Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Luke and the Pastoral Epistles

Was Luke the amanuensis for the Pastoral Epistles?  This is a fascinating question that has vexed a few interpreters.  S. G. Wilson, Luke and the Pastoral Epistles, 117f. notes the following parallels:

  1. Paul looks back on his past career with some confidence, believing that he has fulfilled the tasks designated for him (Acts 20:18-21, 25-6; 2 Tim 4:6f.). Moreover, the striking metaphor of an athlete finishing his race is used in both Acts 20:24… and 2 Tim 4:7… At the same time he is deeply concerned with the fate of the church in his absence. This is indicated by the whole of Acts 20:17-35 and each of the Pastoral Epistles.
  2. The problem Paul foresees and warns of is heresy, which will assault the Church from within and without (Acts 20:29-30; 1 Tim 1:3f. 3:1f; 6:20f; 2 Tim 2:14f. ; 3:1f.). The heresy appears to be an early form of Gnosticism and its centre is in Ephesus (Acts 20:17f.; 1 Tim 1:3). Paul urges constant alertness (Acts 20:31; 2 Tim 4:2f.).
  3. The responsibility for resisting the false teaching is placed on the church leaders or on Paul’s assistants. The church leaders are, in both cases, elder-bishops (Acts 20:17-28; 1 Tim 5:17; 2 Tim 2:2; Tit. 1:5f.), and it is Paul’s example and instruction which will be their chief weapon (Acts 20:27, 30-5; 1 Tim 3:14; 4:11f.; 6:20; 2 Tim 1:8f., 13-14; 3:10f.; Tit. 1:5).
  4. Paul speaks of his own suffering for the sake of the gospel (Acts 20:19-24; 2 Tim 1:11-12; 2:3; 3:11) and indicates that for him a martyr’s death lies ahead (Acts 20:25, 37; 2 Tim 4:6f.).
  5. The ministers whom Paul appoints and exhorts are warned of the dangers of the love of money (Acts 20:33-5; 1 Tim 6:9-10; Tit. 1:11).
  6. Paul commits his successors to the Lord and his grace (Acts 20:32; 2 Tim 4:22).

Ben Witherington has advocated the case, concerning the authorship of the pastorals, that “the voice is the voice of Paul, but the hand is the hand of Luke” suggesting that “these letters reflect a combination of Pauline and Lukan style.”[1] C. F. D. Moule put it this way: “Luke wrote all three Pastoral Epistles. But he wrote them during Paul’s lifetime, at Paul’s behest, and in part (but only in part), at Paul’s dictation.”[2]
This should give us cause for serious reflection. What is the apparent relationship here? Either the writer of the Pastoral Epistles is aware of the Acts, or vice versa? Or is there a connection in authorship? If the plausibility of the “we” passages in Acts is historically probable, chronologically, it seems possible that Luke and Paul were together long enough for Luke to have acted as an amanuensis for Paul. However, the proposal of Lukan influence in these letters has been seriously critiqued by scholars, such as I. H. Marshall who notes, “The hypothesis of a Lucan origin for the PE should be dropped from consideration.”[3] C. K. Barrett on the other hand comments on Wilson's parallels, "That the author of Acts wrote the Pastorals has been argued with great force.  The parallels are real and substantial, and there can be little doubt that Acts and the Pastorals were produced in similar circumstances and at times not very remote from each other."[4]  Although hesitant in offering a definitive conclusion, Barrett does state that "it remains true that there is a clear relation between Acts and the Pastorals."[5]  When you have two giants in Lukan and Pastoral Epistles scholarship offering such diverse conclusions, it should cause everyone to be careful in their final conclusions.  

Thus, my mental jury is still out on the possible and/or probable connections between these documents and authors. I think it's possible, but the question remains: Is it likely?

[1] Witherington, A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John, 60.
[2] C. F. D. Moule, “The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles: A Reappraisal,” Bulletin of John Rylands Library 47 (1965): 434. Quoted in Witherington, A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John, 58.
[3] Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles, 88.
[4] Barrett, A Shorter Commentary on Acts, 312.
[5] Barrett, Acts 15-28, 965.

Bibliography of scholars who discuss Lukan involvement in the Pastoral Epistles:

C.F.D. Moule, 'The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles,' in Essays in New Testament Interpretation (Cambridge: CUP, 1982), 113-32 (= BJRL 47 [1965]: 430-52).

Jerome Quinn, ‘The Last Volume of Luke: The Relation of Luke-Acts to the Pastoral Epistles,’ Perspectives on Luke-Acts, ed. C.H. Talbert (Danville: VA: Association of Baptist Professors of Religion, 1978), 62-75.

S.G. Wilson, Luke and the Pastorals (London: SPCK, 1979).

Jean-Daniel Kaestli, ‘Luke-Acts and the Pastoral Epistles: The Thesis of a Common Authorship,’ in Luke’s Literary Achievement: Collected Essays, ed. C. Tuckett (JSNTSup 116; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), 110-26.

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