Summary of recent Dutch Dissertation on Ethical Instruction in the PE

Klinker-De Klerk, Myriam. Herderlijke regel of inburgeringscursus? Een bijdrage aan het onderzoek naar de ethische richtlijnen in 1 Timoteüs en Titus [Pastoral Rule or Lesson on Assimilation? A Contribution to the Research on the Ethical Instructions in 1 Timothy and Titus]. Zoetermeer: Boekencentrum Academic, 2013.


Students of the Pastoral Epistles who do not read Dutch will be glad to know that an English-language summary of this dissertation has been provided in Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters 3.2 (2013): 263-67. Here, I’ll merely provide a summary of the summary. Page references are to the summary in JSPL, not the dissertation itself.

In her dissertation, Klinker-De Klerk addresses the common assumption that the PE witness to a christliche Bürgerlichkeit, a “bourgeois Christianity” that encourages an accommodation to prevailing social conventions as Christians hunker down for a stay in this present world which is longer than first expected. Reading the PE as authentically Pauline, she examines the ethical instructions in 1 Timothy and Titus, focusing on the area of male-female relationships. First, she works “internally,” examining the regulations of 1Tim/Titus against prevailing social conventions. Along the way, she gives particular attention to the stated motives behind the regulations. Second, she works “externally,” comparing the regulations in question with those in an undisputed Pauline letter, 1 Corinthians.

Her findings:

(1) “The examined instructions in 1 Timothy and Titus correspond highly to the prevailing ethics at the time.” (264)

(2) “The motives that accompany the regulations in 1 Timothy and Titus are diverse,” and include both internally and externally oriented motives. (264-65)

(3) “The idea of the church preparing for a long-term stay in this world is nowhere explicitly stated.” (265)

(4) Comparing 1Tim/Tit to 1Cor highlights marital fidelity (1 Tim 3:2, 12; 5:9; Titus 1:6; 1 Cor 7:1-7) and subordination of the wife to the husband (1 Tim 2:8—3:1a; Titus 2:4-5; 1 Cor 11:2-16; 14:33b-36). In this regard, “1 Timothy and Titus do not point to an increased adaptation to social conventions.” (265)

(5) Motivational parallels exist between 1Tim/Tit and 1Cor. “In both cases, the apostle provides for an ‘ontological’ reasoning by recalling the story of creation. Further, in both cases there is a ‘practical’ reasoning that has to do with the ‘internal’ concern for the orderly course of the Christian meetings on the one hand and with the ‘external’ concern for the attractiveness of Christianity to outsiders on the other hand.” (265)

(6) Although both 1Tim/Tit and 1Cor highlight the male-female relationship from an “outer” perspective—“what is said about the relationship is viewed within a broader social perspective”—1 Cor also gives particular attention to the “inner” perspective, emphasizing reciprocity. (265)

(7) Differences between 1Tim/Tit and 1Cor are most notable as regards motivation. (a) The “ontological” reasoning is applied to women and men (i.e., more “equally”) in 1Cor. (b) Honor/shame discourse is stronger in 1Cor. (c) Motivations to marital fidelity vary, due to the varying contexts of the instruction: in 1Tim/Tit, the context is the need for irreproachable conduct for various groups in the church, which conduct is “in turn, motivated by reasons of community stability and the public image of the Christians”; in 1Cor, the motive for marital fidelity is “the desire to prevent sin.” (265-66)

(8) Understanding the PE as actual Pauline letters to co-workers provides a reasonable explanation for the points of contrast between 1Tim/Titus and 1Cor.

All in all, there are significant points of contact between the ethical instructions in view in 1Tim/Titus and 1Cor, while “the differences can be accounted for by the different audiences and the practical orientation of the letters.” (266) Klinker-De Klerck is rather narrowly focused in her treatment, so rightly notes that her results do not in themselves invalidate the christliche Bürgerlichkeit hypothesis. All the same, her findings do not support it.

[Guest post from Chuck Bumgardner]

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