Who Wrote Paul's Epistles III

If you’d like to read my earlier posts on this subject, simply click on my name above. The most substantial arguments against Pauline authorship are concerned with issues of increased institutionalization in the Church and questions regarding supposed differences in theology from Paul’s "genuine" epistles. The issue of "institutionalization" is an intriguing one. The Pastoral Epistles – at least 1 Timothy and Titus – describe in greater detail than other of Paul’s letters the role of Bishops, Presbyters and Deacons. This would be the focus of the concern regarding "fr?hkatholizmus" (early Catholicism) that I mentioned in an earlier post. It is true that two of the three Pastoral Epistles spend more time describing the functions of those installed in Church offices, but it is not clear that this represents such a great leap in development as opposed to the normal, and I would argue necessary, evolution in the organizational structure of the Church. For one thing, Paul at the beginning of Philippians sends the letter to the Church at Philippi "with the bishops and deacons" (Phil. 1:1). Whatever the role of these offices at this early stage, they are in existence and will continue to grow and develop through the Christian centuries. Paul as Apostle exercises authority over his churches, as his letters make clear, but Paul was not able to be everywhere at once, even when not imprisoned! But local leadership did exist in Paul’s lifetime, even early in his career (see Paul’s earliest letter:1 Thess. 5:12-13), and Paul desired such leadership also. Harry O. Maier says that "the process of institutionalization was relatively open while Paul was still alive," but he also states that "we may assume that institutions would have quickly developed to provide the kind of community governance necessary for the continuation of the Church" (The Social Setting of the Ministry as Reflected in The Writings of Hermas, Clement and Ignatius, WLUP, 2002). And the reality seems to be that the sorts of Church offices described in the Pastoral Epistles are still in an early stage of development and flux. The three-fold order of Bishop, Presbyter and Deacon – already assumed by Ignatius of Antioch in the early 100’s – are not clearly defined in our letters. That is, Bishop and Presbyter are not necessarily separate offices, but seem to be terms that describe the same office (Titus 1:5-9; 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 5:17-19). Order in the Church was essential and the fact that Paul was a charismatic leader, either personally or sociologically, does not mean he would forego structure, however slowly or quickly it developed. If he is facing his own death, would he not want to support and mentor his protégés? In my next post I’ll comment on Paul’s writings on women, and conclude my reflections on Pauline authorship. John W. Martens

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