Authorship and Date

It seems to me that the authorship question will never be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.  What is interesting is how scholarly fashions change.  It was not that long ago that commentators could confidently claim “scholarly consensus” on the pseudepigraphical nature of the PE.  The current scholarly climate makes that consensus far less secure.  It seems to me, regardless of authorship, that there is a genuine move to date the Pastorals much earlier than the previous generation of PE scholarship.  An early date, of course, has always been held by those accepting Pauline authorship but there are now others such as Howard Marshall, Richard Bauckham and myself who, although unpersuaded by Pauline authorship, accept that the letters are first century, probably second-generation, documents.

Reflections on Requiring My Own Book

In the previous post, I wrote that last Spring semester, I required my undergrad Pastoral Epistles class to purchase and write book reports on my book, Leadership Succession in the World of the Pauline Circle.  I want to unpack my comment.

I came to KCU in fall 2003.  I have taught the Pastoral Epistles to undergrads (300-level) every spring since then.  I have also taught these letters in an online graduate seminar.

The graduate seminar students had few problems with my book.  They understood it, were able to summarize the contents, and even offered a few helpful criticisms. 

The Spring 2006 class: half the class was completely lost.  One of the problems was that I had several second-semester Freshmen in the class.  Freshmen should not take 300- or 400-level Bible classes.  (Of course, ONE of the Freshmen actually did handle the book pretty well.)

I did not require the book in Spring 2004 or 2005, because it had not been released yet.  But my impression of my students in those semesters was that they would have been able to handle the book, and would have benefitted from it even as they struggled with it. 

My observations:

  1. The quality of students in a given class can fluctuate wildly from
    semester to semester.  This is frustrating for those of us professors
    who really want our students to understand and benefit from the
    material we try to teach them.
  2. This is also one of the attendant joys of trying to teach serious Biblical studies classes in a Liberal Arts setting.  In some of my Bible classes, I’ll have 30-40% of the students who are ministry majors.  I may teach the same class the next year, but have only 10% of the students majoring in Bible or ministry.
  3. I tried to aim the book so that educated ministers, church leaders, etc., could benefit from it.  It was not just written for eggheads like me.  Most semesters, my Pastoral Epistles classes would have gotten it.
  4. I should quit beating myself up for requiring the book, and just chalk it up to experience. 
  5. Will I require future undergraduate classes to purchase and use my book?  Yes, but I’ll check the majors of preregistered students, etc., to determine ahead of time if they can handle the book. 

What I’m Doing with My Christmas Vacation

So what am I doing over my Christmas break?

BIG TASK #1: generating syllabi for not one but TWO Pastoral Epistles-related classes for the spring. 

  1. FIRST is a 300-level class in the Pastorals.  I’ve taught this class every spring since I’ve been at KCU and have NOT been happy with it, ever.  Previously, I’ve taught it where the students had to write several small research papers on issues like authorship, women in the PE, etc.  I’ve also done it with other types of projects and papers.  THIS SEMESTER, I’m going to have students make group presentation on the hot topics (women in the church, church discipline, etc.)
  2. SECOND is a class in expository preaching, which I’m teaching because our preaching professor left and hasn’t been replaced.  I’m going to focus on exegesis and sermon development, and the Pastorals will be our primary text.

What books are we using?  Towner’s new commentary; Luke Johnson’s offering from the Knox Preaching Guides, which I’ve had reprinted; Mark Harding’s What Are They Saying about the Pastoral Epistles?; I think that’s it.

Last spring, I required students in the undergrad class to purchase and write a book report on my book, Leadership Succession in the World of the Pauline Circle.  It was a disaster.  I felt guilty about requiring my students to spend $85 on my book, and it was WAY too far over their heads.

So now I only require it for my graduate seminar in the Pastorals. 

Other things I’m doing, non-Pastorals related:

  • BIG TASK #2: Installing Pergo on the top floor of our house.  It’s a
    Christmas present for both me and my wife.  Honestly, it’s more a
    present for my wife, but I’ve always wanted it too!
  • Doing all kinds of church and ministry related stuff;
  • Doing all kinds of family stuff–Christmas concerts, basketball practice, daddy’s taxi service, shopping and cleaning up;
  • Teaching an online class (200-level Gospel of Luke) from 15 December through the end of January.  I’ve got a ton of emails and online discussion posts to read every day.  (We’re using SAKAI, btw, and it ain’t great.)
  • And (of course) watching football and eating way too much.

