The three Pastoral Epistles are books of the canonic New Testament: the First Epistle to Timothy (1 Timothy) the Second Epistle to Timothy (2 Timothy), and the Epistle to Titus. They are presented as letters from Paul of Tarsus to Timothy and to Titus. They are generally discussed as a group, and their individual content is presented here in subsections.
The epistle consists mainly of counsels to Timothy regarding the worship and organization of the Church, and the responsibilities resting on its several members; and secondly of exhortation to faithfulness in maintaining the truth amid surrounding errors.
In this epistle Paul entreats Timothy to come to him before winter, and to bring Mark with him (compare Phil. 2:22). He was anticipating that "the time of his departure was at hand" (4:6), and he exhorts his "son Timothy" to all diligence and steadfastness in the face of false teachings, with advice about combatting them with reference to the teachings of the past, and to patience under persecution (1:6-15), and to a faithful discharge of all the duties of his office (4:1-5), with all the solemnity of one who was about to appear before the Judge of the quick and the dead.
Authorship and date
The traditional view accepts Paul as the author. William Paley wrote in Horae Paulinae (1785),
- "Both letters were addressed to persons left by the writer to preside in their respective churches during his absence. Both letters are principally occupied in describing the qualifications to be sought for in those whom they should appoint to offices in the church; and the ingredients of this description are in both letters nearly the same. Timothy and Titus are likewise cautioned against the same prevailing corruptions, and in particular against the same misdirection of their cares and studies.
- "This affinity obtains not only in the subject of the letters, which from the similarity of situation in the persons to whom they were addressed might be expected to be somewhat alike, but extends in a great variety of instances to the phrases and expressions. The writer accosts his two friends with the same salutation, and passes on to the business of his letter by the same transition (comp. 1 Tim. 1:2, 3 with Titus 1:4, 5; 1 Tim.1:4 with Titus 1:13, 14; 3:9; 1 Tim. 4:12 with Titus 2:7, 15)."
Easton's Bible Dictionary (1897) gives a date for the First Epistle to Timothy of around AD 66 or 67 and says of 2 Timothy, "It was probably written a year or so after the first, and from Rome, where Paul was for a second time a prisoner, and was sent to Timothy by the hands of Tychicus," as the text indicates. Of the Epistle to Titus Easton's says "Paul's Authorship was undisputed in antiquity, as far as known, but is frequently doubted today. It was probably written about the same time as the First Epistle to Timothy, with which it has many affinities."
Traditionalists date the Epistle to Titus from the circumstance that it was written after Paul's visit to Crete (Titus 1:5). That visit could not be the one referred to in Acts 27:7, when Paul was on his voyage to Rome as a prisoner, and where he continued a prisoner for two years. Thus traditional exegesis supposes that after his release Paul sailed from Rome into Asia, passing Crete by the way, and that there he left Titus "to set in order the things that were wanting." Thence he would have gone to Ephesus, where he left Timothy, and from Ephesus to Macedonia, where he wrote the First Epistle to Timothy, and thence, according to the superscription of this epistle, to Nicopolis in Epirus, from which place he wrote to Titus, about A.D. 66 or 67.
On the basis of the language and content of the Pastoral Epistles, most scholars today doubt that they were written by Paul, and believe that they were written after his death. Critics examining the text fail to find its vocabulary and literary style similar to Paul's unquestionably authentic letters, fail to fit the life situation of Paul in the epistles into Paul's reconstructed biography, and identify principles of the emerged Christian church rather than those of the apostolic generation. In the First Epistle to Timothy, for example, the task of preserving the tradition is entrusted to ordained presbyters, in a sense of presbuteros as an indication of an office, a sense that to these scholars seems alien to Paul and the apostolic generation. Examples of other offices include the twelve apostles in Acts (an additional apostle was selected to replace Judas Iscariot) and the appointment of seven deacons, thus establishing the office of the diaconate. Presbuteros is sometimes translated as elder, an office that is also mentioned in James chapter 5.
Though Irenaeus made extensive use of the two epistles to Timothy as the prime force of his anti-gnostic campaign, ca 170 CE, there is no certain quotation of any of these epistles before him, and proposals by critical scholars for the date of their composition have ranged from the late first century to well into the second.
The later dates are usually based on the contention that the Pastorals are responding to specific second-century developments (Marcionism, gnosticism); the fact that they are absent from Marcion's canon, assembled ca 140, is not part of the argument for their date, for Marcion's exclusionary canon omitted all New Testatment books save edited versions of Luke and the Pauline epistles, omitting the Epistle to the Hebrews and these pastoral epistles, according to Tertullian. However, scholars do not agree that the targets of the epistles' criticism can be definitely identified.
According to Raymond E. Brown (An Introduction to the New Testament, 1997), the majority of scholars who accept a post-Pauline date of composition for the Pastorals favor the period 80-100. More recently, earlier dates have been argued by scholars who have identified targets of the epistles' criticism among those also known to Ignatius and Polycarp, who died in the early second century.
In the subscription to Titus the epistle is said to have been written from a "Nicopolis of Macedonia " rather than Nicopolis in Epirus. Even the most traditional apologists agree that the subscriptions to the epistles are not authentic.
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04