The Pastoral Epistles
[Sidenote: The Author.]

1 and 2 Timothy and Titus form the fourth and last group of St. Paul's Epistles, and are known as the Pastoral Epistles,[1] because they deal so largely with the duties and qualifications of the men entrusted with the pastoral care of the Church. St. Paul here teaches the teachers.

Their genuineness is more frequently denied than that of any other of St. Paul's Epistles, and this attack upon their genuineness has been mostly based upon the character of their teaching about the office-bearers of the Church. Attempts have sometimes been made to separate some fragments supposed to be genuine from the remaining portions. All such attempts have failed. These Epistles must either be rejected entirely or accepted entirely. Otherwise we become involved in a hopeless tangle of conjectures.

The external evidence is excellent. They are found in the Syriac and Old Latin versions, and in the Muratorian Fragment. They are all quoted by Irenaeus, and also by Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian. Their authenticity was therefore regarded as a certain fact in the latter part of the 2nd century, and early in the 4th century Eusebius was unaware that any doubts concerning them existed in the Church. Moreover, St. Polycarp, A.D.110, quotes both 1 and 2 Timothy. The {196} combined evidence of these writers forms a very substantial argument. Against it we sometimes find urged the fact that the heretic Marcion rejected them. Such an objection borders on frivolity. Marcion held a definite doctrinal heresy, and rejected everything which he could not make to coincide with his own belief. The value which is set on the Old Testament (e.g. 2 Tim. iii.16), the assertion of a real incarnation (e.g. 1 Tim. ii.5), and the sustained opposition to a false spiritualism, which these Epistles exhibit, must have been intensely distasteful to Marcion. We have therefore no reason for believing that he would hesitate to reject them, while knowing them to be genuine, any more than he hesitated to reject all the Gospels except Luke.

The internal evidence is called in question for the following reasons.

1. Historical difficulties. -- We cannot place the journey referred to in 1 Tim. i.3 during the three years' stay at Ephesus mentioned in Acts. The visit to Miletus in 2 Tim. iv.20 cannot have taken place on the journey to Jerusalem in Acts xx., because Trophimus was with the apostle when he reached that city (Acts xxi.29). Again, in 2 Tim. iv.20 Erastus "abode at Corinth." But he had not been to Corinth for a long time before the journey to Rome recorded in Acts. In Tit. i.5 we see Titus left by St. Paul at Crete; he is to join the apostle in Nicopolis (iii.12). But Acts allows no room for this, and the reference to Apollos (iii.13) implies a later period than St. Paul's stay at Corinth (Acts xviii.).

Answer. -- All three Epistles may quite well be later than the history related in Acts. There is no reason for denying that St. Paul was set free after his trial at Rome, and arrested again at a later date. Assuming that this liberation did take place, all historical difficulties vanish. There are several points in favour of this liberation. First, the attitude of the Roman government towards Christianity was fairly tolerant until Nero began his persecution in A.D.64, and the state of the law would {197} have allowed St. Paul's acquittal. Secondly, it was believed in the early Church that St. Paul was set free. The Muratorian Fragment says that he went to Spain, and St. Clement of Rome, writing from Rome about A.D.95, says that he went "to the boundary of the west," which seems to point to Spain. Thirdly, the chronology implied in the ancient list of the bishops of Rome will not allow us to put St. Paul's martyrdom earlier than A.D.64. Fourthly, the apostle himself expected to be set free (Phil. ii.24; Philem.22). There is therefore no historical reason for denying that St. Paul was set free from the imprisonment in which Acts leaves him.

2. References to heresies. -- It has been said that these Epistles contain references to heresies later than the apostolic age, such as the Gnosticism of the 2nd century. More especially, it is said that 1 Tim. vi.20, which speaks of "oppositions of gnosis falsely so called," refers to a work by Marcion called the "Oppositions" (Antitheses), in which he tried to demonstrate that the Old Testament was antagonistic to the New.

