New Article on 1 Tim 5:9-16 by Dillon Thornton

I have previously mentioned the excellent paper by Dillon Thornton presented at our meeting of the Pastoral Epistles group at ETS last year. The paper, titled ” ‘Saying What They Should Not Say’: Reassessing the Gravity of the Problem of the Younger Widows (1 Tim 5:9-16)” has just been published in the most recent issue of JETS. You can see the paper here.

New Edition of Calvin’s Sermons on 1 Timothy

Calvin sermons coverI have finally published the new edition of Calvin’s sermons on 1 Timothy which Brian Denker and I worked on for so long. Due to its size (330,000+ words) the digital format seemed a good way to go, so it is published through Amazon for Kindle. The cost is only $2.99 for all 54 sermons.

These sermons reveal Calvin’s pastoral heart, his evangelistic fervor, and his devotion to the word of God. I have posted my introduction and a sample sermon for free so you can get a feel for the book.

I have pasted in below the commendations for the book which I have received. Howard Marshall has enthusiastically responded to my email saying he wanted to write a commendation, but sadly he passed away before being able to write it. Howard commented on how Andrew Walls read from these sermons (directly from the French original) at one of the early InterVarsity meetings he attended as a student.

I hope these sermons can encourage, challenge, and bless others as they have me.

“In this new edition of Calvin’s sermons on the Pastoral Epistles we meet the Reformer at his liveliest and most compelling. The subject matter lends itself to practical application, and here we see Calvin at the height of his pastoral powers. This new edition brings the original to life for our generation and we must hope that it will be widely read and used by preachers everywhere.”

  • Gerald Bray, Research Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

“So many think of John Calvin as a theologian, as one who lived separate from the people writing theological books in splendid isolation. But Calvin was a pastor who was involved in the rough and tumble of everyday life. Above all else, he was a preacher, one who proclaimed the word of God to the people of God. We see in these sermons the heart of a preacher as he exhorts and instructs his congregation. Calvin’s theology was not abstract to him; it was meant to be believed and lived out in the home and in the market place. In these sermons on 1 Timothy we see Calvin the pastor at work as he proclaims God’s word for the church of Jesus Christ. Read and be instructed, challenged, encouraged, convicted, and changed.”

  • Tom Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Professor of Biblical Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Ray Van Neste has done English readers a great service by making John Calvin’s sermons on 1 Timothy readily accessible. The 1579 English translation is simply too intimidating for many modern readers to tackle leaving the theological and pastoral wisdom of the reformer in these sermons virtually locked away. This edition is completely retyped using modern words and phrases to maintain the original English meaning. Where serious questions remained these then were checked against the original French in which the sermons first appeared. A helpful introduction which includes a suggested approach to reading the sermons makes this work all the more valuable. Those who know Calvin only as a theologian will discover in these sermons that he was a first and foremost a tender, compassionate and evangelist pastor. I hope this book gains a wide reading.”

  • Tom Ascol, Pastor, Grace Baptist Church, Cape Coral, FL

“Today’s preachers have much to gain by reading and studying sermons from past masters of the pulpit. Unfortunately, some great preachers of the past are relatively inaccessible because of differences of language. Thus, Ray Van Neste and Brian Denker have done us a great service by editing and updating the 1579 English edition of Calvin’s Sermons on 1 Timothy, making them accessible to 21st century readers. In these 54 sermons, Calvin is revealed not to be the austere theologian of modern caricatures, but a loving, caring pastor who wanted his people to understand the truth of God’s Word. This significant collection will be of interest not only to students of Calvin but to any reader interested in better understanding Paul’s inspired first letter to his protégé Timothy.”

  •   Michael Duduit, Executive Editor, Preaching magazine, and Dean of the College of Christian Studies & Clamp Divinity School, Anderson University, Anderson, SC

 

Second Timothy: Notes on Grammar, Syntax, & Structure

Rick Brannan has written a new book, Second Timothy: Notes on Grammar, Syntax, & Structure, which is soon to be published with Appian Way Press. The book provides a block-style outline and translation, treats major structures in the text, and comments on grammatical and syntactical issues phrase by phrase through the letter.

