Paul and the Pastorals

On Facebook yesterday someone asked me if I wouldn’t mind recounting my journey away from affirmation of Paul’s authorship of the Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus). So here goes.

First, the freedom to pursue the question was instilled in me through my pro-inerrancy education at Westminster Seminary (though one going to WTS now would not be given the same freedom). At the time I went, there was a flourishing tradition of carefully distinguishing between the commitment to inerrancy and particular hermeneutical and/or critical conclusions.

This tradition was embodied in the title of a 1988 faculty collection, Inerrancy and Hermeneutic (ed. Harvey Conn). In that collection, Moises Silva says that even the issue of who wrote a letter, which may seem in some ways to be the most obvious conclusion to draw from an “inerrant” Bible (I mean, if you can’t believe the “From” line of the letter, what can you believe?), is an issue that must be decided based on historical evidence. And, if a letter is found to be pseudepigraphical, then our understanding of what it means to affirm an inerrant Bible must be shaped so as to allow for that.

This is reflective of an important factor that drives a lot of my work: that no theology worth holding is going to so exert its control over our reading of the Bible that it will forbid us from saying what good exegesis of the passage demands that we say.

In this case, I don’t find persuasive that there is much theologically at stake for recognizing that Paul did not write these letters. They are scripture and therefore we have them as part of the canon, the rule of the church’s faith and life.

There are a couple of standard arguments against Pauline authorship of the Pastorals that I do not (or, did not) find persuasive:

  1. The difference between the free-form churches of Paul and the highly organized and therefore presumably later churches of the pastorals. The introduction to Philippians addresses the letter to those at Philippi, “including the overseers and deacons.” Paul’s churches seem to have had some organization.
  2. The place of women was not persuasive at first. This has come to bear more weight for me, but I think that the things Paul says in 1 Cor 11, the thing Paul may or may not have said about women in 1 Cor 14, etc. give some room for differentiation of roles in the church, or ways to articulate male-female relations that are not categorically different from the Pastorals. I see the differences as somewhat more significant now, but this was not a major factor for me.

On a few other issues, the differences between Paul’s letters and the Pastorals began to make their weight felt. The weight of these arguments became greater to me the longer I sat with Paul’s letters, not merely doing more in-depth research but getting more familiar with the texts themselves. I don’t think I would feel the weight of these so much if I hadn’t read through Paul’s letters dozens of times in Greek and memorized all thirteen in English. I’m not saying you have to do either of these to argue with me, but in my own story that’s how it worked.

  1. Most importantly for me, the arguments work differently. The way that Paul theologizes is from the Christ event to God, to the community, to himself, to scripture, etc. The death and resurrection/reign of Jesus (and imminent return) shape all of Paul’s theology. But this is not how 1 Timothy and Titus argue. They appeal to principles, trustworthy sayings, etc. I think 2 Timothy has better claims to Pauline authorship on precisely this ground: the resurrection of Jesus shapes a tremendous amount of the letter’s theologizing.
  2. Paul’s letters and the Pastorals talk about God and Jesus differently. Uses of words such as “savior” differ; the idea of whether salvation is primarily seen as past-tense-received or present-progressive-and-future-tense-in-store differs.
  3. The Greek is different. An early twentieth century study (I can’t remember by whom, E. P. Sanders had me read it when I was at Duke) researched the coincidence of the vocabulary from Paul’s letters and the Pastorals, finding that the vocab of the latter that is not found elsewhere in Paul’s letters tends to be found in other Greek manuscripts that date to the 2d century, whereas Paul’s vocabulary corresponds with other Greek writings from the first. This study puts some specifics on what reading the letters in Greek communicates: they not only feel different argumentatively, but they also reflect a different stock vocabulary.
  4. Theologically they are different, especially the ways that 1 Timothy and Titus reflect on the Law and Judaism.

Finally, I don’t think that 1 Timothy and Titus can fit into the chronology of Paul’s life. Typically, fitting the Pastorals into Paul’s life requires creating a new chapter that includes a release from Roman prison, another set of missionary work, a new arrest and then death in Rome. I find this an unnecessarily cumbersome hypothesis, one likely to be false.

