Moral Virtues Associated with Eldership -- By: David A. Mappes

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 160:638 (Apr 2003)
Article: Moral Virtues Associated with Eldership
Author: David A. Mappes


Moral Virtues Associated with Eldership

David A. Mappesa

In the last eighty years or so scholars have discussed the source and function of the lists of virtues and vices in the New Testament and especially the lists in the Pastoral Epistles. Some writers view these lists as a unique form of subgenre, whereas others see them as Hellenized lists of social norms that have little or no literary importance in the author’s book. Much of this discussion results from the writings of Martin Dibelius, Hans Conzelman, Adolf von Harnack, Adolf Deissmann, and other form critics who sought to discover the Sitz im Leben (“life setting”) of biblical texts.1

In particular the writings of Dibelius and Conzelman have influenced the discussion of the source and function of the virtue and vice lists associated with eldership and domestic roles in the New Testament.2 The principal concern of the present study is to examine the source and function of the list of qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3:1–7, while interacting with the various views espoused by some proponents of the sociological-historical-exegetical approach to this passage. A central issue focuses on the source from which the apostle Paul may have obtained this list.

Mussies discusses extensively the many compilations of virtues and vices in the Hellenistic period.3 While he points out the absence of extended formalized catalogs of virtues and vices in the Old Testament, he does overstate his position.4 He argues for a close relationship and correspondence between the Greco-Roman virtue and vice lists and those in the New Testament.5

In most discussions of these lists scholars use several words and phrases, including Haustafel (“household rules”), paraenesis (“exhortation”), and christliche Bürgerlichkeit (“a Christian good-citizenship” or “bourgeois Christianity.”6 Haustafel generally refers to a self-contained passage that describes various household or social duties.7 These are generally grouped into Hellenistic, Jewish, and Christian codes.8 Paraenesis is used of exhortations for ethi...

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