The Pastoral Letters:
1-2 Timothy & Titus
Scholars group First and Second Timothy together with Titus for two reasons. First, the author addressed them to a particular person. Second, the epistles shared the themes of good social order in the face of internal strife and maintaining faithfulness despite opposition. Titus and First Timothy focused upon Church order: the structure of the community and the life of the Christian clan. Second Timothy was a more personal missive sent by an older mentor (Paul?) who languished in prison to a younger, slightly distracted student (Timothy?). Despite differences between the three epistles, they have been listed by scholars as the Pastoral Letters.
II. Dating: 90-110 CE
A gloss of the letters indicated they were written by Paul to Timothy and Titus towards the end of his life in Rome. So, why, then, would some scholars date them nearly a century later and consider them written under a pseudonym? Quite simply, the themes in the letters did not line up with the social situation in which Christianity found itself at the end of the apostolic era.
Four reasons stood out. First, the letters primarily addressed challenges from internal dissent not those of outside prejudice or persecution. Next, the letters showed a development of church offices beyond that of the undisputed Pauline letters. Third, the letters addressed a stable social situation that did not exist for Christians in the uncertain late apostolic era. And, finally, the explosion of pseudepigrapha in the inter-Testamental era could also help explain the problem of a later anonymous author.
A. Internal Dissension
The communities of the eastern Aegean basin and the island of Crete faced dissension from two possible movements: inter-Testamental Jewish spirituality and emerging Gnostic thought. To unpack these influences, let's first overview the three Pastoral letters for their challenges they faced, then define the movements with an eye for commonalities between them, note possible hints of their influences in the texts and conclude with the real reason these movements posed a threat to the growing Church.
1. First Timothy
The first letter to Timothy mentioned controversy only in relation to "myths and endless genealogies" that promoted "speculations" (1 Tim 1:4) from people who desired to become "teachers of the Law" (1 Tim 1:7). The author (Paul?) chided these dissenters as promoting a "false doctrine" (1 Tim 1:4) and engaging in "vain discussions" (1 Tim 1:6). Indeed, the author placed those hold a view "contrary to sound doctrine" in the same category as the immoral pagans for whom the Law was created (1 Tim 1:8-10).
Later in the epistle, the author addressed ascetics who devoted themselves to "deceitful spirits and teachings of demons" and who practiced sexual abstinence and a diet that abstained from certain foods (1 Tim 4:1-3). He warned the reader to reject any speculation on their "irreverent silly myths" (1 Tim 4:7) which only had divisive results (1 Tim 6:4).
Was there a connection between the "teachers of the Law" and the ascetics who practiced celibacy and a restricted diet? Were they one and the same? We don't know. However, the author did exhort the reader to "avoid the profane emptiness and contradictions of so-called ‘knowledge'" (some scholars have connected this knowledge, "gnosis" in Greek, to the Gnostics; 1 Tim 6:20). The author criticized the purveyors of such controversial knowledge as greedy (1 Tim 6:5) and headed for ruin (1 Tim 6:9-10).
2. Second Timothy
In Second Timothy, the author (Paul?) warned the reader (Timothy?) to refrain engaging his opponents for such a debate only subverted those who hear it (2 Tim 2:14). Indeed, he urged the reader to avoid such empty and profane meanderings for such speculations led a believer further from God and would eat away at the community like gangrene (2 Tim 2:16-17). He pointed to the focus of the meanderings, the speculation that the resurrection had already occurred (2 Tim 2:18).
In chapter 3, the author contrasted the faithful with the dissenters. He portrayed the later as self-focused and self-absorbed to the point of arrogance and deviousness, putting on the appearance of holiness; the dissenters led women of a Christian clan astray both in terms of morals and doctrine (2 Tim 3:2-7). He saw the dissent itself as a "slippery slope" where those engaged in the controversy would "go from bad to worse, deceiving others and deceiving themselves." He placed the squabble against the dissenters in the greater context of the end time struggle (2 Tim 3:1).
In chapter 4, the author implied an acceleration of the end times. "There will be a season when (people) will not endure sound teaching but, according to the their own desires, (they) will seek additional teachers, having itching ears, and, on the one hand, (they) will turn away from the truth and, on the other hand, turn aside to myths" (2 Tim 4:3-4). In other words, the challenge to maintain orthodoxy in the community itself was a sign of the final days.
The letter to Titus did focus on the Jewish-Christians ("the circumcision party"; Titus 1:10), but why did they pose a problem? In Gal 5:2-4, Paul addressed the problem of the "Judaizers," those Jewish-Christians who promoted circumcision as the only path to the salvation of a Jewish Messiah. In Titus, however, the dissenters evolved positions much greater than conversion to Judaism for they devoted themselves to "Jewish myths and commands of people who reject the truth" (Titus 1:14); in relation to the question of kosher, the author declared the community itself "pure" (that is, kosher) but all those who discriminated between the "pure" and "impure" as corrupt in "mind and conscience" (Titus 1:15).
The author (Paul?) encouraged his reader (Titus?) to "avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, quarrels, and fights about the law, because they are useless and empty" (Titus 3:9). Notice that, while the question of keeping the commandments came into play, other issues such as questions of origins (genealogies) and possible competing interpretations of the Torah ("fights about the Law") also dominated the dissent.
4. Common threads
The threat of internal dissent bound the Pastoral Letters together in a unique way. The challenge to the community did not come from without but from within, not from prejudice and persecution but from self proclaimed teachers that presented an alternative to the doctrines taught by ecclesiastical authority. The later taught a new "knowledge" that created riffs in the community and led some to apostasy. They might not have belonged to the different movements, but they did share the same tactics.
What were these movements based upon "myths" (1 Tim 1:4, 1 Tim 4:7, 2 Tim 4:4, Titus 1:14)? Two possibilities arose: nascent Gnosticism and ancient Jewish spirituality. Both resonated to a certain extent in Hellenic culture based upon Platonic thought, either adopting it wholesale (Gnosticism) or opposing it to a certain extent (ancient Jewish spirituality). Let's investigate that culture and its spirituality, then consider the movements themselves.
The movement(s) the teachers represented shared the same culture that prized philosophic discussion and speculation as entertainment. Many Hellenic ancients, from the richest to the poorest, sought truth as a means for spiritual growth. In this Greek culture, many claimed they could find truth in Platonism which conceived of God as an unapproachable and unknowable singularity, the One. They wanted intimacy with this purely spiritual God through his many aspects which continuously "emanated" from him, like sparks fly out of a nighttime camp fire; these "emanations," while separate from the One, still carried a spark of divine nature, like the glowing embers that burst forth from the fire.
Platonists divided the world into spiritual (eternal) and material (temporal) realms. The spiritual arena was permanent and perfect; the material arena was ever changing and imperfect. Many applied moral aspects to these two realms, goodness to the spiritual, evil to the material. Hence, they envisioned salvation, not as the forgiveness of sins based upon the death of Christ on the cross, but as an experience, even an ecstatic one, of aspects which flowed from the divine and would bring them closer to God; such intimacy required special "knowledge" (gnosis in Greek) of the spiritual realm. Through gnosis, gained with philosophic study and contemplation, they could escape the immoral and corruptible of the material world and enter the bliss of the spiritual. They saved themselves through an "ascension into the heavens" that, in reality, meant finding the divine spark within the self. To know the self was to know God.
In the mid second century CE, free-thinkers, "Gnostics" covered such a Platonic quest for divine union with a Christian veneer, thus creating a challenge to Church authority. They constructed a myth and justified it by citing Scripture verses from the Old and New Testaments. To understand the threat they posed, let's define Gnosticism in a general sense, see how the Gnostic's use of Scripture and discover the time frame when Gnosticism became prominent.
1) What is Gnosticism?
Gnosticism was a movement based upon a world view more than a rigid set of beliefs. While the Gnostics could change their myth to accommodated their intended audience, they consistently clung to their Platonic outlook of a spirit-material reality. They saw the divine through this lens. If salvation depended upon one's spiritual quest to escape the flawed cosmos of matter, then the creator of the material world shared in its defects. So, they created an elaborate myth of a completely unknowable God (the "One") who emanated a first thought ("Forethought" or Barbelo). In turn, this emanation set off a cascade of other thoughts ("aeons"), arranged in pairs of male and female. Notice this process emphasized symmetry and balance (which reflected the Hellenic belief in the eternal laws of mathematics and geometry). Any further emanating aeons required the cooperation of the male-female pairs to maintain this symmetry and balance.
