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We must now retrace our steps in order to consider the Epistles of Paul which were addressed to Timothy and Titus, and the picture which they give of the conditions in his churches during the period of transition, before they had passed out of their missionary phase into autonomy and independence. They depended, in this period of transition, upon the Pauline successors for guidance and supervision. The elders and bishops who were established in every city were subject to their direction and control; and the 'Pastoral Epistles', as they have been christened in fairly modern times, were the credentials of these apostolic men and the authority for their policies.
There is no suggestion in these Epistles that the churches will be guided into autonomy; and we have no contemporary evidence which tells us how this autonomy was achieved. All we can see is that it was completed and well established before the visit of Ignatius of Antioch to Asia Minor about 115, by which time every city had its single bishop with a council of elders or presbyters, as we may call them indifferently, using either the English or the Greek word. We can hardly suppose that this important change was first introduced any later than the nineties, when John and his companions were exercising paramount influence in Asia; and this conclusion provides us with a chronological point towards which we can work; for the Pastoral Epistles reflect a state of affairs previous to the introduction of this system of self-government. They are not likely, therefore, to have been composed later than about 80 or 85; they may have been earlier.
The earliest period to which they can be assigned is about 64, when the persecution of Nero broke out; for 2 Timothy contains passages |257 which were written in the heat of this persecution. 1 Timothy and Titus have no references to it at all; their ostensible background is a little earlier. In all three, Paul is fighting a desperate battle against antagonists of the Jewish-gnostic type, who are endeavouring to control his churches and are coming very near to success. The battle was not over in the nineties, when the Revelation speaks of false Jews and false apostles who were still invading the churches; and its earliest phases can be seen in Corinthians and in Colossians. These Jewish-Christian teachers no longer demanded that all the Gentile Christians should be circumcised and keep the Law, as they did in the Galatian period. They posed as teachers of the Law, it is true, but they brought in 'Jewish myths and endless genealogies', which suggest gnostical dreams about the other world. They advocated asceticism, like the Essenes, forbidding marriage, and prohibiting certain foods, including wine and fleshmeats no doubt.
They made personal attacks on Paul and his claims to be an apostle, for he defends himself on both counts. He admits that he had been a blasphemer, a persecutor and a scorner, the chief of sinners he says, but he bears witness at the same time that he had become, for that very reason, the supreme example of God's mercy; and he affirms in the most solemn manner that he has been appointed by the Lord as the herald, apostle and teacher of the Gentiles. Thirty years had passed since the days when he had persecuted the church, and yet the hatred engendered in those days was still alive in somebody's mind.
The task of combating these enemy teachers fell upon his assistants and colleagues, who formed his missionary staff. It was vitally necessary for them to instal bishops and deacons of exemplary character in the churches, in order to reform abuses and to prevent the repetition of scandals, which had been taken advantage of by the enemy. Similar scandals had occurred a few years earlier at Corinth.
Literary critics have found it hard to believe that these Epistles were written personally by Paul. There are many passages where we feel that it is not Paul who is writing. We miss his rapid fluent style or styles. They are fortified with rather pretentious words, some of which are characteristic of pagan authors. Their language is forcible enough, |258 but seldom mystical or imaginative. They have a legislative manner; they appeal to precedent; their conception of faith is less dynamic; their insistence on good works is rather unexpected. On the other hand there are plenty of passages which, we feel, are indubitably Pauline, especially in 2 Timothy.
These impressions have been confirmed by patient literary analysis. The counting of words and phrases in a document is usually only a subsidiary consideration in the formation of literary judgements; but there are cases in which it is decisive; and in this case it is enough by itself to provide the proof. There are many passages in these Epistles which Paul did not write himself.
There are not wanting critics in the extreme school who solve the problem much too simply by saying that they are fictitious compositions of a much later date; and it has even been suggested that they belong to the middle of the second century and have the heresy of Marcion in view. It is true that they condemn asceticism, and Marcion was an ascetic; but Marcion was the arch-foe of the Jews; and the ascetics of the Pastoral Epistles were exponents of the Law of Moses. These Epistles fit much more readily into the actual historical situation to which they ostensibly refer. They do not fit a second-century situation.
There are many passages too, which a sound literary judgement is bound to recognize as Paul's own work. There are the personal expressions of faith in which the judicious reader recognizes at once the marks of his genius and personality; and there are the numerous references, en passant, to persons, movements, places, and events.
