Character Matters

Paul’s Leadership Qualities in the Pastoral Epistles and the Namibian Church

Textbook, 2017

81 Pages





Chapter 1: A Critical Introduction to the Pastoral Epistles

Chapter 2: Exegesis of Paul’s Lists

Chapter 3: Comparison of the Lists

Chapter 4: The Lists and their Relevance for Today

Chapter 5: Outlook


About the Author

Dedication & Acknowledgements

‘Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together!’ (Psalm 34:3)

My praise and eternal gratitude go to the Triune God, the author and finisher of my faith.

I thank my parents Rev Dr Andreas Biwa and Sophia Biwa for their prayers and encouragement. This work is dedicated to them.

I am immensely grateful to the members of my family for their unwavering support during my studies. I give much appreciation to Albertha “Syboney” Biwa, my baby sister who travailed with me throughout my studies and has been my partner in missions. I am grateful to all my lecturers at NETS and in particular Dr Thorsten Prill for making this book a reality. I salute you!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Christa Biwa

Keetmanshoop, October 2022


There are many reasons why leaders, whether lay or ordained, are selected by African churches. Many Namibian church leaders tend to be appointed based on elements of both ascribed and achieved status, such as family origin, tribal background, gender, political affiliation, education or the roles they play in the business world or local government. By analysing the two lists of leadership qualifications for elders and overseers in the Pastoral Epistles (Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9) Christa Biwa demonstrates that such particularism is faulty. The criteria that mattered most to the apostle Paul and the early church were character and spiritual maturity.

Church leaders, Paul’s lists show, need to be people of integrity. As such they are patient, gracious and quick to forgive. They do not fall into the trap of materialism and never look for a fight. As people of integrity church leaders listen to the advice of others and treat the members of their churches with respect. The social status of their fellow believers does not influence their decisions. They can control themselves and love whatever is good. These are just some of the character traits Christa Biwa identifies, and which church leaders need to possess or strive for. Where these traits are missing, Biwa claims, the ramifications are many and widespread. Ethical misconduct by church leaders usually has an impact not only on individuals and their families but also on the local congregation, the wider church and the leaders’ spouses and children.

Therefore, like the apostle Paul and the early church, Christa Biwa argues, Namibian churches need to take the selection of their pastors, elders and bishops seriously. Paul’s lists of leadership qualifications can help them to identify and appoint godly leaders. Character testing needs to be not only at the heart of any selection process but also a regular and ongoing element of leadership development.

Thorsten Prill

Edinburgh, October 2022


In an era where leadership crisis is the order of the day, whether in the secular world or the church, we often try quick-fix methods to solve the problem. In Namibia, many people are appointed as church leaders because of their educational background and expertise, their success in the business world or the power and influence they have as politicians and high-ranking government employees. The underlying assumption seems to be ‘What is good for the world is also good for the church’. However, as Farida Saidi (2013:32) has pointed out, numerous biblical narratives show that God’s standards of leadership for his church differ significantly from our worldly standards. Consequently, secular leadership methods and styles may not be the best choice for God’s church. Likewise, successful managers, educators or politicians may not necessarily make good Christian leaders. To choose spiritual leaders simply because of their economic success, reputation as achievers or position in society can have serious consequences. There is too much at stake to leave church leadership to managers or civil servants with a proven track record or the ‘right’ family and tribal connections. One can only agree with David Hegg (1998:35) when he writes, ‘If, as is generally agreed, ‘Everything stands or falls on leadership’, then the task of selecting and establishing leadership in the church has tremendous importance.’

When it comes to church leadership, we should remember to whom the church belongs. The church is not a registered company that is owned by its shareholders or a parastatal that is accountable to a government department. The New Testament describes the church as the household of God (1 Timothy 3:15), the flock of God (1 Peter 5:1-2), the city of the living God (Hebrews 12:22-23), the vineyard of God (Mark 12:1-12) and the body of Christ (Romans 12:5). While these metaphors illustrate different aspects of the church’s nature, they all emphasise that the church belongs to God. The church is God’s property purchased not by gold or silver but by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross of Golgotha (cf. 1 Peter 1:18). When the New Testament writers like the apostle Paul were looking for a word to use for church, they chose a word from everyday life, ekklesia, which literally means called out or those who are called out. The apostle Peter reminds us that the members of the church have been called by God ‘out of darkness into his wonderful light’ (1 Peter 2:9). They are called to be holy in all they do (1 Peter 1:15-16). Consequently, the church needs to be led by a specific type of leader. The church requires leaders who possess qualities that enable them to serve as ‘examples to the flock’ (1 Peter 5:3). Church leaders, whether they are elders, pastors or bishops are to lead exemplary lives in line with God’s standards. In this day and age, the church needs godly leaders who can stand firm in a world consumed with corruption, power, prestige and sexual immorality.