According to the myth, one of the aeons, Wisdom, decided to have her own thought without consulting with her male counterpart. This illegitimate aeon, known as "Ialdabaoth" or "Saklas," audaciously considered itself to be the only God and created an inferior version (the material world) of spiritual reality. Wisdom repented of her mistake and, with the full cooperation of the first emanate thought, Barbelo, sought to save humanity by placing the divine spark into first humans, Adam and Eve. With this spark, humans would reverse the process, ascending the emanate aeons to Forethought, Barbelo. In this way, they would save themselves.
2) How did the Gnostics employ Scripture to promote their beliefs?
The Gnostics adopted, reinterpreted and even changed the story of Genesis to embed neo-Platonism into the Christian world. In the Gnostic version of Creation, the first humans were given life by the evil Ialdabaoth but were saved by the serpent who tempted them with true gnosis from the Tree of Knowledge. Notice they employed allegory, a method in which a reader would interpret the passage of a particular event in terms of universal spiritual truths; this method gained great popularity even before the first century CE and lasted a thousand years among Church theologians. The story of the Fall was really one of spiritual liberation; eating the fruit of the tree meant knowing true path to the divine. As the Gnostic allegory continued, the immoral of the world were spiritual sons of Cain who slew his brother Abel (Gen 4:1-18), but they, the saved, were the spiritual sons of Seth, made "in (Adam's) likeness, after his image," for they possessed the divine spark (Gen 5:3-8); many Gnostics called themselves "Sethians."
Where did Jesus stand in this myth? Many Gnostic schools saw the role of Jesus in different ways, some as the divine revealer, the appearance of the Barbelo, others as a false Messiah whose teachings distracted from the spread of gnosis. Nonetheless, the Gnostics emphasized gnosis as core of salvation; they downplayed, ridiculed or even eliminated the Passion as the saving act.
3) When did Gnosticism pose a threat to the church communities?
Gnosticism rose to prominence in the mid to later part of the second century CE. Various figures taught partial (Marcion, 85-160 CE) or fully (Valentinus, 100-160 CE) teachings. Around 144 CE, Marcion began to proclaim his gospel of a wrathful deity of the Jewish Scriptures who created the cosmos and the loving god of Jesus Christ came to save humanity from divine vengeance; he rejected the Old Testament and listed a shortened canon of Christian writings (a modified Luke, the Pauline letters sans the Pastoral epistles and Hebrews, pseudo-Paul's epistle to the Alexandrians and an epistle to the Laodiceans). Around 136 CE, Valentinus of Alexandria appeared in Rome, claiming he possessed secret gnosis that Paul received from his visions of Christ (Rom 16:25, 1 Cor 2:7, 2 Cor 12:2-4, Acts 9:9-10) through a Pauline disciple named Theudas; claiming apostolic succession, he taught a heavily modified version of the gnosticism described above. Both Marcion and Valentinus developed a large following; their forms of gnosticism continued in various forms several centuries beyond their deaths.
Many scholars hold Gnosticism developed before 140 CE and date many Gnostic texts, especially those found in the Nag Hammadi library to the early part of the second century. Hence, they believe church communities did face a threat from the Gnostic challenge beginning in the early decades of the 200's, especially in north and eastern rim of the Aegean Sea (1 Tim 1:3, 2 Tim 4:10-13). In support of that theory, they note that Iraneaus, bishop of Lyon, wrote his anti-Gnostic treatise, "Against the Heresies," for Christians in that general area about 180 CE.
Gnosticism appeared in the first half of the second century CE and gained enough steam to create proto-orthodox opposition by the later half of that century. But, notice this "Platonism in Christian garb" included a rewriting of Jewish Scripture, especially Genesis. Why? To answer that question, we must delve into the background of Judaism during the inter-Testamental period.
c. Ancient Jewish spirituality
In the centuries that led up to the Common Era, Jews increasingly felt crowded by the rise of Hellenic culture which not only pervaded communities in the Diaspora, but also within Judea itself with the brutal rule of the Greek Syrians (Seleucid kingdom). They reacted in many different ways, on the one end of the spectrum with the Maccabeean revolt that led to the establishment of the Hasmonean dynasty (165 BCE), on the other end with accommodation with the Greek culture among those outside Palestine. They did, however, face the crisis by an attempt to rediscover their roots in Scripture and apply the insights of that spiritual journey to their daily lives. Some even went as far as rewriting parts of Scripture, especially the book of Genesis, to update the message to their present conditions. Thus, the books of Enoch and Jubilees appeared.
With many parts composed as early as the beginning to mid-third century BCE, Book of Enoch (also known as 1 Enoch) purported to communicate the visions-revelation of Enoch, the seventh descendant of Adam. Enoch had a unique place in Genesis genealogy for, according to Gen 6:24, he"...walked with God and was not, for God took him." In other words, he did not die but was taken up into divine realm due to his righteousness ("he walked with God"). Thus, dwelling in the presence of the divine, he could act as a source of revelation (1 Enoch 1:1).
The latter Ethioptic translation of the book contained five parts:
Section 1 (Book of Watchers, chapters 1-36). God's judgment on the fallen angels and their intermingling with humans (Gen 6:1-4).
Section 2: (Book of Parables, chapters 37-71). Three apocalytic revelations including Enoch's assumption into heaven.
Section 3: (chapters 72-87). An astronomical work that described the parts of heaven.
Section 4: (Book of Dream Visions, chapters 83-90). A history of Israel from the Flood to the Maccabean revolt and an apocalytic vision of the end times.
Section 5: (Epistle of Enoch, 91-108) A text that addressed the problem of suffering among the righteous and the good fortune of the evil.
Many scholars considered this translation as the product of multiple redactions and additions. Eleven fragments of the document, written in the original Aramaic, were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls; seven fragments (4Q201, 204-207) contained parts of sections 1, 4 and 5 (the creation story, the history of Israel and the end times), while four fragments (4Q208-11) contained parts of section 3 (astronomy). This division indicated the final text mixed two traditions with the addition of section 2 (apocalyptic visions).
The texts found among the Dead Seas Scrolls presented a spirituality focused upon the heavenly realm and a view of history that attempted to explain injustice in the world. The apocalyptic vision melted these two strands together with the promise of divine justice at the end of time. One fragment (4Q204; 1 Enoch 106:13-107:2) implicitly appealed to genealogy as the partial basis to predict Noah and the Flood. Other fragments (4Q201-202; 1 Enoch 6:1-2, 7:1-9:11) described material also found in the Book of Jubilees: the fallen angels who intermarried with humans and spread evil in the world.
The Book of Enoch had an impact on the early Church. It was referenced in the letter from Jude:
And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of His Saints To execute judgment upon all, And to destroy all the ungodly: And to convict all flesh Of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed, And of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him. 1 Enoch 1:9
Now Enoch, the seventh in descent beginning with Adam, even prophesied of them, saying, "Look! The Lord is coming with thousands and thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all, and to convict every person of all their thoroughly ungodly deeds that they have committed, and of all the harsh words that ungodly sinners have spoken against him." Jude 1:14-15
Enoch was also held in high esteem in the early Christian text, Epistle of Barnabas (mid to late second century CE) and also by such Church fathers as Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-c. 215 CE), Iranaeus (130-202) and Tertullian (c. 155-c. 240 CE).
2) The Book of Jubilees
Over its fifty chapters, the Book of Jubilees retold and expanded the story of Genesis, in part, to explain the chaos of the material world in terms of a spiritual battle. It began with the creation of angels on the first day (Jubilees 2:2; Gen 1:3-5) and detailed fall of many when they mated with humanity, creating a hybrid race of giants (Jubilees 5:1, 4; Gen 6:4); this led up divine judgment in the Flood (Jubilees 5:2-4; Gen 6:5-7). Yet, a tenth of the spirits from this hybrid race were allowed to haunt the earth in order to tempt humanity (Jubilees 10:1-2, 9). A faithful angel, however, played a pivotal role in the narrative with the revelation of the Torah to Moses (Jubilees 1:27-29, 2:1). Notice the book distanced evil from God through the disobedience of angels and their intermarriage with humans; the spirits of the their progeny accounted for temptation.
Scholars date the Book of Jubilees to the mid-second century BCE. They found 15 fragments of the work among the Dead Seas Scrolls (4Q216-224); the Damascus Document itself (CD 16:2-24) mentioned the "Book of Time and Divisions by Jubilees and Weeks." The work depended, in part, upon the Book of Enoch for its inspiration and material.