I have had an opportunity to see the manuscript and found it useful. Here is the blurb I have written for it:

“This is a fascinating study as Brannan comments on grammatical and syntactical relationships throughout 2 Timothy with comments on the implications for flow of thought and meaning. I am not aware of anything quite like this available anywhere else. This will be a great resource for anyone working through the Greek text of 2 Timothy.”

You can find information about the book and a couple of sample portions here.

Boring on the Pastoral Epistles

By Chuck Bumgardner

Before his retirement, M. Eugene Boring was the I. Wylie and Elizabeth M. Briscoe Professor of New Testament at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University, a school affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). I am most familiar with Boring’s work as a translator (especially of Udo Schnelle’s writings), but he is also a prolific author with commentaries on Mark (NTL), 1 Peter (ANTC), Revelation (Interpretation) to his credit. To my knowledge, he has not written any standalone essays or monographs focusing on the PE; however, the PE are introduced and commented upon in The People’s New Testament Commentary (WJK, 2009), written by Boring and his onetime teacher Fred Craddock. Recently, Boring produced his monumental An Introduction to the New Testament: History, Literature, Theology (WJK, 2012) in which he discusses the PE under the heading “The Pastorals and the Struggle for Paul” (pp. 371-99). In the introduction to the volume, he highlights the influence on his life and thinking of men such as Leander Keck, Craddock, Russell Pregeant, Udo Schnelle, David Balch, and William Baird. My purpose here is simply to summarize Boring’s work on the PE.

Boring discusses the issue of authorship at great length, finding it to be “a watershed for the critical approach to the New Testament” (371). If a scholar holds that Paul wrote the PE, he or she will almost certainly hold that all the books attributed to Paul are authentic; conversely, if Paul is not believed to have written one or more of the PE, the door for pseudonymous authorship in the NT is open. For Boring, the question of authorship “should not be resolved on the basis of dogma from right, left, or center” (371). Boring briefly presents the arguments of those who support authenticity: the claim of the letters themselves, their canonical status (the church wouldn’t have accepted pseudonymous writings, and inspiration is incompatible with pseudonymity), church tradition, and the lack of any single compelling argument for pseudonymous authorship of the letters.

Compared to less than a page on arguments for authenticity, Boring devotes roughly 11½ pages (out of the chapter’s 29 pages) to directly setting forth the case for “the Pastorals as pseudepigraphical documents by a teacher in the Pauline school” (372). This is a thorough treatment for a New Testament introduction, and those concerned to defend the authenticity of the PE will find in Boring’s sixteen points a helpful collection of opposing arguments with which to interact:

  • The letters’ claim to be written by Paul can be dismissed without fear of a historical or theological misstep, since “the question for the ancient church . . . was not the historical issue of who actually composed [documents claiming apostolic authorship], but the theological issue of whether or not they represented the apostolic faith” (372).
  • The consistent acceptance of the Pauline authorship of the PE by the early church fathers is not proof positive of authenticity, because the fathers “were theologians first and historians second.” The PE were accepted by the fathers because they “represented the apostolic faith” and “found resonance within the wider community of faith” and on this basis, their claim to apostolic authorship was accepted (373).
  • “The chronology and personal allusions presupposed by the Pastorals do not fit into the lifetime of Paul as otherwise attested” (373).
  • Certain internal inconsistencies regarding Paul’s historical situation appear to be present in the PE, casting doubt on the letters’ historical accuracy (373-74).
  • The self-portrayal of Paul in the PE seems to be at variance with that in the undisputed Pauline letters (374).
  • “The content and tone of the Pastorals are simply not appropriate” when considering the recipients are veteran coworkers of Paul’s (374-76).
  • Various aspects of the letters connect them with the third generation of Christian leadership, when the succession of Paul’s leadership was being worked out after his death (376).
  • The sort of false teaching that seems to be present seems to reflect a later time than Paul, and the response to it in the letters seems unlike Paul’s response in the undisputed letters (376-77).
  • While the hypothesis of pseudonymous PE written specifically to combat Marcion is problematic, the PE’s insistence on the continuing value of the OT “could point to Marcionite tendencies the Pastor opposes” (377).
  • “Both a different vision of church leadership and a different church structure” (this includes the role of the Spirit) seem to be present in the PE, over against the undisputed Pauline letters (377). The PE seem to portray a church in the process of becoming institutionalized (377-79).
  • “The Pastor’s perspective on women’s role in the church reflects the period after Paul” (379-80).
  • There is a “dual temporal perspective” in the letters; while meaning to represent the time of Paul through various incidental references, the pseudonymous author of the letters portrays Paul as “predicting a later time” as a way of having Paul directly address the concerns of his own post-Pauline audience (380).
  • The PE make allusion to Paul’s undisputed letters which it is assumed the readers will recognize, which suggests the PE were written to supplement an already-existing Pauline collection (380).
  • The PE are clearly meant to be heard by churches, but are written to individuals. On the traditional view, this would mean that Timothy and Titus received and kept them, and some time later they were incorporated into the general life of the church, and eventually became part of the accepted NT canon. Boring finds the pseudepigraphical explanation simpler: they were written (falsely) to individuals but read to churches (380-81).
  • “The Pastorals reflect and interact with later New Testament movements and literature current after Paul’s time,” e.g., the “Johannine stream of tradition” and the hymns in Revelation (381).
  • “The style and vocabulary of the Pastorals point to a post-Pauline setting” (381-84). Boring provides a number of typical examples to support his contention.

In sum, “These considerations provide substantial reasons for the view that the Pastorals are post-Paul compositions emanating from the Pauline school” (383). Boring’s tour de force doesn’t end here however; he goes on to provide “incidental support” for this view in the rest of the chapter’s discussion.

Boring notes approvingly the critically accepted date of around 100 CE for the PE (his chart “Formation of NT Literature” [p. 6] actually places the PE after 1 Clement and the Didache and roughly parallel with Ignatius), and discusses the various uses (and non-use) of the PE in the NT writings and other early Christian writings, which in his view support this date. Provenance is likely Ephesus.

The theology of the PE (pp. 384-89) receives extended attention, particularly in relation to that of the undisputed Paulines. Boring views the theology of the PE as being in continuity with that of Paul, and argues that “the Pastorals do not simply repeat Paul but present him as adapting his theology to the post-Pauline situation” (385); the PE are concerned with “preserving the essential core of Pauline theology and reinterpreting it for a later generation.” So, e.g., Paul’s dynamic “faith” becomes “the faith” in the PE, a static body of orthodox doctrine; angels, about whom Paul “never had a good word,” are spoken of positively; the body of Christ has become the household of God. Paul’s expectation of an imminent parousia is absent in the PE. Boring finds the ethics of the PE to have a “different emphasis and perspective” than those of Paul.

Boring contends that “in equipping the church for its struggle with false teaching, the Pastor sees the church as grounded in three interrelated foundational elements: canon, clergy, and creed” (387). Thus, (1) while the undisputed Paul assumes the OT’s authority, the author of the PE insists on it; (2) “the Pastor is interested in promoting and furthering the development of established orders of ministry as a means of guaranteeing the transmission of the core Pauline tradition”; (3) the PE engage “firm traditional summary statements of the faith.”

Boring provides brief outlines and sets forth the essential argument section-by-section for each of the PE. He closes his treatment by appropriating Margaret MacDonald’s model for situating the PE in early Christian history; they reflect a later “community-protecting institutionalization,” following the “community building” of the undisputed Pauline letters and the “community stabilizing” of Colossians and Ephesians (398). He finds that while the post-Pauline church rejected extreme views such as Gnosticism, they accepted a “limited plurality” of “interpretations” of Paul reflected in various pseudonymous letters. Boring sees 2 Thessalonians as such a letter, reflecting a “centrist” view; Ephesians and Colossians as having been produced by “left wing” interpreters; and the PE as setting forth a “right wing” understanding of Paul (399).

