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Pastoral Epistles

On Church Organization in the Pauline letters

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In order to understand the information in the Pastoral Letters regarding the organization and administration of churches (cf. Part 6), a survey of the evidence from the Pauline corpus as a whole will be useful. Here it is important to distinguish the letters where there is little or no question of authorship by Paul, and those which many critical commentators regard as pseudonymous. The undisputed Pauline letters are (roughly in chronological order):

  • 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, 1 Corinthians, Romans, 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Philemon; to which I add 2 Thessalonians and Colossians

All of these would have been written in the period c. 48-60 A.D. The letters most often thought to be pseudonymous are:

  • Ephesians and the Pastorals (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus)

If these are authentically Pauline, then they probably would have been written c. 60-63 A.D.; if pseudonymous, then they would be later productions, the Pastorals often dated to the end of the 1st century (c. 80-100) or even the beginning of the 2nd. I discussed the situation regarding the Pastoral letters briefly in Part 5, mentioning that, in my view, the evidence for pseudonymity is a bit stronger for 1 Timothy. Personally, I am inclined to the view (on objective grounds) that 2 Timothy is genuinely Paul’s work, and probably so for Titus as well. I leave open the (reasonably strong) possibility that 1 Timothy is a later work, written in imitation of 2 Timothy (and possibly Titus), and will use this as a working hypothesis for the short study below.

The Earliest Letters

Of the 7/9 ‘undisputed’ letters of Paul (cf. above), it is interesting to note that church organization and administration does not play a major role, at least in terms of providing specific detail as to how congregations are (or ought to be) governed. Paul writes a good deal about his own ministry work, along with that of his fellow missionaries, including his (and their) role as apostle (a)po/stolo$)—1 Thess 1:2-10; Gal 1, etc. This derives from the very early Christian idea of one who was sent forth (to preach the Gospel, etc) as a representative of Christ. Early tradition centers this idea with the Twelve (Mark 3:13-19 par; Acts 1:13, 16-26), and those first believers (in Jerusalem) who witnessed the resurrected Jesus and participated in the initial wave of missionary activity (Acts 1-2ff; 1 Cor 15:5-11; on Rom 16:7 cf. Part 4). These missionaries and preachers played a leading role in the founding of the first congregations all throughout Syria-Palestine and the wider Greco-Roman world. When addressing the congregations, in the earliest surviving correspondence (1 [and 2] Thessalonians, Galatians, 1 Corinthians), Paul gives little indication of a well-defined church structure, tending to emphasize the ideal that all believers have a place (and important roles to play) in the body of Christ—1 Thess 1:3ff; 4:9; 2 Thess 1:3-4, 15; 3:6ff; Gal 3:26-29; 6:15-16; 1 Cor 1:2, 10ff, 26-31; 2:14-16; 3:1-4, 21-23; chaps. 11-14, etc. The only passage which suggests definite leadership roles within the congregation is 1 Thess 5:12f:

“And I ask of you, brothers, to have seen [i.e. to recognize] the (one)s laboring [kopiw=nta$] among you and standing before [proi+stame/nou$] you in (the) Lord and putting (things) in mind [nouqetou=nta$] for you, and to give them the lead [i.e. judge/esteem/consider them] over and above [i.e. abundantly] in love through [i.e. because of] their work.”

The three verbs (participles) indicated here are not titles or official positions, but rather describe roles and regular activity (“work/labor”) within the congregation. The second verb (proi+/sthmi) implies a leading role—one who provides guidance, help (and protection) for the congregation (cf. Rom 12:8; 16:2, also 1 Tim 3:4-5 etc). The third (nouqete/w) indicates teaching and instruction (cf. 2 Thess 3:15; Rom 15:14; 1 Cor 4:14 etc). Such persons are to be accorded positions of honor and respect within the congregation. In Galatians, the rhetorical thrust of the letter prompts Paul to downplay positions of (supposed) authority in the Church—even that of apostle—subordinating all human authority to the truth of the Gospel (Gal 1:6-9, 11-23; 2:1-10ff; 6:11-16).

1 Corinthians

The Corinthian correspondence (esp. 1 Corinthians) provides by far the greatest detail as to how congregations (are to) function. While the leading position of Paul and his fellow missionaries (Apollos, et al) as apostles and “servants” (cf. below on dia/kono$) remains prominent (cf. all through chaps. 1-4, 9; 16:10ff), the congregation is described in rather egalitarian and “democratic” terms; note the following:

  • The theme of unity which is set in contrast to divisions/groupings based on the authority, etc. of prominent individuals (1:10-17; 3:1-9, etc), including Apollos, Cephas (“Peter”) and Paul himself. The argument running through chapters 1-4 also functions as a warning toward those who might seek to control/influence believers on the basis of their gifts and talents.
  • In chapters 5-6 the emphasis is on the ability (and expectation) of believers to govern their own affairs, in a prudent and common-sense fashion. No mention is made of appeal to the authority of official positions in the churches, other than that of Paul (the apostle). Indeed, 5:3-5 suggests a straightforward division of authority: (a) the apostle, and (b) the assembled congregation (as a whole).
  • The lengthy and complex line of argument in chapters 8-10 has, at its core, that the “strong” in the churches should subordinate their own (personal) authority and interests to the good of the congregation (especially of the “weaker” members).
  • The discussion of corporate/community life and worship in chapters 1114 presents a model of many roles and functions, operating more or less equally—and in unity—within the congregation (the ‘body’ of Christ). Note the many different “gifts” of ministry mentioned in 12:4-11 (and the roughly contemporary list in Rom 12:4-8). Similarly, it is expected that many different people could (and should) participate actively in the worship-meeting (chap. 14, esp. verses 26-33). There is no suggestion that any of these roles were reserved for specific “offices”. Moreover, it is clear that men and women both could take active speaking/preaching roles in the meeting, as long as certain customs were properly observed (11:2-16). The two ‘highest’ gifts or roles were that of: (1) apostle, i.e. the missionaries who were involved in the founding of the churches and their oversight; and (2) prophet, i.e. one who communicates the (revealed) word and will of God to the congregation. Cf. 1 Cor 12:28-31; 14:1ff, 24, 29-33, 37-39; Rom 12:6; Eph 4:11.

dia/kono$

The Greek word dia/kono$ (diákonos, “servant”) can range in meaning from a waiter of tables (cf. Acts 6:1-6) to a person who holds public office (including a religious office). It is used 21 times in the Pauline corpus, including 12 (or 16) times in the undisputed letters. In most instances, Paul clearly understands it, not as the title of an official position (i.e. deacon), but in the general sense of “minister”—that is, of Christ and the Gospel. He likely views it as partly synonymous with dou=lo$ (“slave”)—i.e. slave/servant of Christ, which Paul applies to himself (and others) frequently in his letters (Rom 1:1; Gal 1:10, et al). The word certainly has this general (Christian) meaning in Rom 16:1 (cf. the discussion in Part 4); 1 Cor 3:5; 2 Cor 3:6; 6:4; 11:15, 23; Col 1:7, 23, 25; 4:7; and cf. Eph 3:7; 6:21; 1 Tim 4:6. It is also used in a general sense of Christ (Gal 2:17; Rom 15:8), and human (civil) authorities (Rom 13:4). Only in 1 Tim 3:8-12 does dia/kono$ likely refer to a distinct office (or official position) in the Church; on Phil 1:1, cf. below.

Philippians 1:1

Paul’s greeting in Phil 1:1 includes the somewhat unusual phrase (in italics):

“…to all the holy ones [i.e. “saints”] in (the) Anointed Yeshua {Christ Jesus}…(together) with (the) overseers and servants/ministers“.

Here Paul seems to distinguish two groups (or positions) that are set apart from the congregation as a whole. The second of these (dia/kono$, “servant”, i.e. ‘minister’) has been discussed above. The first word requires special comment.

e)pi/skopo$ (epískopos)—This word fundamentally means “one who looks (carefully) over something”. It occurs only five times in the New Testament (Acts 20:28; Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3:2; Tit 1:7; 1 Pet 2:25), but cf. also the related verb e)piskope/w (Heb 12:15; 1 Pet 5:2). This careful examination (“looking over”) is usually understood as being done by an authority or person appointed (as a representative) for such a task. The related noun e)piskoph/ sometimes has the specific meaning of the actual visit (or time of the visit) made for examination/inspection—in Jewish tradition, for the time God visits the earth for Judgment (Lk 19:44; 1 Pet 2:12). Acts 1:20 (citing Psalm 109:8) uses e)piskoph/ in the sense of a position (that of apostle), and so also in 1 Tim 3:1. The best translation for e)pi/skopo$ is “overseer”; it really should not be rendered in the New Testament as “bishop”, not even in the Pastoral letters.

The word is used only once in the undisputed letters of Paul (Phil 1:1), but also occurs in the context of early Christian (and Pauline) tradition in Acts 20:28. In that narrative setting, Paul is addressing the “elders” (presbu/teroi) of the churches of Ephesus, who have come to visit him, at his request, in Miletus (v. 17-18). Here is the instruction he gives them in verse 28:

“Hold (attention) toward yourselves and to(ward) all the herd [i.e. flock {of sheep}], in which the holy Spirit has set/placed you (as) overseers [e)pisko/pou$] to (shep)herd the congregation [e)kklhsi/a] of God, which he made (to be) round about (himself) [i.e. he acquired] through (his) own blood.”

Assuming that this reflects authentic historical tradition, it would correspond roughly to the time of Phil 1:1 (c. 60 A.D.). All that is really indicated here is that elders (certain of them at least) are to oversee the welfare and protection of the congregations, especially against false teaching. Their roles are described only generally in this regard. They are to continue and preserve/maintain the work done by the founding missionaries (Paul and the other apostles), and so act with some measure of (apostolic) authority, if only by example. One or more elders would fulfill this role for each congregation (usually a house-church) in each city or location. What of the situation implied by Paul in Phil 1:1? The fact that these two roles/positions—e)pi/skopo$ and dia/kono$—are not discussed anywhere else in the letter (nor really in any of the other [undisputed] Pauline letters) strongly suggests that we are still dealing with a very generalized distinction, which I would summarize as follows:

  • e)pi/skopo$ refers to the elder (or elders) who has come to exercise the leading role(s) in overseeing the congregation; these persons may have been appointed by Paul (or other apostles) and confirmed (presumably) through a ritual process involving the laying on of hands.
  • dia/kono$ refers to any/all persons exercising (leading) ministry roles in the congregation, presumably according to the spiritual “gifts” and abilities recognized in 1 Cor 12ff; Rom 12:6-8, etc.

