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The Pastoral Epistles: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus

by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.

Introduction | Outlines | Themes | Questions | Bibliography

Introduction:
Pastoral Epistles: The two letters addressed to Timothy and the one to Titus are collectively called the "Pastoral" letters, not only since they are addressed to these early Christian "pastors" (leaders who care for their "flock"), but also because they give instructions about the qualifications and responsibilities of people who are to serve as "shepherds" (leaders including "bishops" and "deacons:") of local congregations.

"Pastor" originally means "shepherd," someone who literally "pastures" a flock of sheep or other grazing animals, guiding them to green pastures and protecting them from harm. Several prominent figures of the Old Testament were literally shepherds, who took care of sheep, including Abel (Gen 4:2), Abraham (Gen 12:16), the sons of Jacob (Gen 37:2; 46:32), and especially the young David, who later became the King of Israel (1 Sam 16:11; 2 Sam 5:2). Thus, the kings and other leaders of Israel are often referred to metaphorically as good or bad "shepherds" (Jer 23:1-4; Ezek 34:1-31; etc.). God is sometimes referred to as the "Shepherd of Israel" (Gen 48:15; Ps 23:1; Isa 40:11; etc.). The expected Messiah is also referred to as a shepherd (Micah 5:2-5; Matt 2:6). Jesus sometimes talks about shepherds and sheep in his parables (Matt 18:2-4; 25:31-33), and even calls himself the "Good Shepherd" (John 10:1-18). Later NT writings sometimes refer to Jesus as a shepherd and to Christians as his sheep (Heb 13:20; 1 Pet 5:4; Rev 7:17). Similarly, from the very beginnings of the Church, Christian leaders have been metaphorically called shepherds who care for the sheep (John 21:15-17; Acts 20:28; Eph 4:11). This imagery is not, however, used in any of the authentic/early letters of Paul; the only time he mentions sheep is in Rom 6:36, citing Psalm 44:22 ("For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered").

Pseudepigraphic Letters: The three Pastoral Letters, along with three other DeuteroPauline epistles (Col, Eph, 2 Thess), are attributed to the apostle Paul, but were almost certainly not written by Paul himself. Rather, they are

probably pseudepigraphic (i.e., written in Paul's name by one or more of his followers after his death).

See my introduction to the Deutero-Pauline Epistles for a fuller discussion of the ancient practice of Pseudepigraphy. One should not assume too quickly that all three of the Pastoral Letters were written by the same author at about the same time. o 2 Timothy claims to be written from prison in Rome (1:8; 2:9), while 1 Timothy and Titus do not mention Paul being in prison. o These three letters have different genres: 1 Timothy and Titus are "Church Orders," while 2 Timothy is a "Testament." o In the canonical NT, 2 Tim is placed after 1 Tim simply because it is shorter, not necessarily because it was written later. o Since 1 Timothy and Titus are very similar in several ways, they were more likely written by the same person at about the same time. o But 2 Timothy might have been written earlier by a different author, although still by someone associated with Paul. Thus, 2 Timothy has a slightly higher possibility of being authentic (written by Paul himself, shortly before his death). o In contrast, 1 Timothy and Titus are almost certainly pseudepigraphic (written by someone after Paul's death). o On the other hand, one must admit that "Testaments" are also a common and popular pseuepigraphic genre. Authorship and Dates: o If one or more of these letters is authentically by Paul, then it must have been written in the mid 60's, during his imprisonment in Rome (cf. 2 Tim 1:16-17). o If they are pseudepigraphic, then they were probably composed in the late first century (80-100?), but the location is unknown (maybe Ephesus?)

Literary Genres:

Letters/Epistles: o All three of these works can be classified as "letters" or "epistles" (based on their form); but their literary genres can be defined even more precisely (based on their content). Church Orders = o Literary works that give instructions about the organization, practices, leadership structures, and other practical matters for the Christian communities.

