I recently taught through the letter to Titus in three sessions at my home church, First Baptist Church, Jackson, TN. These three messages are an attempt to teach the content of this letter and apply its truths to our current context. The audio of each session is available here.
By Chuck Bumgardner
James D. G. Dunn, well-known New Testament scholar and Lightfoot Professor Emeritus of Divinity at Durham University, has discussed the Pastoral Epistles in numerous places in his writings, with the most focused treatment being his commentary on the letters in the New Interpreter’s Bible (ed. L. E. Keck; Nashville: Abingdon, 2000), 11:773-800. My purpose here is to summarize his take on the PE in the recently released third volume of his substantial Christianity in the Making project: Neither Jew nor Greek: A Contested Identity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015); he discusses the letters in a focused manner in §39.3(b) (85-91) and §47.2(a) (678-82).
The simple fact that Dunn places his discussion of the PE in the third volume of his project, not the second (Beginning from Jerusalem) is enough to divine his general approach to the letters, as the second volume takes the reader through 70 AD, and the third volume picks up there. Anyone familiar with Dunn’s work will not be surprised to find that his major discussion of the PE in Neither Jew nor Greek is under the heading “Paul as Depicted in Second-Generation NT Documents.” Dunn finds the best explanation of pseudepigraphy in the canonical NT to be that of Meade, who contends that “attribution is primarily a claim to authoritative tradition, not a statement of literary origin” (Pseudonymity and Canon, 102; cf. further Dunn, “Pseudepigraphy,” Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments, 977-84). In this vein, Dunn understands the PE to contemporize and promote the authoritative Pauline tradition for the following generation, and to have been accepted by that generation as “sharing in the authority of the tradition’s originator” and thus “accepted as also authoritative under his name” (85).
As typical in critical scholarship, Dunn grounds his judgment of pseudonymity in certain features of the letters: distinctive language and style, historical circumstances thought to be difficult to square with Acts and other Pauline epistles, a false teaching with no parallel in pre-70 NT literature, increasing institutionalization, and “crystallization of the faith into set forms” (86-88). “It is most probable that we should attribute [the PE] to an unknown (conservative) disciple who thought he was doing what Paul would have approved of and whose further ‘letters of Paul’ were accepted in the same spirit” (89). Dunn suggests that, though pseudonymous, the PE might just possibly have been written to Timothy and Titus, and should be dated in the 80s or 90s.
Dunn finds the most striking and distinctive features of the PE to be “increasing institutionalization” and the “crystallization of faith into set forms,” both of which he discusses as some length. As to institutionalization, Dunn uses 1 Corinthians as a foil, arguing that there Paul does not “appeal to ‘elders’ or ‘overseers’ or ‘deacons’ to exercise authority and to bring order to the disorder” (678) (but does Paul actually do this in the PE? Certainly he straightforwardly sets forth the qualifications for these positions, but it is Timothy and Titus as Paul’s delegates who receive the bulk of Paul’s instructions to take care of the problems in the churches.). Dunn finds that Paul “has become Paul the good churchman, significantly different from Paul the innovative apostle” (679).
Similarly, as to “crystallization of faith into set forms,” the PE evidence “a dominant desire to consolidate and secure a more objectified identity” (679). The dynamic “faith” of the authentic Paul (“the living means by which individuals are in communication with God and by which they live”) has become “the faith” which is simply orthodox doctrine (679-80). As well, Dunn finds Jew/Gentile tensions to be fading and formulaic, references to false teaching to be vague and lacking content.
Christology, however, is developing fresh expression in the PE, Dunn observes. It is “the only detail about the faith which is clearly defined” (680). Though monotheism is emphasized in 1 Timothy, “the Pastorals’ Christology would seem to encroach to a substantial degree” upon it (681). Dunn doesn’t see Titus 2:13 as speaking of Christ directly as “God” but as “the glory of our great God and Savior.” Jesus is “the embodiment of God’s glory and decisive expression of his saving power” (681). This developing Christology suggests that “it was the growing reverence for Christ which most clearly marked out the second-generation churches (of the Aegean) as they moved into the second century” (682).
In sum, “this then is the Paul who is presented in the Pastoral Epistles—a Paul for whom the priority was to consolidate the faith, to guard it unflinchingly and to pass it on faithfully. This was Paul as his disciple(s) evidently him remembered—as equipping his churches for what would be a threatened and challenging future” (682).