Ephesians 4:11

Eph 4:11-12 contains a list of “gifts” similar to those in 1 Cor 12:4-11 and Rom 12:4-8, only the emphasis is not so much on the Spirit—rather they are said to have been given by Christ. Also, the various gifts in the earlier letters have been ‘replaced’, it would seem, by more clearly defined roles in the Church—five are listed:

(1) Apostles, (2) Prophets, (3) Preachers, i.e., those proclaiming the Gospel, (4) ‘Shepherds’, and (5) Teachers

The first two match the two ‘highest’ gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians, while preaching/proclamation of the Gospel and teaching are natural functions for any Christian minister. In early tradition, it seems clear that “shepherd” (poimh/n) is generally synonymous with e)pi/skopo$ (“overseer”), as attested both in Acts 20:28 (above) and in 1 Pet 2:25. Most likely, poimh/n was the older, and more widely used term, going back to Jesus’ own words and the Gospel tradition (regarding Peter, etc)—cf. Mark 6:34; 14:27 par; John 10:2-16; 21:15-17; 1 Cor 9:17; 1 Pet 5:2. The corresponding (traditional) word in English is “pastor”. It should be noted that many commentators believe that Ephesians is pseudonymous, serving as a kind of compendium of Pauline teaching, much as it is assumed for the Pastoral letters. Whether or not this view is valid, it does seem that this passage reflects some degree of development—i.e. a five-fold ministry instead of the more diverse ministerial roles indicated within 1 Corinthians. On the other hand, assuming Pauline authorship, it is possible that these five roles effectively summarize what Paul has in mind when he uses the term dia/kono$ (“servant”) to refer to the (leading) ministers in the Church.

2 Timothy and Titus

There is actually very little information regarding the structure and organization of the churches in these letters, which, perhaps, could be seen as an (additional) argument in favor of their authenticity (in contrast with 1 Timothy). In 2 Timothy, the focus is almost entirely on Paul’s (personal) instruction to Timothy. According to the (assumed) historical situation, Timothy would be serving as Paul’s (apostolic) representative, exercising authority and care over all the congregations in a particular region (trad. the area around Ephesus, cf. 1 Tim 1:3). He is exhorted to follow Paul’s example, and to preserve correct teaching and tradition (as it has been passed down to him). Very little detail is given with regard to ministerial roles in the churches, apart from a reference (in passing) to the practice of the laying on of hands (1:6). In Titus, the apostolic role is set out more precisely (Tit 1:5ff; 2:1ff), and several of the points of instruction are treated much more extensively in 1 Timothy; note especially:

  • The reference to the establishment of elders (presbu/teroi) in each town/congregation (1:5-6ff); such elders are called “overseer” (e)pi/skopo$), as in Acts 20:28 (cf. above). Cf. 1 Tim 3:1-13.
  • The guidelines on how to give instruction, and on the roles of men and women, etc., in the churches (2:1-10, cf. 1 Tim 2:1-10ff; 5:1-6:2).

In my view, it is incorrect to read a later, developed view of bishop into the reference to “overseers” in Tit 1:7ff. Here in Titus (and 1 Timothy), it is clear that the “elders” are understood as men (i.e. gender-specific), and perhaps also in Acts 20:17, etc. Interestingly, presbu/tero$ (whether singular or plural) is not used in any of the undisputed letters of Paul, only in the Pastorals (1 Tim 5:1-2, 17, 19; Tit 1:7).

1 Timothy

Here, in all of the New Testament writings, we find the clearest (and most extensive) information about specific ministry roles or positions in the Church. They are:

  • “Overseer” (e)pi/skopo$)—3:1-7
  • “Servant/Minister” (dia/kono$)—3:8-12
  • “Widow” (xh/ra)—5:2-16, i.e. female “elders”, ideally widows over the age of sixty, with a specific position and duties in the congregation
  • “Elders” (presbu/teroi)—5:17-20

Commentators continue to debate the precise meaning of e)pi/skopo$ (“overseer”) here. Much depends on one’s view of the authorship (and dating) of the letter. If it is authentically Paul’s work (and written before c. 64 A.D.), then it is likely that he is simply referring to the elder (or elders) appointed to oversee the congregation. On the other hand, a later (c. 80-110) pseudonymous writing may assume something closer to the bishop of subsequent ecclesiastical tradition—i.e., one who exercises authority over all the churches in a particular city or region, entailing a more direct hierarchical chain of government. According to the (presumed) historical setting of the Pastorals, only Timothy and Titus themselves, as Paul’s (apostolic) representatives, function in anything like this wider role. It is, I think, unwise to read the developed meaning of e)pi/skopo$ too readily into 1 Tim 3:1-7. Similarly, it is unclear whether, or to what extent, dia/kono$ (“servant/minister”) here fits the (later) office of deacon. The pairing of dia/kono$ with e)pi/skopo$ may simply be building upon the (earlier) terminology used in Phil 1:1 (cf. above). The “overseers” and “ministers” seem to be understood as gender-specific roles (1 Tim 3:2-5, 12); however, the reference to “women” in 3:11 could conceivably refer to female ministers (cf. Rom 16:1-2 and the separate note on v. 11). The widows (5:2-16) are generally the female counterpart to the (male) elders in 5:17-20.

Note of the Day (1 Tim 3:11)

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1 Timothy 3:11

An important reference in the Pastoral letters, related to the role of women in the Church, is 1 Tim 3:11, part of a section on “Church order” (3:1-13), in which Paul (or the author) discusses: (a) the position of “overseer” (Grk e)pi/skopo$, epískopos) in vv. 1-7, and (b) the position of “servant/minister” (dia/kono$, diákonos) in vv. 8-13. These terms are discussed in Part 6, including how they are used in the passage here. The only relevant occurrence of these words in the (undisputed) letters of Paul is in Philippians 1:1, where they are cited together as part of his greeting to the churches in Philippi: “…to all the holy ones [i.e. ‘saints’]… th(at) are in Philippi, (together) with (the) overseers and servants/ministers…”. This verse is also discussed in Part 6. Elsewhere, Paul always uses dia/kono$ in the general sense of a (Christian) ministerRom 15:8; 16:1 (cf. also 13:4); 1 Cor 3:5; 2 Cor 3:6; 6:4; 11:15, 23; Gal 2:17; Col 1:7, 23, 25; 4:7; also Eph 3:7; 6:21; 1 Tim 4:6. Only in Phil 1:1 and 1 Tim 3:8, 12 does the term seem to apply to an official position or “office” in the Church. The word e)pi/skopo$ does not appear anywhere else in the undisputed letters, only in 1 Tim 3:2 and Tit 1:7, though it is also used in a (Pauline) tradition recorded in Acts 20:17ff (v. 28). According to Acts 20:28 and Tit 1:5-9, the e)pi/skopo$ is an elder (presbu/tero$) who is appointed to oversee a congregation, especially in the sense of providing care and protection (from false teaching, etc). The term is more or less synonymous with the older title “shepherd” (poimh/n), as indicated by 1 Peter 2:25 and Eph 4:11, and roughly corresponds to the word “pastor” in English.

It is clear from 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 that “overseers” were understood to be men (i.e. male elders), but this is less certain with regard to the position of “servant/minister” (dia/kono$). In Rom 16:1, Phoebe is called dia/kono$—this is sometimes rendered “deaconess”, based on an understanding of the later Church office; however, as I have explained in Part 4 (on Rom 16:1-2ff), this is anachronistic, and the word as it is used everywhere except in 1 Timothy (and, possibly, Phil 1:1), should be understood in the general sense of “servant” or “minister” (of Christ). Still, the application of the word in the case of Phoebe is often thought to be relevant to the context of 1 Tim 3:8-13. In the midst of his discussion, on the qualifications for the “minister”, Paul (or the author) interjects:

“And these (persons/men) must first be thought acceptable (by examination), then they may serve as minister, being without (anything) calling (them) into question. Even so (for) the women (they are to be) reverent, not throwing (accusations) about, sober [i.e. discrete], trust(worthy) in all (thing)s.” (vv. 10-11)

The Greek word gunh/ (“woman”) can also mean “wife”, which has led to some ambiguity in this passage—do the “women” here refer to female ministers or to the wives of the (male) ministers? The answer to this question often reflects the particular interest or predisposition of the interpreter. Those who favor a more egalitarian approach to gender roles in the Church, or specifically women serving as “deacons”, will likely choose the former. On the other hand, those who take a more traditional-conservative view of the issue, emphasizing/preserving male “headship” and/or gender-restriction of the leading roles, probably will choose the latter. In defense of the interpretation as “female ministers”, the example of Phoebe in Rom 16:1 is typically cited (cf. above). However, while Rom 16:1-2ff certainly can be said to reflect a tendency by Paul to treat women equally as fellow ministers and missionaries, it is questionable whether this ought to be read into 1 Tim 3:11, especially in light of the (reasonably strong) possibility that 1 Timothy is pseudonymous (cf. Part 5). In my view, the context of First Timothy itself suggests that the “servants/ministers” in 3:8-13 are probably best understood as men. Note the parallel syntax in vv. 8 and 11:

  • Diako/nou$ w(sau/tw$ semnou/$ mh… “Just so for (the) ministers (they should be) reverent, not…”
  • Gunai=ka$ w(au/tw$ semna/$ mh… “Just so for (the) women (they should be) reverent, not…”

It would be a bit unusual if the author was re-stating the instruction, using “women” to indicate “ministers who are women”. This seems especially clear, given what follows in verse 12: “Ministers should be men [i.e. husbands] of one woman [i.e. wife], standing fine before (their own) offspring and (their) own house(hold)s”. Here “woman” certainly means “wife”, and so likely has this denotation in verse 11 as well. We might paraphrase the flow of the passage as follows:

8As for the ministers, just like the overseers, they should be reverent in behavior… and these (men) are to be tested (and) approved first, then they may serve as ministers without anything against them.
11As for the wives, just like the ministers, they should be reverent in behavior…trustworthy in all things.
12Ministers should be husbands of one wife (only), standing before and guiding their children and households well.”

