THIS expository volume on the Pastoral Epistles had its origin in a department of labour connected with my official duties. Till lately, it was for many years my lot to conduct a class of Pastoral Theology for advanced students preparing for the work of the Christian ministry; and a portion of the time during each session was usually devoted to the exposition and illustration of more or less of those Epistles. Practically, it was found impossible to overtake more, in any particular session, than a comparatively limited portion of them. But as comments on the whole had been prepared, I have thought that the publication of them might be of some advantage to students of Sacred Scripture, especially to those who are either in the position of candidates for the ministry, or without lengthened experience in the discharge of its duties. The requirements and interests of such have been kept specially in view throughout the volume. On that account also, particular respect has been had, both in the course of exposition, and in the introduction and supplementary dissertations, to the objections which have been urged—latterly, indeed, with great boldness and persistency—against the apostolic authorship and divine inspiration of these portions of New Testament Scripture.
The aim of this volume, therefore, will readily be understood to differ considerably from that of Bishop Ellicott’s, whose commentary on the Pastoral Epistles bears the designation of “critical and grammatical.” The portion of the late Dean Alford’s Commentary on the New Testament which embraces these Epistles is to a large extent of the same description. Both commentators have very ably accomplished the objects they had more especially in view; and the frequent references I have made to their productions will sufficiently evince how profoundly sensible I am of the services they have rendered to the correct knowledge of the language and import of the Epistles—though on points of some moment I have occasionally felt myself obliged to differ from each of them. While the critical and grammatical have been with me a somewhat less prominent object, neither of them has been overlooked; and wherever the text or the construction is such as to call for special examination or adjustment, this has uniformly received attention, before anything as to doctrine or instruction has been founded on the words. The text of Tischendorf, in his 8th edition, so nearly coincides with what I take to be the correct one, that I have simply adopted it—twice with a measure of hesitation (see pp. 273, 373), and once only with a formal dissent (p. 233). Minor deviations from the Received Text, as in respect to the spelling and order of words, I have consequently deemed it unnecessary to notice; but wherever the sense has been at all affected by any change, the principal grounds have uniformly been adduced on which the text of Tischendorf seems entitled to the preference.
In regard to the translation, my object has been simply to present the meaning of the original, as I understand it, in the words most nearly equivalent—whether they might accord with those of the Authorized Version or not. This, however, has never been needlessly departed from. With the view of rendering the exposition more extensively useful, I have also, for the most part, translated the quotations taken from the Greek and Latin commentators; but the original has always been given when anything of moment depended upon the precise form of expression. The edition of Winer’s Grammar referred to is that published by the Messrs. Clark, edited by the Rev. W. F. Moulton.
May the effort here made to explain a portion of the Divine Word, and to vindicate and apply the important lessons of truth and duty therein contained, carry with it the Divine blessing, and prove, in however small a degree, conducive both to the due appreciation of the Word, and to the furtherance of the great ends of the Christian ministry.
Glasgow, January, 1874.
Section 1—The Authorship of the Epistles
THE designation of Pastoral Epistles has been commonly applied to the two Epistles to Timothy and the Epistle to Titus, because alike addressed to persons engaged in pastoral work, and chiefly discoursing of matters relating to such work. They all bear on their front the signature of the Apostle Paul; and never till a comparatively recent period has their connection with his name been called in question by any one having a recognised position in the Christian Church. There were parties in ancient times who excluded them from the list of St. Paul’s genuine writings; but these were the leaders of Gnosticism, rationalists of a very extreme type, and always regarded by the Fathers as opponents, rather than adherents, of the Christian faith. Speaking of such generally, Clement of Alexandria states that they rejected the Epistles to Timothy (Strom. ii. 11); and Marcion, we are told by Tertullian, did the same both with these and with the Epistle to Titus (Adv. Marc. v. 21). Jerome, at a later period, repeats the assertion in his Preface to the Epistle to Titus; and referring to Tatian, the disciple of Marcion, mentions that he so far differed from his master as to accept the Epistle to Titus. The conduct of these parties admits of a ready explanation: they found the sentiments contained in the epistles irreconcilable with their speculative tenets and ascetic virtues, and so they discarded the epistles in the interest of their system; as they also, for the same reason, distorted the meaning of many parts of the writings they actually received. The exception made by Tatian in favour of Titus doubtless arose from its less marked contrariety to Gnostic tendencies. But both he and Marcion, and several also who preceded them in the Gnostic schools, are witnesses to the early existence and general acknowledgment of the epistles in question; since otherwise their rejection of these could not have been reported as a noticeable circumstance.