NT examples: both 1 Timothy and Titus are easily recognized as "Church Orders"; smaller sections within other NT writings might also be similar in genre. o Non-canonical examples: outside the NT, several other early Christian writings also fit this genre, such as the Didache and the Apostolic Constitutions. Final Testament or Farewell Discourse o Literary works (usually pseudepigraphic) that purportedly give the final words of a great leader, shortly before his/her own death. o Typical characteristics of this genre, as the dying person passes on his/her "spiritual legacy": Reflecting on the past: the dying person's own life and actions as a good example; reflections on the meaning of his life and work. Speaking of the future: personal exhortations for his "sons" to live well and to serve God; warnings about potential dangers or problems. Blessings and prayers: praying on behalf of his/her children and/or followers. Personal or biographical elements: added for greater authenticity (such as 2 Tim 1:15-18; 4:9-18). o OT examples: the last words of Jacob (Gen 49); the last words of Moses (Deut 33) o NT examples: farewell words of Paul to his "son" (2 Timothy); farewell address of Jesus to his disciples (John 1417); farewell speech of Paul in Troas (Acts 20:17-38); farewell message of Peter (2 Peter 13) o Non-canonical examples: Testament of Abraham; Testament of Solomon; Testaments of the 12 Patriarchs; etc.
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Detailed Outlines of the Pastoral Epistles:


The First Letter to Timothy (1 Tim) Letter Opening (1:1-2) A. Sender & Recipient (1:1-2a) B. Formulaic Greeting (1:2b)
[no "Thanksgiving" section]

The Second Letter to Timothy (2 Tim) I. Letter Opening (1:1-7) a. Sender, Recipient, and Greeting: Paul to his "beloved child" Timothy (1:12) b. Thanksgiving for the faith of

Letter Body (1:36:19) Part I: Timothy's task: Maintain apostolic faith against heretics (1:3-20) a. False teaching and immorality (1:311) b. Thanksgiving for Paul's conversion (1:12-17) c. False teachers condemned by the apostles (1:18-20) Part II: Specific instructions on community order (2:16:19)

Timothy, his mother & grandmother (1:3-7) II. Various Exhortations (1:84:8) a. Initial Admonitions: Do not be ashamed of serving the Gospel; remember Paul's sufferings during his imprisonment (1:8-18) b. Theology: 1. Remain faithful to the Gospel (2:1-13) 2. Reject false teachers who claim the resurrection is past (2:14-26) 3. Know that people will be evil in the last days (3:1-9) c. Ethics: 1. Remember Paul's conduct and remain firm in the faith (3:1017) 2. Preach the Gospel persistently, even if people don't listen (4:1-5) 3. Paul has finished his race and hopes to receive his reward (4:6-8)

a. Prayer for all and proper conduct of men and women (2:1-15) b. Qualifications for bishops and deacons (3:1-13) c. Maintain proper behavior in the "household of God" (3:14-16) d. Reject false teaching: ascetic denial of creation (4:1-5) e. Timothy's good example against false teaching (4:6-16) f. Respect for persons of different ages (5:1-2) g. Rules for enrolling widows (5:3-16) III. Letter Conclusion (4:9-22) h. Rules for treatment of elders (5:1722) i. Rules and sayings (5:23-25) a. Instructions about Paul's faithful and j. Behavior of Christian slaves (6:1-2) unfaithful associates (4:9-16) k. Against disputes about teaching (6:3b. Thanksgiving for the Lord's help 5) during Paul's trials (4:17-18) l. Against greed: Be contented with c. Individual personal greetings (4:19what you have (6:6-10) 21) m. Persevere in the "good fight of faith" d. Concluding prayer (4:22) (6:11-16) n. To the rich: Trust in God and do The Letter to Titus good deeds (6:17-19) Letter Conclusion (6:20-21) A. Final Admonition: Guard what has been entrusted to you (6:20-21a) I. Address and Greetings to Titus (1:1-4) II. Instructions to Titus (1:53:11) a. Appoint elders/bishops on Crete;

B. Final Blessing (6:21b)

their qualifications (1:5-9) b. Counter and rebuke false teachers, esp. Judaizers (1:10-16) c. Teach proper behavior for men, women and slaves (2:1-10; a "Household Code") d. Preach about God's grace and salvation; exhort people to live "godly lives" (2:11-15) e. Remind people to obey authorities and respect everyone, for God's goodness has saved us (3:1-8a) f. Insist that believers do good works, avoid useless controversies, and shun those who cause divisions (3:8b-11) III. Concluding instructions, greetings, and prayer (3:12-15)

Major Themes in the Pastoral Epistles:


Ethical and Theological Admonitions in 2 Timothy:

Teach correct doctrine and refute false teachings; "pass on" what you have learned (1:13-14; 2:2; 4:1-2; etc.); avoid stupid and senseless controversies (2:23-26) o But the only explicit error mentioned is claiming that the resurrection has already occurred (2:18b) "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, / so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work." (3:16-17) o This originally refered to the OT (since the NT was not yet written or canonized!); but it strongly influenced the later Christian doctrine of "biblical inspiration."

