The Date of the Pastoral Epistles

rilHE date of the Pastoral Epistles has been more canvassed -*' than perhaps any other point in the chronology of St Paul1. While it has been generally acknowledged that the Second Epistle to Timothy was the Apostle's dying strain, though even this opinion has not been allowed to pass unchallenged2, the First Epistle to Timothy, and the Epistle to Titus have occupied almost every conceivable position in the systems of different critics. This circumstance is in itself a sufficient proof of the difficulties which beset the question, and might perhaps lead us to despair of a solution. A little more careful examination, however, tends to a more hopeful view. Taking into account all the conditions of the problem—the internal character of the Epistles themselves as regards style and teaching, no less than the historical notices which they contain, whether relating to the Church at large, or to personal matters—we arrive at this simple result, that they cannot be placed within the compass of the history contained in the Acts, and that they must have been written after the other letters of the Apostle, towards the close of his life.

1 Various opinions respecting this rant of all recent English Theological

question will be found collected and works.

classified in C. W. Otto Die Geschicht- - For a list of these exceptions see

lichen Verhaltnkie der Pastoralbriefe Davidson Intr. Hi. p. 52 ed. 1, and Otto,

etc. Leipz. 1860. The writer however, p. 16. like most of his countrymen, is igno

The later criticism, based on a deeper appreciation of the style of the Pastoral Epistles, is obviously tending to this result, though there are still some important exceptions1, and it may be safely predicted that the alternative of placing them at the close of the Apostle's life, or of abandoning the Pauline authorship, will be accepted by both impugners and defenders alike, as common ground.

The two points, which we have to consider, are (1) The style and intrinsic character of the Epistles themselves; (2) The historical matter which they contain.

L The Style And Intrinsic Character Of The
Pastoral Epistles.

Those who have examined St Paul's Epistles with reference to their time of writing, will have observed a strong resemblance in style and character between the letters belonging to the same chronological group, while at the same time a letter of one group, placed by the side of a letter of another, though betraying the strongest indications of the same mind, shows marked and unmistakable differences. So strong does this impression become on closer study, that the evidence of date derived from style takes the first place in our minds, and when, as in the case of the Qalatian Epistle, the historical notices are few and vague, we still feel an absolute certainty in a result derived solely or chiefly from this source. This phenomenon of a difference in a resemblance is much more clearly exhibited in the Pastoral Epistles than in any other of St Paul's letters3. With the resemblance I have no concern here. At present I shall dwell simply on the differences, as a proof, first, that they belong to the same period one with another, and secondly, that they cannot have been contemporaneous with the other Epistles of St Paul.

1 Such as Wieseler, Davidson and criticism as retrograde. Schaff. The most recent writer, Otto, 3 Coleridge calls them HavKottSeU is also an exception. I regard his (Table talk p. 253).

These differences may be gathered up under the following heads, (1) vocabulary, (2) syntax, (3) modes of thought and teaching.

1. The Vocabulary. Words used in these Epistles alone, or with far greater frequency in them. The following classification is more or less artificial, but will assist in apprehending the character of these differences. For convenience of reference the First and Second Epistles to Timothy and the Epistle to Titus are designated by the letters a, b, c, respectively, the number of occurrences, where more than one, being placed immediately above each letter.

(a) A new set of terms to describe moral and religious states.

p<fiq\os 'profane' a'b. Not used elsewhere by St Paul, occurs in

Heb. xii. 16. tvo-tfiaa 'godliness' a8bc rum/Sue be tvvtfitiv a, thirteen times in

all, and not once elsewhere in St Paul's Epistles. Kadapt'is 'pure' eWc* (in four out of the six cases used of the

conscience); only once elsewhere (Rom. xiv. 20) in St Paul. (taXor 'good' 'beautiful' a1^c5, twenty-four times in the Pastoral

Epistles, and only sixteen times elsewhere in St Paul.
<Ttikvarf)s 'gravity' a*c o-tfivot a*c. at fivot occurs Phil. iv. 8, and

nowhere else in the New Testament.

(6) A new set of terms relating to doctrine, many of them bringing

out the contrast between true and false doctrine. di&ao-KitXia 'teaching' a'b^c4, used most frequently objectively

'doctrine.' The word only occurs elsewhere in St Paul four

times, and then with its ordinary sense of the 'art of teaching.' fK{rrnj<rfis, (Trnjatit 'questionings' a'bc, not elsewhere in St Paul. Xoyo/iaxi'a, -tir of 'combats of words' ab, not elsewhere in

the New Testament.
irapaBqKri 'the deposit of the faith' ab2, not elsewhere in the New

I'yujf, vyialrtiv 'sound' 'healthy' as applied to doctrine tW, not

elsewhere in St Paul, or in this sense in the New Testament.

