Could Timothy have written the pastoral letters?

Who could have written the pastoral letters?


The New Oxford Annotated Bible Prologue contains the Pastoral Letters ( 1 Timothy , 2. Timothy and Titus are pseudo-epigraphic and not written by Paul).

Bart D. Ehrman cited in Forged , Page 98, by the British scholar AN Harrison, who wrote an important study of the Pastoral Letters in 1921 and provided numerous statistics on word usage. Of the 848 different words used in the pastoral letters, 306 - more than a third - do not appear in any of the other Pauline letters of the New Testament. And two-thirds of those 306 words were used by Christian writers living in the second century. Not only did Paul not use these words, but it seems he would not have known the meaning of some of the words that were used in the second century. In addition, some ideas and concepts in the Pastoral Letters contradict what you find in the letters Paul wrote.


Most modern New Testament scholars reject the tradition of Paul as the author of the pastoral letters, so that many writers, as in the New Oxford Annotated Bible, no longer feel obliged to give specific reasons for this view. Burton L. Mack says in Who wrote the New Testament , P. 206, that the language, style, and thinking expressed in the Pastoral Letters are wholly un-Pauline. Although the New American Bible emphasizes doubts about non-Pauline authorship, the prologue says it is 1. Timothy still :

Most scholars believe that Paul could not be responsible for the vocabulary and style, the concept of ecclesiastical organization, or the theological terms used in these letters.

Having ruled out Paul as the likely author of these letters, we must try to learn what we can from the real author. Because the author wanted readers to believe that the three letters were written by Paul himself a few decades earlier, he was careful not to leave us a clue of his identity.

All we can really conclude is that the author wrote in the first half of the second century and probably lived in the Greek-speaking eastern Mediterranean. The first assumption is based on references to second century concepts such as "overseers" or bishops and on Harrison's analysis. Francis A. Sullivan SJ says in From apostles to bishops , Page 15, that the consensus of scholars, including Catholics, is that Rome did not have bishops until about the middle of the second century, so that a Roman Christian would have been less likely to have written than if the appointment of bishops was an established one Fact would be. The addressees and locations of the letter are convenient fictions, so they no longer tell us about where our author lived. We can never know the name or any personal details of the author of these letters.

Mark Edward

Excellent answer. I would be interested to know if the author's anti-Gnostic rhetoric (at least he seems to be critical of it) might help narrow down his time and locale. Have you been cross-examined with z. B. Ignatius or Polycarp known?

Dick Harfield

@ MarkEdward Thank you for kind words. I could have written a much longer answer by trying to determine with varying degrees of certainty when pastorals were first mentioned, but I've given better thought. Ignatius uses words like in 1 Tim 3:16, which could mean that this, the earliest pastoral work, circulated around 117, but it could also mean that we are reading more of Ignatius' letter than we should.