Merkdbah ("chariot-throne" in Hebrew) represented a speculative mysticism that grew out of fascination with Ezekiel's vision of the fiery chariot-throne (Eze 1:4-26). The vision presented various images that later Jews would see as emanation-like aspects of God, including his presence ("shekinak" in Hebrew). Even a fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls (4Q405) focused on the divine chariot-throne:
"The cherubim bless the image of the Throne-Chariot above the firmament, and they praise the majesty of the fiery firmament beneath the seat of his glory. And between the turning wheels, angels of holiness come and go, as it were a fiery vision of most holy spirits; and about them flow seeming rivulets of fire, like gleaming bronze, a radiance of many gorgeous colors, of marvelous pigments magnificently mingled.
The Spirits of the Living God move perpetually with the glory of the wonderful Chariot. The small voice of blessing accompanies the tumult as they depart, and on the path of their return they worship the Holy One, Ascending they rise marvelously; settling, they stay still. The sound of joyful praise is silenced and there is a small voice of blessing in all the camp of God.
And a voice of praise resounds from the midsts of all their divisions in worship. And each one in his place, all their numbered ones sing hymns of praise."
Note the activity surrounding the chariot-throne: the worship of the ministers present, the service of the angels and the revelation of the spirits. In a culture that prized allegory, no doubt many would interpret these images and apply their insights to a greater theological vision.
4) Merging of the Jewish faith and Platonic thought: Philo
Philo (c. 20 BCE-c. 50 CE), a contemporary of Jesus and Paul, adapted Platonism thought to Jewish beliefs. He held the ineffable and unknowable One of Plato was the completely transcendent God of the Jews. Like Platonism, he further believed God presented himself through two "faces," the merciful YHWH and the just Elohim; at times, he Implied these were mere aspects of the divine but, at other times, he implied these were divine emanations. And, he posited an intermediary agent, the Logos, which created the material world so to keep God pure from its evil. While Philo's thought did impact later Christian theology, it paralleled later Gnostic belief about the ineffable nature of the One and its distance from corruption.
d. Two influences and four common threads.
Gnosticism threatened the post-apostolic Church as a secular spirituality wrapped in a Christian cover. Ancient Jewish spirituality concerned itself with a rediscovery and reinterpretation of its roots to explain the plight of the Chosen People in the inter-Testamental period. While both existed in separate spheres, they did overlap thematically in four ways. First, both were concerned with a rewrite of Genesis as a narrative of creation-revelation and creation-condemnation. In other words, the moral conditions of the world found their origin at the beginning of time. For the Gnostics, creation was the work of the evil (and inferior) Ialdabaoth, but even in such a chaotic and immoral universe, one could "peak beyond the veil" to the higher, ineffable "Father." For Jews, creation explained the goodness of the Creator but the moral morass of the world through the Fall; beyond the "Original Sin" one could see YHWH as the true God. By rewriting the creation story, both groups could explain evil in the world and the ultimate goodness of the divine.
This rewrite led to the next overlap, the transcendence of the true God. Both groups distanced the divine from the cosmos through intermediaries. The Gnostics posited an array of aeons that emanated from the One; it was the disobedience of the aeon Wisdom that led to the creation of the material universe. Jews influenced by the books of Enoch and Jubilees, along with the nascent mysticism of the Merkdbah, held to the notion that angels acted as mediators between the indescribable One and humanity. In both schools of thought, these intermediaries acted as messengers of revelation. The Gnostics saw Christ as the embodiment of Barbelo ("Forethought") tasked with revealing saving gnosis. Jews held angels (or a heavenly resident like Enoch) revealed the divine will. Also note both movements blamed evil on the disobedience of lower intermediaries: the Gnostics blamed Wisdom while Jews blamed the spirits of deceased angelic-human hybrids. Thus, both philosophies built in a somewhat elaborate system of intermediaries that preserved the utter transcendence of the divine.
Third, by appealing to figures in their rewrite of Genesis, both movements defined their place through genealogies. Gnostics claimed to be "sons of Seth" while the lost were "sons of Cain." Inter-Testamental Jews claimed moral legitimacy by appealing to major figures in the Scriptures as ancestors; they were "sons of Abraham," even "sons of Enoch," not only biologically, but in faith. Linage, both literal and metaphorical, legitimated their claims to their professed beliefs.
Fourth, both applied Platonic thought to Jewish belief, specifically in two areas: emanations and allegory. Gnostics viewed emanations universal; all humanity inherently posed the divine spark. Jewish thinkers like Philo limited the emanations to aspects of God (YHWH and Elohim), thus keeping creation itself at a distance. As mentioned above, both camps also employed allegory, interpreting specific sayings, commands or narratives in a timeless and universal way.
e. Were the controversies described in the Pastoral letters more due to Gnostic thought or Jewish spirituality?
Lasting from the mid-third century BCE well into the second century CE, inter-Testamental Jewish spirituality both predated and postdated the apostolic era. But, Gnosticism came into prominence in the mid to late second century CE. While no direct evidence existed tying the internal dissent to either movement, hints existed to both.
1) Purity in lifestyle: In 1 Tim 4:3-5, the author criticized his opponents' sexual abstinence and rigid diet. The Gnostics viewed physical passions as the result of demons and as the source of evil. The Gnostic "Apochryphon of John" (c. 150 CE) stated:
Out from these...demons come passions: From pleasure comes much evil and unmerited pride... From desire comes anger, fury, bitterness, outrage, dissatisfaction..."
This remained especially true of sexual intercourse. The Apochryphon also stated:
"From (the time of Adam) until now sexual intercourse has persisted thanks to the Chief Ruler (Ialdabaoth) who put desire for reproduction into the woman who accompanies Adam. Through intercourse the Ruler caused new human bodies to be produced and he blew his artificial spirit (of spiritual ignorance) into each of them."
For the Gnostic, human reproduction only entrapped a new generation in spiritual ignorance and spread evil. To overcome such ignorance, obtain true gnosis and stop the spread of evil, the Gnostic needed to deny passions through a restrictive asceticism, especially sexual abstinence.
But didn't Paul himself live a celibate life and encouraged others to remain single? Yes, but he did so to focus his energy upon evangelization in the belief that the Second Coming was immanent. In 1 Cor 7:1-9, he advised those who could not live a celibate lifestyle to marry, not condemning any who did marry.
Didn't Paul also refrain from eating meat? Again, yes, but only to advance his principle of deference. In 1 Cor 8, he recognized the legitimate "gnosis" of the libertines but chided them for their insensitivity to the weak who found scandal in the consumption of meat offered to idols.
In the case of sexual abstinence and restricted diet, Paul did not address the issue that the author of First Timothy faced when he criticized his opponents for their asceticism.
2) Resurrection Controversy: In 2 Tim 2:18, the author mentioned his opponents' belief that the resurrection had already occurred. This view emphasized resurrection as purely a spiritual assent to the divine through present gnosis, not in a future event like the Second Coming. As Saying 3 in the Gospel of Thomas (c. 120 CE) stated:
"...the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father."
While the Gospel of Thomas did not include the elaborate mythology of the Gnosticism, it did agree with a core tenet of the movement: knowledge of the self was knowledge of God. It taught the divine spark inherently lay within the person; salvation meant rediscovering that spark through self-realization.
Was this debate the same as the resurrection controversy in 1 Cor 15:12-19? No. The free-thinkers in the Corinthian community denied the reality of a bodily resurrection which Paul vehemently defended; they questioned the nature of the resurrection and the raised body (1 Cor 15:35) but did not advance some sort of metaphorical explanation for the resurrection. For the opponents in Second Timothy, the resurrection was a present reality (through gnosis); for the opponents of Paul in First Corinthians, the resurrection did not exist.
3) Biblical Interpretation: In Titus 3:9 and 1 Tim 1:4, the authors connected the study of genealogies to the application of the Torah. In writings such as "The Reality of the Rulers" (c. 200 CE), the Gnostics dove heavily into story of the Creation (Gen 1:26-27; Gen 2:7, Gen 2:20-23), the Fall (Gen 3:1-3), the first murder (Gen 4:1-12) and Seth (Gen 4:25-26) as a means of proselytizing. Inter-Testamental Jews could have also employed genealogies to defend their position and apply Scripture to their circumstances (using the books of Jubilees and Enoch).
4) Elaborate Myths: Finally, in Titus 3:9 and 2 Tim 4:4, the authors ridiculed their opponents' teaching as "myths." No doubt, Gnostics did describe their belief system in a complex myth that allowed for some flexibility. But, in Titus 1:13-14, the author professed concern over Christians who "devote themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth." He implicitly turned the tables on his opponents who might have described themselves as "pure" for keeping the kosher laws by using the term "pure" to differentiate the proto-orthodox from the "unbelieving" as "defiled" (Titus 1:15). Notice how the author used an allegory of kosher to shift the argument away from his adversaries.
