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Does it Matter if Paul Didn’t Write the Pastoral Epistles?

Yesterday, I read a short blog post asking the question of whether or not Paul actually wrote the Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus) and if it matters. A large number of New Testament scholars, including I.H. Marshall, reject Pauline authorship of these books (an argument that’s really only emerged in the last 200 years) for a variety of reasons, primarily due to differences in style, vocabulary, ecclesiology and theology (although these last two in particular are overstated).

But a big question emerges, whatever position you take: does it really matter if Paul didn’t write these letters?

Does it affect how we read them?

Are they still inspired Scripture if we could definitively prove they’re not Pauline?

These are really important questions, ones that we should consider with the seriousness they deserve (and that includes more consideration that I could hope to give in a simple blog post). However, I want to take a second to address the question of whether or not it matters if they’re not written by Paul—because the answer is an emphatic “yes!”

It’s of drastic import to their place within the canon and to their trustworthiness if Paul didn’t write them. If Paul didn’t write these letter, then they’re pseudonymous works, and while writing under a pseudonym was fairly common within the culture of the first century, it wasn’t something commonly done in personal correspondence. It was also rejected outright by the early church itself, as Scripture itself testifies in 2 Thess. 2:2 and 2 Thess. 3:17. Paul, in this undisputed letter, says that the church of God is only to accept and trust genuine letters. So if the pastoral epistles weren’t written by Paul, they would be inauthentic.

Looking outside of Scripture to church history, we see mention of Pauline authorship of these books in the Muratorian Canon; we also see that when an elder wrote a pseudonymous work under Paul’s name he was removed from his office (see Tertullian, On Baptism, 17).

So, if Paul didn’t write these letters, then they would be falsified documents that would have been unwelcome in the early church.

Why? Because they would contain a lie.

More than that, they would be based upon a lie. And if these documents were based upon a lie—that is their authorship—then they absolutely cannot be trusted whatsoever, meaning you have to reject them or reinterpret what it means for something to be inspired of God. This then becomes even more problematic, is that then the entire doctrine of inerrancy evaporates, because you’re left with a position that forces you to say that Scripture errs. And if Scripture errs, then it throws your entire view of the Bible into question and in the end you’re left with either a collection of documents that you choose to trust out of preference (a subjective view) or you’re left having to throw the whole thing away because it’s not trustworthy.

It’s not wrong to ask the question of whether or not Paul wrote these books, but we must be diligent in our study of God’s Word in order to find the answer. There is legitimately too much at stake and on this issue, we cannot afford to be agnostic.

10 thoughts on “Does it Matter if Paul Didn’t Write the Pastoral Epistles?”

  1. Pingback: Did Paul Write the Pastoral Epistles? Part IV « Cognitive Discopants

  2. The importance of the criticism of the Christology
    of St. Paul, is that it gives us the evidence necessary to view the omission __committed
    by Paul in his epistles to get maul the human nature of Christ. Discarding is
    proof that human transcendence can be achieved by practicing the virtues
    opposed to our defects to acquire the profile of perfect humanity, evident in
    Christ (zero defects). Doctrine supported by philosophers and mystics __y the
    urgent need to formulate a secular Christianity framing in the doctrine and
    theory of human transcendence, to confront successfully the challenges and
    threats of Islam, Judaism, the currents of the new era and modernity. http://es.scribd.com/doc/73578720/CRITICA-A-LA-CRISTOLOGIA-DE-SAN-PABLO

  3. La
    importancia de la crítica a la cristología de san Pablo, radica en que nos
    aporta los elementos de juicio necesarios para darnos cuenta __de la omisión
    capital que cometió Pablo en sus epístolas al mutilar la naturaleza humana de Cristo.
    Desechando la prueba viviente en Cristo hombre de que es posible alcanzar la
    trascendencia humana practicando las virtudes opuestas a nuestros defectos
    hasta adquirir el perfil de humanidad perfecta, patente en Cristo (cero
    defectos). Doctrina sustentada por filósofos y místicos __y de la urgente
    necesidad de formular un cristianismo laico enmarcado en la doctrina y la
    teoría de la trascendencia humana, a fin de afrontar con éxito los retos y
    amenazas del Islam, el judaísmo, las corrientes de la nueva Era y la
    modernidad. http://es.scribd.com/doc/73578720/CRITICA-A-LA-CRISTOLOGIA-DE-SAN-PABLO

  4. Pingback: Inerrancy, Inspiration and Authority: A Clearing of the Throat | Blogging Theologically | Jesus, Books, Culture, & Theology

  5. Pingback: Did Paul Write the Pastoral Epistles? « Cognitive Discopants

  6. Pingback: Around the Interweb | Blogging Theologically | Jesus, Books, Culture, & Theology

  7. Aaron, thank you for your response in this question. I appreciate an answer that is first and foremost Biblical, and think the way you use and apply scripture to this question as quite beneficial. 

  8. Pingback: Did Paul Write the Pastoral Epistles? – The Inerrancy Question « New Ways Forward

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