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The Pastorals (Part II)

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  • bjtraff
    In my first post of January 22, 2002 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/crosstalk2/message/8874 , I sought to demonstrate with a high degree of probability that the
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 30 12:08 AM
      In my first post of January 22, 2002
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/crosstalk2/message/8874 , I sought to
      demonstrate with a high degree of probability that the vocabulary and
      style of the Pastoral Epistles gives us little reason to suppose that
      they are 2nd Century documents. The evidence indicates that the
      wording, even when not typical of Paul himself, was known in the 1st
      Century, and perhaps most importantly for the purposes of this study,
      can often be found within the LXX. On this basis, we have no reason
      to reject 1st Century authorship of these letters, and we must
      therefore turn to other possible evidence for a late writing and see
      if it can secure confidence in a 2nd Century date. After all it is
      indisputable that many of the words and phrases used are found in 2nd
      Century, thus, this late a dating is not prima facie impossible. In
      order to better decide with greater confidence the most probable date
      range for the Pastorals, we must study and compare the theology,
      ideas, and historical clues to see if they fit better in a 1st or 2nd
      Century setting. It is the purpose of this essay to examine such a
      possibility. Only after this question is settled will I then turn
      (in Part III of this series) to whether or not the Pastorals could
      have been produced by Paul himself, sometime in the mid-60's, or if
      it most probably dates later than this (i.e. ca. 80), necessitating a
      conclusion that the documents must be pseudonymous.

      Basically, historical evidence falls into the following categories:

      1) Internal evidence about the life and activities of Paul himself
      compared against the rest of the Pauline corpus and Acts (and
      including "incidental" that I will discuss toward the end of this
      essay);
      2) External evidence from the 2nd Century that reflects the more
      developed theological thought and church structure than can be found
      in even the late 1st Century;
      3) External evidence that testifies to Pauline authenticity (or
      against such authenticity), and how strong such evidence is;
      4) Related to (2) above, any anachronisms that would demonstrate
      conclusively that a person who had died no later than 65-66 CE could
      not have known about them, leaving us with no choice but to reject
      authenticity of the letters, and propose pseudonymous authorship.

      CLEAR ANACHRONISMS

      Of these four criteria, the last is the easiest to deal with, and
      therefore I will do so quickly. Very simply, none of the passages in
      these three texts contain knowledge of any concepts or historical
      events that could not possibly have been known prior to 66 CE. There
      is no evidence of knowledge of the destruction of Jerusalem and the
      resulting Diaspora of both Jews and Christians. We do not see the
      letters quoting from any of the Gospels (as Ignatius does with
      Matthew, or Marcion from Luke). Nor do we find acknowledgement of the
      growing authority (let alone supremacy!) of Rome (i.e. 1 Clement,
      Ignatius' Letter to the Romans 1:1, Hermas' The Shepherd 2.4.3), or
      even of bishops can be found within the Pastorals. On the other
      hand, some might point to Paul's statement of his own imminent death
      found in 2 Timothy 4:6-8, but this is not convincing. The key
      expression, "[F]or I am already on the point of being sacrificed,"
      closely echoes an expression found in Philippians 2:17. Application
      of such an expression to himself by Paul should not surprise us, and
      even less so as his motive is clearly to inspire a close disciple, as
      well as possibly even to justify himself and the value of his work.
      Needless to say, this same thought could have occurred to a close
      disciple writing in his master's name and shortly after Paul's death.
      On this basis we need not place too much weight on his particular
      expression, except to note that it's presence here is not
      anachronistic. After all, Paul has already seen (or heard of) the
      martyrdom of Stephen, James, the brother of John, and James, the
      brother of Jesus. He may also have heard of Peter's own death.
      Regardless, death for the sake of the Gospel was not something that
      would have been entirely unexpected for Paul, given his many prior
      sufferings for this same message. If he was writing at the time of
      Nero's persecutions, and especially if he was writing from Rome where
      that persecution was most powerfully felt, we can safely assume that
      Paul could, and would, have seen the approaching certainty of his own
      death. Given his past willingness to hold himself up as an example
      to others (1 Cor. 7:7; 11:1; Phil. 3:17), it is not a stretch to see
      him doing something similar with a trusted disciple of his own as
      that end grew nearer. As we can see, there are no anachronisms that
      would settle the question for us, so we should turn out attention to
      the other three pieces of evidence and see what we can learn from it.

      INTERNAL EVIDENCE (PAUL'S LIFE AND ACTIVITIES)

      One of the most problematic issues faced by the proponent of
      authenticity of the Pastorals centres on Paul's movements as
      described in these letters, and those of his other letters, and
      especially as found in the Book of Acts. At the same time, how much
      support does this evidence provide for the advocates of 2nd Century
      authorship?

