Month: December 2006

Authorship and Date

It seems to me that the authorship question will never be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.  What is interesting is how scholarly fashions change.  It was not that long ago that commentators could confidently claim “scholarly consensus” on the pseudepigraphical nature of the PE.  The current scholarly climate makes that consensus far less secure.  It seems to me, regardless of authorship, that there is a genuine move to date the Pastorals much earlier than the previous generation of PE scholarship.  An early date, of course, has always been held by those accepting Pauline authorship but there are now others such as Howard Marshall, Richard Bauckham and myself who, although unpersuaded by Pauline authorship, accept that the letters are first century, probably second-generation, documents.

Reflections on Requiring My Own Book

In the previous post, I wrote that last Spring semester, I required my undergrad Pastoral Epistles class to purchase and write book reports on my book, Leadership Succession in the World of the Pauline Circle.  I want to unpack my comment.

I came to KCU in fall 2003.  I have taught the Pastoral Epistles to undergrads (300-level) every spring since then.  I have also taught these letters in an online graduate seminar. Read more

Who were the Pastoral Epistles written to?

Of course we have the testimony of the epistles themselves along with the traditional titles proclaiming Timothy and Titus as recipients.

Some have taken issue with this on the basis of testimony within the epistles, particularly First Timothy.

After all, if Timothy had been with Paul for years (cf. Ac 16.1-5) and was beloved of Paul to the degree that Paul called him his “true child in the faith” (cf. 1Ti 1.2; 2Ti 2.2) why did Paul spend so much time on seemingly basic things? You know, like qualifications for overseers and deacons? Wouldn’t Timothy have known that stuff cold based on his previous experience?

And why the extended superscription with Paul justifying his apostleship with one of the longest such statements he uses (1Ti 1.1; 2Ti 1.1) for such purposes: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope”.

Paul didn’t really need to justify his apostleship for Timothy (you know, co-sender of a bunch of Paul’s epistles?), did he?

Same stuff goes for Titus.

I have my own ideas, of course, and they’re relatively mainstream. But I’m curious as to what others might think about these things.

Who was intended to receive (or intended to hear, if you think there is a distinction) the letters to Timothy? And the letter to Titus? And what was their purpose?

Feel free to use the comments. If you blog about it on your own blog, drop me a note [pe | pastoralepistles | com] and I’ll add a link here. Thanks!

Scot McKnight on 1Ti 2.8-15

Scot McKnight, author of several books and a blogger to boot (see his blog Jesus Creed) posts about that one passage in the Pastorals that everyone seems to gravitate toward: 1Ti 2.8-15.

McKnight reviews a few chapters from a book by Sarah Sumner called Men and Women in the Church. But what you really want to read through is the comment thread on the post — all sorts of opinions are being aired there.

If you’re interested in this sort of thing, you may want to check out the post and the comments.

Update: I realize I’ve blogged somewhat on this topic before; mostly thinking-out-loud sorts of posts. The posts go together; the second post really needs to be read after the first one. Check ’em out in the old blog for more info:

More on Pseudepigraphy

Rob Bradshaw, of the ever-helpful, has recently posted the following article:

Donald Guthrie, “The Development of the Idea of Canonical Pseudopigraphy in New Testament Criticism,” Vox Evangelica 1 (1962): 43-59.

With the necessity to consider the view that the Pastoral Epistles are pseudepigraphal (or perhaps “allonymical”?), the article — which I have not read — sounds like one to read.

Note that Guthrie is the author of the Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles.

Update (2006-12-12): I’ve read the article now and can recommend it. Guthrie unsurprisingly concludes that those who support a theory of canonical pseudepigrapha have built upon a shoddy foundation. Well worth the reading.

Allonymity, Wayne Brindle and Michael Bird

While at the recent AAR/SBL meetings, I took in a paper by Wayne Brindle in the Disputed Paulines group. The paper was “Pseudonymity and the Pastoral Epistles: An Evangelical Response to I. Howard Marshall’s ‘Allonymity’ Proposal”.

Michael Bird of the Euangelion blog took in the paper as well, and asked a question at the end. Here’s Mike’s reporting of the encounter:

Wayne Brindle gave an interesting paper that was a response to I. Howard Marshall’s proposal of “Allonymity” in the Pastorals. Much as I favour Pauline authorship (but it is not quite clear cut either!) I think Brindle was unable to show that authority is dependent on authenticity. When I asked about Hebrews (i.e. the Church accepted Hebrews because they thought it was Pauline, despite the fact that it’s clearly not Pauline) he responded by saying that anonymous authorship makes Pauline authorship possible.