The question of how this passage relates to Paul’s statements in Galatians, Romans, 1 Corinthians, etc (i.e., the undisputed letters) is a separate matter entirely. For those who have not yet read the discussion in Parts 1 through 6, this will help with a better understanding of the language and thought expressed by Paul in the relevant passages.

Special Note on “teach/teaching” in the Pauline Letters

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Related to the current discussion on 1 Tim 2:11-15 (cf. Part 5 of the series “Women in the Church”, and the supplemental note), is the important question of what Paul (or the author) means by dida/skein (“to teach”). To this end, a brief survey of the Pauline use of the verb dida/skw, and the two main nouns derived from it, will be most helpful.

dida/skw (“teach”)

This verb occurs 7 times in the undisputed letters of Paul, three times more in Colossians, once in Ephesians, and 5 times in the Pastoral letters—16 in all. In Romans 2:21 (twice), 1 Cor 11:14 and Gal 1:12, it refers to instruction in a general sense. However, in Gal 1:12 it also implies the specific situation of teaching someone the Gospel, in the context of the revelatory words of Jesus himself. In 1 Cor 4:17, Paul refers to his “ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every congregation [e)kklhsi/a]”. Coincidentally, in this passage, it is Timothy who will serve the Corinthians, reminding them of Paul’s ways and teaching, in his absence. Romans 12:7 regards teaching as a specific “gift” of the Spirit that is manifest in the congregation (cf. below).

In the letter to the Colossians (which I regard as Pauline), the first two references (1:28; 2:7) very much relate to the (apostolic) ministerial role of teaching and preaching (i.e. proclaiming the Gospel), as also in Eph 4:21. In 3:16, by contrast (or complement), it is the believers in general, and together, who are exhorted to teach one another. The verb dida/skw is paired with nouqete/w (“set/put in mind”), both as verbal participles indicating continuous action. The setting is that of the congregational meeting, which includes singing psalms, hymns and “spiritual songs”. While it is possible that Paul intends “teaching” here in the specific sense of an official ministerial role, there is no immediate indication of this. It seems to apply to all believers, made clear by the emphasis at the start of the verse: “The account [i.e. word] of Christ should house [i.e. dwell] in you [i.e. you all] richly, teaching and setting (things) in mind (for) each other in all wisdom…”

Within the Pastoral Letters, three of the five occurrences deal with the “things” that a minister ought to teach—cf. 1 Tim 4:11 and 6:2 (“these things”, tau=ta). The pronoun refers to the collected body of (authoritative) Christian teaching which, according to the setting of the letter, Paul has given to Timothy, and which is effectively embodied within the letter. Note the exhortation in 4:6:

“Setting these things under the brothers [i.e. bringing these things to their attention always], you will be a fine [i.e. exemplary] minister [lit. servant] of Christ Jesus, being nourished/strengthened in the words/accounts of the faith and the fine teaching [didaskali/a] which you have followed (all) along”.

By contrast, Titus 1:11 refers to “many others” who are “teaching (thing)s which they should not” (cf. below). In 2 Timothy 2:2, the author (Paul) emphasizes the proper preservation of correct teaching and tradition:

“and the (thing)s which you heard (from) alongside me, through many witnesses, these (thing)s you must set/place alongside for trust(worthy) men who will be (equipp)ed well enough to teach others also.”

This is a point which can be found at several points in the undisputed letters of Paul (cf. 2 Thess 2:15, etc), but it takes on much greater importance in the Pastoral letters.

didaxh//didaskali/a (“teaching”)

These two nouns, derived from dida/skw, both fundamentally mean “teaching, instruction”, though the latter (didaskali/a) can refer more precisely to the content of the teaching, as well as to the act or process of teaching. The noun didaxh/ (didax¢¡) occurs four times in the undisputed letters—in Romans 6:17 and 16:17 it refers collectively to the instruction believers have received from missionaries and apostles such as Paul, while in 1 Cor 14:6, 26, it is to a specific spiritual “gift” manifest in the congregation (as also in Rom 12:7). The word is also used twice in the Pastoral letters, as a distinct role and duty of the minister, closely tied to the proclamation of the account (or “word”, lo/go$) of God, that is, the Gospel message (2 Tim 4:2). The exhortation is even more pointed in Titus 1:9:

“…holding (close) against the trust(worthy) account [lo/go$] according to the teaching [kata\ th\n didaxh/n], (so) that he may be able (both) to call (people) alongside [i.e. help/encourage them] in the wholesome instruction [didaskali/a] and to put to shame the (one)s giving a contrary account.”

This is part of the author’s (i.e. Paul’s) guidance regarding the duties and qualifications for the role of “overseer” (e)pi/skopo$)—that is, the minister who leads and oversees the congregation. He is to preserve the trustworthy account (lo/go$)—the Gospel and teachings with which he has been entrusted—and to combat the reverse, the contrary account (a)nti/logo$), promulgated by other false or deceptive teachers, etc.

The related noun didaskali/a (didaskalía) is more common in the Pauline corpus, occurring 19 times, but only twice in the undisputed letters (Rom 12:7; 15:14), and twice again in Col 2:22; Eph 4:14. The other 14 occurrences are all in the Pastoral letters, making it an important word, and an example of the sort of differences in vocabulary which have been thought to mark the Pastorals as pseudonymous (i.e., by an author other than Paul). In perhaps no other writings of the New Testament is there such a clear contrast between correct and incorrect, true and false, doctrine. The idea of a collected body of teaching and tradition, which is to be carefully guarded and preserved, is very much prominent in these letters. Note the use of the qualifying expressions:

This true teaching is threatened by the various sorts of false and vain/empty teachings (and teachers) which lay stretched out against it (1 Tim 1:10). It is often debated whether Paul (or the author) had distinct persons or groups in mind in such passages of warning; it would seem that he did, though they are difficult to identify with any precision. There can be little doubt of the seriousness with which the danger was perceived (1 Tim 4:16), and adds to the importance of those who have been entrusted with the leading/guiding roles in the congregation—in the Pastoral letters, this refers primarily to the “elders” (presbu/teroi) and to the “overseer” (e)pi/skopo$), best understood as a governing or managing elder. The elder’s duty of teaching is expressed clearly in a number of places (cf. 1 Tim 5:17, etc), as also for the leading minister/overseer (such as Timothy & Titus) given charge over a particular congregation (or group of congregations).

Summary

Based on an examination of all the passages mentioned above, it is possible to discern three main aspects or senses of “teaching” in the Pauline letters:

  1. That of general Christian instruction, between and among believers, especially in terms of the Gospel message.
  2. As a distinct spiritual “gift” (xa/risma) given to particular believers who would exercise and manifest it in the role a “teacher” in the congregational meeting, etc.
  3. The specific duty of the leading ministers—the elders and overseer—involving both the essential proclamation of the Gospel message, and the preservation/transmission of the authoritative teachings and traditions entrusted to them (by the apostles and earlier ministers).

In turning again to 1 Timothy 2:12, given the context and setting of the congregational (worship) meeting, it seems clear that only the last two of these three are viable options. In other words, Paul (or the author) most likely is not offering a blanket prohibition against women teaching, but rather of either (a) attempting to act as a teacher (exercising the gift) in the meeting, or (b) performing the ministerial role reserved for the elder/overseer of the congregation. In attempting to decide between these two, several points should be kept in mind:

  • The parallel setting of 1 Cor 14 would suggest (2, a)—that of a spiritual gift exercised in the worship meeting, and could conceivably refer to women offering teaching without being recognized as one possessing that gift.
  • The connection between teaching and “having power/authority (over) a man” (cf. in Part 5) could indicate that he has the authoritative role of teacher, such as reserved for the elder/overseer, in mind (3, b).
  • The marriage bond is in view, both in 1 Cor 14:33ff and here in 1 Tim 2:9ff, and could mean that the wives of teachers (or teaching elders) are primarily being addressed—i.e., the wife should not overstep her position and assume the teaching role of her husband.
  • Paul (or the author) may also be addressing a particular situation in which (certain) women have been influenced by false teaching; if so, then the illustration in vv. 13-15 would, in large measure, have to be read in that light. I discuss this possibility a bit further in a separate note on Genesis 3:16.

Note of the Day (1 Tim 2:12)

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1 Timothy 2:12

This note is supplemental to the discussion on 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in Part 5 of the current series Women in the Church. Verse 12 is central to an interpretation of the meaning and force of the instruction regarding women in the passage. Here is the teaching in vv. 11-12 as a whole:

“Women must learn [manqane/tw] in quiet(ness) in all (proper) order [u(potagh/]; and (indeed) I do not turn over [e)pitre/pw] to women to teach, and not to have power (over) a man, but to be in quiet(ness).”

There is a kind of symmetry, or chiasm, in the author’s statement:

  • Women to learn in quietness and (under) order
    —I do not turn over to them (the right/authority, etc) to teach or have power over a man
  • (Women are) to be in quietness

In some ways, the key element is the central verb e)pitre/pw, “I do not turn over (to)”, which is usually understood in the sense of “I do not permit/allow…” This personal statement is significant in light of the questions surrounding the authorship of Pastoral letters (and 1 Timothy in particular). There can be no doubt that it relates in some way to a similar instruction in 1 Cor 14:34-35:

“The women in the congregation must keep silent, for it is not turned over [e)pitre/petai] to them to speak, but they must be under (proper) order [u(potasse/sqwsan], even as the Law says. And if they wish to learn [maqei=n] some(thing), they must ask their men [i.e. husbands] about it in the house [i.e. at home]…”

The common/related Greek words and the portions in italics show how close the two passages are, in the general sentiment that is expressed. For more on the context of 1 Cor 14:34-35, see the discussion in Part 2. In 1 Corinthians however, it is clear that Paul does allow women to play a leading/speaking role in the Church (i.e. the worship-meeting), since they may pray publicly (out loud) and deliver prophetic messages, as long as certain cultural-religious customs (involving dress code) are maintained (1 Cor 11:2-16, and cf. the discussion in Part 1). Based on 1 Cor 14:3ff, it also seems evident that a woman who prophesies, in so doing, edifies and instructs the entire congregation (including the men). Is there a contradiction between 1 Cor 11:2-16 and 1 Tim 2:11-12? For those who hold 1 Timothy to be pseudonymous, the situation is easier to explain, since the formula “I do not…” is taken as a kind of literary fiction—Paul is used to convey instruction to Church leaders regarding how congregations should handle and govern affairs. At the time 1 Timothy was written (c. 80-100, according to this view), the more charismatic and egalitarian approach found in the Corinthians churches, has been replaced by a carefully defined, organizational (and hierarchical) structure. On the other hand, if 1 Tim 2:11ff is genuinely Paul’s own teaching, a bit more comment is required.

