Malherbe on sophrosyne

I recently read Abraham Malherbe’s essay, “The Virtus Feminarum in 1 Timothy 2:9-15” in Renewing Tradition and appreciated it.  He argues for a high degree of literary coherence in this passage and provides significant background for the passage in Greco-Roman philosophical writings.


Given my previous work on the coherence of the Pastorals I was particularly interested in his discussion of coherence.  Malherbe traces the train of thought briefly and concludes that “structurally, the text coheres” (50).  Then the bulk of the essay considers the various ethical ideas in this text arguing that the moral advice contained in it also coheres.  Malherbe also counters Roloff stating, “The two most extended Christological formulations in the Pastoral Epistles … are not mere appendages providing a theological sheen to rather prosaic moralizing” 52).


The bulk of the essay though is a discussion of sophrosyne and related terms in the context of Greco-Roman moral philosophy.  In this Malherbe interacts significantly with Helen North’s $amz(B000CJ3KKQ Sophrosyne: Self-Knowledge and Restraint in Greek Literature), which Malherbe calls a “magisterial study” (53)- no small praise from one of the preeminent scholars on Greco-Roman backgrounds!.  The parallels Malherbe cites here are very helpful and will be important for anyone work on the Pastorals (as these terms occur often in these letters beyond the text in the essay title). 


Malherbe does not in this essay get to the question of how this impacts one’s reading of 1 Timothy 2:9-15.  This essay he says is spade work preliminary to exegesis, which he will do in his forthcoming commentary on the Pastorals in the Hermeneia series.

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