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On the Origin of the Pastorals' Authenticity Criticism: A ‘New’ Perspective*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 February 2016

Jermo Van Nes*
Evangelische Theologische Faculteit, Sint Jansbergsesteenweg 95, B-3001, Leuven, Belgium; Theologische Universiteit, Broederweg 15, 8261GS, Kampen, the Netherlands. Email:


It is generally agreed among contemporary scholars that the modern critique of the authorship claim of the New Testament letters addressed to Timothy and Titus originated in early nineteenth-century Germany with the studies of Schmidt and Schleiermacher on 1 Timothy. However, a late eighteenth-century study by the British clergyman Edward Evanson challenges this consensus as it proves Titus to have been suspect of pseudonymity before. This ‘new’ perspective found in Evanson's neglected source also nuances the common assumption that from its very beginnings the critical campaign against the letters' authenticity was mainly driven by linguistic considerations.

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This article was written in the capacity of research associate in the department of New Testament studies at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. Thanks are due to Prof. Dr. Martin Webber for correcting the English text and to Astrid Ooms for preparing its format.


1 P. H. Towner in his commentary The Letters to Timothy and Titus (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006) 88–9 suggested saying farewell to the term ‘pastoral epistles’ for 1–2 Timothy and Titus, but Winter, M. (‘Die ‘Pastoralbriefe’ – ihr Name im Licht der popular-philosophischen Seelenleitung’, KD 59.4 (2013) 232–50)Google Scholar has recently shown that the overall pastoral intention of the letters is very similar to the psychagogic method found in writings of contemporaneous popular philosophers, which allows for a pastoral designation.

2 See the recent discussions and various authorship hypotheses offered by, for instance, J. D. Miller, The Pastoral Letters as Composite Documents (SNTSMS 93; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); W. A. Richards, Difference and Distance in Post-Pauline Christianity: An Epistolary Analysis of the Pastorals (SBL 44; New York: Lang, 2002); R. Fuchs, Unerwartete Unterschiede: Müssen wir unsere Ansichten über die Pastoralbriefe revidieren? (BM 12; Wuppertal: Brockhaus, 2003); A. Merz, Die fiktive Selbstauslegung des Paulus: Intertextuelle Studien zur Intention und Rezeption der Pastoralbriefe (NTOA 52; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2004); R. Riesner, ‘Once More: Luke-Acts and the Pastoral Epistles’, History and Exegesis (ed. S.-W. Son; New York/London: T&T Clark, 2006) 239–58; J. W. Aageson, Paul, the Pastoral Epistles, and the Early Church (LPS; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008); K. P. Donfried, ed., 1 Timothy Reconsidered (COP 18; Leuven: Peeters, 2008) 19–62; Klerck, M. Klinker-De, ‘The Pastoral Epistles: Authentic Pauline Writings’, EJT 17 (2008) 101–8Google Scholar; T. Glaser, Paulus als Briefroman erzählt: Studien zum antiken Briefroman und seiner christlichen Rezeption in den Pastoralbriefen (NTOA 76; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2009); J. Herzer, ‘Fiktion oder Täuschung? Zur Diskussion über die Pseudepigraphie der Pastoralbriefe’, Pseudepigraphie und Verfasserfiktion in frühchristlichen Briefen (ed. J. Frey et al.; WUNT 246; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009), 489–536; A. J. Köstenberger and T. L. Wilder, eds., Entrusted with the Gospel: Paul's Theology in the Pastoral Epistles (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2010); Tsuji, M., ‘Persönliche Korrespondenz des Paulus: Zur Strategie der Pastoralbriefe als Pseudepigrapha’, NTS 56 (2010) 253–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar; C. L. Westfall, ‘A Moral Dilemma? The Epistolary Body of 2 Timothy’, Paul and the Ancient Letter Form (ed. S. E. Porter and S. A. Adams; PAST 6; Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2010) 213–52; J. Luttenberger, Prophetenmantel oder Bücherfutteral? Die persönlichen Notizen in den Pastoralbriefen im Licht antiker Epistolographie und literarischer Pseudepigraphie (ABG 40; Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2012); B. D. Ehrman, Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013) 192–222, 367–84.

3 Given the PE's absence in 𝔓46, some scholars (e.g. L. M. McDonald, The Biblical Canon: Its Origin, Transmission, and Authority (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007) 368) conjecture that they were unknown to heterodox teachers by the mid-second century CE. Others (e.g. L. T. Johnson, Letters to Paul's Delegates: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus (NTC; Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1996) 23–4), however, argue that the letters were rejected deliberatively because not all of their contents paralleled Gnostic teaching (cf. Tertullian, Marc. 5.21).

4 F. Bucchi, ed., Hieronymi Presbyteri Commentariorum in Epistolam Pauli Apostoli ad Titum (CCSL 77C; Turnhout: Brepols, 2003) 3.