But besides this incidental proof, the direct evidence of the apostolic authority of the epistles, and of the church’s belief in it, is of the most satisfactory kind. The epistles have a place in the most ancient versions, the Peschito and the Italic. They are included in the so-called Canon of Muratori, which, with reference to St. Paul’s epistles, mentions ad Titum una, et ad Timotheum duas. Irenasus commences his work against heresies with an express quotation from First Timothy, as the words of an apostle suited to the occasion and object of his writings; and in other places he makes direct reference to other passages in the three epistles, always identifying them with the penmanship of the apostle (for example, at iii. 14. 1, iv. 16. 3, i. 16. 3). The same thing is done by Clement of Alexandria (Strom. ii. 11, iii. 6, i. 14) and by Tertullian (De Praeser. Hoer. c. 25, etc.); while by Eusebius the whole three are included among the writings universally acknowledged (Eccl. Hist. 3:25). As a proof, also, of their being in very early and common use, we find expressions and forms of thought peculiar to them appropriated in some of the most ancient Christian writings; for example, in the Epistle of the Roman Clement (as at c. 29, comp. with 1Ti_2:8), the Epistle of Polycarp (c. 4, comp. with 1Ti_6:7, 1Ti_6:10), and still more in the writings of Athenagoras, Justin, and Theophilus of Antioch. In short, the historical evidence of the authenticity of the epistles is as full and explicit as could justly be expected, and it were impossible to disparage it in their case without denying its validity in respect to the best accredited books of New Testament Scripture.
Schleiermacher was the first man of note in the church who formally rejected the testimony of antiquity on the subject, and took up a hostile position. His objections, however, were laid only against the First Epistle to Timothy, which he held to be chiefly a compilation out of the second, and the Epistle to Titus. His views were set forth in a letter, published in 1807; but they met with strenuous opposition, even from some who were not remarkable for the strictness of their orthodoxy—in particular, Planck, Bertholdt, Hug, Guericke, Heydenreich. But Schleiermacher had his followers, and followers who, for the most part, did not confine their attacks to the First Epistle to Timothy, but took exception to all the three. So, for example, Eichhorn, Schott, Credner, who regarded them as forgeries done with a good design, probably by Luke, or some other of Paul’s disciples. But Baur went further: he thought the work of criticism was imperfectly done till another period altogether than that to which Paul himself belonged was shown to be the one which gave birth to the epistles. And this he thought he found in the times immediately subsequent to the rise of the Marcionite heresy, that is, somewhere about the middle of the second century; when, alarmed at the appearance of this heresy, and anxious to check it, some one bethought himself of a series of letters as the most effectual antidote, written in the name of Paul to two of his well-known companions and fellow-workers. But a date so late, as a basis for such an artificial hypothesis, so palpably conflicts with the historical evidence regarding the epistles, that few beyond the small circle of the Tübingen school have been found ready to accept the solution. De Wette, while he renounced the Pauline authorship of the epistles, was equally opposed to Baur’s position, and to the last maintained that the epistles must be ascribed to the closing period of the first century. There are still probably a considerable number of critics in Germany, and a few in our own country, who are inclined to rest in this unsatisfactory conclusion,—a negative one as regards the relation of the epistles to Paul, and, must we not add also, as regards their claim to a place in the canon of New Testament Scripture?
Such is not the inference of the parties themselves. With them the term canon, as applied to Scripture, is of somewhat doubtful interpretation, and may include the spurious as well as the genuine, if only written with a good purpose, and in conformity with sound doctrine. So Bleek, for example, in respect to the First Epistle to Timothy (to which he confines his objections, Introd. § 186, 187); but Dr. Davidson gives it more roundly in the last form of his Introduction to the New Testament; and with reference to all the Pastoral epistles, he very complacently tells us: “The author chose the name of an apostle to give currency to his sentiments. Being impressed with the idea that a united church with sound doctrine was the best safeguard against heresy [could anybody, we might ask, doubt it?], he chose Timothy and Titus as the superintendents of churches, to whom Paul might address directions about ecclesiastical organization and heretical views. In all this there was no dishonesty, because the intention was good. The device was a harmless one. Though it misled many, the object of the author was gained.” Does not this, however, savour of the wily maxim, that the end sanctifies the means? that one may innocently lie, if through the lie the truth of God can anyhow be made to abound more to His glory? St. Paul himself said of all who espoused such a course, that “their damnation was just” (Rom_3:7-8). And beyond doubt it is his verdict, not the loose, easy-going utilitarianism of modern rationalism, that the conscience of Christendom will respond to and ratify. The authority of these epistles for pious uses is gone, if their apostolic authorship cannot be sustained; they must share the fate of all hollow pretensions. But then, how unlike to such is their real character—so simple, so earnest, so elevated in tone, so resolutely contending against every form of corruption, expressly against speaking lies in hypocrisy! How all this, if the writer was conscious to himself of starting with a lie, and lying throughout? For it is not merely that he has at the outset assumed a name not really his own, but has invented a whole series of circumstances and relations which had no foundation in truth; and this, strange to say, in the interest of the truth, and as the best mode of securing its perpetuity in the church! The supposition involves a moral impossibility; for, as has been justly said, “the belief preached by the apostles was not the offspring of the morality, but the morality was the natural fruit of the belief.”
It is no small matter, therefore, which is at stake in this controversy; nothing less than the authoritative character and practical value of these Pastoral epistles. Even this consideration should not induce us to play false with any portion of the evidence; but it should certainly dispose us to examine carefully, and with much deliberation weigh, the objections urged against the epistles, before we assent to their validity. Men of the most varied gifts, but of the most approved scholarship and matured judgment, have done so, both in this country and on the Continent, and arrived at the result that there is nothing in the objections to shake their confidence in the genuineness of the writings as the veritable productions of St. Paul. But we shall, for ourselves, consider the more important of them in order.
