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.

Assessing Schleiermacher on the Authorship of 1 Timothy

Friedrich Schleiermacher’s  “Concerning the so-called first Letter of Paul to Timothy; a critical open letter to J. C. Gass” (1807) was a watershed piece in the history of the interpretation of the Pastoral Epistles, as he led the way in questioning the Pauline authorship of 1 Timothy. He argued particularly from the difference in vocabulary between 1 Timothy and other Pauline letters and from what he saw as an incoherent and discontinuous train of thought in 1 Timothy. Schleiermacher argued that 1 Timothy was created by drawing from 2 Timothy and Titus, whose authenticity he did not dispute.

In 1999 Hermann Patsch published a very helpful article which briefly summarized Schleiermacher’s arguments and how Schleiermacher’s work was received at the time.[1] Patsch summarizes all the significant contemporary reviews as well as the reviews of Heinrich Planck’s book which was written as a response to Schleiermacher.[2] I was pleased to discover the article is available online.

It was interesting to read that the early reviews of Schleiermacher were consistently negative. In fact, according to Patsch, Schleiermacher’s book was “more or less clearly torn to pieces, attacked in monographs.” De Wette was critical of several of Schleiermacher’s arguments but said: “He has seen what as yet no one saw: he demonstrates that the first letter to Timothy was not written by Paul.”

The debate seen in these reviews contains most of the same talking points found in the same debate today.

If you are doing any work on history of interpretation of the PE or the authorship question, this is a helpful article.

[1] Hermann Patsch, “The Fear of Deutero-Paulinism: The Reception of Friedrich Schleiermacher’s ‘Critical Open Letter’ concerning 1 Timothy,” Journal of Higher Criticism 6 (1999): 3-31

[2] Heinrich Ludwig Planck, Bemerkungen über den ersten Paulinischen Brief an den Timotheus in Beziehung auf das kritische Sendschreiben von Hrn. Prof. Fr. Schleiermacher (Göttingen: Röver, 1808).

The Importance of the Authorship Question

The question of the genuineness and authorship of the Pastoral Epistles affects not only the facts of S. Paul’s life in its later stages, but such important questions as the origin and development of the Christian ministry and Church government, the beginnings of Christian heresies, and the application of Christian principles to practical life and the cure of souls. Dr. Harnack, for instance, writes: “…. Any one, for example, who admits the genuineness of the Pastoral Epistles will reach quite different conclusions from one who regards them as non-Pauline, and relegates them to the second century.” It is not too much to say that “the question of the genuineness of the Pastorals is vital to our entire conception of the Apostolic Church.”

J. D. James, Genuineness & Authorship of the Pastoral Epistles (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1906), 1-2.

Join us in the Pastoral Epistles study group next month at ETS as we discuss the authorship issue.

Pauline Scholar, Meet Homeric Scholar

I regularly encourage my biblical studies students that one aspect of training ourselves to interpret the Bible well is to read good literature. Good literature helps to round us out as human beings, and it simply trains us to read well. C. S. Lewis illustrates this well in his classic essay, “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism.”

This point is powerfully made by Anthony Esolen in his article, “Pauline Scholar, Meet Homeric Scholar: How Textual Analysis Misses Authorial Genius & Literary Inspiration,” in the July/August 2013 issue of Touchstone Magazine. Esolen is a professor of English and widely published author- someone who is on my “read whatever he writes list.” In this brief article Esolen draws from his years of working with classic literature to question some of the literary criticism often used on New Testament studies. He notes that though for a long time scholars insisted that Homer’s poems, Beowulf, and other works were not actually the work of one man, the tide has turned and the skepticism has been shown to be unfounded. He describes the skeptical scholarship as working with “all the wrong assumptions,” typically requiring authors to write the way we would or in the ways we expect.

Here is a key paragraph:

“Linguistic analysis alone is pretty good at telling us, within a century, when something was written, and at confirming that the man who wrote Richard III also wrote Macbeth. It’s not very good for establishing chronological order within a century, not for confirming that the man who wrote one thing did not also write another. On linguistic analysis, apart from authorial affirmation, we can determine that the author of the Gospel of Luke is also the author of Acts. But beyond such conclusion we dare not go with confidence. We cannot say that one author could not have written Romans and Ephesians, which are a foot or two apart, as compared with the furlong that separates the author of the first part of The Dream of the Rood from the same man when he’s writing the second part, the mile that separates Milton’s satirical sonnets from the sweet Il Penseroso, and the light year that separates The Merry Wives of Windsor from King Lear.”

This literary perspective is important for various discussions in New Testament studies including the authorship of the Pastorals. Given the wide range of style and vocabulary used by other prominent writers in history we should be cautious about what can be determined concerning authorship by variations in vocabulary and style. Can we really say with such self-assurance, as I have heard scholars do, what Paul could not have written?

The full piece by Esolen is well worth reading. It is not available online, but Jim Kushiner, Executive Editor of Touchstone, has graciously offered to send a complimentary hard copy of the issue containing this article to any of our readers who ask. If you’d like a copy, email noting that you are responding to this column and ask for a copy of the July/August 2013 issue.

UPDATE: The article is now available online and I have linked it above. Thanks to Jim Kushiner for his gracious offer during the time the article was not online.