Don Carson and Douglas Moo (1995:575) helpfully point out that the apostle Paul was more interested in the character of leaders than in their ecclesiastical activities. Unfortunately, the contemporary church seems to have reversed this priority. In both his first letter to Timothy and his letter to Titus the apostle does not emphasise abilities or gifts, but spiritual maturity as the most important qualification for office in the Christian church (:575). It is the lists of qualities stipulated in 1Timothy 3 and Titus which specify who is to be recognised and appointed as overseers, elders and deacons. ‘[T]he spiritual leader’, Stephen King (2013:7) notes. ‘is first and foremost imbued with character.’ When leaders were selected and appointed in the early church, the emphasis was clearly laid on behaviour and sound belief (Marshall 2004:399).

The challenge for the Namibian church is to give more weight to character and spiritual maturity when choosing its leaders. The purpose of this paper is to provide support to the church for this task. An exegetical analysis of the leadership qualities listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 forms the heart of this study. It compares the two lists to find any differences and similarities between the two and investigates what the hermeneutical implications of any similarities and differences might be for the process of selecting and appointing church leaders in the Namibian context.

Chapter One A Critical Introduction to the Pastoral Epistles

Down through the centuries, it was always accepted that the Pastoral Epistles, i.e., 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus, were authentic letters of the apostle Paul. However, this changed with the arrival of the Higher Criticism movement in the early nineteenth century. Donald Guthrie (1997:108) notes: ‘The earliest serious critical examination which resulted in the rejection of the traditional authorship of a New Testament writing was Schleiermacher’s examination of 1 Timothy.’ Friedrich Schleiermacher was soon followed by Johann Gottfried Eichhorn and Ferdinand Christian Baur who both denied Pauline authorship of all three letters (Towner 2006:8). Paul’s authorship has been disputed ever since then because the epistles not only differ in language and content from Paul’s earlier works but also counter heresies that arose only in the second century AD. According to the critics, a second-century pseudonymous author used the authority of Paul’s name to fight the rising tide of Gnosticism. These claims raise some important questions, or as Ben Witherington III (2006:23) puts it:

The issue of pseudepigrapha within the canon of scripture is a critical one from an exegetical, theological and hermeneutical point of view. Do we really have documents in the New Testament that are falsely attributed to one apostolic figure or another? If we do, what does it say about their authority? Are there deception or truth-claim issues involved?

The best way to approach this controversial issue is to rehearse the case for and against Paul’s authorship (Stott 1997:21). In this chapter we will look at the different arguments that are given.

The Case for Pauline Authorship

Firstly, there is internal evidence for Paul’s authorship. Thus, the first verse of each letter claims that the letters were indeed written by the apostle Paul. Both 1 Timothy and Titus begin with the identification of the author in a way similar to Paul’s other letters. In 1 Timothy 1:1, the author states, ‘Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope.’ In Titus 1:1 he writes, ‘Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.’ It was common practice in the ancient world that letters mentioned the name of the sender at the beginning (Milne 2012:5). William Hendriksen (1960:28) points out that the author not only identifies himself but also gives a description of himself which is in agreement with what we find in the Book of Acts and the other letters written by Paul.

Furthermore, the author was writing to Timothy whom he calls ‘My true son in the faith’ (1 Timothy 1:2) and Titus whom he describes as ‘my true son in our common faith’ (Titus 1:4). George Knight (1992:4) states that ‘this assertion is made in salutations similar to those in the other Pauline letters.’ The writer’s description of himself in 1 Timothy 1:12-14 as ‘a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man’ and the change he went through agrees with what we know of Paul from Acts and his other letters (:4). It is also very unlikely that a late admirer of the apostle would have referred to him as ‘the worst of sinners’ (1 Timothy 1:15). In addition to the personal reference, the writer makes mention of Timothy’s ordination (1:18; 4:14), the fact that he is young (4:11) and problems he has with his stomach (5:23). He closes the letter with a moving appeal to Timothy to lead a life appropriate to a man of God (Stott 1997:22).