Answer. -- The heresies here rebuked are not so definitely described that we can determine their precise character. This fact is in favour of the idea that the heresies belong to the 1st century rather than to the 2nd. Stress has been laid upon statements which seem to imply Gnostic heresy, and heresy of a "Docetic" character, i.e. teaching a denial of the reality of our Lord's human nature. But there is certainly nothing which suggests that the error here rebuked was as developed as the heresy rebuked by St. Ignatius, or even that denounced by St. John. It is most unlikely that the word "oppositions" can refer to a book bearing that title. The passage 1 Tim. vi.20 does not suggest this. And if Marcion is really quoted in 1 Tim., how could Polycarp have quoted 1 Tim., as he does, before Marcion's book was written? Something of a Gnostic tendency is betokened by the scorn of material life and the human body shown in 1 Tim. iv.3, 8 and 2 Tim. ii.18. But the error is mainly Jewish. The false {198} teachers professed to be "teachers of the Law" (1 Tim. i.7), which was exactly the title claimed by the Jewish rabbis (see Luke v.17). The general character of their teaching was "vain talking" (1 Tim. i.6; cf. Tit. i.10; iii.9). It consists of "profane babblings" (1 Tim. vi.20; 2 Tim. ii.16). It is further characterized as "foolish questionings, and genealogies, and strifes, and fightings about the law . . . unprofitable and vain" (Tit. iii.9). It is summed up in the phrases "old wives' fables" (1 Tim. iv.7), "Jewish fables" (Tit. i.14). All this shows that the error was not a definite Gnostic heresy with a fundamentally false view of God. It was something intrinsically ridiculous. Therefore the "endless genealogies" (1 Tim. i.4) can hardly be Gnostic genealogies of the semi-divine beings who took part in the creation. They are Jewish tales about the heroes of the Old Testament. The error is, in fact, primitive, and does not belong to the 2nd century.

3. Church organization. -- It is said that these Epistles lay down the rules for an organization of the Church which is later than the apostolic age, and resembles the Episcopal system, such as we find it in the 2nd century. Titus and Timothy act as delegates of the apostle, and as the highest officials of the ministry, and they appoint presbyters and deacons. We thus find a threefold ministry which derives its sacred authority through the apostolate. The apostle lays his hands upon his delegate (2 Tim. i.6), and this delegate lays his hands upon others (1 Tim. v.22).

Answer. -- It is perfectly true that there is a threefold ministry mentioned in these Epistles. But there is no sufficient reason for denying that such a ministry is of apostolic origin. It seems quite certain that at Jerusalem the presbyters and deacons were under the authority of St. James, and after his death under that of Symeon. The same form of government can also be traced back in other places to apostolic times. Moreover, the organization which is mentioned in Acts is fundamentally the same as that in these Epistles. In Acts we {199} find the apostles first appointing deacons and then presbyters. All the additional evidence which has lately been discovered to support the genuineness of Acts therefore favours the genuineness of these Epistles. Finally, we must notice that the titles of the ministry in these Epistles do not correspond with the titles used in the 2nd century. The government is substantially "Episcopal," but the title "episkopos" was in the 2nd century only applied to the chief dignitary who ruled over the "presbyters." But here the title "episkopos" is applied to the presbyters themselves as the overseers of the congregation. We find the same thing in the letter of St. Clement, A.D.95. St. Clement, although Bishop of Rome, still gives the title of "episkopos" to the presbyters. This inconvenient practice was given up soon after that date, for we find that St. Ignatius, about A.D.110, applies the title "episkopos" only to the highest ministers of the Church. We conclude, therefore, that while the organization of the Church described in the Pastoral Epistles supports the belief that the threefold ministry, which we now call Episcopal organization, is of apostolic origin, it does not prove that these Epistles are forgeries. And it is natural that St. Paul, knowing that his death must before long come to pass, should devote a large measure of attention to questions of Church government and discipline. The history of the Church in the 2nd and 3rd centuries proves to us that the organization of the Church was almost as important as the inspiration of the Church.

4. Language. -- This is an important difficulty. There are in these Epistles many words and phrases which do not occur in the other Epistles of St. Paul. We find different Greek words used for "Lord" and for the second "advent," and a fondness for the words "wholesome," "godliness," and "faithful saying." The new element is most prominent in 1 Tim. and Titus.

