Pastoral Epistles

PASTORAL EPISTLES, THE. The three epistles—1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus—traditionally ascribed to the Apostle Paul.


First and 2 Timothy and Titus have been known as the pastoral epistles since the early 18th cent. It is not a particularly accurate description of the epistles because they are not manuals of pastoral care. Nevertheless, they have a pastoral character, and the title is not altogether inappropriate.

These epistles are valuable as examples of all early epistles of a semi-personal character. They are specifically addressed to individuals, but they do not belong to the category of purely private correspondence. They draw attention to a class of lit. esp. adapted to the needs of the primitive church. Early comment on them is found in the Muratorian Canon, an early list that represented the church of Rome. It states they were written “from personal feeling and affection” and are “still hallowed in the respect of the Catholic Church, for the arrangement of ecclesiastical discipline.” Because of their value for a wider purpose than for the personal use of the addressees, they were preserved among the Pauline epistles.

The background of the personalities to whom these pastoral epistles were addressed is important. Timothy was in all probability a convert of the apostle’s first missionary journey, for he was a native of Lystra. While in Lystra, Paul suffered persecution that Timothy evidently witnessed (2 Tim 3:11). On the second journey, the apostle passed through the same region and added Timothy to his party as an associate, which began Paul’s interest in him that was to deepen. This choice of Timothy was supported by some kind of prophetic utterance through the elders when they laid their hands on him (1 Tim 1:18; 4:14). At the time of Timothy’s call to the work, he was circumcised. His mother was a Jewess although his father was a Gr., and Paul wished to avoid any possible difficulty from offending the Jews.

On the second and third journeys, Timothy was closely associated with the apostle, sometimes entrusted with subsidiary missions, as when he and Erastus were sent from Ephesus to Macedonia (Acts 19:22). The warm regard the apostle held for him is reflected in no fewer than five of Paul’s letters, which link Timothy with Paul in the opening salutation (2 Cor; Phil; Col; 1 and 2 Thess). Moreover, in the epistle to the Philippians, Paul specifically states he knew of no one else so genuinely anxious for the welfare of the readers as Timothy was (Phil 2:20). Timothy was, however, timid, and it would appear that Paul was not sufficiently confident that Timothy would be able to cope with the difficult situation at Corinth, for he sent Titus to follow him up (cf. 2 Cor). The two pastoral epistles addressed to him bear witness to the apostle’s awareness of Timothy’s timid nature.

Titus is nowhere mentioned in the Acts, although he was a close associate of the apostle. The reason for this silence is not apparent. Little is known about him except for his part in some of Paul’s mission work. He was with Paul on his visit to Jerusalem at the time of the Jewish-Gentile controversy; because he was a Gr., however, he was not compelled to be circumcised (Gal 2:1, 3). It is mainly for his work at Corinth as the apostle’s representative there that Titus is best known. He had much to do with that church during the interval between 1 and 2 Corinthians. It was the result of the anxiously awaited report that Paul received from Titus that he wrote 2 Corinthians with some relief. Titus had evidently handled a very delicate situation well. Paul describes him as his “partner and fellow worker” (2 Cor 8:23). There was no question of his taking advantage of any situation (2 Cor 12:18). Such was the man to whom the apostle addressed this “pastoral” letter.


In the Early Church, the unity of these epistles was never questioned. Not until the early 19th cent. did any suggestion arise that the three epistles did not form a unity. Schleiermacher attacked the authenticity of 1 Timothy, although he maintained the genuineness of the other two epistles. His principles of criticism soon involved the others, and it has been almost universally assumed that they stand or fall together. Nevertheless different ideas have arisen regarding the unity of each epistle individually.

When the epistles were first subjected to adverse criticism, it was thought that only two alternatives faced the NT critics. Either each epistle was wholly genuine, or else it was wholly fictitious. The internal unity, esp. of 2 Timothy and Titus, was questioned by some scholars who did not accept the Pauline authorship of the whole (for reasons to be given in the next section), but who could not escape from the genuine Pauline flavor of some of the material. This gave rise to theories of genuine notes or fragments that came to be incorporated into fictitious productions. Among many such theories, the most notable is that of P. N. Harrison, who found such genuine material in 2 Timothy and Titus. At first he enumerated five portions:

(1) Titus 3:12-15

(2) 2 Timothy 4:13ff., 20, 21a

(3) 4:16-18a

(4) 4:9-12, 22b

This extreme fragmentation was its main undoing, and Harrison himself modified the number of fragments to three to make it more tenable—by joining (2) with (4) and (3) with (5). This hardly makes the theory more credible. It is exceedingly difficult to imagine how such scrappy fragments could ever have been preserved. If the possibility be conceded, there is the added difficulty of conceiving how any editor worked out the plan by which the fragments could be incorporated into the mass of his own material. Why, for instance, did he choose not to include any in 1 Timothy? Why did he tack one on the end of Titus but intersperse them in three different places in 2 Timothy? In view of the absence of any adequate explanation of the processes in compilation, it seems reasonable to challenge the validity of this theory. In any case, it is wholly unnecessary if the apostolic authorship of the epistles be maintained.


The claims of the epistles themselves.

All three epistles claim authorship by the Apostle Paul; in each epistle, appeal is made to his apostleship. These claims must be seriously considered and cannot at once be rejected as no more than a pseudonymous device. Those who maintain that Paul was not the author must bear the burden of proof, and they must furnish some adequate explanation of the use of Paul’s name in the salutation.

The opinion of the Ancient Church.

It may be confidently asserted that whatever positive evidence there is on the question of authorship, it is wholly in favor of Pauline authorship. There is no evidence that any churches ever considered these epistles as by any other writer than Paul (see CANON OF THE NT). If the issue of authorship was to be decided on external attestation alone, there would be no room for questioning the Pauline authorship. Those, however, who dispute it, resort to various ways of getting around the external evidence. If the epistles were originally pseudepigraphic, it would be possible to assume that they were handed down as Paul’s, although they were on this theory not strictly so. As an explanation, this would need the corroborating support of evidence to show that this was the probable procedure. It is far more difficult to account for the external evidence on any theory of fictitious origin than on acceptance of apostolic authorship, and this factor must be fairly faced.

The objections raised against Pauline authorship.

These objections may be considered under four main divisions. Care must be taken to survey the objections as a whole, although the force of each will be considered separately.

Historical objections.

Many attempts have been made to fit the various historical data mentioned in these epistles into the historical framework of Acts. (The data are detailed under section V. Place of origin, below.) The difficulty is not to fit the individual allusions into individual situations in Acts, but to fit them all in as a sequence, since these epistles clearly form a closely connected group. Three proposals have been put forward to account for these allusions. First, those who maintain the Pauline authorship fit them into a sequence subsequent to Acts, i.e., after the two years of house arrest to which Acts 28:30 refers. This involves the supposition that Paul was released and then pursued further mission work in the E. It also involves a subsequent rearrest, of which there are no details, that led to his martyrdom in Rome. In support, it may be said that the charges laid against Paul in the various trials recorded in Acts were not of such a character as to warrant certain condemnation in a Rom. court of law, and it is not an unreasonable assumption that he was released. Moreover, had no witnesses arrived to support the charges, the case may have been won by default.

