Part One: External Evidence


             For most, there is no questioning the genuineness of the Pastoral Epistles.[1] It is assumed that thesPaul letterse documents are in fact part of the canon of scripture and in essence the very words of God. However, it may surprise some that most individuals of scholarship “insist[s] that the pastorals were all written by someone other than Paul.[2]” For conservatives, maintaining such a view would take into question the genuineness or inspiration of the PE. Nevertheless, a deeper investigation of the issues may indicate that such a view is not that farfetched. In reality, the answers are not as easy as merely reading the opening words of each letter. Therefore, it seems that if one could establish authorship for the PE than the genuineness of those documents would develop accordingly. Thus, the purpose of what follows is a pursuit to establish and contend for Pauline authorship of the PE by examining both external and internal evidence. The importance of this endeavor is tersely summed up by Harrison: “We must endeavour to promote a right understanding of their message and a just appreciation of their worth, by seeking first to ascertain and establish, as far as may be, the facts of their authorship.[3]

            It seems fitting to approach the discussion by first observing the external evidence for Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles. It has well been established that the early church viewed the PE as authoritative documents along with other New Testament writings in the later part of the second century.[4] Moreover, the genuineness of Pauline authorship was not taken into sincere questioning until the nineteenth century.[5] Strong examples of these second century authorities include Clement of Alexandria who regularly connected his citations from the PE to Paul. Similarly, Ignatius, Tertullian, Justin Martyr and Irrenaeus[6] all allude to Pauline authorship of the PE. Also of significant importance is the PE listed within the Muratorian Canon. While the evidence for these second century attestations seems valuable, they still fail to display convincing conclusions. The evidence from Polycarp however, develops a substantial case for Pauline authorship.[7] Berding points out that in Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians he has an unmistakable tendency to cluster Pauline citations and allusions after he mentions the name of the apostle Paul.[8] Interestingly, contained within two specific “clusters” are clear references to passages in 1 and 2 Timothy.[9] The implication is that Polycarp considered the phrases in each cluster to be Pauline. If this conclusion is accepted, then a most important implication is that Polycarp considered the phrases which he quoted from 1 and 2 Timothy also to be Pauline.[10] The significance of this point is heightened with the understanding that Polycarp could be dated as early as 120 A.D.[11] Polycarp becomes the earliest witness to the Pauline authorship of two of the three PE by about 50 years. Moreover, it should be noted that Harrison rightly points out that “if Polycarp knew 1 and 2 Timothy, it becomes a priori more than likely that he knew the Epistle to Titus also.[12]P46


          Although the external material seems to favor Pauline authorship of the PE there remains two very important and weighty suggestions that seek to refute the above arguments. First, the PE are omitted from the Chester Beatty Papyri (P46), an early collection of Paul’s writings dating as soon as the early third century. The papyrus is missing its last seven leaves which seem to exclude 2 Thessalonians, the PE, and Philemon (it does contain Hebrews however). Those who deny Pauline authorship point out that there would have not been enough room for the scribe to include 2 Thessalonians, Philemon and the PE. The resulting inference implies that since such an early and well attested manuscript as P46 did not choose to include the PE, then they must not have been seen as attributed to Paul.  While this argument seems substantial on the surface convincing reactions have well been attested. Jeremias has demonstrated that the scribe’s writing grew smaller toward the end of the manuscript as a result of running out of writing space.[13] Therefore, it is possible that the seven missing leaves could have contained the rest of the Pauline letters. A similar case was argued by J. Duff who points out that “there is a chance the manuscript did have space for the Pastoral Epistles, since the scribe’s writing gets more compact as the manuscript proceeds.[14]” Guthrie explains that it was not uncommon for scribes to “add additional sheets at the end of a codex,[15]” and this could allow for the missing PE. The omission of Philemon may indicate that the codex only included Paul’s letters to churches and left out letters written to individuals. This may explain the omission of Philemon and the PE but the inclusion of Hebrews. If however, the above reactions were not taken into consideration this particular argument still fails to stand. This precarious form of argument of questioning the authenticity of the PE because of their absence in the papyri, if taken to its logical extreme, would have to also question the authority of all of the other New Testament books not represented in the papyri.[16]


