Pastoral letter

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New Testament
Acts of the Apostles
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Pastoral letters are called three epistles in the New Testament , namely the First and Second Timothy and the Letter of Titus . The letters are called pastoral letters because they were not written to whole congregations , like most of the other Pauline letters , but to individuals (namely to Timothy and Titus ) who had pastoral tasks in congregations ; to that extent they are not private letters like the letter to Philemon .

The letters claim to be written by Paul of Tarsus . This claim has been questioned since the early 19th century. Today many New Testament scholars assume that these are pseudepigraphs , that is, that they were not written by Paul himself, but years or decades after his death by one of his students under his name.

Many defenders of the authenticity of the pastoral letters try to explain differences to the other Pauline letters by means of a "secretary hypothesis" as introduced by Heinrich August Schott in 1830.

The question of authenticity in pastoral letters

Doubts about the Pauline authorship

The Pauline authorship of the pastoral letters is disputed in today's textbooks for the introduction to the New Testament . The following arguments are put forward against the authenticity of the pastoral letters:

  1. The language and style do not match the style of the unquestionably genuine church letters of Paul (Rom, 1. Cor, 2. Cor, Gal, 1. Thess, Phil, Phlm).
  2. The place, time and person details do not match the known chronology of the life and work of Paul.
  3. The congregations addressed in the pastoral letters are more developed and more differentiated in their offices than at the time of the apostle.
  4. The false teachers opposed in the letters fit more closely with the heretic groups of the 2nd century than with the opponents who appeared in apostolic times ; In addition, they are fought in the pastoral letters less argumentatively than polemically and thus differently than the apostle Paul did.
  5. The theological teaching in the letters and the ethics outlined from them are not in accordance with the reconstructed teaching and ethics of Paul. There are new theological terms like a good conscience and sound teaching . The attitude towards tradition is also striking. Paul processes the tradition, it is only taken over and practiced in the pastoral letters. An important point is the church order.
  6. The testimony of the pastoral letters in the text tradition is striking. The pastoral letters are missing in 46 and Marcion did not include them in his canon either .
  7. Paul is the only authority exaggerated in the pastoral letters. This is not the case in the undisputed genuine letters.

The author of the pastoral letters is seen as an anonymous Christian, standing in the tradition of Paul, to whom the real Pauline letters were available, probably as an early form of the Corpus Paulinum.

Arguments for the Pauline authorship

Some of the New Testament scholars deviate from the majority opinion of New Testament science presented here. They are of the opinion that the pastoral letters, individually examined and compared with the individual undisputed Pauline letters, are quite close to them, so that a common authorship seems plausible:

  1. Investigations into the linguistic style of 1st Tim, 2nd Tim and Tit come to the result that 2nd Tim is stylistically even closer to Rom, Phil or Gal than about 1st Cor. Apparently the author uses in 1. Tim and Tit the usual style of language for a superior towards his authorized delegates in order to instruct and instruct them. - Anthony Kenny comes to the conclusion with the help of stylometric investigations that in the Corpus Paulinum all letters except the Letter to Titus represent a related style that can be attributed to a skilled author. The letter of Titus deviates too much from the style of the author of the other letters of Paul. - According to Eta Linnemann's studies of language statistics , the pastoral letters do not differ fundamentally from the other Pauline letters; a difference arises from their brevity.
  2. It is possible to place the three letters to co-workers of the apostle within the known period of activity of the apostle Paul. Especially the longer intermediate trip including wintering from Ephesus via Macedonia and Achaja and back to Asia Minor / Ephesus offers a good dating opportunity for 1st Tim and Tit. 2. Tim fits into the first or into a second, unknown to us, but attested by some early church fathers , of the apostle in Rome. The letter of Titus can be inserted into Paul's trip to Rome: Paul left Titus in Crete (Tit 1,5) and gave him further instructions from Kephallenia (Melite) on how to build up the church.
  3. The pastoral letters do not deal more polemically with opponents than the “real” Paul. The difference can be justified with the different addressees, municipality or employees. Theology is not developed towards co-workers, but assumed as learned (2 Timothy 3: 14-17). In addition, recent comparisons show that the opponents attacked in the pastoral letters are very similar to the opponents who are fought in the Pauline letters, which are generally regarded as genuine.
  4. The organization of the parishes of the pastoral letters seems conceivable even in the past. The 2nd Tim has even less interest in developed church and leadership structures than about Phil 1,1; 3,17ff or 1 Cor. 16:15-18. And Tit and 1.Tim have no interest in expressly "subordinating" the church to the leaders - as in 1.Cor 16.15ff. All your information about the church and church leadership do not point to a later time, but are only different than in church letters, because they are written instructions for employees on how to organize church leadership. Such an organization presupposes, for example, Phil 1,1 as already completed. It comes before the church letters in which Paul writes to churches that have already been organized (cf. Acts 14:23). Nowhere in church letters does he write about the question: How should you organize church leadership? In the church letters he even more strictly demands "submission" of the church to the church leaders in the event of a conflict than in the pastoral letters (1. Cor. 16: 10-15ff).
  5. To what extent the theology and ethics of the pastoral letters are “Pauline”: The less radical ethics of the pastoral letters need not be seen as a “bourgeois” adaptation to society, but should have an inviting effect on non-Christians (in the sense of 1.Thess 4,1ff ; 1.Cor 9,19ff; 10,32f; Phil 2,1ff; 4,8-9) and work towards a positive change in society (through the faith, hope and love of Christians, as Jesus did in the Sermon on the Mount calls similarly). In Phil, for example, there is hardly any more immediate expectation recognizable than in the pastoral letters (cf. for example Phil 4,5 - we hardly find more in Phil - with 1 Timothy 5: 21ff; 6: 13-20).
  6. Paul's unique authority in the pastoral letters is based on his singular role as the only Gentile apostle called by Christ (Rom 1: 1-7; Gal 1–2). In Phil 3:17; 4,9 as well as in all of Phil there is no other or higher normative authority for the addressees than just Paul, even after Christ, even beyond his possible death (Phil 2,12-18). It is precisely this unique authority in God's plan of salvation that Paul represents as a Gentile apostle and church planter in 1 Cor 1: 1; 4.1-21; 11.1-2; 16.10-18. In Tit of all things, however, it is completely withdrawn according to Tit 1: 1–4. The apostle "disappears" completely in the we-style as well as in the "you arrange" style (different from 1 Tim. 1–3 and 5,14ff: I-arrange-style; 2 Tim is missing both). In contrast to 1 Cor 4: 16-17; 7.17; 11.1-2; 11.16; 11.23; 15.1ff he does not appear anywhere in Tit as a mediator of a sacred or salvation-necessary tradition to be preserved. There is no “the” image of “the” exaggerated Paul in “the” pastoral letters. We do not find sentences like Phil 3:17 and 4,9 in them: “Follow me, dear brothers, and look to those who live as you have set us as an example ... What you have learned and received, heard and seen me that does; so the God of peace will be with you. "


The three pastoral letters differ considerably from one another:

  • Use of the title “Lord”: 2. Tim uses the title “Lord” 16 times in the whole letter, but only once in 1: 2 in connection with Jesus; 1.Tim uses it three times in chap. 1 and 6 and related almost exclusively to Jesus and God; Tit replaces him with "Savior".
  • Tit avoids all prayer, while 1st Tim and 2nd Tim offer numerous calls to prayer, prayers and doxologies.
  • Both Timothy letters see Paul as a teacher, as an archetype or model for faith and ethics, and as a transmitter of tradition for a chain of traders. You also instruct Timothy in other ways by naming human models and negative examples. All this is completely omitted in Tit, in which - in contrast to 1st Tim and 2nd Tim - there is no reference to the earthly Jesus and his words.
  • The OT scriptures that are valued in the Timothy letters (1.Tim 1,8f, 2.Tim 3,15) play practically no role in Tit.

