Author: Ray Van Neste (Page 1 of 11)

Ray Van Neste is a believer in Christ, husband, father, pastor, and professor. He serves as the Dean of the School of Theology & Missions and Professor of Biblical Studies at Union University, and teaches classes on New Testament, Greek, and pastoral ministry.

Final Session of ETS Study Group

This week we will hold the final meeting of our Pastoral Epistles Study Group at ETS. We have not sought renewal for the group, but may look to restart the group in a couple of years. We have had a profitable decade of studying these important letters together.

If you are coming to ETS, join us for our session on Wednesday at 8:30. The only change to our published schedule is that Greg Couser will not be able to attend, so we have had to cancel his paper and I will moderate the session. We hope to see you in Fort Worth.

Image

Review, The Ideal Bishop: Aquinas’s Commentaries on the Pastoral Epistles

Michael G. Sirilla. The Ideal Bishop: Aquinas’s Commentaries on the Pastoral Epistles (Washington, D. C., The Catholic University of America Press, 2017)

This book makes a valuable contribution to Pastoral Epistles scholarship even though its aim is really toward a theology of pastoral ministry. Sirilla says this work fills “a lacuna in the scholarly work on St. Thomas’s theology of the episcopacy” (4) because scholars have tended to overlook Aquinas’s exegetical work. This has impoverished previous work because “many of St. Thomas’s theological reflections on the grace of the bishop’s office are found exclusively in his commentaries on the PE” (5). Sirilla says this is the first study to “substantively examine the theology of the episcopacy” found in Aquinas’s lectures on the Pastorals (5).

I am no scholar of Thomas, so I don’t have the background to evaluate such claims, but they struck me as parallel to what has happened with Calvin, where for many years scholars examined his theological writings and commentaries but neglected his sermons. With Calvin, the academy forgot that Calvin was first and foremost a preacher. With Aquinas, Sirilla argues, scholars seem to have forgotten that “Thomas Aquinas was, by profession, a biblical commentator” (85). In fact, he says that “Neo-Thomists too often neglected the biblical foundations of Aquinas’s theology” (84).

Here are a few representative quotes from Sirilla on the significance of the theology in Aquinas’s lectures on the PE:

 “The theology that Aquinas develops in his PE lectures is unique both with respect to that of his peers and with respect to what he says about the episcopacy in his other writings.” (20)

“Aquinas’s writings constitute a monumental development in the history of the theology of the episcopacy.” (29)

“It is only in Aquinas’s commentaries on the PE that we find a comprehensive treatments of the intellectual, moral, and spiritual qualifications required of one suited for the episcopal office, along with a nearly exhaustive treatment of the dangers and lofty duties that this office entails.” (69)

Then he cites Ceslas Spicq’s assessment of these lectures:

“The commentary of the Pastoral Epistles…dates from the last years of St. Thomas’s life, and it constitutes not only one of the best scriptural works that he had composed, but a masterpiece of medieval exegesis…. Undoubtedly, from a philological and historical point of view it is outdated, but it will always be consulted fruitfully for its psychological observations and above all for its theological elaboration.” (70)

As a Protestant, I do not follow various aspects of the view of the bishop Aquinas expounds, but there is much else with which I heartily agree and found helpful such as the strong emphasis on personal holiness and the centrality of teaching to the pastoral office. Aquinas also echoes Gregory’s important points about the need to a pastor to know his people individually and to tailor his instruction to their needs (159; commenting on 1 Tim 5:1-2). Sirilla summarizes Aquinas as teaching that “the bishop’s teaching and governing duties… ought to be expressions of loving service and not of a domineering spirit” (234).

Then, pertinent to this blog, this monograph is very useful as a guide to one aspect of the history of interpretation of the PE. I have a copy of Aquinas’s lectures (Commentaries on St. Paul’s Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, trans. Chrysostom Baer [South Bend, IN; St. Augustine’s Press, 2007]), but having a guide walk me through the commentary noting where Aquinas differed with contemporaries and providing explanation was immensely helpful. Precisely because Aquinas stands outside contemporary discussion, I am keen to see what questions the text prompts for him and where he goes with application.

