Mission in the Pastoral Epistles: Two Newly Available Resources

In the twentieth century, the influential German commentary of Martin Dibelius (revised by Hans Conzelmann), Die Pastoralbriefe (4th ed.; HNT 13; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1966) was mediated to the English-speaking world in the Hermeneia series as The Pastoral Epistles (trans. Philip Buttolph and Adela Yarbro; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1972). One of the key points of influence was the christliche Bürgerlichkeit proposal popularized in the commentary. This idea of the “good Christian citizen” traded on the notion that the Pastorals were written in light of decreased expectation of the parousia, and that in order to survive a hostile world, believers were going to have to learn to settle in for the long haul. In Dibelius’s reading of the Pastorals, “settling in” meant “fitting in,” and the letters were concerned to help Christians maintain a low profile, so to speak, by living in such a way that the surrounding culture would look on with at least a measure of approval. Dibelius’s proposal was heavily grounded in 1 Tim 2:1-2, and found support in the concern with the perception of outsiders found throughout the letters.

The christliche Bürgerlichkeit proposal received significant pushback, however, when the mission-oriented nature of the letters was given its due. The monograph of Philip Towner, The Goal of Our Instruction: The Structure of Theology and Ethics in the Pastoral Epistles (JSNTSS 34; Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic, 1989; repr., Bloomsbury Academic Collections; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), provided an important response to Dibelius, which was later mediated through his influential NICNT commentary, The Letters to Timothy and Titus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006).

Towner, however, is not the only one who has emphasized the mission-oriented nature of the letters, and two works in the same vein have recently come to be available.

Chiao Ek Ho’s Aberdeen dissertation, “Do the Work of an Evangelist: The Missionary Outlook of the Pastoral Epistles” (2000), written under I. Howard Marshall, was unfortunately never published as a monograph, though its core substance was made available in “Mission in the Pastoral Epistles,” in Entrusted with the Gospel: Paul’s Theology in the Pastoral Epistles (ed. Andreas J. Köstenberger and Terry L. Wilder; Nashville: B&H: 2010), 241‒267. The dissertation itself may now be accessed at EThOS (here is the link, along with an abstract), and to my understanding has only recently been available. All students of the Pastorals should obtain it.

Additionally, Andreas J. Köstenberger has just produced an article-length treatment: “An Investigation of the Mission Motif in the Letters to Timothy and Titus with Implications for Pauline Authorship.” BBR 29.1 (2019): 49–64 (abstract and full article available here). This article is grounded in (and goes beyond) the biblical-theological work done on mission in the Pastorals as set forth in Köstenberger’s recent Commentary on 1‒2 Timothy & Titus (BTCP; Nashville, TN: Holman, 2017).

Belleville, “Lexical Fallacies in Rendering αὐθεντεῖν in 1 Timothy 2:12”

Linda Belleville, “Lexical Fallacies in Rendering αὐθεντεῖν in 1 Timothy 2:12: BDAG in Light of Greek Literary and Nonliterary Usage,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 29.3 (2019): 317–41.

On the basis of the studies of George Knight (1984) and Leland Wilshire (1988) in NTS, the 2000 edition of BDAG eliminated “domineer over” as a meaning of the Greek word αὐθεντέω and substituted “assume a stance of independent authority,” thereby calling into question lexicons dating from AD 1st-century Harpocration and translations of 1 Tim 2:12 dating back to the Old Latin, which render the phrase οὐδὲ αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός negatively as “nor to domineer over a man” or “nor to usurp authority over a man.” Indeed, examination of αὐθεντ- forms in Classical and Hellenistic literary and nonliterary materials shows that modern translations of αὐθεντεῖν as “to exercise authority” or “assume authority over” have no basis in the Greek of antiquity. Instead, “to murder” or “perpetrate a murder” surface exclusively in the literary materials, and “to domineer” or “to originate” appear without exception in the nonliterary materials.