The force of e)pitre/pw—There are several ways the situation may be understood based on the first-person use of the verb in 1 Tim 2:12:

1. Paul is simply personalizing the general instruction in 1 Cor 14:34f—”I do not…” instead of “it is not…”—as befits the nature of the letter (i.e. to his close friend and colleague Timothy, instead of the congregations of a city/region). The context is then best understood as similar to that in 1 Cor 14, on the theory, perhaps, that two specific situations are being addressed in vv. 34-35: (a) women/wives in the congregation responding to the message (prophecy) being delivered (cf. verses 29-31), and (b) women/wives seeking to learn more about what was said. 1 Tim 2:12 would relate more specifically to (a).

2. Paul is distinguishing his own (personal) instruction to Timothy from the practices current in the churches of Corinth (which he hopes to regulate, but does not prohibit). In other words, Paul himself does not allow women to hold such teaching roles, and instructs Timothy to follow his example in the churches which he oversees; but he does not interfere with the practices at Corinth (i.e. women functioning as prophets/preachers) as long as things are done to respect gender-distinction in relation to church custom and the order of creation.

3. The same essential situation is expressed in both 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:11-12—i.e., that women, as a general rule, are not to speak/teach/preach publicly in the congregation (where men and women are present together). 1 Cor 11:2-16 reflects the exception of women in whom the (high) gift of prophecy is recognized; they may speak/preach (i.e. utter prophecy) in the worship-meeting, but only in a manner which symbolizes conformity to the order of creation (use of head-covering). In 1 Cor 14:34, Paul implicitly cites the Law and Church custom (v. 33b, 11:16), whereas in 1 Tim 2:12 it is his own (apostolic) authority (cf. also 1 Cor 14:37).

4. Paul is referring in 1 Tim 2:11-12 to a specific (local) situation, perhaps related to the spread of false/aberrant teaching (1:3-7ff; 4:1-4ff). According to 2 Tim 3:1-9, certain kinds of false or heterodox teachers had apparently made some headway among women in the community, and it is conceivable that Paul thought this might spread throughout the congregations. In such a context, e)pitre/pw might then might carry the sense of “I certainly would not…”, “make sure that…”, “I would urge that…”, or something similar.

Of these, options 2 and 3 are the most tenable. I suspect that #3 more or less reflects Paul’s own views on the subject. When dealing with specific questions regarding (corporate) church life and worship, he tends to be rather conservative and cautious, always careful to observe established custom and a proper order of things. On the other hand, he often uses much more radical language and conceptual models when referring to the essential religious identity of believers in Christ (Gal 3:26-29, etc). He no doubt realized that this language could be misunderstood or applied in ways that disrupted Christian unity. In some areas, there is evidence in the letters of how he sought to work through these potential problems (cf. 1 Cor 8-10); unfortunately, we have preserved only glimpses of this in terms of gender-relations in the Church.

A proper understanding of 1 Tim 2:12 also requires that we explore what Paul (or the author of the letter) means when he uses the verb dida/skw (“teach, instruct”). This will be discussed in the next note.

Women in the Church: Part 5 (1 Timothy 2:11-15)

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1 Timothy 2:11-15

As a way of examining and focusing the evidence from the so-called Pastoral letters (1-2 Timothy, Titus), I will be looking in detail at one specific passage—1 Timothy 2:11-15. The situation regarding the Pastoral letters is especially difficult due to the much-debated question of authorship—are they authentically Pauline as the text indicates, or are they pseudonymous? Most critical commentators believe that they are pseudonymous; even many ‘Evangelical’ or otherwise traditional-conservative commentators today are willing to accept this, at least as a possibility. The arguments for pseudonymity are varied, but essentially it is felt that the Pastoral letters contain certain words and phrases, ideas and expressions, which differ markedly from those in the letters where there is no question about Pauline authorship (Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, et al). For example, the word-group eu)se/beia/eu)sebw=$/eu)sebe/w does not occur at all in the unquestioned Pauline letters, but the words are found 13 times in the three Pastorals alone. In my view the evidence for pseudonymity is much weaker for 2 Timothy, which generally seems to be compatible with Pauline language and epistolary style (and note the specific personal details, e.g. 4:13, etc). I find many more instances of vocabulary and ideas in 1 Timothy which could be considered atypical of Paul. The situation with Titus is harder to judge, partly due to the comparative brevity of the letter. For many Christians, pseudonymity automatically means a lesser degree of authority and trustworthiness; for others, it makes little or no difference, since the Church as a whole has accepted the canonicity and authority of these letters, regardless.

Historical and Literary Context

If the Pastoral letters are genuinely Pauline, then they were probably written toward the end of Paul’s life (c. 60-63 A.D.) . Second Timothy is set during a period of imprisonment 2 Tim 1:8, 17; 2:9; 4:6-8, 16ff, presumably in Rome (1:17), perhaps not long before his death. The purpose of the letters would have been to offer instruction and encouragement to his younger colleagues (Timothy and Titus) in their role as (apostolic) representatives (and overseers) for the churches over which they had been given authority. For Titus this area was the island of Crete (Tit 1:5ff), for Timothy the region surrounding Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3, etc, and so according to tradition). If any/all of the letters are pseudonymous, then they likely date from a later period, toward the end of the 1st century A.D. (c. 80-100), serving as a compendium of instruction regarding the proper organization/administration of churches, with an emphasis on protecting correct teaching and tradition (i.e. “orthodoxy”). As pseudonymous works, they would best be viewed as variations (alloforms) of a common set of instruction, addressed to different locations (i.e. Ephesus/Asia Minor and Crete, etc). In certain respects, they would be similar to the Didache or “Teaching (of the Twelve Apostles)” and the so-called Letter of the Apostles (early 2nd-century).

The core of First Timothy (2:16:2) is comprised of instruction on Church order—how the congregation should be organized and its corporate life and worship governed. Specific guidelines regarding roles or official positions in the congregation alternate with exhortations to maintain correct teaching and tradition along with proper ethical conduct:

  • Greeting (1:1-2)
  • Exhortation to Timothy (1:3-20), regarding
    —Preservation of correct teaching and tradition (vv. 3-11)
    —Paul’s own example as minister of the Gospel (vv. 12-20)
  • Guidelines for the Churches (2:1-3:13)
    —General instruction on Prayer and Worship (2:1-8)
    —continuation, emphasizing the role and position of Women (2:9-15)
    —Regarding “Overseers” (3:1-7)
    —Regarding “Servants/Ministers” (3:8-13)
  • Exhortation to Timothy (4:1-16), regarding
    —False teaching (4:1-5)
    —Preservation of correct teaching and (ethical) conduct (4:6-10)
    —Example of Timothy as minister and apostolic representative (4:11-16)
  • Guidelines for the Churches (5:1-6:2)
    —General instruction related to the handling of men and women (5:1-2)
    —Regarding (female) “Widows” (5:3-16)
    —Regarding (male) “Elders” (5:17-20)
    —[Miscellaneous/personal instruction] (5:21-25)
    —Regarding those in the churches who are Slaves (6:1-2)
  • Exhortation to Timothy (6:1-19), regarding
    —False teaching and ethical conduct (vv. 1-10)
    —Example/encouragement for Timothy as minister of the Gospel (vv. 11-16)
    —The use of riches (vv. 17-19)
  • Conclusion (final instruction) and benediction (6:20-21)

In each of the sections on Church order, there is teaching regarding the role of women in the Church—2:9-15 and 5:3-16—following a brief general instruction related to men and women (2:8-9a; 5:1-2). I will be looking primarily at the first passage (especially 2:11-15), but will comment briefly on the second as well below.

Exegetical Notes and Interpretation

Paul (or the author) begins in 2:8-9 with general instruction as to the manner in which men and women pray (presumably in the context of the worship-meeting, cf. 1 Cor 11:2ff)—it should be done with honest faith/devotion and simplicity. Verses 9-10 add to this some conventional/proverbial teaching on how women should dress and comport themselves—which, admittedly, sounds a bit stereotypical (perhaps even demeaning) to our ears today, but it fully fits in with the thought and language of Proverbs 31, etc. The emphasis is on (inner) virtue and ethical conduct (i.e. “good works”) rather than outward adornment. The instruction regarding the role and position of women in the Church follows in vv. 11-15, and is stated clearly in verses 11-12, which may be divided into two parts (the key words in italics):

“A woman [gunh/] must learn in quietness [i.e. quietly], in all proper order” (v. 11)
“and I do not turn over to a woman to teach, and not [i.e. nor] to have power over a man, but (rather) to be in quietness” (v. 12)

As I discussed in Parts 1 & 2 (on 1 Cor 11:2-16; 14:34-35), the word gunh/ (“woman”) can also mean “wife”, just as a)nh/r (“man”) can mean “husband”; so it is not clear whether the context relates to men and women generally, or to husband and wife specifically. Paul probably has the marriage relationship primarily in mind in 1 Corinthians, and so he (or the author) likely does here as well. If 1 Timothy is pseudonymous (cf. above), then this may be a direct allusion to 1 Cor 14:34-35 or similar Pauline instruction which has been preserved; if written by Paul himself, then certainly there is some relation to the idea expressed in 1 Cor 14:34-35 (on this, cf. Part 2). The context of 1 Corinthians was the response to prophetic messages in the (charistmatic) worship-meeting as manifest and practiced in Corinth (early-mid 50s A.D.); a later author likely would not have had this specific setting in mind, but would have understood it as a general rule for women. Verse 11 contains two prepositional phrases:

  • e)n h(suxi/a| (“in quiet[ness]”)—here h(suxi/a probably should be understood as “quietly”, with the connotation of gentle, humble, obedient, etc, rather than a strict imposition of silence.
  • e)n pa/sh| u(potagh=|—the word u(potagh/ is somewhat difficult to render literally in English; it has the fundamental meaning of “being set/placed in (an arranged) order”, i.e. “under an order”. As with the passive/reflexive form of the related verb u(pota/ssw, it can denote obedience, or even the more forceful idea of being (made) subject to a higher/greater power. However, one should be cautious in translating it as “subjection” or “submission” here—it is perhaps better to follow the more essential meaning “under order”, i.e. “in/with all (proper) order”.