For example, I was quite interested in Aquinas’s overall view of each of these letters. He wrote:

“[Paul] instructs the prelates of the churches…on the foundation, construction, and government of ecclesial unity in 1 Timothy, on firmness against persecutors in 2 Timothy, and on defense against heretics in the letter to Titus” (100). Aquinas then expounds 1 Timothy as focusing on qualifications for pastoral ministry and specific aspects of fulfilling that ministry such as teaching diverse people, correcting elders, etc. In dealing with false teachers in 2 Timothy, Aquinas also focuses on the need for a bishop to care so much for his flock that he is willing to die for them and he reminds his readers that such martyrdom was no mere abstract consideration in the early days of the church. Then, though Titus discusses qualifications for pastors as 1 Timothy does, Aquinas understands the focus here to be on finding successors in ministry as well as dealing with false teachers once more (Sirilla gives a nice summary on p. 100). Whether or not we agree with this synthesis, here is a serious and influential approach to these letters which deserves consideration.

This book is also a helpful guide to pithy comments from Aquinas on certain texts. Commenting on 2 Tim 2:15, a “laborer unashamed,” Aquinas says of a pastor, “He must confirm in his deeds the doctrine he preaches with his mouth; if he does not, he deserves to be embarrassed” (190). On 2 Tim 2:17 concerning false teachers, Aquinas says, “For heretics say true and useful things in the beginning; but when they are heard they mix in deadly doctrines, which they vomit out” (190).

Because the author’s aim is specifically the theology of episcopacy found in these lectures he skips a few portions of these lectures. However, this is a stimulating foray into the exposition of the PE by one of the leading teachers in the history of the church. As such we are indebted to Sirilla and can be enriched by attention to this work.

Worship in the PE, a New Essay

I was pleased to have the opportunity to write the chapter on the Pastoral Epistles in Biblical Worship: Theology for God’s Glory which is due out next week. I like mining a specific text, seeking what it has to say on a specific topic, and interestingly the Pastorals are not often quizzed for what they have to offer on worship. People note that preaching is upheld in these letters, but not much else. I ended up titling the chapter, “The Word, Prayer, and Practice: Worship in the Pastoral Epistles,” trying to point out key categories of worship mentioned in the PE.

My aim was to draw out what these letters offer concerning a theology of worship and then to suggest some applications to current church life. I’ll let you read the chapter, but I suggest we should give more attention to our own ethics as worship and even to dying as worship (2 Tim 4:6). Furthermore, while prayer is readily acknowledged as a key aspect of worship, it does not feature as prominently in corporate worship in many of our churches as it appears to in these letters. Lastly, though I do not develop this point as much, the comments on worship in the PE regularly are seen as aids to perseverance. If we want to persevere well, we need the sort of formative worship portrayed in the Pastorals (and elsewhere in the NT).

PE in Latest Issue of JSPL

Thanks to Mike Bird for pointing out that the latest issue of the Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters contains papers from a recent conference on the Pastoral Epistles in Belgium. I have copied the list of papers and contributors below. It is a fascinating list.

JERMO VAN NES
The Pastoral Epistles: Common Themes, Individual Compositions? An Introduction to the Quest for the Origin(s) of the Letters to Timothy and Titus

JENS HERZER
Narration, Genre, and Pseudonymity: Reconsidering the Literary Relationship of the Pastoral Epistles

MATTHIJS DEN DULY
Pauline Biography and the Letter to Titus: A Response to Jens Herzer

PETER-BEN SMIT
Supermen and Sissies: Masculinities in Titus and 1 Timothy

SUZAN J. M. SIERKSMA-AGTERES
Faithfulness as Subhegemonic Antidote to a Precarious Existence: A Response to Peter-Ben Smit

ROB VAN HOUWELINGEN
The Meaning of Epiphaneia in the Pastoral Epistles

DOGARA ISHAYA MANOMI
Salvific, Ethical, and Consummative “Appearances” in the Pastoral Epistles? A Response to Rob van Houwelingen

ARMIN D. BAUM
Stylistic Diversity in the Corpus Ciceronianum and in the Corpus Paulinum: A Comparison and Some Conclusions

JOHN PERCIVAL
Deciding What Counts: The Difficulties of Comparing Stylistic Diversity.

