2 Timothy written in Philippi?

At his Patheos blog, Michael Bird recently cited a lengthy portion from Helmut Koester’s History and Literature of Early Christianity where Koester argues that 2 Timothy (which he takes as pseudonymous) was written from Philippi. After mentioning the various locations Paul refers to in the latter part of the letter, Koester states, “Any glance at a map will show that he thought of Paul as imprisoned in Philippi.” He is not mildly suggesting. See the full section at Bird’s blog.

This depends on the pseudonymity of the letter, of which I am not convinced, but it is intriguing to see this argument. It would be interesting to connect this with the work of Peter Walker who has made fresh arguments for placing the PE within the chronology.

Pastoral Epistles ETS Study Group, Next Week

If you are coming to ETS next week in San Antonio, I hope you will join us for our study group on the Pastorals. We have a great line up of papers again this year as you can see from the schedule below. I have included the room, date, time, speakers and titles. Jermo Van Nes will not be able to join us, but he has sent me his paper and I will read it in his stead.


8:30 AM-11:40 AM
Hyatt — Bowie C

Ray Van Neste, Union University

8:30 AM—9:10 AM
Ardel Caneday, University of Northwestern- St. Paul
“Save Yourself and the People Who Hear You: An Authentic Pauline Exhortation”

9:20 AM—10:00 AM
Jermo Van Nes, Evangelische Theologische Faculteit
“Motif-Semantic Differences in Paul? A Question to Advocates of the Pastorals’ Plural Authorship”

10:10 AM—10:50 AM
Andreas Köstenberger, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

“An Investigation of the Mission Motif in the Letters to Timothy and Titus with Implications for Pauline Authorship”

11:00 AM—11:40 AM
Gordon Franz, Christian Information Ministries
“The Archaeological Background to the Epistle of Titus and the First-Century church on the Island of Crete”

The Impact of the Incoherence & Inauthenticity Argument

I just discovered that my article, “Authorship and Coherence in 1 Timothy,” was published in December in the Global Journal of Classic Theology. The article is a version of a paper originally delivered at the Pastoral Epistles study group at the Evangelical Theological Society annual meeting. It is a brief examination of some of theological convictions behind the turn in academia against 1 Timothy (and the Pastorals in general). Here is the abstract:

Abstract: This brief essay surveys the move away from confidence in the Pauline authorship towards increasing marginalization of all the Pastoral Epistles today. Critics of Schleiermacher in the 1800’s warned that his arguments against 1 Timothy would lead to further drift from orthodoxy. Though those critiques were derided at the time, the warnings have proven true. We need a renewed evaluation of what has been missed in evangelical scholarship by too easily leaving the Pastoral Epistles out of our conversations on Paul.

Keener on Acts & The Pastorals

In the third volume of Craig Keener’s massive Acts commentary, he has a long excursus on the relationship between Acts and the Pastorals (pp. 3023-3026). Probably the most significant part of the excursus is the thorough chart listing the itineraries (people, places and events) of the Pastorals, Acts and the earlier Pauline letters side by side. This is very helpful. In the end, Keener is convinced of a second imprisonment for Paul which is described in 2 Timothy- the traditional explanation.

Pauline Communities as ‘Scholastic Communities’: A Study of the Vocabulary of ‘Teaching’ in 1 Corinthians, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus

scholastic communitiesSteve Walton has written a helpful review of Claire Smith’s monograph, Pauline Communities as ‘Scholastic Communities’: A Study of the Vocabulary of ‘Teaching’ in 1 Corinthians, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, WUNT 2/335 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012). The monograph is a revision of her PhD thesis which was supervised by Peter Bolt.

It sounds like this book will be useful for PE studies. Her choice of the Pastorals along with 1 Corinthians is quite intriguing as is her defense. Apparently she does not take a position on the authorship issue but in the end suggests the similarities between the PE and 1 Corinthians which she finds should at least cause pause for those assuming non-Pauline authorship.

Additionally, with the significance of teaching in the PE, the amount of data gathered here (the book is 555 pages!) promises to be helpful for PE research.

Smith affirms the earlier evaluation of E. Judge that the earliest Christian communities were marked particularly by learning. In the end, while affirming the idea of Judge she says his phrase “scholastic communities” does not communicate as well (missing the relational aspects of teaching found in these letters, for example) and suggests a better phrase would be “learning communities.” Interestingly, this is the very phrase used by J I Packer, in a popular piece, which I mentioned previously.

Critique of P. N. Harrison

This is a guest post from Jermo van Nes (great name!), who is nearing completion of his PhD  at Evangelische Theologische Faculteit (Leuven) under the supervision of Armin Baum.


