Negative on the Pastorals

One thing that has driven some of my research in the Pastoral Epistles has been the very negative ‘press’ these letters have received in last century or so.  I was stunned when I first began academic study of the Pastoral Epistles by the cavalier, condescending attitude of many scholars toward the Pastorals.  Along the way I have collected some representative quotes, and for my paper at ETS I particualrly went back to get more from A. T. Hanson.


 


So, first, here is Hanson.  The condescending attitude is astounding.


“He does not have any doctrine of his own, but makes use of whatever comes to him in the sources which he uses.” Hanson notes that Paul also used pre-formed materials but says Paul integrated these pieces into his own argument.  “Not so with the Pastorals.  Here the material is simply presented with its implied christology and no attempt is made to work it into a consistent doctrine.


            The consequence is that we find several different ways of expressing the significance of Christ in the Pastorals, not all consistent with each other.”[1]


 


“There seems to be nothing very distinctive about Titus, unless it be the negative feature that it has no Pauline transposition and no scriptural midrash.  This is why one is led to suspect that Titus was written last of all and that the author was beginning to run short of material.”[2]


 


“He is no profound theologian ….”[3]


 


“To the author’s simple mind, heretics are sinners.”[4]


 


“The author of the Pastorals could not do much at the intellectual level, but he could and did help to strengthen the institution [the church].”[5]


 


But at least, according to Hanson, the author of the Pastorals is “less moralistic, less unfortunately ambitious in his use of Scripture” than Clement of Rome.[6]


 


Lest, this be too positive though, Hanson goes on to state: “there is little evidence that the author of the Pastorals would himself be very competent if he were ever to be required to prove or defend the Christian tradition from Scripture….”[7]


 


 


Hanson is a key representative of this view but the view is not limited to him or his era.  In an essay just published, German scholar, Gerd Häfner, wrote:


“it seems clear that the author of these letters is no expert in Scripture-based reasoning”[8]


 


Others, while not so negative, still have failed to see any coherence to the argumentation.  These quotes show up in my book which seeks to counter this impression.


 


‘There is no sustained thought beyond the limits of the separate paragraphs; from paragraph to paragraph- and sometimes even within paragraphs (e.g., 1 Tim 2:8ff)- the topic changes without preparation and sometimes apparently without motive.’[9]


 


‘There is a lack of studied order, some subjects being treated more than once in the same letter without apparent premeditation . . . These letters are, therefore, far removed from literary exercises.’[10]


 


‘In this sort of writing, however, there is no need to labor to discover logical order or subtle lines of thought supposed to provide coherence.’[11]


 


‘The Pastorals are made up of a miscellaneous collection of material.  They have no unifying theme; there is no development of thought.’[12]


 


‘Not only is the theology generally seen to be a collection of traditions, but it is also usually treated as a fairly arbitrary, inconsistent, unthought-out amalgam with little coherence.’[Young is summarizing the common view of the Pastorals at the time not neessarily giving her opinion][13] 


 


‘Organization and development of thought are expected from an author, but the Pastorals are characterized by a remarkable lack of both.’ [14]


 


‘the letters have no driving concern, no consistent focus of interest; instead they read like an anthology of traditions, many arranged mechanically together by topic, some simply juxtaposed.’[15] 


 

Perhaps these quotes will be ueful and stimulating to toehrs as they have been to me.





[1] Hanson, The Pastoral Epistles, 38-39.



[2] Ibid., 47.



[3] Ibid., 50.



[4] Ibid., 144.



[5] Ibid.



[6] Ibid.



[7] Ibid., 51.



[8] Häfner, “Deuteronomy in the Pastoral Epistles,” in Deuteronomy in the New Testament, ed. Moyise and Menken (T&T Clark, 2007), 137.



[9] Burton Scott Easton, The Pastoral Epistles (London: SCM Press, 1948), 14.



[10] Donald Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles, 2d ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 18.



[11] Gealy, 457, in discussion of 1 Timothy 6:17-19.



[12] A. T. Hanson, The Pastoral Epistles (London: Marshall, Morgan, and Scott Publishers Ltd., 1982), 42.



[13] Frances Young, The Theology of the Pastoral Letters (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 47.



[14] Miller, 139.



[15] Ibid., 138.  See similar statements, pp. 9, 11, 13, 17, 59-60, 80, 82, 86, 91, 100, 101, 129, 130, 132, 135, 139.

Comments

  1. Experts don’t like things that aren’t contained within their own area of knowledge…

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