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Barclay's Daily Study Bible Daily Study Bible
by William Barclay
A GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO THE LETTERS OF PAUL
The Letters Of Paul
There is no more interesting body of documents in the New Testament than the letters of Paul. That is because of all forms of literature a letter is most personal. Demetrius, one of the old Greek literary critics, once wrote, "Every one reveals his own soul in his letters. In every other form of composition it is possible to discern the writer's character, but in none so clearly as the epistolary." (Demetrius, On Style, 227). It is just because he left us so many letters that we feel we know Paul so well. In them he opened his mind and heart to the folk he loved so much; and in them, to this day, we can see that great mind grappling with the problems of the early church, and feel that great heart throbbing with love for men, even when they were misguided and mistaken.
The Difficulty Of Letters
At the same time, there is often nothing so difficult to understand as a letter. Demetrius (On Style, 223) quotes a saying of Artemon, who edited the letters of Aristotle. Artemon said that a letter ought to be written in the same manner as a dialogue, because it was one of the two sides of a dialogue. In other words, to read a letter is like listening to one side of a telephone conversation. So when we read the letters of Paul we are often in a difficulty. We do not possess the letter which he was answering; we do not fully know the circumstances with which he was dealing; it is only from the letter itself that we can deduce the situation which prompted it. Before we can hope to understand fully any letter Paul wrote, we must try to reconstruct the situation which produced it.
The Ancient Letters
It is a great pity that Paul's letters were ever called epistles. They are in the most literal sense letters. One of the great lights shed on the interpretation of the New Testament has been the discovery and the publication of the papyri. In the ancient world, papyrus was the substance on which most documents were written. It was composed of strips of the pith of a certain bulrush that grew on the banks of the Nile. These strips were laid one on top of the other to form a substance very like brown paper. The sands of the Egyptian desert were ideal for preservation, for papyrus, although very brittle, will last forever so long as moisture does not get at it. As a result, from the Egyptian rubbish heaps, archaeologists have rescued hundreds of documents, marriage contracts, legal agreements, government forms, and, most interesting of all, private letters. When we read these private letters we find that there was a pattern to which nearly all conformed; and we find that Paul's letters reproduce exactly that pattern. Here is one of these ancient letters. It is from a soldier, called Apion, to his father Epimachus. He is writing from Misenum to tell his father that he has arrived safely after a stormy passage.
"Apion sends heartiest greetings to his father and lord Epimachus.
I pray above all that you are well and fit; and that things are
going well with you and my sister and her daughter and my brother.
I thank my Lord Serapis [his god] that he kept me safe when I was
in peril on the sea. As soon as I got to Misenum I got my journey
money from Caesar--three gold pieces. And things are going fine
with me. So I beg you, my dear father, send me a line, first to let
me know how you are, and then about my brothers, and thirdly, that
I may kiss your hand, because you brought me up well, and because
of that I hope, God willing, soon to be promoted. Give Capito my
heartiest greetings, and my brothers and Serenilla and my friends.
I sent you a little picture of myself painted by Euctemon. My
military name is Antonius Maximus. I pray for your good health.
Serenus sends good wishes, Agathos Daimon's boy, and Turbo,
Gallonius' son." (G. Milligan, Selections from the Greek Papyri,
Little did Apion think that we would be reading his letter to his father 1800 years after he had written it. It shows how little human nature changes. The lad is hoping for promotion quickly. Who will Serenilla be but the girl he left behind him? He sends the ancient equivalent of a photograph to the folk at home. Now that letter falls into certain sections. (i) There is a greeting. (ii) There is a prayer for the health of the recipients. (iii) There is a thanksgiving to the gods. (iv) There are the special contents. (v) Finally, there are the special salutations and the personal greetings. Practically every one of Paul's letters shows exactly the same sections, as we now demonstrate.
(i) The Greeting: Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Php_1:1 ; Colossians 1:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1.
(ii) The Prayer: in every case Paul prays for the grace of God on the people to whom he writes: Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Php_1:3 ; Colossians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:2.
(iii) The Thanksgiving: Romans 1:8; 1 Corinthians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 1:3; Ephesians 1:3; Php_1:3 ; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:3.
(iv) The Special Contents: the main body of the letters.
(v) Special Salutations and Personal Greetings: Romans 16:1-27; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Corinthians 13:13; Php_4:21-22 ; Colossians 4:12-15; 1 Thessalonians 5:26.
