Authorship of the Pastorals

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Your view of authorship of biblical documents and how you translate those documents depends quite a bit on your presuppositions. Some people think that because of the vocabulary and the way some subjects are addressed in the Pastoral epistles that Paul did not write them. However, others are convinced that Paul wrote them and offer responses to objections that others have raised. (42:24) This lecture was given by a teaching assistant of Dr. Schreiner's because he had planned to be out of town.


I. Authorship of the Pastorals

A. Four views on authorship of the Pastoral epistles

B. Pauline authorship: problems (point 4 under Views of Authorship analyzed)

C. Responses to questions raised about Pauline authorship (point 5)

D. Conclusions


Course: New Testament Survey, Acts to Revelation

Lecture 17: Authorship of the Pastorals

This is the 17th lecture in the online series of lectures on New Testament Survey by Dr Thomas Schreiner. Recommended Reading includes: Article on Divorce and Remarriage – Craig Blomberg, Trinity Journal, 1990; The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross by Leon Morris; Are there Two Will in God by John Piper; Two views on Women in Ministry by James Beck and Craig Blomberg; Word Bible Commentary: Pastoral Epistles, Volume 46, by William D. Mounce and Recovering Biblical Manhood and Biblical Womanhood, by Wayne Gudem and John Piper (article by Vern Poythress entitled, ‘The Church as a Family’)

(Any slides, photos, notes or outlines that the lecturer refers to should be down loaded separately. If they are not available, you may be able to find something similar using the Google© search engine.)

Your view of authorship of biblical documents and how you translate those documents depends quite a bit on your presuppositions. Some people think that because of the vocabulary and the way some subjects are addressed in the Pastoral Epistles that Paul did not write them. However, others are convinced that Paul wrote them and offered responses to objections that others have raised.

Flow Assignment 1st Timothy 2:11-15

Let’s start with 1st Timothy 2:12a and b here and we will go back to verse 11. We start out with a negative / positive; so the sense is, I don’t allow this but I want this. A negative / positive is always a contrasting statement; not this but that. You have a negative / positive in 14 b and c; Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. How did they fall into transgression? It was by the woman being deceived. There is no right answer here as they will reflect your interpretation. If they continue in faith they will be saved. This is an ‘if / then’ statement. Let a woman receive / I don’t allow this; so in this case we have a positive and negative. You have another contrasting statement, ‘it was not Adam who was deceived but the woman.’ Again you have a negative / positive; not this but this. And here he had a concessive, although Adam was not deceived but the woman fell into transgression, even though that happened, women shall be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith. And to connect these, he has a series or progression. So as you are tracing this main point, you are looking for the thing that is supported by everything else that doesn’t support anything. If you want to look at it visually, your main point will be your highest logical level. So by default the ground cannot be the main point because it is supporting something else. Usually the main point is going to be the command or the imperative. Here, in this case in 13a ‘for Adam was formed first’ and 15b is the ground of the 11 through 12; ‘let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.’ So 12a to 15b is our ground, ‘because of this,’ therefore this, 11 through 12b. So this is the main point which represents the highest logical level. We start out with this, because of this; that is why we call it a ground; it is a lower level; because of this, therefore this.

I want you to see that when you are tracing, you have not finished with your exegesis because you can miss things that Paul is wanted to show you. Back to verse 11, ‘let a woman receive instruction’, literally in quietness, quietly receive. It is also ‘learn’, or quietly learn with entire submissiveness. ‘I don’t allow women to teach or exercise authority over a man. You have ‘quietly learn’; ‘I don’t allow women’ and then ‘submissiveness’. Look at the parallelism, let a woman quietly learn and receive instruction; not to teach and exercise authority which parallels to submissiveness and look how he ends. He has an inclusion, he begins with something, he ends with something with an exact parallelism; this is what I want; receive or learn in quietness and submissiveness; don’t teach, don’t exercise authority. Different people understand different things in regards to quietly receive instruction. Some think that in situations, they are not to talk at all in the church which goes against what Paul says elsewhere in Corinthians. Here, Paul clearly assigns them that they can pray and prophesy. Others see this quietness as a demeanor. Of course all of this is very controversial and charged. But candidly, I think the interpretations that try to take the ground and say it is only culturally conditioned is only an attempt to get beyond the clear meaning of the text. Note in talking about child-bearing; many will say that this is a trans-cultural phenomenon and a result of the fall. Creation obviously was before the fall. So I think Paul is grounding this in the fact that Adam had priority in creation, at least, temporally. He was the one created first and he goes out of his way to say, Adam was not the one who was deceived. Again interpretation differs about this being an ontological statement about woman, that they are more emotional that they can be more gullible. (Please don’t throw anything at me while I’m talking but that is one interpretation.)

