. In contrast, Paul was not addressing those who needed to be reminded of the critical function of faith and grace for example. Furthermore, neither Timothy nor Titus needed such instruction “for they had been well grounded by Paul’s oral teaching for some 15-20 years” already.
The “Odd” Mixture of Generality and Specifics
The epistle contains an unexpected mixture of both moral generalities and instructions and the interjection of quite specific admonitions on church “structure:” the appointment of church officials (elders and deacons) and the criteria for the category of church supported widows. Today we might well call it a mixture of “beast and fowl.”
On the other hand, if organizational matters needed to be discussed, why should Paul neglect to do so even when he wishes to remind Timothy—and through the public reading of the epistle all the congregation as well--of various moral and doctrinal matters? Must patterns of composition be rigid and not yield to local needs? Would that not be subject matter being made a slave to “form” rather than allowing “form” to be adjusted according to what is needed?
Although Tebtunis Papyrus 703--described in detail further below--may not be “conclusive” proof that 1 Timothy builds on a well established epistolary variant, it certainly argues powerfully that it would not be out of line for a newly appointed administrator to receive instructions covering both administrative and behavioral guidelines. Admittedly this could be countered by arguing that a Pauline imitator might have adopted that style as well. But the reply would still not remove the evidence that such a repetition would perfectly fit a Pauline era situation as well.
The problem, of course, is that the different style of composition is introduced as evidence that Paul couldn’t have written the epistle. When there is apparent strong evidence that indicates he could have used such a style, then it is rebutted by the accusation that someone later could have done so as well. That strikes me as conceding the point while throwing (mainly) dust in the air to avoid admitting that the initial argument is only suggestive and possible rather than probable or conclusive.
To argue that the specifics of church organization and more importantly the language used to present it, are not found in the “genuinely Pauline” correspondence is inadequate to prove the case. Since these matters are conspicuously absent—or minimally touched upon—we don’t really have the foggiest idea what language the historical Paul would have used in place of what is used here. Why should we assume that he would have used something different?
The language of First Timothy quite adequately fits the needs of the moment, it was available to Paul, and there seems no a priori reason to suspect that he would have found any of it either offensive or undesirable to utilize when discussing the subjects in the “pastorals.” In other words, it is quite reasonable to assume that this is the kind of language he would have used and the argument against his usage of it because it is different seems to fall and collapse.
As to the contents of Papyrus 703, Frank S. Thielman provides this useful summary:
Paul wrote 1 Timothy to provide his coworker with a mandate to restore
order to the Ephesian church, which had been
corrupted by this teaching. Within the
Pauline corpus, the letter is unusual.
The salutation is not followed, as is common in Paul’s letters, with a
prayer or prayer report, but with a description of Timothy’s commission from
Paul to quell the false teaching in
Letters like this were commonly sent in antiquity by a government official to a subordinate upon the subordinate’s assumption of some new public responsibility. Perhaps the best extant example of such letters is the Tebtunis Papyrus 703.
A government administrator sent this letter in the third century B.C. to a steward who had just taken charge of an Egyptian administrative district. The letter is written as a “memorandum” (hypomnema) to remind the steward of the things that the administrator had covered with him in conversation before the steward left to take his new post (lines 258-261).
The details of the letter show that the steward is to straighten out particular problems, such as the complaints of farmers against village officials (lines 40-49) and the theft of oil revenues through smuggling (lines 141-145). Personal admonitions are mingled with detailed practical instructions on how to administrate the nome. The letter concludes with a general admonition to exemplary conduct:
Your prime duty is to act with peculiar care, honesty, and in the best possible way . . . and your next duty is to behave well and be upright in your district, to keep clear of bad company, to avoid all base collusion, to believe that, if you are without reproach in this, you will be held deserving of higher functions, to keep the instructions in your hand, and to report on everything as has been ordered. (lines 261-280)
This letter was something like a handbook for the steward as he began the duties of his new office.
