Lyn Kidson has produced another contribution to the discussion of widows in 1 Timothy 5. (See also her “Fasting, Bodily Care, and the Widows of 1 Timothy 5:3–15,” Early Christianity 11.2 (2020): 191–205 [DOI: 10.1628/ec-2020-0016])
Lyn Kidson, “Real Widows, Young Widows, and the Limits of Benefaction in 1 Timothy 5:3–16.” Australian Biblical Review 70 (2022): 83–100.
Abstract: John Barclay, in his 2020 article, “Household Networks and Early Christian Economics,” outlines the puzzles that “abound” in 1 Timothy 5:3–16. Among his list of puzzles, he asks, “Is it inconsistent to say that a χήρα can be registered only if she has brought up children (5.10), but to deny her support in 5:4–8 if she has children to look after? Who are the younger χῆραι that the Pastor is evidently so anxious about (5:11–15) …?” Barclay’s article has gone a long way to resolving these puzzles. The “younger χῆραι” he identifies as “virgins.” This was an anomaly in the social world of the early Christians, which forced them to adapt terms for the woman beyond puberty but was without a man. This was a χήρα. While in agreement with Barclay, this article probes a little more deeply into the problem of the younger χήρα and her dowry. It makes the proposal that if the younger χήρα is a virgin, then the issue in 1 Timothy 5 is not her ongoing support, which seems manageable for the “real widow,” but the support for the virgin who wishes to marry after she has been assigned as a qualifying χήρα.
A new essay on the widows of 1 Timothy has recently appeared:
Harry O. Maier, “The Entrepreneurial Widows of 1 Timothy.” Pages 59–73 in Patterns of Women’s Leadership in Early Christianity. Edited by Ilaria Ramelli and Joan Taylor. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198867067.003.0004
An earlier version of this essay is available on Academia, and includes this abstract: “This essay argues that the exhortations and admonitions voiced in 1 Timothy, a highly rhetorical pseudonymous letter written in Paul’s name, that widows (i.e. unmarried) women attests to a concern with single women’s patronage of Christ assemblies, which the writing seeks to address by having them marry. The argument seeks to move beyond a common explanation that the epistle was occasioned by ascetical teachings in which women discovered in sexual continence freedom from traditional gender roles. It seeks to furnish a broader economic concern with widows through an historical exploration of the socio-economic status of women who were artisans in the imperial urban economy. It identifies the means by which women gained skill in trades, the roles they played in the ‘adaptive family’ in which tradespeople plied their trade often at economic levels of subsistence. New Testament texts point to artisan women, some of them probably widows, who played important roles of patronage and leadership in assemblies of Christ believers. By attending to levels of poverty in the urban empire, traditional views of the widows of 1 Timothy as wealthier women assigned to gender roles are seen in a new light through consideration of spouses accustomed to working alongside their husbands taking on businesses after they died. While the lives of these women are largely invisible, attention to benefactions of wealthy women to synagogues and associations gives insight into the lives of women acting independently in various kinds of social gatherings.”
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).
Every so often, a scholarly journal will devote an entire issue to the Pastorals. The current issue of Interpretation does so (TOC), and contains the following articles:
MacDonald, Margaret Y. “Education and the Household in the Pastoral Epistles.” Interpretation 75.4 (2021): 283–93. (https://doi.org/10.1177/00209643211027768) Abstract: “The article examines the convergence of studies on the Pastoral Epistles, with greater attention to the theme of education as a key to the purpose of the documents. The close association between the household and education is considered in an effort to shed light on the presentations of Timothy and Titus, emerging leadership roles, intergenerational instruction, and constructions of gender.”
Huizenga, Annette. “Idealized Motherhood: Examples of the Gendered Worldview of the Pastoral Letters.” Interpretation 75.4 (2021): 294–304. (https://doi.org/10.1177%2F00209643211027765) Abstract: “In the Pastoral Letters, the roles and practices of mothering in a domestic household serve as benchmarks for the general instructions on how ‘one ought to behave in the household of God’ (1 Tim 3:15). This article examines several passages in 1–2 Timothy and Titus in which the author employs an idealized and stereotypical view of motherhood in order to persuade female believers to fulfill this socially-appropriate condition and to restrict them from leadership positions in the community.”
