Sunday, February 12, 2023

The "Pastoral" Epistles

Recently I was reading a book about the church by one of my favorite authors and in it he has this quote:

I'm sure Timothy felt intimidated. Can you imagine pastoring the church in Ephesus, living in the shadow of the great apostle Paul?

I get his point (I think). The problem is that Timothy wasn't the pastor of that church. The congregation in Ephesus had elders long before Timothy had been sent to them. Paul had met with them prior to his imprisonment (see Acts 20). Titus is also called a "pastor" by some. But both he and Timothy were Paul's personal emissaries to the churches. They had no "settled" ministry such as that of the pastorate. They were Paul's trusted deputies or assistants in the work. 

One New Testament scholar, to avoid calling 1-2 Timothy and Titus the "Pastoral Epistles" (the term was apparently coined in 1703), has suggested "LTT" instead -- the "Letters to Timothy and Titus." Others prefer the "Mentoring Epistles." It is highly probable that neither title will catch on. We seem to be stuck with "Pastoral Epistles." All the more reason, it seems to me, to clarify for our audiences who Timothy and Titus were vis à vis the churches to whom Paul sent them.