Second, objectors to Pauline authorship make much of the fact no other evidence outside the pastorals themselves support the release theory. This prompted the suggestion that genuine fragments were incorporated in the epistles (see section II). In favor of this theory is the attempt to fit the pieces into the Acts story individually, which dispenses with the necessity for the release theory. The problems this theory raises regarding composition, however, are greater than those it presumes to supplant.

The third possibility assumes that all the historical allusions were fictitious inventions to add an air of veracity to the pseudepigraphical productions. Although literary inventions of this kind are not unknown from the ancient world, there are no parallels of pseudonymous epistles with such genuine-looking historical data. Indeed, the paucity of pseudonymous epistles in the ancient Christian world militates against the probability of this theory. The only two extant examples are 3 Corinthians (incorporated into the Acts of Paul) and the Epistle to the Laodiceans (which goes back to the work of a 4th-cent. forger, although an earlier forgery prob. is referred to in the Muratorian Canon). Neither of these offers any parallel to what is required by the fiction theory for the pastorals.

Ecclesiastical objections.

The pastoral epistles include many references to officials such as bishops, elders, and deacons, and because these are not in any other of Paul’s epistles, it is ruled out that the apostle would have had such particular interest in the organization of the churches. If, as maintained by many who reject Pauline authorship, the ecclesiastical setup belongs to a time much later than the apostle’s life a strong case could be made. The situation reflected in these epistles, however, must be shown to be impossible during the apostolic period for this case to be valid. This is precisely the weakness of the objection. That Paul does not in any of his other epistles mention the qualities needed for bishops or deacons is no evidence that he was not interested in such matters. A man of such forethought as Paul can reasonably be expected to give some guidance to his immediate followers relating to ecclesiastical matters. It should not be forgotten that Paul and Barnabas appointed elders on the first missionary journey (Acts 14:23), which proves Paul’s recognition of good church government. At the close of his third missionary journey, Paul sent for the Ephesian elders and gave them special instruction and encouragement (Acts 20:17-38). Furthermore, Paul greeted the bishops and deacons at Philippi, a church founded by the apostle (Phil 1:1).

Some maintain that the position of Timothy and Titus reflects a 2nd-century situation because they were authorized to appoint elders. There is, however, a vital difference between the temporary function of these two associates of Paul in the role of apostolic representatives and the developing monarchical episcopacy of the 2nd century.

Doctrinal objections.

The main problem is to what extent the doctrines are typical, or otherwise, of the apostle. Some great Pauline doctrines are missing—such as righteousness, the Fatherhood of God, and the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit. In addition a tendency toward set forms is evident in the frequent references to “the faith,” “the truth,” “the deposit,” the “faithful sayings.” Some have considered this too stereotyped for the dynamic personality of Paul.

Objections based on omissions of characteristic doctrines can never bear too much weight, because it cannot be proved that Paul had to expound his great theological themes in every epistle. Moreover, it is expected that he would include different theological content when writing to his close associates who already were well acquainted with his doctrine, as compared with church epistles where many would be in need of instruction. As to stereotyped forms of teaching, the apostle was surely concerned that the precious heritage of Christian teaching be preserved after his own departure, for he himself received some of his own teaching in the form of set traditions (cf. 1 Cor 15:3ff.). It is not impossible that some of the apostle’s own teaching had been put into easily remembered form and named as faithful sayings. It is certain that there is nothing in the doctrinal content of these epistles to which Paul could not have put his name.

Linguistic objections.

More attention is paid to the linguistic problems of the pastorals than of any other NT books. The problem has two main foci—vocabulary and style. As to the vocabulary, there is a higher proportion of words not used elsewhere by Paul (more than a third of the total number used) or elsewhere in the NT (175 words). Some scholars, such as P. N. Harrison, claimed that these were in common use in the 2nd cent. and therefore must come from that period. The existence of almost all these words is known from a.d. 50 and could therefore have been known by Paul. Changed subject matter and changed circumstances account for many of these words. The major difficulty in attaching much importance to this kind of objection is the small range of data available for assessing the extent of Paul’s vocabulary. The total number of words in the extant epistles is not much more than two thousand and it is incredible to deny a man of the cultural background of the apostle a far greater range of vocabulary.

More emphasis is now placed on objections from style. Harrison based his arguments on the absence of a number of pronouns, prepositions, and particles from the pastorals that he claimed were characteristic generally of the Pauline epistles. Since he regarded this type of word to be an unconscious indication of a man’s style, he considered that this proved non-Pauline authorship. More recently, attempts have been made to use statistical computations of style based on the frequency of occurrence of such incidental words as the definite article or the distribution of sentence lengths (cf. A. Q. Morton and J. McLeman, Paul, the Man and the Myth [1966]). If it can be shown that no author ever varies the frequency of the use of the definite article in prose, this might be claimed to provide an objective test of style. Far too little investigation along these lines has been done to base a rejection of the pastorals as non-Pauline (particularly as all but four of the other Pauline epistles similarly suffer, and as many as five different authors are postulated).

These stylistic arguments must be strong enough to bear the burden of proof, but this cannot be maintained for their present form. It seems likely that Paul was too many-sided to be reduced to statistical calculations. The major criticism of the method used is the brevity of most of the Pauline epistles, which renders an adequate sample impossible.

In view of the character of the objections raised, it is more reasonable to suppose that the authorship claims of the epistles are correct.


The chronology of the closing period of Paul’s life is obscure. From tradition, he met his martyrdom in Rome, and the date usually assigned is the period of the Neronic persecutions, which began in a.d. 64. Most prefer a date early in this period, but some place it at the end. There is also some uncertainty, although less, about the date of Paul’s arrival at Rome on the occasion recorded in Acts 28. Most scholars favor c. a.d. 59, although some would date it up to two years later. If, on the basis of the activity implied in the pastoral epistles, the release of Paul from his first Rom. imprisonment is maintained, the longer the interval before his rearrest, the more time would be available to fit in additional visits to the eastern districts. If, in addition to these, Paul also paid a visit to Spain as he had earlier intended (Rom 15:24, 28), the latest dating of his martyrdom would certainly be preferable. What was expressed as an intention may never have been fulfilled, and in view of the fact that in the prison epistles Paul seems to have decided to return eastward, it is almost certain that he abandoned his original intention to go to Spain.

Assuming that the apostle was martyred c. a.d. 64, the pastoral epistles would all be placed during the period shortly before this, 1 Timothy and Titus prob. a short time before his rearrest and 2 Timothy during his final imprisonment. This dating assumes Pauline authorship, but if the epistles were edited by someone else after Paul’s death, it is impossible to be specific. If the editing was done by one or more of Paul’s close associates, it is most reasonable to suppose that the editing was done soon after Paul’s death. The difficulties of this view have already been mentioned.

