“Pauline Ecclesiology,” by David Downs

Downs, David J. “Pauline Ecclesiology.” Perspectives in Religious Studies 41 (2014): 243-255

I pursued this essay because I learned that Downs included the Pastorals in his discussion, accepting them as Pauline. Since I am pursuing the question of how the Pastorals might shape or re-shape our understanding of Pauline theology if they were seriously engaged, I was curious to see what role they played in Downs’ analysis. In the end, beyond the footnote arguing for their inclusion, little of particular interest is made of them in the essay. Perhaps this is due to the fact that this is a remarkably large topic for a single essay.

I appreciated Downs’ discussion of the universal and local church (a big issue for Baptist circles, and this is found in a Baptist journal).

However, section 3 of the essay, on “The Organization and Practices of the Pauline Churches,” was not as good. Downs says we must not homogenize these “geographically and culturally diverse congregations” into one model of “the Pauline church.” This is a common statement today, but I find it lacking. Should we not expect a significant level of similarity in theology and core practices among churches planted by one apostle who self-consciously seeks to order these communities according to the will of God?

Downs, like others, as evidence of diversity, points to the fact that these churches did not always obey the apostle. Here a key distinction must be made. Are we saying that these churches at times differed in practices or that they were never intended to have shared core practices? If the first, that is obvious and need not be debated. Paul rebukes the Corinthians for practices out of step with “all the churches.” This does not, though, mean that there was not a shared “model” to which they were all supposed to aspire. The lack of such an aspirational model is exactly what many of these scholars are arguing. In fact, Paul’s rebuke just mentioned suggests the opposite- the churches are expected to be in step with one another.

This is an important discussion because on it depends whether or not there is a coherent biblical ecclesiology (and perhaps whether we should expect a coherent theology at all in Paul). Denying the existence of such is amenable today because it allows us to say we can all have our own ecclesiologies. However, we should reconsider this claim today.

Hagner on the Pastoral Epistles

[by Chuck Bumgardner]

Donald A. Hagner has been associated with Fuller Seminary for forty years, and presently holds the title(s) of George Eldon Ladd Professor Emeritus of New Testament and Senior Professor of New Testament School of Theology. His New Testament Introduction: A Historical and Theological Introduction (Baker, 2012) (NTI) represents the mature judgments of a seasoned scholar. My purpose here is to summarize his work on the Pastoral Epistles (PE) in that volume.

Before I do that, however, I’ll observe that Hagner has (to my knowledge) produced only one standalone essay on any of the PE: “Titus as a Pauline Letter,” in Society of Biblical Literature 1998 Seminar Papers, Part Two (SBLSPS 37; Atlanta: Scholars, 1998), 546–58. This essay was part of an ongoing project in the SBL Theology of the Disputed Paulines group, a project which also included Luke Timothy Johnson’s “Oikonomia Theou: The Theological Voice of 1 Timothy from the Perspective of Pauline Authorship” and Gordon Fee’s “Toward a Theology of 2 Timothy—from a Pauline Perspective.” Each of these essays addressed the theology of one of the PE from the perspective of Pauline authorship.

In his essay, Hagner first establishes the “life-setting” of Titus, noting its distinctiveness over against the undisputed Pauline letters in two areas: Paul’s acceptance of a delayed parousia and a correspondingly different approach to his churches, and an individual recipient (except in the case of Philemon) (546–48). These two items, in conjunction with the likely use of an amanuensis, explain any differences between Titus and other Pauline letters. With this foundation laid, he engages a close reading of the most overtly theological passages in Titus, 2:11–14 and 3:4–8a, comparing their theology minutely (and favorably) with Paul’s theology in the undisputed letters (548–52). (Since these are soteriological passages, this section is helpful for studying salvation in the PE in connection with other writings of Paul.) Finally, Hagner examines the “theology of the practical instructions of Titus,” finding strong parallels with the undisputed Paul here as well (552–55). All in all, this is a strong article defending the authenticity of Titus.

Fifteen years later, in his NTI, Hagner now finds that the cumulative weight of various arguments against Pauline authorship of the PE (including Titus) means that pseudonymity has “the probabilities on its side” (614). He presents a very helpful section which addresses six different battlegrounds of opinion vis-à-vis authorship (language and style, church organization, theology and ethics, nature of opposition, the picture of Paul, and the personal history of Paul), first succinctly presenting how proponents of pseudonymity would frame a given issue, then providing a brief response from the perspective of authenticity (615–21). He stresses (1) that no particular argument for pseudonymity is persuasive in and of itself, but the cumulative case is persuasive; (2) that the debate is one of probabilities, not certainties (621–22). In his judgment (following a critical consensus), the PE simply “breathe a different atmosphere” which is unlike the undisputed Paulines, and they reflect a “conventional, ‘bourgeois’ Christianity,” displaying “the marks of an incipient early catholicism” (622).