55 thoughts on “Paul and the Pastorals”

  1. Thanks, Daniel. Although referring to, “the Synoptics, the 7 letters of Paul, and John and the junk mail,” is catchier, I appreciate the willingness to ask questions and yet recognize the cannon.

  2. Great post, Daniel. The points you raise about greek are the points that matter. I don’t know if your leaning is correct, but such major differences should require some major explaining. Then again, I’m guessing most seminary professors don’t use the same vocab teaching grad students as they would leading a typical sunday school group. Just a thought.

    On the chronology, I agree standard constructions are contrived. If 1st Timothy goes at Acts 20, however, it would explain a lot about those developing elders (and perhaps also show development of Paul’s opinions on women).

    When you get a moment, you might enjoy: Pauline Chronology and Appointing Elders: Barnabas vs. Paul.

    Thanks again for the challenging information.

  3. Nice post. I know this is slightly off topic, but given this position on the Pastorals, does this affect how you see Acts and arguments that it is very close to the pastorals in outlook? (I’m genuinely and openly curious.)

    1. Mixed bag, Ben. On the one hand, it seems that Luke’s version of Paul appointing elders might correspond well with what I’ve said. On the other, on a continuum of early Christian attitudes toward the Law I might put them down as : Luke then Paul then Pastorals from most to least approving.

  4. How can you make any definite statement on Pauline vocabulary given that some of the letters were written with an amanuensis? Furthermore, given the shifting nature of language it seems to me like it would be impossible to say that some words definitively belong to the first or second century. I’m not arguing, just curious.

    1. Depends on what the amanuensis does, how much freedom he has, I suppose. But when analyzing trends, if there is a tendency to use words or ideas differently, or to use different words or ideas, then there is likely a different person involved.

      The question isn’t about definitely locating a word to one century or another, but that, given language development, we can (with a sufficiently large sample pool) locate things as belonging more to one era than another. Again, if there’s a general tendency toward lateness of unique vocab, that can start to bear weight in favor of an author who lived after the one whose name is on the page.

      1. I haven’t read widely on the issue, so please excuse my ignorance of the discussion. I just don’t know how we can claim to have a good handle on the vocabulary of 1st century Greek when there are so many hapax legomenon in the New Testament.

        1. Jeremiah,

          Fair questions. Keep in mind, however, that we have MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH more Greek from the 1st century than the writings of the New Testament. The writings of the New Testament are not a proper data set for analyzing certain kinds of 1st century Greek versus certain kinds of 2nd century Greek.

          This matters in particular for the claims often made about the significance of hapax legomena in the New Testament. I could randomly pick 27 writings (perhaps making 7-10 of them letters or writings by the same person) from among the massive pool of other extant 1st century writings (even limiting this to 1st century Hellenistic Greek sources of the professional prose, documentary, and other kinds of non uber-elite sources) and we would likely find plenty of hapax legomena within that historically-arbitrary collection that would in no way necessarily indicate the broader usage of the same words or kinds of phrases and grammatical-syntactical patterns in 1st century Greek. My point is, again, that the writings of the New Testament are not a historically and linguistically homogeneous or entity.

          Why should other writings of the New Testament constitute the obvious comparative data set for analyzing the Greek of Paul, for example? Probably better to come up with a typology of all the extant 1st century Greek sources we have, differentiating them based upon levels of education, specialization, literary sophistication, perhaps region and genre, etc…see which categories within that typology most closely approximate Paul’s Greek, and run comparisons from there. That category may or may not include other writings from the New Testament; and to the extent it does, that will have nothing to do with whether or not those writings are part of the New Testament. Does this make sense?

          We have a much better handle on the kinds of Greek used in the 1st century than one would get from working only or primarily with the New Testament; which is a problem for discussions such as the authorship of 1Tim, 2Tim, and Titus. Most scholars participating in those discussions are New Testament scholars working within a notoriously myopic field that has historically (whether on the evangelical place of the spectrum or on various places further to the left) treated the writings of the New Testament as though they constitute some historically necessary collection sharing an essential historical-linguistic-theological unity thus making these 27 writings the obvious primary comparative data set for the other writings in the collection. While much of the field has been emerging from this myopia over the previous decades, many (especially further to the right) remain firmly ensconced in it.