5 J. E. C. Schmidt, Historisch-kritische Einleitung in's Neue Testament (Giessen: Tasche & Müller, 1804) 259–61.

6 F. D. E. Schleiermacher, Ueber den sogenannten ersten Brief des Paulos an den Timotheos: Ein kritisches Sendschreiben an J.C. Gass (Berlin: Realschulbuchhandlung, 1807).

7 J. G. Eichhorn, Einleitung in das Neue Testament (3 vols.; Leipzig: Weidmann, 1803–14) III.1.315–410. It is mistaken for e.g. Ehrman (Forgery, 192) to credit Herzer (Fiktion, 489–536) for pointing out Schmidt's pioneering work. It was recognised as such by e.g. Schleiermacher (Timotheos, 21–2) and J. F. Beckhaus (Specimen observationum critico-exegeticarum de vocabulis ἁπαξ λεγομένοις et rarioribus dicendi formulis in prima ad Timotheum epistola Paulina obviis, authentiae ejus nihil detrahentibus (Linz: Jülicher, 1810) 4–5) long before him.

8 E.g. W. Schenk, ‘Die Briefe an Timotheus I und II und an Titus (Pastoralbriefe) in der neueren Forschung (1945–1985)’, ANRW II.25.4.3407; J. Roloff, ‘Pastoralbriefe’, TRE xxvi.51; R. F. Collins, ‘Pastoralbriefe’, RGG 4 vi.989; Herzer, J., ‘Abschied vom Konsens? Die Pseudepigraphie der Pastoralbriefe als Herausforderung an die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft’, TLZ 129 (2004) 1267Google Scholar; I. H. Marshall, ‘The Pastoral Epistles’, The Blackwell Companion to Paul (ed. S. Westerholm; Malden, MA/Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011) 108.

9 E.g. Y. Redalié, Paul après Paul: le temps, le salut, la morale selon les épîtres à Timothée et à Tite (MdB 31; Genève: Labor et Fides, 1994) 14; M. Harding, Tradition and Rhetoric in the Pastoral Epistles (SBL 3; New York: Lang, 1998) 8; N. Casalini, Parole alla Chiesa: la tradizione Paolina nelle Lettere Pastorali (SBF; Milano: ETS, 2009) 39; J. Twomey, The Pastoral Epistles through the Centuries (BBC; Malden, MA/Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009) 226; M. M. Yarbrough, Paul's Utilization of Preformed Traditions in 1 Timothy: An Evaluation of the Apostle's Literary, Rhetorical, and Theological Tactics (LNTS 417; London/New York: T&T Clark, 2009) 1 n. 2; M. Engelmann, Unzertrennliche Drillinge? Motivsemantische Untersuchungen zum literarischen Verhältnis der Pastoralbriefe (BZNT 192; Boston/Berlin: de Gruyter, 2012) 10–11.

10 E.g. G. W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992) 21; C. Marcheselli-Casale, Le Lettere Pastorali: le due lettere a Timoteo e la lettera a Tito (SOC 15; Bologna: EDB, 1995) 22; W. D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles (WBC 46; Nashville, TN: Nelson, 2000) lxxxiii–lxxxiv; L. T. Johnson, The First and Second Letters to Timothy (AB 35A; New York: Doubleday, 2001) 42–4; L. Oberlinner, Der erste Timotheusbrief, der zweiter Timotheusbrief (HThKNT; Freiburg/Basel/Wien: Herder, 1994–5; repr. 2002) xxxiii; R. F. Collins, I & II Timothy and Titus: A Commentary (NTL; Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2002) 33; A. Weiser, Der zweite Brief an Timotheus (EKKNT xvi/i; Düsseldorf/Zürich/Neukirchen-Vluyn: Benziger/Neukirchener, 2003) 54; P. Iovino, Lettere a Timoteo. Lettera a Tito (ILBNT 15; Milano: Paoline, 2005) 256; Towner, Timothy and Titus, 10; B. Witherington III, Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, vol. i: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1–2 Timothy and 1–3 John (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2006) 51; M. Gourgues, Les deux lettres à Timothée, La lettre à Tite (CbNT 14; Paris: Cerf, 2009) 43.

11 E.g. Y. Redalié, ‘Les épîtres pastorales’, Introduction au Nouveau Testament: son histoire, son écriture, sa théologie (ed. D. Marguerat; Genève: Labor et Fides, 20084) 329; A. J. Köstenberger, L. S. Kellum and C. L. Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2009) 638; I. Broer, Einleitung in das Neue Testament (Würzburg: Echter, 20103) 524; U. Schnelle, Einleitung in das Neue Testament (UTB 1830; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 20117) 369; E. M. Boring, An Introduction to the New Testament: History, Literature, Theology (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2012) 372; D. A. Hagner, The New Testament: A Historical and Theological Introduction (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012) 614.