Knight (1992:8) draws attention to the fact Titus is mentioned by name 12 times in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 2:13; 7:6,13,14; 8:6,23; 12:18; Galatians 2:1,3; 2 Timothy 4:10; Titus 1:4). It may be deduced from the letter that Titus was with Paul at Crete and stayed there after Paul left to complete what was left undone (Titus 1:5). Furthermore, the writer of Titus concludes the letter with specific messages to or about four individuals. There is a request to send either Artemas or Tychicus to Titus to relieve him so that he can join Paul in Nicopolis (Titus 3:12). There is also a request to Titus to help Zenas and Apollos on their way (Titus 3:13) (Stott 1997:22). Artemas and Zenas are fellow workers who are not mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament. However, Tychicus (Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7; 2 Tim 4:12) and Apollos (Acts 18:24-28; 19:1; 1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:1-23) are well known from the New Testament letters.

Although is it sometimes argued that pseudonymous writing was widely practised in ancient times, we must not forget that in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 we find a warning against forgeries in the apostle’s name. Similarly, the Pastoral epistles contain warnings against deception (1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 3:13, Titus 1:10). D.A. Carson and Douglas Moo (1999:371) comment:

[I]n one passage the writer says that while in the past he had been a deceiver, that has all been changed now that he has been saved (Titus 3:3). Would a person who speaks of deceit like this put the name of Paul to a letter he himself had composed? Would he say so firmly “I am telling the truth, I am not lying” (1 Tim 2:7)?

Finally, the conclusions of the letters to Timothy and Titus are in line with the ending of the other Pauline letters. The author ends both letters with ‘grace be with you’ which marks Pauline letters using the shortened version that made its first appearance in the letter to the Colossians (Knight 1992:5-6).

To conclude, one can say that there is substantial internal evidence for Paul’s authorship of the Pastoral Epistles. The writer states his name and gives a brief description of himself. The allusion to his personal details, personal information of the recipients and the mentioning of known co-workers point us to Paul being the author. If, however, the author is not Paul, then one can deduce that they went to great lengths to impersonate the apostle.

Secondly, there is external evidence for Pauline authorship. Church fathers such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius and Polycarp were familiar with the letters and cited them in their writings (Kent 1986:24-26). The letters were also included in the Muratorian Canon (AD 200) and regarded as part of the Pauline collection of letters (Guthrie 1990:609). In other words, the genuineness of the Pastoral Epistles was universally accepted by the early church (Stott 1997:23). Knight notes that ‘the only exceptions to the early church’s acceptance of all three of the Pastoral Epistles as Pauline were heretics Marcion, Basilides, and Tatian’ (1992:13). Marcion, however, rejected so many books recognised by others that his omission cannot be taken as significant evidence of wide hesitation in the early church (Carson & Moo 2005:574). The witness of the early church fathers, who were familiar with Paul’s writings and used his work, seems to point quite convincingly to Pauline authorship of both 1 Timothy and Titus. If they were not convinced of his authorship, it might be doubtful whether they would have used these writings.

The Case Against Pauline Authorship

Although Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles was held unwaveringly by orthodox Christianity for eighteen centuries, the majority of scholars doubt or even reject it today (Bray 2007:3). James Dunn (2015:88), for example, states that in light of all the available data ‘it is very difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Pastorals were not written by Paul.’ Similarly, Benjamin Fiore (2007:16) writes ‘that an analysis of the structure of examples from the authentic Pauline letters and in the Pastoral Epistles reveals sufficient differences in the presentation of the material to support the view that the Pastoral Epistles are pseudonymous.’ Frances Young (1994) explains why these letters were written under pseudonyms in the first place, i.e., to allow Paul who was no longer alive to speak into a totally new situation that had arisen. Young writes:

Paul is absent, probably the hero-founder of the community or communities for which these epistles were intended. A new situation of crisis has arisen. Paul’s authoritative word is needed. The tradition provides it. All that is needed is the right medium to make the absent Paul present (:23).

Critics like Fiore and Young present a variety of arguments against Pauline authorship.