This article follows two SBL presentations which discuss the same material: “What’s a Woman to Do? An Examination of authentein in 1 Timothy 2:12 in Light of Hellenistic Non-Literary Materials” (presentation at SBL Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, 20 November 2005) (abstract: https://www.sbl-site.org/meetings/abstract.aspx?id=2392); “A Translation Fallacy in Rendering αὐθεντεῖν in 1 Timothy 2:12: BDAG in Light of Greco-Roman Literary and Non-Literary Usage,” (presentation at SBL Annual Meeting, San Francisco, 21 November 2011) (abstract: https://www.sbl-site.org/meetings/abstract.aspx?id=19093)

The article follows a good bit of work done by Belleville on this and related passages, both in her 2009 Cornerstone commentary contribution on the Pastorals, as well as the following (chronologically): “1 Timothy,” in The IVP Women’s Bible Commentary (ed. Catherine Clark Kroeger and Mary J. Evans; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2002), 734‒747; “Exegetical Fallacies in Interpreting 1 Timothy 2:11–15,” Priscilla Papers 17.3 (2003): 3–11; “Teaching and Usurping Authority: 1 Timothy 2:11–15,” in Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy (ed. Ronald W. Pierce and Rebecca Merrill Groothuis; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004), 205–223; “Women in Ministry: An Egalitarian Perspective,” Pages 19‒104 in Two Views on Women in Ministry (ed. James R. Beck; 2nd edition; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005).

Cook, “μαλακοί and ἀρσενοκοῖται: In Defence of Tertullian’s Translation”

Recently, John Granger Cook published an article on the oft-debated terms μαλακοί and ἀρσενοκοῖται found in 1 Cor 6:9. Because the latter term, ἀρσενοκοῖται, is also found in 1 Tim 1:10, Cook’s work is of significance for students of the Pastorals.

John Granger Cook, “μαλακοί and ἀρσενοκοῖται: In Defence of Tertullian’s Translation.” New Testament Studies 65.3 (2019): 332–52

Here is the abstract: “The debate over the translation of μαλακοί and ἀρσενοκοῖται in 1 Cor 6.9 can and should be settled by a non-polemical and complete survey of the material now that comprehensive databases of ancient texts are available. The translation of ἀρσενοκοῖται by Tertullian, several Vetus Latina MSS and the Vulgate has the best evidential foundation. To establish the meaning of this term one has to turn to etymology and usage, a semantic domain of terms for sexual intercourse, and patristic and classical texts. Once the semantics of ἀρσενοκοίτης is better grounded, the ancient Latin translation of μαλακοί becomes the most probable.”

Cook’s article is the latest of numerous treatments which address the meaning of ἀρσενοκοῖται. Earlier bibliography includes the following:

John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 341–53; Robin Scroggs, The New Testament and Homosexuality (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983); David F. Wright, “Homosexuals or Prostitutes? The Meaning of ἀρσενοκοίται (1 Cor. 6:9, 1 Tim. 1:10),” Vigiliae Christianae 38.2 (1984): 125–53; William L. Petersen, “Can ἀρσενοκοίται Be Translated by ‘Homosexuals’? (I Cor. 6.9; I Tim. 1.10),” Vigiliae Christianae 40 (1986): 187–91; David F. Wright, “Translating ἀρσενοκοίται (1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10),” Vigiliae Christianae 41 (1987): 396–98; Henry Mendell, “ΑΡΣΕΝΟΚΟΙΤΑΙ” (unpublished paper, California State University, Los Angeles), 1990?; James B. De Young, “The Source and NT Meaning of ἀρσενοκοίται, with Implications for Christian Ethics and Ministry,” The Master’s Seminary Journal 3 (1992): 191–215; Dale B. Martin, “Arsenokoitês and Malakos: Meanings and Consequences,” in Biblical Ethics and Homosexuality: Listening to Scripture, ed. R. L. Brawley (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1996), 117–36; Raymond F. Collins, Sexual Ethics and the New Testament: Behavior and Belief (New York: Crossroad, 2000), 89–90; James B. De Young, Homosexuality: Contemporary Claims Examined in Light of the Bible and Other Ancient Literature and Law (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2000), 175–203; Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Nashville: Abingdon, 2001), 312–36; John H. Elliott, “No Kingdom of God for Softies? Or, What Was Paul Really Saying? 1 Corinthians 6:9–10 in Context,” Biblical Theology Bulletin 34.1 (2004): 17–40; G. R. Jepsen, “Dale Martin’s ‘Arsenokoités and Malakos’ Tried and Found Wanting,” Currents in Theology and Mission 33.5 (2006): 397–405; Linda Belleville, “The Challenges of Translating αρσενοκοι̂ται and μαλακοί in 1 Corinthians 6.9: A Reassessment in Light of Koine Greek and First-Century Cultural Mores,” Bible Translator 62.1 (2011): 22–29; Roy E. Ciampa, “‘Flee Sexual Immorality’: Sex and the City of Corinth” in The Wisdom of the Cross: Exploring 1 Corinthians (ed. Brian S. Rosner; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2011), 100–133; Milton L. Torres, “A Evidência Linguística e Extralinguística para a Tradução de arsenokoitai.” Revista Hermenêutica (Cachoeira-BA) 12.2 (2012): 25–49; S. Donald Fortson III and Rollin G. Grams, Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2016), 294–98; Simon Hedlund, “Who Are the ἀρσενοκοίται and Why Does Paul Condemn Them?,” Svensk Exegetisk Årsbok 82 (2017): 116–53; George M. Hollenback, “An Overlooked Backdrop to the Coining of ἀρσενοκοίτης,” Early Christianity 8.2 (2017): 269–73.