In verse 12, there are three verbs which should be noted:

e)pitre/pw (“turn upon”, i.e. “turn over”)—that is, give over to someone, perhaps with the specific sense of “permit, allow”. It is used in a similar context in 1 Cor 14:34 (cf. Part 2): “for it is not turned over to them [i.e. to women/wives] to speak”. Here Paul (or the author) personalizes the instruction “and I do not turn over to women…”, also giving it a more precise context, by way of two infinitives:

  • to teach (dida/skein)—the importance of teaching, whether through use of the verb dida/skw or the related noun didaxh/, is clear, especially in the Pastoral letters (1 Tim 4:11; 6:2; 2 Tim 2:2; 4:2; Tit 1:9, 11), with the warnings against false teaching and the strong exhortation to preserve correct teaching/tradition (1 Tim 1:3, etc). For more detail, cf. the separate note on verse 12.
  • to have power (over) (au)qentei=n)—the verb au)qente/w fundamentally refers to holding something (a tool, weapon, etc) in one’s own hand. It can specifically denote an act of war or violence, but also (figuratively or generally) to the exercise of power. The verb only occurs here in the New Testament, so we are left to guess somewhat at its precise meaning in this context—it probably should be understood in the basic sense of a woman exercising (or asserting) authority over a man. Again, the marriage relationship may be in mind.

The instruction given here is supported by an argument from Scripture—the Creation narratives in Gen 1-3—much as Paul does in 1 Cor 11:7-9ff (cf. Part 1). Verse 13 more or less summarizes 1 Cor 11:8, but with the specific emphasis that the Man (Adam) was formed first (prw=to$); this is a small but significant difference with the line of argument Paul uses in 1 Corinthians. Even more serious (and troublesome for us today) is the interpretive development which follows in vv. 14-15:

  1. The statement that it was not the Man (Adam), but the Woman (Eve) who was deceived by the Serpent, leading to sin/transgression (summary/paraphrase of Gen 3):
    “And (moreover) Adam was not (the one) deceived, but the Woman, being deceived out(right), has come to be in violation/transgression” (v. 14)
  2. A (proverbial) saying, which Paul (or the author) affirms (3:1a), along with the Scriptural account (as interpreted):
    “but she will be saved through the birth of offspring, if they should remain in faith and love and holiness with (a) safe/sound mind” (v. 15)

There is nothing in the (unquestioned) letters of Paul to suggest this emphasis on child-bearing/rearing as the primary role for Christian women (indeed, much in 1 Corinthians could been taken to suggest the opposite, cf. 1 Cor 7:5-9, 26-35, 38, 40). It sounds almost crude and ‘unenlightened’ to many today, though it generally fits with the traditional Jewish view as expressed e.g. in b. Ber. 17a: “How do women attain merit? By letting their children be instructed in the house of learning” (Dibelius/Conzelmann, p. 48). Women are said to be “saved” (in the general religious-cultural, not theological, sense) by raising up godly children. This effectively removes the ‘curse’ brought about with the Fall, which, according to the Genesis narrative, happens to involve both child-bearing and the ‘subjection’ of women (Gen 3:16). For further discussion, cf. the separate note on this verse.

Note on 5:3-16 & Conclusion

The other passage dealing with the role of women in 1 Timothy is 5:3-16—instruction regarding widows in the Church. The treatment of the subject suggests that the author has in mind an (official) position in the Church (“Widow”), alongside those of “Overseer” (3:1-7) and “Servant/Minister” (or ‘Deacon’, 3:8-13). Not all actual widows qualify for the office/position, which seems to have involved financial support from the congregation (v. 16) as well as certain ministerial duties (vv. 10-15). In general, widows should be supported by their families, attending to them first (vv. 4ff, 16). The qualifications of the (true) Widows are laid down in vv. 9-10, with the basic rule that they should be at least sixty years of age (extremely old for the time). In some ways, the Widows are the “Elders” among the women in the Church, just as the male “Elders” (presbu/teroi) are mentioned briefly in the following vv. 17-20. This office/position of Widow has been used as an argument for a relatively late dating of the Pastoral letters (late-1st/early-2nd century), but there is actually little information on how churches were structured in the period c. 70-100 A.D. to warrant making any firm conclusions as to when certain practices developed.

Many sincere believers today are genuinely uncomfortable with much of the language and the ideas regarding women (and their roles) expressed in the Pastoral letters (and especially here in 1 Timothy). For a good many commentators these passages are incompatible with the Paul of 1 Corinthians 11, Romans 16, Galatians 3:28, Philippians 4:2-3, etc, and are considered the product of a later author (or tradition) with a less enlightened view of the role and place of women in Christ. Other scholars would maintain that the Pastorals, even if pseudonymous, preserve, or were influenced by, Paul’s genuine teaching in 1 Cor 11:2-16 & 14:33-36, etc. Of course, if 1 Timothy is actually Paul’s work, then we must taken even more seriously the similarities between 1 Tim 2:11-15 and those passages in 1 Corinthians. Does 1 Tim 2:11-15 assume a specific contextual situation like that in 1 Cor 14, or is it meant to be taken as a general rule regarding women? In either case, how should this instruction be understood or applied today, in light of Paul’s teaching elsewhere and in the remainder of the New Testament? These are important questions, with no easy answers ready at hand, and yet it is necessary for each reader and commentator to grapple with them in his or her own way.

References marked “Dibelius/Conzelmann” are to Martin Dibelius and Hans Conzelmann, The Pastoral Epistles (Hermeneia Commentary series), transl. by Philip Buttolph & Adela Yarbro, Fortress Press: 1972.

Note of the Day – November 3 (1 Tim 6:20-21)

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1 Timothy 6:20-21

“O Precious-to-God {Timothy}, you must keep watch (over) th(at which is) placed alongside [paraqh/kh] (you), turning out of (the way) the free [be/bhlo$] (and) empty voices, and the (thing)s set against (it) from the falsely-named ‘knowledge’ [gnw=si$], which some (person)s, giving a message upon (themselves) about the (Christian) faith, [pi/sti$] were without (true) aim.”

This is perhaps the only passage in the New Testament which can truly be called anti-gnostic—i.e., opposed to gnostic teaching. Whether the author of 1 Timothy (whether Paul or pseudonymous) is addressing an early form of the Gnosticism known from the 2nd century A.D. is a separate question. If the letter is Pauline and/or relatively early (c. 60-65 A.D.), then this is highly unlikely. However, things have clearly moved a step or two beyond Paul’s concern to check the Corinthians’ emphasis on spiritual knowledge (cf. 1 Cor 1:18-2:16ff; 8:1-3ff). There is conceivably a connection with the Jewish Christianity represented by the opponents Paul addresses in 2 Cor 10-13, but this could only be called “gnostic” in a very loose sense. It can be no coincidence that 1 Tim 6:20 is the only occurrence of the word gnw=si$ (gnœ¡sis, “knowledge”) in the letter—indeed, within the Pastoral letters as a whole—while it is relatively frequent in the undisputed letters (21 times, including 16 in 1 & 2 Corinthians), often in a positive sense. Here, it is entirely negative, marked by the qualifying adjective yeudw/numo$ (“falsely-named”), to distiguish it from true religious knowledge. At the very least, the author is referring to Christians who claim to have a certain knowledge, and, presumably, rely upon the use of that word—which would explain why the author does not otherwise use it himself. The noun is also absent entirely from the Johannine writings, even though the related verb ginw/skw (“know”) is used quite often (82 times). Some commentators have thought that the Christians who produced these writings were combating an incipient form of Gnosticism (cf. 1 John 4:1-6, etc).

Especially significant is the use of the word paraqh/kh, derived from the verb parati/qhmi (“set/put along[side]”), and which I discussed briefly in the last section of the recently-posted Part 4 in the series “Gnosis and the New Testament”. In the Pastoral epistles the verb and noun are both used in the special (figurative) sense of the collected body of Christian teaching—of Gospel and Apostolic traditions—which have been passed down (from Paul and the first Apostles) and put into the care of trustworthy ministers (such as Timothy). It is this “trust”, this carefully preserved Tradition, which is set against the so-called “knowledge”. Actually, there appear to be two forces against which the minister must contend; he is to “turn out of [the way]” (i.e. “turn aside”, the verb e)ktre/pw):

  • “the free/loose ’empty voices'” and
  • “(thing)s…of the falsely-named ‘knowledge'”

Possibly these are a hendiadys, two expressions for a single concept, or two labels referring to a single group. The first phrase makes use of two words. The first (a) is be/bhlo$, “free”, in the sense of “freely accessible”, and, in a religious context, often indicating something that is “profane”; it is certainly used in a pejorative sense here, perhaps with the connotation of “loose-lipped”, i.e. freely and carelessly uttered. The second (b) is kenofwni/a, “empty voice”, i.e. empty or hollow sounding, but probably best taken literally here—the voices of the people who say these things are “empty”, void of anything true or real. This same expression, using both words, also occurs in 2 Tim 2:16:

“But stand about [i.e. away from] the free (and) empty voices, for (more) upon more they cut (the way) toward a lack of reverence (for God)”

It follows directly after the expression “the account of truth” in v. 15, with which it is set in contrast. The adjective be/bhlo$ also occurs in 1 Tim 1:9 and 4:7.

