Students of the Pastorals will be interested in a recent essay by Luc Bulundwe:
Luc Bulundwe, “Un évangile subversif: 2 Timothée au prisme d’une analyse sociologique du récit de soi [A subversive gospel: 2 Timothy through a sociological analysis of the self-narrative].” Pages 211–46 in Approches et méthodes en sciences bibliques. Quoi de neuf? Edited by Luc Bulundwe and Chen Dandelot, in collaboration with Simon Butticaz. Cahiers de la Revue de théologie et de philosophie 25. Genève: Droz, 2021.
The article is in French, but Bulundwe has provided me with a summary in English: “This paper applies a sociological analysis of the literary and rhetorical mechanisms of 2 Tim 1. This analysis highlights 2 Tim author’s intent. In a situation where the temptation is to be ashamed of the Gospel, mainly because of Paul’s suffering and imprisonment, the epistle shows, on the contrary, that this is an honor. To convince his addressees, the author uses memories of Christ and Paul as well as witnesses and symbolic places. The sociological analysis thus leads to the same observation as a majority of historical-critical exegeses according to which the author of 2 Tim could be part of the third generation of Christianity. On the other hand, by upsetting the anthropological categories of shame and honor linked to the consequences of the proclamation of the Gospel, it allows us to question the idea that the three pastoral letters are operating a form of inculturation of Christianity.”
Those doing research in authorship of 2 Timothy, sociological analysis, and the question of the connection between the Pastorals and the surrounding culture may find interaction with this essay helpful. Methodologically, the article effects its sociological analysis, first, with a structural analysis, in which Bulundwe engages sequence analysis, actor analysis, and argument analysis, synthesizing the results to highlight the internal logic of the narrative. Second is an examination of opposing pairs within this synthesis (today vs. yesterday/tomorrow; loyalty vs. cowardice; suffering together vs. turning away).
A number of points in Bulundwe’s analysis of the text (which I acknowledge I read in machine translation) were intriguing to me.
(1) In the sequential analysis, where Bulundwe details a number of chronological points able to be observed in the text in 2 Tim 1:1–18 (p. 223), I found it interesting that so many distinct points could be noted. I give them here in the order provided by Bulundwe:
(a) Salvation and call before eternal times (v. 9)
(b) The manifestation of Christ (v. 10)
(c) The service of the ancestors (v. 3)
(d) The faith of Lois and Eunice (v. 5)
(e) Paul’s establishment as “herald, apostle, and teacher” (v. 11)
(f) Paul’s suffering in prison, the abandonment of some, and the faithfulness of another (vv. 15–17)
(g) The exhortation to Timothy “today”
(h) The prospect of God’s reward on that day (v. 18)
(2) In line with the article title, Bulundwe examines the ancient notion of honor in connection with the passage, and argues that though Paul’s imprisonment and suffering did not accrue to any status of honor so far as the culture was concerned, Timothy was being called to suffer alongside Paul without shame because this involved them in collaboration with God himself and the suffering of Christ. “The ancient code of honor is thus well and truly subverted [le code antique de l’honneur est donc bien subverti]” (p. 229).
(3) As an extension of the last point–and here is my biggest takeaway from the article–Paul’s subversion of the ancient notion of honor evident in the text pushes back against the theory that the Pastorals promote a sort of acculturated Christianity in tune with its times, à la Dibelius’s christliche Bürgerlichkeit (pp. 236–37).
The author is unable to post the article for public access, but will provide a copy privately upon request, which can be made via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.