New Testament

Week 26: The Epistles of Paul, Part 7

1 Timothy, 2 Timothy & Titus (The “Pastoral Epistles”)

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27 April 2023

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Biblical scholars have questioned and debated the authorship of Paul’s epistles for hundreds of years. Professor Paul Foster, who teaches at the University of Edinburgh, surveyed attendees at the 2011 British New Testament Conference about Paul’s authorship of the New Testament epistles and received the responses in this graph. Foster wrote:

“The survey was not rigorously scientific; only those who felt inclined returned their forms. My estimate is that approximately 70 percent of the audience participated. For each of the thirteen Pauline letters and also for Hebrews respondents were asked whether they considered each letter to be written by Paul, or not, or whether they were undecided. There were approximately 109 respondents, although two more cast an opinion only in relation to 2 Thessalonians, and one or two decided not to record their opinions in relation to the Pastoral Epistles.” (p. 171)

Despite the limitations of his survey, the results probably represent what New Testament scholars today believe on the subject of Pauline authorship.

The Pastoral Epistles may have been written as a reaction to a form of Pauline Christianity that encouraged asceticism and female leadership. The Acts of Paul and Thecla, an early apocryphal Christian text, advanced these teachings. Read Alexander Walker’s 1886 translation of the Acts of Paul and Thecla.

A painting depicting Thecla (left), Paul (center), and Thecla’s mother (right), dating to the fifth or sixth century ᴀ.ᴅ., excavated in the city of Ephesus. (Click here to learn more.)