Category: Theology (Page 4 of 4)

Westerholm- The Pastorals Negate the New Perspective

I have previously mentioned here the new section at ETS devoted to the Pastoral Epistles. This section came into being due to the conviction (shared by myself and others) that the exclusion of the Pastorals from our thinking about Paul has skewed our understanding of Pauline theology. Specifically, I have become convinced that if the Pastoral Epistles were taken seriously as Pauline, the “New Perspective on Paul” would never have taken off. Stephen Westerhom in 2004 made this very point, stating:

No study that took Ephesians and the Pastorals into account could conclude, what proponents of the new perspective have sometimes claimed, that the Pelagian crisis or sixteenth-century controversies are the source of the “misreading” of Paul that sees him excluding human works from salvation rather than particular works from the terms for Gentile admission to the people of God. (Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran”Paul and His Critics, 406)

Some of our papers next month will speak to this issue. I hope to see you there.

Update on Pastorals Section at ETS

The draft of the schedule for the Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society has now been posted. I have previously announced the presenters and titles for the new section on the Pastoral Epistles, but now I can post the date, times and location. I am excited about this beginning of our conversation about how the avoidance of the Pastorals has impacted our view of Paul.

I hope to see you there.

Thursday, November 17, 2011




The Place of the Pastoral Epistles in Pauline Theology

Moderator: Ray Van Neste

(Union University)


Robert W. Yarbrough

(Covenant Theological Seminary)

The Theology of the Pastorals in NT Theologies


L. Timothy Swinson

(Liberty University)

The Pastoral Epistles and Perspectives Old and New


Greg A. Couser

(Cedarville University)

‘Life on Life‘: Explorations in Paul‘s Understanding of Eschatological Life


Frank Thielman

(Beeson Divinity School)

The Pedagogy of Grace: Soteriology, Ethics, and Mission in Titus 2:11-14

Pastoral Epistles Consultation at ETS, paper titles

I previously announced the creation of a new consultation of the Pastorals at the Evangelical Theological Society to begin meeting this Fall. As stated before, the overall goal of this consultation is to explore the ways that the exclusion of the Pastoral Epistles has impacted the work of Pauline theology and how the inclusion of the Pastorals would inform the same work.

Now, I am pleased to announce the presenters and paper titles for this inaugural session. Here are the details of the session:

Session Title: “The Place of the Pastoral Epistles in Pauline Theology”

Moderator: Ray Van Neste

Robert Yarbrough: “The Pastoral Epistles in New Testament Theologies from Tübingen to Thielman”

Timothy Swinson: “The Pastoral Epistles and Perspectives, Old and New”

Greg Couser: “Life on Life”: Explorations in Paul’s Understanding of Eschatological Life

Frank Thielman: The Pedagogy of Grace: Soteriology, Ethics, and Mission in Titus 2:11-14

We are pleased to have each of these scholars participating. Bob Yarbrough’s paper will open the discussion by surveying how the Pastorals have been treated or ignored. Tim Swinson’s paper will examine what the Pastorals might contribute to one of the major discussions in Pauline theology, the New Perspective. Greg Couser will examine “life” terminology in 1 Timothy in comparison with the wider Pauline usage seeking to discern how 1 Timothy would contribute to Pauline theology in this area. Frank Thielman will investigate soteriological themes in Titus 2-3 in comparison with those themes elsewhere in Paul.

This promises to be a very beneficial discussion. I hope to see you there.

More negative on the Pastorals

I have previously posted a list of quotes on the negative view of the Pastorals.
Just today I came across another to add to the list. Henry Sheldon in his 1922 New testament Theology covered Pauline theology and then added a brief piece on the Pastorals, opening with this statement:
The Pastoral Epistles add so little of theological subject-matter to the content of the other epistles bearing the name of Paul that it will not be necessary to devote to them more than a few sentences. (266)

Hopefully current work (including this book: is disproving this dismissive assessment.

Wieland’s “The Significance of Salvation: A Study of Salvation Language in the Pastoral Epistles”

I’ve been slowly working through George Wieland’s The Significance of Salvation: A Study of Salvation Language in the Pastoral Epistles, published by Paternoster. It is excellent, and it is likewise an excellent example of how a monograph focused on a topic within a book (or books) of the New Testament can be extremely valuable.

Commentaries can be valuable too, but a focused monograph like Wieland’s can spend its time dealing with a particular subject (this one on the use of salvation language in the Pastorals) without the baggage of everything else a commentary has to handle.

This book lists at $33.99, but until May 27, 2009 you can get it for 50% off (so, $17 + S&H) at Eisenbrauns. If you have $20 in your book budget to spare, you should pick it up.

The Significance of SalvationThe Significance of Salvation
A Study of Salvation Language in the Pastoral Epistles
Paternoster Biblical Monographs-PBM
by George M. Wieland
Paternoster Press, 2006
xxii + 344 pages, English
Paper, 6 x 9
ISBN: 1842272578
List Price: $33.99
Your Price: $17.00 (Until May 27, 2009)

The Gospel Coalition 2009 National Conference

The Gospel Coalition (which I am not affiliated with) recently held their 2009 National Conference. The theme was Entrusted With The Gospel: Living the Vision of 2 Timothy. They’ve recently posted audio of all plenary sessions, which are supposed to “expound the book of Second Timothy”.

This is interesting to me because I’m working through my own analysis and translation of Second Timothy (here, if you’re interested).

