The Pastoral Epistles.

Part 1

By H. R. Reynolds

Introductory.

Much light is thrown upon the Pauline Epistles by a recognition of the order in which they were probably composed. The two Epistles to the Thessalonians were the earliest fragments of the New Testament, and they pulsate with the impetuosity and ardour which characterized Paul's first visit to Europe. They are comparatively reticent as to the doctrines of the Cross, but they disclose the hostility of unbelieving Jews and the alarm of Roman officials at the proclamation of the royalty, the coming, and the judgment-seat of the Lord Jesus Christ.

"The four great Epistles," to the Romans, Galatians, and Corinthians, shew that new circumstances and perils, and that an assault made by reactionary Judaizers upon the Apostle's own commission, had called for elaborate self-defence. Critical discussions of the social polity of the Church, of the new relation of Christian to Heathen society, of the significance of the Law, the consequences of sin and the power of faith under all dispensations, together with other doctrinal and practical problems of great complexity, had made a different demand upon the Apostle's intellect. They evoked bursts of indignation, elicited streams of inspired eloquence, in vindication and exposition of the truth of Christ as he understood it. With certain characteristic differences arising out of the special circumstances of each case, these wonderful Letters reveal certain common features one prevailing sentiment. As a consequence, they become more comprehensible when read together and treated as the significant memorial of one epoch of the Apostle's life. At length his active ministry was arrested by Jewish intolerance: he was a prisoner; he had much time for reflection, and saw other aspects and fresh workings of the pungent leaven of the kingdom of God. He learned that the Christian Churches in Macedonia and Asia Minor were suffering from contact with Oriental speculation as well as with Hebrew exclusiveness. He therefore dropped the pen of the logician and the casuist, and took up that of the poet and the philosopher. His personal condition and history, his insight into the deepest mysteries, his lofty courtesy, his sublime self-abnegation, his practical wisdom, all left their impress upon his Letters, from the prison, to the Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon. This group is charged with idiosyncrasies of thought and expression, which separate them from the great theological and argumentative Epistles, as well as from the prophetic simplicities of the Apostle's first words to the Thessalonians.

The so-called PASTORAL EPISTLES, whensoever they were written, are also marked by corresponding peculiarities of their own, which distinguish them from each of the other groups. This is not remarkable; it might have been reasonably anticipated. They were not addressed to Churches, but to individuals,—to two younger men, friends and companions of Paul's travels, who were in perfect sympathy with him,—to men who had submitted themselves to his personal influence and were familiar with his methods of thought. To them there was no need to expound the philosophy, whether of law, or of sin, or of redemption. It was unnecessary for him, in these Epistles, to vindicate his apostolic office or to recount either his afflictions or his services. Timothy and Titus had suffered with him. They had difficult duties to discharge, and needed both advice and stimulus. The principles and details of Church discipline, the motives and law of Christian service, were the themes on which he dilated.

It is in harmony with these obvious peculiarities of the Epistles that they should abound in phrases suitable to confidential intercourse, and that they should refer to matters which were not included in other and earlier correspondence.

It is not easy to determine the DATE of the pastoral Epistles. Those critics who do not question their Pauline authorship, admit the confusion and perplexity involved in any attempt to harmonize certain references in them with the biographical and chronological notices of the Acts of the Apostles. Thus the first Chapter of the first Epistle to Timothy (ver. 3) contains these words. "Even as I. besought thee to tarry on at Ephesus, when I was on my way to Macedonia, . . . so I do now;" and in Chap. iii. 14, the writer expresses a hope of shortly seeing Timothy in Ephesus. It has been conjectured that, by altering the text and straining the grammar, this exhortation might be shewn to refer to a projected but abandoned visit of Timothy to Macedonia; but this conjecture will not bear examination, as the opportunities for such a conjunction of circumstances cannot be found. It is true that Paul left Ephesus and went into Macedonia after the uproar in that city had ceased; but this cannot be the occasion referred to, because we learn (Acts xix. 22) that Timothy had been already sent away to Macedonia; and on turning to I Cor. iv. 17, we find that he had gone thence to Corinth; while from 2 Cor. i. 1 we learn that he must have returned from Corinth to Macedonia, and from Acts xx. 4, that he must have remained in Paul's company for several months.

