Synopsis of the PE Group at ETS 2017

We had a great meeting for the Pastoral Epistles study group at ETS last week, with strong attendance for four helpful papers.

For our first paper we invited Fred Sanders, one of the leading systematic theologians in evangelicalism today. I had noticed a few years ago that Sanders was doing some work on the Pastorals. I contacted him and found out that he was teaching on the letters for a lay institute. He was making shrewd observations on social media, so I was intrigued to see what insight a careful theologian might bring to our question of how serious engagement of the Pastorals might impact our view of Paul.

Sanders titled his paper, “Grace the Civilizer: Paul Undomesticated in the Pastoral Epistles.” He argued that the sheer oddness of the PE gives important information on Paul and that to ignore the Pastorals would be to domesticate Paul. This is a great point and well put, since the typical charge is that the PE tame down the robust Paul. However, today, people seem to shy away from embracing the claims on the PE.

Sanders described the vocabulary of the PE as “a bold, missionary appropriation of Hellenistic moral vocabulary.”  Focusing particularly on Titus, he highlighted the letters concern for form, beauty and order. He argued that Paul’s point was that the grace civilizes people, not merely in a bourgeois fashion leading to dull lives, but in a missional fashion leading to lives of moral beauty which honor God and attract others to the gospel.

Eckhard Schnabel, with a nod to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, presented 40 theses on “Paul and the Next Generation of Christian Leaders: The Contribution of the Pastoral Epistles to New Testament Ecclesiology.” In bullet point fashion, Schnabel drew key points for ministry which are found in the PE. Quite appropriately in light of the letters in view, Schnabel practically preached certain potions, urging the necessity of personal evangelism, prayer, and endurance. Noting how Paul roots his labors in the saving work of Christ, Schnabel said, referring the work of Christ, “there are some things Christian leaders never stop talking about.”

Greg Couser, from Cedarville University and co-chair of the PE study group, presented “The Judgment of Believers in 2 Timothy: What is Judged and What is the Outcome?” Couser noted that not much work has been done on the numerous references to final judgement in 2 Timothy. Taking the various opinions on the final judgement of believers listed in Schreiner and Caneday (The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance & Assurance), Couser asked which position seems best to fit the evidence in 2 Timothy. Along the way Couser demonstrated that 2 Timothy has much to say about this important topic even though works on Pauline theology tend to neglect this data. Here is an excerpt where Couser states his basic conclusion:

From what Paul seems to say in 2 Tim, his view of the believer’s judgment fits most easily into the “loss of rewards” category. The warnings are more than just rhetorical devices and they are for believers. There is something to lose, though reprobation is not in view. Nonetheless, Paul also reflects an inner-dynamic of the Christian life that makes it impossible to envision any acts of unfaithfulness by a believer as anything more than lapses from an otherwise progressive movement toward greater delight in Christ and service to him.

Marty Feltham, who is finishing his PhD at Macquarie University in Sydney, concluded the session with his paper, “Carefully Crafted or a Clumsy Imitation? Assessing the Argument of 1 Timothy 2:1-7.” One of the things I have been particularly pleased with in our study group has been the opportunity to hear such good papers from younger scholars who are just finishing or just recently finished their doctoral work. Feltham maintained that tradition with a strong argument for the coherence of the theological argument in 1 Timothy 2:1-7 and the connection of this section with the rest of the letter. Following the argument of his recent article in Tyndale Bulletin, Feltham demonstrated that 2:5-6 was a Christological reworking of the Shema (Deut 6:4-5). Contrary to those who have long said the PE lacked anything more than clumsy theological imitation, Feltham argued that 1 Timothy 2:5-6 was a thoughtful and well-worked piece of theological argumentation “perfectly tailored to the rhetorical and polemical needs of the letter.” I thought this was a fascinating paper and I am excited to learn of one more able scholar working in the Pastoral Epistles.

 

Review: Craig Smith’s New Commentary on 2 Timothy

Sitting on my desk in my “to be read” pile is the recent commentary on 2 Timothy by Craig Smith in the Readings series published by Sheffield Phoenix Press. I am keen to read this commentary because I had the privilege of meeting Craig several years ago and I know of his published thesis which argues for a different take on 2 Timothy. Regarding the letter as authentically Pauline (as I do) Craig argues that 2 Timothy is not a farewell letter but an exhortation to further ministry in which Paul expects to participate.

I was pleased to discover that although I have not yet gotten around to reading this book, Robert Wall has and has provided a review at Review of Biblical Literature. Wall praises Smith’s careful attention to the text and consistent methodology and argumentation. However, he critiques the lack of footnotes and what he finds as a lack of theological reflection on the contemporary meaning of this letter. I agree wholeheartedly with Wall that we must not hold apart exegesis and theological and ecclesial reflection, but, from what I know of Smith, he would also agree. Not having yet read the book myself, I will have to withhold judgment.

This is a helpful review, which has nudged me to get on with reading this book.

 

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.

Second Timothy: Notes on Grammar, Syntax, & Structure

Rick Brannan has written a new book, Second Timothy: Notes on Grammar, Syntax, & Structure, which is soon to be published with Appian Way Press. The book provides a block-style outline and translation, treats major structures in the text, and comments on grammatical and syntactical issues phrase by phrase through the letter.

