The authorship of the Pastoral epistles (1 Timothy 1)

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1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, the Pastoral epistles, claim Paul as their author (1 Timothy 1:1, 2 Timothy 1:1, Titus 1:1). These unique letters include biographical material (2 Timothy 1:8, 15-18), as well as personal requests (2 Timothy 4:9-13, 19-21, Titus 3:12) appropriate to Paul. Nonetheless, many scholars maintain that the Pastorals are pseudepigraphical – falsely written in Paul’s name. Several arguments are commonly made in defence of this viewpoint:

  • It is sometimes difficult to relate the incidents the Pastorals describe (such as church work in Crete, mentioned in Titus) to the history of Paul’s missionary work as recorded in Acts.
  • There is evidence in these letters of a church structure that seems to have been too highly developed to have come from Paul’s lifetime.
  • The Pastorals contain vocabulary and styles that does not seem to match what we otherwise know of Paul.

Much evidence, however, supports the traditional view of Pauline authorship:

  • Writings from the second century support the belief that Paul was released from his first Roman imprisonment (Acts 28), allowing for subsequent activity in Crete and Ephesus prior to his final arrest and martyrdom. If this was indeed the case, it might not be surprising that the Pastorals would have few parallels in Acts, since they would have come from a later period of Paul’s life.
  • Although the Pastoral epistles display significant interest in the qualifications for church leaders, this does not necessitate a highly developed church structure along the lines of the later Roman Catholic church. Paul alluded to “overseers and deacons” in  his earlier writings (Philippians 1:1), making invalid the assumption that the earliest churches lacked structure. Indeed, the very first congregation, the one at Jerusalem, very quickly felt the need for a more developed structure and for several distinct types of offices within the church (apostles, deacons and elders, Acts 6:1-6, 11:30). The variety of “gifts” Paul described for the churches indicates a variety of offices (1 Corinthians 12:28-29), and the presence of false teachers in leadership positions in Ephesus and Crete warranted Paul’s focus on the establishment of sound church leadership.
  • The vocabulary and style of the Pastoral epistles are well within Paul’s range, and the variations can be explained in light of the context of these letters. Writing in the face of particular false teachings (1 Timothy 1:4, 6-7, 2 Timothy 2:18, Titus 1:10, 14, 3:9), Paul freely appropriated the language of his opponents for his own purposes. Furthermore, he wrote to his co-workers, Timothy and Titus, assuming their familiarity with his teaching, which allowed him to dispense with fundamentals and focus instead upon urgent practical matters.
  • The early church, which rejected pseudonymous letters, declining to accept into the canon letters that falsely claimed to be Pauline, fully embraced the Pastorals.

 

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