On the supposition of the Apostle's having at this time given Timothy a solemn commission to tarry at Ephesus, the young Evangelist must have nevertheless disregarded the injunction, and, moreover, have become alive to the fact that so far from Paul's hoping shortly to visit Ephesus, the Apostle was under the presentiment that he would see his Ephesian friends no more (Acts xx. 4, 38).

Another hypothesis, defended by Wieseler and at one time by Dr. Davidson, is that during the three years of his nominal residence at Ephesus Paul paid a visit to Macedonia, to Corinth, and to Crete. But this hypothesis is discredited by the consideration that since Timothy was sent into Macedonia, some time before Paul finally left Ephesus, this journey must have occurred before the burning of the books of the Magicians; and the Letter reveals a state of things extremely dissimilar to that described in the history.

Ephesus was mightily stirred by the early appearance of Paul. After the Church was founded, it had been left for a while under the wise counsel and influence of Aquila and Priscilla. In this interval, when Paul was revisiting the Churches in Galatia, Apollos came to Ephesus. The message of the Baptist had reached him amid the ascetic and philosophizing schools of Alexandria, and, knowing little of the work of the Christ or the power of the Holy Ghost, he had been preaching in the synagogues of Ephesus the baptism of repentance and hope. Convinced by Aquila and his wife of the deeper truths of the Gospel, he had at once begun a missionary work of his own in Corinth. While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul returned to Ephesus, and it is incredible that the Church there should have been at that time in the state both of discipline and of danger to which frequent reference is made in these Epistles. Dr. Davidson once argued that the Judaizing theosophy of the false teachers was at this time rampant in the synagogue, that it was outside of the Church, but yet capable of harassing it from without. He also regarded the condemnation of the heretical teachers mentioned in the Pastoral Epistles as Paul's detailed description of those "grievous wolves" who were shortly afterwards predicted by him as about to " enter in " to the Church, as well as a prolonged warning against ·those who would arise among themselves to "speak perverse things." Dr. Davidson has seen subsequently that the hypothesis is not satisfactory, and that the condition of things referred to in the Epistles betokens a ·later development of heretical and anti-Christian teaching.

The visit of Titus to Crete (Titus i. 5), and Paul's summons to Titus to meet him at Nicopolis (iii. 12), are equally difficult to reconcile with the notices that we obtain from other Epistles ·and from Luke's narrative. This summons could not have taken place (as Hug and Hemsen argued, during the period mentioned in Acts xviii. 19, because, among other reasons, Apollos is spoken of in the Epistle to Titus (iii. 13) as a Christian teacher; while we learn from 'the Acts' that Apollos had not at that period accepted the full teaching of Christianity. Moreover, Paul did not spend the winter at Nicopolis, but at Antioch.

Extreme complexity of arrangement and of movements is involved in the elaborate hypothesis of Wieseler, to the effect that Paul's visit to Crete, the commission of Titus there, and the journey thence to a Nicopolis in Achaia, all took place during a supposed absence of the Apostle from Ephesus, and was connected with an unrecorded hypothetical visit of Paul to Corinth.

The data furnished by the Second Epistle to Timothy are equally difficult to harmonize with the narrative of Luke, or with the other references to Paul's imprisonment. From' Chapter i. 8, 12, 16, 17, we find that Paul, when composing it, was a chained captive, a great sufferer, and in such obscurity that it was with great difficulty that Onesiphorus found him. He was in want of books and parchments, and in such poverty that he needed the one cloak that he possessed and had left at Troas. All that were in Asia had" turned away" from him. The surroundings of the Apostle were very different when, in writing his noble Epistle to the Philippians, he could boast of friends in Christ in the Pratorium, and of the kindness that he was receiving from members of Caesar's household. At that time, and when he wrote the letter to Philemon, he was confident of deliverance from his bonds, and hoped to discharge the debt of Onesimus. In this Epistle he is anticipating, amid poverty and desertion, a speedy martyrdom. Trophimus he had left at Miletum sick; but when? If this event, as some suppose, took place on his journey to Rome, Timothy, who after that date had been with him in Rome (Phil. i. 1; Col. i. 1), would scarcely have needed the information.

