40. Pastoral Epistles: Authorship

Course: New Testament Survey - Acts to Revelation

Lecture: Pastoral Epistles: Authorship

Very few of the critics think that the writer of 1 Timothy is different from the writer of 2 Timothy, and also different from the writer of Titus; but if you look at the words that are found only in 1 Timothy, it seems very different from 2 Timothy. It must have been a different writer from 2 Timothy, who must have been a different writer from Titus. So you can get too rigid in this kind of thing, and we’ll talk about some other objections shortly. As to the style, there are 112 particles or prepositions, pronouns, things like that, that are not found in other letters that Paul writes (but are now found in the Pastorals).

Some say also that we don’t have any time that we know of in the life of Paul when he could have written these letters. Well that’s true if his life ends at the end of Acts. But if it doesn’t end at the end of Acts, then you have a different opportunity. Furthermore, the question of the particular heresy that’s being dealt with – some suggest that it’s a second century heresy, but there are a lot of things that look very Jewish about this heresy. In 1 Timothy 1:7, he talks about people “… desiring to be teachers of the law that have no understanding”, and then he says (1:8-9) “we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and the disobedient, and [he follows with other examples]....” Some say that doesn’t look very Pauline, but to me it looks very Pauline. In Romans 7, he says that the purpose of the law is to reveal our sin; and everybody he mentions in 1 Timothy 1 is pretty sinful. The law is for these people, to show that they need to repent, and that they need the grace of God. So what some people find as being un-Pauline, others can look at and see a good fit.

One of the main topics of 1 Timothy and Titus involves the naming or election of various people like bishops, elders, and deacons. And it’s been suggested that this is getting too organized for Paul’s situation. When Paul was a preacher and going around and establishing churches, these were much more charismatically organized churches, than so officially carefully organized [as in 1 Timothy and Titus]. Well, if you look at the Qumran community, which was 15 miles from Jerusalem, they were very organized. It’s a very Jewish situation, as well. And when Paul talks about a bishop, he’s not talking about the bishop of the second century (what we call the monarchical bishop), where you have an absolute bishop in a region of churches. That’s not the kind of bishop he seems to be talking about. He’s talking about something that is very locally organized.

Some suggest that the situation here is un-Pauline theologically, and there are things that come up here that look un-Pauline, especially to some people. For instance, if you look at 1 Timothy 6:14, he tells Timothy to “… keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and for some people Paul would never urge anybody to keep a commandment. But Paul is not a libertine – he’s not opposed to the commandments. He’s opposed to legalism, and there’s a difference between those. And I think that some of the critics can’t distinguish between the rejection of a legalistic mentality and an attitude of wanting to keep the commandments because this is the way God has shown us we can please him. And out of a desire to please him, we keep the commandments.

Some also argue that pseudonymous letters are such a common thing that we shouldn’t be surprised therefore that we have pseudonymous letters in the name of Paul. Pseudonymity was a legitimate genre. We have books supposedly written by Enoch (everybody knew that Enoch did not write that); books by Ezra (also known as 3 Ezra and 4 Ezra, or 1 and 2 Esdras in the Protestant definition); the Psalms of Solomon; the Wisdom of Solomon; the Book of Baruch. No one thought they were written as their titles would suggest. There were pseudonymous authors, using that name. But we don’t have much in regard to pseudonymous letters. Pseudonymity was used in narrative kinds of things, where it was clear that the person was using a pseudonymous kind of approach; but with regard to written letters, that does not seem to have been a genre generally used. So while we can say that everybody was writing pseudonymous works at this time, letters don’t seem to have been this way.

Another argument: the Pastorals are not found in the Canon of Marcion. Marcion was a heretic of around 140 AD. He established a Bible which had 10 letters of Paul and the Gospel of Luke. And he doesn’t have the Pastoral Epistles, so some say that he knew they were not Pauline. Well, Marcion, being a Gnostic, was very much opposed to the Old Testament and to the law. And the very fact that we have references to that in the Pastorals would have caused him to reject the Pastorals, I’m sure. They’re also not found in P-46. In World War 2, that was a fighter plane, but for our purposes P-46 is Papyrus number 46. And in that papyrus, the Pastoral Epistles are missing. However, this papyrus (which dates at around AD 200) has 6 pages missing at its end. And so, the Pastorals could very well have been there; we just don’t have the complete papyrus. So how do we make a conclusion that they were not there originally, because there’s so much missing at the end?

In favor of Pauline authorship, we should note that all of these letters claim to have been written by Paul. 1 Timothy 1:1-2, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” 2 Timothy begins, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Titus begins,

“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior; To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So, they claim to be Pauline. When you start with that, the burden of proof is not to prove that they ARE Pauline, but that they are NOT Pauline. I think that’s the only fair way of dealing with literature like that. Now you might find arguments strong enough to say that they that these claims of authorship are false, but the burden of proof is upon those who claim the statements are false.