When Paul wrote letters, he wrote them on the pattern which everyone used. Deissmann says of them, "They differ from the messages of the homely papyrus leaves of Egypt, not as letters but only as the letters of Paul." When we read Paul's letters we are not reading things which were meant to be academic exercises and theological treatises, but human documents written by a friend to his friends.
The Immediate Situation
With a very few exceptions, all Paul's letters were written to meet an immediate situation and not treatises which he sat down to write in the peace and silence of his study. There was some threatening situation in Corinth, or Galatia, or Philippi, or Thessalonica, and he wrote a letter to meet it. He was not in the least thinking of us when he wrote, but solely of the people to whom he was writing. Deissmann writes, "Paul had no thought of adding a few fresh compositions to the already extant Jewish epistles; still less of enriching the sacred literature of his nation. He had no presentiment of the place his words would occupy in universal history; not so much that they would be in existence in the next generation, far less that one day people would look at them as Holy Scripture." We must always remember that a thing need not be transient because it was written to meet an immediate situation. All the great love songs of the world were written for one person, but they live on for the whole of mankind. It is just because Paul's letters were written to meet a threatening danger or a clamant need that they still throb with life. And it is because human need and the human situation do not change that God speaks to us through them today.
The Spoken Word
One other thing we must note about these letters. Paul did what most people did in his day. He did not normally pen his own letters but dictated them to a secretary, and then added his own authenticating signature. (We actually know the name of one of the people who did the writing for him. In Romans 16:22 Tertius, the secretary, slips in his own greeting before the letter draws to an end). In 1 Corinthians 16:21 Paul says, "This is my own signature, my autograph, so that you can be sure this letter comes from me." (compare Colossians 4:18; 2 Thessalonians 3:17.)
This explains a great deal. Sometimes Paul is hard to understand, because his sentences begin and never finish; his grammar breaks down and the construction becomes involved. We must not think of him sitting quietly at a desk, carefully polishing each sentence as he writes. We must think of him striding up and down some little room, pouring out a torrent Paul composed his letters, he had in his mind's eye a vision of words, while his secretary races to get them down. When of the folk to whom he was writing, and he was pouring out his heart to them in words that fell over each other in his eagerness to help.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
INTRODUCTION TO THE LETTERS TO TIMOTHY AND TITUS
1 and 2 Timothy and Titus have always been regarded as forming a separate group of letters, different from the other letters of Paul. The most obvious difference is that they, along with the little letter to Philemon, are written to persons, whereas all other Pauline letters are written to Churches. The Muratorian Canon, which was the earliest official list of New Testament books, says that they were written "from personal feeling and affection." They are private rather than public letters.
But it very soon began to be seen that, though these are personal and private letters, they have a significance and a relevance far beyond the immediate. In 1 Timothy 3:15 their aim is set down. They are written to Timothy "that you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God." So, then, it came to be seen that these letters have not only a personal significance, but also what one might call an ecclesiastical significance. The Muratorian Canon says of them that, though they are personal letters written out of personal affection, "they are still hallowed in the respect of the Catholic Church, and in the arrangement of ecclesiastical discipline." Tertullian said that Paul wrote "two letters to Timothy and one to Titus, which were composed concerning the state of the Church (de ecclesiastico statu)." It is not then surprising that the first name given to them was Pontifical Letters, that is, written by the pontifex, the priest, the controller of the Church.
Bit by bit they came to acquire the name by which they are still known--The Pastoral Epistles. In writing of I Timothy Thomas Aquinas, as long ago as 1274, said, "This letter is as it were a pastoral rule which the Apostle delivered to Timothy." In his introduction to the second letter, he writes, "In the first letter he gives Timothy instructions concerning ecclesiastical order; in this second letter he deals with a pastoral care which should be so great that it will even accept martyrdom for the sake of the care of the flock." But this title, The Pastoral Epistles, really became affixed to these letters in 1726 when a great scholar, Paul Anton by name, gave a series of famous lectures on them under that title.
These letters then deal with the care and organization of the flock of God; they tell men how to behave within the household of God; they give instructions as to how God's house should be administered, as to what kind of people the leaders and pastors of the Church should be, and as to how the threats which endanger the purity of Christian faith and life should be dealt with.
The Growing Church
The supreme interest of these letters is that we get in them a picture of the infant Church. In those early days it was an island in a sea of paganism. The people in it were only one remove from their heathen origin. It would have been so easy for them to relapse into the pagan standards from which they had come; the tarnishing atmosphere was all around. It is most significant that missionaries tell us that of all letters the Pastoral Epistles speak most directly to the situation of the younger Churches. The situation with which they deal is being re-enacted in India, in Africa, in China every day. They can never lose their interest because in them we see, as nowhere else, the problems which continually beset the growing Church.
