International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Pastoral Epistles, the
1. External Evidence
2. Genuineness Questioned
1. Relative to Paul's Experiences
(1) Data in 1 Timothy
(2) Data in 2 Timothy
(3) Data in Titus
2. Subject-Matter Post-Pauline
(1) Difficulty Regarding Church Organization
(2) The Doctrinal Difficulty
3. Difficulty Relative to Language
4. Is There "Another Gospel" in the Pastorals?
1. Date of the Epistles
2. Their Order
The First and Second Epistles to Timothy, and the Epistle to Titus form a distinct group among the letters written by Paul, and are now known as the Pastoral Epistles because they were addressed to two Christian ministers. When Timothy and Titus received these epistles they were not acting, as they had previously done, as missionaries or itinerant evangelists, but had been left by Paul in charge of churches; the former having the oversight of the church in Ephesus, and the latter having the care of the churches in the island of Crete. The Pastoral Epistles were written to guide them in the discharge of the duties devolving upon them as Christian pastors. Such is a general description of these epistles. In each of them, however, there is a great deal more than is covered or implied by the designation, "Pastoral" - much that is personal, and much also that is concerned with Christian faith and doctrine and practice generally.
1. External Evidence:
In regard to the genuineness of the epistles there is abundant external attestation. Allusions to them are found in the writings of Clement and Polycarp. In the middle of the 2nd century the epistles were recognized as Pauline in authorship, and were freely quoted.
"Marcion indeed rejected them, and Tatian is supposed to have rejected those to Timothy. But, as Jerome states in the preface to his Commentary on Titus , these heretics rejected the epistles, not on critical grounds, but merely because they disliked their teaching. He says they used no argument, but merely asserted, This is Paul's, This is not Paul's. It is obvious that men holding such opinions as Marcion and Tatian held, would not willingly ascribe authority to epistles which condemned asceticism. So far, then, as the early church can guarantee to us the authenticity of writings ascribed to Paul, the Pastoral Epistles are guaranteed" (Marcus Dods, Introduction to the New Testament , 167).
The external evidence is all in favor of the reception of these epistles., which were known not only to Clement and Polycarp, but also to Irenaeus, Tertullian, the author of the Epistle to the churches of Vienne and Lyons, and Theophilus of Antioch. The evidence of Polycarp, who died in 167 AD, is remarkably strong. He says, "The love of money is the beginning of all trouble, knowing ... that we brought nothing into the world, neither can carry anything out" (compare 1 Timothy 6:7 , 1 Timothy 6:10 ). It would be difficult to overthrow testimony of this nature.
2. Genuineness Questioned:
The decision of certain critics to reject the Pastoral Epistles as documents not from the hand of Paul, "is not reached on the external evidence, which is perhaps as early an attestation as can be reasonably expected. They are included in the Muratorian Canon, and quoted by Irenaeus and later writers as Paul's" (A.S. Peake,
II. Alleged Difficulties Against Pauline Authorship.
Various difficulties have been alleged against the reception of the Pastoral Epistles as Pauline. The chief of these are: (1) the difficulty of finding any place for these letters in the life of Paul, as that is recorded in the Acts and in the Pauline Epistles written before the Pastorals; (2) the fact that there are said to be in them indications of an ecclesiastical organization, and of a development of doctrine, both orthodox and heretical, considerably in advance of the Pauline age; (3) that the language of the epistles is, to a large extent, different from that in the accepted epistles; (4) the "most decisive" of all the arguments against the Pauline authorship - so writes Dr. A.C. McGiffert (
Where can a place be found for these epistles, in the life of Paul? The indications of the date of their composition given in the epistles themselves are these.
1. Relative to Paul's Experiences:
(1) Data in 1 Timothy
In 1 Timothy 1:3 Paul had gone from Ephesus to Macedonia, and had left Timothy in Ephesus in charge of the church there. In the Acts and in the previously written Pauline epistles, it is impossible to find such events or such a state of matters as will satisfy these requirements. Paul had previously been in Ephesus, on several occasions. His 1st visit to that city is recorded in Acts 18:19-21 . On that occasion he went from Ephesus, not into Macedonia, but into Syria. His 2nd visit was his 3 years' residence in Ephesus, as narrated in Acts 19; and when he left the city, he had, previous to his own departure from it, already sent Timothy into Macedonia (Acts 19:22 ) - a state of matters exactly the reverse of that described in 1 Timothy 1:3 . Timothy soon rejoined Paul, and so far was he from being left in Ephesus then, that he was in Paul's company on the remainder of his journey toward Jerusalem (Acts 20:4; 2 Corinthians 1:1 ).
