The Glossary of Terms

The Pastoral Epistles

1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, & Titus



Young People's Bible Dictionary

by Barbara Smith (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965)

Timothy, The First and Second Letters of Paul to. Two N.T. books, letters to Timothy when he was in charge of the church of Ephesus; intended to help and encourage him in his duties. A very old tradition holds that Paul wrote these letters, but the ideas and the style do not seem to be Paul's. Perhaps a later writer refashioned some letter or fragments of letters that had been written by Paul. If Paul wrote the letters to Timothy, scholars believe he must have done so sometime after his imprisonment in Rome, assuming that he was acquitted and released.

Titus, The Letter of Paul to. N.T. book, a personal letter to Titus, who was then in Crete. It is similar to the letters to Timothy, and the same questions about it authorship are raised.

The New Jerome Biblical Commentary

edited by Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Roland E. Murphy (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990)

You are strongly recommended to add to your library this excellent commentary. It is arguably the best one-volume Bible commentary in English, and it is available at Border's Books,, or at Christian Book Distributors at

The Pastoral Epistles

Authorship. If Paul were the actual author of the Pastorals, the... chronological reconstruction would then need to be fitted into the full life history of the apostle. However, although there is not complete unanimity on the matter, since the early 19th century very many exegetes have argued that these letters are the pseudonymous creations of a later follower of Paul. These arguments seem quite convincing. Authough quite similar to one another in vocabulary, grammatical usage, and style, 1-2 Tim and Titus diverge sharply in all these respects from the clearly genuine letters of Paul... Numerous key theological terms used in the Pastorals do not appear in Paul..., and many words important in Paul's writings are not found in the Pastorals even where they would be expected... The collective absence of these latter terms is striking. As a group, further, the Pastorals contain a very high number of words not found elsewhere in the Pauline corpus or in the NT [New Testament]. Most important to note is the divergence between Paul and the Pastorals in the usage of various commplace and recurrent Greek adverbs, conjunctions, and particles, for such linguistic features are less subject to conscious control...

Those who defend the authenticity of the Pastorals offer various explanations of these features. Some suggest that Paul's advancing age and his suffering in prison account for the changes. However, according to the usual reckoning adopted by the defenders of authenticity, these letters would have been composed no more than fiive years after Romans. This makes it difficult to explain all the divergencies, especially the grammatical and syntactical shifts, on the basis of such psychological determinants.

More popular, therefore, has been the hypothesis that Paul told a secretary what themes he wished covered and handed over to that individual the actual work of composing the three letters. However, when Paul did make use of secretaries (see Rom 16:22; 1 Cor 16:21; Gal 6:11-18), his own typical style remained unaltered. If a secretary composed the Pastorals -- the Pastorals themselves offer no reference to such a person -- that individual was given unusual freedom by Paul. Furthermore, Paul had to have made use of the same secretary both in the E and in Rome over the whole period of time required for the compositions of the Pastorals, for these three letters possess remarkable stylistic consistency. This type of secretary theory, an unlikely hypthesis at best, ends up in any case quite akin to actual pseudononymous authorship.

The pastorals do not fit well into the biographical framework of Paul's life, and so are also suspect on that account... All agree that the Roman imprisonment of 2 Tim cannot be correlated with the imprisonment of Acts 28. Paul must then have been released from the earlier imprisonment, have traveled back to Crete and Ephesus (1 Tim and Titus), and then have returned to Rome where he was again put in jail (2 Tim) and finally executed. However, Paul spoke only of going to Spain and strongly implied that his work in the E was completed (Rom 15:17-19). Further, the close parallelism found in Luke-Acts between Jesus' journey to Jerusalem to undergo his crucifixion and Paul's journey to Rome seems to suppose that the latter's travels had also brought him to his death.

The Pastorals also present a much more developed church order than is found in the clearly genuine letters of Paul, a somewhat less heightened expectation of an imminent eschaton, and a christology that stressed Jesus' birth and resurrection but not, at least as much as in Paul, his crucifixion. Although developments certainly occurred within Christianity even during Paul's lifetime, changes such as these, taken together, tend to point to a later period than Paul's own age.

