Comparative Commentary on 1 Timothy Return to Home
By Roland H. Worth, Jr. © 2020
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(Other Introductory Issues)
2. Date of Writing
If written somewhere between a release from prison and his later reimprisonment and ultimate death, then--depending upon what source you prefer--we have a range beginning in 62 or 63 and ending somewhere between 64 and 68 A.D. (Aside: The exact span of the imprisonment is a matter of substantial disagreement. One scholar who dates it as “perhaps A.D. 59-61” immediately adds in parentheses, “Some say 60-62, others 61-63 or 62-64.”)
Second Timothy was clearly written with Paul in prison and anticipating his likely death—placing it toward the end of the spectrum of dates. First Timothy and Titus could go anywhere in the interim years between his release and later re-arrest.
example Ben Witherington III believes that Titus was
written c. 65 A.D. and was the first of the “pastorals” to be composed. At that point, judging from that epistle,
Paul expected to join up with him. Not
long after this letter was sent, the apostle received word of problems in
If, however, one seeks out a date outside this spectrum, one could date Titus in the period of the third missionary journey. As one individual makes the case:
Titus was a Gentile
companion of Paul even before his first missionary journey (Gal 2:3). Paul is not in prison (Titus ) when this letter is written, and he is
planning to spend the winter in Nicopolis (
Since most of these
details center around
Similarly, he places First Timothy a little earlier, in 56 or 57:
There is no hint in 1 Timothy that Paul is in prison. In other letters, where Paul is in prison, he says so or alludes to it multiple times, so this fact alone tends to date 1 Timothy prior to Paul’s imprisonment in Caesarea in 57 A.D.
Paul says he urged Timothy
to stay at
Timothy would have needed
this letter toward the beginning of his time in
J. H. Bernard does not regard this as a viable scenario for these reasons:
“I exhorted thee to tarry
The other visit was of
longer duration. It is described in Acts
19 and lasted for some three years. And
the suggestion has been made (though it is not adopted now by critics of any
school) that we may find room in this period for both 1 Timothy and Titus. It is the case that after the termination of
this long residence in
In short, if we are to
suppose that the first letter to Timothy alludes to an expedition which started
Now it is not improbable
that the Apostle may have made several excursions from
Indeed there would hardly be time for them. We should have to take out of the three years not only a visit to Macedonia, of which we have no other record, but what would necessarily be a prolonged residence in Crete, when the Church was being organized there, and (apparently) a winter at Nicopolis (Titus 3:12). Events such as these are not the kind of events that are omitted by St. Luke, who is especially careful to tell of the beginnings of missionary enterprise in new places, and of the “confirmation” of distant Churches.
And further, if we are to take all these journeys out of the three years at Ephesus, St. Paul’s statement “by the space of three years I ceased not to admonish every one [sc. the elders of Ephesus] night and day with tears” (Acts 20:31), becomes an absurd exaggeration.
argument that Timothy could not have been left behind in Ephesus because he had
been sent ahead to Macedonia (Acts 19:22), is decisive only if he were to stay
there until Paul arrived rather than this being a “scouting expedition” (so
to speak) to lay the groundwork for his own later presence. We don’t know at what point during Paul’s
three years at
later in that chapter we find Paul meeting at
3. Place of Writing
deduce that Paul is a free man since there is not the slightest hint of
imprisonment. This is unlike 2 Timothy,
where we have clear evidence that he was currently facing the prospect of death
(4:6-8)--though he seems to hold out hope that things might yet work out so he
could freely preach yet again (4:17-18).
If this refers to the imprisonment at the end of Acts or a re-imprisonment
after the theorized Spanish journey, then the epistle was written from
certainly a place where Timothy could get to “quickly” from
available data does not permit us even that much inferential evidence that he
Paul pours out his passionate feelings about what he had been through in 2 Corinthians 11 and a good hunk of it we are otherwise unaware:
22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.
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; 26 in journeys often, in perils of water, 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. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?
If we are unaware of these details in regard to his
ministry as of this epistle (c. 55-57 A.D.), how much that occurs later (prior
to his landing in
That being said I would argue that virtually the last
place Paul could possibly be writing from is
some estimate to have been as many as 90 officially recognized cities of the
A. The Primary Addressee: Timothy
We read in Acts 14 of how Paul was quite successful in his missionary work in Iconium among both Jews and Gentiles (14:1) and how he continued his work there for quite “a long time” (14:3). The success, however, raised such a resentment among “both the [polytheist] Gentiles and [traditionalist] Jews” that they found something to jointly rally behind—a scheme to “abuse and stone” him (14:5).
Learning of this scheme, he fled to Lystra and Derbe and preached both there and in the surrounding region (14:6-7). Lystra was about twenty miles to the south from Iconium--say a day’s journey by foot. After the unsuccessful effort to murder him through stoning at Lystra he then departed for Derbe, about sixty miles further (14:8-20).
There he made “many disciples” (). One of these was likely Timothy because we read in Acts 16:1, “Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy.” We most naturally assume that the closest named city was where Paul found him and found him there because it was his hometown. Not absolutely conclusive, of course, but at the absolute minimum he was living within the surrounding region.
Presumably it was at this time that Timothy was converted by Paul and he was one who matured well within his new faith. As the result Paul describes him not only as “a true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2), but also as his own “son Timothy’ (). The first might be dismissed as simply an attestation of his faith in the gospel. The second makes Paul emphatically his son, which makes best sense only if his work had led to his conversion.
language is found in Second Timothy as well:
“To Timothy, a beloved son” (1:2) and
“therefore, my son” (2:1). To
As previously noted, we first meet Timothy in Acts 16:
1 Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold,
a certain disciple was there,
named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his
father was Greek. 2 He
was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra
and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted to have him
go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him
because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father
was Greek. 4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered to
them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at
In a very accommodative sense Paul was “using” Timothy for the greater good of the brethren at large. The “decrees” of verse 4 included freeing Gentiles from the obligation of circumcision in order to be faithful Christians. From the more logical standpoint, as a mixed race, uncircumcised male one would expect him to be counted as a Gentile but his mother being Jewish would allow at least some to protest that that Jewish element demanded the ancient rite be performed. Hence to accommodate those who wished to quibble, he had him circumcised showing that he would honor honest (and even arguable) scruples while preaching the freedom of Gentiles from such observance.
You will notice that I said “from the more logical standpoint, as a mixed race, uncircumcised male one would expect him to be a Gentile. . . .” As one studies the genealogies of both the gospels (Matthew and Luke) and those in the Old Testament they are father-son. The Messiah was to be the son of David . . . the line isn’t traced through the female line, i.e., “son of David’s wife.”
Yet in Ezra 10:2-5 we find that those who had non-Jewish wives were to separate from wives and children--arguing that the children were not counted as Jewish either. Is this motivated by anything beyond the particular extreme circumstances of the moment? After all it hadn’t interfered with the children of Joseph, though married to a non-Jew in Egypt, being counted as Israelites and becoming the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh within the new nation (Genesis 48)!
However we integrate this Biblical data together, in the traditions collected in the Mishnah, one’s ancestry—as in modern Judaism—is traced exclusively through the woman. If this attitude had serious roots in the time of Paul any protestors of his ministry would likely have grasped onto this, thereby making it even more imperative for Timothy to be circumcised. By their standards he was unquestionably, if you will, “a Jew.” You can imagine their sarcastic words, “Even if Gentiles can go without circumcision, Timothy is one of us--a fellow Jew. And you are letting him go uncircumcised!”
He had clearly been acceptable within the local community but they knew him and his parents and such folk may well cut “slack”—real or perceived—that those who did not have that relationship might not. The circumcision allowed him “to relate to his ministerial audience” without needless hindrance. One might reasonably argue that it was an application of Paul’s guiding principle, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). “The godly man willingly limits his own freedoms for the sake of others.”
And though Timothy’s faith in Jesus was new, his faith in the God of Israel was not. In 2 Timothy 1:5 we learn that his mother and grandmother took their religion quite seriously. Paul refers to “the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.” We have no hint of his father’s attitude toward these matters however.
All of this is significant, but we can not pass on without asking: Why did Paul select Timothy in particular? The fact that he chose anyone argues that he felt additional human resources in his gospel efforts would be both appropriate and needful. But that he specifically selected Timothy argues that something about him stood out that gave a major indication that he was an ideal choice. For one thing he had a well established reputation: “He was well spoken of by the brethren” (verse 3).
The first place Timothy was sent alone to was to Thessalonica:
1 Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, 2 and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith, 3 that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. 4 For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know. 5 For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain (1 Thessalonians 3).
Overt persecution is unnerving at best; dangerous to income, life, and limb when things get worse. The fact that Timothy is sent “to establish you and encourage you” in this troubling time (verse 2) argues that his prior experience was such that facing adversity would not be psychologically devastating to his mind or spirituality. Hence he likely had already gone through enough to be “battle tested” and able to help others in their local time of adversity: He was emotionally prepared for difficulties.
There was a secondary element in Paul’s decision as well: he wanted to “know your faith” in Thessalonica and how they were handling the pressures that were on them (verse 5)—not from some third party or local individual who might be “shading” the reality to make Paul feel better. (Or out of the desire to not admit how bad the local situation actually was.) Timothy was a “disinterested third party:” On the one hand, the “truth teller” to them and, on the other, of their actual circumstances back to Paul, to inform him of how things were truly going.
Timothy proved such an effective worker that Paul later trusted
him on an apparently one man mission to
14 I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. 15 For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you, imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.
8 Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power (1 Corinthians 4).
Note that Paul expected this to be a comparatively brief stay for Timothy (“I will come to you shortly”) but noted that all human plans are event contingent (“if the Lord wills”). This was a caution to both Timothy and the congregation that they needed to work out these difficulties regardless of whether he was able to join them as quickly as he wished—or even if it turned out to be totally impossible.
By reading Corinthians we gain a quick and easy grasp that the congregation was the proverbial “can of worms” of assorted problems. That Paul trusted Timothy enough for a “one man assignment” shows his confidence in the ability of the man to handle the matter—whatever his own qualms might be or might not be.