1. One class of objections is derived from an alleged reference to parties and customs which belong to a later age than the apostle’s.
(1.) Of this description is the supposed allusion in several places to Gnosticism of the Marcionite or Valentinian type. There certainly are expressions in the epistles, especially in the First Epistle to Timothy, which can scarcely be understood otherwise than as pointing to the operation of the Gnostic spirit; but still only to this spirit in its incipient state, not in any developed semi-Christian form. Thus, in 1Ti_6:20, Timothy is warned to avoid “profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called,” or rather “the falsely named gnosis (
ôῆò øåõäùíýìïõ ãíþóåùò
).” Nothing is here indicated as to any particular Gnostic theory, which might be rising to the surface in the sphere of Timothy’s labours. The expression is quite general, and might have been employed of the Gnostic spirit, as it is known to have manifested itself in the Gospel age, and even prior to it. No one acquainted with the history of the times can doubt that the elements of Gnosticism were then actively at work in many places, and entered deeply into the Alexandrian and Eastern theosophy. But tending, as this always did, to draw the mind into vain and foolish speculations upon subjects which lay beyond the range of human apprehension, it was necessarily characterized by much empty talk, and assumptions of knowledge which had no foundation in realities—soaring idealisms, which might please the imagination or gratify the pride of intellect, but which were of no avail to the higher interests of the soul. Even in Philo there is not a little of this sort of gnosis, although in his writings the tendency exhibited itself in a subdued form as compared with what it did in others.
(2.) Much the same may be said of what is intimated at the beginning of 1 Timothy 4, of the apprehended forthputtings of the ascetic spirit—forbidding people to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God made to be received with thanksgiving. Such an intimation is perfectly consistent with the apostolic authorship. For the writer does not say that the teaching in question had already come into operation, and was meeting with acceptance in the church, but that the Spirit gave warnings of its approach; and all that there is any need for supposing is, that tendencies had begun to manifest themselves, which to men of spiritual discernment seemed to point in that direction. But for this there was ample ground in the apostolic age—in the widespread feeling among the better class of theosophists, that the higher degrees of purity were to be attained only through corporeal fastings, and a disentanglement from flesh and blood relations. Such a feeling, with corresponding practices, had been known to exist for generations among the Therapeutae of Egypt and the Essenes of Judea. And it could scarcely be matter of doubt to thoughtful minds, even without any special revelation from the Spirit of God, that the great facts of Christianity, and the mighty moral impulse that went along with them, would exert a potent influence upon many of the class referred to, and incline them to court an alliance with the church. Indeed, we have evidence from the apostle’s own hand, in another and not disputed epistle, that characters of a distinctly marked ascetic type had already been pressing into the Christian fellowship, and in a much less likely quarter than the towns of Asia Minor. It is in Romans 14 of the Epistle to the Romans where notice is taken, several years before the Pastoral epistles were written, of some who, on religious grounds, would eat nothing but herbs, and abstained from wane; whom the apostle, indeed, characterizes as weak, yet exhorts others to receive and treat as Christian brethren. Even Baur has said of this part of the apostle’s writings (Palus, p. 300): “Among the Jewish Christians at Rome there already existed a dualistic view of the world, very closely allied in its root to the Ebionitism of a later age; which is the less to be wondered at, as this dualism in reference to civil life stands in a very natural connection with that view, which sees in the life of nature an impure and demoniacal principle, awakening dislike and abhorrence.”
Now this mode of contemplation, and the asceticism naturally springing from it, were not, it must be remembered, indigenous at Rome: their native home was in the East, and they were sure to be met with in greater frequency and fuller efflorescence in the regions where Timothy was fulfilling his commission, than in the western capital of the Empire. The period, also, was more advanced; and it is but natural to suppose, that as elements of that description came to grow and intensify in the church, what might at first be considered merely as a tolerable weakness, should, a little further on, be warned against as a dangerous departing from the simplicity of the gospel.