The Ecclesiastical Background Of The Pastorals
From the beginning these letters have presented problems to New Testament scholars. There are many who have felt that, as they stand, they cannot have come directly from the hand and pen of Paul. That this is no new feeling may be seen from the fact that Marcion, who, although he was a heretic, was the first man to draw up a list of New Testament books, did not include them among Paul's letters. Let us then see what makes people doubt their direct Pauline authorship.
In them we are confronted with the picture of a Church with a fairly highly developed ecclesiastical organization. There are elders ( 1 Timothy 5:17-19; Titus 1:5-6); there are bishops, superintendents or overseers ( 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:7-16); there are deacons ( 1 Timothy 3:8-13). From 1 Timothy 5:17-18 we learn that by that time elders were even salaried officials. The elders that rule well are to be counted worthy of a double pay and the Church is urged to remember that the labourer is worthy of his hire. There is at least the beginning of the order of widows who became so prominent later on in the early Church ( 1 Timothy 5:3-16). There is clearly here a quite elaborate structure within the Church, too elaborate some would claim for the early days in which Paul lived and worked.
The Days Of Creeds
It is even claimed that in these letters we can see the days of creeds emerging. The word faith changed its meaning. In the earliest days it is always faith in a person; it is the most intimate possible personal connection of love and trust and obedience with Jesus Christ. In later days it became faith in a creed; it became the acceptance of certain doctrines. It is said that in the Pastoral Epistles we can see this change emerging.
In the later days men will come who will depart from the faith and give heed to doctrines of devils ( 1 Timothy 4:1). A good servant of Jesus Christ must be nourished in the words of faith and good doctrine ( 1 Timothy 4:6). The heretics are men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith ( 2 Timothy 3:8). The duty of Titus is to rebuke men that they may be sound in the faith ( Titus 1:13).
This comes out very particularly in an expression peculiar to the Pastorals. Timothy is urged to keep hold of "the truth that has been entrusted to you" ( 2 Timothy 1:14). The word for that has been entrusted is paratheke ( G3866) . Paratheke means a deposit which has been entrusted to a banker or someone else for safe-keeping. It is essentially something which must be handed back or handed on absolutely unchanged. That is to say the stress is on orthodoxy. Instead of being a close, personal relationship to Jesus Christ, as it was in the thrilling and throbbing days of the early Church, faith has become the acceptance of a creed. It is even held that in the Pastorals we have echoes of the earliest creeds.
"God was manifested in the flesh;
Vindicated in the Spirit;
Seen by angels;
Preached among the nations;
Believed on in the world;
Taken up in glory" ( 1 Timothy 3:16).
That indeed sounds like the fragment of a creed to be recited.
"Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from
David, as preached in my gospel" ( 2 Timothy 2:8).
That sounds like a reminder of a sentence from an accepted creed.
Within the Pastorals there undoubtedly are indications that the day of insistence on acceptance of a creed has begun, and that the days of the first thrilling personal discovery of Christ are beginning to fade.
A Dangerous Heresy
It is clear that in the forefront of the situation against which the Pastoral Epistles were written there was a dangerous heresy which was threatening the welfare of the Christian Church. If we can distinguish the various characteristic features of that heresy, we may be able to go on to identify it.
It was characterized by speculative intellectualism. It produced questions ( 1 Timothy 1:4); those involved in it doted about questions ( 1 Timothy 6:4); it dealt in foolish and unlearned questions ( 2 Timothy 2:23); its foolish questions are to be avoided ( Titus 3:9). The word used in each case for questions is ekzetesis (compare G1567 and G2214) , which means speculative discussion. This heresy was obviously one which was a play-ground of the intellectuals, or rather the pseudo-intellectuals of the Church.
It was characterized by pride. The heretic is proud, although in reality he knows nothing ( 1 Timothy 6:4). There are indications that these intellectuals set themselves on a plane above the ordinary Christian; in fact they may well have said that complete salvation was outside the grasp of the ordinary man and open only to them. At times the Pastoral Epistles stress the word all in a most significant way. The grace of God, which brings salvation, has appeared to all men ( Titus 2:11). It is God's will that all men should be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth ( 1 Timothy 2:4). The intellectuals tried to make the greatest blessings of Christianity the exclusive possession of a chosen few; and in contradistinction the true faith stresses the all-embracing love of God.