Kartzow, Marianne Bjelland. “The ‘Believing Woman’ and Her ekklēsia: Rethinking Intersectional Households and Manuscript Variations in the Widows’ Tale (1 Tim 5:3–16).” Interpretation 75.4 (2021): 305–16. (https://doi.org/10.1177/00209643211027767) Abstract: “The widows of the Pastoral Epistles (1 Tim 5:3–16) have been a puzzle for interpreters for generations. In the ‘Widows’ Tale’ different categories of women are given a whole set of instructions, including how they shall be organized and with whom to live. In this article, I will highlight the interpretative potential of the very last verse of the paragraph, where ‘a believing woman who has widows’ is mentioned. In some important manuscripts, scribes have added ‘believing man’ in v. 16, while others have left out the woman altogether. What can these disagreements and changes tell? I will argue that not enough scholarly attention has been directed to this verse. There is huge potential for a new understanding of the whole paragraph hidden here. Attention to alternative housing arrangements and manuscript variations will be employed as interpretative tools. I will use the disagreement among scribes to rethink variety and difference, and to reimagine ekklēsia within intersectional early Christian households.”
Fortune, Marie M. “Is Nothing Sacred? I Timothy and Clergy Sexual Abuse.” Interpretation 75.4 (2021): 317–27. (https://doi.org/10.1177/00209643211027764) Abstract: “1 Timothy and the Pastoral Letters appear to be efforts to codify structure and roles in the early church. These efforts largely reflected the patriarchal social structures of the time and as such are not relevant to the twenty-first-century church. But some of the concerns identified herein, for example expectations of church leaders, are useful for a current discussion. What is missing is any acknowledgement of the potential for identified church leaders to take advantage of vulnerable congregants, particularly women and children. How might the writer of 1 Timothy have addressed this serious problem in the churches?”
A new volume in the Bible in Africa Studies series provides a study of the passage on widows in 1 Timothy 5.
Beck, Stefanie. Witwen und Bibel in Tansania: Eine leserinnenorientierte Lektüre von 1 Tim 5,3-16. Bible in Africa Studies 27. Bamberg: University of Bamberg Press, 2020.
The volume is the published version of a dissertation completed under Joachim Kügler at the University of Bamberg (Otto-Friedrich-Universität). The table of contents is available here. The entire volume is available online here. The following description is provided:
“After the death of their husbands African women, who are living in patriarchal societies, experience cruel mourning and purification rituals, which they have to undergo and they are often stigmatized and accused of being witches. In this fatal situation, God is often their only anchor, God, who already appears in the Bible as the protector and father of widows and orphan. In the Old Testament, two book are named after widows, the Book of Ruth and Judith, and in the New Testament there are numerous widow stories, primarily in Luke, which are all characterized by a special relationship with God. However, the reality in the ancient world was as follows: there was a large number of widows, working in the churches, which displeased the officials of the communities. They didn’t only take over charitable activities, but they missionized and were even paid for it. 1Tim 5:3–16, which categorizes widows, was read and interpreted by widows in Tanzania. It is demonstrated how they deal with a text, which was written for them as widows. They didn’t allow themselves to be influenced by restrictions, in fact they drew out positive results. It is also highlighted how the widows interpret 1Tim on their cultural background, how they position themselves and see themselves as brides of Christ.”
As a final note, the fact that the dissertation was completed under the direction of Joachim Kügler, and the reference to Tanzanian widows seeing themselves as “brides of Christ” brought to mind the following essay by Kügler:
Kügler, Joachim. “Junge ‘Witwen’ als Bräute Christi (1 Tim 5,11f.). Der Gender-Impuls der Jesus-Tradition und seine Umsetzung in paulinischen Gemeinden vor dem religionsgeschichtlichen Hintergrund religiös motivierter Ehelosigkeit von Frauen.” Pages 483–97 in Erinnerungen an Jesus: Kontinuität und Diskontinuität in der neutestamentlichen Überlieferung. Festschrift für Rudolf Hoppe zum 65. Geburtstag. Edited by Ulrich Busse, Michael Reichardt, and Michael Theobald. Bonner Biblische Beiträge 166. Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011.