Harper’s Bible Commentary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)

The Pastoral Epistles

Authorship and Setting. The matters of authorship and setting are interwoven. The Letters are addressed to Paul’s faithful travel companions, Timothy and Titus, who have been allotted special spheres of labor: Timothy to the Macedonian churches and Titus in the church at Corinth. It is not surprising that both men received, according to these Letters, positions of pastoral leadership in the Pauline churches, at Ephesus and Crete respectively, and that Paul would wish to write to them in a way that fitted their needs as church “officials,” offering directives for the congregations on such matters as controlling, guiding, and instructing new members. False ideas had entered on the scene and are menacing, so the two pastors are called to be alert and active in repelling them.

Nevertheless, the question has been much debated whether Paul actually wrote these letters or whether a later writer employed Paul’s name to give credibility and authority to what he put down in writing, presumably believing that he was representing the apostle’s mind for a later generation. An intermediate position, much ventilated in recent decades, is that a member of Paul’s school used Paul’s fragmentary materials, especially to do with travel plans and personal matters (2 Tim. 3:10-11; 4:9-18), around which he wove these Letters to relate Paul’s teaching, as he understood it, to a fresh set of circumstances that arose after Paul’s martyrdom in a.d. 65.

Several reasons are offered by those who deny these Letters were written by Paul himself. First, some of the language, both in style and content, stands at odds with what we find in the accepted Letters of Paul. Other literary features are the heavy style, the insertion of hymnic and confessional passages (e.g., 1 Tim. 3:16; 2 Tim. 2:11-13), and the recital of ethical lists of virtues and vices (1 Tim. 1:9-10; 3:2-3; 6:11; Titus 1:7-8), along with the lengthy regulations given to control the selection and appointment of church leaders.

Conscious of these objections, some scholars (e.g., Kelly) have submitted that the differences in style and content, including the variations of titles ascribed to Christ and the heavy emphasis on ethical seriousness, can all be attributed to the use of a secretary whom Paul employed. Paul dictated the main themes to be inserted but left it to his amanuensis or secretary to fill out the Letter in the way he saw fit; hence the exceptional style and addition of non-Pauline language.

Second, the type of ministry outlined in these Letters, notably 1 Timothy 3, has been seen as pointing to a development of the Pauline model in a later decade, when the church moved to the pattern of a single leader in charge. On the other side, it has been argued that the model of ministry in these Letters is based on the ot Judaic pattern rather than the situation of a fully institutionalized church that we see in 1 Clement (a.d. 95) and Ignatius (ca. a.d. 110).

Third, the false teaching opposed by the writer has similarly been interpreted in different ways. The nineteenth-century Tübingen school—which proposed a theory of early Christian development based on continual conflict—confidently appealed to 1 Tim. 6:20 as a sign that the Pastorals were written to counteract the influence of Marcion (ca. a.d. 140), a teacher deemed heretical and who wrote a book titled Antitheses, "Contradictions” — the very term used in this text.

But it is extremely unlikely that the Pastorals are so late, since the false ideas are not those of the second century and share a more Jewish character (1 Tim. 1:4; cf. 4:7; Titus 3:9; 2 Tim. 4:4). Decisively, the persecutions envisioned in these Letters predate the imperial policy of hostility that may have begun as early as the emperor Domitian (ca. a.d. 90).

Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

The Pastoral Letters

Outline of Contents

Origin and Authorship: Questions concerning the origin of the Pastorals remain in debate. Are they to be ascribed to Paul directly, or were they perhaps written by a secretary? Alternatively, are they pseudonymous writings composed in the name of the great apostle and containing personal notes that are either fragments of genuine letters or are introduced to give the writer’s communication a conventional ‘letter’ form, naming persons known to have been related to Paul’s missions in one way or another? Ancient church tradition concerning the origin of the Pastorals is inconclusive. Decisions must therefore be based on internal evidence, which is, on no single point, decisive.