STANLEY E. PORTER
Pastoral Epistles: Common Themes, Individual Compositions, and Concluding Reflections

Interview with Gerald Bray

Over at his blog, Psephizo, Ian Paul has a nice interview with Gerald Bray about his recent commentary on the Pastorals in the new International Theological Commentary series. I found the interview informative. Bray helpfully explains his understanding of and approach to theological interpretation and speaks to key lessons from the Pastoral Epistles for the church today.

Pastoral Epistles session at SBL 2019

I was quite pleased this year to see that the Disputed Paulines session at SBL would meet on Saturday this year since that meant I would be able to attend. I hope they continue in this slot.

Jens Herzer, “Epicurus, Plutarch, and Paul: The Philosophical Discourse on Public Life and the Transformation of Pauline Ethics in 1 Timothy”

I always appreciate hearing from Herzer. In this paper he argued that the “good citizenship” ethic in 1 Timothy bears striking resemblance to Epicurean ideas. He demonstrated several parallel texts, and suggested that the author (not Paul in Herzer’s mind) was developing a Christian view of life by appropriation of Epicurean ideals. It seemed that his point was that the use of these ideals lead to a perspective different from the accepted Pauline letters (the abstract refers to a “socially accommodated Christianity”), but in the discussion afterward this point was muted.

In the end, these are interesting parallels showing that similar ideas were in view outside the New Testament. However, it is not enough to convince me that the author was intentionally drawing on Epicurean ideas.

James Buchanan Wallace, “1 Timothy and Universal Salvation”

Wallace’s paper considered whether a universalist reading of 1 Timothy might be correct. He opened with interaction with David Bentley Hart, who in his recent translation of the NT argues for universalism pointing to 1 Timothy but without exegetical argumentation.

Wallace engaged patristic interpreters who argued for universalism and those who argued against noting how they used 1 Tim (if they did). Most significant I thought was his treatment of μάλιστα exegetically and how Greek fathers understood it. I am not convinced of a universalist reading, due at least partially to the fact that I still read these letters as a whole with Paul and expecting coherence of thought.

Lyn Kidson, “Saving the Woman in 1 Timothy 2: Childbirth, Women’s Bodies, and the ‘Other Instruction’”

Kidson’s paper built on her 2018 paper in this same section. She argued that 1 Timothy 2:15 should be understood as saying that a woman’s body will be “healed or kept safe through the normal processes of intercourse, pregnancy, and childbirth that the advocates of the other instruction oppose.” Thus, she argues that σώζω in 2:15 means “preserve” rather than referring to eschatological salvation.

Kidson does find a coherent argument for a challenging text, linking 2:15 with the forbidding of marriage in 4:1-5. I did not always follow the argument in the oral presentation.

Christopher Hutson, “Lifting the Yoke of Slavery: Infrapolitics and Advice to Enslaved Persons in the Pastoral Epistles”

Hutson was very engaging (even providing a song!) as he argued that the comments on slaves in 1 Timothy 6 and Titus 2 were intentionally framed to seem like they affirmed standard Greco-Roman views on the submission of slaves all the while actually hinting at a subversive sub-text. Some people write off these texts as hopelessly compromised and demeaning to slaves, but Huston sought in his line of argument to present them in a more positive light.

Myriam Klinker-De Klerck, “Lois, Eunice, and Timothy: The Rhetorical Strategy in 2 Timothy in the Light of Social Exclusion of the First Christians”

Klinker examined the role of honor/shame in 2 Timothy suggesting a rhetorical strategy in the letter that aims to encourage Timothy to endure possible negative social consequences of his belonging to the Christ group. This is connected to the reorientation the letter gives to the idea of suffering (as an honorable token of loyalty [πίστις] to Christ) and the family identity mentioned with Lois and Eunice. Her arguments suggest further ways the letter coheres and makes sense in its historical setting.

