In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Pastorals

  • Introduction
  • History of Interpretation
  • Pseudepigraphy
  • Hypothesis of Lukan Authorship
  • The Disputed Authenticity of Second Timothy
  • Composition and Literary Genre
  • Paul in the Pastorals
  • Paul’s Opponents
  • The Historical Situation

Biblical Studies Pastorals
Raymond F. Collins
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 May 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 13 September 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0089


The modern study of the Pastoral Epistles (1–2 Timothy, Titus) began in the first decade of the 19th century when German scholars first questioned Paul’s authorship of 1 Timothy, and Friedrich Schleiermacher’s “critical open letter” to J. C. Gass, written in 1807 on 1 Timothy, proposed that its author based his work on 2 Timothy and Titus. With Johann Gottfried Eichhorn’s Introduction to the New Testament, published in 1810 to 1827, critical German scholarship began to question the authenticity of the three epistles. Ferdinand Christian Baur’s Die sogenannten Pastoralbriefe des Apostels Paulus, of 1835, was the first commentary that used the hypothesis as the basis for a thorough study of the texts. Although Edward Evanson questioned the authenticity of Titus in 1805, the notion that the Pastorals were not written by Paul was largely confined to German scholarship. The debate about the authenticity of the Pastorals dominated scholarship on these letters. Epistles became a matter of scholarly consensus. Some conservative authors continued to maintain the Pauline authorship of the texts, while other scholars expressed hesitancy about the consensus as it applied to 2 Timothy. In recent years several scholars have called for an interpretation of the Pastorals in terms of their individuality, rather than as a unit.

History of Interpretation

As the history of the interpretation of the Pastorals indicates, the issue of the authorship of the Pastorals has dominated scholarly investigation of these texts during the 19th and 20th centuries (Patsch 1999) and the concomitant issues of interpretation that the views on authorship entail. The oldest reference to the Pastorals appears in the writing of Polycarp of Smyrna (Berding 1999). Twomey 2009 provides a selection of interpretations over the course of the centuries. Schenk 1988, Harding 2001, and Donfried 2008 survey important issues that have arisen in recent study of the Pastorals. Richards 2002 and Gourges 2009 plead for the study of each of the Pastorals in terms of their individuality, rather than as a unit.

  • Berding, Kenneth. “Polycarp of Smyrna’s View of the Authorship of 1 and 2 Timothy.” Vigiliae Christianae 53 (1999): 349–360.

    DOI: 10.1163/157007299X00235

    Polycarp is the earliest witness to the belief that the apostle Paul is the author of these epistles.

  • Donfried, Karl Paul. “Rethinking Scholarly Approaches to 1 Timothy.” In 1 Timothy Reconsidered. Edited by Karl Paul Donfried, 153–182. Louvain, Belgium: Peeters, 2008.

    Surveys approaches to the relationship between 1 Timothy and the authentic Paul, as well as some ethical issues.

  • Gourgues, Michel. “Étude critique: La recherche sur les pastorales à un tournant?” Science et Esprit 61 (2009): 73–86.

    A critical overview of recent commentaries: Towner 2006, Fiore 2007 (cited under Recent Commentaries), and Aageson 2008 (cited under Paul in the Pastorals).

  • Harding, Mark. What Are They Saying about the Pastoral Epistles? New York: Paulist Press, 2001.

    This is a concise historical study of the authorship of the Pastorals, their social and literary settings, and their relationship with Pauline theology and classic rhetoric.

  • Patsch, Hermann. “The Fear of Deutero-Paulinism: The Reception of Friedrich Schleiermacher’s ‘Critical Open Letter’ Concerning 1 Timothy in the First Quinquenium.” Journal of Higher Criticism 6 (1999): 3–31.

    Nineteenth-century scholars found it difficult to evaluate 1 Timothy other than using a simple perspective of “authentic” versus “inauthentic.”

  • Richards, William A. Difference and Distance in Post-Pauline Christianity: An Epistolary Analysis of the Pastorals. Studies in Biblical Literature 44. New York: Peter Lang, 2002.

    The three Pastoral Epistles are real letters, but a detailed analysis of grammatical features shows that they were not written by the same person.

  • Schenk, Wolfgang. “Die Briefe an Timotheus I und II und an Titus (Pastoralbriefe) in der neueren Forschung (1945–1985).” In Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt: Geschichte und Kultur Roms im Spiegel der neueren Forschung. Vol. 25, Part 6. Edited by Hildegard Temporini and Wolfgang Haase, 3404–3438. Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 1988.

    The standard review of research on the Pastorals from 1945 to 1985.

  • Twomey, Jay. The Pastoral Epistles through the Centuries. Blackwell Bible Commentaries. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

    A compendium of interpretations of the text from ancient times to the present.

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