On a later
occasion, Paul intended to entrust Timothy with a one man mission to help the
19 But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. 20 For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. 23 For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. 23 Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me. 24 But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly (Philippians 2).
The quality of Timothy’s service, faith, and dedication can be seen in Paul’s stress on the fact that he had “no one like-minded” who would be so dedicated to their spiritual well being. “He was in a class by himself.”
He “will sincerely care for your state.” It will not be the “professional” concern of a person expected to have such and does so because it is a requirement of whatever office he holds. (Think psychologists, for example.)
Instead of a duty-bound concern, his is one that he personally embraces. “Sincerely care” is also rendered “show genuine concern” (NIV); “genuinely care” (Holman); “takes a genuine interest in your welfare” (GW). In contrast everyone else was self-centered when compared to him: “For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus” (). In naval terms, they were like row boats compared to his speed boat!
Furthermore, they already “know his proven character.” It wouldn’t be having to deal with an unknown and unproven personality. They already understood the dedication and spiritual high-mindedness “that made him tick.”
They knew “that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel” (). Some people work well as loners. Others work well in a team format—provided they are the leader! Timothy proved that he could function well in either context.
And working as the “junior” member of a team unquestionably had its difficulties back then just as it does today. As one preacher commented:
The mark of a mature Christian is that he is not a loner, but he can work alongside others. He can make his contribution and disagree without resigning at the drop of a hat. It is working alongside an older man that is the rock of stumbling to many. They have their own agenda, and they chafe at the fact that it is not this older man’s agenda, and they sulk, and grumble, and eventually do their own thing.
At first we are told that younger John Mark couldn’t work with Paul. I have known such tensions over the years. Can you work with an old Christian? Doesn’t the Bible say much about respecting one with a head of white hair? Don’t the Scriptures tell us of such relationships, Moses and Joshua; Elijah and Elisha; Peter and Mark? Could you work with an older believer? You say, “It depends on the older believer.” Does that mean that only if he agreed with you could you work with him?
That was the kind of testing Timothy went through in his service with Paul. “Being his own man” but within the context that someone else has the right and duty to be the leader.
These independent forays were in addition to his travels with the apostle in his apostolic labors and tribulations (Romans ; 2 Corinthians ; Acts 20:4-5). During those apostolic journeys his name is sometimes mentioned by Paul in the introduction to his epistles (Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1). Take the example of Philemon where it is especially stressed:
1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our [not merely my] beloved friend and fellow laborer, 2 to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house.
Whether this is truly a “coauthored letter” or not, at the absolute minimum he shows his great respect for his compatriot by linking their two names so closely. Of course, it is also possible that Philemon had prior acquaintance with Timothy and would have appreciated this update on where Timothy was and what he was doing.
Finally we know that Timothy went through a period of imprisonment. Whether Paul was the author of Hebrews or not, whoever it was, was hopeful that Timothy would be able to rejoin him so they could work together:
22 And I appeal to you, brethren, bear with the word of exhortation, for I have written to you in few words. 23 Know that our brother Timothy has been set free, with whom I shall see you if he comes shortly (Hebrews 13).
Why Timothy was in prison is unknown. The fact that he had been “set free” argues that whatever case was made was regarded as so pathetically weak or of such trivial importance that it would serve no good to keep him there.
It is typically
assumed that Hebrews was written from
Timothy’s death goes unrecorded in the New
Testament—just as is the case with that of the apostle Paul himself. Later tradition argues that he was ultimately
B. The Implied Secondary Addressee:
Only Timothy is mentioned as the recipient of the letter. So theoretically one could argue that it was not directly intended for the Ephesian congregation’s ears as well: “A possible but not necessary conclusion,” some argue.
Technically that is correct; in the “real world” it is illusionary. They ask Timothy, “What did he write to you?” and he responds “none of your business” or “it’s strictly personal” even though there is much that is clearly congregational in relevance. (Think elder/deacon qualifications and church welfare for widows, for example.) Try to not share it with one and all and you can easily picture “mutiny and insurrection.” Well earned, too, I might add.
As you read the epistle you will notice easily enough that there were obvious potential problems in the congregation. To back up the fact that what you do next is to carry out the instructions Paul has given you, of course you read it to everyone at the first opportunity. You want them to know that your course has been set for you by no less than the apostle himself. It isn’t something you’ve come up with on your own; you are simply following your orders. Orders which at least most of the congregation would recognize as fully authoritative.
A parallel: In even the personal correspondence to Philemon, the congregation is explicitly mentioned and it is identified as meeting in his home (verse 1). Theoretically one could argue that this was purely private correspondence and the recipient was under no obligation to share it with the congregation.
In real life, however, this is absurd. If you don’t share it, you look like a pompous, self-centered idiot: “what’s mine is mine.” You are guaranteed to get everybody mad at you. Furthermore, the subjects treated are of inherent interest to the congregation as well. In Philemon’s case, his runaway slave is returning home. “Why” and “how should he be treated” were inevitable questions not just for Philemon to consider but for the remainder of the congregation as well.
A principle was being laid down that was not only immediately relevant, but could easily be so in the future. The direct instruction was strictly to Philemon, but the application of the principle was clearly not and needed to be shared with others.
The same is true of First Timothy. His job of appointing elders was potentially controversial. The ability of the congregation to know—from Paul and not just indirectly from Timothy—that he was using the right criteria was vital.
There are multiple references to subversive elements within the congregation—to what extent self-deceived and to what extent deliberate deceivers is irrelevant to the discussion. They were undermining the purity of the gospel and drifting into religious illusions and delusions. For Timothy’s effort against it to be of maximum effectiveness, the epistle would provide written confirmation that Timothy was not opposing such things out of some bull-headedness, but due to the apostle Paul not only recommending it, but insisting on it as well.
In essence his words would be: “You don’t have an argument with me, you have an argument with the apostle Paul.” And the public or private reading of the epistle would verify that to be the truth.
Many “House Churches” Considered as a Collectivity
or a Group That Gathered In a Single Location?
this question because of the popularity of identifying “the church in X city”
(fill in the blank:
This scenario was born in the early 1800s and is dominant in scholarly circles today. So much so that it is “one of the strongest consensuses in New Testament and early Christian studies. It has been foundational for a great deal of work and has rarely been explicitly challenged.”
The era of anything larger than strictly house churches is typically dated mid-second century if not later. And then we are talking in terms of homes converted into meeting places, with worship places built for that specific purpose only coming later. At that point the basilica style was adopted—adapting the building style of secular government facilities to a Christian purpose.
As to the household imagery justifying the deduction of strictly household churches, that deduction is very iffy, to be kind. Paul refers to those who “creep into households” and make major gains there: they “make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins” (2 Timothy 3:6). In Titus Paul refers to those who “subvert whole households.” If congregations were strictly house churches, wouldn’t that argue for entire congregations going apostate within a city? If little more than “believing households” are intended to equate with “a congregation,” how can one reasonably avoid this problem?
one solution is that the house churches don’t become “the church” or “the Ephesian church” in particular, except when
considered as a collectivity including all of them. In other words, an element in the church may
have gone apostate but not “the church itself.”
This is not very satisfying: The
“church” means the individual “house churches” except when “whole
households” are subverted. Then it only
means that, well, single households and nothing more have gone haywire. Consistent usage is thrown out the window. There are real life “churches” (plural;
household assemblies) but the collectivity known as “the church in
Furthermore, as Edward Adams rightly points out:
The characterization of the church as the household of God is a metaphor. Of course, the metaphor would carry additional potency if congregations were meeting in houses, but the designation of the church as “household of God” no more requires the house as actual meeting place than the depiction of the church as the temple 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; Ephesians 2:1) requires the Jerusalem temple as the actual venue for assembly.
of places might have been rented or been loaned to churches to meet? To collect the options from
Retail, Industrial and Storage Spaces
Shops and Workshops
Commercial Hospitality and Leisure Space
Hotels and Inns
Rented Dining Rooms
Outdoor Spaces and Burial Places
Urban Open Spaces
As to whether there were multiple congregations in Ephesus, 1 Timothy 2:8 is invoked as probable evidence that they were “worshipping in a number of different locations in smaller groups rather than as a single body in one location:” “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”
of “everywhere” Verner uses the wording “every
place,” a wording found in such translations as the ESV, Holman, NASB, NET, and
WEB. Although essentially synonymous,
“everywhere” does stress the universalism of the principle while “every
place” stresses that the principle is fulfilled in a variety of specific
locations. This reasoning allows the
“multiple locations” to be stressed and since he is addressing one
The root problem here is that one is trying to make geographically specific within one city what Paul is clearly intending to apply to every meeting place of Christians throughout the world. In other words, this is to be the universal practice in all congregations, wherever they may be—from one end of the empire to the other: The meetings are to be characterized by prayer. (Or does Paul believe there are places where it is proper to skip prayer entirely? Hardly credible!)
Verner seems to be trying to deal with this problem when he insists “that the author is ordinarily a purposeful writer, whose choice of words should be explained, if possible, by reference to meanings which he intends.” Which, of course, begs the question entirely: On what basis do we know that multiple locations in one city is what he intends, when the principle fits just as well with every single congregation throughout the entire world being in his mind? Or does the apostle mean that congregations in other cities don’t need to follow these instructions? Hardly likely!
There is an obvious overlap between the issues of authorship and canonicity. If an apostle wrote it, the letter has an inherent right to be counted as scripture because of its inspiration. I suppose one could conjecture some extremely unusual situation where that would not be the case—but the burden of proof would automatically fall on those who oppose its inclusion rather than those supporting it.
On the other hand, if the book only has faked apostolicity, doesn’t it border on blasphemy to try to interject it into the canon? Wouldn’t that be spitting in the face of the God who inspired the genuine scriptures?
