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Early Doubts about the Pastorals

In my discussion of the role of women in the early church, I discussed the fact that women are ordered to be silent in 1 Timothy, one of the Pastoral epistles, but that this view should not be attributed to Paul himself because, despite the fact that 1 Timothy *claims* to have been written by Paul, it almost certainly was not — that is, its author was lying about his identity. A lot (a *whole* lot) of modern-day scholars and lay readers object (strenuously) to the idea that the author was actually “lying,” but I go to great lengths in my two books on forgery (one written for a general audience, the other written for scholars) to show that in the ancient world, pseudepigraphic writing (that is, when an author claims to be a famous person, knowing perfectly well that he was someone else) was considered a form of literary deceit and was in fact denounced as a form of lying. Be that as it may, the reality is that the majority of NT scholars agree that Paul did not write the Pastorals, even though the author claims to be Paul.


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Church Fathers Who Quote the New Testament
How Women Came to Be Silenced



  1. SBrudney091941
    SBrudney091941  August 5, 2013

    All very well and good to question the authenticity of the Pastorals. For myself, it keeps coming back to the point that those believers who take them authoritative do so because they believe they are God-inspired and that that’s why they are contained in God’s Holy Word. Written by Paul or not, the claim that the Pastorals (as well as everything else in the Christian Bible) are part of God’s Word to humanity has never been and can not be substantiated.

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    RonaldTaska  August 6, 2013

    With regard to the strenuous objections described in your first paragraph of today’s blog, I have to admit that when I first read “Fraud” that I thought the term “fraud” was needlessly provocative. It seems much less that way to me now. Very few of the New Testament books appear to have been actually written by the ascribed authors and a lot of the canonical and extra-canonical books of the time appear to contain a lot of fictional stories or stories changed a lot by decades of oral transmission. So, the real “fraud” seems to be the fraud oft those apologists who contend that the Bible is inerrant and then “spin” the evidence and attack those who contend otherwise. It would be more helpful if these apologists would accept the overwhelming evidence that the Bible has many problems and then suggest what one is to do with these problems in order to remain a Christian.

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    RichardToothman  August 6, 2013

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Which letters of the NT can we say with confidence were written by Paul and which ones are forgeries?


    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 6, 2013

      The “undisputed” letters (i.e. ones that more or less everyone agrees he wrote) are Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon (seven).
      The forgeries are the others: Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus. I discuss reasons for thinking Paul did not actually write these in both of my books, the popular-level book Forged, and the scholarly book Forgery and Counterforgery.

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    nsnyder  August 6, 2013

    Do you have any thoughts on whether 2 Timothy was written by the same author as 1 Timothy/Titus?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 6, 2013

      I’m positive the same author wrote all three. I give some reasons in my popular book Forged, and extensive argumentation in my book Forgery and Counterforgery.

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    jhague  August 6, 2013

    Why do many scholars today think that it was normal and acceptable for people in the first few centuries to commit forgery?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 7, 2013

      Because that’s what we were all *taught*. But when you look for actually evidence of it, well, it ain’t there. As I show in my scholarly book especially.

  6. cheito
    cheito  August 10, 2013

    It would be very interesting to do a study of all the individuals who rejected the pastoral epistles.
    Who were these men? Most of them were gnostic, and practiced asceticism.

    Tatian was a catholic Christian but later became a Gnostic. Tatian was strictly against marriage.
    He was similar to Marcion in that he was against the Jews. Marcion did not accept the old testament and changed what he didn’t like in the new testament so it doesn’t surprise me if he didn’t mention the pastoral epistles .

    I can understand how individuals such as these would reject the teachings of the Pastoral Epistles as being written by Paul. If they admitted that The pastoral epistles were Pauline they would have to give up their gnostic beliefs.

    The external evidence is in favor of the pastoral epistles. They were known to Clement, Polycarp, Irenaeus, Tertullian and Theophilus of Antioch.

    It is recorded by Irenaeus, who in his youth heard Polycarp speak, and by Tertullian, that Polycarp had been a disciple of John the Apostle. Jerome wrote that Polycarp was a disciple of John and that John had ordained him bishop of Smyrna.

    Polycarp was born in 69 AD and he quotes from 1 timothy 6:7,10, “10-Forthe love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, , knowing …. that we brought nothing into the world, neither can we carry anything out” (compare 1 Timothy 6:7,10).

    Obviously Polycarp, who was an eyewitness of John the Apostle and perhaps met some of the other Apostles, believed in the Pastoral epistles and quoted from them.

    It’s difficult to just throw out such external evidence of the Pauline authorship of the pastoral epistles.

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