No place therefore in Paul's life, previous to his arrest in Jerusalem, and his first Roman imprisonment, can be found, which satisfies the requirements of the situation described in 1 Timothy 1:3 . "It is impossible, unless we assume a second Roman imprisonment, to reconcile the various historical notices which the epistle (2 Timothy) contains" (McGiffert, op. cit., 407).
In addition to this, the language used by the apostle at Miletus, when he addressed the elders of the Ephesian church (Acts 20:30 ) about the men speaking perverse things, who should arise among them, showed that these false teachers had not made their appearance at that time. There is, for this reason alone, no place for the Pastoral Epistles in Paul's life, previous to his arrest in Jerusalem. But Paul's life did not end at the termination of his first Roman imprisonment; and this one fact gives ample room to satisfy all the conditions, as these are found in the three Pastorals.
Those who deny the Pauline authorship of these epistles also deny that he was released from what, in this article, is termed his 1st Roman imprisonment. But a denial of this latter statement is an assumption quite unwarranted and unproved. It assumes that Paul was not set free, simply because there is no record of this in the Acts. But the Acts is, on the very face of it, an incomplete or unfinished record; that is, it brings the narrative to a certain point, and then breaks off, evidently for the reason which Sir W.M. Ramsay demonstrates, that Luke meant to write a sequel to that book - a purpose, however, which he was unable, owing to some cause now unknown, to carry into execution. The purpose of the Acts, as Ramsay shows ( St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen , 23,308), is to lead up to the release of Paul, and to show that the Christian faith was not a forbidden or illegal religion, but that the formal impeachment of the apostle before the supreme court of the empire ended in his being set at liberty, and thus there was established the fact that the faith of Jesus Christ was not, at that time, contrary to Roman law. "The Pauline authorship ... can be maintained only on the basis of a hypothetical reconstruction, either of an entire period subsequent to the Roman imprisonment, or of the events within some period known to us" (McGiffert, op. cit., 410). The one fact that Paul was set free after his 1st Roman imprisonment gives the environment which fits exactly all the requirements of the Pastoral Epistles.
Attention should be directed to the facts and to the conclusion stated in the article PRAETORIUM (which see), Mommsen having shown that the words, "My bonds became manifest in Christ throughout the whole praetorian guard" (Philippians 1:13 ), mean that at the time when Paul wrote the Epistle to the Philippians, the case against him had already come before the supreme court of appeal in Rome, that it had been partly heard, and that the impression made by the prisoner upon his judges was so favorable, that he expected soon to be set free.
The indications to be drawn from other expressions in three of the epistles of the Roman captivity
These anticipations of acquittal and of departure from Rome are remarkable, and do not in any degree coincide with the idea that Paul was not set free but was condemned and put to death at that time. "It is obvious that the importance of the trial is intelligible only if Paul was acquitted. That he was acquitted follows from the Pastoral Epistles with certainty for all who admit their genuineness; while even they who deny their Pauline origin must allow that they imply an early belief in historical details which are not consistent with Paul's journeys before his trial, and must either be pure inventions or events that occurred on later journeys.... If he was acquitted, the issue of the trial was a formal decision by the supreme court of the empire that it was permissible to preach Christianity; the trial, therefore, was really a charter of religious liberty, and therein lies its immense importance. It was indeed overturned by later decisions of the supreme court; but its existence was a highly important fact for the Christians" (Ramsay, op. cit., 308). "That he was acquitted is demanded both by the plan evident in Acts and by other reasons well stated by others" (ibid., 360).
It should also be observed that there is the direct and corroborative evidence of Paul's release, afforded by such writers as Cyril of Jerusalem, Ephrem Syriac., Chrysostom and Theodoret, all of whom speak of Paul's going to Spain. Jerome ( Vir. Ill ., 5) gives it as a matter of personal knowledge that Paul traveled as far as Spain. But there is more important evidence still. In the Muratorian Canon, 1,37, there are the words, "profectionem Pauli ab urbe ad Spaniam proficiscentis" ("the journey of Paul as he journeyed from Rome to Spain"). Clement also in the epistle from the church in Rome to the church in Corinth, which was written not later than the year 96 AD, says in reference to Paul, "Having taught righteousness to the whole world, and having gone to the extremity of the west (
Now Paul never had been in Spain previous to his arrest in Jerusalem, but in Romans 15:24 , Romans 15:28 he had twice expressed his intention to go there. These independent testimonies, of Clement and of the Muratorian Canon, of the fact that after Paul's arrest in Jerusalem he did carry into execution his purpose to visit Spain, are entitled to great weight. They involve, of course, the fact that he was acquitted after his 1st Roman imprisonment.