From this the question can be derived whether Tit, 2nd Tim and 1st Tim were written by three different authors at different times (Richards) or whether the same author wrote three different letters for different addressees (e.g. Fuchs, Towner). It could be that Paul himself is responsible for these differences. He deliberately spoke and wrote differently according to the addressee, as he testifies in 1 Cor 9: 20-22: “And I became to the Jews like a Jew, so that I could win the Jews; to those who are under the law as one under the law, though I myself am not under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as one without law - though I am not without law before God, but under the law of Christ - that I might win those who are without law. I became weak to the weak so that I could win the weak. I have become everything to everyone, so that I can save some in every way. ”He was concerned with respecting those who think differently (1 Cor 10: 31-33) and that he spoke and wrote in an understandable manner for his respective counterpart (cf. 1 Cor 14 , 1ff). So it could have been Paul himself, possibly supported by a secretary in an advisory capacity (cf. Rom 16:22; 1 Cor 16:21; Gal 6:11; 2 Thess 3:17; Col 4:18), who wrote in Titles Cretans like a Cretan “wanted to write and therefore differently from his best friend and student (2 Tim) or this one as the leader of a single church known to Paul (1 Tim). Almost all studies of the style of language come to the conclusion that Tit deviates the most from the usual style of Paul's letters. Quite a few respected researchers consider Lukas, the author of Luke / Acts, to be the secretary and co-author of the three letters to employees. His language and translation methodology could reappear in the letters: only he guides the ancient readers in Luke 1ff, like the tit in Tit 1,3.4; 2,10.13 and 3,4.6 firstly with the use of the savior title for God (Lk 1.47) and various other "salvation" words as they know it for their deities, secondly through the transmission of the savior title then to Christ (Lk 2,11) about the meaning of Jesus for Christians (Paul does this differently, for example, with the title “Lord” in Rom 4 or Phil 2: 5-11, quite similarly). We do not find this methodology in any of the ancient literature. Only Luke explains - like the pastoral letters, especially 1 Timothy - to the ancient readers from Act 3 onwards the Christian life in their language as Eusebeia (piety, practiced religion), before he continues to write about faith and, among other things, love as the practice of it. Luke uses the metaphor of sin against God, which was often used in early Christianity, and his commandments are like an "illness", but Luke draws this comparison "sin is like illness" linguistically, as otherwise only the pastoral letters in the NT, namely using the Greek hygiaino- Word group (Lk 5.31–32; cf. Lk 15.27 in the context of the topic turning away from and return to God in Lk 15.11–32 or the entire chapter 15). The phrase “from city to city” (kata polin) in Tit 1.5 is not found in the NT and only very rarely in the Greek OT - except in variations more often in Luke / Acts Lukas, once even almost identical to Tit 1.5 in Acts 14: 22-23. Since Luke, the companion of Paul, mentioned in Phlm, Kol, is identical to the author of Luke / Acts, according to old tradition, as is also represented by not a few international researchers today, one could - according to the proponents of the Luke hypothesis - 2 Tim 4:11 (" Luke is alone with me ”) like an indirect statement by the co-author of 2 Tim. No other travel companion and trusted collaborator was with the chained apostle (2 Tim 2,9), who, even in better times, did not usually write his letters himself (Rom 16:22; 1 Cor 16:21; Gal 6:11; 2 Thess 3:17; Col 4:18 and also Phlm 19). The proponents of the Lukan authorship or co-authorship believe that who else, if this only Luke who is present, should be responsible for the writing style of 2 Tim. The greeting Christians named in 2 Tim 4:21 are not known to us as collaborators of Paul, but most likely Roman Christians (cf. 2 Tim 1:17) who visited Paul at the time of Acts 28: 30-21. Since the style of Luke also appears in 1 Tintin and Titus, a number of exegetes argue that Luke also formulated these two letters on behalf of Paul. (For a discussion of the Lukas hypothesis, see Pros and Cons: Brox, Kaestli, Marshall Moule, Riesner, Strobel, Wilson, Fuchs).


  1. ^ Heinrich August Schott: Isagoge historico-critica in libros Novi Foederis sacroshttp: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3D~GB%3D~IA%3Disagogehistoric01unkngoog~MDZ%3D%0A~SZ%3Dn341~ double-sided%3D~LT%3DIsagoge%20historico-critica%20in%20libros%20Novi%20 20sacros ~ PUR% 3D , Jena 1830, p. 324ff. (lat.)
  2. H. Conzelmann, A. Lindemann, Arbeitsbuch zum New Testament , 10th edition, § 33, p. 279
  3. Anthony Kenny: A Stylometric Study of the New Testament, Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1986, p. 1
  4. Eta Linnemann: Biblical criticism on the test stand . 3. Edition. VTR, Nuremberg 2012, ISBN 978-3-933372-19-2 (164 pages).
  5. In 1 Cor. 4:18; 11.34; 16: 1ff and announced in 2 Corinthians 12:14; 13.1f already mentioned as in the past.
  6. Winter - 1 Cor. 16: 6; Winter quarters are not yet fixed - Tit 3,13; The quarters are established - 2 Corinthians 9.2; Wintering is a thing of the past.
  7. ^ Heinz Warnecke; Thomas Schirrmacher: Paul in the Storm. About the shipwreck of exegesis and the rescue of the apostle on Kephallenia . 2nd Edition. VTR, Nürnberg 2000, ISBN 3-933372-29-1 (183 pages).
  8. z. B. in Phil or 1.Thess or in Rom 16,17-20; Gal 1.8; 1 Cor 5: 9-11 and so on.