Leadership Roles in the Early Church according to 1 Timothy and Titus:

After the New Testament period, Christianity eventually adopted a three-fold leadership structure for the Church, consisting of the familiar trio: "bishops, priests, and deacons."

This three-fold structure, however, is not directly found in the Bible, but developed only gradually in the second and third centuries. o Bishops and deacons are mentioned in various NT books, but the term "priest" is never used in the NT for Christian leaders (see below). o The earliest list of local Christian leaders is given by Paul: "God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues" (1 Cor 12:28). The Pastoral Epistles, in contrast, seem to describe a four-fold leadership structure, with two pairs of two groups of leaders: o Bishops (Episkopoi) = "Overseers, Supervisors"; appointed through "laying on of hands" by apostles or previous leaders (1 Tim 3:1-7; cf. Titus 1:7-9) o Deacons (Diakonoi) = "Minister, Servants"; assistants to the bishops; responsible for practical matters like care of the poor (1 Tim 3:8-13) & o Widows (Chrai) = "Older Women who do not remarry"; cared for by the church and serve the community, esp. teaching the younger women (1 Tim 5:3-16; cf. Titus 2:3-5) o Elders (Presbyteroi) = "Older Men who are respected"; teaching, preaching, probably forming a type of "community council" (1 Tim 5:1, 17-22; cf. Titus 1:5) In Contrast: Priests (Hieroi) = "Cultic Officials"; those who offer sacrifices and/or serve in temples o In the NT, the word "priests" almost always refers to the Jewish priests (those who offer the sacrifices in the Jerusalem Temple). o No Christian leaders are ever called "priests" in the entire NT (this term was applied to Christian leaders only later, in the 2nd century). o Only in the Epistle to the Hebrews is Jesus himself called a "great high priest" - even though he did not belong to the tribe of Levi.
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Relationships among Christians in the Early Church:

See the separate page on the "Household Codes" of the New Testament.

Similarities and Differences between the Pastoral Epistles and Paul's Undisputed Letters:

[more coming some day]

Development of Christian Doctrines in the Pastoral Epistles:

[more coming some day]

Questions for Review and Discussion:


The Three Pastoral Letters: 1. Give several reasons why 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus are often called the "Pastoral Epistles"? What are "pastors"? Why is the imagery of "pastors" so important for Christian leadership? 2. In what ways are 1 Timothy and Titus similar to each other? How is 2 Timothy different from both of them? 3. To what extent are the theological explanations, ethical admonitions, and/or practical instructions of these letters still applicable for us today? How must they be adapted to our own socio-cultural situations? 2 Timothy: 1. Which verses or passages most surprised you, disturbed you, or inspired you as you read the Second Letter to Timothy? Why? 2. Who was Timothy? What do we know about his life and about his relationship with the apostle Paul? Why does Paul sometimes call him "child" or "brother" or "co-worker"? 3. What advice does the dying Paul give to his closest friend and missionary associate in this letter? 1 Timothy & Titus: 1. Which verses or passages most surprised you, disturbed you, or inspired you as you read the First Letter to Timothy and the Letter to Titus? Why? 2. Who was Titus? What do we know about his background and about his relationship with the apostle Paul? 3. What main issues, problems, and/or questions are addressed in these two letters? 4. What do 1 Timothy and Titus say about the leaders of local Christian communities in the early church? 5. What do these letters teach us about the relationships between men and women, both older and younger, in the Christian church?

For Further Reading and Study:

Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to the New Testament. New York: Doubleday, 1997. - "Pastoral Letter: To Titus" (pp. 638-652), "Pastoral Letter: The First to Timothy" (653-671), "Pastoral Letter: The Second to Timothy" (672-680). Fiore, Benjamin. Pastoral Epistles. Sacra Pagina. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2003. Johnson, Luke Timothy. First and Second Letters to Timothy. Anchor Bible, 35A. New York: Doubleday, 2001. Quinn, Jerome D. Letter to Titus. Anchor Bible, 35. New York: Doubleday, 1990. Karris, Robert J. The Pastoral Epistles. New Testament Message. Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1979.