      Without a doubt, if the Pastorals are authentic, they must have been
      written at the end of his life. For example, 2 Timothy 1:8, 16-17
      speaks of a second imprisonment, in Rome, and which he expects may
      well end in death (4:6-8). Contrast this with the only imprisonment
      found in Acts (28:16), in which Paul is merely under house arrest in
      which he has considerable freedom both of action and assembly (28:17,
      30-31) Nor does he face a death sentence (28:18). Obviously, if 2
      Timothy is from Paul, either Acts is completely wrong (highly
      implausible), or Paul is facing his second and final imprisonment.
      On the other hand, as we have seen above, there is insufficient
      information within 2 Timothy (or the other Pastorals) to indicate
      certain knowledge of Paul's fate. Thus, it would be to overstate the
      case to use this evidence to conclude that post-Pauline authorship is
      more probable. Based on how Acts ends (with Paul preaching openly
      and uninhibited), and contrasting that with Paul's final martyrdom
      during the reign of Nero (less than 2-3 years after Acts' ending), we
      should expect that a second imprisonment did take place. The
      question remains as to whether or not Paul could or did write any
      letters at this time, but one cannot rule this possibility out
      entirely.

      The next problem is the locations Paul describes in his letters here,
      and how they might be reconciled with what we know again from Acts
      and the other Paulines. From 1 Timothy 1:3 Paul instructed Timothy
      to "remain in Ephesus" while he himself went on to Macedonia. Yet,
      there is nothing in the Greek word POREUOMENOS (to go/depart), nor
      the surrounding text, that requires us to think that Paul himself
      went to Ephesus, or that, if he did, that he stayed there very long.
      I do not see why anyone would insist on such a reading.

      Next, in Titus 1:5 (together with Paul's familiarity with the
      situation on the island) first glances would suggest an otherwise
      unknown trip to Crete. Yet, once again the evidence is not
      conclusive. Very simply, the expression "I left you (Titus) in
      Crete…" need not imply that Paul stayed for any great length of time
      in Crete, or even that he stopped there at all. His familiarity with
      Titus' situation could be due to frequent correspondence, or reports
      from others. Some of it also appears to be known largely from the
      reputation of the Cretans themselves (Titus 1:12), and could have
      lead Paul to work from assumptions about the character of the people
      in Titus' church.

      A final difficulty in chronology presents itself when comparing 2
      Timothy 4:21 and Titus 3:12. In the case of the former, Paul is
      clearly intending to spend his (final?) winter in Rome. In Titus he
      tells us that he will winter in Nicopolis (Epirus?). On this basis,
      the Pastorals, if authentic, could not have been written in the same
      year, thus requiring the proponent of authenticity to insist on a
      minimum of 18 months to two years to have elapsed. If Acts ends in
      62 CE, then we have barely enough time, since Paul could not have
      long survived the terror instituted by Nero in 64. Thus, the upper
      time limit for Paul to write all three letters is also about 2-3
      years. There is little room to maneuver. On its own this is not a
      strong argument against authenticity, but it would add to a
      cumulative case for pseudepigraphy.

      Interestingly, for the above case to have any real force, one must
      accept that Acts is (a) basically historical regarding the life of
      Paul, and (b) more or less complete in its telling of the high points
      of Paul's life. The fact is that even if Acts is 100% accurate, it
      is still only a selective and fragmentary account of Paul's life and
      travels. The sceptic therefore finds himself in the curious position
      of defending the historicity of Acts *against* a potentially
      authentic Pauline letter, and this is traditionally the opposite of
      how scholarship has approached past conflicts between Paul's letters,
      and the Book of Acts.

      One final argument from possible external evidence (largely vague
      references found in 1 Clement) is that Paul did not travel East to
      Macedonia, or Ephesus, or Crete at all during this period of time,
      but rather, went West (to Spain?), as he had intended based on Romans
      15:24. Quite simply, if Clement is right, and Paul went to Spain,
      then he would not have had time to do all of the things he reports to
      us in the Pastorals. Only one (or neither) of these sources can be
      right about Paul's final years, since one cannot reconcile the
      geography of a Spanish mission with that of the Pastorals. All that
      I can say here is that we lack independent confirmation of either
      Clement's report, or even of the Pastorals. On this basis one cannot
      decide which report is more probable without looking at other
      evidence. In my opinion, Clement's story should be treated as
      legendary, as we have no independent evidence to support him (either
      in the form of reputed reports from Paul, or from any of his
      companions). In the case of the Pastorals, we at least have the
      internal evidence of the letters themselves. If they are established
      as authentic, then we can accept their story on Paul's travels as
      being largely legitimate.