A. Evidence Supporting First Timothy
in the New Testament Canon
Endorsement as Canonical, Inspired, or Apostolic
The evidence comes in several forms: the strongest, of course, is when the book is explicitly listed as a canonical book in New Testament book lists. The flip side of the same coin--proving that it deserves a place in the canon whether than specific issue is raised or not--are citations of texts from a book as either inspired, apostolic, or both. Equally persuasive is evidence from a complete or nearly complete New Testament that clearly includes as part of its collection of writings whatever book is under discussion. For a concise analysis of the evidence, the following may prove useful for most readers--
A. E. Humphreys compilation of the evidence
from his 1895 entry in the
Cambridge Bible for Schools series:
(a) The Witness of the Ancient Versions.
The Peshitto-Syriac Version, c. a.d. 130, of the 2nd century, completed shortly after the Apostolic age, and having special weight through the absence of all uncanonical books from this earliest version, contains all three epistles [First Timothy, Second Timothy, and Titus].
The Old Latin Version, c. a.d. 150,
‘perhaps coeval with the introduction of Christianity into Africa’—in one shape
or other the most important early witness to the text and interpretation of the
whole Bible—also contains all three epistles.
Westcott (Canon of New Testament, p. 243) thus sums up the testimony of
these most ancient Versions, “They give the testimony of Churches, not of
individuals. They furnish a proof of the
authority of the books which they contain, wide spread, continuous, reaching to
the utmost verge of our historic records.
Their real weight is even greater than this; for when history first
speaks of them, it speaks as of that which was recognized as a heritage from an
earlier period, which cannot have been long after the date of the Apostles.”
(b) The witness of the Churches.
a.d. 177. The Epistle of the Churches of
Compare 1 Timothy 3:15: “But if I am
delayed, I write so that you
may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the
church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”
Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, c. a.d. 180, begins his preface with quoting 1 Timothy 1:4, adding ‘as the Apostle saith.’ Compare 1 Timothy 1:4: “Nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.”
He quotes 1 Timothy 1:9: “Knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers.”
He quotes 1 Timothy 6:20: “O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge.”
He quotes 2 Timothy 4:9-11: “9 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. 10 For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. 11 These things command and teach.”
Titus 3:10: “Reject
a divisive man after the first and second admonition.”
(2) The Alexandrian Church.
Clement of Alexandria, c. a.d. 180, Head of the Catechetical school at Alexandria a.d. 190–200, quotes 1 Timothy 4:1; 1 Timothy 6:20; Titus 1:12, referring to ‘the blessed Paul,’ ‘the Apostle,’ ‘the noble Paul’ as the author. He and Origen his successor undoubtedly include these epistles in their Canon of Scripture.
Compare 1 Timothy 4:1: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.”
Compare 1 Timothy 6:20: “O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge.”
Compare Titus 1:12:
“One of them, a prophet of their own, said,
“Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”
Tertullian of Carthage, c. a.d. 200,
quotes e.g. 1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:14; Titus 3:10-11, and speaking of Marcion says, ‘I wonder since he received a letter written
to an individual, the Epistle to Philemon, that he rejected two to Timothy and
one to Titus written on the subject of Church order.’
Compare 1 Timothy 6:20: “O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge.”
Compare 2 Timothy 1:14: “That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.”
Compare Titus 3:10-11: “10 Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.”
(4) The Roman Church.
Hippolytus, Bishop at Portus, c.
a.d. 220, has, in his undoubted writings, quotations
from these epistles, as from all the acknowledged books except Philemon and 1
John. In the list of his works is one
entitled ‘Verses about all the Scriptures.’
Lightfoot regards these as metrical descriptions of the Old and New
Testament, and the Muratorian Fragment as a part of one of these. It is in any case ‘a summary of the opinion
of the Western Church on the Canon,’ and it includes ‘one letter to Philemon,
one to Titus, two to Timothy; letters of personal esteem and affection, but
held in honour and regarded as Holy Scripture by the
Catholic Church for their instruction in Church discipline.’
(c) The witness of the Historian.
The age of
Diocletian brought persecution which raged with especial violence against the
Scriptures. Among the results we find
the testimony of the great Eusebius the Historian, c. a.d. 300, who describes the final steps in the history of
the Canon, the forming of the books of the New Testament into distinct
collections, ‘a quaternion of Gospels,’ ‘fourteen Epistles of St Paul,’ ‘seven
Catholic epistles.’ In the Pauline group
the Pastoral Epistles are included, and placed among the ‘Acknowledged’
(d) The witness of the Councils.
At this point
it only remains to note that the Pastoral Epistles are included in the contents
of the three great mss. of the Greek Bible, the Alexandrine (A), the
(The compilation of A. E. Humphreys ends at this point.)
The Argument from Usage
The argument from usage, when soundly based, verifies—at the absolute minimum—a text’s existence at that time. In other words, there is no way possible it was composed at a later date. In addition it virtually requires that the book have been accepted as authoritative and reliable long enough for it to be so well grounded in the public mind that the allusion would be widely recognized. In other words, it testifies not just to the existence of the letter, but to its popularity as well.
The problem, however, is always whether the allusion is clear enough to justify the claim of reliance. That doesn’t prove that the attribution of canonicity and apostolicity is necessarily wrong, but just that this specific piece (or pieces) of evidence is not as strong as one would desire. It is at least a “straw in the wind” and good judgment must be exercised in how far beyond this the evidence carries us.
Rather than attempt my own item by item analysis, this seems an appropriate place to fully present the analysis of a nineteenth century scholar who went into considerable detail documenting possible allusions. We have simply quoted, for the convenience of the reader, the actual texts cited so one can make a comparison and make one’s own evaluation. The texts cover all three of the “pastoral epistles” for they are nearly always accepted or rejected as a unit.
one will encounter the scenario that there are apostolic “fragments” buried in
one or more, while the rest is well intentioned invention. But this easily becomes an excuse to avoid
admitting that the presence of genuine Pauline material argues for the high
probability that the rest of the document is as well. It can easily be viewed as the determination
to hold to the rejection of apostolicity at all costs.
A. E. Humphreys compilation of the evidence
from his 1895 entry in the
Cambridge Bible for Schools series:
The attack made in the present century upon the
genuineness of the epistles relies upon arguments drawn from their internal
characteristics. In estimating the
weight to be attached to these arguments it is of importance to be first
sufficiently impressed by the strength of the external evidence. Instead therefore of dismissing this side of
the question in a sentence, it is well to place in view the different groups of
testimonies down to the acknowledged position given to the epistles by the
Church in Canon and Council.
(a) The witness of the Apostolic Fathers.
Epistle of Barnabas, c. a.d. 75: ‘Behold again it is Jesus, not a son of man, but the Son of God, and He was revealed in the flesh in a figure.’ Compare 1 Timothy 3:16: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory.”
[The Epistle of Barnabas sufficiently impressed
enough people that one of the three oldest complete New Testaments--Codex Sinaiticus—includes it after it has
completed the New Testament itself. It
refers explicitly to the fall of
‘King of the ages’ (c. 61). Compare 1 Timothy 1:17: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Ignatius of Antioch, c. a.d. 112: ‘Be not seduced by strange doctrines nor antiquated fables which are profitless’ (ad Magn. c. viii.).
Compare Titus 1:13: “This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.”
Compare Titus 3:9: “But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.”
‘Please the Captain in whose army ye serve’ (ad Polyc. c. vi.). Compare 2 Timothy 2:4: “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.”
Polycarp of Smyrna, c. a.d. 112: ‘But the love of money is the beginning of all troubles. Knowing therefore that we brought nothing into the world, neither can we carry anything out, let us arm ourselves with the armour of righteousness’ (ad Philipp. c. 4).
Compare 1 Timothy 6:7: “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”
Compare 1 Timothy 6:10: “ For
the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed
from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many
sorrows” [“Kinds of” is a very common translator’s addition to this verse.].
Epistle to Diognetus, c. a.d. 117 (Westcott), c. a.d. 150 (Lightfoot).—‘One of the noblest and most impressive of early Christian apologies’ (Lightfoot), not improbably addressed to Diognetus, the tutor of Marcus Aurelius. ‘When the season came which God had ordained when henceforth He should manifest His goodness and power (O the exceeding great tenderness and love of God).’
Compare Titus 3:4:
“But when the kindness and the love of God our
Savior toward man appeared.”
(b) The witness of the Greek Apologists.
Justin Martyr, c. a.d. 146, who, as a Christian philosopher in the public walk at Ephesus, held a discussion with the Jew Trypho proving from the Old Testament that Jesus was the Christ: ‘The kindness of God and His love toward man’ (Dial. c. Tryph. c. 47).
Compare Titus 3:4: “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared.”
Theophilus of Antioch, c. a.d. 168, its sixth bishop, who wrote to convince a learned heathen friend of the truth of Christianity: ‘Further, respecting the being in subjection to rulers and authorities and praying for them, the divine utterance commands us that we lead a tranquil and quiet life’ (ad Autolyc. iii. 14).
Compare Titus 3:1: “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work.”
Compare 1 Timothy 2:2: “For kings and all
who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all
godliness and reverence.”
(c) The witness of the Early Heretics.
Basilides, c. a.d. 110, a younger contemporary of Cerinthus, has perhaps in the phrase ‘in his own times’ a quotation from 1 Timothy 2:6: “who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”
Marcion, c. a.d. 140, excluded the three epistles from his Canon, as witnessing against his Gnostic and Docetic views, and is therefore a witness to them.
Heracleon, c. a.d. 150, a familiar friend of Valentinus the Gnostic, claims the title of the first commentator on the New Testament; and the fragments of his commentary contain an allusion to 2 Timothy 3:13: “But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
Theodotus, c. a.d. 150, also a writer of the Valentinians, quotes 1 Timothy according to Epiphanius.
Tatian, c. a.d. 160, the head of the Encratites, combining the Valentinian
doctrine of Æons with the asceticism of Marcion, affirmed according to Jerome that the Epistle to
Titus was most certainly
(The compilation of A. E. Humphreys ends at this point.)