By Chuck Bumgardner
Mark Allan Powell is the Robert and Phyllis Leatherman Professor of New Testament at Trinity Lutheran Seminary (Columbus, OH), having taught New Testament at TLS since 1987. A prolific author, Powell has crafted his Introduction to the New Testament (Baker, 2009) (INT) as a college textbook. This work is atypical in that it “urges engagement of ideas but does not attempt to resolve disputes,” with its goal being “engagement, not indoctrination” (11), and so Powell tries not to tip his hand as to his own position on various issues. Also of note, his INT also includes over 75 pieces of Christian artwork scattered throughout the book. Powell, to my knowledge, has not published anything specifically on the Pastoral Epistles; his published works major more on the Gospels and Acts. Strikingly, a book that he edited with David R. Bauer, Who Do You Say that I Am? Essays on Christology (WJK 1999), walks through the New Testament via various essays (including the Christology of . . . Matthew, Mark, Luke-Acts, Johannine Writings, Pauline Epistles, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, Jude/2 Peter, Revelation) but does not include the christological contribution of the Pastoral Epistles in the chapter by M. L. Soards on “Christology of the Pauline Epistles”—and only in passing in two other places in the volume.
In INT, after a brief introduction to the PE which (in keeping with his overarching methodology) leaves the question of authorship open, Powell provides a very brief overview of each of the three epistles. Addressing historical background, he presents standard possibilities of the PE being (1) authentically written (1a) during or (1b) just after the events of Acts, (2) pseudonymously written in their entirety shortly after Paul’s death, (3) pseudonymous expansions of embedded authentic Pauline notes, or (4) an authentic 2 Timothy providing the template for pseudonymous 1 Timothy and Titus. Several sidebars liven up the chapter: biographical sketches of Timothy and Titus, a chart of proposed historical situations for the PE, a brief list of reasons scholars reject the authenticity of the PE, the office of widows (Powell doesn’t mention the possibility that the widows of 1 Tim 5 don’t actually occupy a formal church office), concern for social respectability in the PE, the meaning of “the husband of one wife”
The major themes Powell finds in the letters include church government, false teaching and sound doctrine, women and ministry, and suffering and shame. In the end, he understands the PE to have been written to engage two threats to the church, external persecution and internal heresy. Powell finds the purpose of the letters to be the preservation of the Pauline tradition and appropriate conduct in the church. His own view seems to be that the PE come “from a difficult but necessary stage in the development of the Christian religion: the church is becoming more institutionalized and more authoritarian in an effort to forestall revision of the faith for which Paul was willing to suffer and die” (413). A brief “further reading” list concludes the chapter.
Material supplemental to the chapter is found online at the companion website www.introducingNT.com (freely available to the public). This material on the main PE page refers to Powell in the third person and doesn’t seem to have been written by him. The site provides discussion prompts, pedagogical suggestions (the notion of widows as occupying a specific church office is brought into question), and PDFs of the sidebars included in the chapter. In addition are other PDFs of sidebar-like discussions that were not included in the chapter: authorship (with arguments for and against pseudepigraphy and a helpful bibliography of works categorized by view on authorship), church leaders in the NT (including both “deacons” and “widows” as “church leaders”), the nature of the false teaching (doesn’t distinguish between that in the epistles to Timothy and that in the epistle to Titus), polemic in the PE (doesn’t seem to treat polemic in the PE as merely stock), genre of the PE, distinctive vocabulary in the PE, the PE in the Revised Common Lectionary, women and ministry in the PE (the PE teach that “there is an office in the church for aged widows”; “some women may also serve as deacons”; “women should not be permitted to teach or to have authority over men . . . they are . . . more easily deceived than men”) with brief bibliography; and an expanded English-language bibliography with 78 entries in nine categories: overview (including less technical commentaries), critical commentaries, authorship, linguistic distinctiveness, parenetic character, church government, women and ministry, household codes, other studies. Although INT was published in 2009, the online bibliography has works as late as 2010. The bibliography is a bit uneven, but excellent overall.
Powell has chosen to include representations of three pieces of artwork as part of the chapter on the PE. First is “Window of St. Timothy with the martyr’s palm, removed from Neuwiller Abbey, studio of Lorin de Chartres (12th c.),” although Powell opines that Timothy is holding a “rod or bat”, not a martyr’s palm (a cudgel was traditionally the instrument of Timothy’s death); unfortunately, the image available to Powell presents the title in the window (S.TIMOTHEUS.MARTYR) backwards. Second is a 17th-c. Melkite icon, “The Council of Nicaea I,” depicting church leaders flanking Constantine; the use of this painting reflects a later understanding of a “bishop” than a Pauline reading of the PE permits. Third is German realist Wilhelm Leibl’s best-known work, “Three Women in Church” (1882); Powell connects the quiet demeanor of these women with that enjoined in the PE. I was slightly disappointed that Rembrandt’s “Timothy and His Grandmother” wasn’t chosen for inclusion, but then, I’m particularly partial to Rembrandt.