If these epistles are pseudepigraphical productions, the dating of them is purely arbitrary. Those who see a connection with 2nd-cent. Gnosticism have most grounds for being specific, and generally date the epistles during the first part of that cent. The lack of close connection, however, between the heresies alluded to in these letters and the developed systems of Gnosticism makes this view impossible. Moreover, the difficulty of accounting for the extraordinarily rapid reception of these epistles as genuine Pauline productions is pushed beyond the possibility of any adequate explanation. Advocates of non-Pauline authorship are seldom willing to be very specific, and suggestions range from a.d. 90-150. Nor is there any basic certainty among such advocates as to the order in which these epistles were produced, some supposing 2 Timothy, on the basis of the greatest number of genuine fragments, to be first, Titus next, and 1 Timothy last, whereas others prefer the reverse order. The high degree of conjecture in these theories renders any certainty impossible.

Place of origin

As already pointed out, the pastoral epistles cannot be placed within the framework of the Acts of the Apostles. If they were written by the Apostle Paul, they must belong to the period of Paul’s life subsequent to the Acts history. Without independent sources with which to compare the historical data of these epistles it is possible only to list those data, and to reconstruct, as far as the data will allow, the probable movements of the apostle during the period when these epistles must have been written.

(1) Paul appears to have visited Ephesus and Macedonia (1 Tim 1:3).

(2) He also visited Crete, presumably on a short visit (Titus 1:5).

(3) He intended to spend the next winter, after writing to Titus, at Nicopolis, a city on the western coast of Epirus (Titus 3:12).

(4) When he wrote his second letter to Timothy, Paul was a prisoner, presumably in Rome. He had been to Rome because Paul mentions that Onesiphorus had sought him out when he was there. Since from tradition Paul was martyred in Rome, 2 Timothy was sent from there.

Less obvious is the place of origin of the other two epistles. It is reasonable that Paul was in Macedonia when he wrote 1 Timothy, since he refers to that province in the epistle. Titus may well have been in Epirus, or at least on his way there. If these conjectures are correct, the most probable order of the epistles is 1 Timothy, Titus, 2 Timothy, the first two written in close proximity to each other.


Taken at face value, it is a simple matter to determine the destination of 1 Timothy and Titus. In 1 Timothy 1:3, Paul says, “As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus”; and it is a fair inference that Timothy was at Ephesus when the epistle was addressed to him. Similarly in Titus 1:5, Paul states, “This is why I left you in Crete”; it is certain that Titus was still there. Second Timothy includes no specific reference to destination, but there are indications. It is possible that Timothy’s circumstances had not changed from what they were at the time of the sending of the first epistle. Slight indications that favor this are found in 2 Timothy 4, where Paul says, “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas” (v. 13). Troas was along the route from Ephesus to Europe, unless the direct sea route was taken. In addition, special mention is made of the sending of Tychicus to Ephesus (v. 12).

If the authenticity of the pastoral epistles is denied, no importance can be attached to these geographical allusions in fixing the destination. Indeed, the epistles must then be considered to have had a general destination to 2nd-cent. churches.


As already shown, these epistles were sent to Ephesus and Crete; but it is possible to go still further in reconstructing the historical situation that prompted the writing of these epistles. Where Paul was when he urged Timothy to remain at Ephesus is not given, but it is reasonable that he himself had been at Ephesus. He may have been passing through, or he may have worked and witnessed there for some time prior to this. It would not greatly affect the understanding of the occasion of 1 Timothy if scholars knew. Most significant is that Timothy was exhorted to remain at Ephesus to deal with some teachers of false doctrine. Obviously Timothy had no easy commission. It would appear that he was inclined to be timid and would find dealing with opposing elements difficult. Moreover, he had the responsibility in the appointment of the right people to ecclesiastical office, judging from the matters the apostle discusses in the epistle. In Titus, a similar responsibility is more clearly mentioned, for Titus was left at Crete to correct defects and to appoint elders (Titus 1:5). In the case of Titus, no doubt Paul had accompanied him to the island, but there is no further data about the movements of either Titus or Paul. At the time of writing this epistle, Paul was either at Nicopolis or was contemplating going there, where he intended to spend the winter (Titus 3:12). Moreover, Titus was urged to join him at Nicopolis, which suggests that his task at Crete was a short-term commission.

The occasion for writing 2 Timothy was Paul’s expectation that he was near his end, and the need he felt for a final communication to his successor. He recently had been to Troas where he left his cloak and parchments. He also left Trophimus at Ephesus because he was ill. Now a prisoner on trial, Paul did not expect the decision to go in his favor; he had finished his course. Paul gives no details of his arrest or how he came to be in his present circumstances, nor is there any information from other sources on this matter. In spite of his serious situation, he still hoped Timothy could come to him soon (2 Tim 4:9, 21). The epistle is the last that Paul wrote.


In view of the fact that Paul only shortly before had personal contact with both Timothy and Titus, it is not easy to construe the purpose of these epistles esp. 1 Timothy and Titus. In 1 Timothy 3:14 Paul states “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.” At first this seems strange, since in view of Timothy’s personal experience with Paul it would be expected that he would have known how Christians ought to behave. Moreover, it must be assumed that there was little in this letter that Timothy had not heard from Paul personally. Why then was the letter necessary? The most reasonable answer is that Timothy needed to back up his own leadership with the authority of the apostle. There is sufficient evidence from the epistle that some were inclined to despise Timothy as inexperienced, and if so, he would have found the written support of the apostle invaluable. The letter was primarily intended for this purpose. It accordingly consists of moral instruction and church arrangements that would have had practical value in a developing community.

The purpose of Titus is similar. Having dealt with qualities required in church officers and given instructions for the behavior of various groups within the church, the apostle says to Titus, “Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (Titus 2:15). Shortly after, he repeats a similar thought, “I desire you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to apply themselves to good deeds” (3:8). It is certain that Titus must have been orally instructed about these matters, and it is reasonable to suppose that the epistle was written to strengthen the hand of Titus in dealing with the Cretans, whose reputation for general behavior was not high (cf. 1:12).

Several times in 2 Timothy Paul gives solemn charges, or exhortations, to Timothy. In view of the fact that he was convinced that his end was near, the purpose of the epistle is clear. Paul could not have been certain that Timothy had time to reach him, and Paul’s desire was that Timothy should receive a communication from him before his departure (cf. 2 Tim 4:6). The epistle has been called “Paul’s swan song,” and the description is not inapt. Of the pastoral epistles this one is the most revealing of the inner thoughts of the apostle.

Those who reject the Pauline authorship of these epistles propose that someone intimately acquainted with Paul composed the letters in his name soon after his death to obtain Pauline support for current problems, whereas others take these epistles as being designed to answer 2nd-cent. heretical ideas in the name of Paul. In the latter case, the letters are not too closely tied to the historical situation, for the developed heresies of the early 2nd cent. are far removed from the “irrelevances” with which Timothy and Titus were confronted, and which they were earnestly exhorted to “avoid.” Easton’s description of the false teaching as a “coherent and powerful heresy” is not supported by facts. Paul mentions myths and endless genealogies, wranglings, chatter, and “antitheses.” In Titus 1:10 the myths are specified as Jewish, and the genealogies were in all probability Jewish speculations. There were ascetic tendencies (1 Tim 4:3), and what Paul calls “doctrines of demons” (4:1). There is no reference to doctrinal error except the denial of the Resurrection (2 Tim 2:17f.). This type of false teaching would not appear to be “coherent.”