Also the opposite mo-ttv a, here only in the New Testament.

(c) Certain formulae and maxims.

Stafiaprvpetr&ai ivamov ab5. The word Siafiaprvp«r8ai only occurs

once elsewhere at all in St Paul.
Xapis, «X«ot, tlprpn) ab and perhaps c, contrasted with the earlier

salutation x"P" *"' *1PV'nh
irurrot o Aoyor a'be. Peculiar to this group.

(rf) Modes of speaking of God the Father, and Christ
fuucapios 8tos a*.

O-uttjp applied to God aV.

L. B. 26

iitupavtia in the sense of napovo-ia aWc.

None of those ore found elsewhere in St Paul. In 2 Theas. ii. 8
however there is ij tiri<j>avtia rijr irapovtrias.

(e) Other expressions not falling under any of these classes.
apveta-Bai ab*c2.
8id/9oXor, 'false-accuser' abc.
fiftrjrdrijt 'master' a2bc, elsewhere in St Paul Kvpiot.

SiajlflimovoBiu irtpi Tiros fie.

irapairuadai a2bc.

All these are peculiar to this group of Pauline Epistles.

2. The Syntax.

(a) It is stiffer and more regular than in the earlier Epistles, more
jointed and less flowing. The clauses are marshalled together,
and there is a tendency to parallelism.
e.g. 1 Tim. i. 9, ii. 1, 2, iii. 16, iv. 12, 13,15, v. 10, vi. 9, 11, 12,
13, 15, 18; 2 Tim. ii. 11, 12, iii. 1-8, 10-13, 16, iv. 2, 4, 5,
7; Tit. i. 7, 8, 9, ii. 7, 12, iii. 1-3.

(6) There is a greater sententiousness, an abruptness and poaitive-
ness of form. Imperative clauses are frequent.
e.g. 1 Tim. iv. 11, 15, 16, v. 7, 8, 22-25, vi. 2, 6, 11, 20; 2 Tim.
i. 13, 14, ii. 1, 3, 7, 8, 14,19, 22, 23; iii. 1, 5, 12, 16.

3. The tone of thought manifest in these Epistles has a character of

its own.

(a) There is an increased tendency to the directly moral side of duty. The Apostle's former preaching of faith and grace is not lost sight of, but it occupies a much smaller space and a less prominent position. Stress is laid upon good works (1 Tim. ii. 10, v. 10, 25, vi. 18; 2 Tim. ii. 21; Tit. L 16, iii. 7, 14). In describing the Christian state the principles of fuaififui and o-oiq^poavinj stand forward. Long and frequent lists of virtues are given, often descending into minute details of practical life, (o) On the other hand, apparently in contradiction to the characteristic just mentioned but not really so, the Apostle dwells more on orthodoxy of belief in comparison with his previous Epistles. There is more of the doctrine of Christianity as a creed, and less as a life. Altogether we may say that the teaching of the Pastoral Epistles is more definite and positive, than that of the earlier letters. There is more of detail in it, and less of principles.

These distinguishing features, it must be observed, are found in all these three Epistles alike. It is an obvious and almost irresistible conclusion (i) that they must all three have been written at or near the same time, (ii) that some considerable period must be interposed between them and the remaining Epistles of St Paul. Now, no hypothesis framed on the supposition that St Paul was not released, and that therefore the Pastoral Epistles fall within the limits of time comprised in the Acts, satisfies these conditions. Indeed it is impossible that such an hypothesis could satisfy them; for the Second Epistle to Timothy is generally allowed to have been written from Rome at the very close of his life, while the First Epistle to Timothy and the Epistle to Titus were written when he was at liberty, and supposing his first captivity to have terminated fatally, this consideration alone interposes a period of four years at least between them1.

Thus judging from the style and character of these Epistles alone we are led to this very definite conclusion.