Erastus remained at Corinth. I left Trophimus sick at Miletus. Make haste to come before the winter. Eubulus salutes thee; and Pudens and Linus and Claudia and the brethren all.
These are pieces from authentic letters. They are occasional and incomplete and convey no significant information as they stand, or rather they have no clear meaning or significance except for the original recipients of the letter, who knew who the people were and were interested in their welfare. Pseudonymous writers did not compose their fictions in this way.
It is assumed by a number of scholars, without adequate discussion, that the writing of an epistle of a fictitious character, in the name and person of an apostle, would be an innocent and customary practice which would be well understood at the time. The assumption is an extremely dubious one, and seems to be based on the fact that pseudonymous apocalypses were current in the synagogues and received in the church. A review of these apocalypses reveals a very different kind of literature.
Books like Ezra and Baruch give romantic pictures of a period in the remote past, when it was believed that holy men still saw visions.There is always an elaborate supernatural setting, in which the ancient sage is introduced at some crisis in the history of Israel; he goes into the field and fasts and prays; angels descend with revelations from heaven in answer to his prayers; the course of world-history is unfolded in conventional apocalyptic forms; the end of all things is set forth in mysterious symbols.
This is a very different thing from the realism of the New Testament Epistles, with their plain straightforward messages from known persons to known churches, and especially the Pastoral Epistles with their practical unimaginative content. There seems to be no evidence at all that such missives were freely composed in the names of contemporary persons who had recently died. Fictitious letters do appear in the pseudonymous apocalypses and the romantic histories, but always within the framework of the legend, not from the fictitious situation to the actual: the Letter of Aristeas, the Epistle of Jeremy, and the first chapter of 2 Maccabees, for instance.
If the first-century Christians had been moved to follow this precedent, they would have put their message for the times into the mouth of some ancient prophet of Israel and written it up in an imaginative style, with supernatural machinery, which is precisely what one of them did in the second century, when he wrote the Ascension of Isaiah. At that time, too, they began to write an imaginative literature of this sort round the figure of St Peter, who was now sufficiently far in the past to have an aura of the marvellous about him. He was canonized, as we would say. The second Epistle of Peter is an example. It builds |260 up a romantic picture of the apostle; it gives its message for the times; it adds some apocalypse; and it refers to the first-century Epistles which were by now regarded as scripture.
The 'device' of pseudonymity, as it is actually known to exist, cannot be brought into relation with such realistic literature as Ephesians, I Peter, the Pastorals, James, or Jude, which belong to the first century and fail to build up the elaborate dramatic background which it was the whole purpose of pseudonymity to effect. The references to the contemporary situation are the natural or casual references which occur in actual letters.
We are left with two common-sense views which may be taken with regard to the Pastoral Epistles. Either they were made for Paul in his lifetime, on his order, by members of his staff like Apollos or Zenas; or they were put together after his death, with the object of making available portions of his surviving correspondence, policies which had been sanctioned by him, material which had received his imprimatur, sayings current in his school, and precious personal memories. If so, we have an extension of the kind of mediate authorship which we found in 1 Peter, which claims to have been written by Silvanus on Peter's order. Modern literary executors would not animate their editorial work by casting it in continuous epistolary form; but it is possible that the ancient world would not think it so strange. They certainly preferred the form of direct speech to the form of indirect; they liked to have a man represented as speaking his thoughts in person, rather than a report or discussion or analysis by a third person. The speeches in the Acts may be examples of this 'animated' reporting of authentic material.
Perhaps we may provisionally adopt, for historical purposes, the latter of these theories; the publication in the Pauline school, with some degree of editing, of Pauline material and Pauline views, by men who knew his mind. It involves certain elements of dramatization in the preparation of the text, and there was a traditional literary form which it recalls at a few points, the 'testament' or last words of some distinguished and heroic figure; either of a great religious founder as in the case of Moses in the last chapters of Deuteronomy, or of the father of a family as in the case of Jacob at the end of Genesis. This form had been |261 used for purely literary purposes in the fictitious Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, which Paul himself seems to have known. But the resemblance is only a fleeting one.
