Category: Church Leadership|Overseers

Budiselić, “The Church as a Court: the Requirement for ‘Two or Three Witnesses’”

A new article by Ervin Budiselić does not focus heavily on the Pastorals, but I mention it here because of its obvious relevance for 1 Timothy 5:19, which is discussed on pp. 189–90. The article is available in its entirety at the address cited.

Budiselić, Ervin. “The Church as a Court: the Requirement for ‘Two or Three Witnesses.’” Kairos: Evangelical Journal of Theology 15.2 (2021): 179–94. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.32862/k.15.2.3

Abstract: “The Church in the New Testament is described with various images, and this article argues that one image that is implicitly present in the New Testament is the Church as a “court” or a “community of trial.” First, this can be argued because the God of the Bible – YHWH – is Creator, King, and Judge. That means that YHWH’s community is responsible, per YHWH’s revelation, to maintain the purity of its members in all aspects of life. Second, in the New Testament, we find examples where the Church functions as a court. However, the question is, does the biblical requirement for “two or three witnesses” also support the claim that the Church should function as a court? The purpose of this article is to identify places where the biblical command about “two or three witnesses appear,” to trace its development and to see what role and place it plays in the Church. By doing so, we would demonstrate that the presence of this stipulation in the New Testament is additional proof that we should sometimes view the Church as a “court.” The first part of the article explains that the context for the concept of witness is the Mosaic covenant and underlying assumption that governs the command about “two and three witnesses.” The second part analyzes the appearance of “two or three witnesses” in the Old Testament. In the third part, we will argue that the Church is truly a community of trial. We will so argue by observing selected examples from the New Testament where the Church functions as a court, and by tracking the development of the requirement about “two or three witnesses” in the New Testament. Based on this research, we will end by offering a reflection and a conclusion.”

I might mention that in addition to the literature cited in the article, one might add (though somewhat dated) an early monograph on the topic: H. van Vliet, No Single Testimony: A Study on the Adaptation of the Law of Deut. 19:15 Par. into the New Testament, Studia Theologica Rheno-Traiectina 4 (Utrecht: Kreminck en Zoon, 1958).

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.

Wedgeworth, “Good and Proper: Paul’s Use of Nature, Custom, and Decorum in Pastoral Theology”

An interesting article which could be considered a “hidden contribution to Pastorals scholarship“:

Wedgeworth, Steven. “Good and Proper: Paul’s Use of Nature, Custom, and Decorum in Pastoral Theology.” Eikon: A Journal for Biblical Anthropology 2.2 (2020): 88–97.

Eikon is the journal of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, formally known as the Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Wedgeworth’s article uses 1 Tim 2:8-15 as its primary text, thus contributing to the ever-increasing literature on that passage.

The essay does not have an abstract, but an excerpt from the beginning will serve to summarize: “This essay will investigate to what extent the Apostle Paul uses a sort of natural-law reasoning in his argument against women teaching or holding an office of authority in the church. The primary textual subject will be 1 Timothy 2:8–15, but parallel New Testament passages will be considered insofar as they provide additional support for understanding the logic of Paul’s argument. I will argue that Paul is making a kind of natural law argument, by way of custom and decorum. This is not a simple appeal to human intuition, neither is it a generalized observation of empirical data taken from nature. It is, however, an argument based on the concepts of basic honor to authority figures, an element of the natural law, and the social power of decorum, of what is proper or fitting for social relationships between men and women. These are concepts grounded in a particular philosophy of nature and the morally formative role of custom. While appropriately using language and categories from the creation order, Paul is indeed employing a particular kind of natural-law application of this biblical account in order to prescribe customary social relations between men and women in the church.”

The full issue of Eikon which includes Wedgeworth’s article is here, and an online version of the full article is here.

Recent Work on the Pastoral Epistles

I am aware of four books related to the Pastorals that have just come out, and thought it would be useful to mention them here.

First is the new volume on the PE in the Baylor Handbook series. The series as a whole has been very well done so I look forward to seeing this PE volume by Larry Perkins.

 

 

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

I have only glanced at it so far. Here is the table of contents:

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Theology of the Episcopacy in the Writings
  3. St. Thomas’s Lectures on the Pastoral Epistles
  4. Lectures on 1 Timothy: Ut gubernet populum
  5. Lectures on 2 Timothy: Ut pro populo subdito patiatur
  6. Lectures on Titus: Ut malos coerceat
  7. Conclusion

 

This will be fascinating in terms of the history of interpretation.