A Fundamental Problem with Pseudonymity:
If 1 Timothy Is Fake Apostolic,
Why Was It Written in the First Place?
Why Was It Accepted?
Barring the scenario that this epistle was written to provide “apostolic” backing to the heretofore unheard of idea of having permanent, ongoing church posts, I am perplexed as to why there would be any reason to prepare this “forgery.” Forgeries require a motive. What in the world could it possibly have been?
Enter the concept of a “Pauline school” that wished to honor and perpetuate respect for the apostle by writing materials that imitated what he had done. Ancient Greco-Roman places of learning gave literary imitation as assignments for the individual to develop his skills. Working from a quality model from the past, they had a high caliber pattern to imitate.
Did some subset of Christians—who mysteriously disappeared into thin air leaving no historical allusions in surviving records that they ever existed—have produced these “pastoral” documents that we have? Documents that somehow passed from being mere literary curiosities (and perhaps even praiseworthy in that context) to become accepted as part of the genuine apostolic tradition and canon? And that without the purely innocent originators correcting the misled souls who had recognized in it an apostolic authority they never originally possessed? Nor which they had intended for them to receive when they wrote it! (Unless they were conscious, knowing liars and intended deception—which would strip the whole scenario of all pretense of innocence and goodwill.)
In one of his works, Luke T. Johnson provides these five basic difficulties with the “Pauline school” type of scenario:
1. What positive evidence do we have for the existence of such a Pauline school after the Apostle’s death apart from the very compositions that are in question? . . .
2. The imitation of literary models as a means of rhetorical training took place at a fairly elementary level. It is a long leap from school exercises to compositions as complex as and serving the proposed purposes of the Pastoral Letters. This is the place where actual comparison with the Socratic Letters is illuminating, for they fall short of the Pastorals both in length and in rhetorical sophistication.
3. If authentic letters of Paul were being used as exemplars for imitation, why did such students not compose letters written to churches (as is hypothesized for Colossians and Ephesians) rather than letters written to delegates, for which there are no precedents in the undisputed corpus?
4. If students were imitating authentic Pauline letters, why were they not more successful in sustaining the “authentic” Pauline style? This is the same question that applies to fragment theories, except more sharply.
5. If we have a corpus produced by several students in a school, the problem of similarity and diversity in style becomes even more acute, as does the supposition that a group effort could accomplish such a subtle manipulation of the “Pauline tradition” as is envisaged for the Pastoral Letters.
Related to authorial motive is the issue of why was it accepted? The readers of the New Testament were well aware that an epistle could be faked. Paul had warned them of the danger of fakery in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3:
1 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3 Let no one deceive you by any means. . . .
John takes it from a slightly different standpoint. Paul warns the readers not to be credulous. In contrast John warns, in effect, “Don’t even think about playing games by adding to the apostolic text.” Hence we read in Revelation 22:18-19:
18 For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
If John was this emphatic about altering an existing text, what do you think his judgment would have been on anyone who dared invent a new one? Or Paul’s for that matter!
If an epistle suddenly popped up that no one had ever heard of and it was one that directly affected how they were supposed to morally and religiously act, how could intelligent minds avoid noting the very incongruities that modern scholars claim prove the epistles weren’t Paul’s? Were they so blind and ignorant to miss what is so “obvious” to modern scholars? And if some were gullible, surely not all! And many of these were native readers of Greek who would be alert to oddities far beyond our “second language” capacity to detect them.
If the letters merely reaffirmed what they already knew, how would their acceptance change anything they did? (If they didn’t alter or modify existing behavior, what was the need to write them? They were not needed!) And if they did require changes, would not that set off every alarm to make sure the letters were authoritative and binding, i.e., genuinely from the source they claimed to be?
And we are to further assume that a massive “backfire” would not erupt as the faked documents moved into congregations far less susceptible than the one(s) where they first originated? In other words, forgery is a theoretical possibility, but it is hard to see how it would have been accomplished in the real world in which heresy was recognized as a genuine possibility.