Answer. -- Private letters to individuals and friends in reference to one particular subject are not likely to resemble public letters which were written in reference to other subjects. It {200} would therefore be unreasonable to expect that the style of the Pastoral Epistles should be cast in the same mould as that of the other Epistles of St. Paul. Nevertheless, the objection would have considerable weight, if St. Paul's aptitude for varying his vocabulary could not be shown. But it can be shown; for his other Epistles are marked by an astonishing variation in the Greek. Beneath this diversity there exists a unity. The Pastoral Epistles have many Pauline phrases,[2] many graphic touches, many forcible and original statements, and glow with that personal devotion to Christ combined with a practical capacity for guiding Christians which St. Paul possessed in so singular a degree. If the Pastoral Epistles are spurious, or if they are composite productions written by a forger who inserted some notes of St. Paul in his own effusions, it becomes almost impossible to account for the fact that 2 Tim. differs delicately both in language and subject from 1 Tim. and Titus. In view of this fact we can admire the sagacity of a recent opponent of their authenticity who deprecates "the possibility of extricating the Pauline from the traditional and editorial material"! [3]


[Sidenote: The Author.]

Reasons have already been given for rejecting the arguments which have been alleged against the Pauline authorship of this Epistle. We may add that it is unlikely that a forger would have inserted the word "mercy" (i.2) in the usual Pauline greeting "grace and peace." The reference to Timothy's "youth" (iv.12; cf.2 Tim. ii.22) has seemed strange to many. But although {201} St. Paul had been acquainted with Timothy for about twelve years, Timothy must have been greatly the junior of St. Paul. Even if Timothy was as old as thirty-five, the word "youth" would be quite natural from the pen of an old man writing to a pupil, whom he had known as a very young man, and whom he was now putting in authority over men old enough to be his own father. We can attribute this Epistle to St. Paul without hesitation.

[Sidenote: To whom written.]

Timothy was one of the apostle's own converts, his "child in faith." We learn from Acts xvi.1 that he was the son of a Greek-speaking Gentile father and a Jewish mother. He had received a strictly religious Jewish training from his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois (2 Tim. i.1-5; iii.14, 15). He was converted by St. Paul on his first missionary journey, at Lystra or Derbe. On St. Paul's second visit to that district, Timothy was so well reported of that he was thought worthy of being associated with the apostle in his work. Before employing him as a colleague, St. Paul had him circumcised, that he might be able to work among Jews as well as Gentiles (Acts xvi.3). Some Christian prophets pointed him out as destined for his sacred office (1 Tim. i.18). He was ordained by the laying on of the hands of St. Paul himself and the presbyters of the Church (1 Tim. iv.14; 2 Tim. i.6). He was frequently associated with the apostle in travelling and in the writing of Epistles. His name occurs as sending a salutation in Rom. xvi.21, and as the fellow-sender of six of the apostle's letters. He was with the apostle during his first imprisonment at Rome (see Phil., Col., and Philemon). From this Epistle we learn that after the apostle's release he was left in charge of the important Church at Ephesus. While he was in this position, the two Epistles which bear his name were written to him.

[Sidenote: Where and when written.]

It is impossible to ascertain the precise direction of St. Paul's journeys after his release, and it is wisest to refrain from mere conjecture. Before writing this letter he had been recently {202} at Ephesus and had been called away to Macedonia (i.3). He intended to return before long, but had been unexpectedly delayed (iii.14, 15). This delay rendered it necessary for him to send directions to Timothy. The precise date cannot be exactly fixed. If St. Paul's martyrdom was as early as A.D.64, and his release as early as A.D.61, we may reasonably put this letter in A.D.63.

[Sidenote: Character and Contents.]

The letter is personal, but it is also official. It is intended to guide Timothy in his work of apostolic delegate. In speaking to the presbyters of Ephesus at Miletus (Acts xx.29, 30), St. Paul had already expressed fears about the future of the Church, and these fears now seem to have been partly realized. Ephesus was a meeting-place of east and west, a place where religious speculations and religious divisions were likely to increase, and where wise supervision of the Christian Church was essential. The contents of the Epistle therefore mainly consist of warnings against Judaism and false knowledge, and directions as to the duties of various classes of Christians, and especially the clergy.


The danger of Jewish and Gnostic heresy (i.).

The order of common prayer (ii.).

The qualifications of episkopoi (translated "bishops" in the English versions) and deacons (iii.).