(3.) There is still another passage in the First Epistle to Timothy, near the commencement, which has been alleged to contain a reference to opinions that were first broached by the Gnostics of the second century. It is at 1Ti_1:4, where Timothy is exhorted to beware of giving heed to fables (
) and endless genealogies, which served chiefly to minister strife and debate. Apparently, it is things of the same sort which are referred to in Tit_1:14 under the name of “Jewish fables and commandments of men,” and again in Tit_3:9 as “foolish questions and genealogies, and strifes, and disputations about the law.” These genealogies and myths or fables are held by the party of Baur to refer to the fabulous stories of the Gnostics respecting the generation of aeons, and in particular to the scheme of Valentinus with its regulated system of 30 aeons. It is true that Irenaeus, at the beginning of his work on the Gnostic heresies, prefaces what he is going to say on the Valentinian gnosis, by saying certain men had arisen “who set the truth aside, and brought in lying words and vain genealogies, which, as the apostle says, minister questions rather than godly edifying, which is in faith;” but it is merely a passing allusion, and cannot be regarded as more than an accommodation of scriptural words to the subject in hand, whether they might have been originally intended to bear such a reference or not. Tertullian makes a similar use of them, but is more express in connecting that use with their original and proper meaning; for, after noticing the Valentinian fables about the aeons, he affirms, “These are the fables and endless genealogies which, while the seeds of them were beginning to bud forth, the spirit of the apostle by anticipation condemned” (Adv. Valent. c. iii.). Tertullian so often strains Scripture to make it bear a sense favourable to his own particular views, that no great stress can be laid on his interpretation in the present case. But a considerable number of modern commentators have substantially concurred in that interpretation, such as Grotius, Hammond, Mosheim, Alford, etc. It is open, however, to serious, and indeed fatal objections. First of all, the expressions of the apostle, in their natural and proper sense, refer not to things in heaven, but to things on earth—to the records preserved of personal or family relationships, and tales associated with them. If the writer had actually in view emanations proceeding in the spirit-world, he could with no propriety have presented them under the name of genealogies, which are not emanations, or even births simply, but birth-registers—a term inapplicable except by way of figure or accommodation to the heavenly sphere. Besides, in the parallel passages in Titus, the genealogies are connected with contests about the law, and the fables are expressly designated Jewish; so that the parties in question must obviously have been viewed as standing on distinctively Jewish ground, and dealing with matters which partook more of a Jewish than a Gnostic complexion. So also, in 1Ti_1:7, the persons spoken of as desiring to be teachers of the law are evidently the same with those who a little before are noticed as the broachers of the fables and genealogies warned against. But with matters of law Gnosticism of the fully-fledged kind —the Gnosticism which indulged its fancy in concocting emanation-systems—took little concern; it soared above them. It is a further confirmation of the same view, that Polybius, the only ancient writer out of Scripture who couples together
, does so in precisely the same manner as the apostle: that is, he applies them to the origins of families and nations on earth. He speaks of many having narrated the genealogies and myths of nations, their colonies, and kindreds, and foundations (L. ix. c. 2). Schöttgen also has brought forward, on 1Ti_1:4, some specimens of Jewish fables respecting genealogies, one of which at least has an important doctrinal bearing; and the whole, whether or not as ancient as the apostle’s time, are yet sufficient to show how materials of this description might be made to minister to much fruitless disputation, and even to erroneous teaching. So that we hold—in opposition to a statement made by Alford—they might, and in reality did, touch religious interests quite enough to account for the apostle’s strong denunciations of them. We conclude, therefore, that the parties meant by the apostle in this class of references were a sort of pragmatical formalists, if in some sense Christian, or with acknowledged leanings in that direction, yet more Rabbinical than Christian—persons who delighted to talk and wrangle about legal points, who could raise questions and relate stories on the nature and bearings of genealogies, but which were of little moment, however they might be settled; which, for the most part, might be settled anyhow, so far as the great interests of truth and righteousness are concerned. It was every way becoming the aged apostle to warn the youthful evangelist to keep aloof from such a frivolous and fruitless line of things. Indeed, it was just then that such warnings were likely to be needed; as, shortly after the close of the apostolic age, troublers of that description might be said to lose their standing-ground for the Christian church. After that, her chief dangers came from other quarters. This is virtually admitted by Alford, though it seems scarcely to consist with the view he takes of the genealogies and fables. He is satisfied that the false teachers alluded to in the epistles have more of a Judaistic cast about them than could have been the case if full-blown Gnostics had been referred to; that, looked at generally, “they seem to hold a position intermediate to the apostle’s former Judaizing adversaries and the subsequent Gnostic heretics—distinct from both, and just at that point in the progress from the one form of error to the other which would suit the period subsequent to the Epistle to the Philippians, and prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. There is therefore nothing in them and their characteristics which can cast a doubt on the genuineness of the epistles” (Prolog. p. 77). No, but at the period in question the church had as yet heard nothing of genealogies, in the sense of generations and cycles of aeons.
(4.) A class of objections belonging to the same general head of references to things subsequent to the apostolic period, but derived from a different quarter, has respect to the notices contained in the epistles of church order and organization: these seem to betoken too advanced a state of matters for St. Paul’s time. So De Wette, as well as Baur and many others, have contended. According to them, the writer gives indication of hierarchical tendencies. If so, they must be allowed to have had little in common with the hierarchical tendencies of a later age. Here we find no bishop, in the modern sense of the term; no priest with strictly sacerdotal functions; no presiding head even of the common council of presbyters, who in a more special manner was charged with the spiritual oversight of the church in each particular place; but an eldership, more or less numerous, sharing in common the spiritual guardianship and edification of the flock. In short, we find only the earliest and simplest form known to us of church order and government, that which had already existed for generations in the Jewish synagogues, and which with little variation was transferred to the newly planted churches of Christian believers. Not only so, but the instructions given through Timothy and Titus to those spiritual overseers are entirely void of hierarchical and ritualistic elements: they press only moral considerations and duties, which had nothing to do with formal distinctions and minutely prescribed observances. In addition to that primitive type of spiritual officers, mention is made only of deacons—the class appointed first, within a few years after the Ascension, in the mother church at Jerusalem, then in the larger churches generally, for administering the pecuniary affairs and charitable offerings of the people. Even these are noticed but once, in connection with Ephesus, not with Crete, where matters were only beginning to take a regulated form when the apostle wrote. All, in a word, as to official organization, is as one might have expected it to be, if anything of this sort was to have been noticed at all; and it is assuredly very different from the kind of references that would have been found, if the epistles had been written after hierarchical principles had developed themselves.
