The Pastoral Epistles.
Comp. § 33, pp.327-329.


The three Pastoral Epistles, two to Timothy and one to Titus, form a group by themselves, and represent the last stage of the apostle's life and labors, with his parting counsels to his beloved disciples and fellow-workers. They show us the transition of the apostolic church from primitive simplicity to a more definite system of doctrine and form of government. This is just what we might expect from the probable time of their composition after the first Roman captivity of Paul, and before the composition of the Apocalypse.

They are addressed not to congregations, but to individuals, and hence more personal and confidential in their character. This fact helps us to understand many peculiarities. Timothy, the son of a heathen father and a Jewish mother, and Titus, a converted Greek) were among the dearest of Paul's pupils. [1194] They were, at the same time, his delegates and commissioners on special occasions, and appear under this official character in the Epistles, which, for this reason, bear the name "Pastoral."

The Epistles contain Paul's pastoral theology and his theory of church government. They give directions for founding, training, and governing churches, and for the proper treatment of individual members, old and young, widows and virgins, backsliders and heretics. They are rich in practical wisdom and full of encouragement, as every pastor knows.

The Second Epistle to Timothy is more personal in its contents than the other two, and has the additional importance of concluding the autobiography of Paul. It is his last will and testament to all future ministers and soldiers of Christ.

The Pauline Authorship.

There never was a serious doubt as to the Pauline authorship of these Epistles till the nineteenth century, except among a few Gnostics in the second century. They were always reckoned among the Homologumena, as distinct from the seven Antilegomena, or disputed books of the New Testament. As far as external evidence is concerned, they stand on as firm a foundation as any other Epistle. They are quoted as canonical by Eusebius, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Irenaeus. Reminiscences from them, in some cases with verbal agreement, are found in several of the Apostolic Fathers. They are included in the ancient MSS. and Versions, and in the list of the Muratorian canon. Marcion (about 140), it is true, excluded them from his canon of ten Pauline Epistles, but he excluded also the Gospels (except a mutilated Luke), the Catholic Epistles, and the Apocalypse. [1195]

But there are certain internal difficulties which have induced a number of modern critics to assign them all, or at least First Timothy, to a post-Pauline or pseudo-Pauline writer, who either changed and adapted Pauline originals to a later state of the church, or fabricated the whole in the interest of Catholic orthodoxy. In either case, the writer is credited with the best intentions and must not be judged according to the modern standard of literary honesty and literary property. Doctrinally, the Pastoral Epistles are made the connecting link between genuine Paulinism and the Johannean Logos -- philosophy; ecclesiastically, the link between primitive Presbyterianism and Catholic Episcopacy; in both respects, a necessary element in the formation process of the orthodox Catholic church of the second century.

The objections against the Pauline authorship deserve serious consideration, and are as follows: (1) The impossibility of locating these Epistles in the recorded life of Paul; (2) the Gnostic heresy opposed; (3) the ecclesiastical organization implied; (4) the peculiarities of style and temper. If they are not genuine, Second Timothy must be the oldest, as it is least liable to these objections, and First Timothy and Titus are supposed to represent a later development. [1196]

The Time of Composition.

The chronology of the Pastoral Epistles is uncertain, and has been made an objection to their genuineness. It is closely connected with the hypothesis of a second Roman captivity, which we have discussed in another place.

The Second Epistle to Timothy, whether genuine or not, hails from a Roman prison, and appears to be the last of Paul's Epistles; for he was then hourly expecting the close of his fight of faith, and the crown of righteousness from his Lord and Master (2 Tim.4:7, 8). Those who deny the second imprisonment, and yet accept Second Timothy as Pauline, make it the last of the first imprisonment.

As to First Timothy and Titus, it is evident from their contents that they were written while Paul was free, and after he had made some journeys, which are not recorded in the Acts. Here lies the difficulty. Two ways are open:

1. The two Epistles were written in 56 and 57. Paul may, during his three years' sojourn in Ephesus, a.d.54-57 (see Acts 19:8-10; 20:31), easily have made a second journey to Macedonia, leaving Ephesus in charge of Timothy (1 Tim.1:3); and also crossed over to the island of Crete, where he left Titus behind to take care of the churches (Tit.1:5). Considering the incompleteness of the record of Acts, and the probable allusions in 2 Cor.2:1; 12:13, 14, 21; 13:1, to a second visit to Corinth, not mentioned in the Acts, these two journeys are within the reach of possibility. [1197] But such an early date leaves the other difficulties unexplained.

