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.
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.
In J. I. Packer’s recent book, Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging, he turns to the Pastorals frequently. In the following quote he gives a helpful, practical picture of the church in the PE
The Pastoral Letters in the New Testament all indicate, one way or another, that the church must expect to be constantly infected by misbelief as well as misbehavior. And congregations in every age must see themselves as learning communities in which gospel truth has to be taught, defended, and vindicated against corruptions of it and alternatives to it. Being alert to all aspects of the difference between true and false teaching, and of behavior that expresses the truth as distinct from obscuring it, is vital to the church’s health.
This definition is useful to all of us regardless of age (as his book is also useful in many ways, regardless of age).
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.
The Gospel Coalition (which I am not affiliated with) recently held their 2009 National Conference. The theme was Entrusted With The Gospel: Living the Vision of 2 Timothy. They’ve recently posted audio of all plenary sessions, which are supposed to “expound the book of Second Timothy”.
Below is the overview from the conference web site:
The theme of this Conference gets to the heart of the book of Second Timothy. As Paul is mentoring a young Timothy, he is communicating the great privilege of proclaiming the gospel to the world. In an age bereft of courageous leadership, declining biblical literacy, and rising cultural accommodation, a prophetic voice from the center is needed, a voice that faithfully speaks the ancient text to our contemporary context. This Conference seeks a renewal of faithful preaching that is rooted in the Scriptures and centered on the gospel.
The best of gospel-faithful ministry is not only taught, it is also caught. This was the practice of the Apostle Paul — the great missionary of the early church — who not only had much to say regarding what constitutes gospel-faithful ministry, but also had much to show of what it looked like in an individual life and in the life of the church. We see these two foci coming together harmoniously in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth:
Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church (1 Corinthians 4:16-17; cf. 11:1; Philippians 3:17).
On 21-23 April 2009, The Gospel Coalition will hold its second National Conference on the theme, “Entrusted with the Gospel: Living the Vision of Second Timothy.” During these meetings we will seek to imitate Paul’s dual practice of show and tell.
The Plenary Sessions — led by John Piper, Phil Ryken, Mark Driscoll, K. Edward Copeland, Bryan Chapell, and Ligon Duncan — will expound the book of Second Timothy. It is through these expositions that we hope to model the sort of preaching through Scripture of which the church is in need, while teaching the glories of this gospel of the blessed God that has been entrusted to the care of the church. Tim Keller and Don Carson will each give addresses that seek to situate gospel-faithful ministry in the currents of the twenty-first century, and Ajith Fernando will discuss the global challenges and priorities of gospel-faithful mission for the next Christendom. There will also be several workshops devoted to the faithful appropriation of text (Scripture) to context (contemporary issues).
I’ve not listened to any of the audio, but you may find it helpful.
On a more popular level, I notice that the Gospel Coalition conference next Spring will focus on an exposition of 2 Timothy. The conference theme is “Entrusted with the Gospel: Living the Vision of Second Timothy.” You can follow the link to see the speakers and which text each one will have. The sessions work progressively through the letter.
This sounds like a good conference and it is encouraging to see such a setting mining the riches of this wonderful letter.
HT: James Grant
On my way back from Nepal I finally read Ben Merkle’s book, $amz(0820462349 The Elder and Overseer: One Office in the Early Church) (Peter Lang, 2003). It is a revision of his doctoral dissertation. Merkle provides a good overview of the scholarly discussion and of the relevant background material. He makes a good case for the use of the term ‘elder’ referring to an office and not simply to age. I agree with his thesis—that elder and overseer refer to the same office—and thought he did a good job defending it. He also deals with the idea that Paul’s churches had no structure/authority but were loosely led by ‘charismatics.’ This view shows up not only in more critical schools of thought but can be found in evangelical settings as well. Merkle clearly shows that concern for official leadership is clear in Paul and Acts. There is no aversion to ‘office’ in Paul and there is more concern with authority than is sometimes acknowledged (for example see Robert Banks, “Church Order and Government” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters). Merkle rightly demonstrates that this view is rooted in an approach which prioritizes 1 Corinthians to the exclusion of Paul’s other letters.
I had been thinking for some time that a rebuttal of these ‘no structure, no authority’ views need to be written. Now I know Merkle has done it and done it well.
Regarding that link, an anonymous commenter asked me:
Rico: Have you read the book in footnote 2?: Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership, revised & expanded (Littleton, Col.: Lewis & Roth Publishers, 1995), 229.
Please consider the concept of “elders” he presents in his research through the Acts and Epistles uses of the Greek words used.
I’ve not read Strauch’s book. But I have read with interest R. Alastair Campbell’s The Elders: Seniority within Earliest Christianity. Campbell gives a more complete view than just centering on practice in Acts and the Epistles; he traces the concept of “eldership” through through the Hebrew Bible, into the New Testament, and then through Apostolic Fathers (particularly Ignatius). I don’t agree with some of his presuppositions (he thinks the Pastorals are psuedepigraphal and contemporary with or immediately preceding Ignatius’ writings and this colors some of his conclusions regarding the role of elders in the Pastorals) but nonetheless he approaches the topic diachronically and does a good job of it.
Anyone else have thoughts on “eldership” as it is discussed in the Pastorals? Or on the topic of “church leadership” in general within the Pastorals?