For a very detailed discussion of this matter of pseudonymity see further below under the heading “Ancient Attitude of Society, Judaism, and Christianity Toward Pseudonymity.
B. Evidence For the
Genuine Apostolic Authorship Option
To Find a Time Frame
for Pauline Authorship It Is
Usually Regarded as Virtually Essential
That There Was a Period
Envolving a Release from the Captivity
He Was In At the End of Acts
Assuming the Pastorals (1-2 Timothy, Titus) are genuinely apostolic, this is the time period where they are placed. From the fact that this chronological location is so widespread—among both proponents and opponents of the authenticity of the writings--Walter F. Taylor, Jr., correctly sums up, “All scholars agree on that judgment.”
The release is essential to this view, but a Spain-specific mission is not, however. Even so, the almost inevitable reconstruction seems to inevitably be that after the release from prison, there was, indeed, a Spanish area missionary journey, and a re-arrest that ultimately led directly to the apostle’s death. All three epistles were written during this period, but only 2 Timothy explicitly refers to Paul’s imprisonment (2 Timothy 1:8, 12, 16) and therefore any reconstruction along this line needs place only that specific epistle during the time in jail.
Hence one obvious area of investigation of the post-release scenario must envolve an evaluation of the evidence that this release did occur. In making a judgment on this, the following data should be carefully considered.
Most—but not all of it—comes from the Pastorals themselves. If one assumes that they are post-apostolic inventions then they are almost irrelevancies. But not completely dismissable, even then: Would any sane person interject claims that would be known to be transparently false? In other words, the claims would be compatible with the perceived genuine chronology of those currently alive concerning the actions of the apostle Paul.
1. Paul clearly expected to be released from his
Roman imprisonment at the end of Acts. He was so sure of this that he wrote
Philemon, “But, meanwhile, also prepare
a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be
granted to you” (Philemon, verse 22).
Paul never strikes one as blind and oblivious. If he was this confident that he would
be released, are not the odds immensely high that he was? However it should be noted that Philemon is
usually considered a resident of
2. Paul refers to work with Titus that is not covered in the book of Acts. “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should
set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I
commanded you” (Titus 1:5). That implies
Paul’s presence with Titus. As
Kenneth S. Wuest points out, “Paul did not touch
One of the other two alternatives is that it happened during the period of Acts and that, for some reason, Luke does not mention it. That really does seem strange for why should he omit it?
The other possibility is that the reference to a Cretan ministry by Paul is cut out of whole cloth and is, like the epistle itself, pure invention by a Pauline imitator. But would one want to include a piece of “innocent folklore” that the locals might readily repudiate as invention and which could undermine the receptivity of the epistle itself? Would not wisdom dictate stripping the epistle free from all such “checks” that might be imposed upon it?
3. Paul refers to association with two different
individuals at a time that does not fit within the frame of Acts. In 1
Timothy we read, “Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus
Kenneth S. Wuest describes the problems, “Since Paul
was in prison in Rome for two years, the last time he was at Troas and Miletus was six years before (Acts 20:6, 17). At that time, Timothy was with him, and he
had repeatedly seen Timothy since. But
what is even more conclusive, is that Trophimus did
not remain at
4. The Pastorals refer to the town of
But this doesn’t fit into the Acts chronology at all. “There were three cities of that name. But there is no record in the Book of Acts, of Paul having visited any city of that name on his first three missionary journeys.” Therefore this must indicate that he was free after the final imprisonment in Acts and that he had the liberty to decide where he would be staying the forthcoming winter.
Nicopolis, though called such, was actually within
different Nicopolis was in western
the two towns that are most often mentioned in this connection. What is intriguing, however, is that neither
has anything to do with
5. The Possible Evidence of 2 Timothy 4:16-17. The obvious proof text here is 2 Timothy 4:16-17:
16 At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. 17 But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 18 And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen.
