Christmas and the Pastoral Epistles

As you listen to Handel’s Messiah this season, remember that the man who wrote the text listed 1 Timothy 3:16 as a moto for the oratorio:
And without controversy great is the Mystery of Godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

Merry Christmas!

Pastoral Epistles Consultation at ETS

A new consultation on the Pastoral Epistles will begin at next year’s annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. The title of the consultation is “The Pastoral Epistles and Pauline Theology.” Co-chairs are Greg Couser and Ray Van Neste with steering committee members Ben Merkle, Tom Schreiner, and Tim Swinson.

This consultation begins with the assumption of Pauline authorship. We are aware that in contemporary scholarship this is a significant assumption. However, since most work on Paul for many decades (even among those who affirm Pauline authorship) has set aside the Pastorals, we believe it is fair to take up the work from the other perspective. If we take the Pastorals as genuinely Pauline, how would this impact our view of Paul and his theology? What would be the result of a robust integration of the Pastorals into Pauline theology? Has our view of Paul been significantly shaped by the exclusion of the Pastorals?

We hope to pursue these questions in the next several years. We will have a full section at ETS in Fall 2011 with four presentations, and will announce more information at this site as things develop. We hope to see you at the session next year.

The PE at SBL

There were a number of papers on the Pastorals at SBL this year including a full session of the Disputed Paulines study group being devoted to them.

The best paper on the Pastorals which I heard came from Jens Herzer of Leipzig. His paper was titled, “Language and Ideas of the Pastoral Epistles in Light of the Papyri.” Herzer, while not affirming Pauline authorship, has a positive view of these letters and presented solid work on the papyri. He argued for maintaining the individuality of the three letters (rather than simply lumping them together, as is too common), supported the idea of 1 Timothy as mandata principis, and made several other suggestions. Herzer seems to be working on a larger project on the Pastorals, so I will be watching for more from him.

The papers from the Disputed Paulines Section were less constructive and less helpful. The Monday morning session of this group had the theme, “New Methods and the Pastoral Epistles.” I will list each presenter and paper title with a brief interaction.

Ilaria Ramelli, Catholic University of Milan, “Tit 2:1-4, Women Presbyters, and a Patristic Interpretation”

Ramelli essentially argued that Origen affirmed women “elders.” However, even the evidence cited had Origen stating clearly that these women were neither to teach men nor to teach publicly in church. It was not clear to me that “elders” were clearly in view, rather than Origen simply affirming the role of women teaching and encouraging younger women as stated in Titus 2. AS the paper progressed it was not really rooted in Titus 2 but referred to wide ranging sources which alluded to women in ordained ministries. These references were primarily cited but not explained or defended. This paper was similar to her article “Theosebia: A Presbyter of the Catholic Church,” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 26.2 (2010): 79-102.

Elsa Tamez, United Bible Society, “The Rhetorical Strategy in 1 Tim 2:8-3:1”

Tamez’s paper followed a similar approach as that found in her book on 1 Timothy. She cited some verbal parallels in this text, though her point was not entirely clear to me. She argued for a basic A, B. A’ structure in various places- some of which has been commonly noted in the literature. She did argue that this text prohibits women from certain ministry but suggested it is not necessarily binding, stating, “There have been men and women who have refused to heed this text.”. She stated, in what may have been an off hand comment, “So the only way out for women is rebellion.”

Marianna Kartzow, University of Oslo, “An Intersectional Approach to the Pastoral Epistles”

Kartzow, author of the recent Gossip and Gender: Othering of Speech in the Pastoral Epistles, essentially approached the Pastorals on the assumption that they are written as late as three generations after Paul and asked “Who needed this memory of Paul?” She was concerned with how different groups- particularly marginalized or oppressed groups- would have “remembered” the ideas contained in the letter. She stated that she did not think the Pastorals were reflections of reality and said we ought to pay as little attention to the Pastoral Epistles as possible because they contain dangerous hierarchies and are texts of terror. She noted, with apparent disappointment that she found little destabilizing ideas in the Pastoral Epistles, i.e. they were socially conventional.

Gail Streete, Rhodes College, “The Pastorals in Rehab; Why They Are Important to Feminism (And It’s Now What You Think)”

Streete is the author of several books, including The Strange Woman: Power and Sex in the Bible. I did not catch why, in her opinion, the Pastorals are important to feminism, though that failure is probably mine due to having listened to too many academic papers in a row. 🙂 She was pessimistic about the possibility of discovering meaning in these letters. She confessed, “I have never learned to love the Pastoral Epistles,” and referred to Deborah Krause’s portrayal of the Pastorals as the “grumpy old uncle” whom you learn to tolerate. She also affirmed the statement of Linda Maloney (in Fiorenza’s Feminist Commentary) that the author of the Pastorals was “a frightened would-be authority on the defensive.”