Abstract: “The understanding of the term Scripture in early Christianity is best described as an evolving concept that can be categorised into various stages. This can best be seen in the most popular Greek term the NT uses in designating Scripture, γραφή and its cognates. Γραφή was used 50 times in the NT to represent Scripture, and in each of these instances, it refers to more than just a mere writing which is what the term originally meant in Greek prior to the NT’s consistent use of it as a technical term for sacred writing. “This study attempts to reflect briefly on (part of) the evolution γραφή underwent on the pages of the NT especially within the Pastoral Epistles (PE) – a product of the early second century CE. This study bears in mind that the recognition of books as Scripture is not a series of clearly defined steps, but rather a long and complicated process involving creativity and powerplay. This study therefore serves to enhance a more accurate understanding of the transition the concept of Scripture in the PE, most especially pertaining to the use of the term γραφή. “The question regarding the scope of the term γραφή in the NT and especially in the PE is open to debate – especially the use of the two different words, ἱερὰ γράμματα and γραφή for Scripture in 2 Tim. 3:15–16. So is the reference to Jesus’ words as Scripture in 1 Tim. 5:18. These have raised questions of a possible shift in the PE’s understanding of γραφή. “Findings from this research include the extensive use of γραφή in the PE to accommodate more than just the Jewish Scripture, as it has evolved to include emerging earlier writings of the NT; the author of the PE was creative in adopting and adapting to a new understanding of sacred writings which serves the context of his time. “This unveils the influence a community exerts on recognition of authoritative Scripture while teasing out the politics intertwined in the recognition of Scripture and the identity of a people, as this later became the path to canonicity of Scripture.”
Due to the blog being down for several months, we were unable to post in anticipation of Pastorals-related sessions at ETS and SBL 2020. In retrospect, however, we provide that information here for the record.
The Pastoral Epistles study group sponsored three (virtual) presentations and fielded responses in a virtual session moderated by Greg Couser:
Stanley E. Porter, “Arguments For and Against Pauline Authorship of the Pastoral Epistles”
Mark Baker, A ‘Perfect’ Elder? Blamelessness in the Qualifications for Elders and Deacons in the Pastoral Epistles”
Ben Merkle, “The Authority of Deacons in Pauline Churches”
In addition, note:
Charlie Ray III, “A Lawful Use of the Law: The Use of the Law in 1 Timothy and Its Implications for the Church”
SBL Annual Meeting 2020 (abstracts available here)
Andrew R. Guffey, “Paul, the Pastorals, and Encratite Origins”
Gary G. Hoag, “Slaves and Masters, Diversity and Unity: Locating the Benefactor of 1 Timothy 6:1–2a”
Lyn Kidson, “Funding Widows in 1 Timothy 5: The Economy of Asia Minor and the Limits of Benefaction”
Mona Tokarek LaFosse, “Women and ‘the Faith’ in 1 Timothy 5: A Battle for Faith and Faithfulness”
Kelsi Morrison-Atkins. “Performing Piety: ‘Dress Codes’ and the Construction of Gender in 1 Timothy”
Angela Standhartinger, “The Pastoral Epistles among Ancient Letter Collections”
Note that there was a book review session focusing on Christopher Hutson’s volume on the Pastorals in the Paideia series; Daniel Darko presided over an invited panel consisting of Lyn Kidson, Michael Bird, and Thomas Hoklotubbe. Lyn Kidson has posted her review and Hoklotubbe’s review on her blog here. Mike Bird’s review can be found on his blog here.
Lyn Kidson, whose dissertation on 1 Timothy 1 is forthcoming in WUNT as Persuading Shipwrecked Men: Rhetorical Strategies in 1 Timothy, has produced an article on the widows of 1 Timothy 5:
Lyn Kidson, “Fasting, Bodily Care, and the Widows of 1 Timothy 5:3–15.” Early Christianity 11.2 (2020): 191–205. (Mohr Siebeck)
Here’s the abstract: “In his essay, “Medical Imagery in the Pastoral Epistles,” Abraham Malherbe argued that medical terminology was a conventional polemic used to describe the opponents of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. His identification of this medical schema is the starting point in this article to explore the relationship between the opponents’ commands not to marry and to abstain from foods (1 Tim 4: 2–3) with “Paul’s” instruction to younger “widows” to marry in 1 Timothy 5: 3–15. This exploration will begin by noting that the writer’s purpose in 1 Timothy is to dissuade certain men and women from teaching the other instruction (1 Tim 1: 3–4), which is the command not to marry. It will then consider the link between fasting and sexual continence in the texts of the contemporary physicians, early Christian writers, and Philo of Alexandria, and make the case that the other instruction is about controlling the desire for marriage through diet. However, it will be demonstrated that contemporary physicians were skeptical about women maintaining control of their sexual desires because of the weakness of their bodies. This suggests that the rhetorical scheme used against the opponents is not only conventional, but is a rhetorical play against the medical advice given by the ascetics in their efforts to comply with the command not to marry.”
