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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Character and Situation of the Pastorals.

1.

The concerns expressed in the Pastoral Epistles focus on sound doctrine and good behaviour. The two are closely linked in the author's mind and are contrasted with the ideas and behaviour of his opponents. A group within the author's church is trying to convert members of the community to its own way of thinking and living (e.g. 1 Tim 1:3–7, 18–20; 4:1–10; 6:3–4; 2 Tim 2:24–6; 3:13–17; 4:3–5; Titus 1:10–2:2 ). This group of people, heterodox from our author's point of view, was having such success in persuading others of its ideas, that the Pastoral Epistles were written to contradict their theories and denounce their behaviour. They are characterized as disputatious and given to theological speculation and argument—teaching which leads to disharmony in the community (e.g. 1 Tim 6:3–10 ). The methods the author employs to contradict false teaching and to encourage attachment to his point of view are a combination of exhortations to virtue and condemnations of the teachings of his opponents with warnings of the dire results of following them. Because we have no independent record, we cannot be certain who the opponents were or exactly what they were teaching; we have to reconstruct what we can from the epistles themselves.

2.

The author counters his opponents with his appeal to tradition. Paul, well known and revered as the apostle to the Gentiles, hands on the tradition to two junior companions, Timothy and Titus, who, in turn, are instructed to transmit it to the communities in their care. Within these communities, officers of blameless character will be charged with preserving and handing on this sound doctrine and ethical instructions to the rest. In this way there could be no doubt of the authenticity of the teaching the author presents; it has been transmitted by a direct and faultless route. The character of the officers of the community is a major theme in 1 Timothy and Titus. They were key people in maintaining true doctrine and in keeping order and discipline within the community.

3.

Alternating with instructions about church organization and ethical teaching are brief kerygmatic statements about God's plan of salvation (1 Tim 2:5–6; 3:16; 6.13–16; 2 Tim 1:9–10; 2:11–13; Titus 3:4–7 ). These doctrinal sections present familiar ideas about salvation history, none of them inconsistent with Pauline and other New Testament teaching. Indeed Pauline language is sometimes employed; but the ideas are not developed theologically. Their form is often rhythmical; they may have liturgical origins.

4.

The organization of the church and the relationship of its members to one another is based on the Graeco-Roman household. Household codes are found elsewhere in the NT epistles (Col 3:18–4:1; Eph 5:22–6:9; 1 Pet 2:18–3:7 ) but their use in the Pastorals is developing so that the church can be described as the household of God (1 Tim 3:15 ). The development is not complete—the terminology is used sometimes in its original sense and sometimes with the sense of church office (e.g. in 1 Tim 5:1, 17 , the Greek word presbuteros is used both for ‘older man’ and for ‘elder’) but evolution can be seen to be taking place.

5.

In the passages of ethical teaching the Pastoral Epistles share some of the ideas about how a virtuous life should be lived with contemporary pagan philosophers as well as with other Christian and Jewish writers. Comparisons with the works of Plutarch, who lived in the second half of the first century, and Epictetus, a Stoic philosopher of the first half of the second century, illuminate our understanding of the Pastorals' teaching about moderation or restraint (sōphrosunē) and piety or godliness (eusebeia). These terms describe the kind of civic and private virtues that were common subjects for discussion among Greek and Roman moralists at the time. In the Pastorals the meaning of eusebeia is both doctrinal and ethical; it is a word used to describe the kind of lifestyle the author advocates that arises out of a belief in the doctrinal claims he makes; good behaviour is inextricably linked with belief in sound doctrine. Pagan writers also help to put in perspective social issues such as the role of women. The place of women in society was as much an issue for pagan writers as it was for Christians (see Beard, North, and Price 1998: i. 297–9).

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