Third, Baylor has also published a new monograph on the Pastorals, Civilized Piety: The Rhetoric of Pietas in the Pastoral Epistles and the Roman Empire by T. Christopher Hoklotubbe. Here is the table of contents for this book:

Introduction: The Politics of Piety in the Pastoral Epistles

  1. Piety in Caesar’s House
  2. Piety in God’s House
  3. Honoring Piety in the City
  4. Honoring Piety in the Ekklēsia
  5. The Mystery of Philosophical Piety
  6. The Mystery of Pastoral Piety

Conclusion: A Pious and Civilized Christian in the Roman Empire

 

Fourth, the Pastorals are dealt within this interesting new book, Paul as Pastor, edited by Brian S. Rosner, Andrew S. Malone, and Trevor J. Burke (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. 2018). The PE are dealt with by Bob Yarbrough in chapter 11 (which can be viewed at Amazon)

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

  1. The Household Setting of Paul’s Pastoral Practice and its Biblical and Jewish Roots — Brian S. Rosner, Ridley College, Australia
    2. Paul as Pastor in Acts: Modelling and Teaching Perseverance in the Faith – Alan J. Thompson, Sydney Missionary and Bible College, Australia
    3. Paul as Pastor in Romans: Theological Foundations – Colin G. Kruse, Melbourne School of Theology, Australia
    4. Paul’s Pastoral Sensitivity in 1 Corinthians – Matthew R. Malcolm, Trinity Theological College, Australia
    5. Paul as Pastor in 2 Corinthians – Paul W. Barnett, Macquarie University, Australia
    6. Pastoring with a Big Stick: Paul as Pastor in Galatians – Michael F. Bird, Ridley College, Australia and John Anthony Dunne, St. Andrew’s University, UK
    7. Paul and Pastors in Ephesians: The Pastor as Teacher – Peter Orr, Moore Theological College, Australia
    8. Paul and Pastors in Philippians: When Staff teams Disagree – Sarah Harris, Carey Baptist College, New Zealand
    9. Paul as Pastor in Colossians? – Andrew S. Malone, Ridley College, Australia
    10. Mother, Father, Infant, Orphan, Brother: Paul’s Variegated Pastoral Strategy Towards His Thessalonian Church-Family – Trevor J. Burke, Cambridge Theological Federation, UK
    11. Paul as Working Pastor: Exposing an Open Ethical Secret – Robert W. Yarbrough, Covenant Theological Seminary, USA
    12. The Pastoral Offices in the Pastoral Epistles and the Church of England’s First Ordinal – Tim Patrick, Bible College SA, Australia
    13. Augustine of Hippo on Paul as Pastor – Andrew M. Bain, Queensland Theological College, Australia
    14. ‘He Followed Paul’ Whitefield’s Voice: Heroic, Apostolic, Prophetic – Rhys S. Bezzant, Ridley College, Australia

 

Lastly, I have also just received a copy of a recent article, “The Rhetorical Strategy of 1 Timothy,” by Tim O’Donnell published in Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 79:3 (July 2017): 455-475. I look forward to reading this soon.

 

These are encouraging signs for work on these important letters.

Merkle on Elders and Overseers

On my way back from Nepal I finally read Ben Merkle’s book, $amz(0820462349 The Elder and Overseer: One Office in the Early Church) (Peter Lang, 2003). It is a revision of his doctoral dissertation. Merkle provides a good overview of the scholarly discussion and of the relevant background material. He makes a good case for the use of the term ‘elder’ referring to an office and not simply to age. I agree with his thesis—that elder and overseer refer to the same office—and thought he did a good job defending it. He also deals with the idea that Paul’s churches had no structure/authority but were loosely led by ‘charismatics.’ This view shows up not only in more critical schools of thought but can be found in evangelical settings as well. Merkle clearly shows that concern for official leadership is clear in Paul and Acts. There is no aversion to ‘office’ in Paul and there is more concern with authority than is sometimes acknowledged (for example see Robert Banks, “Church Order and Government” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters). Merkle rightly demonstrates that this view is rooted in an approach which prioritizes 1 Corinthians to the exclusion of Paul’s other letters.

I had been thinking for some time that a rebuttal of these ‘no structure, no authority’ views need to be written. Now I know Merkle has done it and done it well.

What’s an “Elder”, Anyway?

In early February, Ray posted on $esv(Titus 1.6) and “believing/faithful children”. In that post, Ray linked to an article in the 9 Marks newsletter.


Regarding that link, an anonymous commenter asked me:



Rico: Have you read the book in footnote 2?: Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership, revised & expanded (Littleton, Col.: Lewis & Roth Publishers, 1995), 229.


Please consider the concept of “elders” he presents in his research through the Acts and Epistles uses of the Greek words used.


I’ve not read Strauch’s book. But I have read with interest R. Alastair Campbell’s The Elders: Seniority within Earliest Christianity. Campbell gives a more complete view than just centering on practice in Acts and the Epistles; he traces the concept of “eldership” through through the Hebrew Bible, into the New Testament, and then through Apostolic Fathers (particularly Ignatius). I don’t agree with some of his presuppositions (he thinks the Pastorals are psuedepigraphal and contemporary with or immediately preceding Ignatius’ writings and this colors some of his conclusions regarding the role of elders in the Pastorals) but nonetheless he approaches the topic diachronically and does a good job of it.


Anyone else have thoughts on “eldership” as it is discussed in the Pastorals? Or on the topic of “church leadership” in general within the Pastorals?

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