2. The tradition of the second Roman captivity, which can be raised at least to a high degree of probability, removes the difficulty by giving us room for new journeys and labors of Paid between his release in the spring of 63 and the Neronian persecution in July, 64 (according to Tacitus), or three or four years later (according to Eusebius and Jerome), as well as for the development of the Gnostic heresy and the ecclesiastical organization of the church which is implied in these Epistles. Hence, most writers who hold to the genuineness place First Timothy and Titus between the first and second Roman captivities. [1198]

Paul certainly intended to make a journey from Rome to Spain (Rom.15:24), and also one to the East (Philem.22; Phil.1:25, 26; 2:24), and he had ample time to carry out his intention even before the Neronian persecution, if we insist upon confining this to the date of Tacitus. [1199]

Those who press the chronological difficulty should not forget that a forger could have very easily fitted the Epistles into the narrative of the Acts, and was not likely to invent a series of journeys, circumstances, and incidents, such as the bringing of the cloak, the books, and the parchments which Paul, in the hurry of travel, had left at Troas (2 Tim.4:13).

The Gnostic Heresy.

The Pastoral Epistles, like Colossians, oppose the Gnostic heresy (gnosis pseudonumos,1 Tim.6:20) which arose in Asia Minor during his first Roman captivity, and appears more fully developed in Cerinthus, the contemporary of John. This was acknowledged by the early Fathers, Irenaeus and Tertullian, who used these very Epistles as Pauline testimonies against the Gnosticism of their day.

The question arises, which of the many types of this many-sided error is opposed? Evidently the Judaizing type, which resembled that at Colossae, but was more advanced and malignant, and hence is more sternly denounced. The heretics were of "the circumcision" (Tit.1:10); they are called "teachers of the law" (nomodidaskaloi,1 Tim.1:7, the very reverse of antinomians), "given to Jewish fables" (Ioudaikoi muthoi, Tit.1:14), and "disputes connected with the law" (machai nomikai, Tit.3:9), and fond of foolish and ignorant questionings (2 Tim.2:23). They were, moreover, extravagant ascetics, like the Essenes, forbidding to marry and abstaining from meat (1 Tim.4:3, 8; Tit.1:14, 15). They denied the resurrection and overthrew the faith of some (2 Tim.2:18).

Baur turned these heretics into anti-Jewish and antinomian Gnostics of the school of Marcion (about 140), and then, by consequence, put the Epistles down to the middle of the second century. He finds in the "genealogies" ( 1 Tim.1:4; Tit.3:9) the emanations, of the Gnostic aeons, and in the "antitheses" (1 Tim.6:20), or anti-evangelical assertions of the heretical teachers, an allusion to Marcion's "antitheses" (antilogies), by which he set forth the supposed contradictions between the Old and New Testaments. [1200] But this is a radical misinterpretation, and the more recent opponents of the genuineness are forced to admit the Judaizing character of those errorists; they identify them with Cerinthus, the Ophites, and Saturninus, who preceded Marcion by several decades. [1201]

As to the origin of the Gnostic heresy, which the Tübingen school would put down to the age of Hadrian, we have already seen that, like its counterpart, the Ebionite heresy, it dates from the apostolic age, according to the united testimony of the later Pauline Epistles, the Epistles of Peter, John, and Jude, the Apocalypse, and the patristic tradition. [1202]

Ecclesiastical Organization.

The Pastoral Epistles seem to presuppose a more fully developed ecclesiastical organization than the other Pauline Epistles, and to belong to an age of transition from apostolic simplicity, or Christo-democracy -- if we may use such a term -- to the episcopal hierarchy of the second century. The church, in proportion as it lost, after the destruction of Jerusalem, its faith in the speedy advent of Christ, began to settle down in this world, and to make preparations for a permanent home by a fixed creed and a compact organization, which gave it unity and strength against heathen persecution and heretical corruption. This organization, at once simple and elastic, was episcopacy, with its subordinate offices of the presbyterate and deaconate, and charitable institutions for widows and orphans. Such an organization we have, it is said, in the Pastoral Epistles, which were written in the name of Paul, to give the weight of his authority to the incipient hierarchy. [1203]