The second phrase includes two elements: (a) the noun a)nti/qesi$, derived from the same verb as the base of parati/qhmi, only instead of something put alongside (into one’s care), it signifies the opposite, something set against it (in opposition to it); and (b) the expression “falsely-named knowledge”, with the adjective yeudw/numo$. Those who are characterized by these descriptions, and who oppose or threaten the true faith and tradition, are defined further in 1 Tim 6:21:

  • tine$ (“certain, some”)—that is, some Christians
  • e)paggello/menoi (“giving a message upon [themselves]”)—middle voice (reflexive) participle of the verb e)pagge/llw; these people announce (lit. give a message) concerning themselves
  • peri\ th\n pi/stin (“about the faith”)—the word pi/sti$ usually means specifically trust (or faith/belief) in Christ, but here it would seem to signify more properly the Christian faith (religion); however, it may also indicate the profession of faith in Christ by these persons
  • h)sto/xhsan (“they were without [true] aim”)—the verb a)stoxe/w is derived from the adjective a&stoxo$ (“without aim”), i.e. a bad shot, missing the mark

In other words, these people claim to be Christians, professing Christ and speaking about the faith, but are actually in error and ‘miss the mark’. From the standpoint of the author (Paul), it is a matter of the entire Christian faith being at stake, and an urgent need to preserve the true faith and (apostolic) tradition. The comprehensiveness of this understanding is indicated by an brief examination of the other occurrences of the verb parati/qhmi and noun paraqh/kh:

  • 1 Tim 1:18:
    “This message given along (to me) I place alongside (for) you, dear offspring [i.e. child] Timothy, according to the (thing)s foretold [i.e. prophecies] brought out before(hand) upon you, that you might fight as a soldier in them, (doing) the fine work of a soldier”
  • 2 Tim 1:12, continuing on from v. 11, speaking of the “good message”, i.e. the Gospel (“unto which I was set” as a preacher, apostle and teacher…)
    “…through which cause I also suffer these (thing)s—but (yet) I do not have (any) shame brought upon me, for I have seen [i.e. known] the (one) in whom I have trusted and have been persuaded that he is powerful (enough) [i.e. able] to keep/guard the (thing) set alongside (for) me unto [i.e. until] that day”
  • 2 Tim 1:14 (note the connection between the paraqh/kh and the Spirit):
    “you (too) must keep/guard th(is) fine (thing which has been) set alongside (us), through the holy Spirit housing [i.e. dwelling] in us”
  • 2 Tim 2:2:
    “and the (thing)s which you have heard alongside me through many witnesses, these you must place alongside trust(worthy) men who will be capable/qualified to teach others also”

The chain of transmission is clear: to Paul, then to Timothy, and then, in turn, to other trustworthy ministers. Timothy himself has received the tradition not only from Paul (“the whole/healthy accounts which you heard [from] alongside me”, 2 Tim 1:13), but from “many witnesses” (2:2). This emphasizes that the tradition has been transmitted within the Community of believers as a whole (on the motif of witnesses to the Gospel, cf. Lk 1:2; 24:48; Acts 1:8, 22; 5:32; 10:39ff; 13:31, etc., and note Heb 12:1).

Note of the Day – July 30

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The next two occurrences of the word musth/rion (“secret”) to be discussed are found in 1 Timothy 3:9 and 16. The Pastoral Epistles (especially 1 Timothy), like Ephesians, are considered by many critical commentators to be pseudonymous. This issue is complex and much debated, and I will not attempt to address it here. However, it certainly may be argued that 1 Timothy evinces a more developed sense of what we would call Christian tradition—a distinct, and relatively fixed, body of (‘orthodox’) beliefs and teachings which is to be preserved and carefully guarded against false teachers and other ‘heterodox’ outsiders. This, at least, suggests a relatively late date (sometime after 60 A.D.); those who regard 1 Timothy as pseudonymous would probably date it c. 90 A.D. It is not possible in the space here to offer a complete list of relevant passages, but a couple will be mentioned in passing.

1 Timothy 3:9, 16

These two references come from the end of the first half of the letter (cf. my outline of 1 Timothy below). The first is part of the instruction regarding ministers (lit. “servants”, diakonoi) in the congregation (3:8-13). The main criteria given for persons to serve in this ministerial role are outlined in two parts: (a) ethical/moral qualifications (vv. 8-10), and (b) head of a proper and well-run household (vv. 11-12).

NOTE: The possibility that verse 11 refers to female ministers, rather than simply to the wives of (male) ministers, will be dealt with in an upcoming article in the series Women in the Church.

The following phrase is included within the moral qualifications of vv. 8-10:

“…holding the secret of the faith in a clean/pure sunei/dhsi$” (v. 9)

Normally, in early Christian language, pi/sti$ is to be rendered “trust”, i.e. trust in Christ, as also throughout the Pauline letters. However, gradually, the term came to have the semi-technical meaning “the (Christian) Faith”—Christianity itself as a religious designation. Something of this latter sense appears here in 1 Tim 3:9. As is clear from what follows in 3:14-16 and 4:1-5ff, the “secret of the faith” (to\ musth/rion th=$ pi/stew$) involves all of the core traditions and teachings which the minister must pass along and preserve/protect from corrupting influences. The word sunei/dhsi$ literally means “seeing (things) together”, i.e. a complete perception and understanding, often with a moral aspect, such as would correspond generally to the English word “conscience”. The moral/ethical sense is clear from vv. 8, 10, but it certainly also relates to a proper understanding of the Christian faith.

The first half concludes with vv. 14-16, and a Christological declaration (v. 16) that is the central point of the letter. It runs parallel to the exhortation to preserve correct teaching in 4:1-5 (and 6-10). Verses 14-15 relate to the (apparent) context of the letter—Paul is writing to Timothy, the written instruction serving an apostolic role in place of Paul’s appearance in person. The purpose of the writing is summed up with these words: “so that you might see [i.e. know] how it is necessary to turn (yourself) up (again) in the house of God”. The subjunctive perfect form ei)dh=|$ (eid¢¡s, “you might/should have seen”) could relate back to sunei/dhsi$ (suneíd¢sis, “see [things] together”) in v. 9 (cf. above). Also, in 3:11-12, it is said that the minister should be able to manage his own household, as a kind of prerequisite to serving in the house(hold) of God (i.e. the congregation), as stated here in v. 15. The verb a)nastre/fw (“turn up [again]”) in this context has the basic meaning of “return, go back (again)”, i.e. to show up repeatedly and work continually in “God’s house”. This “house of God” (originally used of the Temple) is specifically defined as the “congregation/assembly [e)kklhsi/a] of the living God”, and further characterized as “the pillar [stu=lo$] and base/ground [e)drai/wma] of the truth”. Again this truth relates back to the expression “secret of the faith” in v. 9, and, in verse 16, is centered in the core truth of the Gospel (regarding the person of Christ).

1 Timothy 3:16

This is one of the principal early Christian statements summarizing the Gospel message. In all likelihood, Paul (or the author) is drawing upon an earlier hymn or creedal formula. It is introduced this way:

“And being counted as one [i.e. we can acknowledge/confess together] (that) great (indeed) is the secret of good reverence [eu)se/beia]…”

The word eu)se/beia has no good translation in English; often it is rendered “religion, piety, godliness”, or something similar, but none of these are especially accurate. The related root verb se/bomai has to do with showing fear or reverence, esp. before God; and the compound verb eu)sebe/w essentially means showing good (that is, proper) reverence toward God. The eu)seb- word group is not used at all in the undisputed letters of Paul, but occurs more than a dozen times in the three Pastoral letters (1 Tim 2:2; 3:16; 4:7-8; 5:4; 6:3, 5-6, 11; 2 Tim 3:5, 12; Tit 1:1; 2:12)—one of the differences in vocabulary which leads many commentators to doubt Pauline authorship. Apart from the Pastorals, the word group is found only in 2 Peter (1:3, 6-7; 2:9; 3:11) and the book of Acts (3:12; 10:2, 7; and 17:23 [spoken by Paul in the narrative]). It suggests the beginning of an understanding which regards (early) Christianity as a distinct religion. Here in 1 Timothy, the expression “secret of good reverence” (musth/rion th=$ eu)sebei/a$) is generally synonymous with the “secret of the faith” (musth/rion th=$ pi/stew$) from 3:9. The fundamental declaration of this “secret” in v. 16 is expressed in a hymnic statement, beginning with a relative pronoun (o%$, “who”) and consisting of six parallel lines:

o^$
“…[i.e. Jesus Christ] who
e)fanerw/qh e)n sarki/
was made to shine (forth) in (the) flesh
e)dikaiw/qh e)n pneu/mati
was made right/just in (the) Spirit
w&fqh a&gge/loi$
was seen (among the) Messengers
e)khru/xqh e)n e&qnesin
was proclaimed among (the) nations
e)pisteu/qh e)n ko/smw|
was trusted in (the) world
a)nelh/mfqh e)n do/ch|
was taken up in honor/glory

Each line contains an aorist passive verb followed by the preposition e)n (“in, among”) + dative; the preposition is missing in the third line, but probably should be assumed there as well. This simple, rhythmic structure would allow for easy memorization and use as a hymn or confessional formula. It consists of a set of three related pairs:

  • In the Flesh / Spirit
  • Among the Messengers (Angels) / Nations
  • In the World / Glory

It is also possible to read it as a chiasm:

Clearly these lines narrate the basic facts and elements of the Gospel, but not according to a chronological arrangement, as we might expect.

Perhaps most difficult is the use of the verb dikai/ow in the first line. It literally means “make right/just”, and is often used in the sense of a person being made (or declared) right/just before God, a sense which would not seem entirely appropriate applied to the person of Jesus. However, the verb may also be understood in the more general sense of “making (things) right”. An important aspect of the early Christian view of Jesus was that his death on the cross took place even though he was righteous and innocent of any crime; as such, on a basic level, his death was a terrible miscarriage of justice, one which God “made right” through the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus to His right hand in heaven. This working-out of justice was done through the Spirit of God—the same (Holy) Spirit which makes believers right before God through trust in Christ.