The Epistles show him face to face with martyrdom, without of course telling the story; but that would have been well known. He is almost overwhelmed by his enemies; he is almost deserted by his friends. There is a suggestion here of the betrayal and Passion of Jesus; ' they all forsook him and fled'. But it would look as if it was precisely his martyrdom that won the day. Paul the martyr was an even more potent force than Paul the evangelist. Every word and act and characteristic of the marvellous man would be of interest to his followers, even down to the books and the parchments and the cloak which he left at Troas. Perhaps they were still there.
The publication of the Epistles would minister to the same demand for information about Paul as the publication of the Acts, which worked up other old memories and documents into a continuous literary form. Without any literary dependence of the one on the other being apparent, it would seem that they must have appeared in the same circle about the same time. They are interested in the same persons and places.
The two principal successors of Paul were Timothy and Titus. Timothy is prominent in the Acts and Pauline Epistles; Titus is never mentioned in the Acts, and is not very prominent in the Epistles. He seems to have been a practical man. He appears in connexion with the two collections of money which were made on behalf of the church in Jerusalem; he settled Paul's troubles at Corinth. He appears in his own Epistle organizing new missions in Crete; but he is to leave when this work is done and join Paul in Dalmatia. Artemas or Tychicus will succeed him. He is described as Paul's true child according to the common faith; a genuine and legitimate successor in his evangelistic work.
Timothy is given a similar title of honour in the First Epistle, but appears in the Second as 'beloved child', a more affectionate and personal form of address, with a suggestion of unique status about it; for 'beloved son' in New Testament language is almost the same as 'only son'.
|262 If Timothy was a young man in his twenties when Paul first adopted him to take the place of Mark on his staff, he would be about forty at the date which is presupposed in the Pastorals and forty was the age, Irenaeus tells us, when a man might begin work as a teacher, according to the Christian tradition in Asia Minor. This agrees with other signs, in the Pastoral Epistles themselves, that Timothy was rather a young man for a high administrative position; but this occasion demanded a teacher as much as an administrator and he had the qualifications for that. He was left at Ephesus for a time to combat certain strange doctrines. He was to assert a sound and healthy teaching, which was built on the Hebrew scriptures and the gospel preaching and the baptismal catechisms, in opposition to a false teaching, which was also based on the Hebrew scriptures, but gloried in fantastic myths and endless genealogies, and advocated asceticism and celibacy. Paul had no misgivings about Timothy's ability to cope with that part of the situation. He was an intellectual and had his special charisma or gift of grace. There had been prophecies which pointed forward in this direction. There had also been a laying on of hands by the 'presbytery'; which rather recalls the service at Antioch in Acts xiii, in which Barnabas and Paul had been sent out on a special mission some fifteen years before.
Who the 'presbytery' was we do not know. The word is used of the Jewish sanhedrin in Jerusalem and suggests a council of senior rank.
Timothy had the special qualification of being well-versed in the sacred literature, by which we may understand the Old Testament in the Greek version. He had known it from childhood and had studied it perhaps in some formal way, since he was prepared to meet antagonists who posed as experts, though Paul was very scornful about their competence. He was something of an ascetic. There is a quaint reference to 'bodily exercise' as being of some slight benefit, though it cannot be compared with 'exercise according to godliness'. It is most unlikely that Paul was referring to athletics; the word almost certainly meant some rule of fasting or other hardships voluntarily undertaken. He urges Timothy to keep himself 'pure', hagnos; a word which often has an ascetic connotation; and he goes on to say, 'Drink no longer water only, but use a little wine for your stomach and for your frequent sicknesses.' The word for water-drinking is a pretentious word which is used perhaps with a touch of impatience: 'Don't go on with your |263 water-drinking craze!' Who seriously supposes that sentences like these were invented by an ecclesiastical writer to liven his admonitions?
We learn from this passage that Timothy was far from robust; in fact dyspeptic. We have now gone almost as far as we can in deriving a portrait of Timothy from the counsels which are showered upon him. Can we go further? Was he possibly rather fond of argument? Was he a little timid in making decisions? The various traits which emerge are certainly not those which would have been invented by a writer of ecclesiastical fiction. We are dealing with genuine Pauline counsels, even though they may be expressed in a style which is not always exactly that of the apostle.
