Professor April DeConick On Studying The Transgressors

OK, I freely admit that football season here in the states has slowed down my progress on 1 Timothy.

In one sense, this is good. It takes time to think through the project and come up with more questions to ask and more options to consider.

As an aside, I happened to listen to a video today and just had to post up the quote because it seems to apply to the 1 Timothy study quite well!

Starting at about 8:29  in the video, Professor DeConick states that she likes to study “the transgressors”…those “on the edges” and states that one of her professors told her,
“If you want to understand the really early traditions look at the people on the edges about a hundred years later because as the tradition norms, as it becomes more normal and less radical, those radical people in the beginning are pushed toward the outside and so are their ideas.”
Further, she asks, “Why did they become outsiders? Because at some point they were insiders.”
Very good questions to ask in an examination of a letter that appears to have been a power play to create just such an insider/outsider division.
A little something to tease the mind and consider as we look at the early church, who was in, who was out, etc…
You can peruse her most excellent site direct at:

1 Timothy 1:1-2

1.1 Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus according to the authority of God our Savior and Christ Jesus our hope. 2 To Timothy, a true child in faith; grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (translation mine)

  • Παῦλος ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ κατʼ ἐπιταγὴν θεοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν καὶ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ τῆς ἐλπίδος ἡμῶν2 Τιμοθέῳ γνησίῳ τέκνῳ ἐν πίστει· χάρις, ἔλεος, εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς καὶ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν.

     1:1 Χριστο ησο WH Treg NA28  ] Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ RP     •      Χριστο ησο WH Treg NA28 ]  κυριόυ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ RP     2 πατρς WH Treg NA28  ] +  ἡμῶν RP

As usual, the first few verses of a New Testament writing set the scene so to speak and the same goes for these opening two verses. I will keep it brief, as much more can be found in standard commentaries on these verses.

Key words:

  • Verse 1: “according to the authority of God” ~ ἐπιταγὴν θεοῦ – No matter how one translates this it comes down to a matter of authority. The writer asserts that Paul’s authority/commission/command comes from God. Paul typically did assert his calling or service as an apostle, but this presents a whole new angle that more directly asserts authority for the words and instruction to follow. Again, this begs the question, would Paul have had to exert this much force with Timothy? It doesn’t seem necessary that he would have to do so. The strength of this thought will fore fully play out in verse 7 with those who “wish to be teachers.”
  • Verse 2: “true child” (of one born to a married couple) ~ γνησίῳ τέκνῳ – Another angle that asserts authority passed down legitimately from God to Paul to Timothy. In other words, what is to follow is pure teaching. Think in terms of contrast: true/false, real/fake, legitimate/illegitimate. These opening lines are setting up the discourse to follow in opposition to the way other Christians are interpreting, reading and living out their faith

The introduction is irregular compared to typical Pauline writings on at least several counts:

  1. Paul’s introduction is overly formal and overtly emphatic of Paul’s authority. In Paul’s letters to the churches this makes sense, but in a seeming private correspondence to a well known co-worker it would be unnecessary. Miller points out that John Calvin noticed this in his commentary when he wrote that Paul had “no need to set forth his titles and reassert his claims to apostleship, as he does here, for the name alone would have certainly have been enough for Timothy.” Further, Calvin concluded that the Pastorals must have been intended for a larger audience, but if so, then why was there no reference to them? (57, n.1)
  2. Nowhere else in Paul’s letter do we see him refer to God as Savior. Yet in the Pastorals it isused ten times. Six in reference to God (1 Tim. 1.1, 2.3, 4.10, Titus 1.3, 2.10, 3.4) and four to Jesus as Savior (2 Tim. 1.10, Titus 1.4, 2.13, 3.6). (Miller 57)
  3. The reference to Jesus as “our hope” is a phrase Paul uses five times in the PE and only five other times total in his other letters. A minor point, but still one that is unusual. Miller, citing C.K. Barrett, suggests that these items reveal liturgical additions and propose that Paul might have simply written, “Paul to Timothy, my true child in the faith. Grace and peace from God our Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (59)
  4. The language change from Christ as Savior to God as Savior as well as from Jesus Christ to Christ Jesus suggests a later writing borrowing from popular liturgical sayings as opposed to typical Pauline phrases. Further, the phrase “in faith” is not known to be something Paul might write. (Dibelius 13-14)
  5. It is interesting that the writer references Christ Jesus three times in these two verses, yet doesn’t go on to delve into any Christological themes as Paul was known to do. One might suggest that the corrective matters at hand took precedence. However, it also seems to stack the deck with another item pressing too hard for authenticity. (Krause 29-30)

The result yields an introduction that for all intents and purposes should sound Pauline, but in reality is a bit of a “clanging cymbal.”