There is as strong external attestation for the pastoral epistles as for the majority of Paul’s epistles. The earliest evidence for any of the NT books consists of allusions in patristic writers rather than specific citations. It is sometimes difficult to know what importance to attach to parallels. Those that exist between the pastoral epistles and 1 Clement (an epistle written c. a.d. 95) well illustrate the difficulty. Some scholars (Holtzmann, Harrison, Streeter) see in the evidence some suggestion that the author of the pastorals lived in the same era as Clement. This opinion is clearly influenced by their prior dating of the pastorals in the post-Pauline period. The parallels could equally well be support for the view that Clement echoes the language of the pastorals. It would be unwise, nevertheless, to rest much weight on probable literary dependence. The same is true for the coincidences in phraseology between these epistles and the letters of Ignatius.

The parallels in the Epistle of Polycarp are closer, and it may reasonably be claimed as certain that Polycarp knew of 1 Timothy and Titus at least. After his time there are increasing allusions to the epistles in the patristic authors (e.g. Justin, Hegesippus, Athenagoras). Theophilus considered them to be inspired, whereas from Irenaeus’ time the attestation is widespread. It has been alleged, however, that there are two lines of evidence that cast doubt on the early canonicity of these epistles. First is the fact that Marcion’s canon did not contain them. Although Marcion’s canon is not itself extant, there is sufficient evidence of the content of his canon from the Church Fathers who opposed him. Indeed, Tertullian not only goes through the errors that Marcion perpetrated regarding the ten Pauline epistles and the gospel of Luke, which Marcion included with his Apostolikon, but specificially stated that Marcion rejected the two epistles to Timothy and the epistle to Titus. Most advocates of non-Pauline authorship for these epistles consider Tertullian to be biased on this point, and consequently maintain that Marcion did not include these epistles in his Pauline corpus, for no other reason than the fact that he did not possess them. But Tertullian’s evidence cannot be so summarily dismissed. As Marcion was capable of rejecting all the gospels except Luke and of retaining only a mutilated text of that gospel, he certainly was not incapable of rejecting any of Paul’s epistles that did not further his peculiar doctrine.

Tertullian’s evidence has in its favor that it is fully in character with what is known of the man Marcion.

The other evidence that has suggested doubt is the Chester Beatty papyrus, P46, which evidently contained only the Pauline epistles, but shows no trace of having contained the pastorals. Since the concluding part of the MS is not extant, it is a matter of calculation from the size of script what epistles it might have contained, as the total number of leaves in the codex is known. It is confidently maintained that there would have been no room for the pastorals, but this assertion is clearly an element of conjecture. It is a possibility that the scribe might have attached additional leaves to his codex at the end, as sometimes happened. This can neither be proved nor can it be dismissed as improbable. In any case, the exclusion of the pastorals from P46 cannot prove that these epistles were unknown, uncanonical, or un-Pauline. They may have been included in another codex that has not been preserved, but speculation is fruitless. It is certain that there is no positive evidence of any sort to demonstrate that the Pauline authorship of the pastoral epistles was ever challenged in orthodox circles.

Content and outline

1 Timothy

Paul and Timothy (1 Tim. 1:1-20).

Timothy’s task is to refute the false teachers who were propagating irrelevant speculations (vv. 1-11). Paul next cites his own experience of God’s mercy as an encouragement to Timothy (vv. 12-17). He then reminds Timothy of the special commission entrusted to him and urges him to hold fast the faith (vv. 18-20).

Suggestions for church organization (2:1-4:16).

Various topics are mentioned. 1). Public prayer is to be made for all (2:1-8). 2). Christian women are to be known for modesty and submissiveness. This is supported by an appeal to the story of Adam and Eve (2:9-15). 3). Church officials must have certain qualities. This section deals with bishops and deacons (3:1-13). 4). The Church is to be a pillar and bulwark. Paul describes the Church as a custodian of truth, and a Christian hymn is introduced by way of illustration (3:14-16). 5). The future of the Church will be threatened by apostasy. Paul specially mentions wrong doctrine and wrong behavior. Evil spirits and ascetic practices are to be resisted (4:1-5). 6). Timothy has the responsibility to command and teach what Paul has advised. His personal example is more important than silly controversies (4:6-16).

Church discipline (5:1-25).

Paul has in mind various groups, but concentrates on widows and elders. The need for discerning any widows who are in real financial need is stressed, and suggestions are made for a system of enrollment. Suitable respect is to be accorded to elders and indiscriminate charges are to be avoided.

Advice about various matters (6:1-19).

Paul now turns to the relationship between servants and masters (6:1, 2), in which the guiding factor is to honor God. He refers again to the false teaching, esp. the moral depravity that results from it (6:3-5). The next section concerns wealth, and the contrast between contentment and covetousness is brought out (vv. 6-10). Paul then addresses Timothy as a man of God and points out what his aims should be (vv. 11-16). He then returns to the theme of wealth, this time to show how wealthy Christians should act (vv. 17-19).

Closing exhortations to Timothy (6:20, 21).

Timothy is told what to guard and what to avoid.

2 Timothy

Encouragements and exhortations (1:1-14).

Paul appeals to helpful reminiscences and urges Timothy to stir up his gift (vv. 1-7). He needs boldness (vv. 8-10), and Paul next appeals to his own experience of suffering as a preacher of the Gospel (vv. 11, 12). Timothy’s own responsibilities are then pointed out (vv. 13, 14).

Paul and his associates (1:15-18).

Some of these have been helpful, as was Onesiphorus; others have turned away as did the Asiatics.

Special advice to Timothy (2:1-26).

Paul makes clear his major task (vv. 1, 2), shows the need for endurance (vv. 3-7), appeals to his own experience of suffering (vv. 8-13). Then he gives advice on the matter of false teachers, both positively (aim to be an unashamed workman) and negatively (avoid godless chatter) (vv. 14-19). Much is said about Timothy’s own personal behavior and attitudes (vv. 20-26).

The last days (3:1-9).

As in 1 Timothy, Paul foreshadows the moral decline that will come.

Final advice to Timothy (3:10-4:18).

Paul appeals again to his own experience (3:10-13) and exhorts Timothy to continue the work (3:14-4:5). This leads to his own confession of faith (4:6-8). The section closes with personal requests and Paul’s reference to his first defense (4:9-18).

Greetings and benediction (4:19-22).


Greetings to Titus (Titus 1:1-4).

Paul declares the truths with which he has been entrusted.

Advice about elders (1:5-9).

Paul gives a list of qualities to be expected.

Character of the Cretans (1:10-16).

The Cretans are vividly described, and strong advice is given to Titus to rebuke them.

Christian behavior (2:1-10).

Three classes of people are considered—aged people (vv. 1-3), younger people (vv. 4-8), and slaves (vv. 9, 10).

Doctrine and life (2:11-3:7).