Paul does not encourage Timothy to enter into argument with the men who introduce the strange teachings. They like argument and thrive upon it; and the servant of God must not be argumentative. It hardly seems yet a question of heretical theologies or theories which have to be refuted. It was a question of how to deal with men and women with brilliant gifts, unbalanced temperament, fantastic imagination, personal ambition, and dubious morals; undisciplined men, Paul calls them; evil men and impostors. The word for 'impostor' is the word goes, which can also mean magician; and it recalls men like Elymas and Simon Magus in Acts, who are given, no doubt, as specimens of their class. They are compared with the magicians who opposed Moses in Egypt.
The first line of defence was to hold fast to the patterns of' sound (or healthy) teaching', which had been received by the faithful in the early days; a piece of advice which Paul had given as early as his Thes-salonian period. These forms of oral teaching included sayings of Jesus; for the trouble-makers refused to come near to 'the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ', or the 'teaching which is in line with godliness'. Godliness, eusebeia, is a favourite word, and seems to mean the whole established tradition of liturgy, worship, and catechism; it suggests a habit of worship and piety along the lines of the 'God-fearers' (the eusebeis) of the old synagogue. The Pastoral Epistles are full of little fixed forms and phrases which had become current in the tradition of teaching and worship. Occasionally we find what looks like a piece of a |264 hymn or a benediction or a creed. Occasionally a sentence is introduced or rounded off with the words, 'This is a faithful and true saying', which suggests a technique of oral teaching; though not exactly a Pauline technique.
It is interesting to observe that there is no reference at all to a written Gospel. We are still in the stage when reliance was placed upon oral teaching and prophetic guidance.
Appeal is also made to prophecy, for Timothy had the support of the prophets. It had been foretold that these troubles would come in the last days.
The Spirit expressly says that in the latter seasons some will apostasize from the faith, adhering to spirits of error and teachings of daemons.
(1 Timothy iv. 1.)
The connexion of false teachers with the world of evil spirits seems to be implied in Jude and 1 John and Polycarp, and has become practically an article of faith in Justin Martyr. It is often said that their coming had been prophesied; but where are we to look for the statement of the Spirit 'in so many words' that some will apostasize? We remember the 'apostasy' predicted as early as 1 Thessalonians; we remember the false prophets predicted in Mark's 'Little Apocalypse'. The Epistle of Jude refers to these predictions: ' Remember the words which were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time. ...'
The Pastoral Epistles have more contact with the prophetic tradition than their sedate manner would suggest. The deterioration of the church as the advent approached was part of the apocalyptic message. The Ascension of Isaiah had much to say about it. It appears again in the case of the Pauline churches, in the Revelation of St John. It runs through all the literature of the second generation. The writer of the Pastorals was working on a widespread church tradition which had apocalyptic connexions.
Paul saw clearly before he died that the power of these antagonists of his would grow; 'they will advance', he said, possibly echoing one of their favourite phrases; but they would advance for the worse. It is
|265 possible, however, that these predictive and forward-looking passages owe something of their character to the editors who were responsible for their final form.
There also comes into partial view an outline of the local organization, which is of considerable historical interest; but we must not suppose that the object of the Pastorals was to provide what is called a church order; or even to assume that such a thing existed. The motive of the writer was to reform and correct the local ministry in certain phases of its operation, in view of criticisms which had been launched upon it, apparently with some justification. Why should it be necessary to insist that bishops and deacons must be content with one wife, or not addicted to drinking, or not quarrelsome, or not given to making money out of their office, if there were no good grounds for these accusations? Why should there be so strong an emphasis on marriage throughout these epistles? Why should it be necessary to insist on decency and good behaviour among Christian women, and especially among the widows?
The emotional preaching, the 'spiritual' excitement, the indiscriminate and immediate baptisms of the earliest days, had brought the church a mixed collection of converts, whose change of heart may not always have been very profound. Five, ten, or fifteen years, would be enough to show them up in their true colours. Three years were long enough in the case of Corinth. The first flush of spiritual exaltation would decline; the moral deficiencies would appear; it would become necessary to insist upon the virtues which this epistle sums up under the term 'godliness'.
There is a long section at the beginning of 1 Timothy, the background of which is the service of prayer and worship with its sacrament or holy meal. The cautions about the bishop and his deacons are inserted into this context. The bishop has the responsibility for the house or household of God, 'which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth' – a phrase which rather sounds as if it were derived from the story of Jacob at Bethel (the house of God). It would seem that an actual house or church-building was in the mind of the writer; for the bishop has to provide hospitality for strangers, among his other duties. In such a church-house, especially if eucharists and common meals were held there, social and financial irregularities would |266 be likely to appear as the number of the converts outgrew the rather rudimentary organization. It was a question therefore of the moral character of the ' caretaker' or bishop. Men must be found for this work who were above suspicion, and not open to cavil from the outside world.