B. Evidence Against First Timothy’s Place
in the New Testament Canon
The Manuscript Evidence Against
Accepting It As Genuine and Canonical
argument against the Pauline genuineness of the work is that the earliest major
manuscript of the apostle’s collected works is found in
This is the earliest collection of
Pauline materials and is significantly older than the famous fourth century
Because of the unusual way the pages of this book style manuscript was assembled, it can be established that it had exactly 208 pages (205 text pages), of which 172 survive in either fragment or near full page size. (The surviving pages are individually numbered—both an unexected and quite unusual phenomena to find in any ancient manuscript.) The book order is Romans, Hebrews, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 Thessalonians. (Egyptian Christians were strong advocates of the Pauline origin of Hebrews and the unexpected placing of it second in the manuscript may well be evidence of just how strongly they felt on the matter.)
Only as far as 1 Thessalonians are matters certain. It is suspected that pages 191-195 may be 2 Thessalonians but the contents of the remaining ten pages has to be complete guess work.
The Greek word count in the commonly called “pastorals” are: 1 Timothy, 1,591; 2 Timothy, 1,238; and Titus, 659--3,488 words altogether. Based on this, let us compare the length of the shorter Pauline books in P46 with how many pages they occupy:
Ephesians (pages 146-158 = 12 pages): 2,422 words
Galatians (pages 158-168 = 10 pages): 2,230 words
Philippians (pages 168-176 = 8 pages): 1,629 words
Colossians (pages 176-184 = 8 pages): 1,582 words
1 Thessalonians (pages 184-191 = 7 pages): 1,481 words
Missing text (pages 195-205 = 10 pages)
1 Timothy: 1,591 words
2 Timothy: 1,238 words
Titus: 659 words
The comparison won’t be exact because of textual variants in P46’s composition, but they will still be very close. With only ten text pages available, one can easily see there was space for 1 Timothy and perhaps Titus; alternatively, 2 Timothy and Titus. It is hard to see how there would possibly be room for all three. The only other Pauline work left is Philemon (335 words).
In all fairness, it should be stressed that these numbers represent an arguably significant under-estimate of how much more could have been crammed in the remaining space. The copyist is conspicuously writing smaller in the final third of the manuscript than in the middle—about 50% more words are being crammed into each similar amount of space.
This argues that he was well aware that he had not given himself as much space as he needed to easily accommodate everything he wished to include. Although it can never be proved one way or another, this certainly makes it possible that he had to leave out some material he would otherwise have included. If the discussion envolved anything other than the controversial “pastorals” that would be taken as a responsible critique; here it may get someone denounced as “special pleading.” Even so, it still makes sense.
Stanley E. Porter tells us that “most
scholars” believe the missing segment included both 2 Thessalonians (as the
If we are to go from contents 1 Timothy seems the least likely to have been omitted from this early manuscript because it provides a qualification list for both elders and deacons and because the subject matter covers so much of that found in 2 Timothy and Titus. In other words, if one was limited by available word space, that would seem to be the one least likely to be sacrificed in the interest of space availability.
Human interest aside: Of no direct concern to our subject, but for your fund of general background information—each Bible book contains at its end a note of how many lines of text had been written. “This was customary for professional scribes; it was in essence a bill for services, since they were paid by the line.” As the work was done by presumably Christian copyists, this would surely be an example of “the laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Timothy ).
P32. Since we have just discussed possible evidence against accepting one or more of the “pastorals” on the basis of P46, it is only appropriate to discuss P32, which comes from the same general time frame. This consists of a few verses from Titus chapters 1 and 2 and we have no way of knowing whether other “pastorals” were copied along with it, whether it was part of a larger collection of epistles, or whether it was a “Titus alone” effort.
Initially there was a dating assigned of the third century, although with the proviso that there were unquestionable similarities to the writing style of the latter second century. The copyist’s handwriting style makes those who research these things closely think of P. Oxyrhynchus 656 which was also originally considered third century. In both cases, reconsideration has forced the judgment back to the second--so early in the second that it may be as early as 100 A.D. Philip W. Comfort walks us through some of the technical details that argue for the very early years of the new century:
manuscripts, P. London 130 bears remarkably similarity to P32. When dating the Egerton
The unique likeness can be seen in the formation of two kinds of alpha (one somewhat regular and another with an oval and swerve coming off the top and joining with the next letter), the bell-shaped delta, theta (allowing for ligature), the swooping zeta, the chi, ro, upsilon, and phi. One significant difference is that P. London 130 has the open kappa, a prominent feature of the first century, whereas P32 has a closed kappa. In any event, P32 seems to be a slightly later version of the kind of hand we see in P. London 130.
In the final analysis, P32 belongs to the second century and could have been produced any time in that century. Not only is this one of the earliest New Testament manuscripts, it is the earliest of the Pastoral Epistles. No other extant manuscript of the second or third centuries preserves any portion of a Pastoral Epistle. The next earliest manuscript to contain the Pastoral Epistles is Codex Sinaiticus, of the late fourth century (c. 375).
Non-papyri evidence arguing for the existence of the “pastorals” in the same time period as P46 and P32. Trained as a lawyer in Carthage (in modern day Tunisia), a city exceeded only by Rome in its educational and cultural aspirations, after Tertullian’s conversion he became a major figure in popularizing a Latin language foundation for Christianity that ultimately became dominant within the community.
Writing in the 190s, he notes that the heretic Marcion had left only Philemon textually unmutilated but for unknown reasons had totally rejected the pastorals (see detailed discussion in next section). What we are interested in here is that Tertullian worked from the Latin and the text of the “pastorals” had been so generally accepted for so long that he could imagine no responsible reason to challenge it. So even though we do not have Latin language manuscripts of the 190s, we do have Tertullian’s remarks that show it was firmly rooted in the Latin textual tradition of the time.
The Rejection of First Timothy By
Heretics and Heretical Movements
In what, at first, seems one of the stranger arguments introduced against accepting the work, it is argued that it was rejected by heretics. Why their decisions should be accepted as normative for ours seems odd indeed.
First, the strongest argument from the area of heretical attitudes toward the pastorals: Marcion’s rejection (height of his influence: 150s A.D.). In approaching the subject, remember that to Marcion the God of the Old Testament was emphatically not the God of the New Testament and the Judaic roots of Christianity he went out of his way to edit out of the version of those New Testament books he retained. Of the gospels, he kept only the gospel of Luke and removed the first two chapters. Of the epistles, he conceded the authority of only Paul, rejecting all the rest, removing them fully from his censored canon.
Tertullian emphasized the radicalness found in Marcion’s theology when he wrote:
Marcion has laid down the position, that Christ who in the days of Tiberius was, by a previously unknown god, revealed for the salvation of all nations, is a different being from Him who was ordained by God the Creator for the restoration of the Jewish state, and who is yet to come. Between these he interposes the separation of a great and absolute difference— as great as lies between what is just and what is good; as great as lies between the law and the gospel; as great, (in short,) as is the difference between Judaism and Christianity. (Against Marcion, 4.6)
As to Marcion’s rejection of the “Pastorals” (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus) from his list of canonical works, Tertullian does not attribute it not to any denial of apostolic origin. Obviously if he interpolated and censured other epistles, he could have done so here as well. Hence the motive for omission and not doing so leaves him perplexed (Against Marcion 5.21):
To this epistle [Philemon]
alone did its brevity avail to protect it against the falsifying hands of Marcion. I wonder,
however, when he received (into his Apostolicon)
this letter which was written but to one man, that he rejected the two epistles
to Timothy and the one to Titus, which all treat of ecclesiastical
discipline. His aim, was, I suppose, to
carry out his interpolating process even to the number of (
Modern deniers that Paul wrote the three epistles hit hard on this omission. To them it is evidence that the epistles had not yet even been written. But if that were the case, would not the epistles clearly manifest the changed theological and organizational structures currently in existence but that were not present in the middle of the century a hundred years earlier when the “historical Paul” had lived?
If one considers Marcion as a Gnostic—and the label is both embraced and often contested—then one can understand that he might well feel sensitive about any book that contains the warning given to Timothy, “Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” (6:20). Although this false gnosis probably had only a modest relationship (if any) with what came later, the very language strikes at the heart of the spiritual pride that Gnostics had of having something available to them that others both rejected and often could not even comprehend.
Furthermore the epistles speak of God’s desire for the salvation of all humanity and embraces marriage as desirable and praiseworthy. Think of the fact, for example, that it was obligatory for elders and deacons to be married. Even so, since Marcion had selectively edited other Pauline works, why not such statements in First Timothy as well? Assuming the apostolic origin of the pastorals, something must have been at work in his mind, that we simply are unaware of.
Some have thought it was in the nature of who was written to—he was only interested in letters written to churches rather than individuals. Philemon might have been accepted in spite of this “because of its compound address to three recipients.” Furthermore Paul adds in verse 1 of Philemon, “and to the church in your house.” So was not Philemon intended both to a personal and congregational letter? The former in the sense that it was “targeted” specifically at Philemon and the latter because it was to be read to the congregation as well?
Others have wondered whether there were specific references in the three pastorals that particularly alarmed and annoyed Marcion:
Marcion did not include the pastorals, which include repeated instructions about hierarchical authority in the emerging church, an authority Marcion was flaunting. The pastorals forbid debate and dispute; Marcion was frequently the center of both. The pastorals revere continuity; Marcion rejected conventional notions of the continuity of faith and authority. 2 Timothy 3 asserts that the Bible is “God-breathed” or “inspired.” In context, 2 Timothy is referring to the Hebrew Bible, a text Marcion had rejected. We can readily guess what might have prompted Marcion to avoid these works.
In evaluating this analysis, it is important to remember that Marcion’s battles were a good 70-80 or more years after Paul’s death so the “authority” he battled with was a much more developed church authority than existed in Paul’s day. Remembering that Marcion rose to fame in Rome itself, it is easy to see where pastoral texts might easily be read as supporting a drastically more authoritative church governing system than Paul had described. (It was probably inevitable.) And that Marcion would instinctively rebel against it as an obstacle to the success of his teaching. Yet the presence of things he did not accept had been removed in other books by editing and “revisions” and he could have used those debased “creative talents” here as well. So we return to our perplexity.