Another interpretation, Paul is just referring to the fact that the order that God ordained within creation, namely Adam as the head, ruler and spiritual leader; that was now being negated by Eve and the Serpent. So it is only a matter of the created order being subverted. Now, one of the hardest interpretations is what to do with verse 15? Women shall be preserved through bearing of children. Preserved is an interesting translation as it comes from the original word, to save. So is it just talking about physical preservation or is it talking about actual salvation? You never fine this verb used with this sense in reference to physical preserve. It always talks about salvation. If you remember the near context; it is completely talking about salvation. So women shall be saved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith. Well, I think two most plausible things here would be bearing of children which could mean, women shall be saved through the child that Eve bears. You get the promise in Genesis 2, that the seed of the woman will crush the seed of serpent. Some interpreters go that way. Women shall be saved through the birth of Christ ultimately. In thinking about the situation in Ephesus, the women were saying; they were Dimi-grating traditional roles, like child bearing and marriage. They were saying that we need to be in authority and teaching. I think the better interpretation is, ‘women are going to be saved through doing the ordinary things that characterize them. They don’t have to go out of their way to be in different roles. They don’t have to do something radical to please God.

I. Authorship of the Pastorals: 1st & 2nd Timothy and Titus

In regards to authorship, let me begin with a personal illustration. I went to a reformed seminary in Michigan and I was your typical evangelical young man who believed in inspiration and inerrancy and I was a very conservative Christian. I thought the seminary I was attending was also a conservative school but the first day of the New Testament class, the lecturer started out with all the things he disagreed with contemporary conservative Christianity. He told me that Paul didn’t write the Pastorals, Peter didn’t write 1st and 2nd Peter, Paul didn’t write Ephesians. So here I was a person with no theological training hearing these critical issues with this PhD telling me Paul didn’t write any of this. I was thinking, how in the world could he say this when Paul tells us that he was the author of the letters. We had to write a paper on authorship of a disputed book and I chose 2nd Timothy because I could not think how anyone could deny that Paul wrote with all of the personal illusion’s here. If there was someone writing pseudonymously, how could they do this and how could the church accept it. So I wrote on 2nd Timothy and the professor agreed that yeah, Paul wrote 2nd Timothy. The lady sitting next to me did her paper on Ephesians, the book that I would have preferred to write on. I ask her what the conclusion she come to was. She answered, ‘the professor says that Paul didn’t write it and that was good enough for me.’ I wanted to say to her, no, don’t believe what you are hearing! It is a fore gone conclusion anywhere except Southern Seminary that Paul could not have written this. So it was very important to me as I was thinking about inspiration and inerrancy, how does this all fit in. I came to the conclusion that these writers actually did write these books. I encourage you to read different spectrums on these arguments and look at the different conclusions these people come to. And one almost wonders whether or not they are looking at the same text or not. But it is the presuppositions a person brings to the text that profoundly affects a person’s interpretation of it.

A. Four Views of Authorship

So the question is who cares? Is it really a big deal? Yes, as it can challenge a person’s faith to hear something opposite to what is being said in the Scriptures. The first view we can call is the traditional view; they really were written by Paul. Paul may have used a secretary but the substance of the letter is Pauline. He may have dictated it to someone and that person may have been free stylelistically to say things; but the substance of the letter is Pauline. There is also a secretary hypothesis. It is Pauline material but shaped by a secretary before or after Paul’s death. Notice the difference between the first one and second one. In the first view, everything is initiated by Paul with his own hand or he had it prepared. It is actually a letter written to a specific situation. The second says that it was really Pauline material but it was shaped by someone else into what it is now. The third view says that someone was the editor such as Timothy or even Luke. Here you have a fragment hypothesis where someone had the possession of this material after Paul’s death and then published them in the form of three letters arranged them as if they were genuinely Pauline and adapting them to his own day. So these were assembled together into three letters. The fourth view, the Pastorals are completely pseudonymous. There are no authentic Pauline elements but it doesn’t mean that the historical elements are fictional; they still could be true but not from authentic Pauline materials. Someone who was in Paul’s school who wanted to write in his name decided to write these letters.