          The long and the short of this LONG comment (I apologize) is that we have more of an ability to run the comparisons of Greek that Daniel talks about here than many proponents of the Pauline-authenticity of the Pastoral acknowledge…though this is not to say that none of them are competent in their handle on 1st and 2nd century Greek; quite the opposite, in fact (e.g., Moises Silva).

  5. Daniel, how would the authorship of the pastorals affect how we understand the contents of the pastorals? In particular, there are a number of “personal touches” in each of the pastorals that seem odd coming from someone writing in Paul’s name.

    What does it look like for someone who is not Paul to write a personal letter to Timothy, in Paul’s name, relating to Timothy as a dear son, and knowing of the faith his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois? What does it look like for someone who is not Paul to write as Paul that Phygelus, Hermogenes and Demas have abandoned him?

    Do you think Timothy and Titus received these epistles and considered them written by Paul?

    1. Don,

      I know I am not Daniel (thankfully for everyone involved!), but the personal touches are part of the authors’ attempts to make the letters really seem like Paul wrote them. That’s part of the practice of pseudepigraphy (or forgery);you put what you want to say in the mouth of a recognized prestigious – “authoritative” figure. The audience of 1Tim, for example, certainly would not have been Timothy but some audience where the idea would be, “wow, we have this letter from Paul to Timothy in which Paul tells him how to lead a church…we should probably listen in…”

      Some scholars approach these personal touches by trying to see where the author of the Pastorals got them; e.g., to what extent did he make them up and to what extent are they innovative synthesizations of tidbits taken from, say, Acts, whatever letters ascribed to Paul that the author had, and “traditions” about Paul the author heard and/or knew his audience may have heard, etc.? He can thus try to make his creation, perhaps 1Tim, pass as something Paul plausibly wrote at some plausible point in time in his life (as known from cobbling together the above kinds of sources); whether something that would have been written during a period of Paul’s life and work covered already in a recognized source or as something Paul wrote at a period subsequent to the available sources but written in such a way as it makes sense given what they already think they know about Paul.

      1. Stephen,

        So how would you preach/teach on those portions of the pastorals? Would you tell your audience that the author was trying to deceive his readers (including ourselves) that it was written by Paul? Or would you, in keeping with the author’s original intent, also perpetuate the idea that Paul indeed wrote it?

        1. If you were preaching on a parable, would the point be the parable itself or the reason why Jesus is telling it at that particular juncture in the story for that particular audience?

          For me, the answer to your either/or is, depending on various factors, some degree of both/and.

          1. Since Epistles and parables are different genres, so I don’t quite follow your application. So could you be more specific? How would you preach/teach 2 Timothy 1?

            1. 2 Tim 1 would be easier for me because I think it embodies the suffering/theology of the cross with hope of resurrection structure that typifies Paul’s thought.

              In general, when speaking of pseudepigraphical letters I use the name of the letter as the “author” rather than Paul’s name. “What 1 Timothy shows us…” “Ephesians paints a picture…”

              I then tend to minimize direct references to other Pauline letters except when I really need to highlight something similar or different.

              I tend to avoid issues such as authorship when not necessary; however, in the case of 1 Tim or Titus I’d probably feel the need to bring it in sooner rather than later.

              This means, in the latter case, that (like I’d do with a parable) I’d be preaching both the content of the letter and the way that it seems it was supposed to function in the post-Paul church, and perhaps draw some slightly different conclusions based on each of those.

              Or, maybe, the three point sermon would be “the letter’s point”, “how the letter makes the point,” and “how we do or don’t do what the letter does in our attempts to work out this same issue in the modern-day church”.

  6. Nicely done. I was glad to see that you didn’t follow the usual collection of arguments, which are not really all that persuasive; instead, you stuck with the more substantial ones–even if they are fewer in number.