Historical Problems

Many critics point out that the Pastoral Epistles contain a significant number of references to historical events which it is not entirely clear can be placed within the framework of Paul’s life (Guthrie 1990:22). Put differently, the letters give historical and geographical data that do not seem to harmonise with Paul’s ministry as it is recorded in the Book of Acts and the other letters (Stott 1997:24). In 1 Timothy 1:3, for example, Paul says that when he went into Macedonia he urged Timothy to stay in Ephesus. In Titus 1:5 he mentions that he left Titus in Crete to complete what he had left undone and appoint elders in every town. Paul also requests Titus to stay the winter with him in Nicopolis (Tit 3:12) while he asks Timothy to bring him his cloak which he left in Troas (2 Tim 4:13). He further informs Timothy about Erastus who stayed in Corinth and about Trophimus whom he left sick in Miletus (2 Timothy 4:20). The letters suggest that these events had recently taken place (Guthrie 1990:612 cf. Carson and Moo 2005: 563). The critics argue that the visits mentioned above cannot be reconciled with Paul’s missionary journeys recorded by Luke in the Book of Acts. Consequently, the author has either fabricated or deliberately misplaced them. In either case, they are proof of pseudo-Paul authorship.

In response to this argument, Samuel Ngewa (2009:2) points out that the Book of Acts does not claim to deal with all of Paul’s life up to the end of his death. Thus, it is quite possible that the apostle was actually acquitted and released from his imprisonment in Rome, embarked on the missionary journeys mentioned in the Pastoral Epistles and was later re-arrested. In other words, the historical and geographical data mentioned in the three letters refer to events that took place after the close of Acts. A.M. Hunter (1991:150-151) comments: ‘If this is true, we have found a place in Paul’s life for the Pastoral Epistles.’

Vocabulary and Style

Doubt about Paul’s authorship stems partly from the differences in vocabulary and grammatical style that appear when the Pastoral Epistles are compared with other Pauline letters (Gundry 1994: 410). According to Homer Kent (1986:60), ‘the most exhaustive attempt to refute Pauline authorship of the Pastorals on the basis of linguistics is the work of P.N. Harrison.’ Harrison (2016) supports his contention that the letters cannot be Pauline by pointing to the following problems: Firstly, there is a large number of words that are unique to the Pastoral Epistles compared to the rest of the Pauline letters (:20). Thus, 36 percent of words used in the Pastorals cannot be found in the ten Pauline letters (:20). Secondly, there is a large number of words in the Pastoral Epistles that are used in other New Testament writings but are not used in the other Pauline epistles (:26). Thirdly, characteristic Pauline words and groups of words are missing in the Pastorals (:30). Fourthly and finally, there are grammatical and stylistic differences in the Pastoral Epistles that indicate that they belong to the second century (:38-40).

This objection to Pauline authorship does not consider, as Robert Gundry (1994: 411) notes, that differences in vocabulary and style may be attributed to a variety of factors. Vocabulary and style may vary depending on the subject matter or the addressee. They may also change due to changes in the writer’s personal circumstances. In Paul’s case it is also possible that the difference can stem from the use of amanuenses (:411). We know that the apostle used scribes, for example, for the composition of his letter to the Romans (see Romans 16:22) and his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 16:21). Stanley Porter (2016:422) mentions that in the ancient world scribes performed various functions, ‘from taking straight dictation to serving a creative role similar to that of modern personal assistants given responsibility for composing letters sent under their bosses’ names.’

In a similar line, Douglas Milne (2012:6-7) argues that a person’s grammatical style and choice of words can change over the years and that the topics of conversation tend to decide the style of expression and choice of words. Norman Geisler (2007:234) remarks that Paul himself used thirty-five new words in his letter to the Galatians, a book that most critics accept as Pauline. Gerald Bray (2019:3) admits that there are stylistic peculiarities in the Pastoral Epistles that are widely recognised but then he continues to say that ‘[n]obody in the early church picked up on this aspect […], and since they spoke and wrote Greek as a matter of course, their failure to notice anything odd about them is surely significant.’ Therefore, one can only agree with Guthrie (1990:54), when he concludes: ‘There are certainly many differences between these Epistles and the other ten Paulines, but these differences are not uniform and cannot be held as conclusive evidence of non-Pauline evidence.’ Having said that, new research by Gösta Thörnell has shown that there are also parallels and similarities between the Pastoral Epistles and other Pauline letters ‘in terms of negative and positive expressions, connective repetition and accumulation of identical words, alternating repetition and resumption of ideas and forms, symmetry and tone, and alternation and consequence in connection with choice of rare vocabulary’ (van Nes 2018:30).


