The Pastoral Epistles were given significant attention at this year’s Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. First, we had an excellent session in the Pastoral Epistles Group.
Chuck Bumgardner began our session with a paper titled, “Kinship, Fictive Kinship, and the Letters to Timothy and Titus.” Bumgardner compared what these letters say about family relationships and relationships within the body of Christ (Bumgardner used the phrase “fictive kinship” because it is the standard phrase used to refer to social relationships which are seen or described as familial though there is no blood relation ). He argued that Paul’s use of such language in the PE is not incompatible with his use of it in his other letters, and it does not necessarily indicate that the church is moving from an egalitarian stage to a hierarchical one. His paper also provided an initial sounding of the intersection between Christian family and social family roles in the PE, suggesting that Paul navigates such intersections with a missionary concern for outsiders.
Dillon Thornton was snowed in and, therefore, unable to attend. However, he emailed me his paper, and I was able to read it. The paper,“’Saying What They Should Not Say’: Reassessing the Gravity of the Problem of the Younger Widows (1 Tim 5:9-16),” argued that the younger widows were aligned with the false teachers. Paul’s instruction left them three possibilities: 1) to remain with the false teachers and thus under judgment, 2) to marry unbelievers, thus parting ways with the false teachers (who forbid marriage), and still remaining under judgment, or 3) to remarry in the faith, thus parting ways with the false teachers and realigning with the Pauline church. This answers some of the knotty issues of this passage and gives more attention to many of the specifics than I have seen elsewhere.
Greg Couser’s paper, “The Church as Family: The Nature of the Household of God in 1 Timothy,” argued that the relationships within the church are not merely “fictive” but are in fact more real than blood relations, as Jesus himself said (Matt 12:46-49). Couser provided a robust argument that the ethics of 1 Timothy are not based in cultural accommodation but in the gospel itself. This is a crucial point for understanding the PE since their ethics are so often dismissed or overturned because they are seen as culturally bound.
Peter Walker closed the session with his paper, “1 Timothy & Titus Relocated: Reimagining the Connections.” Walker argued for placing the PE within the framework of the book of Acts. He has made this argument in print previously, but in this paper he discussed implications of this view including connections between these letters and 1-2 Corinthians and Romans. He also argued this would remove several common critiques of the PE. While, in the end, I was not convinced, Walker made many good challenging points which helped me think more clearly about the dating of the letters.
In addition to our session, several other papers related to the Pastorals were presented. Thanks to Chuck Bumgardner for gathering this list.
Bryan Blazosky (Central Baptist Theological Seminary) “Why 1 Timothy 1:8-11 Ought to be Used in Paul and the Law Studies”
Christopher R. Bruno (Cedarville University) “One God, One People, One Mediator: The Use of the One God Formula in the Disputed Pauline Epistles”
Jamin Hübner (John Witherspoon College) “The Evolution of Complementarian Exegesis” (This is equivalent to Jamin Hübner, “The Evolution of Complementarian Exegesis,” Priscilla Papers 29/1 (Winter 2015), 11-13.
Chris S. Stevens (McMaster Divinity College) “Titus in P32 and Sinaiticus: Textual Reliability and Scribal Design”
Gregory J. Stiekes (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) “Paul’s Family of God: What Familial Language in the Pastorals Can and Cannot Tell Us about the Church”
Also, the book this panel discussed had a chapter on the PE:
Panel Discussion: Review of Margaret Y. MacDonald, The Power of Children: The Construction of Christian Families in the Greco-Roman World
Reviewers: Lynn Cohick (Wheaton College); E. Randolph Richards (Palm Beach Atlantic University); Karelynne Ayayo (Palm Beach Atlantic University); F. Alan Tomlinson (Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary).
Response Margaret Y. MacDonald