    I believe that the book reference in #3 is, PN Harrison, The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles (1921), although I could be dead wrong. From what I remember about it, the content and argument seems to fit with what you’re saying in #3.

    Just out of curiosity: what do you think of the suggestion that Luke may have had a hand in writing the Pastorals (amanuensis?), given the similarities in style and vocabulary between the two? (I believe CFD Moule was the big voices behind this suggestion).

    1. The odds of one amanuensis doing all three letters (on three wildly separate occasions) would seem slim.

      On 1st Tim, however, it would fit perfectly IF 1st Tim was written on the boat between Philippi & Troas, as I believe it was. (See links from my comment above.)

      Thus, a question: does the suggestion above require Luke to assist with all three of the pastorals? (For that matter, how distinctly is *each* pastoral as linguistically “different” as Daniel suggests, above.)

      1. Bill, I sometimes think that the existence of one genuinely Pauline pastoral would be a great explanation for the other two–but I can’t imagine that 1 Timothy would be the winner. 2 Timothy has a much better argument on several grounds, but especially the mode of argumentation.

        And this goes back somewhat to a point that someone made on my FB page: yes, someone can argue or speak differently in different situations, but I can’t imagine that Paul would stop arguing from the death and resurrection of Jesus just because he’s writing to a trusted colleague. No, what Timothy models as Paul’s teaching everywhere in every church (1 Cor 4) is Paul’s ways which are in Christ Jesus. If anything, I expect as much or more Christological focus in the argumentation here.

        1. You can’t imagine? Well, okay then. ;-)

          If you want to compare content, situationally speaking, there’s no comparison. It’s not just a ‘trusted colleague”. It’s a mentor/trainee relationship that was several years old. By Acts 20, they’d raised up three churches together. Four, if we count Corinth. They’d shared the same oxygen on and off for the better part of ten years. Why should he go back to square one on every issue? Maybe Paul only had so much paper and the letter had to be written in five days, on a boat. Stranger things could explain this.

          So I realize I’m still way below water on the technical details of the actual issues. But I don’t think one should be swayed by what one “expect”s.

          1. Speaking of “so much paper”, has anyone proposed a theory of multiple draft variations? In addition to having different writing assistants, some situations may have allowed Paul to write more than one or two drafts of a letter.

            Taking Galatians to be first, as I do, I SUSpect Paul wrote an angry first draft, and learned the better of such an experience. But with 1st Timothy, it may have been Mark Twain’s excuse for not revising. No time.

            Could the differences in language & vocabulary be not late but more advanced, by any chance? That is, could Paul be using words with Timothy (who’d presumably become somewhat educated, via Paul) which most writers wouldn’t have used for a general audience, at that time?

          2. But there is comparison. The question is what does it look like to faithfully embody the story of Jesus as a minister and/or a church. Theologizing isn’t just about “going back to square one” as if that were a square that Paul sometimes leaves behind. This is how he articulates what it means to be a faithful servant of God, what it looks like to be faithful to the calling to follow Jesus, etc.

            1. I don’t mean “square one” as incremental or some necessarily progression. But in your terms just now – all that you ask him to articulate – doesn’t that fall under all the things Timothy has already heard Paul say?

              You seem to want this content to be comprehensive for ministry training.

              More likely, it was simply whichever things Paul felt he had not said enough.

              To Timothy, in – extremely so – in particular.

              1. No–this gets Paul’s theologizing all wrong. It’s not that bringing Christ into the picture is the basic building block that he can move past once someone has obtained maturity and fullness of knowledge, it’s that Paul’s way of instructing, of theologizing, of envisioning life as a follower of Jesus is, through and through, about being united with the crucified, risen, and returning king.

                The point is, it’s not just additional instruction, it’s a different theological structure altogether, a different way of doing theology, a different way of thinking about where Jesus fits into the story of a faithful leader and follower and church.

                1. Who said Paul moved past it or left it out? I’m saying that for Timothy by that point, it was all understood. That left the letter available to be focused on intensely practical instructions.