Mention should be made of the important textual variant in 1 Tim 3:16. At the start of the hymn-formula, the majority of manuscripts read qeo/$ (“God”) instead of the relative pronoun o%$ (“who”). In spite of some opposition, most commentators (correctly) recognize that the relative pronoun is almost certainly original. It is appropriate to the hymnic/confessional form, and transcriptional probability overwhelming supports the alteration from o%$ to qeo/$, rather than the other way around. In the uncial Greek letters, o%$ would appear as os, which was then mistaken for qs, an abbreviated form of qeo$ (qeos). This “sacred name” abbreviation would be marked by an overline (+q+s), making it extremely unlikely that it would have been mistaken for the relative pronoun os. The change is probably also to be explained by the difficulty of syntax with the relative pronoun: “the secret of good reverence…who was…”; this difficulty is alleviated somewhat if we read the remainer of v. 16 essentially as a quotation: “…the secret of good reverence: (of Jesus Christ) ‘who was etc etc…'” On the other hand, if the majority reading turned out to be correct, then the “secret” would be localized specifically (primarily) in the incarnation of Christ (“God manifest in the flesh”).

Outline of 1 Timothy
  • Greeting (1:1-2)
  • Exhortation to Timothy (1:3-20), regarding
    —Preservation of correct teaching and tradition (vv. 3-11)
    —Paul’s own example as minister of the Gospel (vv. 12-20)
  • Guidelines for the Churches (2:1-3:13)
    —General instruction on Prayer and Worship (2:1-8)
    —continuation, emphasizing the role and position of Women (2:9-15)
    —Regarding “Overseers” (3:1-7)
    —Regarding “Servants/Ministers” (3:8-13)
  • Central declaration (3:14-16)
  • Exhortation to Timothy (4:1-16), regarding
    —False teaching (4:1-5)
    —Preservation of correct teaching and (ethical) conduct (4:6-10)
    —Example of Timothy as minister and apostolic representative (4:11-16)
  • Guidelines for the Churches (5:1-6:2)
    —General instruction related to the handling of men and women (5:1-2)
    —Regarding (female) “Widows” (5:3-16)
    —Regarding (male) “Elders” (5:17-20)
    —[Miscellaneous/personal instruction] (5:21-25)
    —Regarding those in the churches who are Slaves (6:1-2)
  • Exhortation to Timothy (6:1-19), regarding
    —False teaching and ethical conduct (vv. 1-10)
    —Example/encouragement for Timothy as minister of the Gospel (vv. 11-16)
    —The use of riches (vv. 17-19)
  • Conclusion (final instruction) and benediction (6:20-21)

Paul’s View of the Law: The Remaining Letters (Part 3)

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Part 3—Ephesians and the Pastoral Letters

The final part of this article will address Ephesians and the Pastoral Letters (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus); I have chosen to deal with them separately here since, of all the Pauline Letters in the New Testament, there is the most uncertainty regarding Pauline authorship for these four letters. I will not be examining arguments for and against authenticity here, nor do I make any judgment regarding authorship. In passing, I will only say that I find many aspects of the language and style of Ephesians to be atypical of that in the undisputed letters (compared with Colossians, which otherwise has a number of similarities in structure and subject matter with Ephesians). Regarding the Pastoral letters, I personally accept 2 Timothy as authentic, with very little reservation, its structure, style and phrasing being generally close to that of the undisputed letters; I find many more instances of uncharacteristic vocabulary and phrases in 1 Timothy, while the situation with the letter to Titus is harder to judge, though it may have more in common with 1 Timothy.

Ephesians

The main passage dealing with the Old Testament Law is Eph 2:11-22 (esp. verses 14-15, which I will deal with in a separate note). Specific references to the Torah (Pentateuch) are also found in Eph 5:31ff (citing Gen 2:24, cf. Matt 19:4-6; 1 Cor 6:16) and Eph 6:2-3 (citing Deut 5:16, par Exod 20:12); the latter citation indicates that the fundamental ethical commands of the Decalogue are still valid and applicable for believers, as attested elsewhere in early Christian tradition (cf. Mark 10:18 par; James 2:11; Rom 13:9). The other relevant references may be summarized as follows (cf. Part 2):

Similarities with Paul’s discussion of the Law in Galatians, Romans, etc.:
  • Eph 1:13—hearing/obedience is to the word/account of God (here called the “word/account of truth“), identified with the “good message (Gospel) of salvation”; obedience takes place through trust/faith (pi/sti$), and results in the gift of the Spirit.
  • Eph 1:19f—again the emphasis is on trust/faith, and the work being done by God (in/through Christ)
  • Eph 2:8-9—”for by (the) favor [xa/ri$] (of God) you have been saved, through trust [pi/sti$], and this not out of you(rselves)—(it is) the gift [dw=ron] of God, not out of works, (so) that no one may boast”
  • Eph 4:1-6—religious identity (understood here in terms of unity) for believers is realized through the Spirit and the binding principle of love (cf. Rom 13:8-10; Gal 5:14, etc).
Symbolic/Spiritual application of the Law:
  • Eph 2:20-22—The Temple shrine (nao/$) is used as a symbol for believers (i.e. the Church) as a whole—a building, with Christ as the cornerstone, parallel to the image of the body (with Christ as the head); for similar application of the Temple, cf. 1 Cor 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16.
  • Eph 5:26-27—Imagery drawn from ritual cleansing (ablution) and sacrificial offering is applied to believers (collectively), as part of the wider ethical instruction (parenesis) in Eph 4:17-6:9.
  • Eph 5:31ff—Genesis 2:24 (related to laws regarding marriage and divorce) is applied symbolically to the Church.
Sources of authority for believers (apart from the Law):
  • Eph 3:1-4ff—Paul’s authority (as an apostle), which comes through special revelation (from God/Christ) cf. Gal 1:12
  • Eph 3:16ff—power/authority is ultimately realized in the “inner man” and by the Spirit.
  • Eph 4:17-5:20—ethical instruction comes by way of (Paul’s) apostolic authority (“I bear witness in the Lord…”, v. 17), but is realized through putting off the “old man” and putting on the “new man”, reflecting the spiritual transformation symbolized by the rite of baptism (which, in turn, represents participation in the death and resurrection of Christ).
  • Eph 5:22-6:9—similar ethical and practical instruction presented as effective commands from Paul (in his role as apostle).
  • Eph 5:21—authority of believers to one another (i.e. the community/congregation itself), “set yourselves in order under each other in (the) fear of Christ”.

The Pastoral Letters

For the sake of convenience, I group these together, without necessarily affirming common authorship; the text of each letter indicates it was composed by Paul, and this was accepted without question in the early Church, though in recent generations scholars and commentators have expressed serious doubt on this point (cf. above).

The Law (o( no/mo$) is mentioned twice in 1 Tim 1:8-9, along with nomodida/skaloi (“teachers of the Law”) in verse 7. It is not entirely clear whether this means specifically the Old Testament/Jewish Law (Torah), as elsewhere in Paul, or to “the law” in general. In Titus, the author appears to warn against (quasi-)Jewish influence (cf. Tit 1:14; 3:9), and it is often thought that something similar is referenced in 1 Tim 1:4; 4:7 (also 2 Tim 4:4), perhaps an early manifestation of “Gnosticism”. The list of crimes in 1 Tim 1:9-10 are, for the most part, dealt with somewhere in the Torah, but they would just as easily apply to the laws in most societies. The Law here is understood in its rudimentary role of curbing and punishing wickedness, especially crimes which are particularly harmful to others. This would come to be a popular line of reasoning for (Gentile) Christians who wished to maintain the binding validity of the Old Testament Law; however, it should be noted that Paul himself (in the undisputed letters) really never refers to the Law in this context (cp. Rom 13:1-4ff). In Romans and Galatians, Paul ascribes a very different purpose for the Old Testament Law (Gal 3:19-26; Rom 5:20-21; 7:4-25; 11:32), as I have discussed in the previous articles of this series. In Titus 3:9 there is an exhortation to avoid “legal battles” or “fights about the Law” (using the adjective nomiko/$), which may (or may not) refer specifically to the Torah. The fact that, in 1 Tim 1:10, at the end of the list of crimes, the author adds “…and if (there is) any other (thing) lying against [i.e. opposed to] whole/healthy teaching [didaskali/a]” is significant, as will be discussed below.

Other relevant passages are summarized below, organized according to the same structure used above (and in Part 2):

Similarities with Paul’s discussion of the Law in Galatians, Romans, etc.:
  • 1 Tim 1:5—Love (a)ga/ph) is described as the end/completion (te/lo$) of the paraggeli/a (lit. a message given/placed alongside), a word frequently used for authoritative instruction and often translated “command, charge”. Love is here connected with a “pure heart”, the ‘conscience’ (sunei/dhsi$, cf. below) and trust/faith (pi/sti$), all expressing an inward emphasis, rather than observance of external commands, and for which there are parallels in the undisputed Pauline letters. For a similar declaration that Christ is the end/completion (te/lo$) of the Law, cf. Rom 10:4; on the priority of the love command (or principle), see esp. Gal 5:14 and Rom 13:8-10.
  • 1 Tim 4:3-4—Here Paul (or the author of the letter) emphasizes freedom, as against ascetic/legalistic restrictions involving dietary regulations, etc. (cf. Rom 14; Col 2:16-17, 21-23). There is an implicit denial that anything is, in and of itself, clean or unclean; this is expressed more clearly in Titus 1:15. For the abolishment of any (ritual) distinction between “clean” and “unclean” (rel. to the Torah purity laws) for the believer, see esp. Rom 14:14.
  • 2 Tim 1:9-10—Salvation is not “according to our works” (kata\ ta\ e&rga h(mw=n) but according to God’s own purpose (pro/qesi$, lit. what he set beforehand) and favor (i.e. “grace” xa/ri$); note also the verb katarge/w in v. 10, which Paul elsewhere uses in the sense of Christ making ineffective (or nullifying) the Law and/or the power of sin and death (cf. Rom 6:6; 7:2, 6; 1 Cor 3:7, 11, 13-14; Eph 2:15).
  • 2 Tim 4:8dikaiosu/nh (“justice/righteousness”) is used here in the traditional (eschatological) sense of acceptance in the judgment before God’s tribunal; the emphasis, of course, is not on preserving the Law but on keeping/guarding the trust/faith (pi/sti$) in Christ. For more on this, see below.
  • Titus 3:5-7—justice/righteousness (and being made/declared just) does not come out of our own doing, but according to God’s mercy and cleasing which comes through Christ’s sacrificial death.
Symbolic/Spiritual application of the Law:
  • 2 Tim 2:19ff—There is here an echo of the Old Testament purity Laws, which is applied (symbolically) in the context of ethical instruction for believers.
  • Titus 1:14-16—purity/impurity is fundamentally a matter of the mind and conscience, rather than observance of (ritual) regulations; impurity or defilement is specifically connected with unbelief (a&pisto$), lit. “lack of trust” (in Christ).
  • Titus 2:14—believers are now God’s (covenant) people, described in traditional language related to the observance of the Law; the context of vv. 12-14 shows that normative ethical instruction is now tied to the Gospel message, and that purification/cleansing is based on the work of Christ.
  • Titus 3:5-7—similarly, ritual cleansing (ablution) is replaced by spiritual washing and renewal, which again is connected with the death of Christ (cf. the symbolism associated with baptism in Rom 6:3-4ff, etc).
Sources of authority for believers (apart from the Law):