           The second issue revolves around Marcion, a mid-second century heretic. Marcion adapted a belief that rejected any remnant of Jewish theology within the New Testament. Thus, along with the PE he also rejected books such as Matthew, Mark, and John because of their Jewish connotations. Specifically, the dilemma involves Marcion’s omission of the PE in his “canon.” Scholars opposed to Pauline authorship submit that Marcion was unaware of the PE existence and therefore conclude that Paul could not have possibly written them. However, it is Tertullian who stated that Marcion rejected the PE. Some believe Tertullian was mistaken and speculate how Marcion could have rejected such works if in fact they were already accepted by the orthodox community. Yet, it seems clear that if Marcion was willing to reject other well established books such as Matthew and John, then why would he hesitate to omit the PE? Furthermore, the PE do contain teachings that would give Marcion reason to reject them (e.g. 1 Tim. 1:8; 1 Tim. 4:3; 2 Tim. 3:16). Tertullian’s statement therefore, seems appropriate and Marcion’s omission of the PE fails to convince a non-Pauline author.

            Now that we have examined the external evidence we shall swiftly sift through the internal evidence in part two of our examination of the genuineness of the pastorals.

                   [1]  Pastoral Epistles will be referred to as PE.

               [2] D.A. Carson, and Douglas Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. Rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 555

               [3] P.N. Harrison, The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles (Humphrey Milford: Oxford, 1921), 17.

               [4] cf. Donald Guthrie. The Pastoral Epistles. Rev. ed. (TNTC  Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s, 2002), 20; I. H. Marshall. The Pastoral Epistles (ICC  New York: T&T, 1999), 5; and William Mounce, D. Pastoral Epistles  (WBC 46; Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000), 14.

                   [5] Guthrie outlines a fine list of scholars in the last 200 years who oppose Pauline authorship and those who affirm it. See Guthrie, Pastoral Epistles, 21-22.

               [6] Irenaeus (ca. 188) is the first clear testimony to Pauline authorship, for he quotes phrases from the Pastorals as coming from Paul. See Kenneth Berding, “Polycarp of Smyrna’s view of the authorship of 1 and 2 Timothy,” VC 53 (1999): 349-360.

               [7] Some question the validity of Polycarp’s usage of the PE. Moreover, the author of the PE is viewed as using Polycarp. This claim has been well refuted however. See Mounce, Pastorals, 17.

               [8] Berding, “Polycarp,” 349.

               [9] The first Cluster in Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians is 3.2-4.1 and references 1 Timothy 6:10 and 1 Timothy 6:7. The second cluster is 9.1-10.1 and references 2 Timothy 4:10.

               [10] Berding, “Polycarp,” 359.

               [11] The date could be as high as 135 A.D.  See Berding, “Polycarp,” 350.

                   [12] Harrison, Problem, 295.

               [13] Mounce, Pastorals, 15.

               [14]Stanley E. Porter “Greek New Testament Manuscripts.” DNTB  675.

               [15] Guthrie, Pastoral Epistles, 20.

                   [16] Mounce, Pastorals, 15.


2 thoughts on “DID PAUL WRITE THE PASTORAL EPISTLES? (Part one)”

  1. “Marcion adapted a belief that rejected any remnant of Jewish theology within the New Testament.”

    Actually from Tertullian’s five books Against Marcion that Marcion was trying to save Jewish theology from the radical anti-Judaism of Catholicism. Bear with me on this.