We have included verse 18 here because it throws a further oddity into our discussion that is well worth mentioning. If verses 16-17 both imply Paul’s escape from deadly punishment by the Roman authorities and, hence, his release—in other words, the typical interpretation—does not verse 18 surely sound like he fully anticipated a successful escape from whatever current adversity he was suffering under (the “every evil work”)? Yet the typical scenario is that at this time he was undergoing a second imprisonment, one that he emphatically did not escape from alive. Although “Christian optimism” could be the thrust of his assertion and the confidence that he would be saved regardless of what happens on this earth, an anticipated “happy ending” for the current problem would seem to be the more natural reading of the text.
The still widely used older scholar William R. Vincent has this “take” on the release scenario typically proved from verses 16-17, “The assumption is entirely gratuitous. The words may have referred to a hearing during his first captivity, when he was delivered from imminent danger, but not set at liberty.” The obvious problem is that if the events of verses 16-17 refer to the imprisonment that led to his death, then all that is being asserted is that the “lions” did not have him for “lunch.” Rather, later, they had him for their “supper.” Such happiness and joy for a short delay in death? Perhaps, but does the degree of joy seem to reflect anything less than full escape?
Did The Period of Paul’s Release From Prison
a Journey to
1. It was Paul’s intent to preach in
this reason I also have been much hindered from coming to you. 23 But now no longer having a place in
these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come to you, 24 whenever I journey to
he wished to go to
What happens then, we are not told. Did the confinement continue longer--and how much longer? Does the time reference simply indicate the state of affairs at the time when Luke had finished the double work of Luke-Acts? Since this would have “brought the story up-to-date (literally)” this would have been a logical place to end his treatise. It still leaves us without textual evidence of how much longer imprisonment continued and what happened after his fate had been decided.
2. The evidence of Clement. This first century writing has been invoked as the earliest post-Biblical text to allude to the Spanish mission. As a non-accepting older scholar, William R. Vincent, worded it,
A passage in Clement's Epistle to the Corinthians (v.), [is] as follows: (Paul) “having preached the gospel both in the East; and in the West, received the glorious renown due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and having come to the boundary of the West, and having borne his testimony before the rulers. Thus he departed out of the world.” The main point is having come to the boundary of the West (ἐπὶ τὸ τέρμα τῆς δύσεως ἐλθών).
It is claimed that this
expression refers to
read this ancient testimony to mean “to the boundary where the West begins,” i.e.,
E. Earle Ellis surveyed the surviving ancient documentation
and comes to the conclusion that, “In roughly contemporary Roman writings ‘the
West’ geographically seems to refer mostly to Spain and sometimes to Gaul or
Britain but never, as far as I am aware, to Rome. Nor can [Clement’s
wording] to terma
tes duseos be weakened
reconstructs the situation leading to the composition of the “pastorals:” After a possible
trip to the
He then provided them both with concise summaries of the proper procedure that ought to be followed. He incorporated into these the idiom as to church offices and such like that was favored in such heavily Gentile areas since it was fully compatible with the equivalent ones in traditionally Jewish ones. The chance of Paul providing any type of further personal follow up was ruined by his arrest and ultimate death. But he would continue to exercise a pivotal influence through the standards he had laid down in these epistles.
3. The evidence of the Muratorian Canon. This Latin document (often dated c. 170 A.D.) provides a detailed list of New Testament books but has not been fully preserved. One of the places is in regard to what became of Paul at the end of his Acts imprisonment.