Who were the Pastoral Epistles written to?

Of course we have the testimony of the epistles themselves along with the traditional titles proclaiming Timothy and Titus as recipients.

Some have taken issue with this on the basis of testimony within the epistles, particularly First Timothy.

After all, if Timothy had been with Paul for years (cf. Ac 16.1-5) and was beloved of Paul to the degree that Paul called him his “true child in the faith” (cf. 1Ti 1.2; 2Ti 2.2) why did Paul spend so much time on seemingly basic things? You know, like qualifications for overseers and deacons? Wouldn’t Timothy have known that stuff cold based on his previous experience?

And why the extended superscription with Paul justifying his apostleship with one of the longest such statements he uses (1Ti 1.1; 2Ti 1.1) for such purposes: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope”.

Paul didn’t really need to justify his apostleship for Timothy (you know, co-sender of a bunch of Paul’s epistles?), did he?

Same stuff goes for Titus.

I have my own ideas, of course, and they’re relatively mainstream. But I’m curious as to what others might think about these things.

Who was intended to receive (or intended to hear, if you think there is a distinction) the letters to Timothy? And the letter to Titus? And what was their purpose?

Feel free to use the comments. If you blog about it on your own blog, drop me a note [pe | pastoralepistles | com] and I’ll add a link here. Thanks!

Scot McKnight on 1Ti 2.8-15

Scot McKnight, author of several books and a blogger to boot (see his blog Jesus Creed) posts about that one passage in the Pastorals that everyone seems to gravitate toward: 1Ti 2.8-15.

McKnight reviews a few chapters from a book by Sarah Sumner called Men and Women in the Church. But what you really want to read through is the comment thread on the post — all sorts of opinions are being aired there.

If you’re interested in this sort of thing, you may want to check out the post and the comments.

Update: I realize I’ve blogged somewhat on this topic before; mostly thinking-out-loud sorts of posts. The posts go together; the second post really needs to be read after the first one. Check ’em out in the old blog for more info:


More on Pseudepigraphy

Rob Bradshaw, of the ever-helpful, has recently posted the following article:

Donald Guthrie, “The Development of the Idea of Canonical Pseudopigraphy in New Testament Criticism,” Vox Evangelica 1 (1962): 43-59.

With the necessity to consider the view that the Pastoral Epistles are pseudepigraphal (or perhaps “allonymical”?), the article — which I have not read — sounds like one to read.

Note that Guthrie is the author of the Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles.

Update (2006-12-12): I’ve read the article now and can recommend it. Guthrie unsurprisingly concludes that those who support a theory of canonical pseudepigrapha have built upon a shoddy foundation. Well worth the reading.

Allonymity, Wayne Brindle and Michael Bird

While at the recent AAR/SBL meetings, I took in a paper by Wayne Brindle in the Disputed Paulines group. The paper was “Pseudonymity and the Pastoral Epistles: An Evangelical Response to I. Howard Marshall’s ‘Allonymity’ Proposal”.

Michael Bird of the Euangelion blog took in the paper as well, and asked a question at the end. Here’s Mike’s reporting of the encounter:

Wayne Brindle gave an interesting paper that was a response to I. Howard Marshall’s proposal of “Allonymity” in the Pastorals. Much as I favour Pauline authorship (but it is not quite clear cut either!) I think Brindle was unable to show that authority is dependent on authenticity. When I asked about Hebrews (i.e. the Church accepted Hebrews because they thought it was Pauline, despite the fact that it’s clearly not Pauline) he responded by saying that anonymous authorship makes Pauline authorship possible.

I don’t think that Brindle’s point was that authority is dependent on authenticity. My understanding of Brindle’s position was that when a the author of a document (and therefore sender, situation, etc.) is purposefully misrepresented (whatever the intentions of that misrepresentation might be) then the document itself is predicated on a falsehood and should be realised as such. In the epistles we have in the NT, this is much more the case because their interpretation and exegesis is so dependent on the stated setting and circumstances being authentic or at least reliable. Therefore, if the documents are seen as not authored by Paul then there are serious issues that affect one’s reading of the documents.