Hylen, “Women διάκονοι and Gendered Norms of Leadership”

Susan E. Hylen has produced an article on the γυναῖκες of 1 Tim 3:11: “Women διάκονοι and Gendered Norms of Leadership.” Journal of Biblical Literature 138.3 (2019): 687–702. This article follows work done in connection with women, and in connection with the Pastorals, in her monographs A Modest Apostle: Thecla and the History of Women in the Early Church (OUP, 2015) and Women in the New Testament World (OUP, 2019). I offer the following simply as a summary without evaluation, for the benefit of interested readers.

Here is the abstract: “Interpreters generally acknowledge that the syntax of 1 Tim 3:1–13 points to the presence of women διάκονοι. Many of these interpreters, however, are tentative or deny the presence of women διάκονοι because of their assumptions about gendered social norms of the period. I argue that early readers of 1 Timothy would understand the ideals represented in the qualifications for διάκονοι as applying to women as well as to men. I assess social norms and practices of the period, especially in and around Ephesus, including the gendered virtues used to honor high-status women of the time. I conclude that the women introduced in 3:11 would likely have been understood as women holding the same titles as the male διάκονοι, just as women held many of the same civic and religious titles as their male peers.”

I’ll paraphrase and expand on that a bit: Hylen understands the διάκονοι, both male and female, to be community leaders of some sort (and this is not a novel understanding, particularly since John Collins’s Diakonia [1990]). Many scholars are influenced by the syntax and structure of 1 Timothy 3 to understand the “women” of 1 Tim 3:11 to be female διάκονοι equivalent to the male διάκονοι in the preceding verses, not (necessarily) their wives. However, because they read 1 Tim 3 in light of the restrictions of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 (particularly regarding women’s speech), and what they understand to be the restrictive social norms for NT-era women in Ephesus, they then reject the understanding that the “women” could have held leadership roles.

Hylen argues to the contrary that this line of thinking misunderstands the complex nature of the social roles of the time. Women were understood as “inherently inferior to men” (690), yes, but this was not necessarily considered a deal-breaker as regards leadership roles. Hylen adduces evidence that both married and unmarried women independently owned and controlled property, acted as patrons, held religious and civic office, and spoke out when appropriate. Therefore, Hylen argues, the virtues often applied to them should not (always) be read and translated in ways that suggest passivity and subordination, but in ways which reflect this active participation (e.g., σωφροσύνη as “self-control” rather than “modesty”). Hylen argues further that “multiple norms shaped the social world in this period” (697), such that on the one hand “women were expected to be subordinate to men who were their social peers” but were also viewed favorably in some cases when they were involved in public speaking or leadership roles.

Given this background, Hylen does not read the qualifications for the “women” of 1 Tim 3:11 in terms of subordination and passivity, but as connected with leadership roles. In this context, she takes a position on 1 Tim 3:12 which to my knowledge is unique: while arguing that male διάκονοι are addressed in vv. 8-10, and female διάκονοι are addressed in v. 11, she finds that both male and female διάκονοι are addressed in v. 12. To the anticipated objection that the “one-woman man” qualification of v. 12 could hardly apply to women, Hylen argues that “[i]t was common to speak of a mixed-gender group using vocabulary that indicated men alone” (699).