In a recent article, I questioned the ever-growing reliance of contemporary New Testament scholars on P.N. Harrison’s 1921 doctoral dissertation The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles (see http://www.brill.com/paul-and-pseudepigraphy or the pre-print version https://www.academia.edu/3614258/The_Problem_of_the_Pastoral_Epistles_An_Important_Hypothesis_Reconsidered). In this landmark study, Harrison argued by means of statistics that the Pastorals are based on some genuine Pauline fragments but in their final form are the product of a Paulinist living in the early years of the second century. The lasting impact of Harrison’s work is evidenced by the ongoing scholarly use of his statistical argument to support the Pastorals’ (semi-)pseudonymity.

In the article it is documented how scholars have criticized the statistical argument of Harrison as it appeared to be flawed by methodological problems. One scholar that pointed out some of these is James Gilchrist, of whom Howard Marshall says in his ICC commentary that his work “has been undeservedly ignored”. Accepted in 1966 as a doctoral dissertation supervised by professor F. F. Bruce of Manchester University, Gilchrist’s Authorship and Date of the Pastoral Epistles offers a detailed critique of Harrison’s statistical argument. According to Gilchrist, Harrison managed to produce such an impressive case against the Pastorals’ authenticity only because he was able to reuse his arguments in different forms. Also, he shows why some of Harrison’s comparisons are incorrect and/or unnecessary (see especially pages 27-61).

For those who would like to read Gilchrist’s dissertation in full, it is now freely available online at http://ethos.bl.uk/Home.do. The comments given by Gilchrist are a welcome addition to those presented by Harrison’s better-known critics like Hitchcock, Michaelis, Guthrie, Metzger, and Spicq, to name but a few.

Jack Barentsen’s Emerging Leadership in the Pauline Mission

Just judging from the title, one may not realize that Jack Barentsen’s Emerging Leadership in the Pauline Mission: A Social Identity Perspective on Local Leadership Development in Corinth and Ephesus (Pickwick, 2011) deals extensively with the Pastoral Epistles. In fact in the nine chapters one deals exclusively with 1 Timothy and another with 2 Timothy.

Bartensen is concerned to trace cultural leadership patterns through the Corinthian correspondence, Ephesians and 1-2 Timothy since in a fairly close proximity (between Corinth and Ephesus) you have this many letters written to churches over the span of Paul’s ministry. This reading, of course, depends on Pauline authorship of each of these letters and Bartensen provides a good brief defense of Pauline authorship of the 1-2 Timothy.

I cannot here summarize all of the implications of PE study, but Bartensen’s reading of the situation in 1 Timothy makes good sense of the letter as an example of mandata principis. Paul’s more formal address to Timothy is expected to be overheard by the church particularly the wealthy home owners who would presumably host the church.

This is a helpful contribution to the Pastoral Epistles literature, and I didn’t want anyone to miss it since the Pastorals aren’t mentioned in the title.

Paul and Pseudepigraphy, ed. Porter and Fewster

[Editor’s note: Here is another guest post from Chuck Bumgardner. Overviews fo recent volumes like this can be especially helpful. I have for some time questioned why it was acceptable to dismiss the historicity of Acts and then criticize the Pastorals for failing to line up with Acts. so, I am glad to see this point made in this volume.]

I recently perused Paul and Pseudepigraphy (ed. Stanley E. Porter and Gregory P. Fewster; Pauline Studies 8; Leiden: Brill, 2013). As would be expected from the title, this just-published volume contains a good bit of material which connects either directly or very closely with the Pastoral Epistles.

The opening article by Stanley Porter and Gregory Fewster, “On Pauline Pseudepigraphy: An Introduction,” sets the stage for current issues in pseudepigraphy, and very briefly summarizes the contributions of each of the authors of the volume.

Porter’s essay, “Pauline Chronology and the Question of Pseudonymity of the Pastoral Epistles,” overviews the chronology of PE authorship vis-à-vis the chronology of Acts, providing a helpful survey of major theories and summary of pertinent evidence. Of note: “There is what appears to be a strong irony involved in the arguments put forward [for post-Pauline authorship of the PE]. The long-standing tradition of German criticism of Acts and the PE is to doubt the historical veracity of Acts and to dismiss fairly summarily the authentic authorship of the PE. However, one of the major bases for dismissing authenticity of the PE . . . is with regard to supposed incompatibilities with the book of Acts. If Acts is not a reliable source anyway, or if reliable is at best a later source (second century), then how is it that incompatibility between Acts and the PE constitutes grounds for dismissing authenticity of the PE and positing pseudonymous authorship? This appears to be special pleading of the most egregious sort” (84-85).

Armin Baum’s article, “Authorship and Pseudepigraphy in Early Christian Literature: A Translation of the Most Important Source Texts and an Annotated Bibliography,” provides fresh translations of quite a bit of source material related to pseudepigraphy and includes an annotated bibliography that is solid gold.

Andrew Pitts, in “Style and Pseudonymity in Pauline Scholarship: A Register Based Configuration,” sets forth a new methodology to judge the likelihood that a given work associated with a corpus is pseudonymous or not.