Other critics point to the presence of a stereotyped approach to Christian doctrine and the absence of characteristic Pauline doctrine in the Pastoral Epistles. They complain, as Guthrie (1990:618) writes, that there are only ‘echoes of Pauline phrases culled from his authentic letters’. Examples of absent doctrines are the fatherhood of God, the believer’s union with Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. At the same time, there is an un-Pauline emphasis on sound doctrine, the critics claim (Hunter 1991:151). They identify the false teaching that the author addresses with the fully developed Gnosticism that confronted the church in the middle of the second century (Kelly 1986:11). Finally, it is argued that ‘the notion of “church” (ekklēsia) in the Pastoral Epistles differs markedly from that in the undisputed Pauline letters and in the other deutero-Pauline letters’ (Fiore 2007:10). The assumption, therefore, is that Paul could not have written the Pastoral Epistles (Guthrie 1990:618).

John Stott (1997:26) believes that ‘some scholars are quite rude in their evaluation of the theology (or lack of it) which they discern in the Pastorals.’ Hanson, for example, declares that no unifying theme can be found in the letters at all, while Ernst Käsemann does not regard the letters as Pauline because the church has become the central theme, the gospel is domesticated and Paul’s image is daubed by church piety, compared to the earlier Pauline letters.

There is undoubtedly a difference in emphasis in the Pastoral Epistles. But then we need to ask the question: Why should Paul write to Timothy and Titus about topics they had heard him teach as they had worked alongside him? He was simply addressing a new situation that required him to focus on different theological issues (Ngewa 2009:2-3).

Ecclesiastical Structure

‘Many scholars believe that the understanding of church life that is presupposed in these letters could not have appeared during Paul’s lifetime. Specifically, they see a strongly organized church with an ordained ministry’ (Carson and Moo 2005:564). In other words, the critics claim that the Pastoral Epistles reflect an ecclesiastical structure that was far more developed than the one that could be found during the time of the apostle’s ministry. James Dunn (2015:87) speaks of an ‘increasing institutionalization’ of the church ‘which is closer to what we find in Ignatius than in the pre-70 Paul’. Consequently, the letters must have been written by a pseudo-Paul after Paul’s death. The proponents base their view on four arguments (Guthrie 1990: 615-616). First, his earlier epistles show that Paul had no interest in organising the church. Second, the functions of the officials are too advanced for Paul’s time. Third, 1 Timothy 3:16, where the author states that no new convert should be appointed, suggests an established church. Such a stipulation would be relevant to a later age than the time of Paul. Fourth, Timothy and Titus’ positions approximate the monarchical episcopate of the early second century, or as (Mounce ixxxvi) writes, ‘Timothy and Titus are viewed by some as the leaders of the first ‘monarchical episcopates’, bishops with institutional authority over all the churches in a given area whose job was to pass on tradition.’

What shall we make of this view? Bray (2019:3) believes ‘that there is not enough external evidence to decide the matter.’ It cannot be proved ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, Bray notes, that the church structure the Pastoral Epistles reflect could not have been in place before the apostle’s death. The same, he argues, is true for the opposite. Having said that, there is strong internal evidence against a more advanced church polity in the three letters. The offices mentioned in the Pastorals are those of bishop (episkopos), elder (presbuteros) and deacon (diakonos). When Paul refers to elders, deacons and widows, he is speaking of distinct groups within the church that feature earlier in the New Testament period (Acts 6:1; 9:39, 41; 1 Corinthians 7:8; Phil 1:1) (Gundry 1994:412). The terms elder and bishop are used interchangeably both in Titus and 1 Timothy. Wayne Grudem (1994:914) explains that in 1 Timothy 5:17 elders are described as the ones who are ruling the church. The same task is assigned to bishops (or overseers) in 1 Timothy 3:1. Grudem concludes that bishop seems to be just another phrase for elder since both fulfil the same function. He goes on to say:

In Titus 1:5, Paul tells Titus to “appoint elders in every town” and gives some qualifications (v. 6). Then in the very next sentence (v. 7), he gives reasons for those qualifications, and he begins by saying, “For a bishop, as God’s steward, must be blameless.” Here again he uses the word “bishop” to refer to the elders whom Titus was to appoint, giving another indication that the term elder and bishop were interchangeable (:914).

Furthermore, we must not forget that Paul called the elders in the church in Ephesus bishops (Acts 20:17-18) and that his letter to the Philippians is addressed to ‘all the saints in Jesus Christ, together with the overseers [bishops] and deacons’ (1:1). Consequently, there is nothing in the Pastoral Epistles that reflect an advanced form of church government, let alone an episcopal system. However, what we find in the letters are new churches that operate under missionary conditions.

Three Views

Based on the alleged problems the critics have found with the Pastoral Epistles they have formulated several views (hypothesis).