In sum, Hylen does not argue “that men and women were considered equal, for this would certainly have been anachronistic in the Roman period. … Nevertheless, women’s capacities to own property and act as patrons were also enshrined in law and social practice. Women of the period negotiated complex social norms that encouraged both deference and leadership” (702).

Lookadoo reviews Theobald, Israel-Vergessenheit in den Pastoralbriefen

Michael Theobald is a German academic who published rather extensively on the Pastorals in his later career. To my knowledge, however, all of his work on the letters is in German (save for the just-published entry on Titus in The Paulist Bible Commentary), and so English-speaking students of the Pastorals may not be as familiar with his scholarship.

The single monograph Theobald produced on the Pastorals was published in 2016: Israel-Vergessenheit in den Pastoralbriefen: Ein neuer Vorschlag zu ihrer historisch-theologischen Verortung im 2. Jahrhundert. n. Chr. unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Ignatius-Briefe [Forgetting Israel in the Pastoral Letters: A New Proposal for Their Historical-Theological Location in the 2nd Century A.D. with Special Consideration of the Ignatius Letters]. In this work, he examines the origination of the Pastorals through the lens of the topic of Israel. He is particularly concerned to compare the engagement with Israel in Romans (another book in which he specializes) over against what he finds to be a lack of engagement with Israel in the Pastorals. He ends up dating the letters to c. 140 AD.

Jonathan Lookadoo has served English-speaking students of the Pastorals well by reviewing Theobald’s monograph for RBL, and has graciously agreed to upload the review to Academia, allowing general access. In his review, he notes Theobald’s valuable highlighting of connections between Romans and the Pastorals, and appreciates the case Theobald makes for reading Titus as the first of the Pastorals. Lookadoo notes, “Those who argue for authentically Pauline Pastoral Epistles or for another first-century date will likely take issue with some of Theobald’s arguments, but this does not take away from the value of his study. “

Use this link to read the entire review.

Nijay Gupta on Pastorals Commentaries

Over at the Logos Academic Blog, Nijay Gupta has been posting a series titled “Best Commentaries on Paul.” In his latest installation, he discusses what he finds to be the best modern technical (*Johnson, Marshall, Towner), semi-technical (*Dunn, Kelly, Spencer, Wall/Steele), and non-technical (*Fee, Oden, Towner) commentaries on the Pastorals, adding Trebilco’s Asia Bible Commentary contribution on 1 Timothy as a “hidden gem.”

The Pastorals at SBL International 2019

Despite the lengthy list of sessions at the SBL 2019 International Meeting, to be held in Rome this year, I noted only two which clearly engaged the Pastorals:

Dogara Ishaya Manomi, “‘Texts of Terror’ or ‘Texts of Honor’? Re-reading the ‘Household Codes’ in Titus Virtue-ethically as an Interpretive and Appropriative Paradigm.” (abstract)

Michael Scott Robertson, “Resistance to Rome in Titus.” (abstract)

(Note previous posts on Pastorals sessions scheduled for ETS 2019 and SBL 2019)


For SBL members, RBL still has copies of Bray, Yarbrough, van Nes, and Joshua for review (see previous post for volume details).

In Journal of Theological Studies 70.2 (2019), Markus Vinzent reviews Harry Maier’s Picturing Paul in Empire: Imperial Image, Text and Persuasion in Colossians, Ephesians and the Pastoral Epistles.

In Churchman 133.3 (2019), John Percival reviews Jonathan I. Griffiths, Preaching in the New Testament: An Exegetical and Biblical-Theological Study, which has a chapter devoted to 2 Timothy 3-4.

James Prothro provides a brief review of Yarbrough, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, in Religious Studies Review 45.2 (2019): 213-14.

In Bulletin for Biblical Research 29.1 (2019): 110-13, Roy Ciampa reviews Jermo van Nes, Pauline Language and the Pastoral Epistles. (pdf)

The Pastorals in NTA 63.2 (2019)

Here are the Pastorals-related items I noted in the latest edition of New Testament Abstracts (63.2 [2019]). As with the last volume of NTA, the letters are quite well represented.