B. Pauline Authorship: Problems

Why do we have this situation come up? Why would we need different views? Why not accept from the text that says that Paul wrote them? One of the reasons, there are some problems with the vocabulary of the letters that includes 175 words that only occur once in the New Testament. These words are not in any of the other Pauline letters. For example: godliness, blessedness, Hellenistic or coming while other key words are missing like Son, Cross, evangelize, wisdom yet at the same times other words that have been retained present different meanings like law, grace, mystery. So people are reading the pastorals and sayings there are a 175 words that are not included anywhere else in the New Testament and subsequently aren’t found in other Pauline writings. Paul has never used these words before and suddenly they just appear in this letter, thus this supposedly argues that perhaps this is a later writing. Pauline could not have changed his vocabulary like that. There is also a theological thought. In these interpreter’s minds, there is too much concern for orthodoxy with the ongoing movement of Catholicism having to be one Orthodox Church and thus one interpretation that represents orthodoxy. This becomes more important in the 2nd century so they say there is too much concern for that. The Doctrine of God is unique in these letters as there is no mention of the Cross. The focus is on civil virtues, earthly Catholic Church order. So interpreters say that there is too much order here for Paul to have written this early in AD 60 or so. It looks like the church is crystalizing with too much of a set order. It has to have been written later. The next point is made in regards to the historical situation where it can be fitted into Acts where Timothy and Titus are addressed as if they were young and inexperienced which no longer could be. They had to be at least forty; the instructions are too simple for trusted assistants and the heresy seems to 2nd century Gnosticism.

C. Responses to Questions that are Raised about Pauline Authorship (point 5)

The first response says that the change in vocabulary maybe due to new subject matter and variations due to advancing age in different recipients. The reason why this argument is so weak is because Paul can never say anything different than what he said. He can’t ever change his vocabulary, he can’t address a new situation and actually this has happened to other people who have written different essays. So the methodology that has been applies to Paul’s style doesn’t hold up; Paul could have changed his style in these letters. Words that were used have been found in the Septuagint that was written as much as two centuries before Paul’s letters. There were about eighty of the words which Paul used which he just didn’t pull out of the air but instead are found in the Septuagint or in earlier Greek literature. And some of the words that occur once or twice in the New Testament aren’t found anywhere else in the New Testament except in Paul. So the argument is that when words are infrequent occurring two or more times; the other occurrences of the word are generally accepted in the Pauline Corpus. So this is a strong argument that Paul wrote these letters. Paul doesn’t use every key word in every letter. Remember that these letters are situational. He is not writing abstract theology. He is addressing a specific situation. Vocabulary will be different depending on who you are talking to and even in what situation you are dealing with. So different situations give rise to different words and different vocabulary. This is just common sense.

D. Conclusions

We have too small a corpus to do such a study to be convincing. The pastorals only have 2500 words; even Romans have 150 words in this category of words used for the first time and no body questions that Romans was written by Paul. We just don’t have a large enough corpus to do an effective word study to determine anything. In addition, Paul and his other letters are concerned also with Orthodoxy. For example, in 1st Corinthians 15, it says that I delivered to you what I received; the Gospel in which you have heard and by which you are saved. He goes on to tell us about Christ and what happens to him. Already you have things that show some measure of Orthodoxy, of what is right and acceptable, even as early as 1st Corinthians. We don’t have a different eschatology which you would expect if you were having a later writing, say in the second century. Grace is still used in according with Pauline thinking throughout the pastorals. And in regards to the church, it says that Paul appointed elders on his first missionary journey. Philippians 1:1 show that there were both elders and deacons in the Pauline churches. You even have that as early as 1st Thessalonians, one of the earliest letters Paul wrote. It is not like this church order has come out of nowhere, Paul has already been talking about it throughout his writings. Paul’s remarks are written to trusted assistants who don’t need to hear Paul’s fleshed out teaching. So Paul is writing to Timothy and Titus who are probably in their forties and as an older person writing to a younger man, he is still considerably young at forty because Paul is much older here. He is writing to someone who he considers to be his son. He still refers to him as his son.

