The Early Christian Church - Vol. 1

By Philip Carrington | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 14
THE PAULINE SUCCESSORS

Background of the Pastoral Epistles, p. 256. The style of the Epistles, p. 257. On pseudonymity, p. 259. Theories of authorship, p. 260. Timothy and Titus, p. 261. Combating the strange teachers, p. 263. The witness of the prophets, p. 264. The bishop and the deacons, p. 265. The elders and teachers, p. 267. The elders in the Pastoral Epistles, p. 268. The church order, p. 270. The Epistle to Titus, p. 270. II Timothy, p. 271.


BACKGROUND OF THE PASTORAL EPISTLES

We must now retrace our steps in order to consider the Epistles of Paul which were addressed to Timothy and Titus, and the picture which they give of the conditions in his churches during the period of transition, before they had passed out of their missionary phase into autonomy and independence. They depended, in this period of transition, upon the Pauline successors for guidance and supervision. The elders and bishops who were established in every city were subject to their direction and control; and the 'Pastoral Epistles', as they have been christened in fairly modern times, were the credentials of these apostolic men and the authority for their policies.

There is no suggestion in these Epistles that the churches will be guided into autonomy; and we have no contemporary evidence which tells us how this autonomy was achieved. All we can see is that it was completed and well established before the visit of Ignatius of Antioch to Asia Minor about 115, by which time every city had its single bishop with a council of elders or presbyters, as we may call them indifferently, using either the English or the Greek word. We can hardly suppose that this important change was first introduced any later than the nineties, when John and his companions were exercising paramount influence in Asia; and this conclusion provides us with a chronological point towards which we can work; for the Pastoral Epistles reflect a state of affairs previous to the introduction of this system of self- government. They are not likely, therefore, to have been composed later than about 80 or 85; they may have been earlier.

The earliest period to which they can be assigned is about 64, when the persecution of Nero broke out; for II Timothy contains passages

-256-

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