One of the most distinctive elements in the Pastoral letters (esp. 1 Timothy and Titus) is the pronounced emphasis on the careful guarding and observance of early Christian teaching and tradition. The apparent context of the letters clearly suggests that Timothy and Titus, as co-workers and associates of Paul, represent him in the territories where they are serving (Ephesus and the island of Crete, respectively), and, by way of extension, possess a measure of his own apostolic authority. And yet, the repeated stress on safeguarding a defined body of (correct) doctrine is striking—here, even more than in the undisputed letters, doctrine seems to take priority over personal (apostolic) authority (cf. Gal 1:6-9). Quite often there is a clear contrast between correct teaching (i.e. orthodoxy), and that which is false, unreliable or irrelevant. This involves frequent use of a number of words and phrases which are uncharacteristic of the undisputed Pauline letters; these are marked with an asterisk (*) below.

paragge/llw (and the related noun paraggeli/a)—the verb literally means “give along a message”, generally in the sense of delivering an order, command or other authoritative instruction; while these words do appear in the undisputed letters (1 Thess 4:2, 11; 1 Cor 7:10, etc), nearly half of the occurrences in the Pauline corpus are in 1 Timothy (1 Tim 1:3, 5, 18; 4:11; 5:7; 6:13, 17).
parakale/w (“call alongside”) has a similar meaning, indicating authoritative instruction (and exhortation), 1 Tim 1:3; 2:1; 5:1; 6:2; 2 Tim 4:2; Tit 1:9; 2:6; 2:15; it appears relatively often in the undisputed letters as well.
dida/skw (and the related nouns didaxh/, didaskali/a*)—these words together appear more frequently in the Pastorals than the other letters, emphasizing the importance of (correct) Christian teaching:
(a) dida/skw (“teach”), 1 Tim 2:12; 4:11; 6:2; 2 Tim 2:2; Tit 1:11, and also the compound verb e(terodidaskale/w* (“teaching [something] other [i.e. something different]”) in 1 Tim 1:3; 6:3.
(b) didaxh/ (“teaching”, emphasizing the content of teaching), 2 Tim 4:9; Tit 1:9.
(c) didaskali/a* (“teaching”, emphasizing the process of teaching)—15 of the 19 Pauline occurrences are in the Pastorals (1 Tim 1:10; 4:1, 6, 13, 16; 5:17; 6:1, 3; 2 Tim 3:10, 16; 4:3; Tit 1:9; 2:1, 7, 10).
(d) note also: didaktiko/$* (“teachable, able/willing to teach”), 1 Tim 3:2; 2 Tim 2:24; and dida/skalo$ (“teacher”), 1 Tim 2:7; 2 Tim 1:11; 4:3.
parati/qhmi* (and the related noun paraqh/kh*)—these words are essentially never used in the undisputed letters, but have an importance place in the Pastorals (1 Tim 1:18; 6:10; 2 Tim 1:12, 14; 2:2). Elsewhere Paul uses the noun parado/si$, along with the related verb paradi/dwmi; they have a similar meaning—parado/si$ is something “given along” while paraqh/kh is something “set/placed alongside”. However, the latter term carries specifically the nuance of something entrusted to a person, or laid down as a deposit. Christian teaching is no longer limited to something passed down from the apostles; it now has the additional characteristic of a fixed, permanent body of doctrine which must be guarded. While such an idea is not absent from the undisputed Pauline letters, its repeated emphasis in the Pastorals is striking.
eu)se/beia, etc.*—One may also mention the noun eu)se/beia, which is never used in any of the Pauline letters outside of the Pastorals (1 Tim 2:2; 3:16; 4:7-8; 6:3, 5-6, 11; 2 Tim 3:5; Tit 1:1); it is sometimes translated (inaccurately) as “godliness”, but it really means “proper fear (or reverence)”, usually in a religious sense, and generally approximates what we mean in English by “religion” (or the more archaic-sounding “piety”). This is another distinctive element (or development) in the Pastorals—a sense of Christianity, marked by correct teaching and practice, as reflecting true religion. The related verb eu)sebe/w* (1 Tim 5:4) and adverb eu)sebw=$* (2 Tim 3:12; Tit 2:12) also are not to be found in the other letters, though Paul (as speaker) does use the verb in the narrative of Acts 17:23.

There are a number of specific passages which clearly indicate the authoritative character of (correct) Christian instruction, especially in ethical matters (1 Tim 6:2b-10, 17-19; 2 Tim 2:14-19; Tit 3:1-11), but also with regard to the governing and administration of local communities or congregations (1 Tim 2:8-15; 3:1-13; 4:6-10; 5:1-8ff, 17ff; 2 Tim 2:22-26; 4:1-5; Tit 1:5-9; 2:1-10, 15). In 1 Tim 6:2-3, we even see that correct teaching functions as “the words of the Lord”; on the authority of the minister, cf. also Tit 2:15. Beyond this, Paul (the putative author), in his role as an apostle (2 Tim 1:11-13; 3:10), issues authoritative instruction—note the first person use of the verbs parakale/w, boulomai, e)pitre/pw, (dia)martu/romai in 1 Tim 2:1, 8, 12, etc. The minister, like the apostle, is also to be an (authoritative) example for others to follow, cf. 1 Tim 4:12; 2 Tim 1:13; 3:10-15; Tit 2:7. On both of these last points, see in Part 2.

In addition, note the following passages:

  • 1 Tim 5:4—proper behavior is regarded as “acceptable” (a)podekto$) before God
  • 1 Tim 5:10, 17, etc—the normative character of good works and ministry in the community (note also 2 Tim 2:2, 5)
  • 1 Tim 6:14—the word e)ntolh/ is often translated “command”, referring to the commands of the Torah; however it can also be used of authoritative Christian instruction, and that is almost certainly the meaning here—”watch/guard the e)ntolh/” should be understood as generally synonymous with “guard/keep the paraqh/kh” (6:20; 2 Tim 1:14, cf. above), and note also 4:16 (“take hold upon the teaching”), etc.
  • 2 Tim 3:14-16—the authority and efficacy of the “sacred writing(s)” (i.e. Scripture) is declared; nowhere else in the Pauline corpus is this stated so precisely, with the Writings set within the context of authoritative Christian teaching (“the things you have learned” [v. 14], “of profit toward teaching” [v. 16]). The idea that the Scriptures are able to lead one to salvation is rather unusual for Paul.
    If 2 Timothy is authentically Pauline, then the “sacred writings” are the Old Testament Scriptures, meaning (at the very least), the Pentateuch, Prophets (presumably Joshua–Kings, along with Isaiah–Jeremiah, Ezekiel–Malachi), and the book of Psalms; if the letter is pseudonymous (and late), then a broader sense of Scripture may be intended, possibly including New Testament writings as well (cf. 2 Pet 3:16).

The Pastoral letters are somewhat unique in the way that they use the term sunei/dhsi$; this word is typically translated “conscience”, but literally means “seeing/knowing (things) together”, indicating (self-)awareness and understanding. It plays an important role in Pauline anthropology and psychology, as we see in Rom 2:15; 13:5; 1 Cor 8:7, 10, 12; 10:25-29; 2 Cor 1:12; 4:2; 5:11. Though he does not use the term in Rom 7:7-25, the passage would seem to be relevant; it is fair, I think, to consider the sunei/dhsi$ along with the mind/intellect (nou=$) as part of the “inner man”. In the Pastorals, sunei/dhsi$ carries more of an authoritative quality, as an inner guide for believers, often mentioned in connection with faith/trust (pi/sti$)—both of which are necessary for safeguarding true teaching, cf. 1 Tim 1:5, 19; 3:9; 2 Tim 1:3; Tit 1:15.

Finally, we should note several references indicating the (direct) role of the Spirit guiding believers:

  • 1 Tim 4:1—The Spirit is said to speak directly to believers (“and the Spirit in utterance relates that…”), by means of prophetic oracle (to Paul?); clearly it should be understood as authoritative, and in contrast to “wandering [i.e. deceitful/untrustworthy] spirits” that lead believers away from the (true) faith.
  • 2 Tim 1:14—Here the common exhortation/charge to “keep/guard” the teaching (par. to keeping/observing the Torah in the old covenant) is qualified: the guarding is done “through the Spirit th(at) houses [i.e. dwells] in us”, i.e. by the power (and guidance) of the Spirit.
  • Tit 3:5—Cleansing and renewal occurs, not by external observance of commands, but internally by the Holy Spirit.
  • Mention should also be made of the term qeo/pneusto$ (“blown/breathed by God”) in 2 Tim 3:16; the reference is primarily to the divine source of Scripture, but there may also be here an implied understanding of the role of the Spirit (pneu=ma, “breath, blowing”) of God in guiding the believer.