But, on closer inspection, there is a very marked difference between the ecclesiastical constitution of the Pastoral Epistles and that of the second century. There is not a word said about the divine origin of episcopacy; not a trace of a congregational episcopate, such as we find in the Ignatian epistles, still less of a diocesan episcopate of the time of Irenaeus and Tertullian. Bishops and presbyters are still identical as they are in the Acts 20:17, 28, and in the undoubtedly genuine Epistle to the Philippians 1:1. Even Timothy and Titus appear simply as delegates of the apostle for a specific mission. [1204] The qualifications and functions required of the bishop are aptness to teach and a blameless character; and their authority is made to depend upon their moral character rather than their office. They are supposed to be married, and to set a good example in governing their own household. The ordination which Timothy received (1 Tim.4:14; 5:22) need not differ from the ordination of deacons and elders mentioned in Acts 6:6; 8:17; comp.14:23; 19:6). "Few features," says Dr. Plumptre, himself an Episcopalian, "are more striking in these Epistles than the absence of any high hierarchical system." The Apocalypse, which these very critics so confidently assign to the year 68, shows a nearer approach to episcopal unity in the "angels" of the seven churches. But even from the "angels," of the Apocalypse there was a long way to the Ignatian and pseudo-Clementine bishops, who are set up as living oracles and hierarchical idols.

The Style.

The language of the Pastoral Epistles shows an unusual number of un-Pauline words and phrases, especially rare compounds, some of them nowhere found in the whole New Testament, or even in Greek literature. [1205]

But, in the first place, the number of words peculiar to each one of the three epistles is much greater than the number of peculiar words common to all three; consequently, if the argument proves anything, it leads to the conclusion of three different authors, which the assailants will not admit, in view of the general unity of the Epistles. In the next place, every one of Paul's Epistles has a number of peculiar words, even the little Epistle of Philemon. [1206] The most characteristic words were required by the nature of the new topics handled and the heresy combated, such as "knowledge falsely so called" (pseudonumos gnosis, 1 Tim.6:20) "healthful doctrine" (hugiainousa didaskalia, 1 Tim.1:10); "Jewish myths" (Tit.1:14); "genealogies" (Tit.3:9); "profane babblings" (2 Tim.2:16). Paul's mind was uncommonly fertile and capable of adapting itself to varying, conditions, and had to create in some measure the Christian idiom. The Tübingen critics profess the highest admiration for his genius, and yet would contract his vocabulary to a very small compass. Finally, the peculiarities of style are counterbalanced by stronger resemblances and unmistakable evidences of Pauline authorship. "There are flashes of the deepest feeling, outbursts of the most intense expression. There is rhythmic movement and excellent majesty in the doxologies, and the ideal of a Christian pastor drawn not only with an unfaltering hand, but with a beauty, fulness, and simplicity which a thousand years of subsequent experience have enabled no one to equal, much less to surpass." [1207]

On the other hand, we may well ask the opponents to give a good reason why a forger should have chosen so many new words when he might have so easily confined himself to the vocabulary of the other Epistles of Paul; why he should have added "mercy" to the salutation instead of the usual form; why he should have called Paul "the chief of sinners" (1 Tim.1:15), and affected a tone of humility rather than a tone of high apostolic authority?

Other Objections.

The Epistles have been charged with want of logical connection, with abruptness, monotony, and repetitiousness, unworthy of such an original thinker and writer as Paul. But this feature is only the easy, familiar, we may say careless, style which forms the charm as well as the defect of personal correspondence. Moreover, every great author varies more or less at different periods of life, and under different conditions and moods.

It would be a more serious objection if the theology of these Epistles could be made to appear in conflict with that of his acknowledged works. [1208] But this is not the case. It is said that greater stress is laid on sound doctrine and good works. But in Galatians, Paul condemns most solemnly every departure from the genuine gospel (Gal.1:8, 9), and in all his Epistles he enjoins holiness as the indispensable evidence of faith; while salvation is just as clearly traced to divine grace alone, in the Pastoral Epistles (1 Tim.1:9; Tit.3:5), as in Romans.

In conclusion, while we cannot be blind to certain difficulties, and may not be able, from want of knowledge of the precise situation of the writer, satisfactorily to explain them, we must insist that the prevailing evidence is in favor of the genuineness of these Epistles. They agree with Paul's doctrinal system; they are illuminated with flashes of his genius; they bear the marks of his intense personality; they contain rare gems of inspired truth, and most wholesome admonition and advice, which makes them to-day far more valuable than any number of works on pastoral theology and church government. There are not a few passages in them which, for doctrine or practice, are equal to the best he ever wrote, and are deeply lodged in the experience and affection of Christendom. [1209]

And what could be a more fitting, as well as more sublime and beautiful, finale of such a hero of faith than the last words of his last Epistle, written in the very face of martyrdom: "I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day: and not only to me, but also to all them that have loved his appearing."