Having been set free, Paul could not do otherwise than send Timothy to Philippi, and himself also go there, as he had already promised when he wrote to the Philippian church (Philippians 2:19 , Philippians 2:24 ). As a matter of course he would also resume his apostolic journeys for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel. There is now ample room in his life for the Pastoral Epistles, and they give most interesting details of his further labors. The historical and geographical requirements in 1 Timothy are, in this way, easily satisfied. It was no great distance to Ephesus from Philippi and Colosse, where he had promised that he would "come shortly."
(2) Data in 2 Timothy
The requirements in 2 Timothy are ( a ) that Paul had recently been at Troas, at Corinth, and at Miletus, each of which he mentions ( 2 Timothy 4:13 , 2 Timothy 4:20 ); (b ) that when he wrote the epistles he was in Rome (2 Timothy 1:17 ); (c ) that he was a prisoner for the cause of the gospel (2 Timothy 1:8; 2 Timothy 2:9 ), and had once already appeared before the emperor's supreme court (2 Timothy 4:16 , 2 Timothy 4:17 ); (d ) that he had then escaped condemnation, but that he had reason to believe that on the next hearing of his case the verdict would be given against him, and that he expected it could not be long till execution took place (2 Timothy 4:6 ); (e ) that he hoped that Timothy would be able to come from Ephesus to see him at Rome before the end (2 Timothy 4:9 , 2 Timothy 4:21 ). These requirements cannot be made to agree or coincide with the first Roman captivity, but they do agree perfectly with the facts of the apostle's release and his subsequent second imprisonment in that city.
(3) Data in Titus
The data given in the Epistle to Titus are ( a ) that Paul had been in Crete, and that Titus had been with him there, and had been left behind in that island, when Paul sailed from its shores, Titus being charged with the oversight of the churches there ( Titus 1:5 ); and (b ) that Paul meant to spend the next winter at Nicopolis (Titus 3:12 ). It is simply impossible to locate these events in the recorded life of Paul, as that is found in the other epistles, and in the Acts. But they agree perfectly with his liberation after his first Roman imprisonment. "As there is then no historical evidence that Paul did not survive the year 64, and as these Pastoral Epistles were recognized as Pauline in the immediately succeeding age, we may legitimately accept them as evidence that Paul did survive the year 64 - that he was acquitted, resumed his missionary labors, was again arrested and brought to Rome, and from this second imprisonment wrote the Second Epistle to Timothy - his last extant writing" (Dods, Introduction to the New Testament , 172).
2. Subject-Matter, Post-Pauline:
The second difficulty alleged against the acceptance of these epistles as Pauline is that there are said to exist in them indications of an ecclesiastical organization and of a doctrinal development, both orthodox and heretical, considerably later than those of the Pauline age.
(1) Difficulty Regarding Church Organization
The first statement, that the epistles imply an ecclesiastical organization in advance of the time when Paul lived, is one which cannot be maintained in view of the facts disclosed in the epistles themselves. For directions are given to Timothy and to Titus in regard to the moral and other characteristics necessary in those who are to be ordained as bishops, elders, and deacons. In the 2nd century the outstanding feature of ecclesiastical organization was the development of monarchical episcopacy, but the Pastoral Epistles show a presbyterial administration. The office held by Timothy in Ephesus and by Titus in Crete was, as the epistles themselves show, of a temporary character. The directions which Paul gives to Timothy and Titus in regard to the ordaining of presbyters in every church are in agreement with similar notices found elsewhere in the New Testament, and do not coincide with the state of church organization as that existed in the 2nd century, the period when, objectors to the genuineness of the epistles assert, they were composed. "Everyone acquainted with ancient literature, particularly the literature of the ancient church, knows that a forger or fabricator of those times could not possibly have avoided anachronisms" (Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament , II, 93). But the ecclesiastical arrangements in the Pastoral Epistles coincide in all points with the state of matters as it is found in the church in the time of the apostles, as that is described in the Acts and elsewhere in the New Testament.
