Did Paul Write 1 Timothy? (Part 1)

Probably_Valentin_de_Boulogne_-_Saint_Paul_Writing_His_Epistles_-_Google_Art_ProjectMy church family is currently going through the book of 1 Timothy on Sunday mornings. My pastor is preaching through this book to the congregation, and I am preaching through this book to the children. I have greatly enjoyed this method so far as it gives me the opportunity to better learn from my pastor as he prepares his sermons and when our sermons are in sync it creates a better post-sermon atmosphere for conversation in the home.
As we go through this series, I would like to share some things I am learning about 1 Timothy, preaching, kids, prep, or anything else I feel may be of help to some of you. Today and tomorrow, I want to take a look at some preliminary issues regarding 1 Timothy.

The Dispute of Paul

This may come as a surprise to some of my Christian friends, but there is great dispute over whether or not Paul actually wrote some of the letters in the New Testament bearing his name. While there are certain letters that no one disagrees was written by Paul, there are others in which Pauline authorship is doubted. There are three letters from Paul in particular that probably are in highest dispute: 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus.

These three letters are better known as the Pastoral Letters because they are written to young pastors and deal with church polity and conduct, as well as Christian living. While Paul’s name is attached to each of these letters, and though from the casual reader’s eye there is no reason to doubt that Paul wrote them, modern scholars have serious concerns that Paul did not pen the Pastoral Letters at all. Although the church held that Paul wrote the Pastorals from the early church through the 1800’s, the modern/liberal theological movement of the 1900’s, which is alive and well today, began to question authorship of nearly all books in the Bible. Critical scholars nearly are in consensus in their denial of Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Letters.

Over the next two days, we will look at four reasons given by critical scholars as to why they believe Paul did not write the Pastoral Letters. This is highly important to discuss, because the difference between Paul writing this letter in the 60s AD or someone else writing it in the second century AD is of tremendous. And as you will see, the integrity of both the authors and text itself is at stake in the evaluation of authorship.

Two Things to Keep in Mind

Here are a couple things to keep in mind while reviewing the following claims of critical scholars:

(1) Scholars and truly anyone evaluating evidence cannot help but be influenced and even biased by cultural situations and academic expectations. So, if there is a preconceived notion that Paul did not write certain letters bearing his name, it is much easier to interpret data in that light, and vice-versa.

(2) Many assumptions must be made when evidence is slight or lacking completely. These assumptions often fall to biases or preconceived notions that can cause the evidence that is present to be skewed.

Let’s look at two of the four reasons why scholars doubt Pauline authorship of the pastoral letters and quickly evaluate them. We will look at the other two reasons tomorrow.

Reason #1: Using pseudonyms to write letters was common practice in the Hellenistic culture of the first century.

The argument goes something like this: In the Greco-Roman first century culture it was commonplace for people to use pseudonyms when writing letters. This was especially true when they were writing in the line of someone’s tradition. And since much of the pastoral letters contains elements of Pauline theology, it is likely that someone, either a contemporary of Paul or more likely a later “disciple” of Paul, would have written this letter and ascribed it to Paul.

Problems with this common assertion are mostly ethical. While it is possible that someone other than Paul used his name as a pseudonym, since he was highly influential, the content of the letter would be filled with bold face lies, fictionalized events, and fabrications.

Reason #2: The pastoral letters do not fit well within Paul’s overall ministry.

The question scholars raise here is this: Can the pastoral letters be fitted within the framework of Paul’s ministry as recorded in Acts and in his other letters? Modern scholars doubt that they do. An example they give is that there is no evidence of a man named Onesiphorus ever visiting Paul when he was imprisoned, such as is recorded in 2 Timothy 1:16. To me, this is unsatisfactory and assumes non-Pauline authorship from the start. Because for those who believe Paul wrote the pastoral letters, 2 Tim 1:16 is the occurrence of Paul describing this visit. Just because Luke did not include it in his historical volume (Acts) or Paul did not mention it elsewhere does not mean that it did not happen to Paul.

What’s worse with many of these observations and assumptions is that it paints an incredibly unethical picture of the author. So, Paul is just lying about Onesiphorus, someone writing for Paul is lying, or a later author simply fictionalized the event.

This reason also seems to fall on its face when passages like 1 Tim 1:12-14 are considered. The author describes himself as one who was “formerly a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.” This fits perfectly within the framework of Paul’s ministry. Should we take this passage as referring to someone other than Paul who had a similar experience? We would be taking a great leap to makes such an assertion. It is much more likely that the one who claims authorship is the Paul of Acts 9 who was converted from his life of blasphemy and persecution.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.


Review: Entrusted with the Gospel

51nOOLeXRSLEntrusted with the Gospel: Paul’s Theology in the Pastoral Epistles was published by B&H in 2010. This book was written with many contributors. Andreas Kostenberger and Terry Wilder served as editors for this work. Dr. Kostenberger is professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Wilder is currently professor of New Testament at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
This book contains a collection of essays from great scholars covering different attributes of the Pauline Pastoral Epistles. The aim of this work is to engage readers and inform them on the current scholarship in the epistles. It is a scholarly work, but it is a very engaging work! This book will help lay men and women in the church grasp the importance of the epistles better. These scholars hold that Paul the apostle wrote the epistles as well provided by internal evidence (pg. 8). The scholars show the sovereign Christ in the epistles, and as a result, readers should proclaim the sovereign Messiah! They also show the importance of doctrine and how it relates to the life of the Church. We need sound doctrine in our churches, and need to guard it closely.

