Friday, 23 November 2007

Authenticity of the Pastoral Epistles

Back in the 60s and 70s, you could only find people who accepted Pauline authorship of PE (Pastoral Epistles) among the more conservative schools not exactly well known for critical scholarship.

Then in the early 1980s, Gordon Fee wrote his small but groundbreaking commentary on the PE which 1) provided a reconstruction of the situation behind the PE which made sense of the textual data; and 2) gave critical reasons refuting liberal interpretation of some of the data--yes, there are some significant differences of style, but they can be accounted for.

The impact of Fee's analysis was so great that my survey of the best six commentaries on PE earlier in this decade showed that four of the six accepted Pauline authorship. In my estimation, the best commentary on PE is by Robert Mounce in the Word Biblical Commentary, which is profoundly indebted to Fee in reconstructing the situation behind the PE.

I just finished reading through the PE in French and Greek. Time and time again, I found myself saying, "If this is by a forger or a pseudepigrapher, why would he have have bothered mentioning this detail?"

Part of the problem leading up to belief that PE are inauthentic is that scholars took Timothy and Titus to be pastors who were supposed to establish fledgling churches with a proper church order. This certainly isn't the case for 1 Timothy, for Ephesus was one of Paul's oldest churches, they had had elders there for at least half a dozen years, and Timothy was not serving as a pastor, but as an apostolic delegate to fix major, major problems there. (Many older commentaries and Bible helps such as the notes from NIV Study Bible are badly mistaken on these things).

The issue of ordaining elders is also a misstep behind the acceptance of the inauthenticy of PE. According to Luke, the laying on of hands as an act of commissioning for a specific role in the evangelical task is attested prior to Paul's missionary journeys. Why would he not lay hands on elders as he appointed church leaders?

In the case of Ephesians, Paul was not giving instructions on which people should be ordained as church leaders in a new church. Quite the contrary. The only reason why he had to appoint new leaders was because he, apparently, had laid hands hastily on several of them a few years earlier, and they turned out to be scoundrels. He disfellowshiped them, and the resultant vacancies necessitated the appointment of new elders.

Much more could be said.

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