First Paul shows what the grace of God has done (2:11-15). This is what Titus is to declare. Then he shows how Christians should behave in the community (3:1, 2). He follows with a contrast between pagan life and Christian salvation (3:3-7).

Closing admonitions (3:8-15).

Paul exhorts Titus to urge Christians to good deeds (v. 8), and to avoid controversies (vv. 9-11). He closes with a request for Titus to join him (vv. 12-15).


There is less reference to the work of the Holy Spirit in the pastorals than in most of the other Pauline epistles, but those that occur are worth noting. In 1 Timothy 4:1 the Spirit reveals the coming departures from the faith. He has entrusted the truth to Timothy and dwells within him (2 Tim 1:14). He is the agent in the regeneration and renewal of the believer (Titus 3:5). These few references are sufficient to show that the work of the Spirit is fully recognized.


F. Torm, “Üeber die Sprache in den Pastoralbriefen,” ZNW (1918), 225-243; P. N. Harrison, The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles (1921); J. H. Bernard, The Pastoral Epistles (1922); W. Michaelis, Pastoralbriefe und Gefangenschaftsbriefe (1930); E. F. Scott, The Pastoral Epistles (1936); J. Jeremias, Die Briefe an Timotheus und Titus, 4th ed. (1947); C. Spicq, Saint Paul: Les Épîtres pastorales, 3rd ed. (1947); B. S. Easton, The Pastoral Epistles (1948); E. K. Simpson, The Pastoral Epistles (1954); F. D. Gealy, “I and II Timothy and Titus,” IB (1955); D. Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles and the Mind of Paul (1956); id., The Pastoral Epistles (1957); B. M. Metzger, “A reconsideration of certain arguments against the Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles,” ExpT, LXX, 3 (1958), 91-94; K. Grayston and G. Herdan, “The authorship of the Pastorals in the light of statistical Linguistics,” NTS, VI (1959), 1-15; C. K. Barrett, The Pastoral Epistles (1963); J. N. D. Kelly, The Pastoral Epistles (1963); A. T. Hanson, The Pastoral Epistles (1966).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)



1. External Evidence

2. Genuineness Questioned


1. Relative to Paul’s Experiences

(1) Data in 1 Timothy

(2) Data in 2 Timothy

(3) Data in Titus

2. Subject-Matter Post-Pauline (1) Difficulty Regarding Church Organization

(2) The Doctrinal Difficulty

3. Difficulty Relative to Language

4. Is There "Another Gospel" in the Pastorals?


1. Date of the Epistles

2. Their Order


The First and Second Epistles to Timothy, and the Epistle to Titus form a distinct group among the letters written by Paul, and are now known as the Pastoral Epistles because they were addressed to two Christian ministers. When Timothy and Titus received these epistles they were not acting, as they had previously done, as missionaries or itinerant evangelists, but had been left by Paul in charge of churches; the former having the oversight of the church in Ephesus, and the latter having the care of the churches in the island of Crete. The Pastoral Epistles were written to guide them in the discharge of the duties devolving upon them as Christian pastors. Such is a general description of these epistles. In each of them, however, there is a great deal more than is covered or implied by the designation, "Pastoral"--much that is personal, and much also that is concerned with Christian faith and doctrine and practice generally.

I. Genuineness.

1. External Evidence:

In regard to the genuineness of the epistles there is abundant external attestation. Allusions to them are found in the writings of Clement and Polycarp. In the middle of the 2nd century the epistles were recognized as Pauline in authorship, and were freely quoted.

"Marcion indeed rejected them, and Tatian is supposed to have rejected those to Timothy. But, as Jerome states in the preface to his Commentary on Titus, these heretics rejected the epistles, not on critical grounds, but merely because they disliked their teaching. He says they used no argument, but merely asserted, This is Paul’s, This is not Paul’s. It is obvious that men holding such opinions as Marcion and Tatian held, would not willingly ascribe authority to epistles which condemned asceticism. So far, then, as the early church can guarantee to us the authenticity of writings ascribed to Paul, the Pastoral Epistles are guaranteed" (Marcus Dods, Introduction to the New Testament, 167).

The external evidence is all in favor of the reception of these epistles., which were known not only to Clement and Polycarp, but also to Irenaeus, Tertullian, the author of the Epistle to the churches of Vienne and Lyons, and Theophilus of Antioch. The evidence of Polycarp, who died in 167 AD, is remarkably strong. He says, "The love of money is the beginning of all trouble, knowing .... that we brought nothing into the world, neither can carry anything out" (compare 1Ti 6:7,10). It would be difficult to overthrow testimony of this nature.

2. Genuineness Questioned:

The decision of certain critics to reject the Pastoral Epistles as documents not from the hand of Paul, "is not reached on the external evidence, which is perhaps as early an attestation as can be reasonably expected. They are included in the Muratorian Canon, and quoted by Irenaeus and later writers as Paul’s" (A.S. Peake, A Critical Introduction to the New Testament, 60). This admission is satisfactory. In recent times, however, the authenticity of these epistles has been called in question by Schmidt, Schleiermacher, Baur, Renan, and many others. Baur asserted that they were written for the purpose of combating the Gnosticism of the 2nd century, and of defending the church from it by means of ecclesiastical organization, and that the date of their composition was about the year 150 AD.

II. Alleged Difficulties against Pauline Authorship.

Various difficulties have been alleged against the reception of the Pastoral Epistles as Pauline. The chief of these are:

(1) the difficulty of finding any place for these letters in the life of Paul, as that is recorded in the Ac and in the Pauline Epistles written before the Pastorals;

(2) the fact that there are said to be in them indications of an ecclesiastical organization, and of a development of doctrine, both orthodox and heretical, considerably in advance of the Pauline age;

(3) that the language of the epistles is, to a large extent, different from that in the accepted epistles; (4) the "most decisive" of all the arguments against the Pauline authorship--so writes Dr. A.C. McGiffert (A History of Christianity in the Apostolic Age, 402)--is that "the Christianity of the Pastoral Epistles is not the Christianity of Paul."

Where can a place be found for these epistles, in the life of Paul? The indications of the date of their composition given in the epistles themselves are these.

1. Relative to Paul’s Experiences:

(1) Data in 1 Timothy

In 1Ti 1:3 Paul had gone from Ephesus to Macedonia, and had left Timothy in Ephesus in charge of the church there. In the Ac and in the previously written Pauline epistles, it is impossible to find such events or such a state of matters as will satisfy these requirements. Paul had previously been in Ephesus, on several occasions. His 1st visit to that city is recorded in Ac 18:19-21. On that occasion he went from Ephesus, not into Macedonia, but into Syria. His 2nd visit was his 3 years’ residence in Ephesus, as narrated in Ac 19; and when he left the city, he had, previous to his own departure from it, already sent Timothy into Macedonia (19:22)--a state of matters exactly the reverse of that described in 1Ti 1:3. Timothy soon rejoined Paul, and so far was he from being left in Ephesus then, that he was in Paul’s company on the remainder of his journey toward Jerusalem (Ac 20:4; 2Co 1:1).