In his work, Boring engages a limited range of literature specific to the PE. He refers to Trebilco’s Early Christians in Ephesus a number of times. His “further reading” list is brief, pointing only to four commentaries (no monographs): Bassler (ANTC), Collins (NTL), Johnson (AB), and Marshall (ICC). His take on the PE would be closest, I think, to that of Bassler and Collins.

Wansbrough on the Pastoral Epistles

By Chuck Bumgardner

wansbrough intro ntHenry Wansbrough, a Roman Catholic biblical scholar, is notable for his work as the general editor of the New Jerusalem Bible (1985). Having published over twenty books throughout his scholarly career, he has now produced Introducing the New Testament (London: Bloomsbury, 2015). In roughly 400 pages, Wansbrough covers the NT in five sections: Preliminaries, Gospels and Acts, Paul’s Life and Letters, Catholic/Universal Epistles, and the Book of Revelation. Wansbrough’s scholarly acumen clearly underlies his work, but the volume seems to be aimed toward a lay or college level; there are frequent sidebars, but no footnotes/endnotes. My purpose here is to summarize Wansbrough’s work on the PE in this recent volume.

Wansbrough’s discussion of the three PE under “Paul’s Life and Letters” spans a mere eight pages, and is organized into three sections: authorship, situation, and order in the community. His discussion of authorship does not explicitly stake out his position, but he seems to agree with the scholarly majority which doubts Pauline authorship, though 2 Timothy may perhaps “stem from Paul” (303). If authentic, the PE could only fit Paul’s ministry after Acts, and must reflect Paul as a “broken,” “fearful” “old man,” “unable any longer to think through his magnificent old doctrinal formations” (304). Wansbrough connects the testamentary character of 2 Timothy with “the genre of farewell speech of a great leader” and such examples as The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, and provides a brief comparison of 2 Timothy with Paul’s farewell speech to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20. Regarding challenges to authenticity, Wansbrough highlights the “elementary advice” which Paul provides to Timothy and Titus, and the non-mention of “so many distinctive Pauline interests” (305).

The situation of the PE is characterized by false teaching, which Wansbrough uses all three letters to describe (not distinguishing between that in Ephesus and that in Crete). The “myths and genealogies” might involve pagan myths, Jewish haggadoth, or proto-Gnostic demiurges. In the end, little can be known about the false teaching. On the other hand, various hints point to what the writer considers “sound doctrine”; this usually involves “salvation and the way to salvation” (306), and is often contained in trustworthy sayings. The letters must be read against the background of mystery religions and/or the imperial cult, where the Emperor was “Savior” and “Lord,” and language of “epiphany” was used.

As to order in the community, Wansbrough finds the PE to enjoin conventional Hellenistic morality, “the virtues of public and private life stressed by Greek and Roman contemporary writers on morals, centered on moderation and restraint, piety and godliness” (308). In 1 Timothy 2, “institutional morality is re-affirmed, in that a woman should not have authority over a man,” which must be understood “against the background of the position of women in the societies of the time” (308); in a related sidebar, Wansbrough does not make the typical appeal to Gal 3:28 against 1 Timothy 2:9-15, but instead highlights 1 Cor 11:11-12 in this role. There is an “incipient institutionalization” in the PE, and Wansbrough discusses in turn overseers, widows (who are enrolled for alms; nothing is specified about an office), elders (Wansbrough distinguishes episkopoi from presbyteroi), and deacons (“no argument for or against the ordination of women to the diaconate in the early Church can be based” on 1 Tim 3:11) (310).

In sum, Wansbrough has set forth a fairly standard critical take on the PE. His “further reading” list, oddly, gives only a single volume: Frances Young, The Theology of the Pastoral Letters.

3 Part Series on Titus

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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.

Dunn on the Pastoral Epistles in Neither Jew nor Greek

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).

Powell on the Pastoral Epistles

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.

“Pauline Ecclesiology,” by David Downs

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.

New Monograph, Wealth in Ancient Ephesus

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.