The Pastorals, a remedy for a grave defect in Paul’s epistles (Couchoud)

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by Neil Godfrey

My Couchoud series posts (outlines of his work discussing the beginnings of Christianity, The Creation of Christ) are archived here. This post continues the series.

The churches in Clement’s day, and in particular the Church of Rome, were governed by Elders. Paul, of course, knew of no such institution. The heads of the various churches in his day were the Prophets.

This grave defect had to be remedied, so our editor manufactured three new Epistles. For that he made use of another remnant — a letter of simple news addressed to Timothy by Paul from Nicopolis to Epirus. Out of this little thing he made three: two letters to Timothy and one to Titus; and the second letter to Timothy was Paul’s testament written at Rome. (p. 304)

He took a single letter and broke it into three parts that became the Pastorals, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. Note the repetitions. Paul has forgotten a cloke at Troas on his way from Miletus to Nicopolis. He has escaped his enemies at Ephesus and thanks his friends by Timothy.

Titus 3:12-14

12When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus, be diligent to come unto me to Nicopolis: for I have determined there to winter.

13Bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them.

14And let our’s also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.

2 Timothy 1:15-18

15This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.

16The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:

17But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me.

18The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.

2 Timothy 4:9-22

9Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me:

10For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.

11Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.

12And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus.

13The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.

14Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works:

15Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words.

16At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.

17Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.

18And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

19Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.

20Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.

21Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren.

22The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen.

The words “in Rome” have been added to 2 Timothy 1:17 in order to give the appearance that these fictitious letters were all composed in Rome. Thus the section of the aspiring canon that opened with a letter to the Romans concluded with a set of letters from Rome.

In these there is no longer any attempt to imitate Paul’s style; they are in the same “homily” manner which is employed in Clement’s letter to the Corinthians, with the same hackneyed phrases — good works, good confession, good fight. These last letters appear to have been made up in a hurry. (p. 304)

So this “false Paul” is seen to be founding Rome’s canonical succession of Elders with an apostle.

He laid down the rules for their selection.

He had to be married (but only to one wife!), the master of his children, sober, peaceful, hospitable, righteous, holy and a master of self-control.

The job of the ordinary faithful was to give generously to the Elders and give them double honours.

The main duty of an Elder was to preserve the Apostolic tradition such as the editor of the New Testament had made it, defending it like a good soldier against all innovators.

There were two types of such “innovators” this author was concerned about:

  1. Those who were interested in Jewish things: the Law and its many questions and problems, Jewish myths (“old wives tales”) and interminable genealogies;
  2. Those who forbade marriage and ascetics who shunned foods given by God for our good — the Marcionites.

The author of these letters recognized dangers in continence and abstinence (these were virtues for Marcion). He advised Timothy to drink a little wine so as  not to restrict himself to water.

There appears to have been a personal duel between the editor of these epistles and Marcion.

Marcion read the Gospel dedicated to Theophilus [i.e. “our” Gospel of Luke] and criticized it in his book the Antithesis as “interpolated by the protectors of Judaism, who would incorporate in it the Law and the Prophets.”* This was to criticize too well, and finds its reply already written in Paul’s letter to Timothy: “Guard the deposit and turn away from the profane babblings and antithesis of a so-called gnosis. Some who profess it have missed the mark concerning the faith” (I Tim. vi. 20-21). (p. 305)

* For if the Gospel, said to be Luke’s which is current amongst us (we shall see whether it be also current with Marcion), is the very one which, as Marcion argues in his Antitheses, was interpolated by the defenders of Judaism, for the purpose of such a conglomeration with it of the law and the prophets as should enable them out of it to fashion their Christ, surely he could not have so argued about it, unless he had found it (in such a form). (Tertullian Adv. Marc. iv. 4)

In reality both Paul and John taught that the resurrection was a past event and the faithful were saved now from their former sinful bodies. The editor of these Pastorals found an opportunity to correct this false “Marcionite” teaching, too. He explained how readers were to interpret the Gospel of John and any similar curiosities in Paul: Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have missed the mark concerning the truth, saying the resurrection is past already (2 Timothy 2:17-18).

Evidently the reader must not be allowed to proceed without a guide. All Scripture has been divinely inspired, and all Scripture requires a living interpreter capable of making wholesome comment on it and even of correcting it. In every Church the body of Elders should be such a living interpreter. (p. 305)



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Neil Godfrey

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5 thoughts on “The Pastorals, a remedy for a grave defect in Paul’s epistles (Couchoud)”

  1. What do you think Tertullian meant by using the word, “current”? The phrase, “(we shall see whether it be also current with Marcion)” makes me think of versions of Luke and whether they each had agreed on the latest version. Fascinating that Marcion, at such an early date, intertained the idea of “interpolations” as being half-way expected in this literature.

    1. This is something others will understand better than I do. I’d have to make time to study Tertullian in some more depth and even then I’d be at a disadvantage having only an amateurish knowledge of the language.

  2. Pingback: Resources for 2 Timothy 2:17 - 18

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