No place therefore in Paul’s life, previous to his arrest in Jerusalem, and his first Roman imprisonment, can be found, which satisfies the requirements of the situation described in 1Ti 1:3. "It is impossible, unless we assume a second Roman imprisonment, to reconcile the various historical notices which the epistle (2 Timothy) contains" (McGiffert, op. cit., 407).

In addition to this, the language used by the apostle at Miletus, when he addressed the elders of the Ephesian church (Ac 20:30) about the men speaking perverse things, who should arise among them, showed that these false teachers had not made their appearance at that time. There is, for this reason alone, no place for the Pastoral Epistles in Paul’s life, previous to his arrest in Jerusalem. But Paul’s life did not end at the termination of his first Roman imprisonment; and this one fact gives ample room to satisfy all the conditions, as these are found in the three Pastorals.

Those who deny the Pauline authorship of these epistles also deny that he was released from what, in this article, is termed his 1st Roman imprisonment. But a denial of this latter statement is an assumption quite unwarranted and unproved. It assumes that Paul was not set free, simply because there is no record of this in the Acts. But the Ac is, on the very face of it, an incomplete or unfinished record; that is, it brings the narrative to a certain point, and then breaks off, evidently for the reason which Sir W.M. Ramsay demonstrates, that Luke meant to write a sequel to that book--a purpose, however, which he was unable, owing to some cause now unknown, to carry into execution. The purpose of the Acts, as Ramsay shows (St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, 23, 308), is to lead up to the release of Paul, and to show that the Christian faith was not a forbidden or illegal religion, but that the formal impeachment of the apostle before the supreme court of the empire ended in his being set at liberty, and thus there was established the fact that the faith of Jesus Christ was not, at that time, contrary to Roman law. "The Pauline authorship .... can be maintained only on the basis of a hypothetical reconstruction, either of an entire period subsequent to the Roman imprisonment, or of the events within some period known to us" (McGiffert, op. cit., 410). The one fact that Paul was set free after his 1st Roman imprisonment gives the environment which fits exactly all the requirements of the Pastoral Epistles.

Attention should be directed to the facts and to the conclusion stated in the article PRAETORIUM (which see), Mommsen having shown that the words, "My bonds became manifest in Christ throughout the whole praetorian guard" (Php 1:13), mean that at the time when Paul wrote the Epistle to the Philippians, the case against him had already come before the supreme court of appeal in Rome, that it had been partly heard, and that the impression made by the prisoner upon his judges was so favorable, that he expected soon to be set free.

The indications to be drawn from other expressions in three of the epistles of the Roman captivity--Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon--are to the same effect. Thus, writing to the Philippians, he says that he hopes to send Timothy to them, so soon as he sees how matters go with him, and that he trusts in the Lord that he himself will visit them shortly. And again, writing to his friend Philemon in the city of Colosse, he asks him to prepare him a lodging, for he trusts that through the prayers of the Colossians, he will be granted to them.

These anticipations of acquittal and of departure from Rome are remarkable, and do not in any degree coincide with the idea that Paul was not set free but was condemned and put to death at that time. "It is obvious that the importance of the trial is intelligible only if Paul was acquitted. That he was acquitted follows from the Pastoral Epistles with certainty for all who admit their genuineness; while even they who deny their Pauline origin must allow that they imply an early belief in historical details which are not consistent with Paul’s journeys before his trial, and must either be pure inventions or events that occurred on later journeys. .... If he was acquitted, the issue of the trial was a formal decision by the supreme court of the empire that it was permissible to preach Christianity; the trial, therefore, was really a charter of religious liberty, and therein lies its immense importance. It was indeed overturned by later decisions of the supreme court; but its existence was a highly important fact for the Christians" (Ramsay, op. cit., 308). "That he was acquitted is demanded both by the plan evident in Ac and by other reasons well stated by others" (ibid., 360).

It should also be observed that there is the direct and corroborative evidence of Paul’s release, afforded by such writers as Cyril of Jerusalem, Ephrem Syriac., Chrysostom and Theodoret, all of whom speak of Paul’s going to Spain. Jerome (Vir. Ill., 5) gives it as a matter of personal knowledge that Paul traveled as far as Spain. But there is more important evidence still. In the Muratorian Canon, 1,37, there are the words, "profectionem Pauli ab urbe ad Spaniam proficiscentis" ("the journey of Paul as he journeyed from Rome to Spain"). Clement also in the epistle from the church in Rome to the church in Corinth, which was written not later than the year 96 AD, says in reference to Paul, "Having taught righteousness to the whole world, and having gone to the extremity of the west (epi to terma tes duseos elthon) and having borne witness before the rulers, so was he released from the world and went to the holy place, being the greatest example of endurance." The words, "having gone to the extremity of the west," should be specially noticed. Clement was in Rome when he wrote this, and, accordingly, the natural import of the words is that Paul went to the limit of the western half of then known world, or in other words, to the western boundary of the lands bordering the Mediterranean, that is, to Spain.

Now Paul never had been in Spain previous to his arrest in Jerusalem, but in Ro 15:24,28 he had twice expressed his intention to go there. These independent testimonies, of Clement and of the Muratorian Canon, of the fact that after Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem he did carry into execution his purpose to visit Spain, are entitled to great weight. They involve, of course, the fact that he was acquitted after his 1st Roman imprisonment.

Having been set free, Paul could not do otherwise than send Timothy to Philippi, and himself also go there, as he had already promised when he wrote to the Philippian church (Php 2:19,24). As a matter of course he would also resume his apostolic journeys for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel. There is now ample room in his life for the Pastoral Epistles, and they give most interesting details of his further labors. The historical and geographical requirements in 1 Timothy are, in this way, easily satisfied. It was no great distance to Ephesus from Philippi and Colosse, where he had promised that he would "come shortly."

(2) Data in 2 Timothy

The requirements in 2 Timothy are (a) that Paul had recently been at Troas, at Corinth, and at Miletus, each of which he mentions (2Ti 4:13,20); (b) that when he wrote the epistles he was in Rome (1:17); (c) that he was a prisoner for the cause of the gospel (1:8; 2:9), and had once already appeared before the emperor’s supreme court (4:16,17); (d) that he had then escaped condemnation, but that he had reason to believe that on the next hearing of his case the verdict would be given against him, and that he expected it could not be long till execution took place (4:6); (e) that he hoped that Timothy would be able to come from Ephesus to see him at Rome before the end (4:9,21). These requirements cannot be made to agree or coincide with the first Roman captivity, but they do agree perfectly with the facts of the apostle’s release and his subsequent second imprisonment in that city.

(3) Data in Titus

The data given in the Epistle to Titus are

(a) that Paul had been in Crete, and that Titus had been with him there, and had been left behind in that island, when Paul sailed from its shores, Titus being charged with the oversight of the churches there (Tit 1:5); and

(b) that Paul meant to spend the next winter at Nicopolis (3:12).