As to what is said about widows, also of marriage-relationships in the case of church officers, there is nothing, when the passages are rightly interpreted, which can be deemed indicative of a state of things alien to the first age of the church. But this can only be exhibited by an analysis of the passages bearing on the subject.
II. We now therefore pass on to another feature in the epistles, to which exception has been taken; namely, certain peculiarities in the cast of thought and the mode of expression found in these epistles, but not in the genuine writings of Paul. Undoubtedly there are differences of the kind referred to, which cannot well be overlooked. The only question is, Whence did they originate? Are they not explicable by the different circumstances in which the epistles were written, the different topics handled, and the comparatively novel opinions and practices brought into consideration? Beyond doubt, there were very obvious and material differences in these respects. It is nothing to the purpose, therefore, to be told that a great many words occur in these epistles not elsewhere found in the apostle’s writings: for, to a certain extent, such are to be found in all his epistles; and here, for the reasons stated, they might be justly expected in greater frequency. The difference is not, after all, very large. Planck has shown that there are 81 words of the kind in question in First Timothy, 63 in Second Timothy, and 44 in Titus. But then in the Epistle to the Philippians there are 54, in Galatians, 57, in Ephesians and Colossians together, 143. But in these epistles it is the common truths and obligations of the gospel which form the chief subjects of discourse, while the three Pastoral epistles occupy ground in a great degree peculiar to themselves. And when one looks to the varieties produced, and finds among them such examples as the following,—
, used in the salutation to Timothy, along with
,—words which any writer might have used as the particular occasion or the impulse of the moment might have prompted,—one can only wonder at the frivolous ingenuity, which out of things so common could have thought of discovering formidable instances.
The questions which in this respect would really be of a testing kind are such as these: Does any term occur in the Pastoral epistles which was not in use when the apostle lived? Or are words used in senses which were not acquired till a later time? Or, finally, are these turns of thought and expression not appropriate or natural for the apostle to have employed in the position actually occupied by him, and with reference to the ends for which he lived? Such questions would be strictly relevant, and, if capable of being answered in the affirmative, would be fatal to the genuineness of the epistles. But nothing of such a description has been established. There are, indeed, certain forms of expression occurring with some frequency in these epistles, which might, for aught that we can see, have been employed in the other epistles, though in reality they are not: such, for example, as the application of the term Saviour specially to God (1Ti_1:1, 1Ti_2:3; 1Ti_4:10; Tit_1:3); the designation of teaching, according to its quality, as sound, healthful, or unsound, diseased (1Ti_1:10; 1Ti_6:3-4; 2Ti_1:13, 2Ti_4:3; Tit_1:9, Tit_1:13, Tit_2:1, Tit_2:8); and the favourite expression of “faithful is the word,” or saying (1Ti_1:15, 1Ti_3:1, 1Ti_4:9; 2Ti_2:11; Tit_1:9). But surely it is quite conceivable that the state of things in the church about the time the epistles were written, especially the kind and tendencies of the errors which had begun to prevail, may have naturally enough led to the employment of such a phraseology. That certain probable reasons can be assigned for them, will be shown in the exposition. But is it not also competent to ask, whether it was upon the whole less likely that the apostle would himself resort to such modes of speech in his latter days; or that a mere imitator, counterfeiting his name, would do so? The latter could scarcely afford to venture on a liberty of this description; he would be afraid of his speech betraying him; while Paul himself, writing in the conscious freedom of his own powers and purposes, might readily vary his language, as seemed natural or proper in the circumstances. There is the more force in this consideration, as the general character of the diction is quite Pauline, and in a much greater number of expressions is there a marked resemblance to the other epistles than in those referred to a dissimilarity. On the supposition of our epistles being the production of an artful but well-intentioned imitator, can any reason be conceived why so many delicate and pervading correspondences should have been associated with such marked divergences? Surely he who could catch the one would have taken care to avoid the other. (Alford has given a pretty long list of the resemblances found in the language of the three epistles with a si
ngle one of the undisputed Pauline—that to the Galatians:
ôïῦ äüíôïò ἑáõôὸí ðå
åἰò ôïὺò áἰῶíáò ôῶí áἰþíùí
ͅ Gal. 6:19,
, also, there are as many as five verbal correspondences
with expressions in the Pastoral epistles.)
So far, then, as a change is perceptible in the style, though it is not without a measure of difficulty, it seems most readily accounted for by change of circumstances and lapse of time. “New words very soon are employed, when new ideas arise to require them. The growth of new heresies, the development of church organization, the rapid alteration of circumstances in a great moral revolution, may fitly account for the use of new terms in a new sense. Moreover, the language of letters to individual friends might be expected to differ somewhat from that of public letters to churches” (Conybeare and Howson, ii. 553).