These letters are also known quite early. For instance, Clement of Rome wrote the letter that we call 1 Clement to the church in Corinth in 95 or 96 AD. And he has quotations in his letter from the Pastorals. It looks like he’s quoting Titus in 1 Clement 2:7, and 1 Timothy in 29:1, and 2 Timothy in 45:7. So, here, Clement is attributing quotes to Paul from these letters as early as 95 AD. That’s 30 years after the death of Paul, by the leader of the church in Rome. That these letters could have entered the church pseudonymously so soon would be quite amazing. And we have to realize that they were not still wet and handed to Clement so that he could quote them.

Polycarp knows these Pastorals, and he writes sometime between 110 and 135 AD. He wrote a letter to the Philippians, which is not to be confused with the New Testament Philippians, but a letter he wrote to the Philippians, called “Philippians”, in 9:2, he attributes quotes to Paul from 1 and 2 Timothy.

If you look at the letters themselves, there appear to be in them reminiscences of Paul that are very personal. And I think the greatest point of persuasion in Pauline authorship of those letters is when you read those. I’ll go through them here, just to have you consider this question: “Could somebody other than Paul have written these things, and created a letter with these kinds of things in them?”

• 1 Timothy 1:3, “As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine ….”

• 1:12-16, “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and I am the foremost of sinners. [I don’t think anybody writing a letter in Paul’s name would say that, because Paul’s a hero to them. I think only the person himself would say something like ‘I am the chief of all sinners in the world.’] But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”

• 1:18, “This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”

• 2:7, “For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.”

• 3:14: “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and bulwark of truth.”

• 4:13, “Until I come, attend to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching, to teaching.”

• 2 Timothy 1:3-5, “I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you.”

• 1:8, “Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner ….”

• 1:11-13, “For this gospel for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.”

• 1:15-18, “You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me – may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day! – and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.”

• 2:9-10, “The gospel for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect ….”

• 3:10-11, “Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra – which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.”

• 4:6-8, “For I am already on the point of being sacrificed. The time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to those who love his appearing.”

• 4:9-14, “Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Damatia. Luke alone is with me. [I can’t imagine this being a fraudulent letter!] Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will requite him for his deeds.”

• 4:16, “At my first defense no one took my side, but all deserted me. May it not be charged to them.”

• 4:19, “Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren.” [Now remember, this is supposed to be written by somebody totally different than Paul. It’s very difficult to buy that.]

• Titus 1:5, “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town ....”

• Titus 3:12, “When I sent Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. … All who are with me send greetings ….”

If you argue that Paul did not write this letter, these statements become a real problem. They look very much like the kind of thing that a person writes – not creates as a fiction. That art of writing historical materials in a false way is really something that doesn’t come into existence until the nineteenth century. Here, you’d have somebody who did it remarkably well, and no one ever really learned about it for another 1800 years, or something like that. It’s just amazing.

With regard to comparison of words and style, a great specialist in these kinds of things, G.U. Yule argued that you can’t do that reliably unless you have at least 10,000 words to compare, and then you can carry out that sort of a statistical analysis. And we just don’t have that much. There’s nowhere near that amount. The result of all this is that there have been various suggestions concerning the authorship of this book.

One is that they were simply written by Paul. Another is that they were written by Paul, but in this particular instance, he gave to his secretary (some suggest Luke) more freedom than he for instance gave Tertius, when he dictated to him the letter to the Romans (Remember at Romans 16, “I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.”). He just pops in to mention that he’s the one writing all this down, and wants to say hello. So, what we then have would be Pauline letters whose style might be affected by greater freedom given to the secretary.

A third is that the Pastorals were really not written by Paul, but they contain genuine fragments in the letters that come from Paul. The segments that I read earlier would have come from those fragments. A man by the name of P.N. Harrison was probably the most influential person arguing that statistically the vocabulary and style of the Pastoral Epistles is not Pauline. So he argued that Paul did not write the Pastorals. But then he said, “There are, however, genuine reminiscences in them that go back to Paul.” The materials that I read just before – those reminiscences are genuine Pauline fragments. But, how do you get those fragments? What happened to the rest of the material where these fragments were contained? Did somebody have a bunch of letters, and he just pulled out those historical reminiscences and rejected everything else? It’s very difficult to argue that these all go back to actual fragments from letters that Paul wrote, and nothing else does.

The other possibility is that the letters are completely pseudonymous. Nothing in them goes back to Paul himself. Well, I will admit there are some real difficulties with regard to theological emphases that we find there, and when I read the opening salutation in Titus, it doesn’t look like the normal salutation that Paul writes. But sometimes people differ, and use different words and have different emphases at times. I remember reading a few years ago something that I wrote back in the 60’s. And I looked at it, and I wondered where that vocabulary came from. Was I going through a “word-a-day” course to improve my vocabulary? What in the world was going on here? I knew I had written it, but that’s not my present vocabulary. Well, sometimes you get the impression that Paul in one week wrote all these letters, and therefore they have to have identical interests, identical emphases, identical style, identical grammar, and identical vocabulary. But they’re written over a period of two decades. And therefore he encountered different emphases, and when you write about those different emphases, you use a different vocabulary to do so. So I recognize some of the problems, but I don’t want to make it a major issue. I think that Paul could have written this, and whether he perhaps gave to the secretary more freedom in penning some of this, that might explain some of the differences in style.