Towner on the context of Titus

[an aside: I sometimes wonder if, when mentioning a scholar or work on the PE, we shouldn’t immediately tag the author with a short, 3-5 word description of his/her view of authorship]

In his new commentary (NICNT), Philip Towner (authorship: Pauline via a free amanuensis) introduces what is (at least to me) a new argument regarding the context of Titus.  He points to local Cretan mythology regarding Zeus as a deified / ascended Cretan king (thus born on the island, NOT on Olympus), etc., and how Cretan portrayals of Zeus are of a long-haired young man, with all the impulsiveness and lusts of youth.

These myths, Towner argues, provide the backdrop for reading Titus.  And the first interpretive key to the letter is 1.2b, hO APSEDHS QEOS.  From there, Towner reads the letter as polemically engaging the Cretan views of Zeus AND empire and emperor (“appearing,” descriptions of God’s character, etc.)

Has anyone other than Towner read Titus on this basis?  Has anyone critiqued this reading, beyond a brusque and reactionary “the PE are pseudonymous, Towner thinks they’re Pauline”?



I have deliberately kept out of the discussion on authorship to date but I’ll add my thoughts here seeing as all our other contributors have commented.  I agree totally that too much in the past has been made of differences in style, ecclesiology, theology, etc. and I am pleased that recent scholarship has questioned the basis on which the old scholarly consensus was formed.  Perry also rightly raises the question of these letters initial reception.  Richard Bauckham addresses this question in “Pseudo-Apostolic Letters”, JBL 107 (1988), 469-94.  He writes: “For any pseudepigraphical letter which has the didactic aims of NT letters must find some such way of bridging the gap between the supposed addressee(s) and the real readers, which the pseudepigraphical letter as a genre seems necesarily to create” (p. 476).   Bauckham argues that material in the PE concerning false teaching fulfils this function (p. 493).  Furthermore, he argues, if the situation “Paul” foresees after his death is the situation of the real readers, then Timothy and Titus are part of this situation.  Consequently, if the PE are pseudepigraphical, then they have to be written, on Bauckham’s analysis, within the lifetime of Timothy and Titus (and with their full collusion).

I reach similar conclusions by an entirely different route.  I have argued that the PE function sociologically as a literary form of a status degradation ceremony.  For this to work sociologically this means that at least Timothy and Titus, if not Paul (as the prime actors), have to be real actors in the ceremony.  This means either they are authentic (all 3 actors are real) or they are written within the lifetime of Timothy and Titus (i.e. within one generation of Paul’s death).

Neither Bauckham’s analysis or mine, of course, proves the inauthenticity of the PE but Bauckham persuasively, both in the above article and in his Word commentary on 2 Peter, argues for the inauthenticity of the latter.  He roots the procedure of 2 Peter in the conventions of Jewish testamentary genre: “The pseudepigraphal device is therefore not a fraudulent means of claiming apostolic authority, but embodies a claim to be a faithful mediator of the apostolic message. Recognizing the canonicity of 2 Peter means recognizing the validity of that claim, and it is not clear that this is so alien to the early church’s criteria of canonicity as is sometimes alleged” Richard J. Bauckham, vol. 50, Word Biblical Commentary: 2 Peter, Jude (Dallas: Word, 2002), 161.  Do others here accept the pseudepigraphical nature of 2 Peter?

If there is at least one pseudepigraphical letter in the NT canon we cannot therefore argue on theological/ideological grounds alone for the authenticity of the PE.  I personally find, despite the reservations of my colleagues here, Howard Marshall’s allonymity arguments persuasive.

Thing 1, Thing 2

To quote the great theologian Dr. Seuss:

Thing 1: have we adequately thought through the fact that, even under the current consensus (deceptive pseudonymity a generation or more after Paul’s death), the PE were received by the original audience as genuinely Pauline? 

Whatever the case with authorship–and I don’t buy the standard arguments–when we posit some kind of deceptive pseudonymity, we are a. acting as resistant readers, and b. marginalizing or ignoring the way the letters were heard by the original audience(s).