The word episkopos or bishop was in common use in the pagan world to mean a supervisor or manager; but such a translation would be quite inadequate and misleading in its New Testament connotation; and the word 'overseer', with its suggestion of the slave-gang would be even worse. It would appear that it was deliberately chosen, in the fifties, by the apostles as the title of a specific office in the local church, to which liturgical, pastoral, and administrative duties were attached. It was closely associated with the idea of the shepherd or pastor.
In 1 Timothy the bishop is mentioned in the singular, and the deacons in the plural. If we are not prepared for the idea of one bishop in each city, we may, if we please, think of several church-houses or households, each under its bishop and deacons. This would satisfy the terms of the Epistle and fall into line with the plural bishops of Acts and Philippians; and also, of course, with the various references to a church in the house of some individual, such as Aquila, or Philemon, or even Onesiphorus.
The bishop or curator, who is left in charge of the house of God, as his house-steward (oikonomos) is the counterpart in the Pauline mission of the faithful and wise servant in the parables of Jesus who is left by the master in control of all his property. The master may return at any time, and therefore the steward must be sober and watchful; he is not to eat and drink with the drunken or beat the slaves. This is echoed very precisely in the Pastorals; 'no drinker', 'no striker'.
The Pastorals refer explicitly to the health-giving words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and it is not surprising to find them echoed. The charisma which Timothy is to stir up, and the 'deposit' which he is to guard, recall the parables in which the master of the house entrusts to his servants a number of ' talents' or ' pounds' which they are to trade with until his return. The adventist touch is not missing from the Pastorals either; 'I charge thee', it says, 'to preserve the commandment unspotted and blameless until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.'
Throughout these Epistles the ecclesiastical language, with its infusion of secular words and its stresses on godliness and sound morals, is in closer touch with the oldest evangelical traditions than might at first be supposed.
|267 The section which contains the paragraphs on the bishop and the deacons also contains interesting references to the worship of the congregation, with its prayers and supplications and intercessions and thanksgiving for all men. The men stand for prayer with uplifted hands. The women stand in silence, in sober array, doubtless apart from the men. There are snatches of liturgical material, and even perhaps a piece of a eucharistic anaphora: 'One God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all'; cf. Mark x. 45. The arguments about unlawful foods are mentioned in this connexion, because it would be at the Lord's table that they would cause dissension. 'All the creations of God are good', Paul asserts, 'and nothing is to be rejected; it is to be received with thanksgiving (or eucharist): for it is hallowed by a Word of God and by prayer'. The thanksgiving here seems to be connected with a fellowship meal rather than a purely sacramental occasion, unless indeed the two were combined, as they seem to be in 1 Corinthians.
We now come to the main body of the Epistle, which deals mainly with elders and teachers, though a long section on widows has been incorporated into it. It is at this point that Timothy will need all his resolution: 'Let no man despise thy youth', Paul says. Timothy might well be daunted; for he was to take over the full responsibility for the 'admonition' and discipline of the congregation, including the older men and women.
Rebuke not an older man but exhort him as a father,
The younger men as brothers;
The older women as mothers,
The younger women as sisters.
(1 Tim. v. 2.)
This general introduction to the subject of the elders (or olders) is in striking contrast with the more precise directions about the bishop and the deacons. The elders in this case seem to be the veteran Christians who were the fathers of the community; the younger may be the more recent converts. After some lengthy directions about the widows, the writer returns to the subject of the elders, and says,
Let the elders who preside well be counted worthy of double honour, particularly those who labour in the word and the teaching.
(1 Tim. v. 17.)
|268 It looks as if he was now considering a select council of elders who formed a governing body, some of them being preachers or teachers as well. The word 'honour' has the meaning of financial recognition, like our word honorarium. All the elders, therefore, were on pension; but those who were members of the praesidium could receive twice as much, especially if they preached or taught.