                  To illustrate from the opposite end of the spectrum: Colossians and “Ephesians” were written to churches Paul had never met, and they contain the most intensely christological passages in the Pauline corpus.

                  It’s not a matter of what should or shouldn’t get included. This was a personal letter, not a systematical treatise.

                  1. You keep missing the point. To say it so differently is to say something different.

                    You can’t leave the Christ event out of Paul’s letters and then give “practical instructions” that are in any significant sense “Pauline” without it. All of Paul’s very practical instructions are about how to live out the Christ event in the present. That’s not how 1 Timothy instructs.

                    1. *You* keep missing the point. You’ve already decided what kinds of ways Paul is or isn’t allowed to say something.

                      Say that it sounds different. Okay. Say that it therefore couldn’t have been Paul? We can’t know that for sure.

                      But I’ll drop this for now. All the best, brother.

      2. Bill,

        So…why do you think 1Tim was written “on the boat between Philippi & Troas”? That is quite a specific claim. What evidence are you using here?

        1. I gave two links above that explain my reasoning. For me, the chronology came first. If Tim stayed at Ephesus while Paul went to Illyricum (W.Macedonia; Acts 19-20; Rom.15) but then fled Ephesus for help (like he’d done twice at Thessalonica) in time to catch Paul on his way back down the Via Egnatia… and in time to sign his name to 2nd Corinthians… then 1st Tim can be written somewhere between Paul’s three months in Achaia and the moment his newly appointed elders from Ephesus arrive on that beach.

          After working with that chronology for a year or less, the developmental view of Paul’s approach to eldering started presenting itself. The key thought is neither Paul nor Barnabas, but Luke. The most likely time for Paul to have appointed elders in Philippi was at Luke’s departure.

          If Paul had just come from a serious crisis in Corinth, and then appointed elders in Philippi, all the while thinking about how to solve Timothy’s problems in Ephesus… then 1st Timothy makes perfect sense being handed off at Troas, which gave the young apostle a week’s head start to go appoint those elders.

          The reason I think it was on the boat is because I assume Paul’s mind was completely occupied by Corinth and Philippi, until that point. Except maybe while Sopater, Aristarchus & Secundus were helping Paul find Alexander’s steps to get around Mt. Olympus on foot. His mind would have been free then, too, but it would have been much much harder to write. :-)

          This is all in the Bible, by the way. Haven’t you read it? ;-)

    2. Carl, someone else asked me about Luke as well, and this is related to Ben’s query above. I’m a little dubious given the greater antipathy toward the Law in the pastorals than in Paul, compared with a greater sympathy toward the Law in Acts than we find in Paul.

  7. Great discussion! Just wondering — if Timothy & Titus knew of Paul’s death, what would they have thought of these letters? Or, if they both knew of Paul’s death and the author(s) of these two letters knew that they knew of Paul’s death, were they directed to someone else other than Timothy & Titus?

    1. Tim, I don’t think the letters were written to Timothy & Titus as impersonations of Paul. More likely: they were written by Timothy and/or Titus; or, perhaps, someone in a city where Timothy and/or Titus was known and influential.

        1. Right. Sorry, that was confusing. I mean, I don’t think the letters were intended to make Titus or Timothy think Paul had written to them, but to make someone else think that Paul had written to Timothy & Titus.

  8. As I read this blog and as I read books written by the current scholarship, I find that the evidence against Pauline authorship is huge, especially in the case of 1 Tim and Titus. But I remember that for many years of my Christian life I read these letters assuming that Paul was the author, simply because he was the author the letters attribute to, and NOT because someone else told me so. (Nor was it because of some theories of inerrancy. I had never heard of that word.) As you can see, it came as a shock to me to hear that Paul was not the author when I studied at a theological college. Likewise I never heard of ghost-writers until recent years. I still find it difficult to accept that one of my respected Christian authors did not really write some of his books. I have lost condience in the person. So, to be honest, I find it hard to accept that somebody else actually used Paul’s name to write to Timothy and Titus (even though, as a modern NT student I know that the evidence against Pauline authorship is huge.)