There were within that heresy two opposite tendencies. There was a tendency to asceticism. The heretics tried to lay down special food laws, forgetting that everything God has made is good ( 1 Timothy 4:4-5). They listed many things as impure, forgetting that to the pure all things are pure ( Titus 1:15). It is not impossible that they regarded sex as something unclean and belittled marriage, and even tried to persuade those who were married to renounce it, for in Titus 2:4 the simple duties of the married life are stressed as being binding on the Christian.
But this heresy also issued in immorality. The heretics even invaded private houses and led away weak and foolish women in evil desires ( 2 Timothy 3:6). They professed to know God, but denied him by their deeds ( Titus 1:16). They were out to impose upon people and to make money out of their false teaching. To them gain was godliness ( 1 Timothy 6:5); they taught and deceived for base gain ( Titus 1:11).
On the one hand this heresy issued in an unchristian asceticism, and on the other it produced an equally unchristian immorality.
It was characterized, too, by words and tales and genealogies. It was full of godless chatter and useless controversies ( 1 Timothy 6:20). It produced endless genealogies ( 1 Timothy 1:4; Titus 3:9). It produced myths and fables ( 1 Timothy 1:4; Titus 1:14).
It was at least in some way and to some extent tied up with Jewish legalism. Amongst its devotees were those of the circumcision ( Titus 1:10). The aim of the heretics was to be teachers of the law ( 1 Timothy 1:7). It pressed on men Jewish fables and the commandments of men ( Titus 1:14).
Finally, these heretics denied the resurrection of the body. They said that any resurrection that a man was going to experience had been experienced already ( 2 Timothy 2:18). This is probably a reference to those who held that the only resurrection the Christian experienced was a spiritual one when he died with Christ and rose again with him in the experience of baptism ( Romans 6:4).
The Beginnings Of Gnosticism
Is there any heresy which fits all this material? There is, and its name is Gnosticism. The basic thought of Gnosticism was that all matter is essentially evil and spirit alone is good. That basic belief had certain consequences.
The Gnostic believed that matter is as eternal as God; and that when God created the world he had to use this essentially evil matter. That meant that to them God could not be the direct creator of the world. In order to touch this flawed matter he had to send out a series of emanations--they called them aeons--each one more and more distant from himself until at last there came an emanation or aeon so distant that it could deal with matter and create the world. Between man and God there stretched a series of these emanations, each with his name and genealogy. So Gnosticism literally had endless fables and endless genealogies. If a man was ever to get to God, he must, as it were, ascend this ladder of emanations; and to do that he needed a very special kind of knowledge including all kinds of passwords to get him past each stage. Only a person of the highest intellectual calibre could hope to acquire this knowledge and know these passwords and so get to God.
Further, if matter was altogether evil, the body was altogether evil. From that, two opposite possible consequences sprang. Either the body must be held down so that a rigorous asceticism resulted, in which the needs of the body were as far as possible eliminated and its instincts, especially the sex instinct, as far as possible destroyed; or it could be held that, since it was evil, it did not matter what was done with the body and its instincts and desires could be given full rein. The Gnostic therefore became either an ascetic or a man to whom morality had ceased to have any relevance at all.
Still further, if the body was evil, clearly there could be no such thing as its resurrection. It was not the resurrection of the body but its destruction to which the Gnostic looked forward.
All this fits accurately the situation of the Pastoral Epistles. In Gnosticism we see the intellectualism, the intellectual arrogance, the fables and the genealogies, the asceticism and the immorality, the refusal to contemplate the possibility of a bodily resurrection, which were part and parcel of the heresy against which the Pastoral Epistles were written.
One element in the heresy has not yet been fitted into place--the Judaism and the legalism of which the Pastoral Epistles speak. That too finds its place. Sometimes Gnosticism and Judaism joined hands. We have already said that the Gnostics insisted that to climb the ladder to God a very special knowledge was necessary; and that some of them insisted that for the good life a strict asceticism was essential. It was the claim of certain of the Jews that it was precisely the Jewish law and the Jewish food regulations which provided that special knowledge and necessary asceticism; and so there were times when Judaism and Gnosticism went hand in hand.
It is quite clear that the heresy at the back of the Pastoral Epistles was Gnosticism. Some have used that fact to try to prove that Paul could have had nothing to do with the writing of them, because, they say, Gnosticism did not emerge until much later than Paul. It is quite true that the great formal systems of Gnosticism, connected with such names as Valentinus and Basilides, did not arise until the second century; but these great figures only systematized what was already there. The basic ideas of Gnosticism were there in the atmosphere which surrounded the early Church, even in the days of Paul. It is easy to see their attraction, and also to see that, if they had been allowed to flourish unchecked, they could have turned Christianity into a speculative philosophy and wrecked it. In facing Gnosticism, the Church was facing one of the gravest dangers which ever threatened the Christian faith.
