Month: December 2007

First Timothy and P.Tebt. 703

If you read many recent commentaries on the Pastoral Epistles (particularly Witherington, though Johnson and probably Towner and Marshall), and if you have read the section on First Timothy in Carson’s New Testament Introduction and also in Frank Theilman’s New Testament Theology, you’ve heard of P.Tebt. 703.

P.Tebt. 703 is one of the Tebtunis Papyri. It is a letter dated “after 208 BC”. It is described as:

Copy of an official memorandum probably from the dioiketes to probably the oikonomos, giving instructions concerning agriculture, transport, royal revenues and monopolies, official correspondence, and behavior of royal officials.

Many folks look to P.Tebt. 703 as an example of a superior writing instructions to his lieutenant concerning administration of an area/group and see similarities with what Paul is writing to Timothy in First Timothy (and, similarly what Paul writes to Titus in the epistle to Titus).

I’ve been looking for a full translation of P.Tebt. 703 for a few days (well, thinking about looking) and this morning I finally remembered that I could hit APIS (Advanced Papyrological Information System) and probably find it pretty quickly. It’s better than I’d thought. The APIS entry has images, verso and recto, of all the extant leaves of the letter along with summary description and translation.

I’d thought I would have to instead find the 1933 Tebtunis volume in a library somewhere, but this is so much better. I had to blog it quick; first so I could find the reference easily when I really want it later on; and secondly so y’all could be aware of it.

Epictetus and the Pastoral Epistles

I happened across a book titled Epictetus and the New Testament by one Douglas Simmonds Sharp, published in 1914. The only copy I found was in Logos Bible Software’s Actually, there is a copy in Google Books, but for some unknown reason it has restricted access (even though it was published in 1914). Anyway, on pp. 74-75, the following like word usages are listed: εμπλεκω and επιπλησσω. Here’s the image I cropped from the book; I don’t really have time to retype it (apologies for that):

Sharp, Douglas Simmonds. Epictetus and the New Testament. London: C. H. Kelly, 1914. pp. 74-75.

I include it here because I thought it might be interesting to some; also because it serves as a mental note to evaluate at a later point when I do further work on similarities between the Pastorals and other contemporary literature (e.g. the Apostolic Fathers)

Negative on the Pastorals

One thing that has driven some of my research in the Pastoral Epistles has been the very negative ‘press’ these letters have received in last century or so.  I was stunned when I first began academic study of the Pastoral Epistles by the cavalier, condescending attitude of many scholars toward the Pastorals.  Along the way I have collected some representative quotes, and for my paper at ETS I particualrly went back to get more from A. T. Hanson.


So, first, here is Hanson.  The condescending attitude is astounding.

“He does not have any doctrine of his own, but makes use of whatever comes to him in the sources which he uses.” Hanson notes that Paul also used pre-formed materials but says Paul integrated these pieces into his own argument.“Not so with the Pastorals.Here the material is simply presented with its implied christology and no attempt is made to work it into a consistent doctrine.

The consequence is that we find several different ways of expressing the significance of Christ in the Pastorals, not all consistent with each other.”[1]


“There seems to be nothing very distinctive about Titus, unless it be the negative feature that it has no Pauline transposition and no scriptural midrash.This is why one is led to suspect that Titus was written last of all and that the author was beginning to run short of material.”[2]


“He is no profound theologian ….”[3]


“To the author’s simple mind, heretics are sinners.”[4]


“The author of the Pastorals could not do much at the intellectual level, but he could and did help to strengthen the institution [the church].”[5]


But at least, according to Hanson, the author of the Pastorals is “less moralistic, less unfortunately ambitious in his use of Scripture” than Clement of Rome.[6]


Lest, this be too positive though, Hanson goes on to state: “there is little evidence that the author of the Pastorals would himself be very competent if he were ever to be required to prove or defend the Christian tradition from Scripture….”[7]



Hanson is a key representative of this view but the view is not limited to him or his era.In an essay just published, German scholar, Gerd Häfner, wrote:

“it seems clear that the author of these letters is no expert in Scripture-based reasoning”[8]


Others, while not so negative, still have failed to see any coherence to the argumentation.  These quotes show up in my book which seeks to counter this impression.


‘There is no sustained thought beyond the limits of the separate paragraphs; from paragraph to paragraph- and sometimes even within paragraphs (e.g., 1 Tim 2:8ff)- the topic changes without preparation and sometimes apparently without motive.’[9]


‘There is a lack of studied order, some subjects being treated more than once in the same letter without apparent premeditation . . . These letters are, therefore, far removed from literary exercises.’[10]


‘In this sort of writing, however, there is no need to labor to discover logical order or subtle lines of thought supposed to provide coherence.’[11]


‘The Pastorals are made up of a miscellaneous collection of material.They have no unifying theme; there is no development of thought.’[12]


‘Not only is the theology generally seen to be a collection of traditions, but it is also usually treated as a fairly arbitrary, inconsistent, unthought-out amalgam with little coherence.’[Young is summarizing the common view of the Pastorals at the time not neessarily giving her opinion][13] 


‘Organization and development of thought are expected from an author, but the Pastorals are characterized by a remarkable lack of both.’ [14]


‘the letters have no driving concern, no consistent focus of interest; instead they read like an anthology of traditions, many arranged mechanically together by topic, some simply juxtaposed.’[15] 

Perhaps these quotes will be ueful and stimulating to toehrs as they have been to me.

[1] Hanson, The Pastoral Epistles, 38-39.

[2] Ibid., 47.

[3] Ibid., 50.

[4] Ibid., 144.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., 51.

[8] Häfner, “Deuteronomy in the Pastoral Epistles,” in Deuteronomy in the New Testament, ed. Moyise and Menken (T&T Clark, 2007), 137.

[9] Burton Scott Easton, The Pastoral Epistles (London: SCM Press, 1948), 14.

[10] Donald Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles, 2d ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 18.

[11] Gealy, 457, in discussion of 1 Timothy 6:17-19.

[12] A. T. Hanson, The Pastoral Epistles (London: Marshall, Morgan, and Scott Publishers Ltd., 1982), 42.

[13] Frances Young, The Theology of the Pastoral Letters (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 47.

[14] Miller, 139.

[15] Ibid., 138.See similar statements, pp. 9, 11, 13, 17, 59-60, 80, 82, 86, 91, 100, 101, 129, 130, 132, 135, 139.