It is at this point, in connexion with the teachers and elders, that the most difficult part of Timothy's work of admonition lay. He must carry out his work of inquiry and reform with the utmost impartiality. He must be exceedingly careful how he receives an accusation against an elder, and yet he must be prepared to admonish him in public if he is in error. The text is in confusion, and possibly we have only the relics of the counsels which were originally given with regard to a rather unpleasant situation; there are a number of cautions and admonitions on too rapid ordinations, on getting involved in the sins or errors of others, on purity, on the good effects of a little wine, on the detection of sins, and on the position of slaves. It comes back, however, to the topic of the false teachers, with their passion for argument and their love of money, which it calls the root of all evils. Paul has in view, of course, the scandals which have appeared in the church, and one doubts not that he was right; money is at the bottom of most scandals.
The false teachers were not satisfied with the food and shelter which is all they got, we may suppose, within the provisions which were made by the church and, indeed, the counsels of Christ himself. This touch completes our picture of the complex financial organization which had come into existence within the rapidly growing church. There were bishops and deacons as executive and pastoral officers; elders or older men receiving a pension, which was doubled if they were on the governing body; older women and widows to be supported; strangers who required hospitality; and wandering teachers to be suitably entertained and sent on their way.
The picture of the bishop and deacons, separate from the elders and teachers, which we find in 1 Timothy, is not identical with the impression which we receive from the Epistle to Titus. Titus was left in Crete to establish the local organization; 'to appoint elders in every city; |269 if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife', and so forth; 'for', it continues, 'the bishop must be above reproach as the house-manager of God'. Here the natural interpretation must be that the house-bishop is the same person as the elder whose appointment was mentioned in the previous clause; or possibly that he would be selected from among them. These appointed elders, however, are clearly distinguished from the wider class of senior men in the church, since a different Greek word is used for them.
If the organization is identical with the organization in Ephesus, we are obliged to admit that no clear picture of it emerges; but perhaps there was no strict uniformity. The Ephesian church had existed for some years, and had its veteran Christians, and its well organized house-churches. The Cretan church was at the beginning of its development; at the same stage in fact as those Galatian churches for which Paul and Barnabas had appointed elders not long after they were evangelized. We see how far these Epistles are from providing what was called a 'church order' in later ecclesiastical history. The organization was still in a rudimentary stage. Its outline is not made clear.
We are not told how the local ministers had been appointed in Ephesus, but we see that they were appointed in Crete by apostolic men. There is no sign that congregations could elect their ministers or that bishops or elders had acquired the powers of ordination. The new churches, and probably the old ones too, were still dependent on the apostolic order for ministerial appointments and discipline. Yet when Timothy himself had received the charisma or gift of grace for the work he was doing, there had been a laying on of hands by a 'presbytery', which means a sanhedrin or council of elders. Were they the local elders of Ephesus? or were they the apostolic men? or did the teachers and prophets intervene, as they did at Antioch when Paul and Barnabas were sent out on their first mission? Was it an ordination at all? or a service of commission for a special piece of work, as we have assumed in our narrative?
The apostolic church was rich in ministries and spiritual ordinances and works of charity and traditions of teaching and sacraments and
|270 modes of liturgical action, but did it have a church order? Was it not the mission and authority of the apostolate that held it together? The indigenous ministry was only in process of formation.
Another picture comes into our mind as we read these Epistles. It is that which is revealed in the early chapters of the Acts, which describes the struggles and problems of the Jerusalem church, which had become or soon would become a memory and a tradition. We think of the apostolic kerugmata, the breaking of the bread in the house-churches, the common fund and the common meals, the murmuring of the Hellenist widows, the ordination of the seven Hellenists to administer this part of the work, the council of elders who acted with the apostles, the house-churches established in Joppa and Caesarea, the prophesyings at Antioch, the mission of Barnabas and Saul with the laying on of hands, and the appointment of elders by the apostles in the Galatian churches. The only considerable deviation from these Palestinian precedents is that where we find the seven so-called deacons in the pages of the Acts we find a bishop and deacons in the Pastoral Epistles; the administrative staff has divided into two orders.
We are looking here at an historical and literary succession. The church order with which the Pastoral Epistles have to do is a Palestinian church order which had reached Asia Minor by way of Antioch and Caesarea; and Acts presented pictures of this Palestinian church order so as to provide models for the churches of Asia Minor.
