Kinship, Christian Kinship, And The Letters To Timothy And Titus -- By: Charles J. Bumgardner

Journal: Southeastern Theological Review
Volume: STR 07:2 (Winter 2016)
Article: Kinship, Christian Kinship, And The Letters To Timothy And Titus
Author: Charles J. Bumgardner


Kinship, Christian Kinship, And The Letters To Timothy And Titus

Charles J. Bumgardner

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

After a brief discussion of Paul’s use of the family as a metaphor for the church, this essay addresses two points regarding Paul’s use of this metaphor of church as family as it is used in the Letters to Timothy and Titus (LTT). First, over against the recent argument of Raymond Collins, it is argued that the way that kinship terminology is used in the LTT does not invalidate the letters’ claim to have been written by Paul. Second, the essay demonstrates that Paul’s use of the metaphor in juxtaposition with his references to physical family in the LTT provide significant insight into the interplay between the two.

In his letters, Paul uses a number of metaphors for the church—body, bride, building—but a convincing case can be made that the most foundational metaphor he has in mind for the church is that of a family.1 The metaphor of church as family may also be considered from the perspective of a number of what we might call sub-metaphors, other metaphors that contribute to the larger one. Several of these sub-metaphors are conveniently given in 1 Timothy 5:1–2, where Timothy is instructed to treat older men as fathers, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters. The metaphor of church as family may also be considered in connection with the idea of the church as the household of God.

This metaphor of church as family is particularly noteworthy when it comes to the Letters to Timothy and Titus (LTT) for several reasons, and two of those will be addressed in the present essay.2 First, family metaphors have been engaged in discussions of the authorship of the letters and related

matters. In this regard, some see a shift from the church in other Pauline epistles as a brotherhood (with connotations of equality and a broad egalitarianism) to the church in the LTT as household (with connotations of structural hierarchy). Second, these letters (and 1 Timothy in particular) touch on relationships of physical family (i.e., not ones which are solely Christian) more than is usual in a NT epistle. This in turn provides opportunity to examine real kinship and Christian kinship in juxtaposition, an exercise which is helpful both theologically and practically. The purpose of this essay is to provide an overview of the metaphor of church as family as it is used in the LTT. More specifically, the greater part of this essa...

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