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Teaching or Thaumaturgy?

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Miracles, Oracles and 1 Timothy 4


The Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus) are crucial documents for insight into the development of Pauline Christianity.  Battle has raged in the scholarly world over the authorship of these letters.  The scholarly consensus is that they were not written by Paul;[1] however, a number of conservative scholars continue to argue for their authenticity.[2]  It is not my purpose, in this paper, to rehearse the arguments over authorship.  Suffice it to say that, even if they are accepted as written by Paul, nearly all conservative scholars agree that they were written towards the end of Paul's life.  On this view 2 Timothy functions as Paul's "last will and testament." The Pastorals, whatever one's view on authorship, yield a picture of Pauline communities in transition.  With the apostle about to depart, or having departed within relatively recent memory, the communities have to face life without him.  Crucial questions have to be addressed in this transitional period.  What kind of leadership is appropriate in the post-Pauline era? Can Paul's view of the body of Christ as a charismatic community be sustained?  How should Pauline ethics be worked out in succeeding generations? etc.  It is not surprising, therefore, that the Pastorals major on church order and ethics. Furthermore, in this transitional period, the problem of who has the right to interpret Paul for the next generation becomes acute.[3]  It is my view that the Pastoral Epistles have to be understood against the background of competing claims to represent the authentic teaching of Paul.  In addition, in the case of 1 and 2 Timothy, account has to be taken of their Ephesian background.  Gordon Fee[4] rightly points out that there is no hint that the false teachers in 1 Timothy come from outside the congregation.  The problem, according to 1 Tim 1:3, concerns the church in Ephesus; Fee argues persuasively that the situation in 1 Timothy is reflected in Paul's comments to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:30.[5]  It is worth, therefore, reflecting for a moment on the origins of the church at Ephesus as recorded in Acts 19.  First, Paul is presented as a great teacher.  For three months he argues persuasively in the synagogue concerning the kingdom of God, and this is followed by a daily programme in the lecture hall of Tyrannus lasting two years (Acts 19:8-10).  Some manuscripts add that this programme lasted from 11.00 am to 4.00 pm!  Whether this was the case or not, the text makes clear that a great amount of teaching went on in Ephesus.  Paul could sum this up, in his speech to the Ephesian elders, as follows: "I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God" (Acts 20:27).  Concerning the possibility of deception in Ephesus he states: "be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to warn everyone with tears" (Acts 20:31).  Second, Paul is presented as a great thaumaturge (miracle worker).  Acts 19:11-12 speaks of "extraordinary miracles" being accomplished through Paul.  For the church at Ephesus then, at least as Acts presents it, Paul was a great teacher, and not just a teacher but a thaumaturgical teacher. However, it is notoriously difficult to hold teaching and thaumaturgy in balance.  Indeed, it is clear from Acts 19:11-20 that many converts gave up their magical practices precisely because they perceived a greater power at work in Paul. Clinton Arnold persuasively argues that the magical background of Ephesus is crucial to an understanding of Ephesians.[6]  I would argue that this is equally true for an understanding of the Pastoral Epistles (at least 1 and 2 Timothy).  Arnold states, in relation to Ephesian converts:

Although many new Christians in this area forsook their magical practices and burned their magical papyri, as Luke records, a good number would have been tempted to conflate their magical beliefs with Christianity.  "What could be wrong with wearing a magical amulet or invoking magical names for additional protection?" they may have asked.  On an even larger scale, there would also have been the danger of sects developing within the churches combining magical and mystery beliefs with Christianity and offering protection from the "powers."[7]

 In addition to the obvious danger of syncretism between magical beliefs and Christianity pointed out by Arnold, it is quite conceivable that converts from a background of magical practice, who had been converted through a demonstration of superior power, would continue to expect supernatural demonstrations in order to sustain their faith.  Furthermore, they could point to the thaumaturgical example of Paul himself.  I would suggest that the problem at Ephesus, which gave rise to 1 and 2 Timothy, was due, at least in part, to competing claims as to what was the most faithful interpretation of Paul for the next generation.  In other words, are the Pauline communities going to be built on Paul's teaching or on demonstrations of supernatural power?  It could be that this is already hinted at in Paul's speech to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20.  For, despite the emphasis on the miraculous in the previous chapter, Paul focuses on his teaching and proclamation (Acts 20:25-27), and does not explicitly mention the thaumaturgical aspects of his ministry.  I am convinced that the emphasis on teaching and tradition in the Pastoral Epistles has to be understood against the background of thaumaturgical demand - the persistent demand for miracles and oracles.

