Pauline Theology Or Pauline Tradition In The Pastoral Epistles: The Question Of Method -- By: Philip H. Towner

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 46:2 (NA 1995)
Article: Pauline Theology Or Pauline Tradition In The Pastoral Epistles: The Question Of Method
Author: Philip H. Towner


Pauline Theology Or Pauline Tradition In The Pastoral Epistles: The Question Of Method

Philip H. Towner

[* I am grateful for the assistance given by Prof. Howard Marshall and Revd. George Wieland, who read and commented on early drafts of this paper.]

Summary

This article re-examines the common positioning of the Pastoral Epistles at the transition from second to third generation Christianity. While there is validity in recognising theological development in the Pastoral Epistles, this need not be explained in terms of late discontinuity with Pauline theology; unnecessary methodological assumptions lie behind such a view. It is more likely that the Pastoral Epistles develop Pauline theology at the juncture of first and second generation Christianity.

I. Introduction

How is the theology of the Pastoral Letters to be understood in relation to the theology of the earlier Paul? In an opening discussion of methodology in her recent work on the theology of the Pastoral Epistles (PE),1 Frances Young gives some sound advice: ‘Theology is always earthed in a context’ (p. 1), a context which must be reconstructed largely from the evidence contained in the texts themselves (p. 2). From the relevant texts we gain an access to the culture, language and some of the assumptions of the writer and the community for which the letters were written. Young finds that in order to assess the theology of the Pastorals,

comparison is particularly important, especially comparison with other early Christian literature, not least the letters of Paul, for the relationship between these three brief letters and the other evidence we have about early Christianity can alone help to determine their date, background and tradition…Yet we cannot entirely escape from the problem that reconstructing context and tradition depends on reading the very texts that we wish to elucidate through that reconstruction. This creates a problem of method. It is all too easy to set up an interpretative framework in advance which then determines how the texts are read (p. 3).

And that is just the problem we face in modern scholarship on the PE, but much of the reason for this goes back to the last century and first half of the present century.

The influence of especially F.C. Baur and Martin Dibelius can still be felt in modern studies of the Pastorals. Baur endowed New Testament scholarship with a rigid dialectical paradigm, whereby early, genuine Paul could be identified primarily by the Jew/Gentile debate, and later writings by its resolution (or absence) and by ‘early catholic’ tendencies. This underst...

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