      THEOLOGY OF THE PASTORALS

      In this section we can compare the evidence of their soteriology and
      ecclesiology and compare it against both the other Pauline's (and
      other 1st Century documents), and against that of known 2nd Century
      theologians. If the evidence points to more similarities with the
      latter group, then we can be more certain that they were authored at
      this time. On the other hand, if they more closely reflect Pauline
      thought, or at least, 1st Century thinking, then we can reject a
      later dating as improbable.

      SOTERIOLOGY OF THE PASTORALS

      To quote from a source that accepts Pauline authenticity, Daniel
      Wallace:
      http://www.bible.org/docs/soapbox/1timotl.htm

      "Although the author is concerned with the doctrine of salvation—
      indeed, this seems to be the driving force behind the writing of
      these letters (cf. especially 1 Tim 1:11)—the way in which the author
      speaks of this doctrine is decidedly un-Pauline. Essentially, there
      is a creedalism, an objective air to the pastorals with regard to
      soteriology that is largely lacking in the homolegomena."

      Raymond Brown speaks of when we compare the theology and ethics of
      the Pastorals with the undisputed Paulines, that "[F]amiliar Pauline
      terms (law, faith, righteousness) appear but with a slightly
      different nuance." (Brown, _Introduction to the New Testament_
      (1998) pg. 664). Yet he also notes that "[O]verall the same
      differences can be found in the other Pauline letters but not in so
      concentrated a manner. In the Pastorals there is an unusual amount
      of polemic, often stereotypical." (Ibid. pg. 664).

      But defenders of authenticity are not without their rebuttals on this
      point. Basically they appeal to the difference in the nature and
      purpose of letters addressed to churches (as is the case with the
      undisputed Paulines), and those that would be sent to individuals
      chosen to succeed Paul himself. As I noted in my previous post on
      using vocabulary and style to suggest pseudepigraphy is highly
      suspect and open to challenge. As Wallace notes, quoting from Gordon
      Fee:
      http://www.bible.org/docs/soapbox/1timotl.htm

      "The basic reason for this kind of "objective" reference to the
      gospel, however, lies in the nature of these letters in contrast with
      the others. The other letters (excepting Philemon, of course) were
      written to churches, to be read aloud and apparently to function as
      authority as though Paul himself were there. Therefore, it was
      necessary for him to reiterate the truth that was to correct or stand
      over against their waywardness. In this case, however, the letters
      are written to those who themselves both know fully the content of
      Paul's gospel and are personally to take the place of authority in
      these churches that his letter had earlier done. This latter
      phenomenon is totally overlooked in scholarship. It is almost as if
      the real objection were that Paul should write such letters at all."
      (Wallace, citing G.D. Fee, _1 and 2 Timothy, Titus_ [New
      International Biblical Commentary], pg. 16).

      Guthrie echoes this objection:

      "The writer (of the Pastorals) declares that Christ gave Himself for
      our redemption, that we are justified not by our own righteousness
      but by faith in Christ, that God called us by His grace before the
      world was, and that we are destined to an eternal life on which we
      can enter even now. These are no mere perfunctory echoes of Pauline
      thought." (D. Guthrie, _The Pastorals_ (1990), pg. 46).

      Guthrie admits that similarity of theology does not prove
      authenticity, but it does (even keeping in mind Brown's comment of
      variation in nuances) argue against insisting on a 2nd Century date
      for the Pastorals.

      As to Brown's objection that the Pastorals appear to be
      more "stereotypical" (orthodox) than we would find in the other
      Paulines, I find this line of reasoning somewhat question begging.
      The letters are addressed to church leaders who are no more than 1 or
      2 generations removed from the original apostles. As these apostles
      (including Paul himself) faced imminent death, how unreasonable is it
      to suggest that their thoughts would turn increasingly to
      preservation of their sound teachings and doctrines, especially by
      passing this on to chosen successors?

      Finally, one should not ignore the evidence of clearly Judaic
      thinking still present in the Pastorals, and which would argue
      against a purely Hellenistic theology (and therefore late date).
      Terms applied to God, for example, that are also found in Jewish
      thought include: `Ruler' or `Potentate' (2 Macc. 12:15, `King of
      kings and Lord of lords (Exodus 26:7, 2 Macc. 13:4), God the
      Savior/salvation (Deut. 32:15, 2 Sam. 22:3, Isaiah 43:3, 45:21).

      As with the stylistic argument, I do not see sufficient evidence here
      to suggest 2nd Century authorship, and would point, instead, to a
      date no later than the last third of the 1st Century, probably prior
      to 90CE (when the Gospels would have been completed).

