Monday, September 13, 2010


Text: I Tim 5:1-2

1 REBUKE not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren;
2 The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.

     Some theologians & scholars (post-Bower, Ehrman , Brown et. al.) argue that Paul can not possibly be the author of I & II Timothy or Titus since all these "Pastoral Epistles" mention "elders."  They attribute these works to a later period & label the author as "DeuteroPaul" ie "Second Paul."

     The argument goes that the New Testament churches were Spirit-driven anarchistic entities that did not use elders.  Later, post-Clement of Rome & onward, a more monarchical, authoritarian structure developed.  Therefore, these three letters must be from that later period, not from Paul.  The problem with this argument is that it begs the question ie it assumes its answer in its premise.  It is invalid to use the New Testament as evidence of a theory then use that same theory to invalidate part of the New Testament!  Doing so makes the argument invalidate its own proof!

     Other weak argument has been offered in the form of vocabulary analysis observing that "Paul" uses different words than he does in his other letters.  This is very weak because, as Paul is addressing very different issues in Romans, Corinthians, etc. than he is in these three letters.  By way of example, if you were writing a letter to the editor about prostitution downtown, you would use very different vocabulary from when you write your little brother or sister about getting their first job (unless of course, it is as a prostitute!).  This is very parallel to Paul's situation: the other epistles are for a general audience; these are personal.  The others address problems to be corrected in society or in the church; these are to exhort individuals.  The list of differences continues & greatly weakens this argument, too.

     All in all, the arguments for "DeuteroPaul" are very, very weak & can probably be ignored as generated by an a priori agenda that does not include honestly evaluating the integrity of the New Testament.  Up against 2000 years of textual pedigree, style examination, contemporary correspondence & many other tests by which we can analyze these letters, the "Second Paul" arguments are less than second rate.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Church Bureaucracy & the Individual Believer

TEXT: Matt 18:20

“20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
 there am I in the midst of them.“

     Protestantism relies very heavily (some might say too heavily) upon this promise.  Reading the writings of the Church Fathers from the generation immediately following the time of the apostles, it seems at first glance that many, even revered, names in the early church too often to forget this promise.  This in not the case.  Their interpretation was that as Christ sent the Holy Ghost to comfort believers (John 14:16), so did He ordain bishops for the church to stand in His stead.  Thus, the presence of the bishop was seen as the fulfillment of this promise.  Protestants who seek to return to the practices of the "early church" must recognize that this movement toward a formal ecclesiastical structure modeled on monarchy was a strong & relatively early development within the church.  It cannot be easily dismissed that many early church leaders, some personal students of the 12 directly, approved of & strongly championed the institution of a formal church structure utilizing little, if any, democratic input from the laity.

     For instance, the aged & revered martyr, Bishop Ignatius of Antioch, saw the person of the bishop as this promised presence of Christ Himself, reasoning that one must have as much respect for the messenger as one has for the One that sent him.  Therefore, he saw it as unlawful for anyone to baptize or "make love" (in the Greek it's not as kinky as it seems in English!) ie hold a "love feast"1 without the bishop present else, as Ignatius sees it, Christ is not present.2

     Firstly, it should be observed that being "early" is not an automatic correlation to being "right."  At first, Christians under the direction of the apostles practiced a form of communism that Karl Marx would have readily recognized, where all property, food & assets were held in common & work was volunteered by the able (Acts 2:44-47).  Predictably, everybody ate heartily but no one wanted to work to grow more food (2 Thess 3:10 & 12)!  Eventually, Paul would dispense with this communist schema declaring, "if any would not work, neither should he eat" (2 Thess 3:11) & that each should "eat their own bread" (2 Thess 3:12).  Suddenly, there was an eager workforce enough to grow plenty of food for all.  There is hardly a Christian today who would advocate communism & yet, such was the practice of the Biblical early church.  This, then, is the classic example of "early" not being "right."

     Secondly, it must be recognized that how much formal structure should be attached to the Church has been a plaguing issue since the departure of the apostles.  It is a subject fraught with the allure of power, the trap of excess riches & ultimately a responsibility to God which, in the snare of worldly temptation, can be too easily dismissed & forgotten.  In the final analysis, Luther observed, it is the individual "sheep" that is responsible for recognizing, discerning & responding to the voice of the true "Shepherd" (John Ch 10; see blog post on 10:1-5, "Emergence of the Individual").  How the bureaucracy of any given church organization argues for its preference would seem to be a more worldly matter than an individual believer need internalize for such arguments are all but irrelevant.  For the individual, Ignatius notwithstanding, there is this promise from the Lord of all creation, that even if all one can do is find fellowship with but one other believer, the King of the Universe is with them in spirit, but as a body ie the Body of Christ ie The Church.

1 probably a reference to Holy Communion aka the Lord's Supper or Lord's Table

2 Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, Ch. 8; St. Ignatius of Antioch, (c.AD110); accessed 8/9/10