Schleiermacher led the way, in 1807, with his attack on 1 Timothy, urging very keenly historical, philological, and other objections, but assuming 2 Timothy and Titus to be the genuine originals from which the first was compiled. DeWette followed in his Introduction. Baur left both behind and rejected all, in his epoch-making treatise, Die sogenannten Pastoralbriefe, 1835. He was followed by Schwegler (1846), Hilgenfeld (1875), Mangold, Schenkel, Hausrath, Pfleiderer (both in his Paulinismus and in his Commentary in the Protestanten-Bibel, 1874), Holtzmann; also by Ewald, Renan (L'Église chrétienne, pp.85 sqq.), and Sam. Davidson (Introd., revised ed., II.21 sqq.). The most elaborate book against the genuineness is Holtzmann's Die Pastoralbriefe kritisch und exeg. behandelt, Leipzig, 1880 (504 pp.); comp. his Einleitung (1886).

Reuss (Les épitres Pauliniennes, 1878, II.243 sq., 307 sq., and Gesch. des N. T, 1887, p.257 sqq.) rejects 1 Timothy and Titus, but admits 2 Timothy, assigning it to the first Roman captivity. He thinks that 2 Timothy would never have been doubted except for its suspicious companionship. Some of the opponents, as Pfleiderer and Renan, feel forced to admit some scraps of genuine Pauline Epistles or notes, and thus they break the force of the opposition. The three Epistles must stand or fall together, either as wholly Pauline, or as wholly pseudo-Pauline.

The genuineness has been ably vindicated by Guericke, Thiersch, Huther, Wiesinger, Otto, Wieseler, Van Oosterzee, Lange, Herzog, von Hofmann, Beck, Alford, Gloag, Fairbairn (Past. Ep., 1874), Farrar (St. Paul, II.607 sqq.), Wace (in the Speaker's Com. New Test., III., 1881, 749 sqq.), Plumptre (in Schaff's Com. on the New Test., III., 1882, pp.550 sqq.), Kölling (Der erste Br. a. Tim.1882), Salmon (1885), and Weiss (1886).


[1194] For biographical details see the Bible Dictionaries and Commentaries.

[1195] See the testimonies in Kirchhofer's Quellensammlung, as translated and enlarged by Charteris, Canonicity, 255-268. Renan admits the resemblance between the First Epistle of Clemens Romanus (c. 44) and Second Timothy (e.g., in the use of the word analusis for death), but assumes that both borrowed from a common source, the favorite language of the church of Rome, and also that the forger of the Pastoral Epistles probably made use of some authentic letters of Paul. L'Église chrét., p. 95: "Quelques passages de ces trois építres sont d'ailleurs si beaux, qu'on peut se demander si le faussaire n'avait pas entre les mains quelques billets authentiques de Paul."

[1196] Baur and Hilgenfeld (Einleit., p. 764) bring them down to 150 (after Marcion, 140), and date them from Rome. But this is impossible, and rests on a false exegesis. Pfleiderer, of the same Tübingen school, puts 2 Timothy the age of Trajan, the other two in the age of Hadrian. He, moreover, regards the passages 2 Timothy 1:15-18 and 4:9-21 as fragments of a genuine Epistle of Paul. Comp. also Holtzmann, p. 271.

[1197] So Schrader, Wieseler, Reythmayr, formerly also Reuss (in his Gesch., etc., 5th ed., 1875, but withdrawn in his French Com. on the Pauline Epp., 1878).

[1198] So Theophylact, Oecumenius, Ussher, Pearson, Tillemont, Neander, Bleek, Ruffet, Lange, Farrar, Plumptre, Lightfoot, etc.

[1199] A release of Paul from the first Roman captivity and a visit to Spain is also asserted by such critics as Ewald and Renan.

[1200] The antitheseis tes pseudonumou gnoseos(" oppositions" in the E. V. and Revision) are understood by the best exegetes to mean simply the doctrinal theses which the heretics opposed to the sound doctrine (comp. 2 Tim. 2:23; Tit. 1:9). So DeWette, Matthies, and Wiesinger. Hofmann and Huther identify them with kenophoniai and logomachiai (1:Tim. 5:4). Holtzmann (p. 131) likewise rejects Baur's interpretation.