Exploring various explanations for the “problem of the Pastorals,” Hagner examines the amanuensis hypothesis (e.g., Richards, Paul and First-Century Letter Writing), the possibility of wholesale pseudepigraphy by an associate of Paul’s after his death (e.g., Wilson, Luke and the Pastoral Epistles), theories involving Pauline fragments/notes (e.g., Miller, The Pastoral Letters as Composite Documents), and the possibility of authenticity (e.g., Fee, Knight, Johnson, Mounce, Towner) (622–26). Reading “Titus as a Pauline Letter,” I felt that Hagner was firmly championing a position of authenticity; reading his NTI, I don’t get the impression that he has confidently changed his stance on authorship, but has edged over the line, so to speak, with the balance of evidence ever so slightly disposing him to a rather agnostic position of pseudonymity.

Hagner turns to examine various emphases in the PE: protecting orthodoxy/orthopraxy; preserving and transmitting the tradition; establishing church offices; the self-consciousness of the church (626–34). Finding these to support “an incipient early catholicism,” he summarizes: “Because of the delay of the parousia, the church must reunderstand itself not as a group of believers waiting to be taken away from this world to the next, but rather as the people of God, residents in the world for the foreseeable future, whose unchanging message represents unshakable truth” (634).

Arguing that the PE ought to be considered both individually and as a cluster, Hagner gives a brief overview of the contents of each letter (634–37). He closes the essay with a position of agnosticism as to authorship, a guess that the letters were written for church leaders in general, and a preference for a date shortly after Paul’s death (637–38). A very solid English-language bibliography (25 commentaries and 85 other entries) completes the essay, including commentaries as late as 2006 (Towner [NICNT] and Witherington), and other works as late as 2010 (638–42). I only note that in commentaries, the venerable Lock (ICC, 1924) is missing, apparently being of too great a vintage, and Oden’s Interpretation volume (1989) is omitted. In other literature, Hagner has surprisingly included nothing by Trebilco (e.g., The Early Christians in Ephesus from Paul to Ignatius, 2004) nor Wieland (e.g., The Significance of Salvation, 2006).

Call for Papers

The Pastoral Epistles group in the Evangelical Theological Society is accepting paper proposals for the meeting this Fall. We are continuing to examine ways in which a more vigorous, intentional engagement with the Pastorals can impact our understanding of Paul. Too often evangelicals explicitly or implicitly bracket off the Pastorals when doing Pauline theology whether in order to gain a hearing among those who dispute them or simply because we have grown accustomed to overlooking them. We have already seen a number of ways in which the absence of 1-2 Timothy and Titus impoverish our reading and have a sneaking suspicion there are yet more aspects and nuances to be explored. So, if you would be interested to pursue this topic, we would be glad to hear from you. Send questions or proposals to me at rayvanneste at gmail dot com.

The Pastorals at SBL 2015

I was unable to attend SBL this year, but Chuck Bumgardner was kind enough to gather titles and abstracts for PE related papers at SBL from the helpful abstracts page on the SBL site.

Here is what was listed. It is encouraging to see this much work being done on these letters.

The Cretan Quote of Titus 1:12: Why Paul Appears to Be Such a Bigot 
Program Unit: Disputed Paulines
Isaiah Luke Allen, Asbury Theological Seminary

Conventional readings of Titus 1:12-13 present real grammatical and contextual problems. Taken at face value, the apostle Paul addresses Titus and quotes Epimenides, a (5th-6th Century BCE) Cretan poet, in a descriptive and highly disfavorable moral assessment of the Cretans that Paul himself shares. This paper exposes some of the literary-contextual, grammatical, and semantic problems with this reading and suggests an interpretation that coheres with the NT portrayal of the canonical Paul and Titus, the grammar of the passage, and the context of the argument in the letter to Titus. Rather than being a bigot, Paul is exposing and attacking bigotry in the church.