Thing 2: when the PE mention houses or families (e.g., OIKOS in Titus 1.11, “misleading whole families“, what is the possibility that this is a reference to HOUSE CHURCHES (a home-based congregation within the network of house churches) rather than a nuclear or extended family, whatever constituted such in that day and culture?

Titus 1:6, believing/faithful children

[NB: Ray Van Neste is the author of this post; the name changed in the database when Rick cleared up some link issues]

I had thought for sometime about writing something on the interpretation of Titus 1:6. In stating the qualifications for serving as an elder/pastor the text states that “his children are believers.” It could also be translated “his children are faithful.” The standard commentaries do not wrestle much with this issue, but it is huge in considering who should serve in this important role. In dialogue with Justin Taylor I discovered he had written a paper on this very topic. I am very pleased to see it is now available in the most recent 9 Marks newsletter. This is a well written piece and I commend it to you. I agree wholeheartedly with Justin that the text is not requiring that a pastor’s children be Christians but that they be submissive and obedient.

A.Q. Morton, Stylometric Analysis, Pastoral Epistles, and C.S. Lewis?

Christianity Today’s website has an article titled “Shedding Light on The Dark Tower: A C.S. Lewis Mystery Solved“. (h/t Targuman. Thanks, Chris!)

The backstory: There is a somewhat questionable work attributed to C.S. Lewis titled The Dark Tower. Katherine Lindskoog has disputed Lewis’ authorship of this work (and some other writings attributed to Lewis after his death). She published a book with her case.

In 1994, with the release of the Lewis bio-pic Shadowlands, an updated and revised version of her book was released. And the re-release included stylometric analysis to “prove” Lewis wasn’t the author. Here’s the paragraph from the CT story:

With the 1994 release of the movie Shadowlands, Lindskoog reissued her book as Light in the Shadowlands, adding two new chapters. In this edition, she reported on a new study by the Rev. A. Q. Morton, which employed cusum (cumulative sum) statistical analysis of the first 23 sentences of chapter one of The Dark Tower, the first 24 sentences of chapter four, and the first 25 sentences of chapter seven, comparing them with similar passages from Out of the Silent Planet and That Hideous Strength. This type of style analysis has been used to prove that Shakespeare did not write his plays, that Paul did not write some epistles attributed to him, and that Jesus did not speak some sayings attributed to him. It assumes that a person’s use of language remains constant over one’s lifetime and in all situations. Morton concluded that Lewis could not have written chapters one and four, but that he did write chapter seven. Therefore, The Dark Tower was “a composite work.

The Point: A.Q. Morton’s work has been cited numerous times to support the argument that lexically, linguistically and stylistically, Paul couldn’t have written any of the Pastoral Epistles. Any discussion of authorhship of Pauline material usually cites a number of articles and a few books by Morton. He did, I would guess, use the same style of analysis here in examining Lewis’ work.

Note also that Morton’s analysis sounds sort of like P.N. Harrison’s “fragmentary” hypothesis of the Paulines. Could The Dark Tower be Walter Hooper’s pseudeipigraphic paean to Lewis? Tha’s what the stylometrist would have us believe.

Most of Lindskoog’s case (from what I can tell by the CT article) rests on her internalized read of what Lewis’ authorial tone should sound like; and The Dark Tower doesn’t sound like Lewis to her. That, plus she contends that there was no one living to confirm Hooper’s attribution of the work to Lewis — the only name he could muster has long since passed away. Because it couldn’t be proven directly, it was suspect. And the stylometric analysis proved it, at least from her perspective.

However, in this case we have a smoking gun. Lindskoog and Morton are wrong. The CT article continues (which I quote at length):

In 2003, Fowler wrote an essay for the Yale Review about Lewis as a doctoral supervisor. (I included his article in C. S. Lewis Remembered, a collection of essays by former students of Lewis.) Fowler began studies with Lewis in 1952. In describing how Lewis lectured, read, and supervised, Fowler also discussed how Lewis wrote.