  • Michael Wolter : The pastoral letters as a Pauline tradition . Göttingen 1988, ISBN 3-525-53827-8
  • Philip H. Towner: The Goal of Our Instruction. The Structure of Theology and Ethics in the Pastoral Epistles . JSNTSup 34. JSOT Press, Sheffield 1989, ISBN 1-85075-216-8
  • Philip H. Towner: Pauline Theology or Pauline Tradition in the Pastoral Epistles: The Question of Method , Tyndale Bulletin Vol. 46.2 Nov .: 1995, pp. 287-314.
  • Egbert Schlarb: The healthy teaching. Heresy and truth in the mirror of the pastoral letters . Marburg Theological Studies 28. Elwert, Marburg 1990, ISBN 3-7708-0932-7
  • Frances Young: The Theology of the Pastoral Letters . New Testament Theology. University Press, Cambridge 1994, ISBN 0-521-37036-1
  • Mark Harding: Tradition and Rhetoric in the Pastoral Epistles . Studies in Biblical Literature 3. Lang, New York a. a. 1998, ISBN 0-8204-3767-0
  • Carsten Looks: Preserving what is entrusted to you. The reception of pastoral letters in the 2nd century . Munich theological contributions. Utz-Verl., Munich 1999, ISBN 3-89675-655-9
  • William A. Richards: Difference and Distance in Post-Pauline Christianity. An Epistolary Analysis of the Pastorals . Studies in Biblical Literature 44. Lang, New York a. a. 2002, ISBN 0-8204-5599-7
  • K. Löning, Epiphany of Philanthropy. On the speech of God in the context of urban public life according to the pastoral letters , Lutz-Bachmann, M. (Ed.), And yet is to talk about God (FS H. Vorgrimler), Freiburg-Basel-Wien 1994, pp. 107-124.
  • K. Löning, justified by his grace (Tit 3,7). On the problem of the reception of Paul in the soteriology of pastoral letters . In Thomas Söding (ed.): The living God. Studies on theology of the New Testament (FS W. Thüsing)
  • A. Wucherpfennig SJ, Missionary Church in the New Testament. Paulus, Lukas and the pastoral letters as stages in a development within early Christianity , Geist und Leben 76/6 (2003), pp. 434–445.

About the Luke hypothesis


  • N. Brox, Lukas as the author of the pastoral letters, in the yearbook for antiquity and Christianity (13/1970), pp. 62–77.
  • JD Kaestli, Luke-Acts and the Pastoral Epistles: The Thesis of a Common Authorship, in: CM Tuckett (ed.), Luke's Literary Achievement: Collected Essays (Sheffield: JOST, 1995), pp. 110-126.
  • H. Marshall, review of SG Wilson's monograph, Luke and the Pastoral Epistles (SPCK), London 1979, in JSNT (10/1981), pp. 69-74.
  • That. The Pastoral Epistles in Recent Study, in: AJ Köstenberger / TL Wilder (Ed.), Entrusted with the Gospel. Paul's Theology in the Pastoral Epistles, Nashville, Tennessee 2010, pp. 268-312.


  • CFD Moule, The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles, in: BJRL (47/1965), pp. 430-452.
  • R. Riesner, Once more: Luke-Acts and the Pastoral Epistles, in: FS E. Earle Ellis, history and Exegesis (Ed. Sang-Won (Aaron) Son), New York. London 2006, pp. 239-258.
  • A. S, S.trobel, Letter from Luke? On the linguistic problem of pastoral letters, NTS (15/1969) 191-210.
  • SG Wilson, Luke and the Pastoral Epistles, London 1979.
  • See also the contributions by R. Fuchs mentioned below under “Criticism of authenticity”.


  • Ian Howard Marshall , Philip H. Towner: The Pastoral Epistles (ICC), Edinburgh 1999
  • William D. Mounce: The Pastoral Epistles (WBC), Nashville 2000
  • Heinz-Werner Neudorfer: The first letter of the Apostle Paul to Timotheus (HTA), Wuppertal 2004
  • Philip H. Towner: The Letters to Timothy and Titus (NICNT), Grand Rapids 2006
  • Klaus Berger : Commentary on the New Testament, Gütersloh 2011, pp. 790–826.