In our survey, we've noted two different influences that threatened the communities mentioned in the epistles. First, the Jewish Christians of Titus, those of "circumcision party," separated the "pure" Jew from the "impure" Gentile (inferred in Titus 1:15), but sought to gain converts possibly through a spirituality based upon "myths" and "commands" (Titus 1:14), "genealogies" and "quarrels about the Law" (Titus 3:9). Second, "teachers of the Law" (1 Tim 1:7) with Gnostic leanings caused dissension within the community by professing "so-called knowledge" (1 Tim 6:20) based upon "myths and endless genealogies" (1 Tim 1:4).
Yet, we've also noted common threads shared by both movements: common tactics, a common Hellenic culture influenced by Platonic thought, a focus on rewriting the Jewish history (especially the book of Genesis), a concern for the transcendence of God with the use of intermediaries, the employment of genealogies to explain and defend the rightness of each sides beliefs and the interpretative tool of allegory. But, we must point out a final common thread, a spirituality focused on the self. Jewish-Christians ultimately insisted upon keeping behavioral practices like circumcision and keeping a kosher lifestyle; the proto-Gnostics saw salvation based upon one's seeking "true" knowledge. Dissenters based their spirituality on what they did externally (Jewish Christians) or internally (proto-Gnostics); by emphasizing self-determination in their spirituality, they downplayed the divine initiative. They challenged Church authority because they implicitly denied the Pauline doctrine of salvation based upon grace alone.
While the problems of alternative teachings (even alternative lifestyles; 1 Tim 4:3) did create scandal and strife within the faith communities, the focus upon such internal struggles indicated a stable existence within ancient society. The authors of the Pastorals did not comment on external forces that could unite the faithful against prejudice and persecution (see Rev 2:9-10 for example). Instead, they exhorted their readers against those who spread speculative thought and teachings different from that of the proto-orthodox. Yes, church communities did suffer from wandering charlatans who posed as prophets even in the late to post apostolic era, but the assemblies of the Pastorals faced a threat that required a safe environment to entertain the possibility of speculation, discussion and internal dissent. This possibility argued for a later date than the upheavals of the 60's and 70's CE.
B. Church Structure
Titus 1:5-8 and 1 Tim 3:1-13 listed the qualifications for church offices, specifically bishop, elder and deacon. These positions differed from those listed in 1 Cor 12:28 led by apostles, prophets and teachers.
1. Three offices listed in the Pastoral letters.
a. Bishop: The term "episkopos" (in Greek) meant "overseer." It occurred five times in the New Testament; every passage referred to a local church leader.
Acts 20:28 and 1 Pet 2 :25 described the responsibility of the episkopoi (plural) in terms of a "shepherd" over the community.
In Phil 1:1, Paul simply noted the episkopoi (plural) in his address to the community.
1 Tim 3:2 and Titus 1:7 detailed personal qualifications for the episkopos.
b. Elder: The term "presbuteros" (in Greek) simply meant "elder." It occurred 66 times in the New Testament, either in reference to a senior citizen, to a member of the Jewish leadership (especially the Sanhedrin), to the heavenly court in Revelation or to Church leadership. The following listed such community leaders:
Acts 11:30 and Acts 14:23 noted the collection for the Jerusalem church by organized by the presbuteroi (plural) of the churches along the Aegean rim.
Acts 15:2-6 and Acts 15:22 listed the phrase "apostles and presbuteroi" of the Jerusalem church at the council that discussed the Gentile controversy; Acts 16:4 noted the decision of the apostles and presbuteroi at the council.
Acts 21:18 mentioned Paul visited James and the presbuteroi in Jerusalem.
1 Tim 5:17-19 and Titus 1:5 began personal qualifications for the office of presbuteros.
2 John 1:1 was the greeting of a short letter addressed a presbuteros; 3 John 1:1 was a greeting from an unnamed presbuteros.
1 Peter 5:1-2 urged the presbuteroi (from a fellow presbuteros) to oversee ("episkopountes" in some early texts) the community as shepherds with eagerness and without greed. 1 Peter 5:5 encouraged the youth of the congregation to submit humbly to the presbuteroi.
Acts 20:17 and James 5:14 noted the presbuteroi "of the church." In Acts, Paul called the presbuteroi of Ephesus to meet him in Miletus for his farewell address. In James, the author urged the ill to summon the presbuteroi to come, pray over the person and to anoint him with oil "in the name of the Lord."
c. Deacon: The term "diakonos" (in Greek) meant waiter, servant or administrator. It occurred 29 times in the New Testament. It referred to a minister in the Church four times.
Phil 1:1 listed diakonoi (plural) in the Paul's address to the community.
1 Tim 3:8-12 mentioned the diakonoi twice when it listed qualifications for the office.
Rom 16:1 named Phoebe as a diakonon (singular, feminine) to the church in Cenchrea; whether this noun referred to an official office or to a more generic sense of "servant" is debated among scholars.
Acts 6:2-6 described the origin of the office but did not use the noun "diakonos." Instead, the passage employed the verb "diakonein" (meaning "waiting at table"; Acts 6:2) and the noun "diakonia" (meaning "ministry"; Acts 6:4). In both cases, the root "diakon..." referred to the Apostles, not to the seven that were anointed to care for the poor.
2. Development of offices
In the apostolic era, the relationship between the episkopos and the presbuteroi remained hazy at best. Both exercised a leadership role in the local communities with the image of Christ as the example. But, what was the extent of that role? In a patriarchal society, elderly men led and expected respect from those in their care. Did the episkopos/presbuteros simply assume that cultural role for the community? Or, did he resembled the role of the synagogue leader ("archsynagogos" in Greek; Mark 5:22; Luke 13:14; Acts 13:15; Acts 18:8; Acts 18:17) who managed the synagogue compound and acted as master of ceremonies for Sabbath meetings? If so, he either owned or managed the local house church and acted as liturgical leader when missionaries did not visit.
However, the Pastorals differentiated between the two offices. Titus 1:5-9 listed the appointment of presbuteroi (plural) in 1:5 and an episkopos (singular) in 1:7. 1 Tim 3:2-7 detailed the qualifications of the episkopos while 1 Tim 5:17 mentioned the role of presbuteroi in "preaching and teaching."
The Pastoral "Timothy" as a model for the church leader filled in some details of development. Like the seven deacons in Acts 6:6, "Timothy" received his office though the prayers and the laying on of hands by a council of elders (1 Tim 4:14). Note his ordination was the result of prophecy by the elders, not from a person who claimed the office of prophet. Later, in 1 Tim 5:22, the author urged "Timothy" to discern the moral character of those he might, in turn, lay hands upon for church office.
Besides the subject of ordination ("laying on of hands"), the Pastorals described a growing liturgical function for those in church office. In Tim 4:13-14, the author urged "Timothy" to "devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching," implying this ministry was a "gift." In 2 Tim 3:16-17, the author held to the divine inspiration of Scripture and tied the sacred writings to the tasks of exhortation to improve moral character and teaching to encourage spiritual growth in the congregation. Notice the absence of any discussion about evangelization or any mention about the office of teacher; the letters focused upon proclaiming Scripture and homiletics within a congregational setting.
Around the turn of the second century CE, the non-canonical book, the Didache ("Teachings of the Twelve Apostles"; ca. 100 CE) first appeared. In Chapter 15, it noted church offices.
"Appoint, therefore, for yourselves, bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, and truthful and proved; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. Therefore do not despise them, for they are your honored ones, together with the prophets and teachers."
"I exhort you to strive to do all things in harmony with God: the bishop is to preside in the place of God, while the presbyters are to function as the council of the Apostles, and the deacons...are entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ." (To the Magnesians 6,1)
Ignatius listed the offices mentioned in the Pastorals, but described them in the now familiar hierarchic structure. Never in any of his works did the author mention the offices of prophet and teacher.
While the line between episkopos and presbuteros shifted in the apostolic era, it hardened considerably by the dawn of the second century CE. Three distinct offices ascended, episkopos, presbuteros and diakonos, while the positions of prophet and teacher faded from view. The task of those offices also morphed from street evangelization to the internal matters of liturgy and maintaining the integrity of the local church.
C. Christian Clan
1. Life in a Christian family in reference to Timothy
Titus 2:1-10 described the ideal Christian clan where the patriarch and other elders exercised leadership with a calm compassion, the matriarch and elderly women taught morality (especially pleasing social behavior to daughters) and young men gave good example and defended Christianity so that an opponent could "not say anything evil" about the local church (2:8). Notice this intergenerational harmony stood in stark contrast with the internal upheaval caused by conversion in Luke 12:51-53 and Matthew 10:35 (an echo of Micah 7:6); this Q passage from the early post-apostolic revealed an unstable situation of persecution. Clearly, the social climate of Titus reflected an environment in which the clan of faith had cohesion and standing within the larger pagan community.