It is very remarkable that, on the hypothesis of the early date of the first Epistle to Timothy, and of the Epistle to Titus, coupled with the identity of the imprisonment mentioned in the Epistles from Rome, and that which is referred to in the second Epistle to Timothy, we should then have these three homogeneous Letters written at considerable intervals. The first two would moreover coincide with the date of the Epistle to the Galatians, or Corinthians, and the third with the time when those to the Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians were indited. But these three Epistles indicate, in forms of expression, in their reflection of the spirit of the time, in the ecclesiastical organization and heretical opposition to which they refer, such striking correspondences of phrase, tone, and outlook, as to make the occurrence of a long interval of time between them incredible. Those who, like Baur, dispute the historical accuracy or value of the Acts of the Apostles, have no manner of right to conclude, from these discrepancies between the chronological statements of the Acts and "the Pastoral Epistles," that the latter were not written by Paul. And it is not necessary to repudiate the authenticity either of the one or the other document in consequence of these discrepancies.

There are no sources of biographical information so precious as private correspondence. If biographical notices occurring in these Letters correspond with similar references in other documents; both are confirmed. But if they do not, the Letters may be fairly taken to disclose events in Paul's life of which we have no other indubitable evidence.

This method of interpretation ~as been adopted in the ingenious speculation of Wieseler, but it is there encumbered with difficulties which are insuperable. Why should we intercalate into Luke's narrative events to correspond with references in the Epistles to Timothy and Titus? Why should we strain and press the latest words of the great Apostle to bring them into harmony with the tone of the prison—Epistles to the Philippians, Colossians, and to Philemon?

There is another supposition which frees us from all these difficulties, and which has certain traditions in its favour. It may be stated as follows: that after Paul's trial in the Imperial Court he was, as he anticipated, set at liberty, and acquitted of the charge  on which he had appealed to Cesar; that he at once recommenced his missionary labours; that Timothy accompanied him from Rome, and that they once and again visited  Ephesus; that there he left Timothy, hoping "to see him shortly;" that on starting from Ephesus to Macedonia, Paul once more saw his beloved friends at Philippi, and greeted Epaphroditus with joy and thanksgiving. Thus ample time would be found for Philemon and Archippus and Onesimus to have provided a lodging for him at Colosse, for him to have visited Crete with Titus, leaving him there with Apollos, to organize and advise. On one of his visits to Ephesus, " Alexander did him much evil," while the bitter antagonism of the pseudo-teachers of the Law, and the incipient Gnosticism which in after years desolated the Churches of Asia by the denial of the Resurrection and by other theological speculations and scepticisms, would have had time to overthrow the faith of many. We can see that Paul's confidence in Timothy was tempered by some little anxiety. and he. knew that the friendship which had been once expressed for himself by Ephesians, Colossians, and others, had grievously warned. "He was cast down, but not destroyed." He had great powers of attraction; but he had the faculty of exciting bitter animosity. Paul was loved with passionate fondness, but he was also hated and feared. It is reasonable to suppose that he accomplished his visit to Spain, "to the extreme limit of the West," of which Clement of Rome spake, and that once more, under circumstances of less notoriety and public interest than those which accompanied his first imprisonment, with few friends to back him and only one to remain faithful to him, covered with scornful indignity which made his own converts ashamed to shew interest in him, suffering from cold and nakedness, this " father of European civilization" lived in hourly expectation of his doom. But, again, when his sun had almost gone down, he thought tenderly of his dearest friend, and wrote with his old nervous energy to his beloved son Timothy. In full view of the headsman's axe he penned the immortal words, " I have fought a good fight; I have kept the faith," and he handed over to the young warrior of the future the sword with which he had won so many victories. Yet the humanity of Paul is pre-eminently attractive: he longs for one more sight, one close embrace of Timothy, "Come to me," says he; "do thy diligence to come with all speed."