The Language Of The Pastorals
The most impressive argument against the direct Pauline origin of the Pastorals is a fact which is quite clear in the Greek but not so clear in any English translation. The total number of words in the Pastoral Epistles is 902, of which 54 are proper names; and of these 902 words, no fewer than 306 never occur in any other of Paul's letters. That is to say more than a third of the words in the Pastoral Epistles are totally absent from Paul's other letters. In fact 175 words in the Pastoral Epistles occur nowhere else in the New Testament at all; although it is only fair to say that there are 50 words in the Pastoral Epistles which occur in Paul's other letters and nowhere else in the New Testament.
Further, when the other letters of Paul and the Pastorals say the same thing they say it in different ways, using different words and different turns of speech to express the same idea.
Again, many of Paul's favourite words are absent entirely from the Pastoral Epistles. The words for the cross (stauros, G4716) and to crucify (stauroun, G4717) occur 27 times in Paul's other letters, and never in the Pastorals. Eleutheria ( G1657) and the kindred words which have to do with freedom occur 29 times in Paul's other letters, and never in the Pastorals. Huios ( G5207) , "son," and huiothesia ( G5206) , "adoption," occur 46 times in Paul's other letters, and never in the Pastorals.
Moreover, Greek has many more of those little words called particles and enclitics than English has. Sometimes they indicate little more than a tone of voice; every Greek sentence is joined to its predecessor by one of them; and they are often virtually untranslatable. Of these particles and enclitics there are 112 which Paul uses altogether 932 times in his other letters that never occur in the Pastorals.
There is clearly something which has to be explained here. The vocabulary and the style make it hard to believe that Paul wrote the Pastoral Epistles in the same sense as he wrote his other letters.
Paul's Activities In The Pastorals
But perhaps the most obvious difficulty of the Pastorals is that they show Paul engaged in activities for which there is no room in his life as we know it from the book of Acts. He has clearly conducted a mission in Crete ( Titus 1:5). And he proposes to spend a winter in Nicopolis, which is in Epirus ( Titus 3:12). In Paul's life as we know it that particular mission and that particular winter just cannot be fitted in. But it may well be that just here we have stumbled on the solution to the problem.
Was Paul Released From His Roman Imprisonment?
Let us sum up. We have seen that the Church organization of the Pastorals is more elaborate than in any other Pauline letter. We have seen that the stress on orthodoxy sounds like second or third generation Christianity, when the thrill of the new discovery is wearing off and the Church is on the way to becoming an institution. We have seen that Paul is depicted as carrying out a mission or missions which cannot be fitted into the scheme of his life as we have it in Acts. But Acts leaves it quite uncertain what happened to Paul in Rome. It ends by telling us that he lived for two whole years in a kind of semi-captivity, preaching the gospel without hindrance ( Acts 28:30-31). But it does not tell us how that captivity ended, whether in Paul's release or his execution. It is true that the general assumption is that it ended in his condemnation and death; but there is a by no means negligible stream of tradition which tells that it ended in his release, his liberty for two or three further years, his reimprisonment and his final execution about the year A.D. 67.
Let us look at this question, for it is of the greatest interest.
First, it is clear that when Paul was in prison in Rome, he did not regard release as impossible; in fact, it looks as if he expected it. When he wrote to the Philippians, he said that he was sending Timothy to them, and goes on, "And I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself shall come also" ( Php_2:24 ). When he wrote to Philemon, sending back the runaway Onesimus, he says, "At the same time prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping through your prayers to be granted to you" ( Philemon 1:22). Clearly he was prepared for release, whether or not it ever came.
Second, let us remember a plan that was very dear to Paul's heart. Before he went to Jerusalem on that journey on which he was arrested, he wrote to the Church at Rome, and in that letter he is planning a visit to Spain. "I hope to see you in passing," he writes, "as I go to Spain." "I shall go on by way of you," he writes, "to Spain" ( Romans 15:24; Romans 15:28). Was that visit ever paid?