The Fragmentary View

Some critics suggest that an anonymous Christian collected a few genuine fragments of Paul’s writings after his death and wove them into three letters of his own to preserve the fragments and make Paul’s message relevant to a latter church (Blomberg 2006:344). In other words, while most of the letters are Deutero-Pauline, there are a few authentic passages. These passages contain mostly personal and historical references (Mounce 2000:cxx). Among the parts of the letters that these critics accept as Pauline are 1 Timothy 1:13-15 and 2 Timothy 1:4-5. A.M. Hunter, one of the advocates of the fragmentary view, writes:

These letters are part of the scriptural conversation between the Holy Spirit and the church in which the Spirit (using some fragments of Paul adapted and elaborated by one of his disciples) recalls and applies the gospel of Christ. Especially does the Spirit speak to the clergy, for the Pastorals form a kind of Bible within the Bible which specially belongs to them.

What the advocates of the view fail to explain is why some personal and historical notes ‘would have been preserved apart from the rest of the letters and by what conceivable motive a later disciple of Paul would have spun letters around them’ (Polhill 1999:400). J.N.D. Kelly (1986:29) states that the fragmentary hypothesis poses an awkward dilemma:

If the fragments were already known to be Pauline, their reappearance in these letters must have occasioned surprise; if they were not so known (a supposition which prompts the intriguing query how then he alone managed to get hold of them), he must have been sanguine to assume people would immediately greet them as guarantees of authenticity (:29-30).

The Fictional View

Other more radical critics see the work as a total fabrication (Geisler 2007:234). They completely deny the authenticity of the Pastorals. The author of the letters, they argue, ‘has made up the historical allusions to give the Epistles some semblance and authenticity’ (Guthrie 2002:28). Many of these critics believe that the letters are an attempt to attack a kind of heresy (i.e., a later Gnosticism) which arose in the second century AD (Geisler 2007:234). According to the advocates of this view, an admirer of Paul composed the pastoral epistles to address the concerns of the Christian community of his time. To create authenticity and credibility, historical and personal allusions were included; the writings were intended to deceive their audience (Mounce 2000: cxviii).

What the radical critics fail to explain is the realism of some of the historical allusions. Referring to the request in 2 Timothy 4:13, ‘When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.’ Guthrie (2002:28) writes:

The request for the cloak left with Carpus requires some explanation. It is not satisfactory to suggest that it was a fictional element after the analogy of the cloak passed from Elijah to Elisha as some have maintained. This together with other sections of a similar realistic character give the impression of being genuine pieces of Pauline information.

The Pseudonymity View

Finally, some claim that pseudonymity was a common and accepted ancient literary device that the Christian church would naturally adopt. A pseudonymous New Testament letter would be a letter that was produced by an author who was using a name that was not his own. This claim deserves careful consideration as Guthrie (1990: 1011) has pointed out:

In discussions on the authenticity of canonical epistles which contain within them clear indications of authorship, the practice of pseudo-epigraphy (i.e., the publication of documents under assumed names) unavoidably comes under consideration. It merits careful investigation as it must form a part of any theory which denies traditional authorship.

One of the scholars who hold that the Pastoral Epistles were written under pseudonyms is Kurt Aland. In his article entitled The Problem of Anonymity and Pseudonymity in Christian Literature of the First Two Centurie s Aland (1965:4) writes: ‘To the category of pseudonymous writings I would like to ascribe: the Pastorals, 1 and 2 Peter, James, Jude, possibly Hebrews, 2 and 3 John, possibly the gospel of John, the Didache, and the non-anonymous New Testament Apocrypha.’ Aland goes on to argue that the anonymous writer was under the power of the Holy Spirit (:6). For this reason, one could say that he was not preaching himself, but that Christ and the apostles were preaching through him. Aland, therefore, believes that it was legitimate for the anonymous author to add the name of an apostle to his writing.

While forged epistles were widespread in the Greek secular world, the number of pseudepigraphic letters in the Jewish and Christian religious literature is scarce, but not uncommon (Guthrie 1990:1011). Pseudonymity deals with a false claim of authorship, whatever the motive behind it, whether for good or ill, advanced by the real author or a later historical accident (Carson 2000:859). Guthrie gives a helpful summary of motives. These include (1) A desire for gain; (2) Malice, where it was used to wreck another person’s reputation; (3) Love and respect, where work was ascribed to honoured teachers; (4) When the author used the name of another to hide his name out of modesty; (5) Rhetorical exercises, where pupils wrote works in the names of well-known philosophers; (6) Composition of spurious epistles attributed to illustrious persons in Greek literature and history; (7) Accidental attribution through copyists; (8) Erroneous assignment of works in collections to the main author, often as a matter of convenience; (9) The desire to be published and widely read for personal and ideological reasons. As we can see from this list the matter of motive in ancient pseudepigraphy is rather complex (Guthrie 1990: 1024).