P46 and the Pastoral Epistles

At the Society of Biblical Literature meeting Edgar Battad Ebojo presented a paper titled, “P46 with the Pastoral Epistles: A Misleading Proposal? Reinvestigating the Evidence of the Missing Last Pages of P46” P46 is an early significant document containing Paul’s letters (plus Hebrews) which is missing its last pages ( It has commonly been stated that the document would not have had enough pages to include the Pastoral Epistles, and, therefore, this is evidence that the Pastorals were not considered Pauline at this early date. However, in 1988 Jeremy Duff published an article [“P46 and the Pastorals: A Misleading Consensus?” NTS 44 (1998): 578-590]
arguing that the Pastoral Epistles would fit because the scribe was beginning to squeeze more words in per page in the last pages we have.

Ebojo provided meticulous examination of P46, character count, per line, variations, etc. The detail was impressive. He demonstrated subjectivity in the work of much of the preceding discussion and ended with the suggestion that P46 is not the place to look for information on the authorship or canonicity of the Pastoral Epistles.

Ebojo’s work was exemplary in its detail and helpful in its modesty in its claims.

Update on Pastorals Section at ETS

The draft of the schedule for the Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society has now been posted. I have previously announced the presenters and titles for the new section on the Pastoral Epistles, but now I can post the date, times and location. I am excited about this beginning of our conversation about how the avoidance of the Pastorals has impacted our view of Paul.

I hope to see you there.

Thursday, November 17, 2011




The Place of the Pastoral Epistles in Pauline Theology

Moderator: Ray Van Neste

(Union University)


Robert W. Yarbrough

(Covenant Theological Seminary)

The Theology of the Pastorals in NT Theologies


L. Timothy Swinson

(Liberty University)

The Pastoral Epistles and Perspectives Old and New


Greg A. Couser

(Cedarville University)

‘Life on Life‘: Explorations in Paul‘s Understanding of Eschatological Life


Frank Thielman

(Beeson Divinity School)

The Pedagogy of Grace: Soteriology, Ethics, and Mission in Titus 2:11-14

New Dissertation on the Pastorals

I am currently reading Tim Swinson’s dissertation “GRAFH in the Letters to Timothy” recently passed at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I was eager to read it after hearing a number of good papers from Tim at ETS meetings along the way. I am only into the second chapter but already find this to be a well done, useful work. Swinson is more conversant with French, German, and Spanish sources than is common in American PhD’s. His writing is clear and forthright. His brief argument for Pauline authorship is well done and gathers a lot of helpful information.

I am eager to finish the reading. If you are working on the Pastorals concerning authorship or the references to scripture (1 Tim 5:18; 2 Tim 3:16), you would do well to check with the library at TEDS for this dissertation.

Best sentences I’ve read today

From Matthew Brook O’Donnell, $amz(1905048114 Corpus Linguistics and the Greek of the New Testament), p. 388:

It seems unlikely that by simply counting words it is possible to differentiate between authors. While a particular author may have a core or base vocabulary, as well as an affinity for certain words (or combination/collocation of words), there are many factors, for instance, age, further education, social setting, rhetorical purpose and so on, that restrict or expand this core set of lexical items. In spite of this, New Testament attribution studies and many commentaries (sadly, some rather recent ones at that) have placed considerable weight on counting the number of words found in one letter but not found in a group of letters assumed to be authentic. (O’Donnell, 388)

I can’t tell you the times that I’ve read authorship discussions on the Pastorals in commentaries where the argument boils down to "read P.N. Harrison’s Problem of the Pastoral Epistles, he got it right". This pawning the argument off on what is essentially a misdirected attempt at stylometry through hapax-legomena counting. Statistics are not easy to understand, and when someone makes a statistical case that sounds good it is easy to accept, point to, and never think about again. "So-and-so has all sorts of numbers, statistics, math and tables that I don’t fully understand, so it must be right."

I’m not saying that all commentaries, monographs and such that dispute Pauline authorship do this. Some do not, and they are well worth reading because they’re really wrestling with the stylistic issues. But if your reason for discounting Pauline authorship rests solely on comparative proportions of hapax legomena between two different slices of a corpus … well, you’re not standing on firm ground.

The PE in the New NLT Study Bible


I have just thumbed through the study notes on the Pastorals in the brand new $amz(0842355707 NLT Study Bible). The notes are written by Jon Laansma who teaches at Wheaton and did his PhD at the University of Aberdeen.

In the interest of full disclosure, two things could be thought to impinge on my judgment here. First, I know Jon and am working on a project with him. Second, I wrote the notes on the Pastorals for the $amz(1433502410 ESV Study Bible), which could be thought of as a competitor of this study Bible.

I was impressed with these study notes. They were thoughtful, clear and ample. Honestly, as I read, particularly the introductory material, I thought, “Wow! I hope my notes come across as well as these.” In brief compass Jon advocates Pauline authorship and situates the letters after the close of Acts (positions with which I agree). He describes 1 Timothy and Titus as similar to the mandatis principis and does not directly address the genre of 2 Timothy. He does a good job of briefly dispelling the idea that these letters are church manuals and points to their great concern for the gospel shaping life.

On 1 Timothy 2:11-15 there is an extended essay which describes three major positions without embracing any of the three.

These notes are well done. For me the only drawback is the use of the NLT for in depth study. I appreciate the NLT but for in depth study I encourage people to use a more literal translation. Jon’s notes, however, are good resource for briefly explaining these letters.

New Items from Reggie Kidd

Reggie Kidd, a leading scholar on the Pastorals, has reflected on what the letter to Titus can say to us in an election year. 

You can also find a three part lecture series of his on the topic, “How Pauline are the Pastoral Epistles?” here.

(HT: James Grant)