Hebrews is different than epistles that adhere to more of a letter form because, at least in the editions that have been transmitted down to us today, no author is specified. Early tradition, of course, specified Paul as the author. We don’t cotton to that today that much, with most folks taking the classic line that “only God knows who wrote Hebrews”. Since no author is explicitly claimed within the body of the epistle, falsely claimed authorship is not a problem as regards establishing authenticity of the epistle (though I’d rather call it a homily than an epistle, but that’s an altogether different question). In other words, the very difference between anonymity and pseudonymity means that anonymity doesn’t necessarily lead to the credibility problem that pseudononymity portends.

One of the books I purchased at SBL is Ben Witherington III’s Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, Volume I which deals with the Pastoral Epistles. Witherington (who blogs as well) has a great analysis of the problem of psuedonymity that largely aligns with Brindle’s view, though Witherington’s conclusions are a bit less dogmatic that Brindle’s. I also purchased Towner’s NICNT edition on the Pastorals, and he draws a line similar to Witherington, taking some issue with the allonymity proposal put forth in I. Howard Marshall’s ICC volume.

My bottom line: If we’re using authorship as an indicator of authenticity, then while both Hebrews and the Pastorals have some authorship questions that affect the question of authenticity, they both have different questions due to the statements of authorship each document makes. The recent work of Witherington, Towner and Brindle go a long way to show that pseudonymous documents weren’t necessarily benign as many have stated, and that simply calling pseudonymity by another name (i.e. ‘allonymity’) doesn’t do much to solve the problem.

Update (2006-12-28): Michael Bird provides some clarification in the comments. Here’s the salient bit:

My point would be to say that even if the Pastoral are pseudonymous that they are not necessarily any less ‘canonical’ since they still contain the apostolic message (Ehrman grants as much!). I recognize that there is a difference between Hebrews and the Pastorals concerning the explicit naming of the author, but if the early church got the authorship of certain writings wrong (i.e. wrongly attributed Hebrews to Paul or did perceive a well-intentioned pseudonymity in the Pastorals) the canon is no the worse off for it. All in all, I favour Pauline authorship (esp. of 2 Timothy), but we have to face up to the “but what if” question as to how it impacts canonical authority. What I want to avoid is a kind of retreat from the hard questions of authorship based on an underlying assumption that “I do not think it would have been right for God to give us the Bible this way, i.e. through pseudonymity”. I want to make sure that our theology of biblical inspiration is based on the textual and historical phenomenon of the NT itself, rather than re-writing the textual and historical phenomenon to suit a certain model of inspiration.

I agree. When I heard Michael’s question at the session, my immediate thought was “but allonymity (or pseudonymy) isn’t anonymity, so I don’t follow his point”. I agree that if one espouses Pauline authorship that it’s a bit disingenuous to respond to authorship challenges by saying “But it says Paul wrote it … “. I just think the arguments for allonymity or “well-intentioned psuedonymity” are wanting because actual examples of well-intentioned pseudonymity in the early church were not exactly welcomed. Witherington and Brindle both provide examples of this.

And all of this reminds me of a Fred Danker quote I read at a chapter head in John Lee’s book on New Testament Lexicography: “Change spells pain, but … scholar’s tasks are ‘not for sissies’. ” Those of us (and I am one) who hold to Pauline authorship need to make sure we don’t take the “sissy way” out of the argument. But the same holds true for those on the other end of the authorship spectrum as well.

Bourgeois Christianity?

This is my first post and I am honoured to be involved in this blog with Rick and Perry.  I echo the comments made by Perry in his first post.  I would like to offer some thoughts that I hope will generate some discussion.  As a first post I will restrict my comments to very general ones.  I am sure the discussion will lead us to more specific deliberations.

The (previous) scholarly consensus on the Pastoral Epistles (PE) is that they are late documents reflecting Pauline communities which had become institutionalised and had come to terms with the delay of the Parousia by settling down into a form of accommodation with the wider society.  My work disputes a number of aspects of this consensus and remains in dialogue with the Hermeneia commentary on the PE by Martin Dibelius and Hans Conzelmann in which Dibelius famously argued that the PE promote the ideal of good christian citizenship (christliche Bürgerlichkeit) – a form of bourgeois christianity.

