DID PAUL WRITE THE PASTORAL EPISTLES? (Part one)

DID PAUL WRITE THE PASTORAL EPISTLES?

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.