Questions, Insights, & Responses

shared from and with users

#114 - 1 Timothy - not written by Paul?

by Robert Nguyen Cramer

This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.





I've appreciated looking at your website. I was especially interested in the explanation of Paul's position regarding the role of women. I'm surprised to read that you would not attribute 1 Timothy to Paul, among other things. That would mean the first two verses are outright lies, and then the whole book loses credibility for me. So such a conclusion has huge implications. Therefore, I would be interested to know on what basis you arrived at such a conclusion. The basis for it in the article was sketchy. I am not a specialist, and so quotations of experts are not sufficiently convincing or authoritative to me unless I know and can weigh for myself the basic facts on which they based their judgement. Maybe you can refer me to a book, or state simply the reasoning behind your opinion. Thanks much.


You ask very good questions. Biblical scholars dispute 6 of the New Testament writings that bear Paul's name: Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus. It also should be noted that though the KJV names the Letter to the Hebrews as "The Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Hebrews," Paul's name is not found anywhere in that letter in the Greek, and virtually no credible scholars believe that Paul was its author.

William G. Doty (Letters in Primitive Christianity, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1973, 65-81, "Early Christian Letters") explains:

Paul, in spite of resistance during his life to his claim to be an apostle, attained apostolic status soon after his death... Those among Paul's followers who thought that they especially understood what Paul had been up to came to feel that they could anticipate what Paul would have had to say to particular later situations. All of these factors explain the literature which arose after the time of Paul that was couched in his name -- and in letters. What better way to stress continuity with Paul than to form one's material into letters? And since standards of authorship were hardly as legalized and copyrighted as they are today, why not take the final step of claiming that the letters were from the hand of Paul? This is precisely what did happen... The first group, the Deutero-Pauline letters, makes explicit claim to be Pauline, and includes the letters to Timothy and to Titus. These three together are usually termed the Pastoral letters... (page 65)

Since Paul came to be considered the role model for those in authority over dispersed church communities, his model as a letter writer was similarly copied. Identification with Paul went to the extent that later authors felt that they were extending Paul's own work. Hence there was nothing strange about actually writing in Paul's name, or in the name of another apostolic leader. (page 67)

Ephesians and Colossians have so many ties to the Pauline letters that they have frequently been understood as stemming from Paul himself. While defenders of Pauline authenticity can still be found -- especially for Colossians -- both letters are usually considered today to come from followers of Paul, who were familiar with his language, form, and theology. Ephesians, because it seems to summarize and draw together Pauline thought (especially on the nature of the church), has been considered as a brief introduction to the letters of Paul. More likely it is an attempt to present a summary, together with post-Pauline developments of theology, based on but superceding Paul... Colossians similarly reflects Pauline imagery, theology, and letter form, although there are clear differences in theological understanding. Second Thessalonians also reflects very close ties to Paul, but its differences are such that it may also be best described as originating from a developing "Pauline school" rather than from the hand of Paul; the writing may have been occasioned primarily by attempts to modify Pauline eschatology. Esphesians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians are often grouped as the "Pseudo-Pauline letters." (page 69)

For additional details on this subject, you can also read Helmut Koester's chapter section on "The Transformation of Pauline Theology into Ecclesiastical Doctrine" (pages 266-310) in his History and Literature of Early Christianity, Second Edition (NY: Walter De Gruyter Press, 2000). This work is also known as his Introduction to the New Testament, Volume Two.

Some additional helpful answers can be found at the following:


Copyright 1996-2004 Robert Nguyen Cramer