Among the many literary accomplishments of Bruce Winter, onetime warden of Tyndale House and presently professor emeritus at Queensland Theological College, is his engagement of the connection between the Pastorals and their Greco-Roman cultural context. Published works in this regard include:
“The ‘New’ Roman Wife and 1 Timothy 2:9–15: The Search for a Sitz im Leben.” Tyndale Bulletin 51.2 (2000): 285–94.
“Providentia for the Widows of 1 Timothy 5.3–16.” Tyndale Bulletin 39 (1988): 83–99.
Roman Wives, Roman Widows: The Appearance of New Women and the Pauline Communities. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003. [esp. pp. 97–169 on 1 Tim 2:9–15; 5:11–15; Titus 2:3–5]
“You Were What You Wore in Roman Law: Deciphering the Dress Codes of 1 Timothy 2:9–15.” SBL Forum, n.p. Online.
In Roman Wives, Roman Widows (see, e.g., this review for a general summary), Winter sets forth his understanding of the “new woman” in the Greco-Roman context of the NT, making application to Pauline passages such as 1 Tim 2:9-15 and 1 Tim 5:3-16. As a matter of definition, “The ‘new’ wife or widow in the late Roman Republic and early Empire was the one whose social life was reported to have been pursued at the expense of family responsibilities that included the complex running of households” (5). Winter lays out literary evidence from “(a) the views of contemporary writers covering the late Republic and the early second century A.D.; (b) those of the poets and playwrights; (c) and the legal moves of Augustus where he specifically legislates against this new phenomenon in the late Republican period and the early Empire” (22). He finds that this evidence supports “new mores” of the time which had implications for the social roles of women and “in some cases, endorsed [the ‘new woman’s] illicit sexual liaisons with younger, single men” (3). The “new woman” was characterized by provocative clothing and a loose lifestyle, in contrast with properly modest wives and widows.
Winter’s work has been widely engaged. It plays a significant role, for instance, in Towner’s NICNT commentary on the Pastorals. It has not been, however, uncontroversial. To that end, I point our readership to a just-published, and rather severe, critique: Annette Merz, “‘New’ Woman? Bruce W. Winters These und ihre Rezeption in der exegetischen Diskussion kritisch beleuchtet [Bruce W. Winter’s thesis and its reception in the exegetical discussion critically examined],” in Frauen im antiken Judentum und frühen Christentum (ed. Jörg Frey and Nicole Rupschus; WUNT 2/489; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2019), 209-34. Merz has posted a teaser on Academia, providing her faculty email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) for readers to obtain a copy of the entire essay.
In her lengthy discussion, Merz contends that Winter reads the ancient evidence too uncritically; appropriates modern historians too selectively and feminist scholarship too rarely; and unduly expands a limited phenomenon of antiquity beyond historically verifiable chronological and geographical bounds. She considers his overall thesis “dubious” (“dubiose,” p. 231), indeed, an “evangelical research-myth” (“ein evangelikaler Forschungsmythos,” p. 234).
My purpose in noting Winter’s and Merz’s work here is not to evaluate either, but simply to highlight the discussion. If students of the Pastorals are leaning heavily on Winter’s work in some particular project or if Winter’s thesis undergirds their understanding of the letters to any great extent, they will at least want to be aware of Merz’s substantial critique.
“Kinship, Christian Kinship, and the Letters to Timothy and Titus,” Charles J. Bumgardner
“Divergent, Insurgent or Allegiant? 1 Timothy 5:1-2 and the Nature of God’s Household,” Gregory A. Couser
“Paul’s Family of God: What Familial Language in the Pastorals Can and Cannot Tell Us about the Church,” Gregory J. Stiekes
“Πιστος ὁ λόγος: An Alternative Analysis,” L. Timothy Swinson
“Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus: A Literature Review (2009-2015),” Charles J. Bumgardner
“Interview with Ray Van Neste of Union University”
Several of the papers deal with the household and family language of the Pastorals, and I found them particularly helpful. Tim Swinson challenges the typical way of understanding Paul’s use of the phrase “πιστoς ὁ λόγος.” If you’ve been reading this site, you are already aware of Bumgardner’s bibliographic grasp, and his literature review here is quite helpful.
I had the privilege of doing an interview on how the Pastoral Epistles discussing how they have impacted my life, noting some ongoing work and pointing to various ways the church needs the Pastorals specifically today.
Southeastern posts the full journal free online, so I expect it will appear at their website soon.
Update: This issue is now available online. I have also linked the first reference to the journal above to this issue. The website provides a link to the full issue as well as to specific articles.