A little more effort and we will pass on to other things. Paul stressed continuity rather than innovation and Marcion was certainly an extreme innovator to put it kindly. Anything that seemed to rein him in would be certainly looked upon unkindly.
And unquestionably Marcion’s rejection of the inspiration and authority of the Old Testament would have produced revulsion at anything hinting at it in 2 Timothy 3. Since so much of the New Testament was already written by the date of the pastorals and since there were major changes in the worship and doctrinal system between the two testaments, it seems impossible to read 2 Timothy 3:16-17 without seeing an allusion to both testaments however. On the other hand, Marcion’s theology left him no room to find anything acceptable from the older religious system, especially when it is presented as in any sense or any degree authoritative.
The other heretical source used to prove 1 Timothy to Titus were not regarded as Pauline—in more radical arguments, that they did not even yet exist—is found in the Gnostic Gospel of Truth (c. 150 A.D.) It is typically assumed that this grew out of the Valentinian movement in particular. Originally written in Greek, this “homily” is not a narrative of Jesus’ life nor the kind of writing we associate with the New Testament epistles, but is a spiritual lesson developed for its readers. It has survived only in the Coptic. Though it is asserted that a number of New Testament books are quoted or alluded to within it, conspicuously omitted are any references to the three volumes of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus.
C. Ancient Attitude of Society, Judaism, and Christianity
Jewish Pseudonymous Literature
Epistle of Jeremiah is old enough that a fragment has been recognized from
the scrolls in Cave 7 at
This is not really a letter; hence not parallel to the pastorals, whether by Paul or not. It is a homily, a sermon mocking idolatry. If you want a genuine letter from Jeremiah to his contemporaries, read Jeremiah 29 and note how the seventy years of captivity (verse 10) is transformed into “seven generations” in “Baruch’s” Epistle (verse 2). An intentional hint by the genuine author (whoever it was) that the text was never intended to be taken as genuinely from Jeremiah in the first place?
Even less relevant is the Letter of Aristeas, well worth a read because it recounts the alleged events surrounding the translation of the Septuagint--the Hebrew text as rendered into Greek. To the extent that it has a scriptural analogue, it would be the book of Acts—a historical narrative rather than a letter at all. Indeed the Jewish pseudepigrapha consists of apocalyptic and other types of religious piety, but one is going to be hard pressed to find much in the way of “letters.”
From the modest evidence of such that we have found to exist, it is perhaps not surprising that it is far more common to find faked Jewish apocalypses and such like instead. Hence one would suspect that there would have been no predisposition for writing imaginary letters among early Christians since they originated from these same roots. Furthermore, there is nothing written in the New Testament that would suggest that such a course was deemed either appropriate or honorable. Indeed, Paul--see the next major section that follows--implicitly and explicitly rebukes such dishonesty. So fakery out of good intentions seems inherently improbable.
This deduction is enhanced by how many New Testament books have no name textually attached to them in spite of their interest and/or clear importance:
More than half of the New Testament consists of books that do not bear the names of their authors (the four gospels, Acts, Hebrews, 1 John; even “the elder” of 2 and 3 John is not very explicit). Apparently the truth in the documents and the evidence that the Holy Spirit was at work in the people who wrote them carried conviction, and the attachment of apostolic names was not judged necessary. The onus is on upholders of theories of pseudonymous authorship to explain why this strong tradition of anonymity was discarded in favor, not of the authors attaching their own names to what they wrote (as Paul did), but of other people’s names.
The Ethical Problem of
That Paul recognized the danger of pseudonymous letters circulating seems clear cut. That he deemed such inherently improper can be deduced—beyond his emphasis on truth-telling—on two facts. The first is his inclination to provide verifiable evidence that a letter came from him via his signature, which would argue that he felt confident that it would be recognizable to at least some of the recipients. He refers to this “autographing” enough times that it seems very hard to avoid this being at least part of the explanation:
1 Corinthians 16:21: “The salutation with my own hand—Paul’s.”
Galatians 6:11: “See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand!”
Colossians 4:18: “This salutation by my own hand—Paul. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Amen.”
2 Thessalonians 3:17: “The salutation of Paul with my own hand, which
is a sign in every epistle; so I write.”
Philemon, verse 19: “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.”
2 Thessalonians argues that Paul intended for a personally written part of the letter to be characteristic of anything he wrote. The lack of it even in some undisputed epistles (Romans, for example) argues that he did not always adhere to this policy. In the case of Romans one can look at the large number of personal friends and acquaintances referred to in chapter 16. His readers would have been hard pressed to imagine that anyone but Paul could have that much personal knowledge of who was in their membership and that they had previously met him. Likewise the personal allusions in the pastorals would have been “self-confirming” to the recipients that the letters came from Paul. In short, where he does not follow this custom there were likely very good reasons for it.
A second indication that he recognized the danger of fakes comes from his warning that if they read anything contradictory to what he was known to teach, it was to automatically be considered fraudulent even if it claimed to have come from him:
2 Thessalonians 2:2: “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.”
Clearly the early Christians were warned to test the genuineness of whatever they heard. After all, human society inevitably throws up those willing to advance their own egos and wealth through abusing the trust of others. Also the apostle John warned of the need to “test” the genuineness of everything they heard (1 John 4:1-2). The apostle Peter argued the same (2 Peter 2:1-3). (There is something truly paradoxical in the fact that such a warning against being deceived by fake “prophets” could be written by one who--many folks insist--was falsely claiming to be an apostle!)
Typically it is argued that the “Christian” who faked these documents meant well. He was faced with major doctrinal deviations from the Christianity he was well versed in, some of it from those openly contemptuous of Paul and some claiming to be echoing his teachings. Marvin R. Vincent, in the late 1800s, summed up the literary result with the type of argument still common among those who wish to minimize the impropriety of the church accepting an “unquestionably” faked apostolic epistle:
These counsels and warnings he issued in the name of Paul, whose letters he evidently knew, whose character he revered, and whose language he tried to imitate. . . . It is probable that he based these letters upon genuine Pauline material--dispatches, or fragments of letters to Timothy and Titus, which had fallen into his hands. It may be conceded that the letters have a Pauline nucleus. The writer probably assumed that the addressees of his letters to Timothy and Titus would attract attention and carry weight, since these teachers were representatives of churches.
To stigmatize such a proceeding as forgery is to treat the conditions of that early time from the point of view of our own age. No literary fraud was contemplated by the writer or ascribed to him. The practice of issuing a work in the name of some distinguished person was common, and was recognized as legitimate. A whole class of writings, chiefly apocalyptical and known as pseudepigraphic or pseudonymous, appeared in the times immediately preceding and succeeding the beginning of the Christian era. Such were the Book of Enoch, the Sibylline Oracles, and the Psalter of Solomon. Precedent was furnished by the Old Testament writings. The Psalmists adopted the names of David, Asaph, and the Sons of Korah. Neither Samuel nor Ruth nor Esther were supposed to be the authors of the books which bore their names. Koheleth, in the Book of Ecclesiastes, impersonates Solomon, and the Proverbs and the Canticles both bear his name.
The church of the second century thankfully accepted these three Epistles, and, inferior though they were in spiritual power and richness of ideas to the genuine Pauline letters or the Epistle to the Hebrews, incorporated them with these among the New Testament writings. . . . They testify to the energy and purity of the church's moral impulses as nourished by the religious principles of Christendom. . . . By their strong attestation of the value of the inheritance from the apostolic age, by their high ethical character, based on religion and exhibiting the moral consequences of the Christian faith, by their emphasis upon the practical rather than the doctrinal edification of the church, upon the significance of the church, and upon the representation of Christianity by Christian personality--they justify their canonization
“The ends justify the means”—is that not the core of the argument? Because it produced a praiseworthy (?) result, the fact that it is fakery and pretense is irrelevant. “I am the way, the truth, and the life”—except when a good lie is necessary to uphold My religious system? Furthermore can one really speak of the “high ethical character” of the three epistles when they are, with fragmental exceptions, a pile of inventions?
Furthermore if the author(s) that produced these fakes could feel justified by their noble intentions, on what basis can the Gnostic and judaizing elements be denounced? They, too, felt free to similarly invent doctrine and claim it also came from Divine revelation! Is not “truth” and “error” really being determined by who won? “The victor writes the textbooks” is an all too valid truism! (Except when the victor has learned to hate his own country or religion.)
Note that he “proves” the New Testament has faked material by arguing that the Old Testament is overflowing with it. To such folk, it is all a bundle of lies but somehow--miraculously?--has enough virtue within it that it should be honored and adhered to as providing a spiritual and moral foundation for life. Wouldn’t absolute rejection of both testaments make more sense?
Faked Old Testament type writings certainly existed, but which were regarded as mere pleasant religious fantasies and which were viewed as something far more serious: (1) authoritative, (2) divinely inspired, and (3) written by the ancient origin the names attached to them?
And we left out an equally important point: Which, if any, were considered to be deserving of a place in the sacred canon itself—by either the purported author or the apparent readers? Pious religious fiction is much easier to understand if it was not done with the purpose of expanding the number of recognized books of the Biblical canon. What needs to be established is that such an effort was made by the writers or by the readers of such works and that it had any significant acceptance. Then one might have something to argue from as precedent for the acceptance of a faked Pauline pastoral collection!
These two issues typically go hand in hand--if you find massive problems with the traditional attributions of the one Testament you are almost guaranteed to find them with both. Perhaps not as much but still to a large scale. We don’t have the space nor is this the appropriate place to more than briefly touch on a few of the issues in regard to the older Testament. We have to leave you to other resources for the bulk of what could be said.
To begin with, what relevance to the discussion is the denial that Samuel, Ruth, and Esther wrote the books describing their lives and missions? What is in the text that would make us assume the text was making any implicit claim of their authorship? (As distinct from being the ultimate source of much or all that is said about them.)
