Fred Sanders, Moral Beauty in the Pastoral Epistles

Fred Sanders, well known for his work on the Trinity, has been recently working with the Pastoral Epistles and his post, “Moral Beauty in the Pastoral Epistles,” is well worth reading. He reflects on Chapter 5 of Ceslaus Spicq’s 1963 The Trinity and our Moral Life, a book which I must confess I have not read. Sanders notes how richly Spicq draws from the the Pastorals in his discussion of the beauty of the moral life  and suggests this ethical discussion may be part of the reason for the distinct vocabulary of the Pastorals.

Sanders writes:

This is the gospel expressed not just with the change of a few words into a more hellenistic moral vocabulary, but in a way that actually lays hold of and commandeers what is best in that ancient pagan tradition. The unique vocabulary that Paul used in these letters to his deputies, the half-gentile Timothy and the fully-gentile Titus, is a bold missionary appropriation of Greek ethics.

The full post is well worth reading.

David Pao’s New Article in JETS

In the previous post about the meeting of the Pastoral Epistles Study Group at ETS I mentioned that David Pao’s paper was scheduled for publication in JETS. My copy of the December 2014 (57:4) issue of JETS just arrived, and Pao’s article, “Let No One Despise Your Youth: Church and World in the Pastoral Epistles” is on pages 743-55. It is well worth reading.

2014 ETS Section Overview

We had a great meeting in the Pastoral Epistles study group at ETS this year, with good attendance and discussion.

The first paper was by David Pao of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School who is currently working on a commentary on the Pastoral Epistles for the Brill Exegetical Commentary series. His paper was titled, “Let No One Despise Your Youth: Church and the World in the Pastoral Epistles”. Examining the cultural background of honor and shame, Pao argued that in 1Timothy Paul’s stance is neither accommodation to the culture nor subversion; “instead he calls for a transformation that both transcends the accepted ideals that Christians could share with the dominant culture and challenges practices and social norms that Christians should abandon.” This was a careful study which helpfully pushes back against those who see in the Pastorals merely cultural accommodation or who think the only other option is complete cultural subversion. This paper is scheduled to appear in JETS soon. Look for it.
Greg Beale from Westminster Theological Seminary adapted a portion of his biblical theology for his paper, “The Origin of the Office of Elder and Its Relationship to the Inaugurated Eschatological Tribulation.” Beale gave a particularly rousing presentation. He argued that the office of elder is rooted in the foretold rise of false teaching in the last days. Elders are part of God’s provision to help the church endure. I appreciated the biblical theological connection and was glad to hear him clarify in the Q&A that the office also had roots in Jewish synagogue practice. Without that clarification, it sounded like he was saying the office arose without precedent.

Dillon Thornton, who has just finished writing his dissertation at the University of Otago, presented his paper titled, “Satan as Adversary and Ally in the Process of Ecclesial Discipline: The Use of the Prologue to Job in1 Cor 5:5 and 1 Tim 1:20.” Thornton argued that in the two passages in view Paul drew from the prologue of Job portraying Satan an enemy of God who can nevertheless play a role in the process of church discipline. I had never thought of a connection with Job in these texts and was skeptical at first. However, Thornton made a compelling case with helpful implications and applications. We will look for more from Thornton in days ahead.

Mark Overstreet from T4 Global, a frontier mission organization, presented a paper titled, “Διδακτικόν: Rethinking the Qualification of Elders after Years in the Bush: Theological Education Among Peoples Who Have No Access to the Written Scriptures.” This was a helpful concluding paper from a practical theology angle. Literacy is assumed in the way we think of education, but what does it look like to equip elders in existing churches in settings where no one has access to written Scriptures? While affirming the great blessing of literacy, Overstreet presented a method of oral instruction being used to equip and serve the church in such settings.

We are currently working on plans for next year’s session. If you would be interested in presenting a paper sometime contact us at pastoralepistles at gmail dot com. And join us for the conversation next year in Atlanta.

