A Study Of 2 Timothy 4:1-8 -- By: Craig A. Smith

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 57:1 (NA 2006)
Article: A Study Of 2 Timothy 4:1-8
Author: Craig A. Smith


A Study Of 2 Timothy 4:1-8

The Contribution Of Epistolary Analysis And Rhetorical Criticism1

Craig A. Smith

The traditional reading of 2 Timothy 4:1-8 by scholars, regardless of their view of authorship, has been that Paul is writing his farewell speech or last will and testament to Timothy because his death is imminent. Their reading of 2 Timothy 4:1-8 in turn becomes the key text in understanding the situation of the letter. These scholars believe that Paul is passing the baton on to Timothy. Some understand the events and situation recorded to be historical but others suggest they are a creation of the author. The primary aim of this study is to show that 2 Timothy 4:1-8 is not a farewell speech or last will and testament but is a particular literary form and when interpreted as such it leads to a very different understanding of the situation behind the text and the letter. The premise is that if this text is a farewell speech or last will and testament as these scholars suppose, then it must have the same formal features characteristic of these respective types of literature.

Chapter one begins by defining some terms before establishing a method for isolating literary forms. A literary form is a conventional form (i.e. a delimited text with a repeatable identifiable structure not unique to a particular author) which is found embedded within a larger work with its own literary genre. Epistolary Form Criticism, which is an extension of form criticism, is thus ‘the examination of the form of letters and of embedded literary forms primarily in terms of structure but also content and function’. It is my view that structure is the primary objective criterion for identifying literary forms, with content and function taking a subordinate role in this process, serving to confirm the results by analysing the structure. Reviewing past form

critics revealed that this is a needed corrective to their emphasis on content and function.

The method for isolating a literary form requires finding written material which has a clear identifiable structure. This pattern must be found repeated elsewhere in contemporary literature. The literary unit must be large enough in size (i.e. not specific words or phrases), preferably a period consisting of large and small unit cola with stereotypical features. Though writers may modify the literary form, the shape of the literary form must not be distorted to the point that it is not recognisable as this type of form. After isolating the litera...

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