(789) Janusz Wilk, “Charakterystyka Tymoteusza w 1 Tes 3,2 (The Character of Timothy in 1Thess 3,2).” Collectanea Theologica [Warsaw] 84.3 (2014): 19–30.

(790) Johannes Beutler, “Diakoninnen, Presbyter und Episkopen: Kirchliche Ämter in den Pastoralbriefen.” Stimmen der Zeit 237.1 (2019): 3–12.

(791) Paul Himes, “The Use of the Aorist Imperative in the Pastoral Epistles.” Filologia Neotestamentaria 23.43 (2010): 73‒92. [Yes, “2010” is correct!]

(792) Annette B. Huizenga, “God’s Household Management: 1 Timothy 1:4.” The Bible Today 57.3 (2019): 157–64.

(793) Marjorie J. Cooper, “Analysis and Conclusions regarding 1 Timothy 2:9–3:1a.” Presbyterion 45.1 (2019): 96–107.

(794) Timothy D. Foster, “1 Timothy 2:13–15 as Analogy.” Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters 7.1–2 (2017): 53–67.

(795) Frank F. Judd, “Ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου in 1 Timothy 6:13 and Ante-Nicene Christian Literature.” Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters 8.1–2 (2018): 62–80.

(796) Koskenniemi, Erkki. “The Famous Liar and the Apostolic Truth.” Filologia Neotestamentaria 24.44 (2011): 59‒69. [Yes, “2011” is correct!]

(pp. 363-64) Conflict Management and the Apostle Paul. Edited by Scot McKnight and Greg Mamula. Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2018. This volume contains a chapter of interest by Kristen Bennett Marble and Jared Willemin: “Addressing False Teaching and Heresy: Paul as Guardian of the Gospel—1-2 Timothy and Titus” (pp. 145­–71).

(p. 365) Paul and Scripture. Edited by Stanley E. Porter and Christopher D. Land. Pauline Studies 10. Leiden: Brill, 2019. Included in this volume is a chapter by Arland J. Hultgren, “The Pastoral Epistles and the Scriptures of Israel” (pp. 372‒90).

(pp. 370-71) Ursula Ulrike Kaiser, Die Rede von “Wiedergeburt” im Neuen Testament: Ein metapherntheoretisch orientierter Neuansatz nach 100 Jahren Forschungsgeschichte.Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 413. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2018. The volume contains significant discussions of Titus 3:5 vis-a-vis its use of παλιγγενεσία.

(pp. 373-74) “Make Disciples of All Nations”: The Appeal and Authority of Christian Faith in Hellenistic-Roman Times. Edited by Loren T. Stuckenbruck, Beth Langstaff, and Michael Tilly. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2/482. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2019. This volume contains one of the latest offerings of Korinna Zamfir: “Eusebeia, Sōtēria and Civic Loyalty in the Pastoral Epistles” (pp. 121‒42).

(p. 382) Susan F. Hylen, Women in the New Testament World. Essentials of Biblical Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019. Hylen engages 1 Timothy at a number of places in the volume; in the volume’s Scripture index, there are more passages from 1 Timothy than from any other book.

(p. 388) Veronika Niederhofer, Konversion in den Paulus- und Theklaakten: Eine narrative Form der Paulusrezeption. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2/459. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2017. This volume contains a brief section on “Die Acta Pauli und die Pastoralbriefe,” pp. 25–27.

Abstracts for Ethics in Titus Conference

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of participating in the “Ethics in Titus” conference held at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. The conference was hosted by the Research Center for Ethics in Antiquity and Christianity, which is ably led by Prof. Dr. Ruben Zimmermann. In leading this conference Prof. Zimmermann was joined by Dogara Manomi, who has just submitted his doctoral thesis on Titus under Prof. Zimmermann’s supervision. They both were excellent hosts for a stimulating conversation with papers, wonderful meals and even a tour of the city.

They have graciously allowed us to post here the abstracts from the papers of the conference. The papers are to be published in a forthcoming volume in the Context and Norms of New Testament Ethics series within WUNT (Mohr Siebeck).