As to David’s authorship of the Psalms, the book is clearly intended to include a collection of them. Some are directly attributed to him in the New Testament. Others may well have been written by others. After all, others were just as capable of receiving inspiration as David. But David was the “giant”--spiritually and regally--when compared to them. If a generic description were to be given to the book, would it not automatically be “Davidic?”
Then there is Ecclesiastes. It claims to have written by a king and it
seems clear it was supposed to be Solomon:
“The words of the Preacher, the son of David,
The Proverbs are a problem? Three times they are attributed to Solomon
(1:1; 10:1; 25:1). The last of those
allusions is especially interesting: “These also are
proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of
And if you insist on a non-Solomonic origin of part or most of the book, what would be illogical if a wisdom-centered individual like Solomon kept a “commonplace book” in which he jotted down the insights and nuggets of wisdom that he had heard from a wide range of sources? In that case Solomon would be--to some degree--the collector rather than the direct author. But it would still be rightly attributed to “Solomon” for he did the research that went into it.
We could go on and on, but Old Testament issues are really of only marginal interest to us here. What does deserve emphasis is that it was the corrosion of faith in the genuineness of the Old Testament that laid the foundation for the second assault wave--that on the credibility and reliability of the New Testament. Having “proved” to their satisfaction that the Jews were a bunch of pious liars that had foisted the fake revelations of the Old Testament onto their people, how long could such minds resist the temptation to be fully consistent and say that the same mind frame dominated the authors of the New Testament as well?
Whether the Pastorals deserve acceptance or not, the case needs to be made on their own terms. When one grafts on this broader argument justifying the forgery on the grounds that religious lying is abundant in the Bible, the whole issue all too easily degenerates into a controversy over whether divine revelation happened at all rather than whether these particular books were part of that divine revelation.
The latter the conservative can handle, unpleasant though the topic may be. Approached the other way, it easily becomes a “grudge match and to the death.” Fidelity versus infidelity. Truth-holding versus brazen apostasy.
A hypocrite so brazen that he warns of deception (1 Timothy 4:1), while he himself is guilty of attempting such. The man who writes of having set aside the evils of the past (Titus 3:3), who continues to walk in them. A soul so calloused that he can brazenly affirm “I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth” (1 Timothy 2:7) when he is not speaking the truth but lying his head off living a pretense. How in the world could such a man be granted even the assumption of good intentions?
Let us think a little more on this.
To the extent that one concedes that the “pastorals” are both intended fakes and accepted by readers as acceptable on that basis, one is surely faced with the problem of why it was done at all. It was no secret. It was known to others. “If nobody was deceived, what was the point of the subterfuge?”
One can easily imagine such a honest person writing along the lines of: “We all know full well the kind of thing the apostle Paul would have said on a preacher’s responsibilities . . . on the qualifications of church leaders . . . on the proper role of women . . . on providing for our widows who have no support.” “Would not his teachings require. . . .” “Would not his principles demand. . . .” “Would not his own example argue. . . .” Making it Pauline centered without pretending it was written by him.
But if he has to deceive his audience to make the teaching acceptable, why in the world should we expect he had honorable intentions in the first place? Does not the misattribution argue that he knows he is not going to get these things accepted unless he fakes a different reality than the one that really exists?
So if one or more of the “pastorals” is mainly fakery, we have to ask ourselves what is being faked and why. If these aren’t the truths Paul really taught on these matters, where in our faked texts are the distortions and misrepresentations? And if there isn’t any, doesn’t that virtually require miraculous oversight in the deceiver’s writing to have prevented them entering?
Furthermore, since the matters First Timothy touches on obviously had a relevance even in his own lifetime, how in the world do we explain that a genuine apostle—Paul or otherwise—never wrote on them? Would not their role as spokesmen for God have required them to do so?
Or are we to believe that they intentionally left behind an organizational blank check with nothing prescribed and nothing demanded? Even with our own uninspired limitations, would we not recognize that such would be setting the stage for disaster—much of which we could have postponed or avoided if we had just taken the time to write on the type of things pseudo-Paul did in the “pastorals”?
In other words, I find it hard to imagine that the themes Paul discusses here could possibly have gone unspoken—even if nothing more than substituting something else that would more “rightly” guide the church. He knew too much of human nature to not do so. If not him, then certainly one of the other apostles!
Examples of Faked Apostolic Letters
That Have Survived
A good example of a letter that falls into this category is Paul’s alleged letter to the Laodiceans. There is decent evidence that Paul wrote such a letter: “Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea” (Colossians 4:16). We say “good” evidence because it is not the “slam dunk” that is often assumed.
For one thing it is the
Some believe that the Ephesian letter was a circular one--the reference to
Ephesus as the destination is not always found in the oldest major manuscripts--and
that Paul wanted the Colossians to share in hearing that message as well from
the copy (or original) currently in the hands of the Laodicean
brethren. Then there is the scenario
that Philemon was a member of the congregation in
But assuming that this was
a letter to
So a non-preserved Epistle
We have no reason to expect the “pastorals” were invented as well because there are no other known “missing epistle(s)” that one might have felt “needed” to be made available to Christian readers. In other words, here we have a “scriptural motivation” from Paul’s own writings. It is hard to imagine where one would get such for writing the “pastorals.”
Worth passing mention is the
scenario that the Epistle to
Anyone who reads the letter to the Colossians in its present form, will notice that it contains a fairly considerable number of doublets—too many in fact to be easily explained. I reproduce them here in a very literal translation. . . .
A first doublet, 1:3-6 and 1:9-10. . . .
A second doublet, 1:5b-6a and . . . .
A third doublet, 1:10-12 and 26-7. . . .
Fourth, fifth and sixth doublets, 1:27-28 and 2:2; ; . . . .
A seventh doublet, and 3:23. . . .
An eighth doublet, 3:5, 12 and 3:8, 10. . . .
A ninth doublet, -20 and 2:9; . . . .
I have listed the “parallels” for the reader’s convenience so you can consider them at your leisure. I find some of the parallels intriguing, but the over-all impression I receive is of data being bent far beyond anything it legitimately proves. That Paul is simply reinforcing points within the same original epistle would also explain the phenomena.
Boismard, however, insists this is impossible. There are simply too many such alleged “doublets” to have resulted from Paul feeling “the need to make his ideas more precise by coming back to themes already expressed.” I leave the reader to make his or her own judgement after consulting the “parallels.” (Using the “distancing rhetoric” of putting the term in quotation marks is useful not only rhetorically but because the evidence seems to fall so short of what he deems it to prove.)
A third thing we should note is that if you want to know what a genuine “apostolic forgery” would look like—unless the person were acting out of heretical motives—the contents of the “Letter to Laodicea” that has survived gut the possibility that the pastorals are such: it would be hard to find anyone who denies that the entire work represents a plundering of the canonical Pauline letters, lifting both phrases and verses. Mark Harding sums up the situation by describing how its compiler “created it from other Pauline letters in scissors and paste fashion.”
The author, in other words, is fully intent to be Pauline and he does so, not by inventing his own text, but by recycling what already existed. This is as diametrically opposite to what we have in 1 Timothy and the other “pastorals” as possible. There everything is invented out of whole cloth and nothing is really Pauline in the first place. In fairness, some will concede Pauline fragments are embodied in one or more but we do not exaggerate much when we say that, even under this scenario, it is “Pauline” at all only because the imitator did not have the willingness to entirely strike out on his own. The name of Paul simply functions as the excuse for what he wants to say.
A few other comments deserve to be made before “closing shop” on this forgery. Although suspected to have originated in a Greek form, it is preserved only in Latin. The earliest manuscript dates to 546 A.D. Being cited in (how appropriately!) a faked document attributed to Augustine—the Speculum—may prove its existence a century earlier however. (The Speculum could date to either the 400s or 500s.)
A document passing by the name of “Epistle to the Laodiceans” was mentioned far earlier and attributed to the Marcionite heresy. Some find hints of such in the surviving text—arguing that the two are the same—but most find it the composition of a well meaning “orthodox” churchman.
Third Corinthians (a/k/a Acts of Paul and Thecla). Another pretext for faking an apostolic document can be found in references that have been taken to mean that an additional Corinthian letter was written above and beyond what we have (1 Corinthians 5:9; 2 Corinthians 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:8). Although they don’t have to bear that interpretation, one can at least grasp why one or more of these texts could be understood in such a manner. There are also those who regard one or both of the Corinthian letters as a hybrid--editing together multiple far shorter Pauline letters. Though that would also explain the passages, who would have the audacity to edit an apostle’s writings with a clear conscience?
But if we are going to throw out unverifiable hypotheses, let us go one additional step and argue that it would be within Paul’s own authority to edit together such a compilation to provide a shorter and more concise version of lengthier correspondence. This would put everything of general importance in one place and was of a sufficient brevity that it was easier to duplicate and share throughout the many churches of the Lord.
Laying aside such scenarios and assuming that there must have been such an additional letter, the author of 3 Corinthians likely set out to provide it. He does so not as a letter but as parts of a “historical” volume entitled the Acts of Paul or, more often nowadays, as the Acts of Paul and Thecla. This is done not only because of the importance she plays in it but because it emphasizes the right of women to teach/preach and to baptize and this causes it to have a certain “feminist appeal.”
Third Corinthians includes supposed correspondence
As noted, Third Corinthians lies within what is supposedly a “historical narrative.” This is a major difference from the historical apostle Paul. Close associate as he was with Luke, nothing he wrote ever circulated as part of Luke-Acts. It simply wasn’t the way Paul did things but it was the way that certain later writers of “religious edificationary literature” deemed appropriate. Nor did Luke write a third volume combining both epistles and historical information. There is no New Testament precedent for it.
Stylistically the epistle simply doesn’t “ring true.” Written apparently c. 150s or 160s A.D., it does provide us interesting information about the changing religious convictions of at least some significant elements within the Christian community. One effective analysis notes that
· The broader work of the Acts of Paul and Thecla includes such brazenly anti-Pauline teachings as the endorsement of permanent celibacy within marriage, versus 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 and Hebrews 13:4.