If you have neglected the epistles in the past, this work is for you. If you’re a pastor and struggling preaching from the epistles, this book will help you. If you’re a scholar, reading this book will not just want you to pursue the King more, but also care for the church more as well.

Friends, you only get one life and it will soon pass. Only what is done for Christ will last.

1557562_10153227664651515_1796309980_nEvan Knies is an undergraduate student at Boyce College where he studies Biblical and Theological Studies. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife, Lauren. You can follow him on Twitter @Evan_Knies.

Is the New Testament God-Breathed?


All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. –2 Timothy 3:16-17

This is a crucial question for the validity of the Christian faith and for witnessing to orthodox Jews. In order to answer this question, we must take a variety of things into consideration. Firstly, we must conclude from the context of this passage and the context of the New Testament (NT), that when Paul refers to “Scripture” (γραφη), he is always referring to the Old Testament (OT). Paul was specifically referring to the OT as Scripture when writing to Timothy. It was the OT that Timothy’s mother and grandmother had taught him from childhood (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15). The Greek word for “Scripture” is used 51 times in the NT and every single occurrence refers to the OT. Nothing in this passage indicates that Paul is referring to any other writings that were circulating around the early church at that time.

Now that we are clear that Paul is referring to the OT in this passage, it is crucial that we understand what he meant by the word “all.” The Greek word for “all” can be just as easily and correctly translated as “every” in this passage. So, Paul is saying, “Timothy, every single portion of Scripture is from God and it is for your good!” It is not just a portion of the OT that Paul commends to Timothy. It isn’t just those epic stories or the monumental figures and events that serve as types of the Christ who was to come that Paul commends to young Timothy. No, Paul says that it is all Scripture, the entire OT, that is breathed out by God and profitable.

This is so crucial for us today. We can be so guilty of minimizing the importance of the OT. Because of cultural differences between the original authors and us, we often simply ignore the reading and study of many OT texts. The OT is not just a collection of cool stories to entertain our children in Sunday school or provoke us to speculate how tall Goliath really was or just how big the fish was that Jonah was swallowed by. The OT is authoritative and God-breathed Scripture that we will see should hold a place of supremacy in our lives.

All of the OT is God-breathed and profitable. So, all of the genealogies. All of the gruesome battle descriptions. All of the names that are so difficult to pronounce. All of the Law. All of the imagery of the prophets. All of the poetry of the psalmists. All of the suffering of Job. All real. All inspired. All authoritative. Scripture does not glean its authority from our capacity to understand it and it is not waiting for our finite and sin-ridden approval. Scripture gleans its authority from the One whom spoke it. Paul is essentially saying to Timothy, “Timothy, every single OT text is supreme and sufficient for your salvation, sanctification, and ministry because it is breathed out by God. You need it in order to face false teachers and suffering!”

All Scripture: New Testament

What about the New Testament? It is important to understand what Paul wrote to Timothy about Scripture in its historical context. As we have seen, both the historical and literary context demands that we understand “all Scripture” as referring to the OT. The question then quickly becomes, if Paul meant only the OT writings when he spoke of “all Scripture,” (and I think he did) then how can this verse apply to the NT writings? Or better yet, does this verse even teach that the NT is God-breathed as well? In short, I believe that this verse, though directly meaning that the entirety of the OT is God-breathed and profitable, carries with it some important implications that allow for the inclusion of the NT within the scope of the phrase “all Scripture.”

Is the New Testament included in “all Scripture?”

We must understand that the NT writers used the Greek word for “Scripture” in a very unique way. When they use it, they are not just referring to everyday writings. They are talking about holy writings that come from God himself. In other words, “Scripture” is a special and holy category that exclusively includes written revelation from God. Everything included in the category “Scripture” is God-breathed. At the time that Paul writes this letter to Timothy, only the OT was strictly considered “Scripture.” Only the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings were included in the category they called “Scripture” (γραφη). So, when the NT writings were added into this special and holy category called “Scripture,” it can be said of them that they are God-breathed. He simply writes to Timothy that “Scripture” is God-breathed and necessary for his sanctification and satisfaction. Though in context he was speaking of the OT, the implications of this meaning can include the NT if the NT is Scripture.

Can the New Testament be Considered “Scripture?”

This leads us to another question. Can the NT be considered in this holy and special category (Scripture)? There are five good reasons that we can consider the NT as “Scripture.”

Reason 1: In two places in the NT, we see the NT writings themselves being called “scripture” (2 Peter 3:16; 1 Tim. 5:18).

Reason 2: Jesus viewed his own teaching as having the authority of God. In John 14:10 he says, “I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.”

Reason 3: Paul also considered Jesus’ teaching as having unique authority (1 Cor. 7:10; 11:23-26).

Reason 4: Jesus prepared his apostles to speak with divine authority (John 16:13).

Reason 5: The apostles claimed to be inspired by God (1 Cor. 2:13; 7:12, 40; 14:37; 2 Cor. 13:3).

It is clear, then, that when Paul wrote that “all Scripture” is God-breathed, he is referring to the Old Testament directly, and by implication, the New Testament. Therefore, it is worthy of your trust. Worthy of your devotion. Worthy of your obedience.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife Erica and their dog, Simba.