1 Timothy and Titus

1 Timothy and Titus were written after Paul’s death with the intention of encapsulating in writing the Church order that Paul had put in place.

This is not Paul’s doctrine

The two letters are a set, and we can be sure that Paul did not write 1 Timothy.

Who can imagine Paul writing this verse? “Women will be saved by childbirth, if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”

In one sense, we are all saved by childbirth, being the birth of the one prophesied in the story of Adam and Eve, yet this verse is a mangling of that teaching. Far better to rely upon Paul’s teachings in Ephesians, when he said,

You also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.

Nothing here about women being saved through childbirth: it is through trust in the word of truth, the gospel of salvation.

Also on women, in Galatians, Paul taught that we are saved equally through faith in Jesus.

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

This is not Paul’s Greek

Of the letters attributed to Paul, only four letters have characteristics that can be considered to be outside his usual writing style.

  1. 1 Corinthians uses the subjunctive mood more than his other letters. This letter was written when Paul’s ministry among the Corinthians was in grave danger – its rating as having a slightly different style is not surprising.
  2. While 2 Timothy is rated as being just outside his normal style, its statistical signal is not sufficient to give confidence that it can be excluded from his corpus on this evidence alone.
  3. However, 1 Timothy is quite different in style from all other letters attributed to Paul, and also from other letters written by Jewish Christians, such as Hebrews, James, 1 Peter and 2 Peter.
  4. The letter to Titus is only similar in style to 1 Timothy.

This analysis is based on a statistical technique, known as Correspondence Analysis, which is discussed here.

Church order

We have no reason to doubt that Paul set up leaders in each of the churches that he established, and that he established the model that has been reproduced in both of these letters.

We have grounds to believe that Paul only appointed heads of households as leaders. This was a matter of practicality, since in a strongly patriarchal society, only heads of households would have received the respect required. This was particularly relevant in the early days of the establishment of a church in each town where there was a Christian presence. However, in Paul’s churches, everyone was allowed to speak, as they were led by the Holy Spirit. The women were not told to “learn in quietness and full submission,” but to “pray and prophesy” in an appropriate manner (1 Corinthians 11:5).

Paul, however, did not require all of his ministry assistants to be heads of households, or even to be male. The prime example is that he appointed and encouraged Timothy to act with authority, despite Timothy’s youth. (Ironically, the anomalous situation of Timothy was recognized in 1 Timothy. However, it was treated as a special case by the writer of this letter.) The secondary example is a married woman Priscilla, who was a fellow worker with Paul.

The real issue for author of 1 Timothy, and for the churches that accepted this letter, was the practical implications of Paul’s declaration that all are one in Christ. The point in question was the application of this teaching in the case of men and women. The Ephesian church was not going to allow women to have a formal role in the leadership of their church.

It is likely that this decision was not well received by female Christians in Ephesus, but there was little that they could do in such a patriarchal society. Perhaps opposition to this stance can be found in Revelation 2:4. Certainly the Ephesians were formally retreating from Paul’s original vision of equality in Christ, which can be seen as an instance of “having lost their first love.”

It is accepted that the practical issues that influenced Paul’s arrangements in the churches still were relevant when 1 Timothy and Titus were written (this was probably towards the end of the first century). However, by accepting these two letters as part of the effective canon, despite the knowledge that they were both free literary creations, the early Church was led to treat temporary arrangements as if they were permanent arrangements, and provided the means by which women’s roles in the Church have been subsequently curtailed.