But I am anticipating. These Epistles, freed from the perplexing intricacy of the attempt to make them square with the journeys and characteristics of an earlier period, unfold a page of Paul's life which without them would have remained unknown and scarcely suggested. The chronological and historical difficulties are reduced to a minimum by this hypothesis. The only real difficulty involved in the supposition of the second imprisonment of Paul and the late date of the Pastoral Epistles is, that in the latest of the three, Timothy is still spoken of as a youth, and warned against "youthful lusts." But if universal tradition is correct in making Paul fall a victim during Nero's reign, the second Epistle cannot be postponed beyond the year A.D. 68. If Timothy was a youth of eighteen when he was first chosen by the Apostle as his companion, on his second Missionary journey, A.D. 51, Timothy would not have been more than thirty-five in the last year of Nero. In comparison with " Paul the aged" he was still young in view of his solemn responsibilities, and he might still need the warnings and encouragements he received.

On other grounds, the school of Baur have urged a yet later origin of these Epistles, and appear to regard the success of their method of assault as indubitable, pointing to it as a triumph of the higher criticism.

Baur, in his treatise on "the so-called Pastoral Epistles," postponed to the close of his discussion his consideration of the external evidence for the existence of these Epistles. It is fairer to an ancient document if we examine its credentials before cross -examining. its contents. Lardner, Davidson, Luther, Heydenreich, Lange, and many others have marshalled the external proofs of the existence of the Pastoral Epistles and of an early belief in their Pauline origin. Perhaps the whole philosophy of quotation from ancient documents needs to be reconsidered, and the significance of silence concerning any particular books to be estimated more carefully. Surely the utter absence of any proved quotation from such private letters as these, in the sparse Christian literature of the close of the first and beginning of the second century, ought not to be regarded as proof of their nonexistence. It is very wonderful, indeed, that any quotations from, or close similarities to, these Epistles, should occur in the brief and scattered documents which time and accident have not destroyed. But Clement of Rome wrote a letter to the Corinthians, and Polycarp of Smyrna indited one to the Philippians; and it is more than probable that the former cited Tit. iii. 1 and the latter 1 Tim. vi. 10. The latter offers so close a correspondence that Baur was driven to the conclusion that the Falsarius in the second century, who fashioned the first Epistle to Timothy, quoted from the Epistle of Polycarp; and Schleiermacher only refused to admit it to be a quotation on the ground that Polycarp proceeded to speak of " widows," and did not refer to other portions of the same Epistle in which the widows are spoken of, a reference which he would have made if the Epistle had been known to him.

The celebrated Epistle from the Churches of Vienne and Lyons reveals acquaintance with 1 Tim. iii. 15 and iv. 3, 4. Athenagoras and Theophilus of Antioch quote or refer to passages in the first Epistle, while Irenaeus, Clemens Alexandrinus, and Tertullian emphatically refer the Epistles to St. Paul. They are found in the "Muratorian Canon " and in the Peschito-Syriac translation of the New Testament.

It is true that Marcion, in his enumeration of the Pauline Epistles, does not cite them, and his silence is regarded by Tertullian as a deliberate rejection of the Pastoral Epistles on theological grounds. Baur vindicates Marcion from Tertullian's charge on the ground that the early heretic had never seen these Epistles, and is confident that if Marcion had them before him, believing them to be the genuine —Epistles of Paul, he could never have appealed, as he did, to the authority of Paul in maintenance of his own peculiar opinions. It is, however, a most hazardous task to say what passages of Holy Writ perverse exegesis will appeal to or shun when it is set upon establishing a foregone conclusion.

