Pastoral Epistles session at SBL 2019

I was quite pleased this year to see that the Disputed Paulines session at SBL would meet on Saturday this year since that meant I would be able to attend. I hope they continue in this slot.

Jens Herzer, “Epicurus, Plutarch, and Paul: The Philosophical Discourse on Public Life and the Transformation of Pauline Ethics in 1 Timothy”

I always appreciate hearing from Herzer. In this paper he argued that the “good citizenship” ethic in 1 Timothy bears striking resemblance to Epicurean ideas. He demonstrated several parallel texts, and suggested that the author (not Paul in Herzer’s mind) was developing a Christian view of life by appropriation of Epicurean ideals. It seemed that his point was that the use of these ideals lead to a perspective different from the accepted Pauline letters (the abstract refers to a “socially accommodated Christianity”), but in the discussion afterward this point was muted.

In the end, these are interesting parallels showing that similar ideas were in view outside the New Testament. However, it is not enough to convince me that the author was intentionally drawing on Epicurean ideas.

James Buchanan Wallace, “1 Timothy and Universal Salvation”

Wallace’s paper considered whether a universalist reading of 1 Timothy might be correct. He opened with interaction with David Bentley Hart, who in his recent translation of the NT argues for universalism pointing to 1 Timothy but without exegetical argumentation.

Wallace engaged patristic interpreters who argued for universalism and those who argued against noting how they used 1 Tim (if they did). Most significant I thought was his treatment of μάλιστα exegetically and how Greek fathers understood it. I am not convinced of a universalist reading, due at least partially to the fact that I still read these letters as a whole with Paul and expecting coherence of thought.

Lyn Kidson, “Saving the Woman in 1 Timothy 2: Childbirth, Women’s Bodies, and the ‘Other Instruction’”

Kidson’s paper built on her 2018 paper in this same section. She argued that 1 Timothy 2:15 should be understood as saying that a woman’s body will be “healed or kept safe through the normal processes of intercourse, pregnancy, and childbirth that the advocates of the other instruction oppose.” Thus, she argues that σώζω in 2:15 means “preserve” rather than referring to eschatological salvation.

Kidson does find a coherent argument for a challenging text, linking 2:15 with the forbidding of marriage in 4:1-5. I did not always follow the argument in the oral presentation.

Christopher Hutson, “Lifting the Yoke of Slavery: Infrapolitics and Advice to Enslaved Persons in the Pastoral Epistles”

Hutson was very engaging (even providing a song!) as he argued that the comments on slaves in 1 Timothy 6 and Titus 2 were intentionally framed to seem like they affirmed standard Greco-Roman views on the submission of slaves all the while actually hinting at a subversive sub-text. Some people write off these texts as hopelessly compromised and demeaning to slaves, but Huston sought in his line of argument to present them in a more positive light.

Myriam Klinker-De Klerck, “Lois, Eunice, and Timothy: The Rhetorical Strategy in 2 Timothy in the Light of Social Exclusion of the First Christians”

Klinker examined the role of honor/shame in 2 Timothy suggesting a rhetorical strategy in the letter that aims to encourage Timothy to endure possible negative social consequences of his belonging to the Christ group. This is connected to the reorientation the letter gives to the idea of suffering (as an honorable token of loyalty [πίστις] to Christ) and the family identity mentioned with Lois and Eunice. Her arguments suggest further ways the letter coheres and makes sense in its historical setting.

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