It is simply impossible to locate these events in the recorded life of Paul, as that is found in the other epistles, and in the Acts. But they agree perfectly with his liberation after his first Roman imprisonment. "As there is then no historical evidence that Paul did not survive the year 64, and as these Pastoral Epistles were recognized as Pauline in the immediately succeeding age, we may legitimately accept them as evidence that Paul did survive the year 64--that he was acquitted, resumed his missionary labors, was again arrested and brought to Rome, and from this second imprisonment wrote the Second Epistle to Timothy--his last extant writing" (Dods, Introduction to the New Testament, 172).

2. Subject-Matter, Post-Pauline:

The second difficulty alleged against the acceptance of these epistles as Pauline is that there are said to exist in them indications of an ecclesiastical organization and of a doctrinal development, both orthodox and heretical, considerably later than those of the Pauline age.

(1) Difficulty Regarding Church Organization

The first statement, that the epistles imply an ecclesiastical organization in advance of the time when Paul lived, is one which cannot be maintained in view of the facts disclosed in the epistles themselves. For directions are given to Timothy and to Titus in regard to the moral and other characteristics necessary in those who are to be ordained as bishops, elders, and deacons. In the 2nd century the outstanding feature of ecclesiastical organization was the development of monarchical episcopacy, but the Pastoral Epistles show a presbyterial administration. The office held by Timothy in Ephesus and by Titus in Crete was, as the epistles themselves show, of a temporary character. The directions which Paul gives to Timothy and Titus in regard to the ordaining of presbyters in every church are in agreement with similar notices found elsewhere in the New Testament, and do not coincide with the state of church organization as that existed in the 2nd century, the period when, objectors to the genuineness of the epistles assert, they were composed. "Everyone acquainted with ancient literature, particularly the literature of the ancient church, knows that a forger or fabricator of those times could not possibly have avoided anachronisms" (Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament, II, 93). But the ecclesiastical arrangements in the Pastoral Epistles coincide in all points with the state of matters as it is found in the church in the time of the apostles, as that is described in the Ac and elsewhere in the New Testament.

It seems an error to suppose, as has often been done, that these epistles contain the germ of monarchical episcopacy; for the Christian church had already, from the day of Pentecost, existed as a society with special officers for the functions of extension, discipline and administration. The church in the Pastoral Epistles is a visible society, as it always was. Its organization therefore had come to be of the greatest importance, and especially so in the matter of maintaining and handing down the true faith; the church accordingly is described as "the pillar and stay of the truth" (1Ti 3:15 margin), that is, the immovable depository of the Divine revelation.

(2) The Doctrinal Difficulty

The other statement, that the epistles show a doctrinal development out of harmony with the Pauline age is best viewed by an examination of what the epistles actually say.

It should be observed that the false teachers described in 2Ti 3:6-9,13, as well as in other places in these epistles, were persons who taught that the Mosaic Law was binding upon all Christians. They laid stress upon rabbinic myths, upon investigations and disputations about genealogies and specific legal requirements of the Old Testament. What they taught was a form of piously sounding doctrine assuming to be Christian, but which was really rabbinism.

"For a pseudo-Paul in the post-apostolic age--when Christians of Jewish birth had become more and more exceptions in the Gentile Christian church--to have invented a description of and vigorously to have opposed the heterodidaskaloi, who did not exist in his own age, and who were without parallel in the earlier epistles of Paul, would have been to expose himself to ridicule without apparent purpose or meaning" (Zahn, Introduction, II, 117). "A comparison of the statements in these epistles about various kinds of false doctrine, and of those portions of the same that deal with the organization and officers of the church, with conditions actually existing in the church, especially the church of Asia Minor, at the beginning and during the course of the 2nd century, proves, just as clearly as does the external evidence, that they must have been written at latest before the year 100. But they could not have been written during the first two decades after Paul’s death, because of the character of the references to persons, facts and conditions in Paul’s lifetime and his own personal history, and because of the impossibility on this assumption of discovering a plausible motive for their forgery. Consequently the claim that they are post-Pauline, and contain matter which is un-Pauline, is to be treated with the greatest suspicion" (Zahn, op. cit., II, 118).

3. Difficulty Relative to Language:

The third difficulty alleged against the Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles is connected with the language employed, which is said to be, to a large extent, different from that in the accepted epistles. The facts in regard to this matter are that in 1 Timothy there are 82 words not found elsewhere in the New Testament; in 2 Timothy there are 53 such words, and in Titus there are 33. But, while the total of such words in the three epistles is 168, this number, large though it appears, may be compared with the words used only once in the other Epistles of Paul. In Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians and Philemon, the words of this description are 627 in number. So nothing can be built upon the fact of the 168 peculiar words in the Pastoral Epistles, that can safely be alleged as proof against their Pauline authorship. The special subjects treated in these epistles required adequate language, a requirement and a claim which would not be refused in the case of any ordinary author.

The objections to the Pauline authorship of the Pastorals, based upon the dissimilarity of diction in them and in Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, cease to exist when theory is no longer persisted in, that the nucleus of the Pastoral Epistles was composed during the Roman imprisonment, which, according to this theory ended, not in the apostle’s release, but in his execution. The fact that he was writing to intimate and beloved friends, both on personal matters and on the subject of church organization, and on that of incipient Gnosticism, which was troubling the churches of Asia Minor, made it essential that he should, to a large extent, use a different vocabulary.

4. Is There "Another Gospel" in the Pastorals?:

The "most decisive" of all the arguments against the Pauline authorship is that "the Christianity of the Pastoral Epistles is not the Christianity of Paul" (McGiffert, A History of Christianity, 402). "For the most part," Dr. McGiffert writes, "there is no trace whatever of the great fundamental truth of Paul’s gospel--death unto the flesh and life in the Spirit." Now this is not so, for the passages which Dr. McGiffert himself gives in a footnote (2Ti 1:9-11; 2:11 ff; Tit 3:4-7), as well as other references, do most certainly refer to this very aspect of the gospel. For example, the passage in 2Ti 2 contains these words, "If we died with him (Christ), we shall also live with him." What is this but the great truth of the union of the Christian believer with Christ? The believer is one with Christ in His death, one with Him now as He lives and reigns. The objection, therefore, which is "most decisive of all," is one which is not true in point of fact. Dr. McGiffert also charges the author of the Pastoral Epistles as being "one who understood by resurrection nothing else than the resurrection of the fleshly body" (p. 430). The body of our Lord was raised from the dead, but how very unjust this accusation is, is evident from such a passage as 1Ti 3:16, "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness;

He who was manifested in the flesh,

Justified in the Spirit,

Seen of angels,

Preached among the nations,

Believed on in the world,

Received up in glory."

Charges of this nature are unsupported by evidence, and are of the kind on which Dr. A.S. Peake (A Critical Introduction to the New Testament, 71) bases his rejection of the Pauline authorship--except for a Pauline nucleus--that he "feels clear." More than an ipse dixit of this sort is needed.

The theory that the Pastoral Epistles are based upon genuine letters or notes of Paul to Timothy and Titus is thus advocated by Peake, McGiffert, Moffatt and many others. It bears very hard upon 1 Timothy. "In 1 Timothy not a single verse can be indicated, which clearly bears the stamp of Pauline origin" (Peake, op. cit., 70). "We may fairly conclude then in agreement with many modern scholars that we have here, in the Pastoral Epistles, authentic letters of Paul to Timothy and Titus, worked over and enlarged by another hand" (McGiffert, op. cit., 405). In regard to 1 Timothy he writes, "It is very likely that there are scattered fragments of the original epistle in 1 Timothy, as for instance in 1:23. But it is difficult to find anything which we can be confident was written by Paul" (p. 407).

