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.

Pastorals Section at ETS 2019

We had a good meeting of the Pastoral Epistles Study Group at ETS last week. Stan Porter was unable to attend due to health issues, so we missed his paper. We were glad to hear, though, that he is on the mend.

David Yoon presented his paper, “The Register of Paul in 1 Timothy: Why the Pastorals May Differ in ‘Style’ than the Hauptbrief,” which summarized the linguistic category of “register” which covers what people generally refer to as “style” when they say that the style of the PE differ so much from the accepted Pauline epistles. In the end, Yoon argued there is not enough evidence to establish what an acceptable variance would be, and thus that difference in register is slim basis for any argument concerning authorship. Yoon’s analysis then agrees with the significant recent monograph by Jermo Van Nes, Pauline Language and the Pastoral Epistles: A Study of Linguistic Variation in the Corpus Paulinum (Linguistic Biblical Studies 16; Leiden: Brill, 2018).

My paper came second and was a revision of the paper I presented at the Mainz conference a couple of months earlier. My central contention was that according to the text of Titus, the ethical admonitions in the letter are not culturally driven but are rooted in the gospel itself. The ethical instruction is presented as necessary entailments of the gospel, such that to reject them is to show that one does not know God (1:16). A final version is to be published in a volume with the other essays from the Mainz conference.

Our last paper, “Salvation History in Six Lines: Reading 1 Timothy 3:16b as an Interconnected Whole,” was by John Percival who is working on a PhD at Cambridge under the supervision of Simon Gathercole. Percival noted the long-standing debate about how to read the six lines of this verse and argued that they should be read in order as following chronologically. Key to such an argument is arguing that the last line “taken up in glory” refers not to the ascension (as is often thought) but to the final enthronement of Christ. I found the argument quite persuasive. This will be part of his completed thesis, and hopefully will be published on it’s won as an article soon.

We are planning for next year, so if you are interested in presenting a paper next year or some time feel free to contact me at rayvanneste at gmail.com

Abstracts for Ethics in Titus Conference

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of participating in the “Ethics in Titus” conference held at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. The conference was hosted by the Research Center for Ethics in Antiquity and Christianity, which is ably led by Prof. Dr. Ruben Zimmermann. In leading this conference Prof. Zimmermann was joined by Dogara Manomi, who has just submitted his doctoral thesis on Titus under Prof. Zimmermann’s supervision. They both were excellent hosts for a stimulating conversation with papers, wonderful meals and even a tour of the city.

They have graciously allowed us to post here the abstracts from the papers of the conference. The papers are to be published in a forthcoming volume in the Context and Norms of New Testament Ethics series within WUNT (Mohr Siebeck).

Titus and the Shaping of Early Christian Identity

I have just read a helpful essay recently published by Jermo Van Nes, titled “Doing Good Deeds: Titus and the Shaping of Early Christian Identity.” The essay appears in the recent book, Drawing and Transcending Boundaries in the New Testament and Early Christianity, ed. Jacobus Kok, Martin Webber, Jermo van Nes (Lit Verlag, 2019). My review of Van Nes’s monograph was recently posted here, and this essay is further helpful work from him.

In this essay Van Nes examines vocabulary in the letter to Titus which denotes insider and outsider status arguing for more variety of groups than in Trebilco’s work. He helpfully points out that the sharp language used for distinguishing the church from outsiders does not sit well with the common idea that the letter presents an accomodationist ethic which intends to alleviate social tensions and make the church more at home in the Greco-Roman world. Rather, the letter marks a sharp division between Cretan believers and the false teachers and unbelievers. The aim of the letter, then, is “to further God’s mission by shaping the Cretan Christian community into a people who in word and deed expose Cretan society to genuine Christian witness” (43).

Marshall’s Commentary Free!

I still think the single best all-around commentary on the Pastoral Epistles in English is Howard Marshall’s volume in the ICC. So, I was excited to see that the free book of the month from Logos is this commentary!

This is an amazing opportunity. If you aren’t signed up to get the alerts for the free book of the month each month from Logos, I encourage you to look into it. It is a great way to expand your electronic library.

Bob Yarbrough: 5 Big Surprises in the PE

At the Eerdmans blog, there is a recent post where Bob Yarbrough, author of the recent Pillar Commentary on the Pastorals, answers the question, “As you worked through the biblical text, what surprised you?”

I resonate with Bob’s answers. The points aren’t particularly surprising to many (including Bob, I suppose) who have worked with the Pastorals for years, but they are contradictory to prevailing opinions about these valuable letters. This is a great little piece, and I encourage you to read it.

Thanks to Chuck Bumgardner for the heads up on this piece.

Free Commentary

The free book of the month this month from Logos is Aída Spencer’s New Covenant Commentary: 2 Timothy and Titus

Conference on the Pastorals in Belgium

There is an upcoming conference on the Pastorals in Belgium that looks very interesting. Here is the description:

The Center of Excellence in Reformed and Evangelical Theology (CERET) hosted by the Theologische Universiteit Kampen and the Evangelische Theologische Faculteit Leuven (ETF Leuven) organizes a thematic seminar sponsored by NOSTER on the origin of the so-called Pastoral Epistles (1-2 Timothy and Titus). Joining an ongoing debate, a team of international scholars and respondents from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives will gather to discuss the question whether these New Testament writings were written as individual letters or composed as an intentional letter corpus. Scholars, students, and all who are involved in the academic study of the Pastoral Epistles are warmly invited.

You can see the press release here and view the program for the event here.

It looks very promising, and I am told they aim to publish the papers in a theme volume of the Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters in the near future. It is encouraging to see such interest in the Pastorals.

Interview with Bob Yarbrough about His New Commentary

Mike Bird has posted an interview with Bob Yarbrough about his new commentary on the Pastoral Epistles which has just recently been released. It is well worth reading, imbued with the verve and insight we’ve come to expect from Yarbrough.

Here is just one example:

Paul talks a lot about guarding the faith (1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 1:14). How do we “guard” the faith that has been entrusted to us today?

Assuming we have come into a saving relationship with God through repentance and faith in Christ who died for us and rose, we have to know and be growing in the faith. I’m not talking about the experience of faith but the articles of true Christian belief. The Apostles’ Creed is a good summary. Western Christianity has notoriously often gutted Christian belief of its pillars, like Jesus’ divinity and resurrection. We don’t guard the faith when we alter it to satisfy the demands of its cultured despisers, or when we make it more about human experience than the divine verities that give religious experience its validity.

Do yourself a favor and read this brief interview.

New Commentary by Bob Yarbrough

I have been eagerly anticipating Bob Yarbrough’s Pillar commentary on the Pastorals, so I was pleased to hear from Chuck Bumgardner that it is due out next week (release date 8/28). Yarbrough’s 1-3 John is one of the best commentaries I’ve read, and I’ve had the opportunity to hear he present some of his Pastorals research, so this promises to be a great volume.

It is available for pre-order at Amazon, but as Chuck pointed out the book is actually available for a much chepaer price at Target!