The place of the clan matriarchs stood out in Titus's exhortation. Of course, they prepared the younger women for marriage and a virtuous life, but they also be "teachers of the good" ("kalodidaskalous" in Greek; Titus 2:3). In other words, their example and exhortation extended beyond the upbringing of daughters and affected the entire extended family. 2 Tim 1:5 stated that influence; the faith of the younger Timothy depended upon that of his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois. This passage confirmed the influence of the matriarchs in the Christian clan; the faith of the elderly women was passed to the younger men.
Notice the difference between 2 Tim 1:5 and Acts 16:1-3. In Acts, Timothy was the uncircumcised son of a Greek (pagan) father and a Jewish-Christian mother; Paul circumcised him so he could accompany the apostle on his missionary endeavors. His faith depended upon, at best, a permissive family environment in a region that was previously hostile to evangelization (Acts 14:8-20). In fact, the young disciple's parents could have faced the ire of the Jewish community in Lystra since their tradition frowned upon marriages of mixed religions (see Mal 2:11). In Second Timothy, Timothy's faith depended upon the matriarchal influence of grandmother and mother, implying a stable family environment for faith growth.
We don't know when and how Timothy's mother converted, nor do we have any idea how she specifically influenced the young disciple. But, based upon the history of Timothy's life recorded in Acts, the faith of the mother in uncertain times catalyzed the young man's fervor in spreading the Good News. The faith found in his mother and grandmother from Second Timothy inferred stability.
D. Problem of Pseudepigrapha
The Google on-line dictionary defines pseudepigrapha as:
"spurious or pseudonymous writings, especially Jewish writings ascribed to various biblical patriarchs and prophets but composed within approximately 200 years of the birth of Jesus Christ."
A tradition of such writings began in the third century BCE within a Jewish audience and extended well into the first millennium CE among both Jews and Christians. Indeed, during the second and third centuries CE, writings falsely attributed to biblical characters, both proto-orthodox and gnostic in character, exploded into the hundreds of titles. In the early Church, leaders considered many of these books suitable for private reading but banned them from liturgical use.
Were the Pastoral letters pseudepigrapha? Possibly we could rephrase the question. Why did three letters from one specific person (Paul) addressed to two specific individuals (Titus and Timothy) become public? Scholars could easily explain the wide spread dissemination of Titus and First Timothy as useful for church order. But, how could they explain the apparent intimacy found in Second Timothy? Why would that letter attain wide publication, much less canonical status?
Here, we must view the problems faced by the communities in the Pastorals from a wider context. The pressure of the old guard Jewish Christian leaders seemed minimal; outside pressures from pagan culture seemed distant. Instead, a new internal challenge arose, based upon a secret gnosis and even novel reinterpretations of Judaism. Seen in that light, an anonymous author could have penned Second Timothy as an allegorical exhortation from an older, proto-orthodox generation to a younger, more inquisitive generation. He might have used traditions from Paul's life and travels to give his public letter legitimacy, in the same way other pseudepigraphical writers did, and given those details an intimate sense to appeal to the reader. This theory makes more sense to me than trying to fit the socio-religious environment described in the Pastorals into the increasingly uncertain milieu of the late apostolic era.
Christians, especially those in Rome, faced tenuous times in the 60's and 70's CE. According to Tacitus (c. 56-c. 120) in his Annals XV, Nero laid blame for Rome's great fire in 64 CE on Christians. While imperial officials began to differentiate between the now Gentile Jesus movement and Judaism, they also noticed tensions within Jewish populations in the eastern Mediterranean basin that would explode into the revolt of Palestine in 66 CE and culminate in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE; yet, this would not stop unrest until the bloody suppression of Jewish national aspirations with the Roman victory over Bar Kokhba in 136 CE. So, anti-semitism grew on an official level and in the general culture; this hatred tainted cultural view of Christianity in general since its roots lie in Judaism.
In addition to imperial disdain and popular opposition, Roman Christians experienced the rapid changes the rest of the Church endured: geographic expansion and the tensions that entailed, the shift from a rural environment (Galilee) to an urban setting (Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Rome, etc.), demographic change from Jewish to Gentile, linguistic shift from Aramaic to Koine Greek and the final change that summed up the rest, the loss of a Jewish sub-culture for a more engulfing Greco-Roman culture.
The internal dissent, the solidification of leadership roles and the intergenerational argued for a time of stability distant from that of Rome in the mid to late first century CE. Hints from the Pastorals indicated influences that existed in the early to mid-second century: inter-Testamental Jewish spirituality and proto-Gnosticism. If we assume Gnosticism had its own oral tradition going back to the end of the first century CE, then we can estimate the time frame of authorship: 90-110 CE.
III. First Timothy
As a second epistle of Church order, First Timothy was an exhortation for faithfulness, social order and good pastoral care. Faithfulness meant adherence to the Church teaching and a highly moral lifestyle, even in the face of heretical influences within the community. Social order meant clan living and community leadership structure that emulated pagan society, in order to maintain a peaceful coexistence with the general culture. Finally, good pastoral care provided for the needs of widows and addressed the high standards expected of leaders.
B. Synopsis and Commentary of 1 Timothy
The overall structure is ABCDCBA:
A1: Greeting to Timothy (1:1-2)
B1: Faithfulness in the face of opposition (1:3-20)
C1: Living the Christian life (2:1-3:16)
D: Persistence in the face of opposition (4:1-16)
C2: Pastoral guidance (5:1-6:2a)
B2: The struggle to remain faithful (6:2b-19)
A2: Summary and brief blessing (6:20-21)
1. A1: Greeting to Timothy (1 Tim 1:1-2)
2. B1: Faithfulness in the face of opposition (1:3-20)
a. Faithfulness in the face of immorality (1:3-11)
While on route to Macedonia, the author (Paul?) instructed the recipient (Timothy?) to remain in Ephesus in order to restrain others from teaching a "different doctrine," myths or genealogies which deviated from the faith (this warning echoed the caveats listed in Titus 3:9; 1 Tim 1:3-4). On the contrary, the author encouraged the reader to be steadfast and single minded (1 Tim 1:5), opposed to those who speculated ("vain discussion") and puffed themselves up ("desired to be teachers of the Law"), only revealing their ignorance (1 Tim 1:6-7).
The author summarized a Pauline theme on the Law which existed to define immorality (Rom 7:4, Gal 3:19). In this context, he implicitly condemned the pagans with a list of acts that stood opposed to "sound doctrine" (1 Tim 1:8-11).
b. Thanks and praise for personal salvation (1:12-17)
As a counterpoint to 1:3-11, the author expressed gratitude for the mercy and the mission he received from God despite his former life (1 Tim 1:12-14). He mentioned a creedal statement ("Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners"), holding it was both universal and deeply personal; it showed everyone that even a venomous opponent like Paul could receive mercy due to divine patience (1 Tim 1:15-16). For this reason, the author praised God in a doxology (1 Tim 1:17).
c. Faithfulness in ministry (1:18-20)
The author continued the point-counterpoint construction but this time applied it to the recipient. According to the text, when Paul and church leaders laid hands on Timothy (at his ordination), Paul and/or others prophesied about challenges the young man would face in ministry; the author urged recipient to remain faithful and strong when facing opponents (1 Tim 1:18-19), especially those who were excommunicated ("handed over to Satan" in 1 Tim 1:20 and 1 Cor 5:5). 1 Tim 2:17 mentioned Hymenaeus along with Philetus as heretics; 1 Tim 4:15-16 mentioned Alexander the metal worker as another false teacher.
3. C1: Living the Christian life (2:1-3:16)
a. Faith in the public sphere (2:1-7)
The author urged the faithful to pray for the pagans and their rulers; in this way, Christians could worship in peace and evangelize all peoples (1 Tim 2:1-4). He summed up the desire to pray and spread the Good News in a creedal statement ("...there is one God and...one mediator between God and men...Christ Jesus..."; 1 Tim 2:5-6). That statement also drove his ministry as "preacher and apostle"; 1 Tim 2:7.
b. Social place for the genders (2:8-15)
The author paralleled the desire for peace and expanded evangelization (2:2-4) with the proper role of men and women in the worshiping community. Here, he made two assumptions. First, how the community acted in a liturgical setting would become a matter of public discussions. Second, the proper order of the community should reflect that of the culture at large: a male dominated, gender segregated society. In 1 Tim 2:8, he urged males to lead in prayer and peacefulness. In 1 Tim 2:9-12, he commanded women to dress modestly, perform good deeds and quietly submit to male authority. He summed up his attitude with a theological argument for the inferiority of women; Eve, as the second human to be created, was the temptress in the Garden, yet she could find salvation in her biological function as the child-bearer and in self-controlled faithfulness.