2014 ETS Session: Ecclesiology in the Pastoral Epistles

If you are headed to San Diego next week for the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, I hope you will come to the session held by the Pastoral Epistles Study Group. We have been encouraged by good sessions in the past and are set up for a great session again this year. Here are the details:

11/20/2014
8:30 AM-11:40 AM
Town & Country — Royal Palm Salon Six

Pastoral Epistles

Ecclesiology in the Pastoral Epistles

Moderator
Ray Van Neste (Union University)

8:30 AM—9:10 AM
David W. Pao (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)
Let No One Despise Your Youth: Church and the World in the Pastoral Epistles
(abstract)

9:20 AM—10:00 AM
Greg Beale (Westminster Theological Seminary)
The Origin of the Office of Elder and Its Relationship to the Inaugurated Eschatological Tribulation

10:10 AM—10:50 AM
Dillon Thornton (University of Otago)
Satan as Adversary and Ally in the Process of Ecclesial Discipline: The Use of the Prologue to Job in 1 Cor 5:5 and 1 Tim 1:20
(abstract)

11:00 AM—11:40 AM
Mark Overstreet (T4 Global)
Διδακτικόν: Rethinking the Qualification of Elders after Years in the Bush: Theological Education Among Peoples Who Have No Access to the Written Scriptures

 

Book Notice: Men & Women in the Household of God

 

Korinna Zamfir Men and Women in the Household of God: A Contextual Approach to Roles and Ministries in the Pastoral Epistles (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2013)

Korinna Zamfir is Associate Professor at the faculty of Roman Catholic Theology of the Babeş-Bolyai University in Cluj in Romania, and she has published several works on the Pastoral Epistles. This is a very thorough monograph which will demand attention from those doing future work in the Pastorals. By “contextual” Zamfir means the social and cultural context from which the text emerged, and by “roles and ministries’ she means the authorization of people to serve in various ways and the roles expected of various groups, particularly men and women. Zamfir draws from Abraham Malherbe regarding social and cultural context.

The book assumes non-Pauline authorship written in the third generation of Christianity and that the NT preserves perspectives from competing strands of Christianity. This is not uncommon in more critical work, though the assumption of competing strands of Christianity seems, to me, to be too readily accepted with slim basis. Zamfir also sees the Pastorals as documents which are attempting to move a community towards a more culturally conservative perspective. She stresses the directives of the letters do not represent what is really happening in these churches but what the author wants to happen- which is probably different from the current reality.

Although I do not share many of the basic assumptions with which Zamfir works, this book is worthy of careful attention. She develops the idea of the church as oikos, noting that although this has often been thought of as a private family the metaphor is also used of larger public groups like the polis. The key texts on gender roles also receive significant attention.

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.

Abraham Malherbe and the Pastoral Epistles (Guest Post)

This is a guest post from Chuck Bumgardner, who is currently working on a PhD in New Testament at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

At the time of his passing in 2012, Abraham Malherbe was working on a commentary on the Pastoral Epistles that was to replace Dibelius/Conzelmann in the Hermeneia series (as of last August when I checked, Fortress had not chosen a new author). His contribution to the literature would have been most welcome, given his scholarly acumen and his previous Pastorals research. I wanted to note here that most of his already-published engagement with the Pastorals, which was scattered rather widely, has been gathered into the first volume of a just-published collection of his essays:
Light from the Gentiles: Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christianity. Collected Essays, 1959-2012, by Abraham J. Malherbe. Edited by Carl R. Holladay, John T. Fitzgerald, Gregory E. Sterling, and James W. Thompson. 2 volumes. Supplements to Novum Testamentum 150. Leiden: Brill, 2014. (ISBN 978-90-04-25339-1)
The following essays are in Light from the Gentiles. I’ve provided original publication data.

“‘Christ Jesus Came into the World to Save Sinners’: Soteriology in the Pastoral Epistles.” Pages 331-58 in Salvation in the New Testament: Perspectives on Soteriology. Edited by Jan G. van der Watt. Novum Testamentum Supplements 121. Leiden: Brill, 2005.

“Godliness, Self-Sufficiency, Greed, and the Enjoyment of Wealth. 1 Timothy 6:3-19: Part I.” Novum Testamentum 52 (2010): 376-405.

“Godliness, Self-Sufficiency, Greed, and the Enjoyment of Wealth. 1 Timothy 6:3-19: Part II.” Novum Testamentum 53 (2011): 73-96.

“How to Treat Old Women and Old Men: The Use of Philosophical Traditions and Scripture in 1 Timothy 5.” Pages 263-90 in Scripture and Traditions: Essays on Early Judaism and Christianity in Honor of Carl R. Holladay. Supplements to Novum Testamentum 129. Leiden: Brill, 2008.