Downs, David J. “Pauline Ecclesiology.” Perspectives in Religious Studies 41 (2014): 243-255
I pursued this essay because I learned that Downs included the Pastorals in his discussion, accepting them as Pauline. Since I am pursuing the question of how the Pastorals might shape or re-shape our understanding of Pauline theology if they were seriously engaged, I was curious to see what role they played in Downs’ analysis. In the end, beyond the footnote arguing for their inclusion, little of particular interest is made of them in the essay. Perhaps this is due to the fact that this is a remarkably large topic for a single essay.
I appreciated Downs’ discussion of the universal and local church (a big issue for Baptist circles, and this is found in a Baptist journal).
However, section 3 of the essay, on “The Organization and Practices of the Pauline Churches,” was not as good. Downs says we must not homogenize these “geographically and culturally diverse congregations” into one model of “the Pauline church.” This is a common statement today, but I find it lacking. Should we not expect a significant level of similarity in theology and core practices among churches planted by one apostle who self-consciously seeks to order these communities according to the will of God?
Downs, like others, as evidence of diversity, points to the fact that these churches did not always obey the apostle. Here a key distinction must be made. Are we saying that these churches at times differed in practices or that they were never intended to have shared core practices? If the first, that is obvious and need not be debated. Paul rebukes the Corinthians for practices out of step with “all the churches.” This does not, though, mean that there was not a shared “model” to which they were all supposed to aspire. The lack of such an aspirational model is exactly what many of these scholars are arguing. In fact, Paul’s rebuke just mentioned suggests the opposite- the churches are expected to be in step with one another.
This is an important discussion because on it depends whether or not there is a coherent biblical ecclesiology (and perhaps whether we should expect a coherent theology at all in Paul). Denying the existence of such is amenable today because it allows us to say we can all have our own ecclesiologies. However, we should reconsider this claim today.
Earlier this year I saw advertisements for this new monograph on 1 Timothy by Gary Hoag, Wealth in Ancient Ephesus and the First Letter to Timothy: Fresh Insights from Ephesiaca by Xenophon of Ephesus published by Eisenbrauns. I have kept my eye on it but have not yet obtained a copy. So, I was quite interested to see this review of the book by Lucy Peppiat, and thought our readers would like to know of the review as well.
I will hope soon to provide our own review of the book.
[by Chuck Bumgardner]
Donald A. Hagner has been associated with Fuller Seminary for forty years, and presently holds the title(s) of George Eldon Ladd Professor Emeritus of New Testament and Senior Professor of New Testament School of Theology. His New Testament Introduction: A Historical and Theological Introduction (Baker, 2012) (NTI) represents the mature judgments of a seasoned scholar. My purpose here is to summarize his work on the Pastoral Epistles (PE) in that volume.
Before I do that, however, I’ll observe that Hagner has (to my knowledge) produced only one standalone essay on any of the PE: “Titus as a Pauline Letter,” in Society of Biblical Literature 1998 Seminar Papers, Part Two (SBLSPS 37; Atlanta: Scholars, 1998), 546–58. This essay was part of an ongoing project in the SBL Theology of the Disputed Paulines group, a project which also included Luke Timothy Johnson’s “Oikonomia Theou: The Theological Voice of 1 Timothy from the Perspective of Pauline Authorship” and Gordon Fee’s “Toward a Theology of 2 Timothy—from a Pauline Perspective.” Each of these essays addressed the theology of one of the PE from the perspective of Pauline authorship.
In his essay, Hagner first establishes the “life-setting” of Titus, noting its distinctiveness over against the undisputed Pauline letters in two areas: Paul’s acceptance of a delayed parousia and a correspondingly different approach to his churches, and an individual recipient (except in the case of Philemon) (546–48). These two items, in conjunction with the likely use of an amanuensis, explain any differences between Titus and other Pauline letters. With this foundation laid, he engages a close reading of the most overtly theological passages in Titus, 2:11–14 and 3:4–8a, comparing their theology minutely (and favorably) with Paul’s theology in the undisputed letters (548–52). (Since these are soteriological passages, this section is helpful for studying salvation in the PE in connection with other writings of Paul.) Finally, Hagner examines the “theology of the practical instructions of Titus,” finding strong parallels with the undisputed Paul here as well (552–55). All in all, this is a strong article defending the authenticity of Titus.