III. A still further source of objections has been found in the contents and structure of the epistles. Of these some are so insignificant and captious, that it is unnecessary to specify them here. Others, also, are so intimately connected with the nature and design of the epistles, that they might equally be urged against any author whatever, as against St. Paul, if not more so. Thus, exception is taken to the constant moral reference of what is said in various passages respecting faith, the identifying of sound views of Christian doctrine with a good conscience, and of erroneous doctrine with a bad one. In substance, the same thing is done in other epistles of Paul, only in a more general way (for example, Rom_1:17-18, Gal_2:17-20, Gal_5:6, etc.). But if what served in good measure to call forth the Pastoral epistles was the growth of a species of heretical doctrine, which tended to sophisticate the conscience, and substitute speculative for saving knowledge, then, whoever the writer might be, he could not have effectually met the evil he sought to correct and guard against, without tracing the evil thus up to its source. The Apostle John does precisely the same thing, when writing with a similar aim, though after his own peculiar style; for example, 1Jn_1:6-10, 1Jn_3:5-7, 2Jn_1:9-11. “The precepts and directions (says Davidson in his more advanced criticism on these epistles, Introd. ii. 169) are ethical and outward, relating to conduct. They touch upon matters of conscience or propriety. The very health of Timothy is attended to. Regulations about churches, their organization, and their office-bearers, are such as might have been left to the judgment of Timothy and Titus themselves.” That is to say, everything of such a nature is a matter of perfect indifference as regards the true interests of the church, and may be regulated as seems good to persons of ordinary capacity; although it is notorious from the history of the past, that infinite evil has come into the church from individual caprice in such things, and that if we had wanted this portion of the apostle’s writings, we should have been without the best materials we now possess for understanding the original polity and government of the church. Indeed, as Alford has remarked, the opponents of the apostolic authorship of the epistles have most effectually defeated themselves on the aspect of the matter now under consideration. “Schleiermacher, holding First Timothy to be compiled out of the other two, finds it in many respects objectionable and below the mark; Baur will not concede this latter estimate; and De Wette charges Schleiermacher with having failed to penetrate the sense of the writer, and found faults where a more thorough exposition must pronounce a favourable judgment. These differences may well serve to strike out the argument, and indeed all such purely subjective estimates, from the realms of Biblical criticism.”
Nor is there any more force in what has been alleged from the structure of the epistles,—those especially to Timothy,—that they want the compactness of Paul’s other writings, are somewhat loosely put together, and are occasionally abrupt in their transitions from one topic to another. As if Paul, in writing to a bosom friend and fellow-labourer, should have observed the same regard to method, and pursued a like formal treatment of subjects, as in those epistles which were of the nature of regular discussions! This would have been unnatural; the more so, as the things which fell to be noticed here were of a somewhat varied description, partly relating to Timothy’s personal behaviour, and partly to the state of affairs in the church. Accordingly, one of the most striking examples of the unmethodical and abrupt character of the mode of writing characteristic of the epistles—the advice, interjected amid things of higher moment, that Timothy should use a little wine for his stomach’s sake and frequent infirmities (1Ti_5:23)—is, with his usual discrimination, seized upon by Paley as a convincing proof of verisimilitude and genuineness. “In actual letters (he says), in the negligence of a real correspondence, examples of this kind frequently take place—seldom, I think, in any other production. For the moment a man regards what he writes as a composition, which the author of a forgery would of all others be the first to do, notions of order in the management and succession of his thoughts suggest themselves to his judgment, and guide his pen.” Thus, what the mere critic, on the outlook for objections, brands with his mark of suspicion, the man of shrewd discernment and practical sagacity, guided mainly by a regard to the habits of actual life, perceived to be one of the surest indications of a genuine frankness and simplicity. Wieseler, I may add, in a recent article in Herzog’s Encyclopaedia (Suppl. iii. p. 296), delivers himself even more strongly, while considering the passage from a slightly different point of view: he conceives the passage, so peculiarly introduced, “to be a striking proof of the genuineness of the epistle, because the deep solicitude manifested in it by Paul for Timothy, not only corresponds with what is known of his loving heart, but appears so individually coloured, and breaks forth so instantaneously, that it could not possibly be counterfeited.”
A similar judgment might be pronounced upon a request in 2Ti_4:13, equally homely in its character, and equally abrupt in its manner of introduction. There Timothy is desired to bring with him the cloak the apostle had left at Troas, and the books, especially the parchments; quite natural if the apostle himself so wrote, but a most improbable and senseless thing for any one to invent in his name! For “what possible motive there could be for inserting such minute particulars, unexampled in the apostle’s other letters, founded on no incident in history, tending to no result, might well baffle the acutest observers of the phenomena of falsification to declare” (Alford).
Without going further into detail here, the conclusion which forces itself upon us from the leading characteristics of the contents and structure of the epistles, is that it was infinitely more likely they should have proceeded from the hand of St. Paul, than from any one falsely assuming his name. There are ample reasons for the one supposition, but none adequate to sustain the other. Had a desire to meet the rising indications of Gnosticism tempted some one to enter the field under false colours, the object would have appeared far more prominent than it actually does, and the epistles would not have presented either the varied or the earnest character which belongs to them. No sinister aim, no predominant idea in the mind of a forger, but only truth and reality, can account for them as they actually exist.