The prominent scholar Bruce Metzger provides the following translation, from which we edit for brevity the most pivotal parts related to the current topic (numerals refer to the line of the text and brackets provide “translational expansions” of that author):
(35) . . . Luke compiled (36) the individual events that took place in his presence — (37) as he plainly shows by omitting the martyrdom of Peter (38) as well as the departure of Paul from the city [of Rome] (39) when he journeyed to Spain. As for the Epistles of (40-1) Paul, they themselves make clear to those desiring to understand, which ones [they are], from what place, or for what reason they were sent. . . . (42) First of all, to the Corinthians, prohibiting their heretical schisms . . . (54-5) . . . It is true that he writes once more to the Corinthians . . . (59-60) . . . [Paul also wrote] out of affection and love one to Philemon, one to Titus, and two to Timothy; and these are held sacred (62-3) in the esteem of the Church catholic for the regulation of ecclesiastical discipline. . . .
William R. Vincent puts this fascinating interpretive “spin” on the text,
Canon (about 170 A.D.) contains a passage apparently to the effect that Luke
relates to Theophilus the things which fell under his
own notice, and evidently declares as apart from his purpose the martyrdom of
Peter; but the departure of Paul setting out from the city to
The key question is not what is
omitted, but what is included: All that
went with Paul’s departure is left out (perhaps mainly intentionally to keep
what is clearly intended to be a relatively concise document exactly that,
concise), but this much is directly asserted: He left the city. Unless you want to argue he left a different
It should also be noted that the same Roman author attributes the two Timothy epistles to Paul just as clearly as he does that sent to Philemon. Hence one might argue about what exactly were Paul’s living conditions when he wrote Timothy and Titus and where he wrote the letters from, but not that it was normally conceded that he did write them at some point before his death.
4. The evidence of later writers. Vincent considers inadequate the evidence of a Spanish missionary journey from later authors as well,
After these two [Clement
of Rome and the Muratorian Canon] we have nothing
until the fourth century, when Eusebius says that there was a tradition that
the apostle again set forth to the ministry of his preaching, and having a
second time entered the same city of Rome, was perfected by his martyrdom
before Nero. That in
this imprisonment he wrote the second Epistle to Timothy (H. E. ii. 22, 25). This is all. Jerome merely echoes Eusebius. Eusebius does not mention
may not mention a journey to
5. There is the lack of other references to a western preaching tour and any Spanish location claiming a tie-in with Paul’s post-release period. Vincent’s final argument is this:
History does not show any
apostolic foundation in
remarks (note on Euseb. ii. 22, 2): “The strongest argument against the visit to
The fact that various authors have not referred to the subject an individual is trying to research is one of the inevitably annoying obstacles that is encountered in virtually any piece of historical research. He covers the right time period, perhaps even in the same city—but for reasons of personal interest being centered on other matters he somehow omits that subject you are so vitally interested in.
We are talking here about virtually all historical topics of any era or age, especially in centuries gone by when our surviving data sources are inevitably more limited than today. Why should it be so shocking that those who might well have mentioned something do not. Disappointing, yes; but conclusive that it never happened—ah, no. Sorry. Life is not that simple.
more interest is the fact that we have no Spanish location claiming foundation
by Paul. But, outside of
I’d like to say yes, but I confess that operating from their context rather than one many centuries later, it might have simply been the “highlight of the generation” rather than something they would communicate in records for decades or centuries. Perhaps if more records had been written or survived we would have had such testimony.
Did The Period of Paul’s Release From Prison
Envolve a Journey to Places
is said of a post release missionary trip to
Although currently in prison, he also expected to return to
We read in Colossians 4:9 that Tychicus had as his traveling companion to that city “Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you.” In Philemon we discover that Onesimus was a slave of that man and Paul pleads for his
good treatment—not as an escaped slave but because he was voluntarily returning
and because he was now “more than a slave—a beloved
brother” (verse 16). Hence it is usually
assumed that Philemon lived in or near
that matter, if Paul exited the area through
Such things are speculative, but not irrational or irresponsible speculation.