    Guys like Tertullian on the Catholic side write things like that the Jews are all idiots who don’t even understand their own book. The Old Testament, Tertullian says, belongs to the church and the Jews have no right to it. Essentially, to the Catholics of the second and third century, the Jewish religion has no continued right to exist, and Jews have no claim on the Old Testament: everything is transferred to the church. All Jewish interpretation is rejected as carnal and stupid, especially if it is literal or historio-grammatical interpretation of the prophets, and its its place only allegorical and mystical Christian interpretations of the Old Testament are allowed.

    Marcion, on the other hand, embraces Jewish interpretation outright, so much so that Tertullian reuses parts of his treatise Against the Jews in his books Against Marcion. For example, Marcion agrees with the Jews on their interpretation of Isaiah 7-8 being about Hezekiah. Marcion agrees with the Jews that the Messiah promised by the Old Testament will be a warrior to restore the Jews to national power.

    Marcion is in fact trying to salvage Jewish interpretation and theology by making room for both Christianity and Judaism to be true. To Marcion, Judaism is true inasmuch as the Old Testament is the true record of the Creator God and inspired by Him. The prophecies of the Old Testament are true and will come to pass. The history is true and really did happen. The Jewish Messiah is yet to come and will come exactly the way the Jews expect him to come. But at the same time, Jesus is the Christ, but he is the Christ of a higher and better God who was unknown until Jesus’ appearance. Marcion is attempting a sort of ecumenism; a way to say that Judaism is still valid because Jesus is the Christ but not the Messiah of Judaism who is still to come and establish the carnal kingdom that the Jews look forward to in their religion. In other words, he views the Jewish Messiah as the carnal political figure they are looking for and tell them this figure will indeed come; but at the same time he views Jesus as the Christ and spiritual savior of the world.

    This is all explained very well in Tertullian, if anyone will bother to read it.

  2. “Thus, along with the PE he also rejected books such as Matthew, Mark, and John because of their Jewish connotations.”

    Although Ireneaus, Tertullian, and Epiphanius claim Marcion only accepted a shortened Luke, there are other traditions that suggest otherwise. Hippolytus claims that Marcion’s gospel was a lengthened Mark. The dialogue of Adamantius has the Marcionite apologist quoting mainly from a John-like gospel. The commentary of Ephrem the Syrian clear views Marcion’s gospel as a rival Diatessaron-like harmony. There is a preface to John that associates Marcion with the gospel of John (in what are called the Anti-Marcionite prologues to the gospels: http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/anti_marcionite_prologues.htm) :

    The Gospel of John was revealed and given to the churches by John while still in the body, just as Papias of Hieropolis, the close disciple of John, related in the exoterics, that is, in the last five books. Indeed he wrote down the gospel, while John was dictating carefully. But the heretic Marcion, after being condemned by him because he was teaching 2 the opposite to him [John], was expelled by John. But he [Marcion] had brought writings or letters to him [John] from the brothers which were in Pontus.

    Some alternative translations from the Latin have it the “Indeed he wrote down the gospel” as referring to Marcion, featuring Marcion as John’s scribe who released a deficient version of John ahead of John’s publication of the gospel and was thus expelled by John for this reason.

    In any case, nothing in Luke, even after being shortened, sounds anything like Marcion’s theology. However, many things in John do. Marcion according to Tertullian claims that Jesus reveals a God who was previously completely unknown. John claims the same: “No man has ever seen God. The onlybegotten son who is in the bossom of the Father has declared him.” Marcion claims Jesus was not born but brought his body with him down from heaven. John features Jesus’ “mother” twice only to disown her on both occasions “woman what have I to do with you” and “Man behold thy mother, mother behold thy son” to the beloved disciple. And John has Jesus say in John 6 “I am the bread from heaven…and the bread I will give is my flesh” from which it can be inferred that Jesus brought his flesh with him from heaven rather than deriving it from a womb.

    These things make it much more likely that Marcion’s gospel was a version of John than of Luke, or at least that Marcion’s gospel was a gospel harmony which included parts of John. Ireneaus, Tertullian, and Epiphanius are pulling a bait and switch in claiming that Marcion’s gospel was a shortened Luke.

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