It seems an error to suppose, as has often been done, that these epistles contain the germ of monarchical episcopacy; for the Christian church had already, from the day of Pentecost, existed as a society with special officers for the functions of extension, discipline and administration. The church in the Pastoral Epistles is a visible society, as it always was. Its organization therefore had come to be of the greatest importance, and especially so in the matter of maintaining and handing down the true faith; the church accordingly is described as "the pillar and stay of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15 margin), that is, the immovable depository of the Divine revelation.
(2) The Doctrinal Difficulty
The other statement, that the epistles show a doctrinal development out of harmony with the Pauline age is best viewed by an examination of what the epistles actually say.
In 1 Timothy 6:20 , Paul speaks of profane and vain babblings and oppositions of
It should be observed that the false teachers described in 2 Timothy 3:6-9 , 2 Timothy 3:13 , as well as in other places in these epistles, were persons who taught that the Mosaic Law was binding upon all Christians. They laid stress upon rabbinic myths, upon investigations and disputations about genealogies and specific legal requirements of the Old Testament. What they taught was a form of piously sounding doctrine assuming to be Christian, but which was really rabbinism.
"For a pseudo-Paul in the post-apostolic age - when Christians of Jewish birth had become more and more exceptions in the Gentile Christian church - to have invented a description of and vigorously to have opposed the
3. Difficulty Relative to Language:
The third difficulty alleged against the Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles is connected with the language employed, which is said to be, to a large extent, different from that in the accepted epistles. The facts in regard to this matter are that in 1 Timothy there are 82 words not found elsewhere in the New Testament; in 2 Timothy there are 53 such words, and in Titus there are 33. But, while the total of such words in the three epistles Isaiah 168 , this number, large though it appears, may be compared with the words used only once in the other Epistles of Paul. In Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians and Philemon, the words of this description are 627 in number. So nothing can be built upon the fact of the 168 peculiar words in the Pastoral Epistles, that can safely be alleged as proof against their Pauline authorship. The special subjects treated in these epistles required adequate language, a requirement and a claim which would not be refused in the case of any ordinary author.
The objections to the Pauline authorship of the Pastorals, based upon the dissimilarity of diction in them and in Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, cease to exist when theory is no longer persisted in, that the nucleus of the Pastoral Epistles was composed during the Roman imprisonment, which, according to this theory ended, not in the apostle's release, but in his execution. The fact that he was writing to intimate and beloved friends, both on personal matters and on the subject of church organization, and on that of incipient Gnosticism, which was troubling the churches of Asia Minor, made it essential that he should, to a large extent, use a different vocabulary.
4. Is There "Another Gospel" in the Pastorals?:
The "most decisive" of all the arguments against the Pauline authorship is that "the Christianity of the Pastoral Epistles is not the Christianity of Paul" (McGiffert,
He who was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen of angels,
Preached among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory."
Charges of this nature are unsupported by evidence, and are of the kind on which Dr. A.S. Peake (
The theory that the Pastoral Epistles are based upon genuine letters or notes of Paul to Timothy and Titus is thus advocated by Peake, McGiffert, Moffatt and many others. It bears very hard upon 1 Timothy. "In 1 Timothy not a single verse can be indicated, which clearly bears the stamp of Pauline origin" (Peake, op. cit., 70). "We may fairly conclude then in agreement with many modern scholars that we have here, in the Pastoral Epistles, authentic letters of Paul to Timothy and Titus, worked over and enlarged by another hand" (McGiffert, op. cit., 405). In regard to 1 Timothy he writes, "It is very likely that there are scattered fragments of the original epistle in 1 Timothy, as for instance in 1:23. But it is difficult to find anything which we can be confident was written by Paul" (p. 407).
Dr. McGiffert also alleges that in the Pastoral Epistles, the word "faith" "is not employed in its profound Pauline sense, but is used to signify one of the cardinal virtues, along with love, peace, purity, righteousness, sanctification, patience and meekness." One of the Pauline epistles, with which he contrasts the Pastorals, is the Epistle to the Galatians; and the groundlessness of this charge is evident from Galatians 5:22 , where "faith" is included in the list there given of the fruit of the Spirit, along with love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness and self-control.
If the Pastoral Epistles are the work of Paul, then, Dr. McGiffert concludes, Paul had given up that form of the gospel which he had held and taught throughout his life, and descended from the lofty religious plane upon which he had always moved, to the level of mere piety and morality (op. cit., 404). But this charge is not just or reasonable, in view of the fact that the apostle is instructing Timothy and Titus how to combat the views and practices of immoral teachers. Or again, in such a passage as 1 Timothy 1:12-17 the King James Version, the author of the epistle has not descended from the lofty plane of faith to that of mere piety and morality, when he writes, "The grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief."
