Mission in the Pastoral Epistles: Two Newly Available Resources

In the twentieth century, the influential German commentary of Martin Dibelius (revised by Hans Conzelmann), Die Pastoralbriefe (4th ed.; HNT 13; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1966) was mediated to the English-speaking world in the Hermeneia series as The Pastoral Epistles (trans. Philip Buttolph and Adela Yarbro; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1972). One of the key points of influence was the christliche Bürgerlichkeit proposal popularized in the commentary. This idea of the “good Christian citizen” traded on the notion that the Pastorals were written in light of decreased expectation of the parousia, and that in order to survive a hostile world, believers were going to have to learn to settle in for the long haul. In Dibelius’s reading of the Pastorals, “settling in” meant “fitting in,” and the letters were concerned to help Christians maintain a low profile, so to speak, by living in such a way that the surrounding culture would look on with at least a measure of approval. Dibelius’s proposal was heavily grounded in 1 Tim 2:1-2, and found support in the concern with the perception of outsiders found throughout the letters.

The christliche Bürgerlichkeit proposal received significant pushback, however, when the mission-oriented nature of the letters was given its due. The monograph of Philip Towner, The Goal of Our Instruction: The Structure of Theology and Ethics in the Pastoral Epistles (JSNTSS 34; Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic, 1989; repr., Bloomsbury Academic Collections; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), provided an important response to Dibelius, which was later mediated through his influential NICNT commentary, The Letters to Timothy and Titus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006).

Towner, however, is not the only one who has emphasized the mission-oriented nature of the letters, and two works in the same vein have recently come to be available.

Chiao Ek Ho’s Aberdeen dissertation, “Do the Work of an Evangelist: The Missionary Outlook of the Pastoral Epistles” (2000), written under I. Howard Marshall, was unfortunately never published as a monograph, though its core substance was made available in “Mission in the Pastoral Epistles,” in Entrusted with the Gospel: Paul’s Theology in the Pastoral Epistles (ed. Andreas J. Köstenberger and Terry L. Wilder; Nashville: B&H: 2010), 241‒267. The dissertation itself may now be accessed at EThOS (here is the link, along with an abstract), and to my understanding has only recently been available. All students of the Pastorals should obtain it.

Additionally, Andreas J. Köstenberger has just produced an article-length treatment: “An Investigation of the Mission Motif in the Letters to Timothy and Titus with Implications for Pauline Authorship.” BBR 29.1 (2019): 49–64 (abstract and full article available here). This article is grounded in (and goes beyond) the biblical-theological work done on mission in the Pastorals as set forth in Köstenberger’s recent Commentary on 1‒2 Timothy & Titus (BTCP; Nashville, TN: Holman, 2017).

Lookadoo reviews Theobald, Israel-Vergessenheit in den Pastoralbriefen

Michael Theobald is a German academic who published rather extensively on the Pastorals in his later career. To my knowledge, however, all of his work on the letters is in German (save for the just-published entry on Titus in The Paulist Bible Commentary), and so English-speaking students of the Pastorals may not be as familiar with his scholarship.

The single monograph Theobald produced on the Pastorals was published in 2016: Israel-Vergessenheit in den Pastoralbriefen: Ein neuer Vorschlag zu ihrer historisch-theologischen Verortung im 2. Jahrhundert. n. Chr. unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Ignatius-Briefe [Forgetting Israel in the Pastoral Letters: A New Proposal for Their Historical-Theological Location in the 2nd Century A.D. with Special Consideration of the Ignatius Letters]. In this work, he examines the origination of the Pastorals through the lens of the topic of Israel. He is particularly concerned to compare the engagement with Israel in Romans (another book in which he specializes) over against what he finds to be a lack of engagement with Israel in the Pastorals. He ends up dating the letters to c. 140 AD.

Jonathan Lookadoo has served English-speaking students of the Pastorals well by reviewing Theobald’s monograph for RBL, and has graciously agreed to upload the review to Academia, allowing general access. In his review, he notes Theobald’s valuable highlighting of connections between Romans and the Pastorals, and appreciates the case Theobald makes for reading Titus as the first of the Pastorals. Lookadoo notes, “Those who argue for authentically Pauline Pastoral Epistles or for another first-century date will likely take issue with some of Theobald’s arguments, but this does not take away from the value of his study. “

Use this link to read the entire review.