In my book, The Polemic of the Pastorals, I argued that the letters do not reflect communities in which Paul’s vision of the church as a charismatic community has faded through the process of institutionalisation.  My current work focuses on the communities’ wider relationship with society.  I am intrigued by the rhetorical function of 2 Tim 3:12.  This verse receives scant attention in the Hermeneia commentary.  Although sympathetic to the current emphasis on treating each letter separately and not taking the PE as a literary corpus, I personally remain convinced by the results of older scholarship that for reasons of style, vocabulary, etc. they should, with due sensitivity, be treated together.  If so, the presence of a text like 2 Tim 3:12 in this corpus means that it is problematic to read 1 Tim 2:1-2 as a straightforward indication that the communities have accommodated themselves to society.  For example, 16th century Anabaptists, who were persecuted by both Protestants and Catholics, regularly quoted 2 Tim 3:12 (it is one of the most cited texts in Martyrs Mirror, the Anabaptist martyrology first published in 1660), yet they also freely made use of 1 Tim 2:1-2.  For example, Article XXVII of the Mennonite Confession of Faith (dated around 1600) begins: “we confess: [t]hat the office of magistracy is an ordinance and institution of God who Himself willed and ordained that such a power should be over every country in order that thereby countries and cities might, through good policy and laws, for the punishment of the evil and the protection of the pious, be governed and maintained in quiet and peace, in a good civil life …” (my emphasis).  In this case persecuted Christians could echo the prayer expressed in 1 Tim 2:1-2 precisely because they were persecuted and marginalised in society.  It seems to me that the PE can be read as instructions to communities who recognise only too well that the subversive claims of the gospel (e.g. God, not Caesar, as saviour) could lead to persecution at any time.  If we take seriously Ephesus as the destination of 1 and 2 Timothy then is it illegitimate to view some of the vocabulary of at least these two letters in the PE as in conscious dialogue with the imperial cult?

I look forward to your comments!

Updates and News

As you’ve likely noticed, there have been several changes here at

The biggest change is that there is now more than one blogger. In addition to Rick Brannan (yours truly), Perry L. Stepp, Lloyd Pietersen and Ray Van Neste have agreed to begin posting to

Perry is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Kentucky Christian University. He’s recently had a book published by the Sheffield Phoenix Press, Leadership Succession in the World of the Pauline Circle. He’s also presented papers at SBL in the Disputed Paulines group. It’s great to have him aboard.

There will likely be at least one more blogger added to the team; more information on that in a future post.

Lloyd is a Research Fellow in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies  at the University of Bristol. Here’s some further information on Dr. Pietersen from his web site:

Dr Lloyd Pietersen obtained his PhD from the University of Sheffield. His thesis has been published as The Polemic of the Pastorals: A Sociological Examination of the Development of Pauline Christianity (JSNTSup 264; London/New York: T & T Clark International, 2004). He is currently a Research Fellow in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Bristol and is co-chair of the Social World of the New Testament Seminar at the British New Testament Conference.

Ray is Assistant Professor of Christian Studies and Director of the R.C. Ryan Center for Biblical Studies at Union University. He is also author of Cohesion and Structure in the Pastoral Epistles (JSNTSup 280; Lonon/New York: T&T Clark International, 2004). And he has his own personal blog too.

What is this site all about, then?

Well, it’s about the Pastoral Epistles. Folks who blog here have a more-than-average interest in the Pastorals. We’ll blog about stuff like:

  • Quick reviews of books, articles, chapters, etc. that we read that have to do with the Pastorals. The same book or article may be discussed by multiple authors on the site.
  • Extended reviews.
  • Reviews of or interaction with conference presentations or papers.
  • Interaction with other web sites, blog posts, etc. that mention things that primarily or tangentially refer to the Pastoral Epistles.
  • Thoughts, musings and whatnot. We’ll feel free to use the blog as a scratch pad of sorts as we think through topics or exegetical points having to do with the Pastoral Epistles.
  • Whatever else seems interesting to us, as long as we can relate it back to the Pastorals.

If you’re familiar with the older site, it is still available at Content may or may not migrate over to the new site.

Anyway, thanks for your support of the site. Please bear with us while we get the place set up. And please do update your RSS / Feed reader links. The new link is You can use this in any feedreader/aggregator or online tool such as BlogLines.

Tell your friends!