Section 2—Time and Places of Writing
A point remains for consideration, and one certainly not unattended with difficulty,—namely, where to find in the history of the apostle a probable or appropriate time and place for the writing of the epistles. It is a difficulty which respects more especially the First Epistle to Timothy. The second epistle bears to have been written in the closing stage of the apostle’s career, when the prospect of martyrdom was staring him in the face. Nor is there anything in the known circumstances of the time that can justly be regarded as incompatible with this supposition. The only room for question is, whether it may have been written toward the close of a first or of a second imprisonment. And on this question opposite opinions have been, and probably may still be held; but we shall have occasion to advert to it before we close. As for the Epistle to Titus, since it merely implies a brief connection sometime had by the apostle with Crete,—a connection never touched on in the history of the Acts,—it scarcely admits either of confirmation from circumstantial evidence, or the reverse. It is quite possible, that during the apostle’s long sojourn at Corinth, he might have paid a visit to that important island. Or, supposing there was a second imprisonment taking place after a considerable interval from the first, it is perfectly conceivable that opportunity was taken during the interval to visit Crete, leaving Titus behind him to complete the organization of the infant churches. Our chief disadvantage here lies in the scantiness of our materials, the chief historical record having closed some time before the termination of his labours. But, from the striking similarity both in sentiment and modes of expression which the Epistle to Titus presents to the two other Pastoral epistles, it can scarcely be doubted that they belong to much the same period in the apostle’s history; and no solution of the question can be deemed quite satisfactory which would place a considerable interval between them.
The historical problem has its chief difficulty, as we have said, in connection with the First Epistle to Timothy. In that epistle no allusion is made to any personal arrest or imprisonment; and for aught that appears, the apostle was quite free when he wrote to regulate his own movements, and discharge his apostolical functions. The most specific historical allusion is at 1Ti_1:3, where he states that, on setting out for Macedonia, he had besought Timothy to abide still at Ephesus, for the purpose of repressing certain errors in doctrine and corrupt tendencies which had begun to manifest themselves. It is clear from this, and from the whole tenor of the epistle, that the charge devolved on Timothy at Ephesus was one that would require some time for its execution, and that it could not have been St. Paul’s intention to assign a very brief limit to it, when, at 1Ti_3:14, he expressed a hope of being able to rejoin Timothy shortly (
). Now there is no period in the history of the apostle, as recorded in the Acts, which exactly meets these conditions, although three several methods have been devised to bring what is recorded into a measure of conformity with them.
1. One, and indeed the readiest to have occurred—adopted by Theodoret, Benson, Michaelis, etc.—was the occasion of the tumult raised in Ephesus by Demetrius and his craftsmen, which greatly imperilled the life of the apostle, and obliged him to leave the city (Act_19:24 to Act_20:1; 2Co_1:8). Paul did then actually go from Ephesus to Macedonia. But a notice in the history shortly before, informs us that he had previously sent Timothy and Erastus away into Macedonia, intending himself presently to follow (Act_19:22); the outbreak of Demetrius only served to hasten a little the period of his departure. But since Timothy had on that occasion been despatched before the apostle, it must plainly have been of some other time that Paul spoke, when he represents himself as having gone to Macedonia, and Timothy as left behind for special work in Ephesus. It is evident also from another consideration, viz. that when he reached Macedonia, he appears either to have rejoined Timothy there, or to have been immediately rejoined by him; for the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, which was written soon after his going into Macedonia, has the name of Timothy along with his own in the opening salutation. In another epistle also, that to the Romans, which was written only a little later, and after he had proceeded to Corinth, Timothy is mentioned as being at the time with the apostle (Rom_16:21). A short period further on, again, his name occurs among several others who left Greece with the apostle, with the view of accompanying him on his last visit to Jerusalem (Act_20:4). In such a chain of circumstances, with Timothy always present as a constituent portion, there seems no possibility of getting a situation that corresponds with the opening statement of the epistle.
2. Nor do they suit any better with another mode of explanation,—one adopted by Grotius, Hammond, Bertholdt, etc.,—according to which, while the deputies who accompanied Paul from Greece to Jerusalem went before to Troas, where they waited for the apostle (Act_20:5), Timothy, it is supposed, may have proceeded to Ephesus, where he was followed by this epistle, requesting him to attend to certain matters of importance, and to abide till Paul himself should come. This is altogether improbable, and at variance with the language employed. For, in such a case, it could not with truth have been said that Timothy was besought to abide still at Ephesus (
) after the apostle had left it. Or, if an earlier period were thought of, as has been done, when Timothy was left behind at Ephesus, though he had rejoined the apostle before his work was completed, and again went back from Troas to resume and finish it, the supposition becomes so peculiarly complicated, that it cannot be accepted as a natural explanation of the historical allusion in the epistle. Besides, Paul could not have said at Miletus, a few days after leaving Troas, to the Ephesian elders, that he expected to see their face no more (Act_20:25), and yet have written Timothy that he hoped ere long to be with him at Ephesus.