1 Wieseler's hypothesis (Chron. p. private letters written to intimate

28C), the most plausible of those con- friends, the Pastoral Epistles might

structed on this supposition, arranges be supposed to have a character of

the Epistles in the order—Galatians, 1 their own. The peculiarities of style

Timothy, 1 Corinthians, Titus, 2 Corin- are for the most part not of a kind to

thians. Thus we get a series of Epistles be accounted for in this way, though

in which St Paul's styles alternate—for some of them might be so explained.

Galatians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinth- And we have an instance of St Paul's

ians are closely allied to each other, familiar style at this earlier date in

and widely different from 1 Timothy the Epistle to Philemon, which has

and Titus. According to this hypo- none of the characteristic features of

thesis, 2 Timothy follows Titus after the Pastoral Epistles. Otto (p. 9) has

an interval of five or six years, and quite failed to grasp the conditions of

with six Epistles of an entirely dif- the problem when he dismisses these

ferent style intervening. The difficulty considerations so summarily, is not at all met by saying that as


These are of two kinds: those relating to (1) actual incidents, affecting himself and his friends; (2) the general condition of the Church.

i. Historical incidents. From the opening verses of the First Epistle to Timothy we learn that St Paul, when departing for Macedonia, had charged Timothy to remain at Ephesus to superintend the Church there1. There are only two visits to Ephesus recorded in the Acts3. On the first of these, which was very brief, St Paul scarcely did more than prepare the way for the foundation of a Church, and it is excluded by the fact that he was then travelling not to Macedonia but in a direction the very opposite, viz. to Jerusalem3. On the second, he remained at Ephesus for three years, and on departing did go into Macedonia*: but the following reasons are decisive against this being the visit in question, (i) He did not leave Timothy in Ephesus, but sent him on to Macedonia5, intending that he should also go to Corinth". That Timothy did actually reach Corinth is improbable, but that he did not return to Ephesus before St Paul left is clear: for St Paul joins him in Macedonia7 and is accompanied by him to Corinth8, (ii) St Paul had no such intention of revisiting Ephesus soon, as he declares in this letter*. On the contrary, he was bound for Greece, intending to sail thence direct to Jerusalem to pay his farewell to the Holy city before visiting Rome and the West10.

This difficulty may indeed be got over by supposing that St Paul may have paid a visit from Ephesus to Macedonia during his three years' stay there—a visit unrecorded in the Acts, as he is known from 2 Corinthians to have paid a visit to Corinth likewise unrecorded11. But this is an arbitrary assumption, and two unsurmountable difficulties still remain: (i) to account for the growth of the heresies in so short a time during St Paul's actual presence at Ephesus; and (ii) to reconcile the appearance of these heretics at Ephesus, as stated in this Epistle, with the prediction to the Elders at Miletus11

that they would appear hereafter, the fact being on this hypothesis earlier than the prediction1.

The notices in the Epistle to Titus enhance the difficulty on any such hypothesis. St Paul leaves Titus in Crete to organize the Churches there*. There is no record in the Acts of any such visit to Crete. We have also mention of a winter to be spent in Nicopolis3—which Nicopolis is meant, I need not stay to enquire at present. Thia also is passed over in silence in the Acts. But not only are these incidents unrecorded; there is no place in the narrative of St Luke where we can interpolate them4. It has been suggested indeed that they must be taken out of the long residence at Ephesus, extending over from two to three years. That St Paul paid a brief visit to Corinth during this period, unrecorded by St Luke, we are forced to conclude by some incidental allusions in the Epistles to the Corinthians. But if we add to this a visit to Macedonia, as required by the First Epistle to Timothy, and then a residence more or less prolonged in Crete, and a winter passed at Nicopolis, as inferred from the Epistle to Titus, and make allowance for the journeys to and fro, we have to assume a prolonged absence from Ephesus which could not have been unknown to St Luke, or, if known, passed over in silence, and which would render St Paul's language to the Ephesian Elders at Miletus8 quite incorrect and inappropriate. It may be added also that the projected mission of Artemas or Tychicus to Crete', or the expected visit of Zenas and Apollos and of Titus himself, have no points of correspondence with the incidents of St Luke's narrative—a remarkable circumstance if they fell within the same range of time.

1 Futile attempts are made to meet m. p. 79 sq., Wieaeler, p. 286 sq., Otto,

this difficulty in Hemsen, Paulus, and p. 357 sq. Davidson in. p. 29. ° Acts zx. 31 rpurlav rtcra Kal iiiUpar

3 Tit. i. 5. ovK itravadfiiiv vovtiiruv.

3 Tit. iii. 12. « Tit. iii. 12.

* For various shifts see Davidson 7 Tit. iii. 13.