Fifteen years later, in his NTI, Hagner now finds that the cumulative weight of various arguments against Pauline authorship of the PE (including Titus) means that pseudonymity has “the probabilities on its side” (614). He presents a very helpful section which addresses six different battlegrounds of opinion vis-à-vis authorship (language and style, church organization, theology and ethics, nature of opposition, the picture of Paul, and the personal history of Paul), first succinctly presenting how proponents of pseudonymity would frame a given issue, then providing a brief response from the perspective of authenticity (615–21). He stresses (1) that no particular argument for pseudonymity is persuasive in and of itself, but the cumulative case is persuasive; (2) that the debate is one of probabilities, not certainties (621–22). In his judgment (following a critical consensus), the PE simply “breathe a different atmosphere” which is unlike the undisputed Paulines, and they reflect a “conventional, ‘bourgeois’ Christianity,” displaying “the marks of an incipient early catholicism” (622).
Exploring various explanations for the “problem of the Pastorals,” Hagner examines the amanuensis hypothesis (e.g., Richards, Paul and First-Century Letter Writing), the possibility of wholesale pseudepigraphy by an associate of Paul’s after his death (e.g., Wilson, Luke and the Pastoral Epistles), theories involving Pauline fragments/notes (e.g., Miller, The Pastoral Letters as Composite Documents), and the possibility of authenticity (e.g., Fee, Knight, Johnson, Mounce, Towner) (622–26). Reading “Titus as a Pauline Letter,” I felt that Hagner was firmly championing a position of authenticity; reading his NTI, I don’t get the impression that he has confidently changed his stance on authorship, but has edged over the line, so to speak, with the balance of evidence ever so slightly disposing him to a rather agnostic position of pseudonymity.
Hagner turns to examine various emphases in the PE: protecting orthodoxy/orthopraxy; preserving and transmitting the tradition; establishing church offices; the self-consciousness of the church (626–34). Finding these to support “an incipient early catholicism,” he summarizes: “Because of the delay of the parousia, the church must reunderstand itself not as a group of believers waiting to be taken away from this world to the next, but rather as the people of God, residents in the world for the foreseeable future, whose unchanging message represents unshakable truth” (634).
Arguing that the PE ought to be considered both individually and as a cluster, Hagner gives a brief overview of the contents of each letter (634–37). He closes the essay with a position of agnosticism as to authorship, a guess that the letters were written for church leaders in general, and a preference for a date shortly after Paul’s death (637–38). A very solid English-language bibliography (25 commentaries and 85 other entries) completes the essay, including commentaries as late as 2006 (Towner [NICNT] and Witherington), and other works as late as 2010 (638–42). I only note that in commentaries, the venerable Lock (ICC, 1924) is missing, apparently being of too great a vintage, and Oden’s Interpretation volume (1989) is omitted. In other literature, Hagner has surprisingly included nothing by Trebilco (e.g., The Early Christians in Ephesus from Paul to Ignatius, 2004) nor Wieland (e.g., The Significance of Salvation, 2006).
The Pastoral Epistles group in the Evangelical Theological Society is accepting paper proposals for the meeting this Fall. We are continuing to examine ways in which a more vigorous, intentional engagement with the Pastorals can impact our understanding of Paul. Too often evangelicals explicitly or implicitly bracket off the Pastorals when doing Pauline theology whether in order to gain a hearing among those who dispute them or simply because we have grown accustomed to overlooking them. We have already seen a number of ways in which the absence of 1-2 Timothy and Titus impoverish our reading and have a sneaking suspicion there are yet more aspects and nuances to be explored. So, if you would be interested to pursue this topic, we would be glad to hear from you. Send questions or proposals to me at rayvanneste at gmail dot com.
B&H Academic is offering a free copy of Entrusted with the Gospel: Paul’s Theology in the Pastoral Epistles (edited by Andreas Köstenberger and Terry Wilder) to anyone who signs up for the updates at their blog.
I. Howard Marshall on Recent Study in the Pastoral Epistles
Andreas Köstenberger on Hermeneutical and Exegetical Challenges
Terry L. Wilder on Authorship
F. Alan Tomlinson on Purpose/Stewardship
Greg Couser on Doctrine of God
Daniel L. Akin on Christology
Ray Van Neste on Cohesion and Structure of the PE
B. Paul Wolfe on Use of Scripture
Ben Merkle on Ecclesiology
George Wieland on Soteriology
Thor Madsen on Ethics
Chiao Ek Ho on Missiology