· The idea of making the sign of the cross is performed by Thecla () but the concept and practice are totally alien to the New Testament.
· One baptizes another in the New Testament while Thecla baptizes herself (chapter 9).
· She is sent out by Paul like Timothy and Titus to teach the word (10:4)—presumably public preaching, diametrically opposed to 1 Corinthians 14:34-36 and what Paul says here in 1 Timothy.
It should also be noted that the epistle seems clearly intended to counter doctrinal theories that only became popular and pronounced many decades after the apostle’s death. As one scholar sums up its contents:
3 Corinthians is a self-consciously literary work. It explicitly counters a number of theological propositions consistent with a range of false teachings encountered in the second century. Some of these are known to have been held by Marcion and by Gnostics.
The tenets of the teaching are:
* angels, not God made the world;
* God does not care for the world;
* God did not make the body;
* there is no resurrection of the body but of the spirit only;
* Jesus was not crucified but only appeared to be;
* Jesus was born neither of Mary nor of the seed of David.
In short, when viewed either within the narrower framework of Third Corinthians alone or within the broader framework of the Acts of Paul and Thecla, its credibility is nonexistent. This raises a point that is of direct relevancy to the supposed pseudonymous pastorals: Could forgeries have maintained their pseudo-Paulicity much more credibly . . . any more credibly . . . than this document does? In short, brazen forgeries would have been blatantly obvious far, far more times than not. And such “crying out loud giveaways” as found in Third Corinthians / Acts of Paul and Thecla are notably absent in both 1 Timothy and the other “pastorals.”
Rejection of the Propriety of Such
Literature in Early Christian Centuries
Around 200 A.D. Tertullian wrote his composition On Baptism. In chapter 17 he discusses who can properly baptize. Pride of place automatically goes to the bishop. Lesser ranked individuals in the hierarchy can take his place as needed and with his concurrence. “Beside these, even laymen have the right; for what is equally received can be equally given. Unless bishops, or priests, or deacons, be on the spot, other disciples are called, i.e., to the work. The word of the Lord ought not to be hidden by any: in like manner, too, baptism, which is equally God's property, can be administered by all.”
Even so, he had an outright “hissy fit” about women doing such, though, in all fairness, it should be noted that this went hand-in-hand with rejecting their right to be public proclaimers of the gospel as well. Hence in regard to the Acts of Paul and Thecla he had this to say:
But if the writings which wrongly go under Paul's name, claim Thecla's example as a license for women’s teaching and baptizing, let them know that, in Asia, the presbyter who composed that writing, as if he were augmenting Paul’s fame from his own store, after being convicted, and confessing that he had done it from love of Paul, was removed from his office. For how credible would it seem, that he who has not permitted a woman even to learn with over-boldness, should give a female the power of teaching and of baptizing! “Let them be silent,” he says, “and at home consult their own husbands.”
Several things of importance are found in this remark. First of all, it does prove that fake apostolic era documents could and were written at some point between the apostolic age and 200 A.D. It also proves that they could be written out of sincere and pious motives: “as if he were augmenting Paul’s fame from his own store . . . and confessing that he had done it from love of Paul.” However much Tertullian was incensed at the female preaching and baptizing rights the document supported, even he was unwilling to deny the good intentions out of which the composition sprang.
On the other hand it should be noted that piety and sincerity of intention was not sufficient to make the material acceptable. Note that he was “convicted”—it was considered, in effect, as a religiously criminal act regardless of the motives. Even when it was done by no less than a presbyter of the church where it was composed. Rank did not give permission or immunity.
Note also that it did not require a great deal of time for the matter to be deemed worthy of investigation: This can be seen in the fact that the author was still alive. These Acts weren’t blasély accepted by everyone just because it existed and was circulated in a seemingly “orthodox” circle.
What we do not know is why the matter was investigated. One could imagine that someone was offended--as Tertullian--at the idea of a woman carrying out baptism or pulpit preaching. One could even easier suspect that someone was suspicious about this work because it had “popped up out of nowhere”--one that no one had heard of it before. It could easily make them more than a little curious about where it came from and, if genuine, why it had not been shared with them previously.
For that matter, it is easy to imagine that an individual who so strongly loved Paul and things Pauline, to have volunteered the information about his authorship. In turn this could have motivated an investigation as to whether such literary invention could be accepted as proper.
These Acts enjoyed a considerable amount of popularity, as witnessed by repeated references to its narrative without condemnation. Occasionally it was included in codexes with other texts believed of religious value--which may or may not imply the idea of canonicity as well. However Tertullian was definitely not alone in firmly rejecting it as non-apostolic and lacking inspiration. Which should not be surprising since the man who wrote it admitted that it was his own composition!
But was there a different category than genuineness that would justify such works as fair and appropriate material to be used by pious readers? It is quite possible that those who originally used the narrative recognized that it was a later invention but thought it appropriate to use nonetheless. Not as “scripture,” but as “edifying”--as “inspiring” rather than “inspired.” Hence it is not unknown for this to be considered a prime example of the early Christian “novel.
The Common Occurrence of
Christian Religious Literature
Without Claiming an Apostolic Origin For It
Even within the New Testament itself, not everything claims to be of apostolic origin. There was no preconceived psychological or spiritual “drive” that required authors to claim they were apostles when their perception of their own inspiration was adequate to justify their writing to themselves and to others. Authoritative because knowledgeable and thoroughly reliable, they felt none of the supposed compulsion that led men to write the Pastorals under a “fake name.”
Take the gospel of Luke. He reminds its primary reader--who financed the costs in time and supplies to prepare the manuscript?--that he had set out to carefully research his subject in order to assure the historic reliability of what he wrote (Luke 1:1-4). Having done so--“having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first”--he proceeded to write this lengthy document (verse 3). “Perfect understanding” has been understood by some to refer to direct Divine inspiration. Others take the language as only carrying the more modest but still important connotation of full accuracy and reliability--though that obviously does not rule out the presence of the other! In the context of our current topic, what is important is that he made no effort to claim he was an apostle.
Nor did he do so in Acts, his sequel which covered the history of the early church through Paul’s Roman imprisonment. Through the “we” sections of the book, we learn that he was a first hand observer of what happened in a good sized section of that book.
Luke-Acts are narrative history, but Hebrews is straight doctrine. Although traditionally ascribed to Paul, there is really no conclusive evidence that it is. It does present a systematic rationale for his “hard” division between Old Testament authority and the gospel however. In doing so it surely represents the kind of reasoning he would either have composed or happily endorsed. Yet the author felt no need to assert an apostolic status at all even if he is someone different.
Going outside the New Testament, the earlier writings
certainly show no predisposition for the need for an apostolic origin to lie
behind an authoritative writing. Take First Clement. It was written on behalf of the Roman
congregation to the Corinthians who had deposed certain of their elders. Traditionally it is attributed to Clement, a
This letter is usually dated in the 90s, while a
number date it in the 130s. A small
number suspect an authorship prior to the fall of
The same is true of Second Clement, dated in the 130s or 140s. This is the record of a sermon delivered by an unknown author but still labeled as “Second Clement” for lack of any real alternative. (You have to have some kind of identification to discuss just about any individual or his writing, don’t you?) What is not claimed is that the man is an apostle. There was no need felt for it.
Perhaps most germane to our topic are three other relatively early works.
(1) The Didache (Teaching
of the Twelve Apostles).
This work has been placed anywhere from a pre-fall of
The work clearly regards itself as authoritative but nowhere does it give any clear indication that it claims to be by an apostle: Indeed, the heading of “The Didache: The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles To The Nations” clearly argues for it being circulated as a conscious summary of what was regarded as apostolic.
Nor is there any probability that this could be the conclusions of a meeting of the apostles. The only time we read in the New Testament of the apostles assembling “in conclave” so to speak (Acts 15:2) was at their Jerusalem meeting over circumcision and what was then sent out was short and to the point (Acts 15:22-29). And even there we can’t be sure how many were present.
In contrast the Didache wanders into what are its authors surely regarded as constructive requirements--even though not found within the New Testament: For example, specified wording for the prayers for the communion bread and cup (chapter 9) and a prayer for after communion as well—far longer than the others (Chapter 10). Although nothing is wrong with that I suppose, it “smells” of trying to make things more formal and ritualistic than anything found in the New Testament itself.
It especially demonstrates this in regard to the rigid specification of the types of water that are preferred in baptism and how you can even substitute something for immersion:
And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before. (Chapter 7)
When the gospel was first preached on the day of Pentecost three thousand were baptized that same day (Acts -41). Indeed the concept of delayed baptism, even for a day or two, flies in the face of every conversion in the book of Acts. Furthermore requiring fasting as a prerequisite for either baptizer or baptized is also alien.
If nothing else these alterations rule out an early
date for the Didache--such as before the fall
Furthermore would pre-70 believers--or pre-90 Christians for that matter--have been willing to substitute the mere pouring of water on the head for the submersion, immersion, burial in water that “baptism” connotes in the New Testament? Do we even need to mention that the substitution was to be done “three times upon the head”--surely conveying the reasonable implication that even immersion had to be done three times for it to be acceptable to God?
The book even provides a strange admonition that a genuine apostle, Paul, violated on numerous occasions and doubtless all the other apostles as well:
But concerning the apostles and prophets, act according to the decree of the Gospel. Let every apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord. But he shall not remain more than one day; or two days, if there’s a need. But if he remains three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodges. (Chapter 11).
In contrast, the apostle Paul stayed three years
We have wandered perhaps further than we should, but this shows how profoundly different in content and tone the work is from the New Testament. But to return to our theme of falsely claiming apostolic authorship, it should again be stressed that though the document clearly works from the assumption that it is a reliable summary of the Lord’s and the apostolic teaching it nowhere claims to be from any inspired source. The fact that it was regarded as a reliable summary was regarded as sufficient in itself to establishing its authority. Inventing an apostolic authorship was not required.