Jermo van Nes, in “The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles,” purposes to drive the final nail into the coffin lid of the fragment authorship theory, first given definitive shape by P. N. Harrison.

Linda Belleville’s essay, “Christology, Greco-Roman Religious Piety, and the Pseudonymity of the Pastoral Letters,” provides the latest treatment of the Christology of the PE, arguing that the differences between the PE’s Christology and that of the rest of the NT can be explained (at least in part) by viewing the Christological statements in Timothy as polemical, given the religious environment of Ephesus.

The Marginalization of the Pastoral Epistles

I have found 1 Timothy Reconsidered (edited by K. P. Donfried; Peeters, 2008) to be a very helpful resource in Pastoral Epistles studies. I drew from it quite a bit for our recent ETS session on 1 Timothy. The book contains “the presentations and deliberations of the nineteenth meeting of the Colloquium Oecumenicum Paulinum, a distinguished group of some thirty-five international and ecumenical Pauline scholars, held at the Abbey of Saint Paul in Rome during September, 2006” (drawn from Peeters’ website). You can see the table of contents here. The book contains one essay devoted to each chapter of 1 Timothy as well as a few essays on the letter as a whole.

What I found most interesting at this time was Luke Timothy Johnson’s challenging of the marginalization of 1 Timothy and Donfried’s agreement that 1 Timothy has been marginalized. Johnson has, of course been making this point, but his essay here is a good condensing of the issue. Johnson writes, “If not Pauline, then the letters were not considered authoritative, and were increasingly moved to the edge or even out of the canon of Scripture” (p. 22). Noting how modern interpreters of Paul commonly give no attention to the Pastorals although they do interact with Gnostic writings and apocryphal writings, Johnson quips, “Out of Paul means out of canon, and even out of mind!”(p. 22, n. 11). It was particularly interesting to see Karl Donfried, not a supporter of Pauline authorship, affirm Johnson’s point. Donfried noted that the Pastorals have been “disenfranchised” in much of mainline Protestantism and suggested this process has been “facilitated by much feminist biblical scholarship” (p. 154). Donfried even pointed to Brevard Childs who said attempts to interpret the PE in light of a fictitious setting “rendered mute” the “kerygmatic witness of the text.”[1]

In his concluding essay Donfried wrote, “As one today looks at the literature dealing with the so-called ‘pastoral epistles’ one finds a state of utter disarray” (p. 179). He continues saying “their [the Pastorals’] alleged ideological bias has for many undermined their credibility and their canonical function has virtually ceased” (p. 179-180). This is a significant issue for a broad range of Christians, and I am glad to see it addressed in such a significant setting. The functional removal of a portion of the canon is serious and is an issue evangelicals and Catholics should both be concerned about.

Lastly, Donfried went further suggesting this was part of a larger problem in biblical studies.

too much biblical scholarship is performed in an individualistic and non-collaborative manner, thus leading to a situation where many theses emerge that have not been properly tested, sifted and critically discussed with a wider group of diversely competent scholars. This leads to publications with perspectives that not only sharply contradict each other, often in the name of a historiography that masks tendentious superficiality, and that are published with such rapidity that scholars and students are often more busy keeping up with the “latest” in biblical scholarship than in wrestling with the texts and their respective contexts (p. 180).


Donfried goes on to call for more collaboration, centering our efforts on properly understanding the texts rather than simply producing more publications. Accomplishing this will be difficult, but as Donfried suggests the way forward is probably to start on the small scale in developing communities of scholarly collaboration.

This is a valuable volume with stirring challenges and humble suggestions as we move forward with biblical studies and study of the PE specifically.

[1] Brevard Childs, The New Testament as Canon: An Introduction (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), 383.

Successful ETS Session

I was very pleased with this year’s meeting of the Pastoral Epistles group at the Evangelical Theological Society, and it was good to meet several people who are working on the Pastorals.

Randy Richards summarized some of his excellent work on letter writing and the use of secretaries (e.g., Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collection) and applied it to some of Bart Ehrmans’ work (Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics & Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are). Richards agrees with Ehrman that the ancients did not condone pseudepigraphy, but argued that Ehrman does not account adequately for the common role of secretaries in the ancient world.

Tim Swinson argued that the gospel of Luke is being directly quoted (by Paul) as scripture in 1 Timothy 5:18. This thesis has significant implications for our understanding of the development of the canon. Swinson’s argument will be included in his monograph, ΓΡΑΦΗ in the Letters to Timothy, which is forthcoming from Wipf & Stock.

Our panel discussion dealt with a number of issues, including the need for more work which fully integrates the Pastoral Epistles into Pauline studies and work which examines similarities between the Pastorals and the accepted Paulines.

If you are interested in possibly presenting a paper at a future meeting of the Pastoral Epistles group send us an abstract at pastoralepistles at gmail dot com.