Condemnation of Gnostic asceticism and the duty of Timothy towards heresy (iv.).

Counsels as to the treatment of presbyters (translated "elders" in the English versions) and widows (v.).

Warnings against disobedience towards masters, vain disputations, covetousness, and a wrong use of wealth -- concluding with a direct appeal to Timothy (vi.).



[Sidenote: The Author.]

This is exactly the kind of letter which we should expect to be written by a writer of strong individuality addressing a disciple entrusted with the duty of ruling a Church threatened by the same troubles as the Church which was under the supervision of Timothy. It is attributed to St. Paul by Irenaeus, and is amply supported by other early writers.

[Sidenote: To whom written.]

"To Titus, my true child after a common faith" (i.4). Titus was converted by St. Paul (i.4), and was an uncircumcised Gentile (Gal. ii.3). He must have been converted at an early period in the apostle's career, for he was with Paul and Barnabas on their visit from Antioch to Jerusalem in A.D.49. He was therefore present during the great crisis when the freedom of the Gentiles from the ceremonial part of the Jewish law was vindicated. It is suggested by Gal. ii. that Titus was personally known to the Galatians, and possibly he was himself a Galatian. Titus was prominent at another important crisis. When the Church at Corinth was involved in strife, Titus was sent thither. His efforts were attended with success, and he was able to report good news on returning to St. Paul in Macedonia (2 Cor. vii.6, 7, 13-15). He carried the Second Epistle to the Corinthians to Corinth. We hear no more of him until the period when this Epistle was written. After St. Paul's release from his first imprisonment, Titus was with him in Crete, and was left by the apostle to direct the affairs of the Church in that island (Tit. i.5). It is plain that the tact and wisdom which he had shown at Corinth had not failed him in the interval, and that St. Paul still regarded him as a worthy delegate and a true evangelist of the gospel of peace.

[Sidenote: Where and when written.]

The similarity to 1 Timothy makes it almost certain that Titus was written about the same time, and before 2 Timothy. {204} The apostle is expecting to winter at Nicopolis, probably the Nicopolis in Epirus. The letter was therefore possibly written from Greece. It seems from iii.13 that Zenas, a former teacher of the Jewish law, and Apollos, had occasion to travel by Crete, and St. Paul takes the opportunity to send a letter with them to Titus.

[Sidenote: Character and Contents.]

The greeting at the beginning of the Epistle and the character of its general contents show that this letter is official as well as private. Possibly the gospel was first brought to Crete by those Jews or proselytes from Crete who saw the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (Acts ii.11.) Fully thirty years had passed since then, but the Church had not hitherto been sufficiently organized to be independent of the apostle. Now, however, the apostolic delegate will be able to ordain the presbyters required in every city. The manner in which the "episkopoi" are mentioned immediately afterwards (i.5, 7) strongly favours the idea that the name "episkopos" is here used as a title of the presbyters, as in Acts xx. They form the order under the apostle's delegate. Useless speculations of a Jewish character had invaded the Church (i.10-14; iii.9). The teachers of these "fables" were influenced by love of "filthy lucre." St. Paul quotes the saying that the Cretans are "liars, evil beasts, idle gluttons," and attributes it to "one of themselves, a prophet of their own." The saying is by the poet Epimenides, c. B.C.600. He was a native of Cnossus in Crete, who was regarded as a seer, and his reputation for second-sight is testified by Plato giving him the epithet "divine." St. Paul seems convinced that the Cretan character was as prone to sensuality as in the days of Epimenides, and it is immediately after alluding to their dangers that he utters the memorable words, "unto the pure all things are pure." The apostle's exhortation to "maintain good works" (iii.8) is one of the verses which have been absurdly alleged to be out of harmony with {205} St. Paul's insistence upon the importance of justification by faith. There is a definite allusion to baptismal regeneration in iii.5.


Titus to ordain elders; the requisite character of "episkopoi", Judaizing talkers to be checked (i.).

Duties of aged men and women; young women and men; servants; the grace of God and the hope inspired by it (ii.).

Duty towards rulers and all men; the kindness of God; foolish discussions to be avoided; how to deal with a heretic; personal notes (iii.).


[Sidenote: The Author.]

