Monday, March 29, 2021

Pastoral Epistles

Many biblical scholars believe that Paul did not write letters to Timothy and Titus that are collectively called the pastoral epistles. The main reason is the reference to bishops and deacons. They assume that these roles only emerged when the church became institutionalised, which was well after the time of Paul’s ministry, so he could not have written these letters. This is only a problem if the letters were referring to bishops as rulers over the church.

The first letter to Timothy actually addresses the issue over overseers (plural). The Greek word is episkopos, which refers to watching over people. This was the role of elders looking after the churches that Paul and his colleagues established. In Acts 20:28, Paul challenged the gathered elders gathered from Ephesus.

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God which he bought with his own blood.

In this passage, Paul links overseers, shepherds and elders in the same role. The Greek word for overseer is episkopos, the same word as used in the Letter to Timothy. This means that the overseer (elder) and deacon (a person responsible for caring for the poor were important roles in the church right from the beginning.

Paul had asked Timothy and Titus to ensure that elders were released in all of the churches, so it is natural that he would give them guidance about the type of person that could do the role. Paul was not worried about Christian doctrine. His focus is on avoiding people with weak character. He wanted to ensure that immature believers did not take charge of a church.

Unrighteous wealth was being given away by new Christians right from the beginning (Acts 4:34-37). Some of the new converts in Asia and Macedonia were rich, so it was really important that the ministry of the deacon was well established. That would be why he outlined the personal requirements to Timothy.

Timothy was just starting his ministry when the letters were written, so they must have been written early on in Paul’s ministry (1 Tim 1:16). Paul would not have described Timothy as vulnerable if written it was written at a later date.

The letter could have been written during Pauls difficult years following his banishment from Ephesus when he was suffering under persecution, as described in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. Paul was sending people all over the place, but not making real progress with the gospel, which could be the reason for the despair at the end of the second letter to Timothy.

The last days is the period between the death and resurrection of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem. That is why he gave advice about living in the last days. It suggests that the letters were written before AD 70.

I am quite happy to believe that Paul wrote the pastoral epistles.

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