      ECCLESIOLOGY IN THE PASTORALS

      Though much discussed, this argument has struck me as one of the
      weakest made against the Pastorals and a 1st Century date. Brown,
      for example, claims it is too "simple a picture" to compare the
      Pastorals to the bipartite structure found in the Didache (c. 100 CE)
      and 1 Clement (c. 95 CE), or the tripartite structure of Ignatius (c.
      110 CE), but I do not see why this is simplistic. Surely if the
      Pastorals are contemporaneous with (or even later than!) the thoughts
      found in these writings, we should see such structures, at least in
      more than mere embryonic form. EPISKOPOS (overseers), PRESBYTEROS
      (elders) and DIAKONOS (deacons) are found in the Pastorals, Paulines,
      and/or Acts, and in the case of the Pastorals, the words are used
      interchangeably (Titus 1:5-7). Further, the specific "job
      descriptions" are hardly exceptional or detailed, as we find, for
      example, in the writings of Ignatius. There is some detail as to how
      a deacon is to be chosen in 1 Timothy, but specific duties are not
      listed. There is no way to read the Pastoral epistles and conclude
      that the bishops ruled his community, nor even that each community
      was restricted to a single bishop. In effect, the picture of the
      church we find in these letters, when compared to Ignatius or 1
      Clement is one of a primitive church (in the Pastorals), and a more
      advanced one (in the early Fathers).

      Arguments that the Pastorals were written specifically to refute
      Marcion are hardly any more convincing. If this was the purpose,
      then the author went out of his way to be extremely vague, as he
      never once engages the arguments for docetism or gnosticism as it was
      taking shape in the early to mid 2nd Century. Their absence from
      Marcion's canon need hardly surprise us, given that they invest the
      church and its leaders with being the "pillars and foundation of the
      truth." More likely is Tertullian's claim that Marcion knew of and
      rejected these letters, exactly because they went against his
      interests. Certainly Marcion showed no aversion to editing or
      removing anything that ran counter to his own thinking.

      As for the argument that Paul was not interested in church
      government, Acts 14:23 has Paul and Barnabas appointed elders to all
      of the churches in southern Galatia. In Philippians Paul
      specifically greets the bishops/overseers and deacons. Quite simply,
      the case is overwhelmingly against the structure of the 2nd Century
      church being read into the Pastorals. The church in these letters is
      of a far more primitive nature, though moving towards such a
      structure.

      EXTERNAL EVIDENCE FOR AUTHENTICTY

      The earliest probable reference to the Pastorals is found in
      Polycarp, with further allusions in Justin Martyr, Heracleon, and
      possibly Clement of Rome. Irenaeus (c. 170 CE) explicitly references
      them, and attributes authorship to Paul. They are also found in the
      Muratonian Canon, and while they are absent from P46, this is a
      collection of letters addressed only to churches. P32, which dates
      to the same period, includes Titus. Given that the external evidence
      for Pauline authenticity is at least as good as for any other epistle
      (excepting Romans and 1 Corinthians), I would agree with Guthrie that
      the burden of proof falls to those that would reject 1st Century
      authorship, and even that they are non-Pauline (Guthrie, pg. 18-21).

      INTERNAL EVIDENCE OF THE "INCIDENTALS"

      One final argument against a late dating for these letters is simple,
      incidental passages that suggest basic authenticity. Any proponent
      of fictitious authorship, or even later 1st Century pseudepigraphy
      needs to account for them. Why, for example, in 2 Timothy 4:13 does
      Paul ask Timothy to bring him the cloak he left with Carpus in
      Troas?

      Arguments that this was inserted to make the letter "seem" more
      authentic are simply incredible. Other examples of clearly
      pseudonymous writings have no such incidentals. Why would this
      author scatter them throughout his? The simpler solution is to
      suggest that Paul wrote these parts, but the problem with accepting
      this thesis is that it makes overall authenticity of the Pastorals
      more likely. In my opinion, an aversion to accepting authenticity is
      hardly a sound reason for rejecting these passages as authentic.
      Clearly this kind of sceptical argument is merely circular.

      CONCLUSION

      Based on an examination of the internal and external evidence of the
      Pastorals, and a comparison against the other Paulines and Book of
      Acts, the case for 2nd Century authorship of 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus
      is obviously far from proven. The weight of evidence is clearly
      against it, and greatly favours a 1st Century setting. The
      vocabulary, style, theology, soteriology, ecclesiology, and
      historical reports consistently point away from the 2nd Century.
      Having established that 1st Century authorship is most plausible, it
      is now possible to examine the claims of pseudepigraphy by a disciple
      of Paul, writing perhaps in the 80's vs. genuine authorship by Paul
      himself as he approached the end of his life.

      If there are any questions on this, or my earlier posts, I will
      address those first. I will then move on to my concluding essay.

      Brian Trafford
      Calgary, AB, Canada
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