Notice the author made no mention of equality between the sexes in Christ (Gal 3:28). While some modern Christians maintain gender equality while also insisting upon subservient roles for women, they lose sight of the reason the author used for such submissive roles: to worship in peace and evangelize. Both reasons were culturally dependent. The question we need to ask ourselves is: how can we freely worship God and spread the Good News in today's cultural environment?
c. Qualifications for the overseer (3:1-7)
The author turned to the subject of community leadership, beginning with the overseer ("episkopos" in Greek). While he recognized ambitions to the office were honorable, he laid out moral conditions not unlike that of Titus 1:7-8. The overseer must be monogamous, hospitable, generous and of high moral character; his children must be obedient (1 Tim 3:2-5). The overseer should not be a recent convert, lest zeal fuel his ambitions (1 Tim 3:6). These caveats helped promote the reputation of the overseer as an honorable man (1 Tim 3:7).
d. Qualifications of deacons (3:8-13)
The author now addressed the role of leadership assistants, the deacons. Act 6:1-6 described the establishment of the diaconate as a service to those in need. The author listed qualifications for deacons in much the way he did the overseer. Deacons were to be monogamous, true believers, of high moral character and should maintain an orderly family (1 Tim 3:8-9, 1 Tim 3:12). Their wives, like the deacons themselves, should act honorably (1 Tim 3:11). They should be tested to prove themselves worthy (1 Tim 3:10) as honorable men and as community leaders of faith (1 Tim 3:13).
e. Signs of a true religion (3:14-16)
The author hoped to see the recipient soon but assumed the later knew how to exhort proper activity in the local church (1 Tim 3:14). Here, he again stressed the connection between the high moral expectations of the community and the doctrine it held (1 Tim 3:15). In other words, "revealed truth" had a moral and dogmatic dimension which the author expressed as a "mystery of godliness." He summed up this revelation in a short creedal hymn that detailed the incarnation ("revealed in the flesh"), evangelization ("proclaimed among Gentiles) and ascension ("taken in glory"; 1 Tim 3:16). Notice the Passion and Resurrection were missing in the hymn.
4. D: Persistence in the face of opposition (4:1-16)
The author turned his attention to those who left the community for deviant groups who practiced celibacy and dietary restrictions (1 Tim 4:3); he condemned these people as liars who devoted themselves "to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons" (1 Tim 4:1-2). The author rejected them for their behavior when they abstained from that which God had created and declared inherently good (1 Tim 4:3-5).
The author shifted to an ancient athletic analogy. He compared teaching on the matters of the zealots to that of an athlete who served his sponsor ("Christ Jesus") and prepared for the competition with nourishment ("...on the words of faith and the good teaching you have followed..."; 1 Tim 4:6). Athletic training also meant discipline, rejecting other enticements ("...profane and senile myths..."; see 1 Tim 1:4, 2 Tim 4:4, Titus 1:14) for the true prize ("godliness"; 1 Tim 4:7). While he recognized the worth of physical training, he praised spiritual exercises as the key to a full life now and forever (1 Tim 4:8). He encouraged his recipient to keep his eyes on the prize for such efforts gave purpose to his struggles and hope in his faith (1 Tim 4:9-10).
The author then turned to the personal life of the recipient with a series of exhortations. He urged the recipient to teach and direct others to a fuller life, especially by example, despite those who might judge the man too young (1 Tim 4:11-12). Until the author could make a visit, he told the recipient to exercise his liturgical function in the proclamation of Scripture and delivering sermons ("exhortation and teaching") which he received when the "council of elders laid hands" on him; the council discerned ("prophecy") leadership qualities ("gift") in the recipient (1 Tim 4:13-14). The author urged his reader to lead by action consistent with the words he preached so the congregation might see his progress as a leader and follow faithfully (1 Tim 4:15-16).
5. C2: Pastoral guidance (5:1-6:2a)
a. Pastoral care of the community (1 Tim 5:1-2)
The author encouraged the recipient to treat the community like his own family.
b. Care for widows (5:3-16)
Because of the precarious health conditions in the ancient world, spouses could die, often suddenly. Widows created a financial burden on the community due to their care, but could also strengthen the local church through service and by example. The author described an "order" of widow which many scholars described as an honorific title, while others detail as a commune. In either case, he instructed the reader to restrict the honor of enrolling the widows to this group by age, by reputation, by generous hospitality and by charitable character (1 Tim 5:9-10).
The author instructed the reader to refuse younger widows. He implied younger women were morally inferior with unfulfilled sexual desires (that could only be satiated in marriage) which would lead them to astray (1 Tim 5:11-12). Instead, he encouraged them to marry and take up their proper place in the clan system (to bear children and manage the household) lest they become idle gossips and busybodies; he implicitly pointed to vague anecdotes about backsliders (1 Tim 5:13-15). Notice the author accepted the common outlook of a male dominated, gender segregated society; he view women as inferior, even sinful, unless they fulfilled their honorable place in the clan as child bearers and house managers.
c. The responsibility of and for elders (5:17-25)
The author shifted to the role of the elders. They shared in the recipient's liturgical role of preaching and teaching, thus giving them high status in the community; the author supported their role with quotes from Deut 25:4 and Luke 10:7 (1 Tim 5:17-18). In fact, he insisted they should remain immune from common judgment unless the charges were confirmed by multiple witnesses (see Deu 17:6 and Deu 19:15); if the community found them guilty of a charge, it should render judgment in public as a warning to others (1 Tim 5:19-20).
The author urged the recipient to be fair with elders. The reader should not indiscriminately ordain elders nor should he keep company with men of questionable morals (although he was allowed to drink some wine as a precaution against the intake of polluted water; 1 Tim 5:22-23). The author explained his caution with a wise saying about character. Some reveal their evil intent immediately while others could hide their motives, revealing them later; the same principle could be applied to good deeds (1 Tim 5:24-25).
d. Servants and masters (6:1-2a)
The author reminded servants that their service to a household could evangelize; he also told masters that they should treat those in their service to their families well, for they were equals in the eyes of the Lord (1 Tim 6:1-2).
6. B2: The struggle to remain faithful (6:2b-19)
a. Godliness of the faithful vs. avarice of dissenters (6:2b-10)
The author instructed the recipient to teach the Christian message and exhort the Christian lifestyle (1 Tim 6:2). Then he turned to those dissenters who introduced differences in doctrine and lifestyle; these caused divisions within the community which distracted the faithful from the true faith (1 Tim 6:3-4). He objected to the dissenters who perverted "godliness" from a spiritual goal to a means to make money (1 Tim 6:5). Here, he introduced contentment as a counterpoint to the avarice of the dissenters. As long as one has food and clothing, he should be satisfied with what he has; such contentment marked the true treasure of "godliness" (1 Tim 6:6-8). But, the author declared the desire for wealth as the "root of all evil" that caused the greedy to leave the community and brought them into ruin (1 Tim 6:9-10).
b. The struggle to keep baptismal vows (6:11-16)
The author exhorted his reader to reach for the moral and spiritual ideal, to "fight the good fight" (see 2 Tim 4:7, Eph 6:12; 1 Tim 6:11-12). In light of the challenges within the community, he saw ministry as a struggle to live out his baptismal vows ("confession made in the presence of many witnesses"; 1 Tim 6:12). The reader's promise of faith placed him in danger (just like Jesus' "confession" before Pontius Pilate) for it defined his life's purpose and direction; it partially realized the eternal life that would be made manifest at the Second Coming (1 Tim 6:13-14). The author ended this passage with a doxology to the glorious Christ who would be revealed at the end of time (1 Tim 6:15-16).
c. True wealth (6:17-19)
The author urged the reader to exhort the wealth to turn from the temptation of riches and to place their sights on faith in God (1 Tim 6:17). He saw riches as the means to act charitably and hospitably; these virtues led to "heavenly" wealth and gave a true perspective on life (1 Tim 6:18-19).
7. A2: Summary and brief blessing (6:20-21)
In his ending remarks, the author urged the recipient (Timothy) to protect his faith and refrain from debating points on "so-called ‘knowledge'" ("gnosis" in Greek). He derided such knowledge as idle chatter and absurdities; he observed those who claim such left the community . He ended the letter with a simple prayer for grace upon the faithful (1 Tim 6:20-21).
IV. Second Timothy
Unlike the Church order epistles of Titus and First Timothy, Second Timothy had a more personal tone as a letter between an elderly mentor (Paul?) and his student (Timothy?). If we strip away the many names of friends or foes, we can find a theme not unlike those found in the other two pastoral letters: faithfulness in the face of internal dissent.