Furthermore, the facts of Paul’s case in particular argue for a release and the ending words of Acts can easily be read as quite congenial to that conclusion:
It ought not to be
forgotten that there was no reason for anticipating that the issue of an
appeal, such as that which
And, although such appeals to the imperial jurisdiction might involve protracted delays, we cannot but suppose that they were on the whole fairly conducted. The stern justice of the imperial policy was, in large measure, independent of the personal character of the reigning Caesar. And it must be remembered that, although matters were different ten or twenty years later, there would be no question of putting a citizen on his trial merely for being a Christian, at as early a date as that of St. Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome.
St. Luke represents him as
abiding “two whole years in his own hired dwelling,” receiving all that visited
him, “teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness,
none forbidding him” (Acts 28:31). The
specification of “two years” seems to indicate that the historian is conscious
that at the end of that time a change in
Not wishing to delay his manuscript any further, the author finished on this note and sent it on to Theophilus, for whom the two books of Luke and Acts had been written (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-3).
For the Epistle’s Apostolic Origin
Some have pointed out that certain little things, like Paul urging Timothy to drink a little wine make no sense if the book is pseudonymous. It advances no agenda and is of no direct value to the congregation Timothy is supposed to be at. As J. H. Bernard rightly suggests, “It is obvious to remark how improbable it is that such a precept as this, and introduced thus parenthetically, should occur in a forged letter. Like 2 Timothy 4:13, it is a little touch of humanity which is a powerful argument for the genuineness of the Epistle in which it is found.”
Alfred Plummer pointed out that the significant number of personal names introduced in the pastorals would have produced suspicions and probable rejection because of the ones no one had ever heard of in connection with Paul—if they were merely invented identities. But if they were individuals known to have been associated with the apostle—even though some are otherwise unknown to us in our age—we can better understand why the epistles were accepted, i.e., the asserted historical setting rang true to those who were in a position to know. As he wrote:
In the Epistle to
Titus, four persons are mentioned (Artemas, Tychicus, Zenas, Apollos); in 1 Timothy two are mentioned (Hymenaeus and Alexander); in 2 Timothy sixteen are
mentioned (Erastus, Trophimus,
Demas, Crescens, Titus, Mark, Tychicus,
Carpus, Onesiphorus, Prisca,
Now, supposing these Epistles forged at the time De Wette supposes--viz., about A.D. 90--is it not certain that some of these numerous persons must have been still alive? Or, at any rate, many of their friends must have been living. How, then, could the forgery possibly escape detection? If it be said that some of the names occur only in the Pastoral Epistles, and may have been imaginary, that does not diminish the difficulty; for would it not have much surprised the Church to find a number of persons mentioned in an Epistle of Paul from Rome whose very names had never been heard of?
It is not uncommon to have that date “fudged” a bit to “at the turn of the first century,” which permits a dating perhaps a decade in either direction. 110 A.D., perhaps, but it is not all that uncommon to find liberal critics dating it even a few decades later. Push the date that far and this potential problem might not occur to the locals even as a hypothetical difficulty. But put it c. 90 A.D. and it seems to ring quite true.
The later dating would, however, raise a different problem: “Where in the world did these letters come from. We are the congregations that supposedly received them and we’ve never heard of them before!” Unless we are to assume they were blindly credulous and would not have thought to raise the question, what would have been a convincing answer to that response?
 Luke T. Johnson, Contested
Issues in Christian Origins and the New Testament. Volume 146 in the series “Supplements to Novum Testamentum” (
 Ibid., Contested, n. 2, 384.
 Ibid. n. 2, 384.
 Ben Witherington III, Letters
and Homilies for Hellenized Christains; Volume
I: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on
Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John (
 Luke T. Johnson, Contested, 387-388.
 For an excellent in-depth analysis of the varied speculation on the role of an amanuensis in general and Tertius in particular, see Chandler Vinson, “Tertius: Writer of Romans (Romans 16:22),” part of Trivial Devotion website. At: http://trivialdevotion.blogspot.com/2013/09/tertius-writer-of-romans-romans-1622.html. (Accessed: September 2016.)