Dr. McGiffert also alleges that in the Pastoral Epistles, the word "faith" "is not employed in its profound Pauline sense, but is used to signify one of the cardinal virtues, along with love, peace, purity, righteousness, sanctification, patience and meekness." One of the Pauline epistles, with which he contrasts the Pastorals, is the Epistle to the Galatians; and the groundlessness of this charge is evident from Ga 5:22, where "faith" is included in the list there given of the fruit of the Spirit, along with love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness and self-control.

If the Pastoral Epistles are the work of Paul, then, Dr. McGiffert concludes, Paul had given up that form of the gospel which he had held and taught throughout his life, and descended from the lofty religious plane upon which he had always moved, to the level of mere piety and morality (op. cit., 404). But this charge is not just or reasonable, in view of the fact that the apostle is instructing Timothy and Titus how to combat the views and practices of immoral teachers. Or again, in such a passage as 1Ti 1:12-17 the King James Version, the author of the epistle has not descended from the lofty plane of faith to that of mere piety and morality, when he writes, "The grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief."

If such be the "most decisive" objection against the Pauline authorship, the other difficulties, as already seen, need not cause alarm, for they resolve themselves into the equally groundless charges that the historical requirements of the epistles cannot be fitted into any part of Paul’s life, and that the doctrine and ecclesiastical organization do not suit the Apostolic age. These objections have been already referred to.

The real difficulty, writes Dr. Peake (A Critical Introduction, 68), is that "the old energy of thought and expression is gone, and the greater smoothness and continuity in the grammar is a poor compensation for the lack of grip and of continuity in the thought." Dr. Peake well and truly says that this statement does not admit of detailed proof. Lack of grip and lack of continuity of thought are not the characteristics of such passages as 1Ti 1:9-17, a passage which will bear comparison with anything in the acknowledged Pauline Epistles; and there are many other similar passages, e.g. Tit 2:11-3:7.

What must be said of the dullness of the intelligence of Christian men and of the Christian church as a whole, if they could thus let themselves be imposed upon by epistles which purported to be Paul’s, but which were not written by him at all, but were the enlargement of a Pauline nucleus? Can it be believed that the church of the 2nd century, the church of the martyrs, was in such a state of mental decrepitude as to receive epistles which were spurious, so far as the greater portion of their contents is concerned? And can it be believed that this idea, so recently originated and so destitute of proof, is andequate explanation of epistles which have been received as Pauline from the earliest times?

When placed side by side with sub-apostolic writings like the Didache, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, and Ignatius, "it is difficult to resist the idea which returns upon one with almost every sentence that .... the Pastorals are astonishingly superior" (Moffatt, The Historical New Testament, 556). Godet, quoted by R.D. Shaw (The Pauline Epistles, 441), writes, "When one has had enough of the pious amplifications of Clement of Rome, of the ridiculous inanities of Barnabas, of the general oddities of Ignatius, of the well-meant commonplaces of Polycarp, of the intolerable verbiage of Hermas, and of the nameless platitudes of the Didache, and, after this promenade in the first decade of the 2nd century, reverts to our Pastoral Epistles, one will measure the distance that separates the least striking products of the apostolic literature from what has been preserved to us as most eminent in the ancient patristic literature."

In the case of some modern critics, the interpolation hypothesis "is their first and last appeal, the easy solution of any difficulty that presents itself to their imaginations. Each writer feels free to give the kaleidoscope a fresh turn, and then records with blissful confidence what are called the latest results. .... The whole method postulates that a writer must always preserve the same dull monotone or always confine himself to the same transcendental heights. .... He must see and say everything at once; having had his vision and his dream, he must henceforth be like a star and dwell apart. .... To be stereotyped is his only salvation. .... On such principles there is not a writer of note, and there never has been a man in public life, or a student in the stream of a progressive science, large parts of whose sayings and doings could not be proved to be by some one else" (Shaw, The Pauline Epistles, 483).

III. Date and Order.

1. Date of the Epistles:

In regard to the date of these epistles, external and internal evidence alike go to show that they belong to practically the same period. The dates of their composition are separated from each other by not more than three or four years; and the dates of each and all of them must be close to the Neronic persecution (64 AD). If Paul was executed 67 AD (see Ramsay, Paul, 396), there is only a short interval of time between his release in 61 or 62, and his death in 67, that is a period of some 5 or 6 years, during which his later travels took place, and when the Pastoral Epistles were written. "Between the three letters there is an affinity of language, a similarity of thought, and a likeness of errors combated, which prevents our referring any of them to a period much earlier than the others" (Zahn, Introduction, II, 37).

2. Their Order:

The order in which they were written must have been 1 Timothy, Titus, 2 Timothy. It is universally acknowledged that 2 Timothy is the very last of Paul’s extant epistles, and the internal evidence of the other two seems to point out 1 Timothy as earlier than Titus.

To sum up, the evidence of the early reception of the Pastoral Epistles as Pauline is very strong. "The confident denial of the genuineness of these letters--which has been made now for several generations more positively than in the case of any other Pauline epistles--has no support from tradition. .... Traces of their circulation in the church before Marcion’s time are clearer than those which can be found for Romans and 2 Corinthians" (Zahn, op. cit., II, 85). The internal evidence shows that all three are from the hand of one and the same writer, a writer who makes many personal allusions of a nature which it would be impossible for a forger to invent. It is generally allowed that the personal passages in 2Ti 1:15-18; 4:9-22 are genuine. But if this is so, then it is not possible to cut and carve the epistles into fragments of this kind. Objections dating only a century back are all too feeble to overturn the consistent marks of Pauline authorship found in all three epistles, corroborated as this is by their reception in the church, dating from the very earliest period. The Pastoral Epistles may be used with the utmost confidence, as having genuinely come from the hand of Paul.


R. D. Shaw, The Pauline Epistles; A. S. Peake, A Critical Introduction to the New Testament; A. C. McGiffert, A History of Christianity in the Apostolic Age; Theodor Zahn, An Introduction to the New Testament; Marcus Dods,.Introduction to the New Testament; Weiss, Einleitung in das New Testament (English translation); C. J. Ellicott, A Critical and Grammatical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles; Patrick Fairbairn, The Pastoral Epistles; John Ed. Huther, Critical and Exegetical Handbook of the Epistles of Paul to Timothy and Titus; George Salmon, A Historical Introduction to the Study of the Books of the New Testament; James Moffatt, The Historical New Testament; Introduction to the Literature of the New Testament; Adolf Julicher, An Introduction to the New Testament; Caspar Rene Gregory, Canon and Text of the New Testament.

The "lives" of Paul may also be consulted, as they contain much that refers to these epistles, i.e. those by Conybeare and Howson, Lewin, Farrar and others. See also Ramsay’s Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen.