Home » Uncategorized » Could Paul Have Written the Pastoral Epsitles? An Examination of Linguistic Objections

Could Paul Have Written the Pastoral Epsitles? An Examination of Linguistic Objections

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This post will briefly examine objections to the Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles based on linguistic observations. The conclusion arrived at is that these objections are not sufficient to show that Paul did not write these letters.

Objection: Paul normally writes in lengthy arguments answering objections as he goes. The author of the Pastoral Epistles do not do this but instead argue on the basis of what is already known by the audience. “Furthermore, the false teachers are warned against more than argued against”[1]These factors are indicative of a style of writing that is non-Pauline.

Response: “It would be strange indeed if he wrote to them [Timothy and Titus] in the way that he wrote to the members of a local church. Thus the differences in and of themselves are evidence not of non-Pauline authorship but of a more personal form of letters addressed to apostolic assistants.” [2] Macarthur also backs this point up by noting that the recipients involved are people who would have been intimately familiar with Paul’s theology already, and therefore the tone of the letters are more generally practical rather than strictly theological.[3] This emphasis on the practical side of Christianity in most of the letters would have reduced the need to formulate and develop complex argumentation.

Acts 20:17 provides a framework against which to assess Pauline styles of dealing directly with people who are familiar with his teaching rather than through a church letter. According to Knight there are many similarities in style between this account and the tone of the Pastoral Epistles.

 

Despite the clearly practical tenor of the letters, Paul does develop arguments e.g. about prayer in 1 Timothy 2:1-7; women in the church in 1 Timothy 2:11-15; Slaves serving their masters in 1 Timothy 6:1f and Titus 2:9-10[4]. There is also teaching about scripture in 2 Timothy 3:15-17 and of salvation in Titus 3:5-7.[5] These may not be arguments in the same depth as his other letters, but once again – Paul’s recipients may well have been familiar with the overall thrust of his argumentation already and just in need of a reminder.

 

 

Objection: Key Pauline concepts are missing from the letters e.g “’faith’ as the justifying principle.[6] The lack of these concepts argues against Pauline authorship as these are the topics that he focuses on.

Response: 1 Thessalonians and Philemon would also therefore have to be rejected. Despite what the argument claims regarding faith as the justifying principle 1 Timothy 1:16 and Titus 3:7-8 do seem to refer to this kind of faith.[7] That the pastoral letters are short also presents a challenge for this view of concepts being missing. The brevity of the letters does not allow for some concepts to be discussed if they were not immediately relevant to Paul and his audience in the given context.

 

Hendricksen suggests that the recipients’ familiarity with Pauline teaching could well have removed the need to discuss key themes found in his other letters[8]

 

Whilst some concepts may be missing to some degree it is also true that characteristically Pauline salutations and metaphors are also present.[9] For Black it is not enough to claim that a pseudonymous author inserted these to sound Pauline, as then why did he not include more Pauline phrases to make his letters seem more genuine. Instead these phrases seem to be genuinely Pauline.

 

Objection: Key Pauline words are missing from the pastorals. This list would include such words as “son”, “spirit” etc and also certain particles (connecting words) and expressions that are used in the other Pauline letters to quite a high degree.[10] These particles and expressions are the ways in which an author connects the flow of his writing together and therefore constitute part of the style of the author. The lack of these from the Pauline Epistles is indicative that Paul did not write these letters.

Response: Knight states that all of the key words mentioned are missing from one or more of the epistles that it is accepted that Paul wrote. The conclusion of this evidence is, according to Knight, that “…not one of these terms is so Pauline that a letter of his could not be written without it.” [11] Hendricksen concurs, pointing to Colossians, 2 Thessalonians and Philemon as letters that are relatively lacking in references to the word Spirit just as the Pastoral Epistles are.[12]

With regards to the particles that connect the words in Paul’s letters outside the Pastorals, Carson and Moo note that there is a large difference in usage across the traditionally accepted Pauline epistles as well.[13] This variation in usage nullifies the argument.

 

Objection:Too many words are used that are not used in his other epistles or the new testament as a whole; this includes some Latin loan words.[14] The ratio of words that are not found in the other epistles can be summarized following comparison with the other letters as follows: “A letter made up of the three Pastoral Epistles should only contain 107 words not used in the other ten Paulines, instead of the actual 331”[15] Another way to put this would be that over a third of the words in the pastoral epistles are not found in the other Pauline letters, and a half of that third is not used elsewhere in the New Testament at all.[16] For such short letters these statistics show the differences to be quite marked. This is also the case with key phrases new to the pastorals such as the “man of god” “Jesus, our hope” and “the snare of the devil”.[17] The new vocabulary also aligns itself with more “higher koine… this fact argues strongly against the authenticity of the Pastorals.” [18]

Firstly it should be pointed out that Paul’s travel and his changing circumstances in age could well impact his use of vocabulary and style[19] Rather than assuming that this must remain static it is reasonable to see it change. This is further backed up by Guthrie who also points to differences in topics, age and circumstances that would impact the way the letters were written.[20] In addition to this, Baum states that the letters bear the hallmark of letters that were written with more time and care.[21] If Baum is correct then the poorer vocabulary of the other ten epistles would be the result of a more hurried process of writing. It is not just the time taken writing the letters that Baum posits as a possible explanation – it is also the fact that the other letters were written to be read out loud to the congregation whilst the pastorals were written to be read privately – this would impact the style of the writing itself.[22] Whilst Baum does not elaborate, a possible impact of this difference in audience and intended method of reading could be that Paul in the one hand would cater for ill-educated Christians by using a lower vocabulary, but when writing to his colleagues he catered for their educational/ intellectual level. Lange does seem to hint at this when he calls Paul’s recipients scholars,[23] although this designation is not backed up.

Against the idea of age playing a part in Paul’s changed vocabulary Marshall writes “Observation shows that old age may make people garrulous or less sharp. It does not lead to a significant shift in the way in which they express themselves.”[24] This would seem to miss the point though, with age comes experience and growth rather than stagnation in style.

 

Another argument against the objection is posited by Black. Black argues that Paul may well have used a scribe to assist in his writing if circumstances demanded it. If he allowed the scribe some freedom in word usage rather than employing a strict dictation then this would more than account for some of the anomalous use of terms and lacking words.[25] Kelly argues quite forcefully for this conclusion, stating that the modern notion of dictation was something foreign to the 1st Century AD. Paul would have had to make use of such a scribe if in jail as he was when writing 2 Timothy[26]

Against the notion of a scribe however is the point that the other letters that many posit to have been written by a scribe are rather homogenous in character thereby indicating a rather formal dictation style.[27] This conclusion is not shared by all however, some for example point to 1 and 2 Thessalonians as being different from Romans, Corinthians and Galatians possibly due to different scribes being involved. Further, the homogeneity that is found in some of the letters could be attributable to the same scribe being involved.

 

With regards to the argument about the large number of words that are found in the Pastoral Epistles and not in Paul’s other ten writings, Hendricksen points out that just over a quarter of the vocabulary in Romans does not appear in the other Pauline letters.[28] Despite this, the authorship of Romans is not called into question.

A further issue that needs to be noted carefully here is raised by J.N.D. Kelly who states “There is general agreement, on the one hand, that the letters abound in clauses, sentences, even short paragraphs, with an unmistakably Pauline ring, and that their formal structure is also thoroughly Pauline.”[29]

 

Interestingly, there is another reason that the language used in the Pastoral Epistles may not seem particularly Pauline in character. It is possible, according to Lange, that Paul was borrowing his terminology and phrases from those whose errors he was seeking to correct.[30] This conclusion is also raised by Mounce who cautiously argues that many of the expressions could have been stoic terminology adapted to Christian usage. We are however urged to not see this as a simple get out clause as a reason for claiming stoic terminology has been used must be given if this argument is to stand.[31]

A similar argument is that many of the words that only appear in the Pastoral Epistles may come from sources based in tradition and therefore not distinctly Pauline in construction. Mounce cites Ellis’ conclusion that there are 157 such instances.[32]

 

Objection: Two thirds of the list of words that do not appear in Paul’s other letters are also shared with second century writings meaning that they may have been the work of a second century author.[33] This proportion stands at over half of the new words found in the Pastoral Epistles are found in second century authors[34]

Response: Further to the arguments about vocabulary cited above Macarthur states that many of these words are also to be found in writings predating AD 50 and are therefore not a good indicator of the time of writing.[35] This is especially the case when a number of these words are found in the Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint which Paul would have been very familiar with.[36] Mounce lists this number of words found in the LXX as 80 of the 175 unique words in Pastoral Epistles.[37]This use of words from the Septuagint is less than in the other Pauline epistles[38] but still needs to factored into the discussion.

Kelly points out that many of the words that appear only in 1 Corinthians and not elsewhere in the Bible are also found in use in the second century writers in the same proportion as with the pastoral epistles and yet Paul’s authorship of 1 Corinthians is not in doubt.[39]

 

Objection: The amount of Latin words and phrases mean that the author has to be someone who is very familiar with Latin and probably living in or near Rome.[40]

Answer: The change in Paul’s circumstances could well explain the Latinisms that are noted, especially if these letters were written from Italy; besides this, there are actually only 2 such Latin loan words. The criterion of Latin loan words also fails as Latin loan words are found in the accepted Pauline corpus as well.[41] On this reasoning these would also need to be rejected. Words that seem familiar between Latin and the Greek writing of the Pastoral Epistles can also be explained by the heavy borrowing and translation between the languages by the time of the first Century AD as is also seen in other writings of the time.[42]According to Mounce Hitchcock has identified 160 such words and phrases that are distinctly Latin. Mounce identifies Paul’s time in prison in Rome as a time that he may have picked up many Latin expressions.[43]

Objection: The language of the Pastoral Epistles is closer to cultivated Greek rather than the common form used in the rest of Paul’s letters.

Answer: The conclusion that the language involved was more in line with a higher koine is not conclusive against Pauline authorship. The improvement in the Greek could well be a result of his time with the Greek speaking Ephesian church causing him to improve his vocabulary to better communicate with them.[44] Kelly presses this point further when he refers to the improvement in the Greek of Philippians as an example of Paul moving towards more cultivated Hellenistic Greek.[45]

 

 

Objection: Knight cites Gealy’s argument as representative of the argument from the manner in which Paul addresses his audience. Gealy, according to Knight notes that Paul addresses Timothy and Titus as his children and as still youthful. They are also instructed authoritatively. This is despite the fact that they would have been with him as associates for some time and must be in positions of authority in the church already.[46]

Answer: Paul calls Timothy his child even in 1 Corinthians 4:17. He also acts authoritatively over them in such passages as Acts 19:22, 2 Cor 8:6 and 12:18). Paul’s language about believers not looking down on Titus in Titus 2:15 can also be seen directed towards Timothy’s situation in 1 Corinthians 6:11[47]. Knight also notes that a person was considered youthful until they were old thus explaining Paul’s references to their youth.[48]

 

[1] Knight, G. W. (1992). The Pastoral Epistles: a commentary on the Greek text (pp. 22–23). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press. (note that Knight is summarising a view here that he will later argue against).
[2] Knight, G. W. (1992). The Pastoral Epistles: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 23). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.
[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy. Chicago: Moody Press.
[4] Knight, G. W. (1992). The Pastoral Epistles: a commentary on the Greek text (pp. 23–24). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.
[5] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy. Chicago: Moody Press.
[6] Knight, G. W. (1992). The Pastoral Epistles: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 32). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press. (Note that Knight is not arguing for this and responds to it).
[7] Knight, G. W. (1992). The Pastoral Epistles: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 32). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.
[8] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 4, p. 9). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
[9] Black, R., & McClung, R. (2004). 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon: a commentary for bible students (p. 19). Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House.
[10] Carson, D. A., & Moo, D. J. (2005). An Introduction to the New Testament (Second Edition., p. 556). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[11] Knight, G. W. (1992). The Pastoral Epistles: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 33). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.
[12] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 4, p. 9). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
[13] Carson, D. A., & Moo, D. J. (2005). An Introduction to the New Testament (Second Edition., p. 557). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[14] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 4, pp. 6–7). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
[15] Baum, A. D. (2008). Semantic Variation within the Corpus Paulinum: Linguistic Considerations Concerning the Richer Vocabulary of the Pastoral Epistles. Tyndale Bulletin, 59(2), 276.
[16] Lock, W. (1924). A critical and exegetical commentary on the Pastoral epistles (I & II Timothy and Titus) (p. xxviii). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
[17] Lock, W. (1924). A critical and exegetical commentary on the Pastoral epistles (I & II Timothy and Titus) (p. xxviii). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
[18] Dibelius, M., & Conzelmann, H. (1972). The Pastoral epistles: a commentary on the Pastoral epistles (p. 3). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
[19] Black, R., & McClung, R. (2004). 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon: a commentary for bible students (p. 19). Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House.
[20] Guthrie, D. (1990). Pastoral Epistles: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 14, p. 57). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
[21] Baum, A. D. (2008). Semantic Variation within the Corpus Paulinum: Linguistic Considerations Concerning the Richer Vocabulary of the Pastoral Epistles. Tyndale Bulletin, 59(2), 291–292.
[22] Baum, A. D. (2008). Semantic Variation within the Corpus Paulinum: Linguistic Considerations Concerning the Richer Vocabulary of the Pastoral Epistles. Tyndale Bulletin, 59(2), 291–292.
[23] Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., & van Oosterzee, J. J. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: 1 & 2 Timothy. (E. A. Washburn & E. Harwood, Trans.) (p. 3). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
[24] Marshall, I. H., & Towner, P. H. (2004). A critical and exegetical commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (p. 64). London; New York: T&T Clark International.
[25] Black, R., & McClung, R. (2004). 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon: a commentary for bible students (p. 20). Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House.
[26] Kelly, J. N. D. (1963). The pastoral epistles (p. 26). London: Continuum.
[27] Marshall, I. H., & Towner, P. H. (2004). A critical and exegetical commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (p. 65). London; New York: T&T Clark International.
[28] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 4, p. 8). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
[29] Kelly, J. N. D. (1963). The pastoral epistles (p. 21). London: Continuum.
[30] Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., & van Oosterzee, J. J. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: 1 & 2 Timothy. (E. A. Washburn & E. Harwood, Trans.) (p. 3). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
[31] Mounce, W. D. (2000). Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 46, p. ci). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
[32] Mounce, W. D. (2000). Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 46, p. ci). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
[33] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy. Chicago: Moody Press.
[34] Lock, W. (1924). A critical and exegetical commentary on the Pastoral epistles (I & II Timothy and Titus) (p. xxix). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
[35] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy. Chicago: Moody Press.
[36] Guthrie, D. (1990). Pastoral Epistles: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 14, p. 57). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
[37] Mounce, W. D. (2000). Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 46, pp. ciii–civ). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
[38] Kelly, J. N. D. (1963). The pastoral epistles (p. 23). London: Continuum.
[39] Kelly, J. N. D. (1963). The pastoral epistles (p. 24). London: Continuum.
[40] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 4, p. 7). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
[41] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 4, p. 10). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
[42] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 4, p. 11). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
[43] Mounce, W. D. (2000). Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 46, p. c). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
[44]Mounce, W. D. (2000). Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 46, p. c). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
[45] Kelly, J. N. D. (1963). The pastoral epistles (p. 25). London: Continuum.
[46] Knight, G. W. (1992). The Pastoral Epistles: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 24). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.
[47] Knight, G. W. (1992). The Pastoral Epistles: a commentary on the Greek text (pp. 24–25). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.
[48] Knight, G. W. (1992). The Pastoral Epistles: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 25). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.

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