(2) Epistle of Barnabas. The document refers to the destruction of the
Jewish Temple in 16:3-4 and affirms not merely the rebuilding of the
This does not absolutely require such an early date
for the dream of a rebuilt
Although Eusebius the famous church historian rejected it as apocryphal, both Clement of Alexandria (c. 190 A.D.) and Origen (died c. 250 A.D.) were receptive to its apostolic era composition. The famous Sinaiticus Codex includes it.
Whether one attributes this to the New Testament companion of the apostle Paul or to some later (probably Alexandrian) Barnabas, in both of these cases it should be noted that there is no claim to apostolic authorship at all. To gain attention, respect, and credibility it was not deemed essential. Indeed it should be noted that nowhere in the work itself does it even claim to be by a “Barnabas”--Biblical or not!
(3) Shepherd of Hermas.
The work is attributed by the
Muratorian canon of the New Testament to a brother of
a man who was a bishop in
We’ve gone into these various examples to show that a person could easily believe he was communicating reliable, essential, and even inspired truth without any perceived need to wrap it in a faked apostolic dressing. So if the Pastorals are really non-Pauline compositions--apostolic era or not--why in the world did the author feel the compulsion to add a false authorship claim? These other authors thought there was no need for it!
So lacking a bent psyche—and one hesitates to attribute the well argued and presented “pastorals” of the New Testament to such a personality—one is only left with the need to introduce serious innovative and likely controversial new doctrines . . . or “bends” on the well-established tradition . . . yet the epistles clearly fail to do this.
Although one could counter this by arguing that
pseudo-Paul was so convinced that he was only adapting established Pauline
truths to a new situation, that still presents grave problems. The ethical one of lying so that the truth might
advance is absolutely anti-Pauline--Romans 3:7: “For if the truth of God has increased
through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner?” Are we to believe that he thought that he
could sin so “that grace may abound”?
Yet another sentiment Paul explicitly rejected (Romans 6:1). Furthermore, if he is merely being adaptive,
what in the world new could possibly be added that was not already present--in
at least “seed” form--during the apostle’s actual lifetime?
Yes, the Old Testament records examples of usually honest individuals telling falsehoods that are sometimes quite understandable due to the circumstances, but the cases are all presented as facts and not as praiseworthy examples to be imitated: “Abraham (Genesis 12:13; 20:2), Isaac (Genesis 26:7), Jacob (Genesis 27:19), Elisha (2 Kings 6:19), David (1 Samuel 21:2) and Jehu (2 Kings 10:18-19).”
Nor are they presented as Divine revelations, either spoken or written. Indeed, Biblically speaking, when the terms “lie,” “deception,” and “misleading” are linked with the word or concept of “revelation,” what is the only Biblical term or concept that comes to mind? False prophets. If “revelatory” pseudonymity were a respected, Biblical concept, would we not expect at least an occasional explicit avowal of its propriety?
Examples of persons who appear to believe that the use of deceit was acceptable in mitigating circumstances can be found in post-apostolic Christian circles: Clement of Alexandria (Stromata 7.53), Origen (Against Celsus 4.19), John Chrysostom (On the Priesthood, 1.8). An analogy often used in such examples is that it is acceptable for a physician to lie to his patients for the sake of their health. Such deception is considered a kind of placebo which may be good for the sick person’s welfare.
[Footnote:] But see Galen, the second-century doctor, who
complained about others who had written works in his name. Thus, at least in Galen’s case, it is
difficult to use this analogy to justify pseudonymous letters in this manner.
So called “noble lies” of this type were designed either to protect others or oneself from severe discomfort or danger. Anything much less than this would have given a carte blanche to lie on virtually any and every occasion. The point of referring to such exceptions was exactly that—to show that it was an exception to the normal pattern of truth telling.
To apply such precedents to supposed fake Pauline literature requires us to presume that abuse of leadership through unqualified individuals--and the other dangers dealt with in the epistle--had somehow become a problem that had not existed earlier. But is that in the least likely to be the case? Are not these “first generation” problems as well? In other words, they already needed to be dealt with in Paul’s own day. Was he so negligent that he did not lay down the necessary guiding principles?
In other words there is every reason to believe that Paul would have felt motivated to write an epistle with similar or identical purposes to that of First Timothy. If we admit the genuineness of First Timothy we have that document. If we deny its genuineness, we are faced with the perplexing question of why in the world he didn’t write such an analysis. Was he not guilty of severe negligence?
 Ralph Earle, “1 Timothy,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, edited by Frank E. Gaebelein and J. D. Douglas (Grand Rapids, Michigan: 1978), 343.
 Witherington, 177.
 Craig Davis, “The Letter to Titus,” part of the web site Dating the New Testament. At: http://www.datingthenewtestament.com/Titus.htm. (Accessed: October 2015.) The identification of the author comes from the web link to the sister site, “Dating the Old Testament.” I apologize for citing so much, comparatively, from his short text, but he said it so well that it seemed a shame not to quote it.
 Craig Davis, “The First and Second Letter to Timothy,” part of the web site Dating the New Testament. At: http://www.datingthenewtestament.com/Timothy.htm. (Accessed: October 2015.)
 Bernard, Introduction, Chapter 2.
 John Stott, Guard the Truth: The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 41.
 [Macedonian Government website], “Condition of Macedonia Under Roman Rule.” At: http://makedonija.name/history/condition-of-macedonia-in-roman-empire. (Accessed: October 2016.)
 For an interesting Jewish analysis of the shift and its rationale, see the article by [Unidentified Author], “Who Is A Jew: Matrilineal Descent,” part of the My Jewish Learning website. At https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/ask-the-expert-matrilineal-descent. (Accessed: September 2019.)
 Stacy E. Hoehl, “The
L. Harris, “Paul & Timothy.”
 Hoehl, 35.
 Goff Thomas,
“The Servant’s Hearts of Paul and Timothy.”
 Hoehl, 40.
 Witherington, 187.
 Edward Adams, The Earliest Christian Meeting
Places—Almost Exclusively Houses?, in the Library of New Testament Studies,
volume 450. (
 Ibid., 39.
 Ibid., vii-viii.
 David C. Verner, The Household of God: The Social World of the Pastoral Epistles, SBL Dissertation Series 71 (Chico, California: Scholars Press, 1983), 167.
 See the concise discussion of dating evidence presented by the unidentified author at “Epistle of Barnabas,” at the Early Christian Resources website (with links to various translations). At: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/barnabas.html. (Accessed: November 2015.) He gives the range of “80-120 A.D.” for its composition.
 Reginald H. Fuller, “The Pastorals,” in Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, The Pastoral Epistles, edited by Gerhard Krodel, 97-121, in the Proclamation Commentaries series (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Fortress Press, 1978), 97.
 Ibid., 102.
 Luke T. Johnson, Letters, 17, and Walter F. Taylor, 60.
B. Wallace, “Some Notes on the Earliest Manuscript of Paul’s Letters.” Part of The Center for the Study of New
Testament Manuscripts website, at:
 For a description of how this is done and for the other detailed information on P46, see Terrence Szymanski, “Reading the Payri: P46.” At: http://www.lib.umich.edu/reading/Paul/ (homepage). Dated: 2004. (Accessed: September 2015.)
 Wallace, “Earliest.”
 Based on the Analytical Greek New Testament. See summary of the data at Felix Just, New Testament Statistics. At: http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/NT-Statistics-Greek.htm. (Accessed: September 2015.)
 Wallace, “Earliest.”
 Stanley E. Porter, “Paul and the Pauline Letter
Collection,” in Paul and the Second Century, edited by Michael F. Bird
and Joseph R. Dodson (
 Wallace, “Earliest.”
 Philip W. Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism ([ ? ]: B & H Academic, 2005), 130-131.
 Ibid., 131.
 Tertullian, Against Marcion, translated by Peter Holmes, in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3, edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885). Reprinted at (with links to each section): http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0312.htm. (Accessed: October 2015.)
 Luke T. Johnson, Letters to Paul’s Delegates: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, in The New Testament in Context series (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1996), 3.
 Porter (21) cites the possibility without endorsing or rejecting it.
 Robert Paul Seesengood,
Paul: A Brief History (
 Kostenberger, Entrusted with the Gospel: Paul’s Theology in the Pastoral Epistles,
edited by Andreas J. Kostenberger and Terry L. Wilder
 D. A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo, and Leon Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1992), 367.
 Cf. Ibid.
 The following texts are ones suggested on these two points by Andreas J. Kostenberger, Entrusted, 5.
 Vincent, “Introduction” (internet).
 Stott, Guard, 30.
M.-E. Boismard, “Paul’s Letter to the Laodiceans,” in The Pauline Canon, edited by Stanley
E. Porter (
Mark Harding, “Disputed and Undisputed Letters of Paul,” in The Pauline
Canon, edited by Stanley E. Porter (
 For a very concise discussion see Ibid., 138-139.
 My summary of [Unidentified Author], [Acts of Paul and Thecla], part of the La Vista Church of Christ website. At: http://lavistachurchofchrist.org/LVanswers/2009/03-26.html. (Accessed: November 2015.)
 Harding, Pauline, 142. We have changed the material from a continuous text into a list of items to make the points more emphatic.
 Tertullian, On Baptism, part of the Early Christian Writings website. At: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/tertullian21.html. (Accessed: November 2015.)
 For a
brief summary of the evidence, see Jeremy W. Barrier, Acts of Paul and Thecla: A Critical
Introduction and Commentary (
 For a
discussion of this and similar works as “novels”—and the fact that such a
classification leaves it in a kind of “no man’s land” between Biblical studies
and classical studies—see the discussion in
 [Unidentified Author(s).] Didache (The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations). Roberts-Donaldson Translation, part of the Early Christian Writings website. At: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-roberts.html. (Accessed: November 2015.)
L. Wilder, “Pseudonymity, the New Testament, and the
Pastoral Epistles,” in Entrusted with the Gospel: Paul’s Theology in the Pastoral Epistles,
edited by Andreas J. Kostenberger and Terry L. Wilder
 Ibid., 49, and n. 129, 49.