Witherington (2006:29), however, is quite clear in judging the motives for pseudonymity as he writes: ‘Deceit is deceit, whether it is for political, or financial, personal or spiritual gain. The issue is whether we have documents in the New Testament purporting to be by one person, a famous person, but really by another who has not been authorized by the famous person to write’. The same point is made by J.I. Packer (1996) who categorically rules out that such deception was acceptable to the early church. No books written under pseudonyms, he argues, would have been included in the canon. Packer states: ‘[W]e may lay down as a general principle that, when biblical books specify their own authorship, the affirmation of their canonicity involves a denial of their pseudonymity. Pseudonymity and canonicity are mutually exclusive’ (:184).

While pseudonymity in Paul’s letters is theoretically possible, the arguments that defend it, as Thomas Schreiner (2011:66) writes, are for various reasons historically unconvincing. Firstly, there is no proof whatsoever that pseudonymous writings were accepted as canonical (:66) The Muratorian Canon as well as the church fathers, such as Serapion, bishop of Antioch, Tertullian and Cyril of Jerusalem, all rejected pseudepigraphical work (Carson 2000: 860). This should not surprise us as the authenticity of religious and philosophical texts was generally highly valued in the ancient world. Thus, Lewis Donelson (2015:11) writes:

No one ever seems to have accepted a document as religiously and philosophically prescriptive which was known to be forged. I don’t know a single example. We have instead innumerable examples of the opposite. Both Greeks and Romans show great concern to maintain the authenticity of their collections of writings from the past, but the sheer number of pseudepigrapha made the task difficult.

Secondly, the arguments in defence of pseudonymity in Paul’s letters do not accord with the emphasis on truth in the New Testament writings in general and in Paul’s letters in particular (Schreiner 2011:66). Concern for forgeries and false teaching did not arise for the first time in the church of the second century (Witherington 2006:34). This is already notable in 2 Thessalonians 2:2 and in other parts of the Pauline corpus where Paul goes to the extent of signing his documents to guarantee that they are genuine (Galatians 6:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 16:21). In the same vein, Carson (2000:862) states that two bits of internal evidence bear on the discussion of pseudonymity. First, he mentions the fact that the author of 2 Thessalonians was aware of forgeries made in his name and warns his readers ‘not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophesy, report or letter supposed to have come from us’ (2:1-2). The author further provides them with evidence that enables them to decide which letters that claim to have been written by him were authentic and which were not: ‘I, Paul write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write.’ (3:17). If Paul was not the author, as many scholars think, then the pseudonymous author is actually condemning pseudonymous authors. However, if the author was Paul, he raises awareness of the pseudonymous practice and condemns it. Second, Paul leaves his readers in no doubt that he made frequent use of both co-authors and amanuenses (Carson 2000:862). Both letters to the Thessalonians, for example, name ‘Paul, Silas and Timothy’ as senders. While many scholars doubt that others like Silas and Timothy made any significant contributions to Paul’s letters and were only named out of courtesy (e.g., Williams 2002:21), it is nonetheless possible that Paul gave his scribes a degree of freedom which would explain differences in vocabulary and style (Polhill 1999:400).

Concluding Evaluation

Many arguments have been put forward to prove that Paul is not the author of the Pastoral Epistles. When did Paul visit the island of Crete to establish a church? Why are familiar theological themes not included in the pastoral letters? These are valid questions. However, what do we do with the argument from silence? Do we argue that just because some historical events are not recorded in the Book of Acts they did not happen? Furthermore, the Pastoral Letters were written to two individuals who the author calls his ‘sons in the faith’. In other words, the letters were addressed to individuals who had travelled with Paul during his missionary journeys, were close to him personally and very familiar with his theology. Consequently, there was no need to repeat theological themes his two readers were very much aware of (even if the author had a wider audience in mind). There is also the possibility that Paul employed a scribe to write the letters and that this had an influence on the style and vocabulary. The subject matter is different from the other Pauline letters because different issues are addressed by Paul in the Pastoral Epistles. Paul merely asked Timothy and Titus to appoint church leaders with stipulated qualifications. He did not institute a new sophisticated church hierarchy. Finally, Paul was old when he wrote these letters and that in itself could influence the tone of his writing.