It is generally considered that the authenticity of this Epistle stands or falls with that of the First Epistle. But it bears its own peculiar marks of genuineness. One thoroughly Pauline feature is thanksgiving at the beginning, a feature which is found in eight of his other Epistles, but not in the two other Pastoral Epistles. A forger might have had the critical insight which would lead him to compose this thanksgiving. But it is highly improbable that a forger would have put twenty-three proper names into the Epistle without tamely copying names which occur elsewhere, or without betraying any wish to glorify some saint who became popular after the death of the apostle. Neither of these two suspicious tokens can be detected here. For instance, Demas, concerning whom nothing that is discreditable is narrated elsewhere, is here rebuked with a pathetic regret (iv.10; cf. Col. iv.14); while Linus, afterwards a famous bishop and martyr of Rome, is mentioned without any honourable distinction at all. Even if the Linus of this Epistle is not the bishop of that name {206} the argument still holds good. For a forger, if he inserted the name of any Linus, would have been almost certain to mention the Linus and no other.

[Sidenote: To whom written.]

"To Timothy, my beloved child" (i.2).

[Sidenote: Where and when written.]

It was written from Rome, where St. Paul is again a prisoner, the reason of his imprisonment being the witness that he has borne to Christ (i.8, 12, 17). His imprisonment had already lasted some time, for it was known at Ephesus. The apostle had apparently requested two of his friends, Phygellus and Hermogenes, to come to him at Rome, but they had declined. The Ephesian Onesiphorus had acted otherwise, and when in Rome had sought him out. St. Paul anticipates death. His case has already had a first hearing, when no witness appeared in his defence (iv.16). He is now ready to be offered up. But he does not anticipate an immediate martyrdom, as he urges Timothy to come to Rome before winter. The date is therefore probably some weeks or months before St. Paul's martyrdom. The year is either A.D.64 or very soon afterwards.

[Sidenote Character and Contents.]

This Epistle is the apostle's farewell pastoral charge. He looks forward to his fate with courage and confidence. He has fought a good fight, and is sure of the crown of righteousness which the Lord will give him. But he sees that a dark future is in store for the Church. Some professing Christians have already deserted him, others have perverted the faith. Among the latter are Hymenseus and Philetus, who assert that the resurrection is past already. It is probable that they were influenced by some Gnostic dislike of the human body, and taught that the only resurrection possible for a Christian was the spiritual resurrection of becoming acquainted with their own Gnostic doctrine. Such a heresy is described by Irenaeus. St. Paul warns Timothy that there are "grievous times" to come (iii.1). Scripture will be a means of security against the mischief-makers. {207} The various exhortations given to Timothy are of great force and beauty; he is to endure hardship like a good soldier, and is charged before God to preach and rebuke with long-suffering. The solemnity of these words is equalled by the pungent sarcasm with which the writer alludes to the schismatics who "lead captive silly women" or will "heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears."

We may notice that ii.11-13 seems to contain part of a Christian hymn, that iii.8 contains a reference to a Jewish story not found in the Old Testament, and that i.18 is perhaps a prayer for the dead. The Second Book of Maccabees xii.44 shows that in the century before the Christian era the Jews were wont to pray for the departed.


Exhortation to energy, the failure of friends, the fidelity of Onesiphorus (i.).

Exhortation to endurance as Christ's soldier, profane discussions to be shunned; the error of Hymenseus and Philetus; varieties of character like varieties of vessels; the way to become a vessel of honour (ii.).

Coming corruption, the creeping mischief-makers; Timothy is reminded of St. Paul's manner of life and of the value of Scripture (iii.).

Exhortation to fidelity in ministerial work; the apostle's course drawing to an end, Timothy urged to come; personal notes (iv.).

[1] This title seems to have been first applied to them in 1810 by Wegscheider.

[2] Cf. "according to my gospel" (2 Tim. ii.8; Rom. ii.16); "the gospel of the glory" (1 Tim. i.11; 2 Cor. iv.4). The Greek phrase for "give occasion to" (1 Tim. v.14) is found in 2 Cor. v.12, and nowhere in the New Testament except in St. Paul.

[3] B. W. Bacon, Introduction to the New Testament, p.140.


chapter xvi the epistle of
Top of Page
Top of Page