Satan: The Author of False Teaching in the Pastoral Epistles 
Program Unit: Disputed Paulines
Derek Brown, Lexham Press

The Pastoral Epistles reveal a number of intriguing developments within the Pauline tradition. One area which has not received sufficient attention is the references to the devil within Pastoral Epistles. Both 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy mention the malevolent figure— whether by the well known term satanas (1 Tim 1:20; 5:15), diabolos (1 Tim 3:6, 7; 2 Tim 2:26), or even ho antikeimai (“the opponent” or “the enemy,” 1 Tim 5:14; cf. 1 Clem. 51.1; Mart. Pol. 17.1)—but the collective importance of these references is rarely discussed in scholarly literature. The present paper will explore the nature of the allusions to Satan within the Pastorals by considering their function within their epistolary context, the theology of Satan which they imply, and their relationship to references to Satan in the other Pauline letters (both undisputed and disputed; see Brown, The God of this Age: Satan in the Churches and Letters of the Apostle Paul [Mohr Siebeck], forthcoming 2015). It will be argued that although the Pastoral Epistles sometimes reflect, or perhaps mimic, the earlier Pauline references to Satan (e.g., 1 Tim 1:20; cf. 1 Cor 5:5), the references to Satan in 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy aim to establish a direct connection between false teaching and Satan that is intended to warn and prevent the readers of the letters from subscribing to teaching that would separate them from the truth of the gospel and the community of faith.

Kinship and Leadership in 1 Timothy: A Study of Filial Framework and Model for Early Christian Communities in Asia Minor 
Program Unit: Disputed Paulines
Daniel K. Darko, Gordon College

This paper examines kinship framework and language in the directives for leadership in early Christianity communities of Ephesus, aiming to curb the influence of false teachers and bolster mutual support in the membership. It investigates direct appeal to responsible household management, portraits of natural and fictive kinship, and group dynamics couched in filial parlance in the leadership correspondence (1 Timothy). The Greek text will be examined carefully against the background of Greco-Roman conventions on kinship and use of kinship lexemes in relation to leadership. The study of the household code alongside other references to kinship in the prism of Christian leadership will lead to new and perhaps alternate insights regarding how we read the institutional structure of the house churches, even the notion of monarchical leadership. The manner in which fictive and natural kinship are utilized will receive critical attention in the quest also to answer the question: Does fictive kinship override natural kinship or are there interface of the two to harness group identity and group dynamics?

“Apocalyptic Rhetoric” in the Pastoral Epistles 
Program Unit: Disputed Paulines
Mark Harding, Australian College of Theology

The Apostle Paul is rightly termed an apocalypticist not only because his message originated in an apocalypse (Gal 1:12, 16), but also because he continued to receive visions and revelations. He imparted these to his hearers. The post-Pauline authors of Ephesians and Colossians mediate Paul’s apocalypticism chiefly through the discourse of “mystery.” Although it has been fashionable to downplay the apocalypticism of the Pastoral Epistles (PE), the letters do subscribe to this worldview. In the PE, Paul’s apocalypticism is encountered not only in their espousal of apocalyptic eschatology but also in their discourse of the finality of the mystery and revelation uniquely received and authoritatively mediated by the Apostle. This discourse—rooted as it is in revelation—is aptly termed “apocalyptic rhetoric.” This is a term that was first applied to the rhetoric of the New Testament Apocalypse by Adela Yarbro Collins and Barry Brummett in the early 1980s. The term can be applied to the rhetoric of the PE, although the PE (like the Pauline corpus as a whole) are letters and not apocalypses. In this discourse, the authority of the Apostle in the highly contested context of the PE is grounded in the epiphany of Christ and the moral and creedal implications that are in accord with that epiphany and to which his ministry, and the ministry of those he commissions, finally, infallibly and exclusively bears witness. The apostolic “deposit” vouchsafed to Paul and through him to his delegates and their successors is full, perfect and sufficient, such that teaching that is not in accord with it is a betrayal of the Pauline heritage. In this way, the PE are testimonies of the power of speech grounded in revelation and mediated by a writer who uniquely articulated the apostle’s authority.

The Rhetoric of PIETAS: First Timothy and the Negotiation of Roman Imperial Pietas 
Program Unit: Disputed Paulines
Chris Hoklotubbe, Harvard University

This paper provides a postcolonial reading to 1 Timothy that attends to how the author negotiates the imperial situation in his appeal to piety (eusebeia) within the context of instructing the community to offer prayers on behalf of imperial authorities (1 Tim 2:1–2) and how women and widows ought to behave within the household of God (1 Tim 2:9–15). Scholars including Mary Rose D’Angelo and Angela Standhartinger convincingly argue that 1 Timothy’s instructions on prayer and admonitions for women to marry, bear children, and remain subordinate to their husbands accommodate to conservative social values promoted in imperial legislation and propaganda. However, scholars like Ben Witherington and Phillip Towner insist that these passages are not indicative of accommodation, but rather a missiological approach that Christianized secular virtues and even resisted imperial culture. I argue that a postcolonial optics is helpful for moving beyond a dichotomy of accommodation/resistance and allows us to better observe how both elements are present within the author’s negotiation of imperial social values and Christian doctrine within the scope of his construction of a hybrid Christian identity and piety. This paper will also succinctly contextualize 1 Timothy’s appeals to piety within the prevalence of rhetorical claims to piety (pietas/eusebeia) that occur in Roman poetry, monumental inscriptions, and coins in order to clarify the cultural significance of this virtue for how both elite Romans and provincial subjects, including the author of 1 Timothy, conceptualized imperial power and their relation to it. I argue that both claims to piety that pervaded the imperial propaganda of Trajan and Hadrian as evidenced in coins, reliefs, panegyrics, and building campaigns as well as elite Roman discourses that contrasted Roman pietas against foreign superstitio textualized the structures that comprised the imperial situation of 1 Timothy’s and illuminate its rhetoric of piety.