In the Yale Review article, he mentioned that their relationship went to a different level when Lewis discovered that Fowler had writer’s block with a piece of fantasy he was attempting. Lewis helped Fowler through his block and continued to ask how Fowler’s fiction was coming. Fowler then added this about Lewis’s writing habits:

Not that he always wrote without difficulty; sometimes he had to set a project aside for a long period. He showed me several unfinished or abandoned pieces (his notion of supervision included exchanging work in progress); these included “After Ten Years,” The Dark Tower, and Till We Have Faces. Another fragment, a time-travel story, had been aborted after only a few pages.

Lewis told Fowler that getting to another world was a particular problem that had forced him to give up on several stories.

“Lewis certainly talked about TDT [The Dark Tower],” Fowler wrote to me. “He said he had been unable to carry it further. He didn’t say when he had written the fragment. I got the impression that tdt had been meant as a sequel, but I have no idea at what stage in the development of the published trilogy.”

“Like many fantasy writers,” Fowler wrote, “Lewis wasn’t much interested in the question of the literary quality of his writing.”

And there you have it. Stylometric analysis can be wrong. In this case, very likely using the same techniques, carried out by the same man (A.Q. Morton) responsible for the primary cited sources that conclude Paul couldn’t have written some of the epistles attributed to him, made the wrong conclusion.

Realize that even if one limits Lewis’ writing to his fantasy writings (even just to one volume of his Space Trilogy), that’s more material by far than we have for Paul. In other words, stylometry would be much more likely to get the C.S. Lewis case correct! But it didn’t work. Stylometrists have even less material upon which to base their conclusions regarding Paul and the NT. So in what esteem should we hold their conclusions? (Note I say conclusions, not the underlying work — stylometry need not only be marshalled in the argument about authorship!)

The lesson: Stylometry can be interesting, but it can tell us nothing definite regarding authorship of the letters within the Pauline corpus.

Thanks, Christianity Today!

Ben Witherington III on the Pastoral Epistles

One of the books I purchased at the 2006 SBL national meeting in DC was Ben Witherington’s new socio-rhetorical commentary on the Pastorals (and 1-3 John), Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians.

I’ve been slowly working my way through the introduction to the whole book. I’ve also read his intros to Titus and First Timothy.

Some notables, in no particular order:

  • Witherington posits Pauline authorship with Luke as his amanuensis. He sees a lot of similarities with Lucan tendencies in Acts (vocabulary, LXX influence, style, etc.) but also recognizes the key ideas are Pauline. He says that Luke had a freer hand in the composition of Titus and First Timothy, but Second Timothy has more direct influence from Paul. This summary doesn’t do Witherington justice, you should really read it.
  • Witherington thinks the order of composition is Titus, then First Timothy, then Second Timothy. I believe’s own Perry Stepp orders them in this way too, though, as I’ve gathered from papers of his I’ve heard at SBL, he sees the composition history a bit differently.
  • Witherington (as does Towner) also strongly recommends considering each epistle on its own merits, and only thinking about material overlapping in subject matter after this. For example, the tendency to describe the opponents mentioned in both Titus and Timothy is often conflated. Witherington advocates keeping the opponents in Ephesus separate from the opponents in Crete and not discussing opposition generally by picking and choosing references from all over the Pastorals.
  • I’m always vascillating on what I think regarding the intended audiences of these letters. I’ve thought that while addressed to Timothy & Titus, the believers in Ephesus and Crete would’ve heard the content as well. Witherington, however, sees these as private exhortatory letters. His argument is strong and is causing me to rethink my own perspective on intended scope of readership.

The introductory matter is very readable and well composed. He also has more than a standard bibliography, he actually recommends specific commentaries and monographs and explains why he does so. Very helpful, and it’s made me think more seriously about getting the Anchor Bible volumes on Titus (Quinn) and 1&2 Timothy (Luke Timothy Johnson).

That’s it for now. I’ll likely have more later on this one.