At the conclusion of the first Epistle Timothy is urged in the most solemn terms, drawn from the gospel kerugma itself, to preserve the commandment unspotted and unblemished until the Epiphany of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is to guard the 'deposit'; he is to reject the contradictions of a 'knowledge' (or gnosis) which is falsely so called. The word gnosis here makes its appearance as a technical term.
The Epistle to Titus is by no means a pale shadow of 1 Timothy, though it resembles it closely. It opens with the reference to the establishment of elders in every city, which passes into a sketch of the character and work of the bishop; but more stress is laid upon the |271 position of the bishop as a teacher and a guardian of the true doctrine. He is to be familiar with the traditional oral forms, so as to be able to refute the talkers of vanity, especially those 'of the circumcision', whose mouths it is necessary to stop. The Epistle goes on to give an unfavourable remark about the Cretans, which is taken from one of their own poets. This passage suggests very strongly that the Epistle was not intended to be read aloud in their churches.
Then comes a simple catechism dealing with social relations, and a beautiful exposition of the gospel message. The grace of God has been revealed and offers salvation to all men; but its more glorious revelation is to be the 'Epiphany' of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, for which we are now waiting. The words Epiphany and Saviour(or 'God and Saviour') are examples of the developed vocabulary of these Epistles, which clothes the old Pauline gospel in more stately language. These thoughts come to a climax in the reference to the sacrament of baptism, which is described as the bath of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, which is poured out upon us richly, by Jesus Christ our Saviour. The language of new birth scarcely appears before except in 1 Peter.
The Epistle to Titus is as well adapted to the circumstances of a new church as 1 Timothy is to the circumstances of an older church.
In 2 Timothy the Pauline manner and spirit is far more evident, and comes out clearly in certain passages which are undoubtedly his own writing. It is only a very insensitive criticism which can attribute these deeply personal sentences to the work of the literary editor, whose own style is formal and impersonal.
2 Timothy picks up the idea of the 'deposit', which was mentioned in the last chapter of 1 Timothy. The 'deposit' is a metaphor taken from banking, and means a sum of money or property left in trust for safekeeping. In this case the deposit is the ministration of the gospel, which the Saviour had entrusted to his servant Paul, as a herald, apostle, and teacher of the Gentiles. This sacred trust is now handed on to Timothy, his 'beloved child', his son and heir in the tradition, just as Mark, who had been Timothy's predecessor on Paul's staff, was designated as the |272 spiritual heir of Peter. Timothy, in his turn, was to hand it on to ' faithful men who would be qualified in their turn to teach others'. He provides, in short, for an apostolic succession.
Timothy is not called an apostle, however. He is called an evangelist, like Philip of Caesarea, another man of the second rank, who was not an apostle himself and yet preached and supervised churches. ' Be sober in all things', says Paul, 'endure hardships, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry'; and it is in connexion with this charge that he urges him to ' stir up the charisma that is in you through the laying-on of my hands'; the personal reference was necessary here, where the continuation of his own ministry was in his mind.
An interesting critical point now follows. If the Pastoral Epistles were composed in Paul's lifetime and issued by him, we are bound to accept it as an historical fact that he did so designate and authorize Timothy to be his successor in the Gentile churches of his own creation; but we have little evidence in this case as to Timothy's success in this capacity. If, on the other hand, we decide that they were composed in the Pauline school in the seventies or eighties on the basis of Pauline documents and personal memories, we miss the direct statement by the apostle which we would like to have; but in this case it becomes certain that the Pauline churches in the seventies and eighties did accept Timothy in this capacity, and believed that Paul had so designated him. The Pastoral Epistles also formed the credentials of Titus, Zenas, Artemas and others who are mentioned in them in an indirect way.
These letters are a massive literary and ecclesiastical monument, though their bulk is not great. We have allowed ample room for legitimate difference of opinion with regard to the date and circumstances of their production; but when the utmost allowance has been made in deference to the most sceptical schools, they remain firmly established as working documents in the Pauline churches between the years 65 and 85. They give us a valuable picture of a period of transition, when the churches were not yet autonomous, and were still subject to the visits of wandering teachers of Jewish origin. They do not provide a church order or constitution. The directions which they give are related to the emergent problems of a situation which was still plastic; it was for the successors and old colleagues of St Paul to uphold his good name, to administer his churches in their hour of need, and to reform the abuses whose existence was frankly admitted.
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