Below is the overview from the conference web site:

The theme of this Conference gets to the heart of the book of Second Timothy. As Paul is mentoring a young Timothy, he is communicating the great privilege of proclaiming the gospel to the world. In an age bereft of courageous leadership, declining biblical literacy, and rising cultural accommodation, a prophetic voice from the center is needed, a voice that faithfully speaks the ancient text to our contemporary context. This Conference seeks a renewal of faithful preaching that is rooted in the Scriptures and centered on the gospel.

The best of gospel-faithful ministry is not only taught, it is also caught. This was the practice of the Apostle Paul — the great missionary of the early church — who not only had much to say regarding what constitutes gospel-faithful ministry, but also had much to show of what it looked like in an individual life and in the life of the church. We see these two foci coming together harmoniously in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth:

Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church (1 Corinthians 4:16-17; cf. 11:1; Philippians 3:17).

On 21-23 April 2009, The Gospel Coalition will hold its second National Conference on the theme, “Entrusted with the Gospel: Living the Vision of Second Timothy.” During these meetings we will seek to imitate Paul’s dual practice of show and tell.

The Plenary Sessions — led by John Piper, Phil Ryken, Mark Driscoll, K. Edward Copeland, Bryan Chapell, and Ligon Duncan — will expound the book of Second Timothy. It is through these expositions that we hope to model the sort of preaching through Scripture of which the church is in need, while teaching the glories of this gospel of the blessed God that has been entrusted to the care of the church. Tim Keller and Don Carson will each give addresses that seek to situate gospel-faithful ministry in the currents of the twenty-first century, and Ajith Fernando will discuss the global challenges and priorities of gospel-faithful mission for the next Christendom. There will also be several workshops devoted to the faithful appropriation of text (Scripture) to context (contemporary issues).

I’ve not listened to any of the audio, but you may find it helpful.

New Monograph on 1 Tim 2:1-7

Jesus as Mediator: Politics and Polemics in 1Timothy 2:1-7, Malcolm Gill

(Peter Lang, 2008), pb., 196 pp.

This is the published version of a PhD dissertation done at Dallas Theological Seminary. Gill’s main thesis is that 1Timothy 2:1-7 should be read as a polemic against the claim of Roman Emperor’s to be the “mediator” between the gods and humans. 

Much has been written in recent years about the impact of the imperial cult on the New Testament, and Gill seeks to apply this to 1Timothy.  In doing this he surveys the research previously done on the prominence of the imperial cult in Asia Minor (chapter 2) and investigates the possible backgrounds of the word mesites, translated as “mediator” in 1 Tim 2:5 (chapter 4).

I think one of the more useful parts of this book is his survey of research on the imperial cult in Asia Minor.  However, I found myself unconvinced by the overall thesis.  Gill argues for a Graeco-Roman background to the passage and its key vocabulary and against Jewish background.  His arguments seem forced at places.   I found myself more taken with the opposite argument put forward in a recent PhD dissertation done at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary by Chuck Hetzler titled, “Our Savior and King: Theology Proper in 1 Timothy.”  Though unaware of Gill’s work (since it has just appeared), Hetzler provides more compelling evidence for Old Testament context for the vocabulary used of God in 1 Timothy.  I hope Hetzler’s work will soon appear in published form so others can compare the arguments.

Gill’s book could have used another round of editing as well.  It had numerous surveys of options which did not always contribute to the point of the argument.  Also there were very many errors from spelling, to missing words, wrong words, etc.  This detracted from the work.

Towner on Christology in the PE

I have just recently read Phil Towner’s “Christology in the Letters to Timothy and Titus” in Contours of Christology in the New Testament, edited by Richard Longenecker (Eerdmans, 2005).  Towner discusses the key Christological passages in the three letters interacting with recent scholarship and synthesizing the Christology found in each letter.  It is the sort of careful work we have come to expect from Towner and, therefore, is a good entry way into this area of study.  Towner continues (rightly I believe) to stress the fact that, while these letters have some significant commonality, they also have their distinct emphases.

Though I agree with most of the essay, for the sake of conversation I will here point out two smaller things I question.  The first has to do with discerning the background of some of the Christological language.  Discussing the “epiphany” language, Towner asserts,

Undoubtedly … epiphany language must have been deliberately chosen to engage the dominant religious-political discourse of the day and to force a rethinking of these categories by the proclamation of God’s story in Hellenistic dress.” (225; emphasis mine)

I think this may be overstated.  Since, as Towner notes, this language appears in the Septuagint describing “Yahweh’s interventions in the world” then the use in the PE could arise for a number of reasons.  Towner mentions emperor worship elsewhere so I wonder if that is what he has in mind here.  I am not convinced that emperor worship is in view.  I want to be cautious when trying to establish specific background connections.

Secondly, Towner refers to Timothy’s “dwindling courage and lagging commitment” in 2 Timothy (238).  This is a common assertion, but I think it reads too much into 2 Timothy 1.  Simply because Paul calls on him to stir up his gift (1:6) does not mean he is failing.  The fact that Paul exhorts him not to be timid (1:6) or ashamed (1:8) does not mean that he is being these things.  It is, rather, what is to be expected by a father figure as he exhorts his “son” to face hardship well.  Paul is simply exhorting Timothy to “strap it on”, wade into the fray and take his lumps in the “good fight.”  The similarities between this letter and letters from commanding officers to their subordinates would seem to support my reading as well.

These are not major points in Towner’s essay, and as I noted the essay as a whole is very profitable.  These two points are ones I see in other essays so I raise my critique here to see if a profitable discussion might be raised.

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