    In my culture, there were ancient documents written by some famous figures. Even though today we know that they were really composed by their disciples, we believe that ultimately the source of those writings came from those respected ancient thinkers in our culture – that is, their disciples faithfully recorded what they had said even though some details would have lost due to the lack of modern-day recording technology. Thus from a cultural perspective, I struggle to accept that Paul was not the author of the Pastoral Epistles. (Again, I am not speaking as a modern-day Wester NT student.)

    One more reflection, in my culture the concept of God is different from what I see here in Australia. The spiritual realm is very real for us. On the one hand (the Christian) God is loving and kind. On the other hand he is to be deeply respected and indeed feared (in a healthy sense). Now if God sends someone to be his servant to perform some important tasks, that person is to be respected too. That is, if God had sent Paul to be his apostle, he was to be respected too. (Paul is equal to every other believer, but nonetheless he’s an apostle, I hope you know what I mean.) So, here is another cultural barrier for me. I find it hard to accept that someone else actually dared to use Paul’s name to write something to Timothy and Titus, and gave them authoritative instructions.

    I guess my question is twofold. (1) Should I abandon my cultural perspective entirely and accept non-Pauline authorship because that’s what scholars say? (2) Can my cultural perspective contribute to NT scholarship on this matter – ie. add a new dimension to the debate?

    1. I think that your cultural perspective should actually help here. The disciples of ancient people writing in their masters’ names is a practice you have a category for that most of us don’t. Perhaps there is too much of an attempt to try to preserve them as simply “recorders” rather than “improvisers” in the tradition as you’ve told the story here, though? It seems that knowing this practice to be ancient and common should soften the blow rather than making it strike harder.

      1. After sending my post I thought the word “record” could have been a problem. I don’t know whether it’s the right word at all. Anyhow, at issue is truthfulness, integrity and whether one is trustworthy. In my culture when a son puts words into his deceased father’s mouth, the son is considered not being truthful. That is, what the head of the family said is consider to be very important, and is not to be changed. The accuracy of the “recording” is not important. It is the faithful recollection and transmission that’s important. The value system is one that demands a high degree of integrity and faithfulness, knowing that God is (or the “gods”) are listening. If one claims that a document (or an oral tradition) is from God, then my immediate response is that the author attributed to the document (ie. the author stated in the text of the document itself) is to be the author herself/himself. Once again I am not speaking as an NT student in a seminary. I am asking a rather naive question by putting my cultural hat on. For example, if I am to follow the example of “Paul” to suffer for his faith in 2 Timothy, I’d love to think that this “Paul” is indeed Paul himself. Otherwise why would I have risked my life for these words? (By “I” I don’t mean myself here. I refer to the many Christians in my country who risked their lives for being followers of Jesus.) I hope you understand where I am coming from. It is an existential issue for Christians who don’t have a modern Western Christian tradition. I hope you don’t mind if I put it a bit more bluntly. It is easy for me sitting in my comfortable room in Australia to say anything I like about authorship of the Pastorals. But I am reluctant to say that Paul is not really the author to my sisters and brothers in other parts of the world where they live on the words of the letters and trust that they are really Paul’s words. (By the way, I really enjoy your book Unlocing Romans.)

  9. But why can scholarship lead us to doubt the authenticity of things like John 8 and the end of mark and the trinity verse in 1 John, and then lead the church to decanonize those passages, but we wouldn’t do the same thing with pseudoepigrapha.

    1. The assumption is that those books are canonical, and we’re trying to come up with the better form of the canonical book. Both that and what I suggest take the list of books as a give and try to figure out what that means for the life of the church; text crit is trying to reproduce the best forms of the books. That’s different from reshaping the canon lists themselves.

  10. Good post from an old teacher, even if I’m still not entirely convinced. I am now involved in practical ministry in a liberal congregation, so a balanced take on “Inerrancy” (a word that’s not very helpful to me in my new ministry setting) and authorship issues are always helpful for me. Thanks again . . .