Numerous attempts have recently been made to deliver Marcion from the ancient charge of mutilating the Gospel of Luke. ' In the opinion of great scholars, by no means conservative in their opinions, these efforts have been without success. And if this early Gnostic dispensed with three out of the four Gospels, and expunged from the third Gospel what was not congenial to his taste, it need not surprise us that ·he should have resented the obvious doctrine of the Pastoral Epistles, and should have surmised the truth that Paul had discerned with prophetic glance, and condemned in anticipation, the very speculations which he was endeavouring to diffuse under colour of that great Apostle's name. If so, the temptation to ignore, in his catalogue of Paul's Epistles, these genuine Letters to Timothy and Titus would have been too great for Marcion to resist.

Baur's argument did not rest with the negative position that Marcion's silence demonstrates the non-existence of the Epistles in his day. He endeavoured to make it appear that these Epistles were forged by an opponent of the Marcionite heresy, and that they were directed especially against a form of speculative opinion which did not exist till towards the end of the second century.

It is worth while to notice a few of the specious but perverse ingenuities of Baur's argument. They will bring into prominence the condition of the Church in Asia Minor at the period when it is probable that Paul addressed these letters to his younger brethren. Baur propounded the general position that "the false teachers" referred to in the Pastoral Epistles bear no resemblance to the Judaizers of the Galatian Churches, to the disputants in Corinth, or to the enemies of the Cross in Philippi. He maintained that the writer in 1 Tim. i. 19; iv. 1, 4; vi. 10, was speaking of those who were making "shipwreck of the faith,." and advancing; ideas utterly subversive of the Gospel of Christ. We admit that the phra5eology is different, and the opinions more developed than those referred to in previous Epistles; yet nothing can exceed the severity with which Paul had denounced many of these errors when they appeared in a nascent form. (See Rom. iii. 8; Gal. iii. I; v. 1 2; Phil. iii. 18, 19; Col. ii. 4, 20-23.) A point is made by Baurout of the author's frequent reference to" unsound or unhealthy doctrine," and to deviation from the " forms of sound words." This is, however, perfectly conceivable when the period of time is remembered during which these erroneous doctrines had had scope for development; but they should be compared with the intense realization of dogmatic truth involved in Paul's language to the Galatians (i. 6-9): " If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed."

The " fables" and " genealogies " were declared by Baur to refer to the Gnostic " myths," or to the Valentinian or Ophite emanations of successive ∆ons, and therefore to point to a late 9.evelopment of the Gnostic heresy. It is enough to say that Paul denounced " Jewish fables " and " endless genealogies," and to remember that Philo had long since developed the Mosaic genealogies into fanciful exhibitions of the "generations of souls."

According to Baur, Paul would never have argued with Judaizing teachers that " the law was good if a man use it lawfully;" and the expression must have been used by the author in opposition to those who were disposed, like the Marcionites, utterly to repudiate the law of Moses as a rule of life. On the contrary, the author speaks here of "teachers of the law" who were "ignorant of that concerning which they made asseverations," who doubtless had been using it unlawfully, and developing their spurious legalism into the ground of their justification.

The most perverse use is made by the school of Baur of the various references to the universality of God's redeeming love in I Tim. i. 14. 15; ii. 4; iv. 10; vi. 13; Tit. ii. 11. It is stated that none but later Gnostics, who divided mankind into the " spiritual," "psychical," and " materialized," could have been in the author's mind. Let us not forget that Paul contends throughout his genuine Epistles against those who limit the grace of God, against those who would confine the river of the water of life within the narrow channels of national or sacramental Judaism. The breadth of the Divine love was resisted by Pharisaism, by those who abused the doctrine of predestination, by bigotry, exclusiveness, and caste. To say that Marcionites, Valentinians, and Basilidians limited the grace of God to particular classes, proves nothing against the antiquity of the Pastoral Epistles.