On the issue of pseudonymity, Andreas Köstenberger (2003:8) states three conclusions formulated by Terry Wilder after having surveyed the relevant ancient evidence: (1) The early church used both the authorship and the content of a given writing as criteria for authenticity. Hence it would not knowingly have allowed pseudo-apostolic works to be read publicly in the churches alongside apostolic ones; (2) There is no evidence for pseudonymity as a convention among orthodox Christians; (3) The early church was not indifferent about the fictive use of an apostle’s name.

In 2 Timothy 4:9-21, the author gives numerous personal details. Why would a pseudonymous writer include such details of Paul and other Christian workers in his work? If these details were included to ‘give verisimilitude’ to the pseudonymous work, it still raises the ethical question of pseudonymous authorship (Knight 1992:47). As William Mounce (2000:cxxvii) points out the ‘external evidence is solid; the church shows no sign of accepting known pseudepigraphical writings as authoritative’. Likewise, internal evidence shows that the arguments against Pauline authorship are not persuasive. For these reasons, we will accept Paul’s authorship of the Pastoral Letters.

Theological Implications

If indeed the Pastoral Epistles were pseudonymous, as the majority of scholars are convinced, then the question of authority needs to be addressed. Can we still view the three letters as authoritative? For many contemporary commentators this seems to be the case, as Patrick Hart (2020:109) observes: ‘[I]t remains the case for many that, Pauline authorship aside, the letters nonetheless retain a level of authoritative value and utility.’ Authors who hold such a view have used the Pastorals to promote the idea of the existence of a divinely authoritative, unwritten, apostolic tradition (Jurgensmeier 2012:43). Scholars, like Robert Sugenis, claim that Paul’s instructions to his co-workers to authoritatively teach what he had taught them orally demonstrates that oral apostolic teaching was just as authoritative as his written teaching (:43). Such a two-source view of authoritative revelation, however, is problematic as it undermines the unique nature of Scripture (Mathison 2001:-164-65). Wayne Grudem’s (1994:84-85) words on the authority of Scripture are worth quoting:

It is important to realize that the final form in which Scripture remains authoritative is its written form […] And it was written Scripture (graphe) that Paul said was “God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16). Similarly, it is Paul’s writings that are “a command from the Lord” (1 Cor 14:37) and that could be classified with “the other scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16).

Since Scripture remains authoritative in its written form, we need to listen to its teachings on the issue of truthfulness. Thus, the biblical writers assure us that God cannot lie (e.g., Titus 1:2) and all Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). Consequently, Grudem (1994:82) notes, ‘all of Scripture must be “unlying” just as God himself is: there can be no untruthfulness in Scripture.’ If this is the case and pseudonymity denotes the practice of ascribing written works to someone other than the author, we already face the first lie without even focussing on the content of the Pastorals. God used human authors and when they actually came to write, the words were fully their own words but also words that God wanted them to write, which he also claims as his own (Grudem 1994:81). Whatever the motive for pseudonymity, the person’s work cannot be claimed as God’s word.

Dates of Composition

The exact dates of composition of the Pastoral Epistles are uncertain, even if we are satisfied that they are genuinely Pauline in nature (Kelly 1963:34). Their composition must be placed in the shadowy period between Paul’s release from his first Roman imprisonment and his death (:34). Carson and Moo state that 1 Timothy can be dated during the ’60s, or early 60s if this letter was written during Paul’s missionary activities after his release from his Rome imprisonment (1992:571). Similarly, Knight (1992:51) argues that 1 Timothy and Titus fall between Paul’s release from his first Roman imprisonment and the date of 2 Timothy from the latter part of the early 60s to the mid-60s. Milne (2012:8) points out that ‘a period of about five years would be long enough for the movements indicated in the Pastorals to take place.’ He continues to argue that these five years are ‘the period of time that must have elapsed between Paul’s imprisonment at the end of Acts (c.60-62) and his martyrdom in Rome (c.65-67) (:8-9).


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Character Matters
Paul’s Leadership Qualities in the Pastoral Epistles and the Namibian Church
Namibia Evangelical Theological Seminary
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ISBN (Book)
Church Leadership, Pastoral Epistles, Apostle Paul, Namibia, Character, Integrity, Leadership Qualifications, Clergy Ethics, Misconduct, African Church, Abuse, Power, Titus, 1 Timothy
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Dr. Thorsten Prill (Editor)C. Christa Biwa (Author), 2017, Character Matters, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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