[1201] Holtzmann, l.c., p. 127; also Lipsius, Schenkel, Pfleiderer.

[1202] See above, 96 (this vol.)

[1203] Such is the ingenious reasoning of Baur and Renan (L'Egl. chrét., pp. 85 and 94 sqq.). Comp. the discussion of details by Holtzmann, l.c., ch. XI., pp. 190 sqq.

[1204] 1:Tim. 1:3; 3:14; 2:Tim. 4:9, 21; Tit. 1:5; 8:12. See above, 61 (this vol.) The fact is acknowledged by impartial episcopal writers, as Dean Alford, Bishop Lightfoot, Dean Stanley, and Dean Plumptre (in Schaff's Com. N. T., III. 552). I will quote from Canon Farrar (St. Paul. II. 417) "If the Pastoral Epistles contained a clear defence of the Episcopal system of the second century, this alone would be sufficient to prove their spuriousness; but the total absence of anything resembling it is one of the strongest proofs that they belong to the apostolic age. Bishop and presbyter are still synonymous, as they are throughout the New Testament ... Timothy and Titus exercise functions which would be now called episcopal; but they are not called 'bishops.' Their functions were temporary, and they simply act as authoritative delegates of the Apostle of the Gentiles. Nor is there any trace of exalted pretensions in the overseers whom they appoint. The qualifications required of them are almost exclusively moral." Comp. also some good remarks of Prof. Wace, in the Speaker's Com. on the New Test., III. 764, where it is justly said that the church polity in the Pastoral Epistles represents an intermediate stage between the Presbyterian episcopacy of the earlier apostolic period and the post-apostolic episcopacy.

[1205] This philological argument was begun by Schleiermacher, but confined to First Timothy, and was carried out, with reference to all three Epistles, by Holtzmann, l.c., ch. VI., pp. 84-118. I will give his results. The Pastoral Epistles have, in all, 897 words. Of these there are 169 Hapaxlegomena not found in the New Testament, namely: (a) 74 in First Timothy, such as agathoergein. hagneia, adelotes, andrapodistes , adrophonos, eterodidaskalein, theosebeia, katastole, plegma, orismos , philarguria, pseudologos, pseudonumos . (b) 46 in Second Timothy, e.g ., agoge, athlein, beltion, membrana, orthotomein, pragmateia, philotheos. (c) 28 in Titus, e, g., hairetikos , akatagnostos, aphthoria, apseudes , kalodidaskalos, mataiologos , presbutis, soterios , philagathos, philandros (palingenesia, Tit. 3:5, occurs also Matt. 19:28, but in a different sense). (d) 21 common to two or three Past. Epp., e g, diabolos, (as adjective), anosios , didaktikos, kenophonia, nomimos , paratheke, genealogia, eusebos.

[1206] Farrar (II. 611) affirms that there are no less than 111 peculiar terms in Romans, 180 in Corinthians, 57 in Galatians, 54 in Phillipians, 6 in Philemon. Luke's peculiar vocabulary is especially rich; he uses, as Holtzmann observes (p. 96), 34 words in common with the Pastoral Epistles, and has, besides, 82 words not found in Paul.

[1207] Farrer, II. 611.

[1208] Pfleiderer (Protestanten-Bibel. p. 834) says: "Die kirchliche Lehrrichtung der Hirtenbriefe ist eine von der altpaulinischen sehr weit verschiedene. Von den eigenthümlich paulinischen Lehren über Gesetz und Evangelium, über Werke und Glauben finden sich in unseren Briefen nur abgeblasste Reste, die fast wie feststehende überliefte Formeln klingen, während das Glaubensbewusstsein ein anderes geworden ist."In this harsh and unjust judgment the fact is overlooked that the three Epistles are pastoral and not doctrinal Epistles.

[1209] Such passages as 1:Tim. 1:15, 17; 2:1, 4-6, 8; 3:2, 16; 4:1, 4, 7, 10, 15; 5:8, 17, 18, 22; 6:6, 9-12; 2:Tim. 1:6; 2:11, 12, 19, 22; 8:12, 16, 17; 4:2, 6-8; Tit. 1:7, 15; 2:11; 8:5, 6.

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