This introduction, as well as 2 Timothy and Titus, seem to have become formulaic in usage. Let’s not forget that in our culture and age, we can readily examine several other Pauline letters just bu flipping a few pages in any Bible, so spotting a counterfeit is in some ways easier. It is quite possible that the intended audience, not necessarily Timothy alone, would have heard or read this introduction and accepted it as genuine simply because these words resonated with them as something Paul would say…”because these are things we say.”

This is, at least, one way to look at these two introductory verses as formulaic. They provided a formula of words that were quickly recognized as valid, as opposed to invalid. In other words, the writer is using words and phrases in such a way that the hearer/reader will immediately associate them with Paul…at least among themselves. The danger with formulaic phrases is that they can become catch phrases used to manipulate people, or in this case, those who heard or read this short letter.

Perhaps we, too, have become comfortable with the formulaic nature of certain phrases. Perhaps, upon tearing this letter apart and reconstructing it afresh in our hearts and minds we might be able to distinguish it for what it is and apply it accordingly. No doubt, this letter is a part of our Christian heritage and as such deserves a hearing.


One of the possibilities I would like to examine is that this writer was not Paul. It was someone, most definitely male, with authority among a group, church, group of churches or a region that was writing under Paul’s name to influence a change in teaching and practice toward what he thought was necessary. (Krause 29) So, in these first two verses alone, we already encounter “the others.” They are still off in the shadows, but make no mistake, they are the reason for this corrective letter. They have been called out and this author would prefer them to be silenced.


The Pastoral Epistles – My Approach

I love that scene…take it for what it is, just a quick illustration of how simple making a choice can be without truly knowing the implications of that choice.

A word of caution, if you will, before I/we depart on this journey through what are commonly known as The Pastoral Epistles.

I am taking a critical path. One that will begin with the premise that the Apostle Paul did not write 1 & 2 Timothy or Titus. The texts I cite for the most part have already traveled this path in one manner or another. Likely, as I progress I will build upon my posts regarding methodology, approach and hermeneutic. But for now, this short advanced warning will do.

This is a bit of an experiment for me, since I have only been taught the standard Evangelical take on the matter: that Paul wrote these letters in one way or another and as such they are infallible, inerrant and authoritative for the church past, present and future. Yet, over the years, I have increasingly struggled with this point of view and have seen other ways of interpreting these texts. Since then, I have come to realize that I don’t need to win any arguments or prove anything to anyone.

Indeed, one of the most memorable moments of my time in seminary was when a professor introduced the word “plausible.” It didn’t mean as much to me then as it does now. For what I didn’t comprehend at the time was the incredibly deep and vast gray space he was opening up to us as students. Such a gray fog can be haunting to first year seminarians seeking the truth. Yet, I have come to rest in that space, realizing that we are so very far removed from the first Christians and their culture that connecting with them through the scriptures often takes time and effort.

Therefore, as we read, study, contemplate and live out our faith we would do well to embrace the plausible among the things we hold dear. Consider them, push their limits, milk them for all they are worth.

So, enough sermonizing. I appreciate that not everyone who landed on this page will enjoy this critical study, so for those who are looking for the more standard Evangelical and conservative fare, I can heartily recommend the following books:

1 & 2 Timothy, Titus – Gordon Fee

The Letters to Timothy and Titus (NICNT) – Phil Towner

Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 46, Pastoral Epistles  – Bill Mounce

For those, like me, who are curious and want to see “how deep the rabbit hole goes,” well, let’s begin!

Paul and the Pastorals – J. R. Daniel Kirk Responds

I just saw this today while perusing J. R. Daniel Kirk’s site Storied Theology (one of my favorite blogs by the way) and thought it appropriate to post up since I am in the midst of this topic myself.

His take on it here is brief, but he makes a few really good points on both the rationale and methodology behind even asking such a question – Did Paul write Timothy/Titus? – and the reasons why he came to the conclusion that Paul did not.

This is a much bigger study than I originally anticipated, but has been very insightful and has challenged me in a number of ways.

So, since some of my readers are waiting for more on this from me, I thought this post might get some thoughts flowing.


Pastoral Epistles – A Short Bibliography

46 is the earliest (nearly) complete manuscrip...
46 is the earliest (nearly) complete manuscript of the Epistles written by Paul in the new testament. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here are several of the sources I am working through and will cite:

Colloquium Oecumenicum Paulinum, and Karl P Donfried.  “1 Timothy Reconsidered.”  Peeters, 2008.