B. Synopsis and Commentary of Second Timothy
The overall structure is ABCCBA:
A1: Greeting (1:1-2)
B1: The imprisoned author's desires for the reader (1:3-18)
C1: Perseverance in the face of dissent (2:1-26)
C2: Steadfast spirit in the face of internal opposition (3:1-4:5)
B2: The imprisoned author's conditions and warnings (4:6-18)
A2: Farewell (4:19-22)
1. A1: Greeting (1:1-2)
The author (Paul?) opened his letter to the recipient (Timothy?) by defining himself as an apostle and a loving father to the reader (2 Tim 1:1-2).
2. B1: The imprisoned author's desires for the reader (1:3-18)
Claiming he served God with a "clear conscience," the author fondly remembered the reader and yearned to see him (2 Tim 1:3-4). He recognized the sincere faith that grandmother (Lois) passed to mother (Eunace) and passed to the reader (Timothy). Notice the author implicitly did not mention his own role in evangelizing the family; also notice the maternal passing of faith lined up with the mother's role in Titus 2:3-5. In addition to the faith given, he encouraged passion ("kindle again") for the divine gift given to the reader at his ordination ("laying on of my hands"; 2 Tim 1:6). He reminded his reader that the gift given (the Spirit) did not bring fear but spiritual maturity ("love and self-control"; 2 Tim 1:7).
The author urged the reader not to feel shame about his faith or about the writer's imprisonment; instead he encouraged the reader to accept the sufferings caused by public ridicule or persecution (2 Tim 1:8). He insisted the reader's calling came from God and not from any human effort. Instead, the divine gift that gave rise to the reader's calling existed "in Christ Jesus" at the beginning of creation; it was made manifest with the appearance of Jesus who revealed an end of death and the gift of eternal life. Christians, like the reader, received the gift through the proclamation of the gospel (2 Tim 1:9-10). The author received the divine commission to proclaim the Good News as "preacher, apostle and teacher" (2 Tim 1: He suffered for his activity but did not feel shame due to his sure faith and his conviction that God would protect him until he stood before the divine judgment seat (‘that day"; 2 Tim 1:12). He exhorted the reader to use him as an example of evangelization ("hold to the pattern of sound words that you heard from me") and to spread the gospel in the "faith and love that are in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim 1:13). At the same time, he wanted the reader to guard the faith ("good deposit entrusted to you") given by the Spirit (2 Tim 1:14).
Then, the author acknowledged both deserters and supporters. He named Phygelus and Hermogenes as those who left him in Asia Minor (west coast of modern day Turkey; 2 Tim 1:15). He praised the family of Onesiphorus who supported the imprisoned author in Rome despite the personal cost; Onesiphorus had a good reputation for ministry in Ephesus (2 Tim 1:16-18; see 2 Tim 4:19).
3. C1: Perseverance in the face of dissent (2:1-26)
The author urged the reader to draw strength from the divine gift "in Christ Jesus" and by the message he entrusted to the reader in the presence of the community's leadership who were themselves capable of passing along the Good News (2 Tim 2:1-2). He continued to encourage the reader with three images: the soldier, the athlete and the farmer. To have success in any of the these endeavors required discipline. The soldier set aside civilian pursuits to be a good military man. The athlete competed according to the rules. The hard working farmer kept the first portion for his family and his future agricultural efforts. Each willingly ignored distractions and kept their focus on the prize (2 Tim 2:3-6). In the same way, the author implied, the reader needed to focus on grace and the wisdom of the elders to gain spiritual insight (2 Tim 2:7).
The author next weaved his own experience and his message together. He languished in prison for the Good News (the creedal statement in 2 Tim:28) but he also saw his situation did not impede the spread of the message (2 Tim 2:9). In fact, he willingly suffered for the salvation of the faithful (2 Tim 2:10). He quoted a liturgical hymn that encouraged endurance. Its first two lines recalled the death-to-self, rise-to-new-life motif of baptism and the promise of eternal life. The last two lines gave comfort to believers who might have lost loved ones to heresy; while rejection of the message meant rejection by God, it did not mean complete abandonment; Christ always remained faithful (2 Tim 2:11-12). Notice this song implied the challenge of apostasy that occurred in local churches during the post-apostolic era.
The author then turned to the problem of alternate theological speculation. He urged the reader to admonish dissenters but not to engage in apologetics against them (2 Tim 2:14). Instead, he commanded the reader to present himself as an honorable man with a righteous message (2 Tim 2:15). He insisted that engaging the dissenters only lowered the reader to their level and legitimized their corrosive thinking. He named Hymenaeus (see 1 Tim 1:20) and Philetus as examples of these dissenters, who held that the general resurrection was an already present reality (2 Tim 2:16-18). (Notice this controversy differed from that of 1 Cor 15:12-14 in which the dissenters considered the Resurrection as merely metaphorical not as physical.) The author encouraged his reader with a Scriptural quote assuring God's steady will (Num 16:5) and a church proverb that tied faith to morality (2 Tim 2:19).
The author returned to images, this time of vessels used by a rich household. Some were dishes made from gold or silver, implicitly used for banquets ("honorable use"). Others were made from wood or clay, implicitly used as excrement repositories ("dishonorable use"; 2 Tim 2:20). With these two images in mind, the author described Christian conversion implied in baptism ("cleanses self"), turning from pagan immorality ("dishonorable") to the high morality of the faithful ("honorable...set apart, useful for the Master, prepared for every good work"; 2 Tim 2:21). With this distinction in the background, the author exhorted the reader to "flee youthful passions" and turn towards a more placid spirituality of a mature Christian (2 Tim 2:22). He extended this peace-filled ideal to controversies caused by opponents. He encouraged the reader to ignore the intensity of the dissenters' debates but instead treat all, faithful and agitators alike, with patience and kindness. Such a tranquil attitude, even in chastising opponents, might lead to their repentance (2 Tim 2:23-26).
4. C2: Steadfast spirit in the face of internal opposition (3:1-4:5)
Now the author warned the reader about false teaching with the approaching end times. The reader would find pastoral work difficult (2 Tim 3:1). Purveyors of such instruction would clothe themselves in fake religiosity that masked all sorts of self- centered immorality and denied the power of God. They targeted women of the clan whom the author saw as weak, "...overwhelmed by sin...guided by many different desires...always seeking understanding, yet not able to come to a knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim 3:2-7). He warned the reader against such men (2 Tim 3:5) for they mirrored the Egyptian magicians who opposed Moses in Pharoah's court (see Exodus 7:10-12; tradition gave these men the names "Jannes and Jambres"). He held these men were intellectually and morally bankrupt because they stood against the faith ("truth"); they would soon show their true colors like the Egyptians (2 Tim 3:8-9).
By contrast, the author urged the reader to hold firm to his personal example, in terms of adherence to doctrine, high morality and courage in the face of persecution; he listed specific locales where he did suffer yet lived to serve again (Antioch in Acts 13:50; Iconium in Acts 14:4-5; Lystra in Acts 14:19; 2 Tim 3:10-11). Just as he suffered abuse, he insisted everyone would face some opposition while enemies would continue down the path of ignorance (2 Tim 3:12-13). Again, he encouraged the reader to remain faithful to the various teachers who instructed the latter in the faith from birth, especially in knowledge of the Scriptures (2 Tim 3:14-15); note the life-long instruction implied guidance from mother and grandmother (see 2 Tim 1:5) which counter-balanced the feminine weakness the author perceived in 2 Tim 3:6-7. He saw the content of that maternal instruction, Scripture, had its origin in the Spirit ("divinely breathed upon") and, so, was useful in teaching and correcting those believers in his care, providing for their spiritual growth (2 Tim 3:16-17).
The author invoked the presence of the Risen Christ who would judge all in the final glory, then exhorted the reader to proclaim the Word, to be prepared for the Second Coming and to guide his congregation with patience and sound teaching (2 Tim 4:1-2). He foresaw many would abandon the faith for teachers who soothed their "itching ears" and trade what they had learned for "myths" (2 Tim 4:3-4). Yet, he encouraged the reader to remain steadfast in his ministry, even in the face of hardship (2 Tim 4:5).
5. B2: The imprisoned author's conditions and warnings (4:6-18)
Using metaphors of libation offering and athletic competition, the author reflected on the end of his life. He imagined his life being poured out for the sake of evangelization like a wine sacrifice to God (2 Tim 4:6). Then he turned to the image of a finished foot race; he finished by holding fast to the faith; now he awaited the laurel wreath crown of victory ("crown of righteousness"), to be presented at the Second Coming not only to him but to all the faithful (2 Tim 4:7-8).
