Part 1 | Part 2
E. THE IMPACT OF TIME:
These letters are written over a period of 10 to 15 years. Time changes all of us. Can you remember what you were doing ten or fifteen years ago? Think about how you have changed since that time. If I ever find those seminary papers I’ve been mentioning, maybe I’ll compare them to this article. I can only imagine the differences after all of the life experiences and changes I have been through since I graduated from seminary in 1995.
It would be interesting to compare something that Ehrman wrote while at Moody to his latest works. Even among his more recent works, it has been noted that there is a big difference between his popular works and his scholarly works. I am certain the differences would be even greater if we could obtain a few of his recent personal letters and compare them to papers or sermons he wrote at Moody.
With this in mind, consider the fact that most of Paul’s letters were probably written about a decade before the pastoral letters: The pastoral letters are generally thought to have been written sometime between 63 and 68 A.D. And most of Paul’s other letters are thought to have been written in the early 50s, one or two others as late as the mid 50s, and four in the early 60s (probably two to five years before the pastorals).
F. PHYSICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTORS:
Physical and psychological factors should also be taken into consideration. Stress, mood and one’s state of health can certainly affect one’s use of language. Remember: when the pastoral letters are being written, Paul is getting old, he has endured a long list of difficulties over the previous 15 to 20 years, he is enduring the hazardous conditions of a Roman prison (at least in 2 Timothy; cf. 1:8; 2:9), and he is now facing his death.
G. CO-AUTHORS OF THE “PAULINE” LETTERS:
An issue that I have never heard or seen mentioned in the many conversations that I have seen about this over the years is the simple fact that the introductions to the “Pauline” letters often clearly indicate that Paul is not the only author. And this cannot simply be attributed to the idea that those mentioned with Paul in the introductions are merely others who are with Paul or part of his team–as Paul routinely reserves the closing of his letter to mention those who are with him.
*Romans 1:1: Paul
*1 Corinthians 1:1: Paul & Sosthenes (16:19-20: others with Paul are mentioned)
*2 Corinthians 1:1: Paul & Timothy (13:13: others with Paul are mentioned)
*Galatians 1:1-2: Paul & all the brothers with him
*Ephesians 1:1: Paul
*Philippians 1:1: Paul & Timothy (4:21-22: others with Paul are mentioned)
*Colossians 1:1: Paul & Timothy (4:10-14: others with Paul are mentioned)
*1 Thessalonians 1:1: Paul, Silas & Timothy
*2 Thessalonians 1:1: Paul, Silas & Timothy
*1 Timothy 1:1: Paul
*2 Timothy 1:1: Paul
*Titus 1:1: Paul
*Philemon: Paul & Timothy
In summary, 8 of the 13 letters state explicitly that–though Paul is the primary author–others are involved. Only Romans, Ephesians and the pastorals do not indicate plural authorship. Or to put it another way, when the pastorals are being compared to the rest of Paul’s letters, we are not comparing apples to apples: The pastoral letters indicate that Paul is the sole author, but 8 of the 10 other letters explicitly state plural authorship.
Perhaps the most important finding that comes from this is that Timothy is explicitly stated as a co-author of at least 6 of the epistles. But he obviously would not have been a co-author of the two pastorals written to him.
The conclusion seems simple. The pastoral letters state that they are written by Paul and we have no sound reason to believe otherwise. The differences in language are hardly an argument for an author other than Paul. There are a large number of significant factors that quite easily account for the differences between these three short letters and the rest of the Pauline Corpus. (In fact, when all the evidence is weighed carefully, I think that it would be much more suspicious if all of Paul’s letters were very much alike.)
The reality is that forgeries were as scandalous during the time that the early church was forming as they are now. If they were forgeries, they would not have been accepted as Scripture. As it is, they were widely used and attested to by leaders of the early church.
Dr. Tim McGrew has it right when he says: “Against evidence of this sort [speaking of the testimonies of early church leaders], literary speculations are about as weighty as dandelion fluff. They have very little force. But they are very useful for seeding people’s minds with needless doubts.” (From the online interview with Brian Auten noted below).
Thanks to Erik Manning for help with early church references to the pastorals.
Thanks to Tim McGrew for getting me started on this and for help with editing.
*Carson, D. A.; Moo, Douglas J. (2009-05-12). An Introduction to the New Testament. Zondervan. Kindle Edition
-My first go-to reference for these kinds of questions is Carson and Moo’s Introduction to the New Testament. I’ve been using it for about 20 years now and I have never been disappointed. These guys are solid in theology and scholarship. They, of course, skillfully defend the Pauline authorship of the pastoral letters.
*Online Audio in which Brian Auten interviews Tim McGrew: They begin discussing Ehrman’s book Forged at about 12:15 and quickly move to discussion of the authenticity of the pastorals: http://www.apologetics315.com/2011/05/apologist-interview-tim-mcgrew.html
*Online table showing the use of the New Testament by early church fathers and heretics: http://www.ntcanon.org/table.shtml
*Ehrman, Bart D. (2011-03-22). Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
-The book which has had the most success at bringing this erroneous idea to the minds of the
*Harrison, P.N. The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles (London: Oxford University Press, 1921).
-Probably the most important work in the history of casting doubt on the authenticity of the pastoral letters. See especially pp.20ff, 70. This work is now in the public domain and can be downloaded for free here: http://archive.org/details/problemofpastora00harruoft
*Dialogue about Bart Ehrman’s book “Forged” between Ehrman and Darrel Bock on Unbelievable: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXSVRkKD3FM
OTHER REFERENCES RECOMMENDED BY CAA MEMBERS:
*An index to Ben Witherington’s series of reviews of Bart Ehrman’s book _Forged_: http://highmileagehermeneutics.blogspot.com/2011/04/ben-witherington-reviews-bart-ehrmans.html
*Mike Licona’s review of Bart Ehrman’s book _Forged_: http://www.4truth.net/fourtruthcb.aspx?id=8589998523
(You have to click the link, then it downloads as a pdf.)
*Tektonics online article: http://www.tektonics.org/ntdocdef/pastorals.html
*Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament : Its Background and Message, 2nd ed. (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 466.
*Gundry, Robert. A Survey of the New Testament, 4th Edition. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003)
Brad Cooper is a pastor and apologist with more than 30 years of experience teaching the Bible and apologetics. His passion is to see God’s people grow stronger as their faith is firmly grounded and they grow deeper in their understanding of God’s Word. His teaching focuses on the New Testament, the cumulative case for Christian faith, and various apologetics issues related to the New Testament–including the integrity of the New Testament canon.
Brad is available to speak at events in northern Indiana and southern Michigan.
He earned a B.A. in Bible and Pastoral Ministry from Taylor University, Fort Wayne and an M.Div. from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. He is a moderator for the Christian Apologetics Alliance Facebook group and blogs at “To Be Sure.” He has pastored several churches over the years but is currently taking a break from pastoral ministry. Brad, his wife Jodi, and his daughters Samantha and Becca are currently attending the Ligonier Church of Christ.