The notices in the Second Epistle to Timothy are still more unaccountable. This Epistle, as is generally supposed, was written while St Paul was a prisoner at Rome, and when his captivity was scon to terminate in death. According to the hypothesis which I am now considering, this was the same captivity with which the history of the Acts closes. Thus he had been a prisoner for more than four years, first at Caesarea, then at Rome. The incidents therefore which occurred when St Paul was in the East—the sojourn of Erastus at Corinth1, and his leaving Trophimus ill at Miletus—must have happened previously to this. Even if we suppose with some that it was written at the beginning of his stay at Rome, there is still a period of two or three years, yet he feels it necessary to inform him by letter of these occurrences after so long a lapse of time. Nay more, Timothy had been staying with the Apostle meanwhile at Rome5; he was in fact with him during this very tour in Greece and Asia Minor when, on the supposed hypothesis, these incidents must have occurred. Why then should the Apostle offer this information so superfluous and uncalled for? But indeed the incidents themselves militate against the hypothesis. Erastus indeed might have remained at Corinth on that occasion, for about him St Luke is silent. But Trophimus was certainly not left at Miletus sick, for we find him with the Apostle immediately afterwards at Jerusalem3. It is unnecessary to dwell on minor difficulties, such as his leaving the cloak and books at Troas* so many years5.

This accumulation of historical contradictions is quite unsurmountable on the supposition of the earlier date of these Epistles. De Wette's phrase of the ' historical unaccountableness' of the Pastoral Epistles then becomes most appropriate. And if no alternative remained, there would be an overwhelming difficulty in accepting these writings as genuine. This historical difficulty disappears, if we prolong St Paul's life beyond the period comprised in the Acts, and place the Pastorals at a later date.

ii. The condition of the Church.

Very exaggerated and unwarrantable views have been taken of the notices in the Pastoral Epistles relating to the condition of the Church, as indicating a later date, and this circumstance may perhaps prejudice the consideration of them. But on the other hand these Epistles leave on the mind the impression of a definite and various organization, which must have taken some time in forming, and of a progress and development of opinion and action for good or evil, inconsistent with a very early stage of the Church. This consideration becomes of importance when we apply it to the particular case of the Church of Ephesus. According to the hypothesis we have been combating, the First Epistle to Timothy was written not later than A.d. 57, before the close of St Paul's protracted stay in that city. Now that stay was practically the foundation of the Church there, for on his previous brief visit St Paul did but break ground. Thus on this theory in the course of two or three years the Church has attained this advanced development, and what is more improbable still, false and heretical opinions have grown up and spread before the Apostle's own eyes.

The three points which deserve considering in the condition of the Church are (a) the ministry and in general the offices connected with Church government, (o) the heresies, (c) the traces of a Church literature.

(a) I do not lay any stress on the existence of the two orders of presbyters and deacons, as a recognised institution. Evidence is not wanting to show that these existed in some Churches at least at a very early date1; but the directions given (1 Tim. iii. 1 sq., v. 17-21; Tit. i. 7) imply that these offices had assumed a very definite form, that serious irregularities had crept into the ministry of the Church and that altogether there had been long experience of the working of the system. I would point particularly to the direction that the presbyter must not be 'a novice, lest he be lifted up with pride',' as savouring of a later date.

1 Acta xi. 30, xiv. 23; Phil. i. 1. » 1 Tim. iii. 6.

Again the term irpeafivTeptov1 implies that the office was consolidated. Provision is also made for the maintenance of church officers3. Altogether the tone of these injunctions is inconsistent with the very first stage of the Church before carelessness and insincerity had grown with the growth of its numbers.

Again, the systematic employment of women in offices connected with the ministry is another proof of a later date. We read of a deaconess of the Church of Cenchreae*, about the time when on the hypothesis of the earlier date the First Epistle to Timothy was written, but with this single exception there is no distinct trace in the other Epistles of St Paul of a special ministry of women. Here on the contrary the deaconesses are a recognised class of officials4. The diaconate of women however would not create any serious difficulty. It is more important to observe that 'the widows'' also are spoken of as a separate class, specially appointed (icaraXeyeada>) with functions of their own, and spoken of in such a way as to show that the institution had been working for some time.

