02 May 2008

Paul and the pastorals . . .

Posted by at 1:16 PM Read our previous post

Over at Debunking Christianity I was surprised to find someone actually defending Pauline authorship for the pastorals.
Curiously, the argument that the commenter (J) presents involves an imagined 'conspiracy of scholars', one intent on undermining the patristic writers' contributions in the telling of history. The following is cited:

“In judging of the early evidence it should be borne in mind that all three Epistles claim to be by St. Paul. So when an early writer shows his familiarity with them, quotes them as authoritative and as evidently well known to his readers, it may be taken as a proof not only of the existence and widespread knowledge of the Epistles, but that the writer took them for what they claim to be, genuine Epistles of St. Paul; and if the writer lived in the time of Apostles, of Apostolic men, of disciples of Apostles, and of Timothy and Titus (as did Ignatius, Polycarp, and Clement) we may be sure that he was correct in doing so. The evidence of these writers is, however, very unceremoniously brushed aside. The heretic Marcion, about A. D. 150, is held to be of much more weight than all of them put together.” (Catholic Encyclopedia - emphasis by J)

But is it really just "brushed aside"?
The phrasing of that last sentence will reveal its writer's polemical function (find their outline and things will tell you their name :) The fact is that many good, persuasive arguments have been presented (they go back even before the reformation) that cast doubt on either the authenticity or the dating or the provenance of the various patristic texts.

To say that they are just "brushed aside" is either uninformed or disingenuous.

The post-Pauline quality of the disputed epistles have inspired countless volumes, so I'm not going to tread all that ground here. I'll only mention a couple of points I think are crucial:
  • Marcion, the champion of all things Paul of his day, collected all of the letters that were attributed to the man from Tarsus into a corpus, and he left behind a list of all the books he "knew" were Paul's. This is the earliest list of its kind that we have, in fact. This list very simply does NOT include either Titus or Timothies 1 & 2. This is a fact. It is true that the muratorian canon included these epistles in its proto-canon (circa 185), but Marcion's list predates it by several decades. In short, the ultimate Paul freak of his day never heard of these epistles.
    Interesting, eh?
  • To anyone who would complain that the patristics are summarily ignored in our attempt to determine the authenticity of these disputed texts, I would put forward this challenge:
    Provide a citation from any writer earlier than Polycarp that cites any Pauline work besides the first letter to the Corinthians.
    That's my challenge. Go searching. You'll realize that no other epistles (much less the deutero-pauline ones under discussion) are ever quoted by them. When you do, you'll hopefully also realize that the patristic familiarity with Paul that you imagine was the case, is textually and historically unsupported (and mind you, I doubt that the Ignatian corpus is authentic to begin with for many reasons, but I'll grant it here for the sake of argument :) -- and though there are similar themes in some patristics, these don't qualify as quotations.
    In short, in discussing Titus and Timothy, we are justified in ignoring the patristics, not because of any rancor or conspiracy, but because they simply don't say anything at all about these books.
Like I said . . . whole libraries have been devoted to the subject, so I won't belabor it further, but it's fascinating to see someone in 2008 still defending outmoded medieval ideas that have long been obsolete.


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1 comment:

  1. Your knowledge on the origins and authenticity of the gospels and epistles is noteworthy -- I have not studied these at all, and have only read some of the non-canonical documents.

    Well put, and touché.

    As to (J), well, he not only argues that the pastorals are of Pauline authorship, but he is also arguing, on his blog, that the declines of serfdom and slavery were due to application of biblical morals.

    During our ensuing debate in the comment section, he has claimed that "a well-treated slave had it made".

    You won't get much, if anything, in the way of logic from a one such as that.




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