Four of the epistles of Paul are addressed to persons; one, that of Philemon, on personal matters; the other three to evangelists who had long labored under his directions, and who were charged at the time they were written with responsible trusts in which they needed his instructions. From the circumstance that Timothy and Titus were each exercising the care of the churches of a district these have been called the Pastoral Epistles. Yet the words Shepherd or Pastor, flock, and feed do not occur in them, as they do in John 21:16 Acts 20:28 Ephesians 4:11 Ephesians 4:1 1 Pet. 5:2 , but at the same time the duties implied in those relations are strongly urged. They deal more intimately with church organization and church culture, than any of the other epistles.
If the generally accepted view of the date of these three epistles is received they have the common feature of belonging to the closing years of the apostle's life. The epistles of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, are the epistles of the captivity. On the hypothesis of Paul's release from the first imprisonment at Rome, in accordance with the universal statement of the early church, these epistles are held to have been written after his release, and after he had once more made a tour of the churches which he planted in Asia and Europe. Conybeare and Howson assign First Timothy to the date of A. D. 67. Certain allusions in these epistles can only be explained by assigning them a date as late as this. The apostle had, after a circuit of the churches of Asia Minor, come into Macedonia, and from thence sent back to Timothy, who had been left in charge of the work in the city and district of Ephesus, instructions and admonitions which would be of service to him in his duties. Well aware of the difficulties he would meet at Ephesus, of the factious spirit of certain false teachers, the epistle is written not only to show him how he ought to act, but in order to support him by its authority. It was probably written a little more than a year before the apostle's martyrdom at Rome.
Timothy, to whom it is directed, was his own "son in the gospel." From the Acts and the Epistles the outlines of his history are easily gathered. He was born in the Asiatic district of Lycaonia. His father was a Greek but his mother a Jewess. From his infancy he was instructed by his mother and grandmother, who names have been preserved, in the Hebrew scriptures, but had remained, probably at the demand of his father, uncircumcised. Converted by Paul, showing good gifts among the Lycaonian churches, Paul determined to make him a traveling assistant, and as it would aid much in enabling him to reach Jews, he had him circumcised. Indeed a Mamzer, a "bastard," as a child of a Jewish mother and heathen father was called by the Jews, would have had no access to the synagogue without circumcision.
From this time the allusions to Timothy in connection with Paul's work are so frequent that, did space permit, we could easily trace his course. Finally, we find him attending Paul to Jerusalem on the occasion when Paul was made a captive. During the imprisonment at Cæsarea he was probably absent, sent to the churches by Paul, but after the arrival at Rome, as we learn from "the Epistles of the Captivity," he again joined him. He had probably attended him on his last tour of the churches of Asia, was left behind at Ephesus, was there the recipient of two letters, which are the last allusions to him in the New Testament, unless he be "the angel of the church of Ephesus" named in Rev. 2:1 , as some have supposed.
The genuineness of the Pastoral epistles was never questioned in the primitive church. They are the oldest translation of the New Testament, the Peshito, which belongs to the second century, are in the oldest canon of the New Testament books, the Muratori, which is assigned to the date of A. D. 170, are quoted by several of the Fathers of the Second Century, and are declared by Eusebius in his church history to be "universally received." Some objections have been raised to them by certain rationalistic German critics, such as Baur, but these objections have been fully answered. The space that our plan allows us will not permit me to consider these, further than to say that if they differ somewhat from the keen logic of Paul's earlier letters that is easily accounted for by the fact that they are personal, and are addressed to the most intimate of personal friends, to whom he writes in unreserved freedom and with the tenderest affection. The style of every writer differs according to the subjects treated and the persons addressed.
It only remains to be added that nothing has ever been written which contains, in the same space, so much that is indispensable to the preacher, the pastor, and to every church official. These classes may consider themselves especially addressed in the persons of Timothy and Titus, and they should study and reflect upon these letters until every charge, every truth and every admonition is written upon their hearts.