The Pastoral Epistles
“By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”- 2 Timothy 1:14
Our 2009 daily studies are surveying Paul’s life and thought through a look at both his first and final epistles. Having covered Galatians, Paul’s earliest New Testament letter, we come now to his last canonical epistles — 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, otherwise called the Pastoral Epistles due to their concern with church leaders and similar topics. Yet the issues addressed in the Pastoral Epistles are also important to the laity, as we will see in the months ahead.
Before we begin to look at 1 Timothy next week, we will spend time today looking at the attacks levied against the Pastoral Epistles. Even though all three letters declare that they come from Paul himself, many individuals deny that the apostle wrote these epistles based on how the Pastorals supposedly differ from the other Pauline letters in vocabulary, style, and church structure. The apparent difficulty of fitting the Pastorals into what we know of Paul’s career is another reason some people deny that they are from the apostle.
Ultimately, these “problems” carry little weight. True, many Greek words in the Pastoral Epistles are not found in Paul’s other letters, but Paul’s vocabulary was certainly not limited only to that of his ten other epistles. Like other gifted authors, Paul could certainly change his writing style and use different words when necessary. Moreover, the amanuensis (secretary) who helped Paul compose the Pastorals was likely not the same person who helped with his other epistles, which accounts for stylistic variations among the Pauline writings.
The church structure depicted in the Pastoral Epistles is sometimes seen as too developed for Paul’s day, thereby precluding him as their author. This is based not on hard evidence but on a belief the apostles would not have set up a lasting framework for church governance because they expected Jesus’ second advent in their lifetime. However, while the New Testament anticipates Christ’s final return, none of its authors wrote that it had to be in the first century.
We will cover the place of these letters in Paul’s career next week. Today, note simply that the Pastorals give us a window into the apostle’s activities just prior to his death, a glimpse found nowhere else in the New Testament.
Today’s passage summarizes a theme that runs throughout the Pastoral Epistles, namely, our need to guard the deposit entrusted to us. This deposit is the prophetic and apostolic word of salvation found in the Bible, which is entirely trustworthy in its reporting of events, persons, and doctrines. Scripture remains the most vilified book on the planet, but none of the attacks levied against it can stand. Let us affirm wholeheartedly all that it teaches.
Passages for Further Study