  • Well balanced, recent scholarship, excellent chapters from Margaret M. Mitchell and Luke Timothy Johnson,  Karl Donfried’s comments are both commanding and centering.

Guthrie, Donald.  “The Pastoral Epistles and the Mind of Paul.”  Website., n.d..

  • Older article available as a PDF, good introduction to the issue, holds to a Pauline writing of the letters.

Hylen, Susan.  “The Paradox of Women in the Early Church: 1 Timothy and the Acts of Paul and Thecla.”  Website., April 2012. (JBL?)

  • Seeks to break current/basic mindset regarding the roles of women in the early church, pursuasively contends that 1 Timothy and the Acts of Paul and Thecla do not portray opposite perspecives with regard to the portrayal of women.

James, M. R.  The Acts of Paul and Thecla.  Website., Trans. 1924.

  • Believed to be a second century document written by a Christian bishop who was later removed from his position for having written it, Tertullian’s comments about it promote the possibility that it was popular oral tradition among the early churches.

Knight, George William.  The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text.  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1992.

  • One of the first in the NIGNT series, surprisingly conservative, more surprisingly lacks insight at pivotal points, holds to Pauline authorship.

MacDonald, Dennis Ronald.  The Legend and the Apostle: The Battle for Paul in Story and Canon.  1st ed. Philadelphia: Westminister, 1983.

  • The book that got me thinking, compares & contrasts The Acts of Paul and Thecla to the Pastorals, holds to a purposeful second century pseudonymous authorship as a corrective to Christian asceticism.

MacDonald, Margaret Y.   The Pauline Churches: A Socio-Historical Study of Institutionalization in the Pauline and Deutrero-Pauline Writings.   Cambridge University Press, 2004.

  • Out the gate states the Pastorals are deutero-Pauline, looks at the issue sociologically with a view to the institutionalization of the church.

Miller, James D.  The Pastoral Letters as Composite Documents.  Cambridge University Press, 1997.

  • The second book that got me thinking ( I am currently on my second read), sees the Pastorals as composite documents much like The Gospel of Thomas was believed to be collected and distributed as a whole most likely in the late first or early second century.

Misselbrook, Peter.  Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus.  Website.  Misselbrook’s Musings, 2002.

  • From his notes on the Greek New Testament and downloadable as a PDF, an excellent resource to read as a commentary as you read the Greek, typically quotes conservative scholarship, portrays a Pauline authorship in his notes.

Rumney, Gavin.  “Issues Surrounding the Authorship and Dating of The Pastoral Epistles”  Blog.  Otagosh, May 6, 2008.

  • Another good introduction available as a PDF from a fellow New Zealand blogger.

Interpreting Scripture – The Pastoral Epistles As A Test Case

A nineteenth century picture of Paul of Tarsus
A nineteenth century picture of Paul of Tarsus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In an earlier post, I challenged Moises Silva where he was basically stating that his theology should inform his interpretation of a given text.

Building on that, I have found that interpreting the Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus) prove to be an excellent test case.

Scholars seem strongly divided into two main groups here, and it revolves around if Paul wrote these letters or not.  Now, as I will show later, there are actually dozens if not hundreds of possibilities and suggestions when it comes to how and when these letters were written. But let’s put that aside for the moment.  The two very general interpretive camps, as I see it, come down to the inspiration and authority of scripture.

Those who hold strongly to inerrancy, infallibility, and inspiration have a very difficult time accepting that anyone other than Paul himself wrote these letters.  Some may go as far as to say that he used an amenuensis (basically, someone we might understand to be a secretary) assist with the writing, but that the words are Paul’s as he was inspired by God to write them.

Those who are not as interested in inerrancy, infallibility and inspiration are seemingly quite ready and able to see other options, writers and possiblities for the production of these letters.

So, right out the gate, Silva’s model reveals it’s product – the text says what you believe it should say.  If the interpreter is an Evangelical, they read it as coming from Paul.  If the interpreter is not theologically predisposed, they read it as quite possibly coming from sources other than Paul.

Now this is where it gets interesting.

There are all sorts of theological issues embedded in these letters.  Probably the top three in contention these days are the issue of the role of women in ministry, the qualifications for ministry and the formation of scripture.

I would like to address these issues in future posts as I work through these three short letters because, for the most part, these issues can be interpreted in very different ways depending upon how the letters are approached.

Those that know me, will recall that I came from some pretty conservative theological roots.  None of my training for ministry, formal or informal, ever attempted to teach anyone but Paul the Apostle as the author to these letters.  After all, that is what the text itself says, right?


Any thoughts on this before I dive in?