Timothy in Ephesus? First Timothy, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Acts of Timothy Reconsidered 
Program Unit: Ancient Fiction and Early Christian and Jewish Narrative
Meira Z. Kensky, Coe College

This paper will analyze the way Timothy’s association with Ephesus is remembered and constructed in early Christian literature. While 1 Timothy imagines Timothy as an Ephesus-based administrator, and Eusebius tells us that the tradition holds Timothy as the first bishop of that city (Eus., Hist. Eccl. 3.4), other texts are ambiguous at best on this issue. The lack of a clear association between Timothy and Ephesus in the Acts of the Apostles is particularly striking. In addition to having ambiguous presence throughout Acts 19, Timothy is not located in Ephesus during the riot (19:23-41), and is also not named as present in the speech to the Ephesian elders in 20:17-38. Since many people think that Acts might have been written in Ephesus, Timothy’s absence during the Ephesian ministry is even more notable. Should we infer from Timothy’s absence that he was not really associated with Ephesus at all, and that this is a later invention by the author of 1 Timothy? The Acts of John, also set in Ephesus, is entirely silent not only on the presence of Timothy, but on the presence of any early Christian there before John, erasing the record of Pauline presence in the city. Ephesus is thus contested territory. And while the early tradition is ambiguous, the Acts of Timothy, a late addition to the corpus of Apocryphal Acts, details exactly how Paul ordained Timothy as Ephesus’ first bishop, and then narrates Timothy’s violent death during a pagan festival there. The text also talks about John’s activities in the city, and thus represents an attempt to harmonize early Christian traditions about this crucial center of early Christianity, who was working there at the same time, and what their relationship was to each other. Studying the way the Acts of Timothy paints its portrait of Timothy’s leadership and violent death in the city can shed light both on the memory of this crucial tradent as well as the memory of the city itself. What is gained in 1 Timothy by locating Timothy in Ephesus? And what is gained by having him die there in the Acts of Timothy?

Insisting on a Gospel of Resurrection in the Face of Suffering: An Initial Exploration of the Intersection of Religion and Politics in the Context in 2 Tim 2:8 
Program Unit: Disputed Paulines
Edward Pillar, University of Wales, Trinity Saint David

The writer of 2Timothy is presented as imprisoned, chained like a criminal, and suffering ‘for the gospel.’ Thus the writer asserts that his crime is inextricably linked with his gospel, and it seems apparent that his suffering is not only considerable (2:9), but some have suggested that it may well be linked to the severe, brutal, and cruel persecutions recorded by Tacitus of the Neronian era. The writer appears to be seeking to encourage Timothy not to be afraid to commit more fully to the gospel and thus perhaps inevitably to enter into the prospect of suffering (1:8). The gospel, which has led to such vicious persecution and inhumane suffering, is precisely and succinctly articulated in 2:8, ‘Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, out of the seed of David.’ In this paper we will explore the political nature of the gospel that is not simply an intersection of politics and religion, but appears to create an inexorable conflict with imperial politics. We will consider the thesis that in this letter the context of severe persecution and suffering is crucial in this instance to understand how religion and politics intersect. Jesus, as the Christ, is thus God’s alternative emperor or king. ‘Jesus Christ’, uniquely ordered at this point in the letter, taken alongside ‘out of the seed of David’ suggests an ancient narrative as an alternative to the imperial story that perpetuated the tyranny of the emperor. Further, the insistence of an alternative gospel – itself a challenge to empire – in proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus following crucifixion at the hands of the Romans Empire is both a challenge to imperial assertions of supreme power but also subverts this power in the act of resurrection.


Fred Sanders on Most Helpful PE Resources

After teaching a semester-long Bible Institute class on the Pastorals (“congregational-level teaching plus homework,” he said), well-known systematic theologian, Fred Sanders, has posted a list of commentaries are resources which he found most useful. I almost always find it helpful and interesting to read about what others found useful, and this list does not disappoint. Sanders not only list the titles but explains what he found useful (or not useful) about each item. He also graciously put in a good word about this blog. I am glad he found it helpful.