 Don Stewart, “Were Some of the Biblical Books Actually Written by a Scribe Rather than by the Named Author? (Amanuensis).” At: http://web.ccbce.com/multimedia/BLB/faq/nbi/1243.html. (Accessed: September 2016.) Although the organization of the material is our own, Stewart introduces the texts we have cited as evidence that the use of an amanuensis was routine.
 Luke T. Johnson, The
First and Second Letters to Timothy (
 Witherington provides a concise summary of the arguments available on 174-176.
 William R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (1886). Internet edition at http://biblehub.com/commentaries/vws/1_timothy/1.htm. (Accessed: October 2015.)
 Luke T. Johnson, Contested, n. 14, 387.
 Eckhard J. Schnabel, “Paul, Timothy, and Titus: The Assumption of a Pseudonymous Author and
of Pseudonymous Recipients in the Light of Literary, Theological, and
Historical Evidence,”in Do Historical Matters
Matter to Faith? A Critical Appraisal of
Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture, edited by James K. Hoffmeier and Dennis R. Magary (
 Ibid., n. 23, 388.
 Ibid., 388.
 Ibid., 387.
 Alfred Plummer in Introduction to 1 Timothy, in Joseph S. Exell, editor, The Biblical Illustrator (New York: 1905-1909). Internet edition at: http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/. (Accessed: October 2015.)
 Vincent (internet).
 F. Godet, Introduction to 1 Timothy, in Joseph S. Exell, editor, The Biblical Illustrator (New York: 1905-1909). At: http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/. (Accessed: October 2015.)
 Plummer (citing F. Godet) on 1:3-4, Illustrator.
 Vincent (internet).
 Luke T. Johnson, Contested, n. 15, 387.
 Luke T. Johnson, Letters, 62.
 Walter F. Taylor, Jr., “1-2 Timothy, Titus,” in The Deutero-Pauline Letters: Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Timothy, Titus, edited by Gerhard Krodel, in the Proclamation Commentaries series, Revised Edition (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 1993), 62. Although theoretically summarizing the case that can be made without explicitly embracing it (in this and our next footnote), there is zilch even suggesting an alternative view—arguing that this is Taylor’s preferred one as well.
 Stuart Allen, The Early and Pastoral Epistles of Paul (London: Berean Publishing Trust, 1977), 257.
 Luke T. Johnson, Letters, 107-108.
 Frank S. Thielman, Theology
of the New Testament: A Canonical and
Synthetic Approach (
 Luke T. Johnson, Letters, 87.
 Walter F. Taylor, 61.
 Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: The Pastoral Epistles, 1952; reprinted with original page numbering as part of Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament, volume 3 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1973), 14.
 Ibid., 14-15.
 Ibid., 15.
 Vincent (internet).
 Vincent (internet).
 E. Earle Ellis, “Traditions in the Pastoral Epistles,” in Early Jewish and Christian Exegesis: Studies in Memory of William Hugh Brownlee, edited by Craig A. Evans and William F. Stinespring (Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press, 1987), evidence divided between n. 79, 251, and n. 80, 252.
 Ibid., 251-252.
 Ibid., 252-253. This is how I read the intent of his summary, but others might modify it slightly since it is a short summation of what must surely have been a far more complex situation; he, like I, was trying to keep it very brief.
 Bruce Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), as reproduced in part by Peter Kirby at the “Early Christian Writings” website. At: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/muratorian.html. (Accessed: July 2015.)
 Vincent (internet).
 J. H.
 Ibid., on .
 Plummer, in Exell, Illustrator.
 Gerd Hafner, “Deuteronomy in the Pastoral Epistles,” in Deuteronomy in the New Testament: The New Testament and the Scriptures of Israel, edited by Steve Moyise and Maarten J. J. Menken, Library of New Testament Studies, volume 358 (New York: T & T Clark, 2007), n. 1, 136, who comments that this is “generally” the accepted date.
 Robert J. Karris, The Pastoral Epistles, in the New Testament Message series (Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1979), xiii.