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

 

The PE at SBL

There were a number of papers on the Pastorals at SBL this year including a full session of the Disputed Paulines study group being devoted to them.

The best paper on the Pastorals which I heard came from Jens Herzer of Leipzig. His paper was titled, “Language and Ideas of the Pastoral Epistles in Light of the Papyri.” Herzer, while not affirming Pauline authorship, has a positive view of these letters and presented solid work on the papyri. He argued for maintaining the individuality of the three letters (rather than simply lumping them together, as is too common), supported the idea of 1 Timothy as mandata principis, and made several other suggestions. Herzer seems to be working on a larger project on the Pastorals, so I will be watching for more from him.

The papers from the Disputed Paulines Section were less constructive and less helpful. The Monday morning session of this group had the theme, “New Methods and the Pastoral Epistles.” I will list each presenter and paper title with a brief interaction.

Ilaria Ramelli, Catholic University of Milan, “Tit 2:1-4, Women Presbyters, and a Patristic Interpretation”

Ramelli essentially argued that Origen affirmed women “elders.” However, even the evidence cited had Origen stating clearly that these women were neither to teach men nor to teach publicly in church. It was not clear to me that “elders” were clearly in view, rather than Origen simply affirming the role of women teaching and encouraging younger women as stated in Titus 2. AS the paper progressed it was not really rooted in Titus 2 but referred to wide ranging sources which alluded to women in ordained ministries. These references were primarily cited but not explained or defended. This paper was similar to her article “Theosebia: A Presbyter of the Catholic Church,” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 26.2 (2010): 79-102.

Elsa Tamez, United Bible Society, “The Rhetorical Strategy in 1 Tim 2:8-3:1”

Tamez’s paper followed a similar approach as that found in her book on 1 Timothy. She cited some verbal parallels in this text, though her point was not entirely clear to me. She argued for a basic A, B. A’ structure in various places- some of which has been commonly noted in the literature. She did argue that this text prohibits women from certain ministry but suggested it is not necessarily binding, stating, “There have been men and women who have refused to heed this text.”. She stated, in what may have been an off hand comment, “So the only way out for women is rebellion.”

Marianna Kartzow, University of Oslo, “An Intersectional Approach to the Pastoral Epistles”

Kartzow, author of the recent Gossip and Gender: Othering of Speech in the Pastoral Epistles, essentially approached the Pastorals on the assumption that they are written as late as three generations after Paul and asked “Who needed this memory of Paul?” She was concerned with how different groups- particularly marginalized or oppressed groups- would have “remembered” the ideas contained in the letter. She stated that she did not think the Pastorals were reflections of reality and said we ought to pay as little attention to the Pastoral Epistles as possible because they contain dangerous hierarchies and are texts of terror. She noted, with apparent disappointment that she found little destabilizing ideas in the Pastoral Epistles, i.e. they were socially conventional.

Gail Streete, Rhodes College, “The Pastorals in Rehab; Why They Are Important to Feminism (And It’s Now What You Think)”

Streete is the author of several books, including The Strange Woman: Power and Sex in the Bible. I did not catch why, in her opinion, the Pastorals are important to feminism, though that failure is probably mine due to having listened to too many academic papers in a row. 🙂 She was pessimistic about the possibility of discovering meaning in these letters. She confessed, “I have never learned to love the Pastoral Epistles,” and referred to Deborah Krause’s portrayal of the Pastorals as the “grumpy old uncle” whom you learn to tolerate. She also affirmed the statement of Linda Maloney (in Fiorenza’s Feminist Commentary) that the author of the Pastorals was “a frightened would-be authority on the defensive.”

Merkle on Elders and Overseers

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.

What’s an “Elder”, Anyway?

In early February, Ray posted on $esv(Titus 1.6) and “believing/faithful children”. In that post, Ray linked to an article in the 9 Marks newsletter.


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?