Monday, January 4, 2010

Introduction to the Pastoral Epistles

Tonight a group of students at Christ Church Academy will begin a study through the Pastoral Epistles.

We'll begin by discussing the critical issues of the three letters (1/2 Tim. and Titus): Author, Date, and Recipients. Dr. William Mounce notes: "More than perhaps for any book in the NT, exegesis of the PE is affected by one's critical assumptions" (Word Biblical Commentary, xlvi).

Regarding authorship, Dr. Samuel Ngewa suggests that "the arguments put forward by those who oppose Paul's authorship fall into four main groups" (Africa Bible Commentary, 1):
  1. Historical/biographical
  2. Linguistic
  3. Doctrinal/theological
  4. Ecclesiological

“Some of the events mentioned in the PE are very difficult to fit into the account of Paul’s ministry in the book of Acts” (ABC, 2).

Strengths: Acts does not mention Paul’s visit to Crete (Titus 1:5). When did Paul journey to Macedonia (1 Tim. 1:3)? Is the imprisonment in 2 Timothy the same as those mentioned in Acts (Acts 23-26 and 28)? “It is not easy to fit the settings they describe into Paul’s life as Acts presents it” (Encountering the NT, 334).

Weaknesses: “These problems only discredit Pauline authorship if we assume that the book of Acts deals with all of Paul’s up to the time of his death. But the book makes no such claim” (ABC, 2). Cf. Acts 28:30-31. “Given that Agrippa and Festus considered Paul innocent of the charges against him (Acts 26:32), it is likely that he was eventually released from his imprisonment in Rome” (ABC, 2).


“The words and style of writing in the PE are very different from those in Paul’s other writings” (ABC, 2).

Strengths: “This argument is a strong one” (ABC, 2). A total of 306 words out of the 849 in PE are not characteristic of Paul’s style as we know it elsewhere in the NT. SEE: Ngewa’s notes on 418-419.

Weaknesses: “It is quite possible that Paul changed his vocabulary and his style of writing to suit the new circumstances these churches were facing” (ABC, 2). It is also likely that Paul employed a scribe.


“The PE do not mention some of Paul’s key teachings in his other letters, such as salvation by faith, believers’ union with Christ, and the role of the Holy Spirit” (ABC, 2).

Strengths: (1) Some central Pauline theological themes are not mentioned. (2) Pauline theological themes are treated differently. (3) New theological themes are introduced. (4) The PE references a fixed theological tradition (e.g. “sound teaching,” “the faith,” “the truth,” etc.). SEE: Ngewa’s notes on 419.

Weaknesses: “This argument, however, raises the questions of why Paul would need to repeat these things to Timothy and Titus, two of his key assistants who had worked alongside him and must often have heard him teach on these topics” (ABC, 2).


“Some argue that the church in Paul’s day was not as structured as the one we meet in the PE and would not have had bishops, elders, and deacons” (ABC, 3).

Strengths: “Some have argued that this type of church organization developed only after Paul’s death, particularly in the time of Clement (AD 95), and Ignatius (AD 110), who wrote to the churches in Asia Minor” (ABC, 419).

Weaknesses: “In Acts 14:23 [Paul] appoints elders and in Acts 20:17, 28 he meets with the elders of the church in Ephesus.... Moreover, the problems with false teaching in the churches for which Timothy and Titus were responsible may have necessitated organization and strict discipline” (ABC, 3).

  • The traditional belief that Paul wrote all three letters known as the PE. “No one has yet produced evidence that the ancient church accepted letters as apostolic that it knew to be written pseudonymously” (ENT, 335).
  • That Paul’s imprisonment in Acts 28 ended in his release and that his ministry extended at least four years after the imprisonment in Acts 28. “During these travels he could have written 1 Timothy and Titus” (ENT, 335). Paul likely wrote 1 Timothy and Titus between AD 63-67.
  • That Paul was re-arrested, and during this final imprisonment he wrote 2 Timothy, “which was his last testament before his execution in AD 67 or 68” (ABC, 3). “Shortly after writing 2 Timothy Paul apparently suffered death by beheading under the persecutions instigated by the ‘degenerate madness’ of the Roman emperor Nero” (ENT, 335).

1 comment:

  1. Hey, helpful stuff. We start 1 Timothy from the puplit in February and will be using some of the same resources. I'll have to check back here for more insights!