3. A third hypothesis has been formed, and, with several modifications, has met with support from men of thought and learning. Mosheim was the first to propose the solution, according to which there was a temporary visit of Paul to Macedonia, and perhaps to other parts of Greece, some time during his three years’ sojourn at Ephesus,—a visit left unnoticed in the history of the Acts. Mosheim thought this view afforded an explanation of an apparent discrepance in the notes of time given in the Acts respecting the duration of the apostle’s labours in Ephesus; in one of which, Act_19:9-10, he is said to have first continued for three months, meeting and disputing with the Jews in the synagogue; and in another, that for two whole years he taught in the school of one Tyrannus; while he himself, in addressing the Ephesian elders, reminded them that his labours among them had been protracted to three years (Act_20:31). It is supposed that by this expression the apostle may have meant merely that the burden of his time and active agency for that period had been given to Ephesus, while a portion of it—eight or nine months—may have been spent in Macedonia and elsewhere. And if so, then Timothy may have been left behind at Ephesus to supply the apostle’s place, and attend to the matters mentioned in the first epistle. Considered by itself, this supposition is not one that can be designated impossible; and if other things suited, it might (notwithstanding the silence of the Amter of the Acts) be accepted as a probable, if not quite natural, solution of the difficulty. But it is attended with serious embarrassments, which cannot well be got over; and those who agree in the general about it, fall out among themselves when they go to work out the details. Mosheim placed the supposed visit to Jerusalem early in the three years, without allowing sufficient time for the formation of a church at Ephesus so regularly organized, and the development of tendencies so evidently heretical, as is implied in the epistle. Therefore Schrader and Wieseler have preferred throwing the time back to the latter part of the period in question; but they connect with this tour, besides the visit to Macedonia, a visit also to Achaia and Crete, and even to Cilicia and Antioch.
It seems, however, by no means likely that Paul would have pursued such a lengthened course of ministerial agency in these other places, while matters were plainly emerging at Ephesus which called for delicate and authoritative dealing. Some very urgent reason would have been required to make him do so; of which, however, we know nothing. Then, it is difficult to conceive that at any period during the three years, and while Paul himself was taking the chief charge at Ephesus, the teachers of false doctrine should have begun to assume so dangerous an aspect: their having done so would rather seem to argue his absence for some considerable time, and more favourable circumstances for their mischievous purposes. We may the rather conclude thus, as at a later period still, when addressing at Miletus the elders from Ephesus, it was not yet the actual presence, but only the probable rise, at no distant period, of heretical teachers, respecting which the apostle warned them. Still further, the epistle, in its general character and bearing, seems plainly to point to a much more prolonged and responsible agency on the part of Timothy at Ephesus, than he was at all likely to have had devolved on him if the apostle had only left it for a brief missionary tour. And lastly, we should be obliged, on the hypothesis in question, to separate the First Epistle to Timothy, and also the Epistle to Titus, from the Second Epistle to Timothy, by an interval of several years; while yet the cast of thought and expression in it presents so many resemblances to the two other epistles, and so characteristically differs in that respect from those certainly belonging to an earlier time, that it is difficult to believe there did actually exist such an interval. The whole of the Pastoral epistles must be assigned to much the same period, and that later by some years than the other epistles.
This combination of difficulties has been felt by many of the more impartial and considerate investigators to be so serious, that they have renounced as hopeless the attempt to find a place for the Pastoral epistles anywhere within the historical period embraced in the Acts of the Apostles, and have consequently transferred them to a time subsequent to his release from the first imprisonment. So, for example, Paley, Wiesinger, Huther, Conybeare and Howson, Alford, Ellicott. It is no new notion, however; for it was a part of the traditional belief in ancient times concerning the apostle, that the appeal he took at Caesarea to the Emperor terminated in his favour, and that some years of freedom were granted to him afterwards for the preaching of the gospel. The closing notice in the Acts may itself be taken as proof; for a man who “dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,” could no longer have been looked upon as a culprit: he must either have been acquitted of the charge brought against him, or, as is equally probable, it must have been allowed to drop by the non-appearance of his accusers to support it. They must have seen long before, that in the eye of Roman law they had no proper ground to stand upon. The cause had been heard twice by Roman procurators at Caesarea, and each time without any legal offence being established against him. Festus even expressed his inability to give formal expression to the charge in a form that could render it properly cognisable in a court of law; and Agrippa, after hearing him, declared his conviction, that but for his own appeal, the prisoner might have been set at liberty (Act_25:27, Act_26:32). It can scarcely be doubted that lawyers at Rome would come to the same conclusion about it.
This result—namely, that Paul was acquitted and again resumed his labours—is confirmed by various allusions and testimonies. When writing from Rome to the Philippians, some time during his first confinement, he spoke of it as not improbable that he might again be permitted to see them (Php_1:27). In his Epistle to Philemon also, written probably a little later, he even went further; and as well-nigh certain of being able to revisit his old field of labour in Asia Minor, he requested Philemon to prepare for him a lodging (Phm_1:22). Then, passing to the Patristic testimonies, the Roman Clement, in his letter to the church at Corinth, represents Paul as having, after being frequently imprisoned and stoned, gone to the extreme west (