Pastorals Section at ETS 2019

We had a good meeting of the Pastoral Epistles Study Group at ETS last week. Stan Porter was unable to attend due to health issues, so we missed his paper. We were glad to hear, though, that he is on the mend.

David Yoon presented his paper, “The Register of Paul in 1 Timothy: Why the Pastorals May Differ in ‘Style’ than the Hauptbrief,” which summarized the linguistic category of “register” which covers what people generally refer to as “style” when they say that the style of the PE differ so much from the accepted Pauline epistles. In the end, Yoon argued there is not enough evidence to establish what an acceptable variance would be, and thus that difference in register is slim basis for any argument concerning authorship. Yoon’s analysis then agrees with the significant recent monograph by Jermo Van Nes, Pauline Language and the Pastoral Epistles: A Study of Linguistic Variation in the Corpus Paulinum (Linguistic Biblical Studies 16; Leiden: Brill, 2018).

My paper came second and was a revision of the paper I presented at the Mainz conference a couple of months earlier. My central contention was that according to the text of Titus, the ethical admonitions in the letter are not culturally driven but are rooted in the gospel itself. The ethical instruction is presented as necessary entailments of the gospel, such that to reject them is to show that one does not know God (1:16). A final version is to be published in a volume with the other essays from the Mainz conference.

Our last paper, “Salvation History in Six Lines: Reading 1 Timothy 3:16b as an Interconnected Whole,” was by John Percival who is working on a PhD at Cambridge under the supervision of Simon Gathercole. Percival noted the long-standing debate about how to read the six lines of this verse and argued that they should be read in order as following chronologically. Key to such an argument is arguing that the last line “taken up in glory” refers not to the ascension (as is often thought) but to the final enthronement of Christ. I found the argument quite persuasive. This will be part of his completed thesis, and hopefully will be published on its own as an article soon.

We are planning for next year, so if you are interested in presenting a paper next year or some time feel free to contact me at rayvanneste at gmail.com

Abstracts for Ethics in Titus Conference

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of participating in the “Ethics in Titus” conference held at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. The conference was hosted by the Research Center for Ethics in Antiquity and Christianity, which is ably led by Prof. Dr. Ruben Zimmermann. In leading this conference Prof. Zimmermann was joined by Dogara Manomi, who has just submitted his doctoral thesis on Titus under Prof. Zimmermann’s supervision. They both were excellent hosts for a stimulating conversation with papers, wonderful meals and even a tour of the city.

They have graciously allowed us to post here the abstracts from the papers of the conference. The papers are to be published in a forthcoming volume in the Context and Norms of New Testament Ethics series within WUNT (Mohr Siebeck).

Titus and the Shaping of Early Christian Identity

I have just read a helpful essay recently published by Jermo Van Nes, titled “Doing Good Deeds: Titus and the Shaping of Early Christian Identity.” The essay appears in the recent book, Drawing and Transcending Boundaries in the New Testament and Early Christianity, ed. Jacobus Kok, Martin Webber, Jermo van Nes (Lit Verlag, 2019). My review of Van Nes’s monograph was recently posted here, and this essay is further helpful work from him.

In this essay Van Nes examines vocabulary in the letter to Titus which denotes insider and outsider status arguing for more variety of groups than in Trebilco’s work. He helpfully points out that the sharp language used for distinguishing the church from outsiders does not sit well with the common idea that the letter presents an accomodationist ethic which intends to alleviate social tensions and make the church more at home in the Greco-Roman world. Rather, the letter marks a sharp division between Cretan believers and the false teachers and unbelievers. The aim of the letter, then, is “to further God’s mission by shaping the Cretan Christian community into a people who in word and deed expose Cretan society to genuine Christian witness” (43).

Marshall’s Commentary Free!

I still think the single best all-around commentary on the Pastoral Epistles in English is Howard Marshall’s volume in the ICC. So, I was excited to see that the free book of the month from Logos is this commentary!

This is an amazing opportunity. If you aren’t signed up to get the alerts for the free book of the month each month from Logos, I encourage you to look into it. It is a great way to expand your electronic library.

« Older posts

© 2022 Pastoral Epistles

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