These letters are known as the Pastoral Letters. (Pastor came into English from Latin pastor, “shepherd.”) They are addressed not to congregations, but to individuals who are themselves ministering to congregations. Full of counsel, less of doctrine.
And here, like Hebrews, most scholars are convinced that Paul didn’t write them. Why? The following is summarized from the conservative Protestant Word Biblical Commentary volume on the Pastorals by eminent Greek teacher William Mounce. (See his blog here.) There are several problems.
- A Historical Problem– These don’t seem to fit into Acts, and also seems to assume a fairly well-developed Church structure.
- A Theogical Problem– Some of the themes and approaches of the Pastorals run directly counter to other letters known with a high degree of certainty to be Paul’s. In other cases, they assume a good degree of doctrinal development and “orthodoxy”, both of which require time and stabilization to develop.
- A Linguistic Problem– The style and vocabulary is quite different than the other letters. At times, the same words are used, but in very different ways. At other times, rare but significant words are used that don’t appear in his other letters. In some cases, the vocabulary seems to match a 2nd century Greek vocabulary, not a 1st century as it should.
Each of these problems depends upon limited data, certain assumptions, and methodologies, but taken together, they are a problem. Three general responses exist (still summarizing from the WBC.)
- The pastorals were written by someone in the early 2nd century, which rules out Paul. This would make them pseudepigraphal, written in Paul’s name, but not by him. In theory, I have no problem with this.
- The pastorals were written by an amanuensis, that is, someone (or a group or school) working under Paul to write the letter, using their own phrasing, style, vocabulary, etc. I have no problem with this either.
- In the 2nd century, fragments of Paul’s genuine letters that have not survived were edited and rewritten together, “in an attempt to preserve the fragments and make Paul’s message relevant to a later church.” WBC, cxviii. I don’t have a problem with this either.
Note that none of the solutions is “well, Paul REALLY did write them anyway.” It’s just something we have to wrestle with. Is it possible? Perhaps. Purely for ease, I’m going to call the author Paul even though I’m inclined to think Paul didn’t write them directly (I like the amanuensis view). But on to more important things.
Second, since there’s no real overarching them to these letters, it’s hard to find A Big Picture to focus on.
Timothy (or Tim, as some call him) gets mentioned a lot: Rom 16:21, 1Co 4:17, 2Co 1:1, Phi 1:1, Col 1:1, 1Th 1:1, Phm 1:1…
Who is this Timothy guy?
According to Acts Timothy was a native of Lystra in Asia Minor (Act 16:1, 2), the son of a Jewish woman and a Greek father (16:1). Because of the matrilineal principle of descent, Timothy would have been considered a Jew, although the applicability of this principle in the 1st-century Diaspora has been questioned…. The author of 2 Timothy, preserving what is probably historically reliable tradition, names his mother as Eunice and his grandmother as Lois, both of whom are described as Christian believers (Act 1:5). Timothy’s mother did not have him circumcised (Act 16:3). This together with her marriage to a (nonbelieving?) gentile suggests that Timothy, living in the Diaspora, did not grow up in a pious or strictly observant Jewish home (although see 2Ti 3:15).- Anchor Bible Dictionary”
1Ti 2:9 What does “modest” mean here, as Paul elaborates on it? It’s not showing too much leg, nor have anything to do with chastity. (We’ve recently made “modesty” very narrow, and all about sexuality.) Rather, it seems to have more in common with the Book of Mormon’s warnings about “costly apparel.”
1Ti 3:1ff Qualifications of Bishops and Deacons-
Deacon– Gr. diakonos means “someone who serves, waits tables, ministers” e.g. Mat 4:11, 8:15, 20:26, 20:28, Mar 9:35, 15:41, John 2:5, Act 1:17 (“ministry”), Act 6:1 (“distribution”). It’s a generic term that takes on specific meaning within the early Christian Church, as it was a secondary, assistive role, and “may parallel the role of the assistant (חַזָּן, chazzan) of the synagogue”- “Deacon,” The Lexham Bible Dictionary. (This is a free resources for Logos users; you get the engine/software for free, but books/packages cost.)
Bishops– This word is an anglicization of Greek episkopos, which quite literally means “overseer.” (If broken up into parts, epi+skopos, the latter is what gives us all our -scope words in English, like telescope, microscope, etc.) Bibles like the ESV, NET, and NIV actually translate as “overseer.”
Among the other qualifications, it says a Bishop must be “the husband of one wife.” Does this mean, not polygamous? Does it mean married-but-not-divorced? Only married once? I mentioned William Mounce above. He takes a look at this passage here, and offers that “1 Tim 3:2 is a confusing text, and whatever it says, it does not say it clearly.” This goes to show that learning Biblical languages does not solve all problems, as Kevin Barney has talked about here.
1Ti 4:13- Since there are no personal copies of the scriptures (far too expensive, far too little literacy), this must refer to a public reading in a congregation of the Hebrew Bible (probably in Greek translatin), and NRSV, NIV, and others translate that way.
1Ti 5:23 Drink wine, for health reasons. This was indeed wine, not grape juice. If not so, then there was no point in Paul specifying to Timothy that Bishops should not be “drunkards” in 1Ti 3:3. Wine was something everyone drank… but not to excess.
1Ti 6:4 Note in 1Ti 6:4 NET, this is translated as “an unhealthy interest in controversies.” I’ve known people like that. They’re not well-grounded in scriptures or the basics of the Gospel, but really want to get into speculative out-there doctrinal discussions. On a different note, Joseph Smith said, “be careful in speaking on those subjects which are not clearly pointed out in the word of God, which lead to speculation and strife.” –Words of Joseph Smith, p.16
2Ti 3:1 The scriptures sometimes speak of “the last days” (as here) or “the latter days” (Num 24:14, etc.) These aren’t what they appear on the surface, namley, prophecies of our day today. Let me give two perspectives. In Hebrew idiom, this phrase simply meant “in the future.” Way back in Gen 49:1, the first of the patriarchal blessings, Israel says to his sons, “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.” Other translations opt for the less-apocalyptic “in the days to come” (JPS, NASB, ESV, TNIV, NRSV) or “in the future” (NET). The JPS Torah Commentary here draws on the cognate phrase,
its Akkadian counterpart ina aḫrat ume, means simply “in the future,” without precise definition. In the Torah the phrase is used in a context of historical time, but in prophetic literature the phrase became a technical term for the “end-time” (eschaton), when the historical process would reach its culmination and God’s grand design for the human race would be fulfilled.”
So it does take on some more apocalyptic tone later on, but still means “in the future.”
The other view, held by the early Christians, was that “the last days”, the end-time, the new world, began with the resurrection of Jesus. In that sense, we’ve been in “the last days” for the last 2000 years, and I anticipate at least several hundred more.
2Ti 3:15-16 “Scriptures” throughout the entire New Testament refers only to the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, mainly because the writings of the New Testament didn’t exist yet, or weren’t canonized. The early Christians accessed their scriptures in translation, because they mostly didn’t know Hebrew. For them, the Greek translation simply *was* the Bible. See the recent When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible.
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