Authenticity criticism

  • Klaus Berger: Commentary on the New Testament, Gütersloh 2011, p. 790ff.
  • Anthony E. Bird: The Authorship of the Pastoral Epistles - Quantifying Literary Style , Reformed Theological Review 56/1997, pp. 118-137
  • Jan van Bruggen: The historical classification of the pastoral letters , Wuppertal 1991
  • James D. Miller: The Pastoral Letters as Composite Documents . MSSNTS 93. Univ. Press, Cambridge 1997 ISBN 0-521-56048-9
  • Rüdiger Fuchs: Unexpected differences - do we have to revise our views on the pastoral letters? Biblical monographs. Brockhaus, Wuppertal 2003, ISBN 3-417-29480-0
  • Rüdiger Fuchs: Is the agape the goal of the instruction (1.Tim 1,5)? - on the different use of the ἀγαπ and the φιλ word stems in the letters to Timotheus and Titus , JETh 2004, pp. 93–126
  • Rüdiger Fuchs: So far unnoticed - on the different uses of ἀγαθοός, καλῶν and καλός in the letters to Timotheus and Titus , EJTh 1/2006, pp. 15–33
  • Rüdiger Fuchs: A fourth missionary trip of Paul in the east? On the dating of the first letter of Timothy and the letter of Titus , JETh 2011, pp. 33–28.
  • Jens Herzer : Farewell to consensus? The pseudepigraphy of pastoral letters as a challenge to New Testament science , ThLZ 129 (2004), issue 12, pp. 1267–1282
  • H. v. Lips: From the “Pastoral Letters” to the “Corpus Pastorale”. a Halle language creation and its modern counterpart as a function of three New Testament letters , Reformation and Modern Times. 300 years of theology in Halle (1694-1994) Göttingen 1994, pp. 49–71
  • A. Kenny: A Stylometric Study of the New Testament , Oxford 1986;
  • T. Robinson: Grayston and Herdan's 'C' Quantity Formula and the Authorship of the Pastoral Epistles , NTS (Vol. 30) 1984, 282-288
  • DL Mealand: The Extend of the Pauline Corpus: A multivariate Approach , JSNT 59/1995, 61-92
  • Annette Merz : The fictional self-interpretation of Paul. Intertextual studies on the intention and reception of pastoral letters . Novum Testamentum et orbis antiquus / Studies on the Environment of the New Testament 52nd Academic Pr., Friborg / Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2004, ISBN 3-525-53953-3
  • K.-H. Ostmeyer: Communication with God and Christ , WUNT 197, Tübingen 2006 ISBN 3-16-148969-1 (especially pages 141 & 150-160)
  • HJ Rose: The Clausulae of the Pauline Corpus , JTS 1929, 17-43
  • PH Towner: Gnosis and Realized Eschatology in Ephesus (of the Pastoral Epistles) and the Corinthian Enthusiasm , JSNT 31/1987, 95-125
  • A. Weiser: The social responsibility of Christians according to the pastoral letters , contributions to the ethics of peace, Volume 18, Stuttgart 1994
  • Rainer Riesner : Once more: Luke-Acts and the Pastoral Epistles , in: FS E. Earle Ellis, history and Exegesis (Ed. Sang-Won (Aaron) Son), New York. London 2006, 239-258, here esp. 256-257.
  • Werner Thiessen: Christians in Ephesus - the historical and theological situation in the pre-Pauline and Pauline times and at the time of the Acts of the Apostles and the pastoral letters (= DANCE; 12). Francke, Tübingen 1995.
  • Gerhard Lohfink : Pauline theology in the reception of pastoral letters , Paulus in the New Testament late writings, ed. by Karl Kertelge, Freiburg im Breisgau 1981, pp. 70–121

On the Christology of Pastoral Letters

  • Karoline Läger: The Christology of Pastoral Letters . Hamburg Theological Studies 12. Steinmann a. Steinmann, Hamburg / Lit-Verl., Münster 1996, ISBN 3-8258-2748-8
  • Andrew Y. Lau: Manifesto in Flesh. The Epiphany Christology of the Pastoral Epistles . WUNT 2/86. Mohr, Tübingen 1996, ISBN 3-16-146302-1
  • Hanna Stettler : The Christology of Pastoral Letters . WUNT 2/105. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 1998, ISBN 3-16-147056-7
  • Thomas Söding: The appearance of the savior. On the Christology of Pastoral Letters . In: Klaus Scholtissek (Ed.): Christology in the Paulus School. On the reception history of the Pauline Gospel . Stuttgarter Bibelstudien 181. Verl. Kath. Bibelwerk, Stuttgart 1999, pp. 149–192
  • R. Fuchs: Unexpected differences. Do we need to revise our views on "the" pastoral letters? (BWM 12), Wuppertal 2003.
  • Ders .: One God, the Father, one Lord, Jesus Christ. Use and avoidance of the divine designation “father” in Paul's church and pastoral letters . In: JETh 26/2012, pp. 63–91.