Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Pastoral Epistles as a Response to Marcion? Walter Bauer Refuted

Today's examination of Walter Bauer (Orthodoxy and Heresy in the Earliest Christianity) deals with his claims about the Pastoral Epistles (PE) and their role in enforcing orthodoxy. Bauer argues that the church forged the PE's in the name of Paul in order to re-establish him as an apostle after he was grabbed by the heretics (e.g. Marcion).

...I am inclined to see the pastoral Epistles as an attempt on the part of the church unambiguously to enlist Paul as part of its anti-heretical front and to eliminate the lack of confidence in him in ecclesiastical is difficult to find satisfactory evidence that the pastoral Epistles already were in existence prior to him [Marcion]... (228/9)

So, this is pretty much what I mean about the extent to which Bauer goes to argue his thesis. As it stands, most scholars who treat the works as pseudonymous date them to the end of the first century (Ehrman for example.) However, Bauer wishes to push the composition as an orthodox reaction to Marcion - evidently, pushing the composition into the 140s at the earliest. However, is such a late date really valid? Taking on only the external evidence this is what we can safely assume:
  • The canon of the Muratorian fragment (dated to the 150s-70 going with Metzger and even Ehrman; 190 for Harnack) testifies to the pastoral epistles as part of the Pauline corpus. Within this the author makes an effort to distinguish between 'canonical' texts (sorry about the anachronism) as well as acceptable reading. He places The Shepherd of Hermas in the latter category noting that "Hermas wrote the Shepherd very recently, in our times, in the city of Rome..." Evidently, if this was a tradition received by the author there would be considerable doubt about the pastorals if they showed up on the scene in their own lifetime.

  • Irenaeus opens his Against Heresies (c. 180?) with 1 Timothy 1:4 so the same argument from above would apply here.

  • Our oldest extant manuscript witness to the pastorals is P32. This fragment was found in Egypt, dated to the very end of the second century and existed as being part of a codex. Assuming Gamble to be right on the existence of the Pauline corpus in circulation in the early second century; it would be reasonable to assume that this text was part of a greater corpus (Pauline or even closer to the NT?). Evidently, this would provide a geographically independent witness, outside of the control of the church of Rome in this period.

  • We have over 450 citations and allusions to the Pastoral Epistles from the 2nd century alone.

  • Polycarp more likely than not made reference to the Epistles to Timothy in his Letter to the Philippians (~120)
So, in my opinion - and actually taking an account of th evidence - I see no reason to entertain Bauer here any further.

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