Baur refers to the form of asceticism, amounting to unconditional celibacy, which the false teachers of these Epistles are expected to recommend in "the latter days." This, he says, shews that the author knew the novelty of the hazardous regimen, and therefore made Paul prophesy what he had never personally seen. Now, this is built on the supposition that Paul could not predict the future of the kingdom in the power of the Holy Ghost, and that there were no forms of dualistic asceticism near enough to the Church to induce Paul to foretell the approach of the like evil into the Church itself. The Johannine community, the Essenic sects, the Oriental monachism, coupled with the state of ecclesiastical controversy as described in Col. ii., are. more than sufficient to explain the celebrated passage, 1 Tim. iv. If Paul had been replying to full-blown Gnosticism, he would have used some terrible objurgation, and not quietly said, "Every creature of God is good."

In the closing words of the Epistle 1 Tim. vi. 20, 21, the " empty-sounding profanities;" and the "antitheses of falsely-named Gnosis," we do find language peculiarly applicable to Gnostic controversies, but to prove Baur's point, the absurd position is involved that" Gnosis" must have meant in the year 65 A.D. precisely what it meant in 1So A.D.; that no more technical signification could have grown up about it in the course of a century. In the same way, a multitude of expressions in both the Old and New Testaments, from their singular applicability to modern ·controversy, might be supposed to have been forged in the eighteenth century.

Baur discovers in the two "Doxologies"1.the precise date of these Epistles. They are, according to him, borrowed from Gnostic formulae. It seems to us that in Rom. xvi. 27; Heb. i. 2; xi. 3; Toh. xiii. 6, we have words used in precisely the same sense. The same opponent of the Pauline origin of the Epistles finds in the frequent reference to the humanity of Jesus a reply to Gnostic asceticism, and in those to the Epiphaneia (the manifestation) a covert allusion to the Gnostic idea of the sudden appearance of our Lord in the synagogue of Galilee. We have simply to see how forced this argument is, by remembering the abundant allusions, in the earliest of Paul's Epistles, to the first and second "corning" of our Lord.

It is not necessary to review all the theories of Credner, Mangold, and others, as to the precise name which these false teachers are supposed to have borne in ecclesiastical history. It is enough to say that during the interval that elapsed between the first prison-Epistles and these private warnings to Timothy and Titus, some circumstances occurred, certain men appeared, and special discussions were raised, of which we have only faint anticipations in the previous history and correspondence. A generation later, at the time of John's residence in Ephesus, a fiercer controversy and a more deadly evil were desolating the Churches of Asia. The Nicolaitanes and Balaamites, and the lovers of Jezebel (Rev. ii. iii.), were only developments and reactions from tendencies which reveal themselves in the Epistles of Paul.

The basis of Gnosticism was a combination of Heathenism and Christianity, of Oriental dualism and Christian speculation: it discriminated the Demiurge from the living God, the supreme Lord of the Universe; it shrank from the manifestation of God in the flesh, and explained away the resurrection, and deduced these conclusions from what was regarded as the incurable evil of matter.  It ran into docetic explanations of the person of Christ, and displayed great antagonism to Judaism and "the Law," which it identified with "the world," with "matter," and with "evil." Hints of all these coming speculations are found throughout the New Testament, and especially in the Epistles of John. But t1:e heresies anticipated in these Epistles reveal a Jewish Christianity decompounded by Heathen speculation. There is no hint of the specific Marcionite hypothesis having troubled the writer. The Christian Church was always surrounded by a fringe of unhealthy influences, of roused and staggered enmities. Jewish animosity raged from the first against its free spirit. The antagonism was leavened with Oriental science, with philosophical pretension and Essenic assumptions of purity, and " devilish" professions of attaining sanctity by unhealthy asceticism as well as by license. It is not difficult to trace, through the Epistles of Paul and Peter, the progress of these evils, until they culminate in the monstrous forms of the Apocalypse. There does not appear, therefore, to be any justification of the∑hypothesis that the Pastoral Epistles reveal so special an antagonism to a specific form of Gnosticism as to justify the suspicion of their being forged in the second century, and then attributed by their unknown author to St. Paul.

H. R. Reynolds

 

1) 1 Tim. i. 17; vi. 15.