I don’t think that Brindle’s point was that authority is dependent on authenticity. My understanding of Brindle’s position was that when a the author of a document (and therefore sender, situation, etc.) is purposefully misrepresented (whatever the intentions of that misrepresentation might be) then the document itself is predicated on a falsehood and should be realised as such. In the epistles we have in the NT, this is much more the case because their interpretation and exegesis is so dependent on the stated setting and circumstances being authentic or at least reliable. Therefore, if the documents are seen as not authored by Paul then there are serious issues that affect one’s reading of the documents.

Hebrews is different than epistles that adhere to more of a letter form because, at least in the editions that have been transmitted down to us today, no author is specified. Early tradition, of course, specified Paul as the author. We don’t cotton to that today that much, with most folks taking the classic line that “only God knows who wrote Hebrews”. Since no author is explicitly claimed within the body of the epistle, falsely claimed authorship is not a problem as regards establishing authenticity of the epistle (though I’d rather call it a homily than an epistle, but that’s an altogether different question). In other words, the very difference between anonymity and pseudonymity means that anonymity doesn’t necessarily lead to the credibility problem that pseudononymity portends.

One of the books I purchased at SBL is Ben Witherington III’s Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, Volume I which deals with the Pastoral Epistles. Witherington (who blogs as well) has a great analysis of the problem of psuedonymity that largely aligns with Brindle’s view, though Witherington’s conclusions are a bit less dogmatic that Brindle’s. I also purchased Towner’s NICNT edition on the Pastorals, and he draws a line similar to Witherington, taking some issue with the allonymity proposal put forth in I. Howard Marshall’s ICC volume.

My bottom line: If we’re using authorship as an indicator of authenticity, then while both Hebrews and the Pastorals have some authorship questions that affect the question of authenticity, they both have different questions due to the statements of authorship each document makes. The recent work of Witherington, Towner and Brindle go a long way to show that pseudonymous documents weren’t necessarily benign as many have stated, and that simply calling pseudonymity by another name (i.e. ‘allonymity’) doesn’t do much to solve the problem.

Update (2006-12-28): Michael Bird provides some clarification in the comments. Here’s the salient bit:

My point would be to say that even if the Pastoral are pseudonymous that they are not necessarily any less ‘canonical’ since they still contain the apostolic message (Ehrman grants as much!). I recognize that there is a difference between Hebrews and the Pastorals concerning the explicit naming of the author, but if the early church got the authorship of certain writings wrong (i.e. wrongly attributed Hebrews to Paul or did perceive a well-intentioned pseudonymity in the Pastorals) the canon is no the worse off for it. All in all, I favour Pauline authorship (esp. of 2 Timothy), but we have to face up to the “but what if” question as to how it impacts canonical authority. What I want to avoid is a kind of retreat from the hard questions of authorship based on an underlying assumption that “I do not think it would have been right for God to give us the Bible this way, i.e. through pseudonymity”. I want to make sure that our theology of biblical inspiration is based on the textual and historical phenomenon of the NT itself, rather than re-writing the textual and historical phenomenon to suit a certain model of inspiration.

I agree. When I heard Michael’s question at the session, my immediate thought was “but allonymity (or pseudonymy) isn’t anonymity, so I don’t follow his point”. I agree that if one espouses Pauline authorship that it’s a bit disingenuous to respond to authorship challenges by saying “But it says Paul wrote it … “. I just think the arguments for allonymity or “well-intentioned psuedonymity” are wanting because actual examples of well-intentioned pseudonymity in the early church were not exactly welcomed. Witherington and Brindle both provide examples of this.

And all of this reminds me of a Fred Danker quote I read at a chapter head in John Lee’s book on New Testament Lexicography: “Change spells pain, but … scholar’s tasks are ‘not for sissies’. ” Those of us (and I am one) who hold to Pauline authorship need to make sure we don’t take the “sissy way” out of the argument. But the same holds true for those on the other end of the authorship spectrum as well.

Bourgeois Christianity?

This is my first post and I am honoured to be involved in this blog with Rick and Perry.  I echo the comments made by Perry in his first post.  I would like to offer some thoughts that I hope will generate some discussion.  As a first post I will restrict my comments to very general ones.  I am sure the discussion will lead us to more specific deliberations.

The (previous) scholarly consensus on the Pastoral Epistles (PE) is that they are late documents reflecting Pauline communities which had become institutionalised and had come to terms with the delay of the Parousia by settling down into a form of accommodation with the wider society.  My work disputes a number of aspects of this consensus and remains in dialogue with the Hermeneia commentary on the PE by Martin Dibelius and Hans Conzelmann in which Dibelius famously argued that the PE promote the ideal of good christian citizenship (christliche Bürgerlichkeit) – a form of bourgeois christianity. Read more

Updates and News

As you’ve likely noticed, there have been several changes here at

The biggest change is that there is now more than one blogger. In addition to Rick Brannan (yours truly), Perry L. Stepp, Lloyd Pietersen and Ray Van Neste have agreed to begin posting to Read more