I have had an opportunity to see the manuscript and found it useful. Here is the blurb I have written for it:

“This is a fascinating study as Brannan comments on grammatical and syntactical relationships throughout 2 Timothy with comments on the implications for flow of thought and meaning. I am not aware of anything quite like this available anywhere else. This will be a great resource for anyone working through the Greek text of 2 Timothy.”

You can find information about the book and a couple of sample portions here.

New Book on “Scripture” in the PE

I am pleased to announce that Tim Swinson’s book, What Is Scripture?: Paul’s Use of Graphe in the Letters to Timothy (Wipf & Stock) is now available (Amazon, publisher’s site). I was honored to write the foreword for this compelling book which argues that graphe in each instance in 1 & 2 Timothy includes in its reference at least some of the apostolic writings.

Here is the book summary from the publisher:

 Analysis of the literary scheme of the letters to Timothy suggests that graphe, as it is employed in each letter, may legitimately be understood to include some of the apostolic writings that now appear in the New Testament. In affirming the Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles, Swinson argues that a form of the Gospel of Luke stands as the source of the second referent of graphe in 1 Tim 5:18. Second, Swinson contends that pasa graphe in 2 Tim 3:16 includes the apostolic writings extant in Paul’s day, specifically Luke’s Gospel and some of Paul’s own writings. These parallel lines of analysis demonstrate that Paul ascribes to his own writings and to those of his coworkers an authoritative standing equal to that of the sacred writings (ta hiera grammata) found in the Old Testament. While many questions surrounding biblical authority and the biblical canon remain, Paul’s use of graphe in 1 and 2 Timothy nevertheless advances a high view of both Old Testament and New Testament Scripture.

Bob Yarbrough has also written a warm commendation:

“This study takes a fresh, critical, and comprehensive look at evidence and arguments often either overlooked or facilely dismissed. The happy result is a better factual foundation for consideration of vital historical questions regarding Christian origins and the role that Scripture played from the church’s inception. Especially welcome are [Swinson’s] careful exegesis, philological rigor, and charitable candor in interaction with other contemporary scholarship.”

 

Lastly, here is the concluding portion of the foreword I wrote:

If his arguments hold (as I think they do), this book has significant implications in several areas. First, this is an important contribution to scholarship on the Pastoral Epistles. The careful exegesis, the discourse and semantic analysis, and the lexical study, not to mention his challenge to the typical reading of γραφη, make this a valuable resource for anyone working in these letters. Then, his thesis that apostolic writings were already recognized in the first century as “Scripture” on par with the Law, the Prophets and the Writings has major implications for our understanding of canon and current debates in that realm.

Careful, detailed and swimming against the tide, this is a bold, compelling book with significant conclusions for scholarship and the church. I have been privileged to encounter Tim’s work in presentations at scholarly conferences along the way and was immediately drawn to the substance and manner of his work- conscientious, cautious and charitable. I am excited that this work will now be available to a wider audience. This book has challenged and helped me, and I commend it to you.

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.

New Article on Coptic Papyrus Fragments of 2 Timothy & Titus

Brice Jones has published an article titled, “Three New Coptic Papyrus Fragments of 2 Timothy and Titus (P.Mich. inv. 3535b),” [full text in pdf] in the latest issue of the Journal of Biblical Literature. The article publishes for the first time the extant remains of a Sahidic Coptic papyrus codex containing portions of 2 Timothy 1–4 and Titus 1 along with paleographical analysis and commentary.

 

Stott on 2 Timothy, Free!

John Stott’s exposition of 2 Timothy, published just over 40 years ago, remains one of the best pastoral expositions of this letter available. And, now you can get an ebook copy of this commentary for free from IVP! Go to this link, sign up and then you can download the commentary. Thanks to IVP for making such a wonderful resource available in this way.

 

De as a Discourse Marker in 2 Timothy

I have mentioned previously the new section on the Pastorals which will begin this year at ETS.

It is often helpful to note other Pastoral Epistles related papers which are scheduled for ETS or SBL this year. I will be giving a paper in the Biblical Greek Language and Linguistics section titled “De as a Discourse Marker in 2 Timothy.” The other people involved in this session (Levinsohn, Runge, Sims, Westfall) are leading thinkers in linguistics and biblical studies, so I face this with some trepidation. I am sure I do not have the final word on de, but I have learned a lot in working on this paper. I hope it will contribute to the discussion on the Pastorals and our understanding of connectives.

Feel free to note other Pastorals related papers scheduled for these conferences in the comments. I hope to see many of you there.

Second Timothy Notes, all in one PDF file

If you’ve been following my series on Translating Second Timothy, you know that I’ve made it through the epistle. (In less than three months, not bad, huh?)


I’ve gathered all of the posts into one PDF file. Grab it if you’re interested. If you have further interest in the material (specifically in distributing it or publishing it in some way) please contact me for further information.



I’m very interested in any feedback you may have. Feel free to email me at rick at pastoral epistles dot com with any comments, encouragement, criticism or flat-out disagreement.