12 It was noticed by e.g. K. A. Credner, Einleitung in das Neue Testament, vol. I.1 (Halle: Waisenhaus, 1836) 457–8, but today the book is only referred to in footnotes by not even a handful of scholars, including Guthrie, D., ‘The Development of the Idea of Canonical Pseudepigrapha in New Testament Criticism’, VE 1 (1962) 44 n. 5Google Scholar; E. E. Ellis, ‘Traditions in the Pastoral Epistles’, Early Jewish and Christian Exegesis: Studies in Memory of William Hugh Brownlee (ed. C. A. Evans and W. F. Stinespring; Atlanta: Scholars, 1987) 248 n. 61; id., The Making of the New Testament Documents (Boston/Leiden: Brill, 2002) 418 n. 62; J. van Nes, ‘The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles: An Important Hypothesis Reconsidered’, Paul and Pseudepigraphy (ed. S. E. Porter and G. P. Fewster; PAST 8; Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2013) 153 n. 1.

13 Evanson's theory was the object of concern for no less an occasion than the Bampton lecture presented by Thomas Falconer at the University of Oxford in 1810, which was later published as Certain Principles in Evanson's ‘Dissonance of the Four Generally Received Evangelists’ Examined (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1811).

14 Not Mark, as claimed by J. McClintock and J. Strong, eds., Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (12 vols.; 1867–94; repr. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981) iii.372.

15 For more details about his controversial life and work, see ‘Evanson, Edward’, Encyclopædia Britannica (29 vols.; New York: EBC, 1910–1111) x.3.

16 R. F. Collins, Letters That Paul Did Not Write: The Epistle to the Hebrews and the Pauline Pseudepigrapha (GNS 28; Wilmington, DE: Glazier, 1988; repr. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2005) 89.

17 E. Evanson, The Dissonance of the Four Generally Received Evangelists and the Evidence of Their Respective Authenticity Examined (Ipswich: Jermyn, 1792) 267–9.

18 Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, lxxxiii.

19 J. D. James, The Genuineness and Authorship of the Pastoral Epistles (London/New York/Bombay: Longmans & Green, 1906) 2.

20 Cf. e.g. M. Prior, Paul the Letter-Writer and the Second Letter to Timothy (JSNTSup 23; Sheffield: JSOT, 1989); Murphy-O'Connor, J., ‘2 Timothy Contrasted with 1 Timothy and Titus’, RB 98 (1991) 403–18Google Scholar; Johnson, Delegates; Richards, Difference; Fuchs, Unerwartete Unterschiede; Herzer, ‘Abschied vom Konsens?’, 1267–82; Towner, Timothy and Titus; Aageson, Paul; Marshall, ‘Pastoral Epistles’, 110–18; Engelmann, Unzertrennliche Drillinge?

21 E. E. Ellis, ‘The Authorship of the Pastorals: A Résumé and Assessment of Current Trends’, Paul and his Recent Interpreters (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961; repr. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2004) 49.

22 Schmidt (Einleitung, 259–61) expressed his doubts about the genuineness of 1 Timothy, mainly because he could not harmonise some of its biographical details with the information given in Acts and Paul's Corinthian correspondence. With regards to Schleiermacher, the bulk of his analysis was literary rather than linguistic (contra Johnson, Timothy, 43). He certainly discussed the peculiar language of 1 Timothy at length (Schleiermacher, Timotheos, 29–104), but the lion's share of his letter-essay concerns historical and literary matters, especially the incoherence and theological inferiority of 1 Timothy in comparison to 2 Timothy and Titus (pp. 104–229).

23 Cf. e.g. Eichhorn, Einleitung, iii.1.315–410; F. C. Baur, Die sogenannten Pastoralbriefe des Apostels Paulus aufs neue kritisch untersucht (Stuttgart: Cotta, 1835); E. T. Mayerhoff, Der Brief an die Colosser, mit vornehmlicher Berücksichtigung der drei Pastoralbriefe kritisch geprüft (Berlin: Schultze, 1838) 5–6, 11–27, 32–9, 122–36; C. G. Neudecker, Lehrbuch der historisch-kritischen Einleitung in das Neue Testament (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1840) 542–89; W. M. L. de Wette, Lehrbuch der historisch-kritischen Einleitung in die Bibel Alten und Neuen Testaments, vol. ii: Die Einleitung in das Neue Testament enthaltend (Berlin: Reimer, 18485) 307–11; B. Bauer, Kritik der paulinischen Briefe (3 vols.; Berlin: Hempel, 1850–52) iii.77–88; A. Hilgenfeld, Historisch-kritische Einleitung in das Neue Testament (Leipzig: Fues, 1875) 744–65; J. E. Huther, Kritisch exegetisches Handbuch über die Briefe an Timotheus und Titus (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 18764) 53–73; H. J. Holtzmann, Die Pastoralbriefe, kritisch und exegetisch behandelt (Leipzig: Engelmann, 1880) 15–282. The latter is generally said (by e.g. M. Harding, What Are They Saying about the Pastoral Epistles? (New York: Paulist, 2001) 11) to have secured the pseudonymity paradigm for the Pastorals.

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