The author encouraged a return visit from the reader (2 Tim 4:9) then listed both friend and foe. Demas was a former friend (Philemon 1:24, Col 4:14) who abandoned the author for present allurements in Thessalonika; Crescens went to Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia (2 Tim 4:10). While the author commended Luke (Philemon 1:24, Col 4:14) as a companion, he called upon the reader to bring Mark (Philemon 1:24, Col 4:10) upon the latter's visit (2 Tim 4:12). While he send Tychicus (Acts 20:4, Eph 6:21, Col 4:7, Titus 3:12) to Ephesus, he requested the reader to bring his cloak, books to read and parchment to write upon (2 Tim 4:13). He warned the reader against Alexander the coppersmith who opposed the author's message; this could be the same man mentioned in 1 Tim 1:19-20 (2 Tim 4:15).
Despite opposition and personal hurt from fair-weather friends, the author praised God for his faithfulness. While no one accompanied the author on this first legal hearing, he was granted a reprieve ("rescued from the lion's mouth") so he could continue evangelizing (2 Tim 4:16-18).
6. A2: Farewell (4:19-22)
The author called upon the reader to send best wishes to Prisca and Aquila (Acts 18:2-3, Acts 18:18, Act 15:26, Rom 16:4, 1 Cor 16:19) and to the clan of Onesiphorus (2 Tim 1:16-18; 2 Tim 4:19). Next, he described the condition of Erastus, city treasurer of Corinth (Acts 19:22, Rom 16:23), and sickly Trophimus (Acts 20:4) whom he left at Miletus (2 Tim 4:20). He again asked the reader to visit before winter then sent the greetings of Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the faithful (2 Tim 4:21). he ended the letter with a blessing for the reader (2 Tim 4:22).
As an epistle of Church order, Titus was a letter of exhortation in three areas. First, its author (Paul?) instructed its recipient (Titus?) to appoint only honorable men to leadership positions in the local church. Next, the author then described the ideal Christian clan with reference to "sound teaching," within in the family by the matriarchs and to the larger community by the young men of the clan. Finally, the author advised the recipient in matters of pastoral care. The epistle stressed the connection between "sound teaching" (belief in the Second Coming) with the high moral lifestyle expected by the community.
B. Synopsis and Commentary of Titus
The overall structure is ABCBA:
A1: Greeting (1:1-4)
B1: Qualities for local leaders (1:5-16)
C: Ideal Christian clan (2:1-10)
B2: Pastoral care (2:11-3:11)
A2: Instructions, greetings, and blessing (3:12-15)
1. A1: Greeting (1:1-4)
Titus 1:1-3 was a long salutation that defined what the author (Paul?) was ("servant of God and apostle of Jesus Christ"), what he did (preaching "eternal life promised before the ages began...manifested in his word") and what his purpose was ("for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of truth").
Titus 1:4 mentioned the recipient (Titus?) of the letter. According to Gal 2:1-3, Titus was a Gentile Christian (Greek and uncircumcised) who joined Paul at the Jerusalem Council in 49 CE. He played an integral part of Paul's third missionary journey. He represented Paul when he delivered the "Book of Tears" to the Corinthian community (2 Cor 7:6-8), smoothed over relations between the apostle and the believers there (2 Cor 7:13-15)., then delivered the good news to Paul at Macedonia. He also coordinated the Jerusalem collection in Corinth (2 Cor 8:6, 2 Cor 8:16-17, 2 Cor 8:21).
Acts never mentioned a person by the name of Titus. This glaring omission have led some scholars to posit an alias for Paul's helper but this remained a minority opinion.
2. B1: Qualities for local leaders (1:5-16)
In the text, the author (Paul?) gave the reader (Titus?) orders to serve the believers on island of Crete by creating communities, staffed by elders ("presbyteroi" in Greek; Titus 1:5); he outlined the qualifications for the elders (monogamous, believing and obedient children; Titus 1:6). He then focused upon qualifications for the overseer ("episkopos" in Greek) of the community, seeking highly moral and stable leaders who showed hospitality; he expected these men to keep true to the faith, defend it against opponents and exhort the community (Titus 1:7-8). Notice he expected the leaders to have an honorable reputation.
Just as the author encouraged the reader to choose the honorable, he urged him to reject the dishonorable, namely the slothful and deceitful, especially the Jewish-Christians (Titus 1:10, Titus 1:14). In a culture that encouraged dubious practices (Titus 1:12), local leaders should sharply rebuke these opponents so the community members might remain faithful (Titus 1:11, Titus 1:13). The author discounted any worth his opponents claimed to have (Titus 1:16-15).
3. C: Ideal Christian clan (2:1-10)
After the author exhorted the reader to teach "sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1), he sketched the portrait of the ideal Christian clan. He urged the patriarch to act honorably and have a steadfast spirit (Titus 2:2). He wanted the matriarch to refrain from gossip and excess drink; instead, she should teach her daughters to act as honorable wives and members of the household, for the reputation of the family reflected on that of the local church (Titus 2:3-5). In the same way, he urged younger men of the clan to control their passions, show good example in their lives and teach with integrity so their opponents would be silenced, even shamed (Titus 2:6-8). Notice moral teaching within the extended family fell to the women (Titus 2:3), outside the clan to the younger men; in this way, both brought honor to the patriarch. He directed servants to show honorable deference to their masters so the could evangelize the household ("adorn the doctrine of God our Savior"; Titus 2:9-10). Throughout this passage, the author connected doctrine with ethics.
4. B2: Pastoral care (2:11-3:11)
The author turned to the leaders as models of faith for the believers. Because grace appeared to save everyone, it trained the leaders to live highly moral lives, different from those of the pagans (Titus 2:11-12). These honorable lives justified belief in the Second Coming (Titus 2:13). Christ gave himself to free people from immorality and empowered ("purified") them to do good deeds (Titus 2:14). (Note both grace and Christ's gift of self formed the "A" of a chiasmus; both supported the "B" step, belief in the Second Coming). The author urged Titus to exhort and rebuke based upon "full authority" of the Good News; the reader should demand respect for his ministry (Titus 2:15).
The author instructed the reader (and, by extension, community leaders) to exhort the faithful to be good citizens (obedient to "rulers and authorities") and good neighbors, thus showing good example (Titus 3:1-2). He pointed to their former lives as pagans, contrasting the high morality expected in the local church with the low morality of the general population (Titus 3:3). Then, he summarized the neophyte's journey to faith: salvation through divine initiative (Titus 3:4), baptism (Titus 3:5) and justification for eternal life (Titus 3:6-7). He insisted the legitimacy of that spiritual journey as the basis of a high morality (Titus 3:8). Any deviation from that path ("foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions and quarrels about the Law") had no merit; anyone who stirred up such trouble, even after several warnings, should be shunned (Titus 3:9-11). Note the parallels in 3:1-11 formed a small chiasmus: step A1) high morality, low morality (3:1-6), step B) journey of faith (3:4-7), step A2) faithfulness to the path, dissension (3:8-11).
5. A2: Instructions, greetings, and blessing (3:12-15)
The author gave the reader several instructions from his residence at Nicopolis (because there were a few Greek cities with that name, the place referred to remained unknown). Artemas or Tychicus would bear the letter to the reader with orders to send Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way with all necessary provisions (Titus 3:12-13). Artemas and Zenas have only this one reference in the Bible, so they remain in relative obscurity. We mentioned Tychicus at the beginning of the commentary.
Apollos was a Christian missionary and apologist who possessed a depth of knowledge concerning the Hebrew Scriptures. He entered the picture as a disciple of John the Baptist but, under the tutelage of Priscilla and Aquila, gained a fuller understanding of the Good News (Acts 18:24-28). Paul mentioned the missionary's work in Corinth (1 Cor 3:6); his influence gained him a following in the community there equal to that of Paul or Peter (1 Cor 3:4-6).
The author finished the letter with an exhortation to "good works," especially hospitality, and a prayer of grace upon the audience (Titus 3:3:14-15).
The three Pastoral letters presented a knotty problem to us. On the one hand, a gloss of the texts indicated a straight forward correspondence between Paul who languished in a Roman jail towards the end of his life with two disciples, Timothy and Titus. On the other hand, however, the content of the letters could not possibly correspond to the struggles Christians experienced in the waning days of the apostolic era; the details of internal strife caused by dissident teachers, the development of church offices and the stability of the Christian clan argued for a later date, well into the second century CE. These letters do provide a clear picture of the challenges faced by the Church in Asia Minor and Crete during that time and a snapshot of the life in the faith communities throughout those regions. As such, they act as a bridge between the post-apostolic era and the time of the early Church fathers.
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