(b) The picture drawn by St Paul of the state of opinion in theological matters tends to the same result—'the endless fables and genealogies,' 'the questionings and battles of words,' 'the profane and vain babblings'.' The 'oppositions of science so called'' must have come to the surface after a long seething of speculation, and betoken the conflict of various elements of philosophical opinion with the Gospel, so that a considerable time is required for their development. Again, if we compare these notices in the Pastoral Epistles with those elsewhere, we arrive at the same conclusion.

« 1 Tim. iv. 14. * 1 Tim. iii. 11.

"1 Tim. v. 17. On the other hand 5 1 Tim. v. 3 sq.

promotion from one office to another '1 Tim. i. 4, iv. 1, vi. 20; 2 Tim.

is not implied in 1 Tim. iii. 13, as ii. 16; cf. also 2 Tim. ii. 23, iii. 13;

sorne have supposed (e.g. Blunt, Tit. i. 10, iii. 9 sq.

Wordsworth). » 1 Tim. vi. 20.

3 Bom. xvi. 1.

In the Apostle's farewell address to the Ephesian Elders at Miletus, these irregularities in the Church of Ephesus are an anticipation, a prophecy; here they are a painful fact. Thirdly, comparing them with the phase of heresy prevalent in these same regions of Asia Minor, as presented in the Epistles to the Colossians and Ephesians, we find that though they have much in common, the latter are an advance upon the former1. Whereas in the former no charge of immorality is brought against the false teachers, but on the other hand they are reproved for their strict asceticism, in the Pastorals the heretical spirit is one of profligate, reckless self-seeking. Without pressing the prophetical passages', this tendency is apparent enough*. Now this sequence is natural. Loose and idle speculation, freedom from restraint in matters of opinion, ultimately begets immorality of conduct, for it throws off the sanctions of authority which kept it in check. But all this requires time. Lastly, it should be observed that the heretics of the Pastoral Epistles made a traffic of their false doctrines. They found advantage in vending their wares to foolish purchasers who in turn were interested in being deceived4. Now all this militates against a very early date. There is little chance of deceiving and nothing to be gained by it, where all are poor and all honest alike. It is only later that the theological adventurer has any chance and that, having first deceived himself, he finds it worth his while to deceive others5.

(c) We find here and there in the Pastoral Epistles traces of a liturgical form, snatches of hymns, and fragments of creeds or formularies. It will be sufficient to point out one or two of these. They are to be distinguished by their balanced, rhythmical form, as if framed to assist the memory and perhaps to be sung. They are besides introduced in many cases by the formula 'faithful is the saying.'

1 On the relation of these two heresies * 1 Tim. vi. 5 voiuibvruv ropurfiir

see the additional note at the end of eZvat riiv tiW/S«tar: 2 Tim. iii. 6 ai\

this Essay (p. 411 sq.). /laXurffocttt yvvtuKApia otaupeviUra

- 1 Tim. iv. 1 sq.; 2 Tim. iii. 1 sq., iftaprlais, iy6pxva irtdvulait 7routIXut.

iv. 3 sq. t 2 Tim. iii. 13.

• See below, p. 415.

Such are especially 2 Tim. ii. 11 el yap avvaireddvofiev, icai avvtyaofiev K.t.x. and 1 Tim. iii. 16 S? i<pavepa>6tj eV aapiti K.t.x. Now we should perhaps expect to trace the origin of a devotional and ecclesiastical literature hack to the close of the Apostolic age, but not much earlier. At first the oral teaching, the communion of soul with soul, 'the spirit and not the letter,' was the paramount, as it always will be the most effectual, mode of instruction; but as the Apostles foresaw their speedy removal from the scene of their labours, it is not unnatural that they should have countenanced efforts of this kind, for the guidance and instruction of the Churches after their death. It is worth observing here, that outside the Pastoral Epistles there is no distinct trace of a liturgical or devotional form of words in St Paul's writings but one. Both the rule and the exception are instructive. The rule shows the practice of the earlier Apostolic age. The exception occurs in the Epistle to the Ephesians1, probably the latest of St Paul's Epistles antecedent to the Pastorals. It is therefore the first trace of the transition to the fixed form and prepares the way naturally for the phenomena of his latest group of letters.

1 Ephes. v. 14, JiA X^yec "Eyetpe expression 8i6 W-yei compare the later 6 KaBe6Sut>\\Kal dvdcrra (k Tur vetp&vW formula iriarot 6 Xttyot. xal iirupavati troi 6 Xptoros. With the

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