In regards to the historical situation, the people who are making these different interpretations are just being driven over and over again by the fact that the historical situation has to be this and so they try to fit all the data into their preconceptions. So they have their conclusions based on what they already or think they know. Paul was probably released after his first imprisonment in Rome. It looks as if in 2nd Timothy there was a situation where Paul seemed to have been under guard without a lot of freedom. But contrast that with the Book of Acts where Paul comes and goes with other people at the same time coming to see him; it seems like a different situation. So it was probably that Paul was released and then imprisoned again. He is possible that he actually did go to Spain and come back. The church fathers, Clement for example suggest that Paul indeed went to Spain. And in addition, the letters were not only for Timothy and Titus but also for the churches. Timothy may still have been in his forties. The heresy is not 2nd century Gnosticism but a fusion of Jewish and Gnostic traits. We saw that in Colossians; you don’t have this pure form of Gnosticism that was later taught by Valentine, nor the pure dualism that comes up in later writings. You simply have Jewish elements mixed with Hellenistic elements and you end up with this fusion with perhaps strains of incipient Gnosticism.

What I have found over and over again is what Lewis calls chronological snobbery. Lewis says that there is this modern idea of people writing today that anything new is good and anything written that is dated is bad. You will hear things like, ‘well, this is a good read,’ but it is somewhat dated. It is old therefore it is bad. The assumption is that we moderns, we know our Greek so much better. We aren’t as easily deceived as the early church. The early church didn’t even care about authorship; they didn’t care about these issues, some say. They didn’t do complex word studies on computers. Well, first of all, isn’t it arrogant to you for someone to say, ‘we who learned our Greek in American prep schools and seminaries question the people to whom Greek was an original language. It was their tongue, it was what they spoke. So we are so removed from the situation where we have to labor through Bill Bounce’s Greek for a year; for us to say about people who actually spoke this language that they didn’t know their Greek. Isn’t that Arrogant? Doesn’t that strike you as chronological snobbery? Or they will say again, people really didn’t know critical issues. If you think about the formation of the Canon, authorship was a very big issue. The Book of Hebrews was being questioned very early about who was the author and it wasn’t going to be accepted unless they thought that is was actually authored by someone who was at least an associate of the Apostles. Authorship was a real consideration as they discussed and debated over these things. They were looking primarily at content but in one of J I Packard’s argument, if the early church knew that Paul didn’t write the Pastorals, they never would have put them in the Canon. Because here you have a situation where Paul’s name is being used, purportedly being the author of three letters, yet when someone else was writing deceptively. I think the over whelming point here, if the early church had of known such a thing then, they would never have included that in the Canon. So authorship was indeed very important to them. You had to be an apostle or associate apostle. And we simple come to a conclusion that pseudonymity was an accepted practice. We have no verification for that anywhere where we have a letter that is clearly pseudonymous which the early church accepted. We have evidence to the contrary.

Dr Schreiner talks about where the views of authorship were analyzed, the acceptance of pseudonymous letters as canonical is unlikely. In the 2nd century a bishop wrote in Paul’s name and thus was removed from office. This man loved Paul and was trying to edify the church, yet what he did was unacceptable. So these people weren’t ignorant in what they were doing. You can’t say that they didn’t understand critical issues. Historically, Paul went to Macedonian, he left Timothy in Ephesus and Titus in Crete and Paul’s companions and friends were at Acropolis; on and on and on and over and over again, we have these different historical points alluding to important and significant references of material and physical references. Another strong argument for Pauline authorship is the same kind of thing we found when we talked about Colossians. If Paul really didn’t write Colossians, if someone from the Pauline school purported to write in Paul’s name, why would he? Colossians is not a very big city; it wasn’t very important; why would anybody bother to do that and the same argument is used of Titus. Why would anybody fabricate a letter to Titus who wasn’t that well known in the early church. The burden of proof is on those who are questioning Pauline authorship to come up with conclusive evidence. When we receive tradition, we shouldn’t be so arrogant that we are just willing to throw it all away because we think we know better from our vantage point. We are so much more sophisticated; we have so much better technology. Those things that have been developed by the church fathers over a period of time should be taken seriously. It is not that it is infallible but you should have good conclusive evidence to prove it wrong. The evidence is overwhelming that Paul actual did write the Pastorals.