Two major approaches to the Pastorals proceed from different assumptions and lead to possibly different conclusions. As long as questions concerning Pauline authorship predominate, attention focuses upon the personal notes in the Pastorals, especially in 2 Timothy, and their bearing upon data concerning the course of the apostle’s ministry, as such are disclosed in the acknowledged Letters of Paul and in Acts. Was Paul released from his Roman imprisonment and able to resume his missions in the provinces of Asia and Macedonia, perhaps to establish a Christian community on the isle of Crete? Was he arrested again, tried, and put to death? If the Pastorals are letters from Paul, then some such scenario would seem to be required. Moreover, it must be argued that new and different circumstances led to a ‘development’ in Paul’s theology and ethical teaching which was needed to take the new situation into account. Nevertheless, Pauline authorship is possible.

The alternative approach assumes at the outset that there are sufficient problems relative to traditional views respecting Pauline authorship to suggest that a clarification should first be sought of the historical setting of the Pastorals, a determination of the nature of the ‘heresy’ to which the author constantly alludes, and some understanding of the writer’s theological emphases and of the situations prompting certain household and congregational rules urged upon the readers. Here, the conclusion reached by the great majority of scholars is that the Pastorals are to be ascribed to a pseudonymous Christian writer of the early second century, who was convinced that Paul’s teaching was normative for the church, and that Paul would have addressed existing conditions in the same way, were he alive and able to guide the work of other apostolic delegates, the successors of Paul’s own co-workers of an earlier period.

Major Concerns: The contents of the pastoral Letters reveal two major concerns: the threat of serious heresy; and the urgency of preventive measures, which will give stability to the church and render effective its witness in the world. The author does not debate the heretics, but rather strongly criticizes their behavior. Neither does he prescribe the content of the ‘sound doctrine’ that officers of the church are to use in defense of ‘the faith’; his concern is that these ‘apt teachers’ of the church exhibit impeccable rectitude. A few features of the heresy are, however, noted. An asceticism was being taught that opposed marriage (1 Tim. 2:15; 4:3; 5:14) and prescribed abstinence from certain foods (1 Tim. 4:3; 5:23; Titus 1:15). Two heretics were teaching that ‘the resurrection is past already,’ which implies a spiritualism in which the heavenly life was experienced in the present (2 Tim. 2:18). References to ‘myths and genealogies’ (1 Tim. 1:4; cf. Titus 3:9) may imply the influence of a gnosticizing Judaism (a view that is supported by references to Jewish elements in the heresy; 1 Tim. 1:7-11; Titus 3:9).

The writer’s concern for the various ministries of the church seems to reflect a need to clarify their respective functions, a situation similar to that disclosed in early second-century texts, such as the Didache and the Letters of Ignatius.

These and other considerations support the widely held opinion that the pastoral Letters belong to the postapostolic age and are addressed to the concerns of second-generation Christianity. No longer were Christians convinced that the world-order would soon pass away with the glorious return of the Christ. The spiritual vigor that characterized the Pauline missions was replaced by an equally serious mandate: to establish the church as ‘the pillar and bulwark of the truth’ (1 Tim. 3:15). To this end, true successors of Paul and his apostolic delegates had to be found who, by virtue of their offices, authority, and personal examples, would be able to defend ‘the deposit’ of the faith of the apostle, entrusted to them, and be ready like Paul to take their share of suffering for the gospel.

See also, which includes the following five sections:

  1. The Christian standand: Jesus' non-descriminatory treatment of women
  2. An illustration of repeated need for correction of an early church leader
  3. Paul (a champion of women's participation) and later writings attributed to him that misrepresented him
  4. Conclusion regarding the fallibility of early church leaders
  5. What we can do to make things right

See also, which provides a further explanation regarding Paul having not been the author of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Ephesians, Colossians, or 2 Thessalonians.

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