Clement of Rome, when he wrote to the Church at Corinth about A.D. 90, said of Paul that he preached the gospel in the East and in the West; that he instructed the whole world (that is, the Roman Empire) in righteousness; and that he went to the extremity (terma, the terminus) of the West, before his martyrdom. What did Clement mean by the extremity of the West? There are many who argue that he meant nothing more than Rome. Now it is true that someone writing away in the East in Asia Minor would probably think of Rome as the extremity, of the West. But Clement was writing from Rome; and it is difficult to see that for anyone in Rome the extremity of the West could be anything else but Spain. It certainly seems that Clement believed that Paul reached Spain.
The greatest of all the early Church historians was Eusebius. In his account of Paul's life he writes: "Luke who wrote the Acts of the Apostles, brought his history to a close at this point, after stating that Paul had spent two whole years at Rome as a prisoner at large, and preached the word of God without constraint. Thus, after he had made his defence, it is said that the Apostle was sent again on the ministry of preaching, and that on coming to the same city a second time he suffered martyrdom" (Eusebius: Ecclesiastical History, 2.22.2). Eusebius has nothing to say about Spain, but he did know the story that Paul had been released from his first Roman imprisonment.
The Muratorian Canon, that first list of New Testament books, describes Luke's scheme in writing Acts: "Luke related to Theophilus events of which he was an eye-witness, as also, in a separate place, he evidently declares the martyrdom of Peter (he probably refers to Luke 22:31-32); but omits the journey of Paul from Rome to Spain."
In the fifth century, two of the great Christian fathers are definite about this journey. Chrysostom in his sermon on 2 Timothy 4:20 says: "Saint Paul after his residence in Rome departed to Spain." Jerome in his Catalogue of Writers says that Paul "was dismissed by Nero that he might preach Christ's gospel in the West."
Beyond doubt a stream of tradition held that Paul journeyed to Spain.
This is a matter on which we will have to come to our own decision. The one thing which makes us doubt the historicity of that tradition is that in Spain itself there is not and never was any tradition that Paul had worked and preached there, no stories about him, no places connected with his name. It would be indeed strange if the memory of such a visit had become totally obliterated. It could well be that the whole story of Paul's release and journey to the west arose simply as a deduction from his expressed intention to visit Spain ( Romans 15:1-33). Most New Testament scholars do not think that Paul was released from his imprisonment; the general consensus of opinion is that his only release was by death.
Paul And The Pastoral Epistles
What then shall we say of Paul's connection with these letters? If we can accept the tradition of his release, and of his return to preaching and teaching, and of his death as late as A.D. 67, we might well believe that as they stand they came from his hand. But, if we cannot believe that--and the evidence is on the whole against it--are we to say that they have no connection with Paul at all?
We must remember that the ancient world did not think of these things as we do. It would see nothing wrong in issuing a letter under the name of a great teacher, if it was sure that the letter said the things which that teacher would say under the same circumstances. To the ancient world it was natural and seemly that a disciple should write in his master's name. No one would have seen anything wrong in one of Paul's disciples meeting a new and threatening situation with a letter under Paul's name. To regard that as forgery is to misunderstand the mind of the ancient world. Are we then to swing completely to the other extreme and say that some disciple of his issued these letters in Paul's name years after he was dead, and at a time when the Church was much more highly organized than ever it was during his lifetime?
As we see it, the answer is no. It is incredible that any disciple would put into Paul's mouth a claim to be the chief of sinners ( 1 Timothy 1:15); his tendency would be to stress Paul's holiness, not to talk about his sin. It is incredible that anyone writing in the name of Paul would give Timothy the homely advice to drink a little wine for the sake of his health ( 1 Timothy 5:23). The whole of 2 Timothy 4:1-22 is so personal and so full of intimate, loving details that no one but Paul could have written it.
Wherein lies the solution? It may well be that something like this happened. It is quite obvious that many letters of Paul went lost. Apart from his great public letters, he must have had a continuous private correspondence; and of that we possess only the little letter to Philemon. It may well be that in the later days there were some fragments of Paul's correspondence in the possession of some Christian teacher. This teacher saw the Church of his day and his locality in Ephesus threatened on every side. It was threatened with heresy from without and from within. It was threatened with a fall away from its own high standards of purity and truth. The quality of its members and the standard of its office-bearers were degenerating. He had in his possession little letters of Paul which said exactly the things that should be said, but, as they stood, they were too short and too fragmentary to publish. So he amplified them and made them supremely relevant to the contemporary situation and sent them out to the Church.
In the Pastoral Epistles we are still hearing the voice of Paul, and often hearing it speak with a unique personal intimacy; but we think that the form of the letters is due to a Christian teacher who summoned the help of Paul when the Church of the day needed the guidance which only he could give.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)