Additions to our list of 2014 PE publications

Thanks to those who have pointed out items we have missed. Each of these items have been added to the 2014 publications post, but I thought it might be useful to include this separate post announcing their inclusion. If you see others we’ve missed, please send them our way at pastoralepistles at gmail dot com. Also, if you publish something on the Pastorals this year, feel free to send us a notice so we can include it in this year’s list and perhaps review it.

Barentsen, Jack. “Stereotyping and Institutionalization as Indications of Leadership Maintenance in the Pastoral Epistles: 1 Timothy as a Test Case.” Pages 389-406 in T&T Clark Handbook to Social Identity in the New Testament. Edited by J. Brian Tucker and Coleman A. Baker. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2014.

Bolt, Peter and Tony Payne, ed. Women, Sermons and the Bible: Essays interacting with John Dickson’s Hearing Her Voice. Matthias Media, 2014.

Hylen, Susan E. “Modest, Industrious, and Loyal: Reinterpreting Conflicting Evidence for Women’s Roles.” Biblical Theology Bulletin 44 (2014): 3-12.

Jones, B. C. “Three New Coptic Papyrus Fragments of 2 Timothy and Titus (P.Mich. inv. 3535b).” Journal of Biblical Literature 133 (2014): 389-97.

Mbamalu, Abiola I. “‘The Woman Was Deceived and Became a Sinner’: A Literary-Theological Investigation of 1 Timothy 2:11-15.” HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 70 (2014). doi: 10.4102/hts.v70i3.2062

Paya, C. “Note exégetique: ‘L’exercise corporel est utile à peu de choses . . .’ (1 Tm 4.8).” Théologie Évangélique [Vaux-sur-Seine—Montreal] 13 (2014): 49-61.

Westfall, Cynthia Long. “The Meaning of αὐθεντέω in 1 Timothy 2.12.” Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 10 (2014): 138-73.

Pastorals Session at 2013 ETS

If you are attending the Evangelical Theological Society annual meeting next month in Baltimore, come and join us at the Pastoral Epistles Study Group. Here is the basic information on time, place, speakers and topics.


08:30 AM-11:40 AM
Hilton — Johnson A
Pastoral Epistles: Authorship of the Pastoral Epistles

Greg Couser
Cedarville University

08:30 AM—09:10 AM
Randy Richards
Palm Beach Atlantic University
Ancient Authorship Models and the Pastoral Epistles

09:20 AM—10:00 AM
L. Timothy Swinson
Liberty University
Paul’s use of “Graphe” in 1 Cor 15:3-4 and 1 Tim 5:18

10:10 AM—10:50 AM
Ray Van Neste
Union University
Coherence and Authorship in the 1 Timothy

11:00 AM—11:40 AM
Panel Discussion with:
L. Timothy Swinson
Ray Van Neste
Greg Couser

Christian Union and 2 Timothy

Last August I was privileged to teach through 2 Timothy for the leadership of the Christian Union, a wonderful ministry to Ivy League schools. 2 Timothy was the focus of their Bible studies this academic year, and two young men from the Harvard group decided to memorize 2 Timothy.  The video below is of them reciting 2 Timothy together at the Harvard College Faith and Action Christmas party.

(also posted at my blog)

Christmas and the Pastoral Epistles

As you listen to Handel’s Messiah this season, remember that the man who wrote the text listed 1 Timothy 3:16 as a moto for the oratorio:
And without controversy great is the Mystery of Godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

Merry Christmas!

Pastoral Epistles Consultation at ETS

A new consultation on the Pastoral Epistles will begin at next year’s annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. The title of the consultation is “The Pastoral Epistles and Pauline Theology.” Co-chairs are Greg Couser and Ray Van Neste with steering committee members Ben Merkle, Tom Schreiner, and Tim Swinson.

This consultation begins with the assumption of Pauline authorship. We are aware that in contemporary scholarship this is a significant assumption. However, since most work on Paul for many decades (even among those who affirm Pauline authorship) has set aside the Pastorals, we believe it is fair to take up the work from the other perspective. If we take the Pastorals as genuinely Pauline, how would this impact our view of Paul and his theology? What would be the result of a robust integration of the Pastorals into Pauline theology? Has our view of Paul been significantly shaped by the exclusion of the Pastorals?

We hope to pursue these questions in the next several years. We will have a full section at ETS in Fall 2011 with four presentations, and will announce more information at this site as things develop. We hope to see you at the session next year.