“‘In Season and Out of Season’: 2 Timothy 4:2.” Journal of Biblical Literature 103 (1982): 23-41.

“Medical Imagery in the Pastoral Epistles.” Pages 19-35 in Texts and Testaments: Critical Essays on the Bible and Early Church Fathers. Edited by W. E. March. San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1980.

“Overseers as Household Managers in the Pastoral Epistles.” Pages 72-88 in Text, Image, and Christians in the Graeco-Roman World: A Festschrift in Honor of David Lee Balch. Edited by Aliou Cissé Niang and Carolyn Osiek. Princeton Theological Monograph Series 176. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2012.

“Paraenesis in the Epistle to Titus.” Pages 297-317 in Early Christian Paraenesis in Context. Edited by James Starr and Troels Engberg-Pederson. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 125. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2004.

Paulus Senex.” Restoration Quarterly 36 (1994): 197-207.

“The Virtus Feminarum in 1 Timothy 2:9-15.” Pages 45-65 in Renewing Tradition: Studies in Texts and Contexts in Honor of James W. Thompson. Edited by Mark W. Hamilton, Thomas H. Olbricht, and Jeffrey Peterson. Princeton Theological Monograph Series 65. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2007.

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.

“Almsgiving and ‘the Commandment’ in 1 Timothy 6:14”

Last year in New Testament Studies Nathan Eubank provided what is, I believe, a new interpretation of “the commandment” (η εντολη) in 1 Timothy 6:14. His article is titled “Almsgiving is ‘the Commandment’: A Note on 1 Timothy 6.6–19.”

Eubank argues that “the commandment” was a common idiom in Rabbinic Judaism for almsgiving. He provides several supportive texts, though the dates of some are uncertain. This, it is suggested, solves the problem of 1 Timothy 6:11-16 (an exhortation to Timothy) protruding between two paragraphs which deal with money issues (6:6-10 & 6:17-19). On this reading the exhortation to Timothy is also about money. 6:6-10 urges contentment and warns against the love of money. In 6:11-16 Timothy is told to flee this love of money, pursue righteousness and to give alms (v. 14). Then, those who already have money are warned not to look to wealth as their security.

This is a well-argued article and worthy of attention from anyone working on 1 Timothy. I appreciate Eubank’s interest in finding cohesion in the argument and flow of thought in the letter. However, I am not yet convinced. I am not concerned here to give a full rebuttal but simply to note a few things.

Eubank notes some possible difficulties with some of his rabbinic examples if you have an early date for 1 Timothy (which is my position). Beyond that, I am not sure that a reference to almsgiving in 6:14 solves the perceived problem with 6:11-16. Those who see disunity are likely still to wonder about these six verses “interrupting” the flow. If we recognize the regular movement back and forth from focus on Timothy to focus on opponents and/or the congregation in the letter, then we are not surprised to see it in chapter 6 as well. 6:11-16, then, does not need to address wealth in order to cohere. The flow of thought would then be something like this: Timothy is to teach truth (6:2-3) unlike the opponents who are caught up in greed (6:4-10). In contrast to these opponents Timothy is to pursue righteousness as he awaits Christ’s return (6:11-16). Then Timothy is to warn the rich in the congregation not to follow the ways of the opponents but to pursue eternal things as they also await the “future” (6:17-19).

Eubank is to be thanked for raising this possibility, pointing out this rabbinic background and making a plausible argument. His argument is more involved than what would be summarized here. I commend the article to you and welcome your thoughts in the comments.

The Gospel, The Cure of Cowardice

“cowardice [δειλια] would seem to be a sort of fearful yielding of the soul” (Theophrastus, Characters [371-287 BC])

Cowardice (δειλια) “is a disease graver than any that affects the body since it destroys the faculties [δυναμις] of the soul. Diseases of the body flourish but for a short time, but cowardice is an inbred evil, as closely inherent or more so than any part of the bodily system from the earliest years to extreme old age, unless it is healed by God. For all things are possible to Him” (Philo, On the Virtues, 26; 1st century AD).

“For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice (δειλια) but of power[δυναμις], love and self-control.
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power [δυναμις] of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” (Paul, 2 Timothy 1:7-14; 1st century AD [ESV, altered])