On Avoiding People Who Cause Divisions (Calvin)

When talking about people who sinfully cause division in the church, this is what Paul told Titus:

Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11 NIV).

This inspired instruction is still very applicable today! Paul wouldn’t have pastors and elders waste their precious time arguing with contentious people who only want to harm the peace and unity of the church. Proverbs 26:4 similarly tells us not to answer a fool according to his or her folly. Speaking of divisive people in the church, here’s an outstanding commentary by John Calvin on Titus 3:10-11. Pastors and elders take note!

…There will be no end of quarrels and disputes, if we wish to conquer obstinate men by argument; for they will never lack words, and they will derive fresh courage from being rude, so that they will never grow weary of fighting. Thus, after having given orders to Titus as to the form of doctrine which he should lay down, he now forbids him to waste much time in debating with heretics, because battle would lead to battle and dispute to dispute. Such is the cunning of Satan, that, by the rude talkativeness of such men, he entangles good and faithful pastors, so as to draw them away from diligence in teaching. We must therefore beware lest we become engaged in quarrelsome disputes; for we shall never have leisure to devote our labours to the Lord’s flock, and contentious men will never cease to annoy us.

When he commands him to avoid such persons, it is as if he said that he must not work hard to satisfy them, and even that there is nothing better than to cut off the handle for fighting which they are eager to find. This is a highly necessary admonition; for even they who would willingly take no part in strifes of words are sometimes drawn by shame into controversy, because they think that it would be shameful cowardice to quit the field. Besides, there is no temper, however mild, that is not liable to be provoked by the fierce taunts of enemies, because they look upon it as intolerable that those men should attack the truth, (as they are accustomed to do,) and that no one should reply. Nor are there lacking men who are either of a combative disposition, or excessively hot-tempered, who are eager for battle. On the contrary, Paul does not wish that the servant of Christ should be much and long employed in debating with heretics.

 John Calvin and William Pringle, Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 340–341.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Did Paul Write the Pastoral Epistles? (Schnabel)

Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?: A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture Edited by James K. Hoffmeier, Dennis R. Magary, cover image In the past 100 or 150 years, some scholars have argued that the pastoral epistles (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus) were probably not written by the apostle Paul. There are various theories out there; it’s hard to summarize all the scholarship and positions in just a few sentences. Basically, some argue that Paul couldn’t have written the pastoral letters because they differ from Paul’s other letters in these ways: vocabulary, Greek style, and method of argument/reasoning.

I appreciate how Eckhard Schnabel refutes these critical arguments in his essay called “Paul, Timothy, and Titus: The Assumption of a Pseudonymous Author.”  It’s important to remember that when critics doubt aspects of Scripture, there are almost always reasonable answers to the criticism.  It’s not like no Christian has ever thought about the critic’s criticism!   Here’s an edited summary of what Schnabel wrote in response to the argument that Paul could not have written the pastorals:

First, the Pastoral Epistles are too small for statistical analysis, which according to linguistic experts requires texts with at least 10,000 words. The Pastoral Epistles together only have 3,488 words, which makes statistical analysis a problematic proposition. Also, the fact that the vocabulary of the ten undisputed Pauline letters (2,301 words) is only a fraction of the total number of words in ancient Greek makes conclusions based on the nonoccurrence of words futile.

Second, the analysis of vocabulary is distorted if it is carried out on the three Pastoral Epistles as a group and on the undisputed Pauline Epistles as a group.  Since the authenticity of each letter should be determined individually and not part of an assumed corpus, the problem of statistical analysis is even more pronounced: 1 Timothy has 1,591 words, 2 Timothy 1,238 words, and Titus 659 words.

Third, the difference in distinctive subject matter accounts for vocabulary clusters with unusual words in all Pauline letters.  Vocabulary that is generally acknowledged as ‘characteristically Pauline’ occurs in a very erratic manner throughoutPaul’s letters.

Fourth, the notion that an author has a consistent style is a romantic notion of the modern Western world.  In the Greco-Roman world, the rhetorical ideal was prosopoiia (writing in character or personification).  It is the occasion that determines the style adopted.

Fifth, the dialogical style of Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Galatians owes at least some of its characteristics to the use of the diatribe mode rather than to Paul’s personal ‘style’ of writing.

Sixth, both Old Testament quotations and early Christian traditions affect the language of Paul’s letters.

Seventh, discussing the question in terms of Pauline or non-Pauline authorship often does not take into account indications that the process of composition seems to have been complex.  Paul dictated some of his letters…and mentions composers in some of his letters, which means others may have had some part in the formulation of the text.

Eighth, the difference in vocabulary and style between the accepted letters of Paul and the Pastoral Epistles can be explained with the difference between (conceptual) orality and (conceptual) writing.

Ninth, the earliest church fathers, who never doubted the Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles, were native speakers of Greek whose sense of ‘style’ was surely on par with that of modern scholars, who learn Greek in classroom settings as teenagers or later in life and who never attain the fluency of a native speaker.  The certainty of modern scholars concerning the Greek style of the New Testament documents is more impressive in its audacity than convincing in its cogency.

In sum, the degree of the difference between the style of the Pastoral Epistles and the Pauline letters generally accepted as authentic is a matter of judgment.  The language of the Pastoral Epistles, despite some distinctive characteristics, renders Pauline authorship neither impossible nor implausible.

Eckhard Schnabel, “Paul, Timothy, and Titus: The Assumption of a Pseudonymous Author,” in Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? p. 383ff.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54002