  11. So, I wouldn’t begin to argue nor support the above, as I’m (a.) utterly unqualified to do so, and (b.) not sure it matters (to your point)…

    BUT: I find it kinda funny that you mention in a couple of your bullets how Paul’s/not-Paul’s manner of writing and thinking is different from one set of letters to the other, but you begin your discussion talking about how you had formed opinions and beliefs at the outset that are now evolved and changed for you yourself. And I get the “language used” thing, but even that makes me wonder how many words you’re using now that you didn’t then and vice-versa.

    Again, not an argument, so much as a point in irony ;-)

    (Even as I type this, I realize that my understanding is at best sketchy and surfacey. That’s just how I roll….)

  12. I would not have difficulty with pseudepigraphal letters in the canon, if the convention was known to be acceptable to the Christian community of the first century. Do we have evidence that such was the case?

    How early in the tradition of the church do we get indication that church scholars/leaders considered the pastorals to be pseudepigraphal?

    If these epistles were pseudepigraphal but the early church was not aware of it so that they had clearly been deceived by the pseudepigraphal authors of these epistles, would that not be hugely problematic for their canonical status? Letters that found there place in the canon because the church believed them to be Pauline, which were not so, seem highly doubtful.

    Unfortunately, I’m a theologian rather than a biblical scholar so I apologize for serious ignorance on these matters but will welcome illumination relative to the questions that are uppermost in my mind on this topic as I read the arguments in this blog post.


    1. Terry, in terms of the data, no I don’t think we have data indicative of the idea that pseudepigraphy was known and/or accepted. The earliest data I’m aware of is some guy getting into pretty hot water for penning a letter in Paul’s name (3d Corinthians, perhaps?).

      But I do not feel the weight of the appeal to the early church’s theologizing, either. Why must God only work through people correctly apprehending something? What if they mistakenly accepted Hebrews because a lot of folks thought Paul wrote it even though his name’s not on it? The Johannine’s because they mistakenly thought the same individual penned both them and John? Revelation because they mistakenly thought that a non-descript John was taken to be John the Apostle? Matthew because they mistakenly thought it was first-person remembrance of one of the twelve?

      I think that if we start discounting the decisions of the early church based on the integrity of their reasoning we’re in for a rocky road.

      1. On what basis, then, do you accept the early church’s canonical decisions, if not based on their reasoning?

          1. Wouldn’t there be a difference between mistakingly accepting Hebrews as Pauline when it claims no such thing and accepting the pastorals which do? I think the difference is that Matthew, the Johannine gospel and epistles, Revelation, and Hebrews do not make a misleading (deceiving?) claim from the very beginning. So while I agree with you that we cannot build our house on their reasoning process I disagree that we have a one for one analogy here.

            1. That’s changing the question, I think. If you want to argue based on genuineness, honesty, those kinds of standards, that’s fine.

              But if you want to argue that we accept them based on the early church’s reasoning that they’re acceptable based on apostolic authorship then the same questions apply to the lot.

          2. You accept the early church’s decisions based on the basis of the decision they seemed to reach? Sorry .. you lost me there. Could you flesh that out?

  13. “An early twentieth century study (I can’t remember by whom, E. P. Sanders had me read it when I was at Duke) researched the coincidence of the vocabulary from Paul’s letters and the Pastorals, finding that the vocab of the latter that is not found elsewhere in Paul’s letters tends to be found in other Greek manuscripts that date to the 2d century, whereas Paul’s vocabulary corresponds with other Greek writings from the first.”

    It would be great to find out exactly what study that was. It sounds like it might be out of copyright, and distributable on the net.


  14. How many examples are there of pseudipigraphal epistles? When comparing….Greek what kind of samples are being used? When suggesting that Paul speaks of the present and past tense of salvation….in different ways…to what extend are these incompatible?…How many sermons have your written over your lifetime…is it not the case that emphasis may be significantly different due to the audience. I don’t care particularly certainly would agree that within the fundamentalist tradition there are certain approaches to reading the scripture that presume…I think erroneously how these writings were composed. However….NT academics is captivated by what seems to me…ittle evidence for the radical reinterpretation of the authorship of the pastoral epistles.

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