If such be the "most decisive" objection against the Pauline authorship, the other difficulties, as already seen, need not cause alarm, for they resolve themselves into the equally groundless charges that the historical requirements of the epistles cannot be fitted into any part of Paul's life, and that the doctrine and ecclesiastical organization do not suit the Apostolic age. These objections have been already referred to.
The real difficulty, writes Dr. Peake (
What must be said of the dullness of the intelligence of Christian men and of the Christian church as a whole, if they could thus let themselves be imposed upon by epistles which purported to be Paul's, but which were not written by him at all, but were the enlargement of a Pauline nucleus? Can it be believed that the church of the 2nd century, the church of the martyrs, was in such a state of mental decrepitude as to receive epistles which were spurious, so far as the greater portion of their contents is concerned? And can it be believed that this idea, so recently originated and so destitute of proof, is andequate explanation of epistles which have been received as Pauline from the earliest times?
When placed side by side with sub-apostolic writings like the Didache , Clement of Rome, Polycarp, and Ignatius, "it is difficult to resist the idea which returns upon one with almost every sentence that ... the Pastorals are astonishingly superior" (Moffatt, The Historical New Testament , 556). Godet, quoted by R.D. Shaw ( The Pauline Epistles , 441), writes, "When one has had enough of the pious amplifications of Clement of Rome, of the ridiculous inanities of Barnabas, of the general oddities of Ignatius, of the well-meant commonplaces of Polycarp, of the intolerable verbiage of Hermas, and of the nameless platitudes of the Didache , and, after this promenade in the first decade of the 2nd century, reverts to our Pastoral Epistles, one will measure the distance that separates the least striking products of the apostolic literature from what has been preserved to us as most eminent in the ancient patristic literature."
In the case of some modern critics, the interpolation hypothesis "is their first and last appeal, the easy solution of any difficulty that presents itself to their imaginations. Each writer feels free to give the kaleidoscope a fresh turn, and then records with blissful confidence what are called the latest results... The whole method postulates that a writer must always preserve the same dull monotone or always confine himself to the same transcendental heights... He must see and say everything at once; having had his vision and his dream, he must henceforth be like a star and dwell apart... To be stereotyped is his only salvation... On such principles there is not a writer of note, and there never has been a man in public life, or a student in the stream of a progressive science, large parts of whose sayings and doings could not be proved to be by some one else" (Shaw, The Pauline Epistles , 483).
III. Date and Order.
1. Date of the Epistles:
In regard to the date of these epistles, external and internal evidence alike go to show that they belong to practically the same period. The dates of their composition are separated from each other by not more than three or four years; and the dates of each and all of them must be close to the Neronic persecution (64 AD). If Paul was executed 67
2. Their Order:
The order in which they were written must have been 1 Timothy, Titus, 2 Timothy. It is universally acknowledged that 2 Timothy is the very last of Paul's extant epistles, and the internal evidence of the other two seems to point out 1 Timothy as earlier than Titus.
To sum up, the evidence of the early reception of the Pastoral Epistles as Pauline is very strong. "The confident denial of the genuineness of these letters - which has been made now for several generations more positively than in the case of any other Pauline epistles - has no support from tradition.... Traces of their circulation in the church before Marcion's time are clearer than those which can be found for Romans and 2 Corinthians" (Zahn, op. cit., II, 85). The internal evidence shows that all three are from the hand of one and the same writer, a writer who makes many personal allusions of a nature which it would be impossible for a forger to invent. It is generally allowed that the personal passages in 2 Timothy 1:15-18; 2 Timothy 4:9-22 are genuine. But if this is so, then it is not possible to cut and carve the epistles into fragments of this kind. Objections dating only a century back are all too feeble to overturn the consistent marks of Pauline authorship found in all three epistles, corroborated as this is by their reception in the church, dating from the very earliest period. The Pastoral Epistles may be used with the utmost confidence, as having genuinely come from the hand of Paul.
R. D. Shaw, The Pauline Epistles ; A. S. Peake,
The "lives" of Paul may also be consulted, as they contain much that refers to these epistles, i.e. those by Conybeare and Howson, Lewin, Farrar and others. See also Ramsay's St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen .
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Pastoral Epistles, the'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/p/pastoral-epistles-the.html. 1915.