Thursday, October 10, 2019

Comments On Pauline Authorship Of 1 Timothy And Other Pastoral Epistles

"According to the salutations of the letters, the author of the three Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus) was the apostle Paul. The tradition of the early church is in agreement. Nevertheless, some NT scholars have questioned the Pauline authorship of these letters, citing alleged differences in vocabulary, style, and theology, as well as what are believed to be inconsistencies between Paul’s travels in the Pastoral Epistles and his travels recorded in the book of Acts. Such arguments are unconvincing, as noted below, and there is no persuasive reason to deny that Paul wrote these letters..."

"One significant literary feature of this epistle (as well as of 2 Timothy and Titus) is the recurrence of the phrase “the saying is trustworthy” (1:15; 3:1; 4:9; cf. 2 Tim. 2:11; Titus 3:8). The purpose of this phrase is to call attention to the importance of the truth that Paul references. These phrases often serve as crisp summaries of the gospel and its implications for the life of the Christian. In this way, Paul helps Timothy grasp the central or core truths of the message that he is called to proclaim (cf. 4:13, 16).

Another significant literary feature is 3:16. Some scholars think Paul is quoting a creed that was circulating in the early church. Or, it could be that Paul is giving the church a creed. Paul introduces the successive and rhythmic phrases with the expression “we confess.” The phrases then offer a summary of the earthly life of Christ from the incarnation to the ascension.

Finally with respect to literary style, a brief word must be said about the vocabulary and syntax of the Pastoral Epistles. Those who deny that Paul wrote 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus frequently point out that there are significant differences between the vocabulary of these three letters and the vocabulary of the rest of the Pauline corpus. The most basic form of the vocabulary-based argument against Pauline authorship of the Pastorals says that since these three letters contain many words not found in the other letters attributed to Paul, the Pastoral Epistles must be from a different author. This argument is flawed for several reasons. First, it assumes that a well-educated individual such as Paul had a limited vocabulary and was bound to use only a select set of words every time he wrote. This is not tenable. It would be quite easy to point to several modern books that are known to be written by the same author and find differences in vocabulary between them, but we would not then deny the common authorship of those books. The vocabulary Paul does use in the Pastoral Epistles was common in his era, so there is no reason to think he would not have known it. Furthermore, the vocabulary-based argument against Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles is quite circular. Critical scholars who hold this position first assume—without really proving—that only a handful of letters are authentically Pauline and then attempt to disprove the Pauline authorship of the Pastorals based on that. Effectively, what happens is that critical scholars presuppose that Paul did not write the Pastorals and then conclude, based almost exclusively on that presupposition, that Paul did not write the Pastoral Epistles.

The vocabulary-based argument against Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles is overstated and circular. Any differences between the Pastorals and the rest of Paul’s epistles are more easily explained by the fact that the addressees and circumstances of the Pastoral Epistles are different than the addressees and circumstances of Paul’s other epistles. The same applies in the case of syntactical differences between the Pastoral Epistles and Paul’s other letters. Moreover, Paul also likely used an amanuensis (secretary) to help him write the Pastorals who was not the same amanuensis that helped him write his other epistles. This would also explain some of the differences between the Pastoral Epistles and the rest of the Pauline letters."

The Reformation Study Bible (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2015), 2149, 2151-2152


  1. If Paul can see a bright light on a dark desert highway and believe that he has seen the physically resurrected Jesus then it is entirely plausible that this is what happened to Peter, James, the Twelve, and the “Five Hundred”. They all saw a strange bright light and believed it was an appearance of the physically resurrected Jesus. Paul may have believed that his bright light spoke to him, but a guy who believes that he has taken an intergalactic space voyage to a “third heaven” to hear confidential communications between space people is not dealing with a full deck.

    The Gospels were written by non-eyewitnesses, decades after the death of Jesus, writing works of evangelism. The Appearance Stories in Matthew and Luke have nothing in common. Any non-biased reader would see these two stories are fictional embellishments of the bare-bones appearance accounts mentioned in the Early Creed. And John’s Appearance Stories, written one or more decades later, look like an amalgamation of Matthew and Luke’s Appearance Stories. Fleshed-out Appearances Stories involving seeing and touching a resurrected corpse are going to convert many more souls than a dry, non-descript list of alleged eyewitnesses.

    Unlike Jesus’ disciples, Paul was a highly educated. He was also a pharisee. Yet he converted to the new Christian sect due to a (talking) bright light. How much more likely then are the chances that the “unlearned” disciples converted due to even less dramatic experiences, such as vivid dreams, false sightings, or non-talking bright lights!

  2. Gary,

    What I see in your comments is several deliberate exaggerations and misrepresentations. You certainly are not without biases of your own. Non-miraculous explanations of Jesus’ resurrection tend to rewrite the evidence to suit themselves and set up straw men arguments (Paul had a hallucination, not playing with a full deck, etc).

    The miraculous explanation in my opine makes the best sense of all the New Testament evidence (for those who are serious about investigating the matter), the disciples’ transformed lives, and the early church’s phenomenal growth. The disciples in their right minds would not die for a cause that they beforehand knew to be built on falsehood.

    Someone may say that the miraculous explanation is beyond the ability of the historian to prove. But this is only true if we start with the presupposition that the miraculous is not a part of history. Even the disciples themselves were initially skeptical of Jesus’ resurrection — and they were convinced of it once they saw, heard, and touched Him in His resurrection body.

    All four of the Gospels are written either by eyewitnesses themselves, or from the direct accounts of eyewitnesses. Thus, to assert that they are not written by eyewitnesses is mistaken. In regards to the writing timeline, they were all written within thirty years of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is a relatively short period of time in comparison to other ancient texts and means that most of those who were eyewitnesses were still alive, even as the Apostle Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 15:6).

    Even assuming that the four gospel accounts were not written by eyewitnesses, the conclusion that they are rubbish or inaccurate does not follow. Secondhand accounts are trusted, for example, on a daily basis in courtrooms.

    As far as any early church creeds go, they are meant to be very concise doctrinal statements. They are not intended to be full or complete narratives. Moreover, a corpse by definition is deceased. So calling Jesus a "resurrected corpse" is inherently contradictory. The level of education that a person has received does not in of itself disqualify his or her testimony.