1 Timothy 4

I believe that this text, understood against the background outlined above, is of crucial significance in the current charismatic climate with the persistent demand for "miracles and oracles."  I shall argue that, although the specific content of the false teaching is very different, the spiritual environment which produced such teaching can be compared to the current charismatic environment.[8]

The chapter opens with a startling declaration: "Now the Spirit expressly says . . ."  This can be interpreted in one of two ways: either it refers to a prophetic utterance given by the prophetic Spirit;[9] or it refers to the warnings of Jesus concerning apostasy applied to the current generation by the Spirit.[10]  Whichever view is adopted there is no doubt that this emphasis on the Spirit implies that the charismatic dimension is still very much alive in the community represented by 1 Timothy.  The Spirit is still currently speaking to the Ephesian community (legei is in the present tense).  This is very important, the emphasis on teaching which follows in this chapter must not be interpreted as anti-charismatic; it occurs in the context of a message revealed by the charismatic Spirit.  The writer does not oppose the elevation of thaumaturgy by denigrating the role of the Spirit.

The phrase "in later times" (en hysterois kairois) must not be taken as a reference to the remote future.  This must be understood against the background of the Pauline understanding of the eschatological Spirit.  The advent of the Spirit inaugurated the "last days."[11]  The New Testament communities were conscious of living in the last days.  This word of the Spirit is directed to the situation faced by the Ephesian community.  This situation is serious; the false teaching has made real inroads into the community.  It calls for extreme language - the teaching is demonic and is, therefore, causing deception.  The teachers are accused of being hypocritical liars whose consciences are either seared with a hot iron or branded (as a mark of ownership by Satan) with a hot iron.[12]  This language is quite in keeping with Paul.  Where there were problems of divisiveness in the church Paul would use the language of exhortation and appeal;[13] however, where deception was involved he was prepared to use the strongest possible language.[14]  I have already stated above that I do not consider the actual language used here to be appropriate in the current charismatic climate.  Nevertheless, what can and must be recovered is polemical theology.  The great credal statements of the early church were hammered out on the anvil of controversy.[15]  Much leadership in charismatic churches today is pragmatic, and rightly so.  However, my plea is that theological expertise is equally necessary.  Pragmatic leadership cannot suffice to test theological claims which are inevitably going to be made about the work of the Spirit.[16]

The Nature of the Problem (vv 1-3a)

The specific elements of the false teaching mentioned in our text concern forbidding marriage and demanding abstinence from foods.  There has been much speculation as to the nature of the heresy.  Those who opt for a late date for the Pastorals tend to see an early form of Gnosticism being combated.  Others point to the similarities between the over-realised eschatology at Corinth, reflected in texts such as 1 Cor 7:1-7 and 1 Cor 15:12, and the syncretistic Hellenistic Judaism reflected in Col 2:16-23.  However, as stated in the introduction, I do not believe that scholarship to date has paid sufficient attention to the background of the Ephesian converts as a way of understanding the nature of the problem addressed in 1 and 2 Timothy.  This is further compounded by a misunderstanding of Weber's sociological concept of the routinisation of charisma amongst New Testament scholars.  The scholarly consensus is that the Pastorals reflect the inevitable institutionalisation of the Pauline churches.  This is inevitably accompanied by the view that such structural institutionalisation[17] necessarily involved the attenuation, or even cessation, of charismatic phenomena in the Pauline churches.[18]  It does not seem to have been considered that structural institutionalisation (which is undoubtedly present in the Pastorals) can go hand in hand with charismatic persistence, and that, in fact, such charismatic persistence, particularly in its manifestation as thaumaturgical demand, can be a catalyst for further institutionalisation.[19]

I have argued above that a superior demonstration of power was the reason for the conversion of many of the first converts at Ephesus.  Those who have come from a background of magic are used to demonstrations of power.  It seems inherently likely that such converts would expect regular demonstrations of the power of the Spirit to continue as a vital element of their new-found faith.  We know, from Paul's language in 2 Cor 11 and 12, that he was concerned that the Corinthians would be taken in by the false apostles who boasted of their visions and revelations, and their signs, wonders, and mighty works.  Their own claims were so strong that Paul was forced to spell out his own credentials in similar terms.  Paul was well aware that thaumaturgical demand could lead to deception at Corinth.  Ralph Martin, after a careful discussion concerning the identity of Paul's opponents in this section of 2 Corinthians, concludes:

"another Jesus" for the opponents is the wonder-working Jesus, rather than Paul's crucified and risen Lord.  The alien "spirit" is the spirit of power and ecstasy which these messengers claimed to possess and embody in their ministry, rather than the Spirit of Christ which Paul exemplified.  The new "gospel" is the message of power and present glory, based on demonstrable tokens of the divine and evidences of authority in their lives as Christ's servants (v 13), rather than Paul's kerygma of the suffering Christ whose power is displayed incognito and in patient love (13:3, 4).[20]

 It seems to me highly probable that, if Paul was encountering problems due to itinerant miracle workers at Corinth, similar problems were occurring at Ephesus.  The major difference is that, in the case of Ephesus, thaumaturgical demand was coming from within the community.  The background of the Ephesian converts is an adequate explanation for this.  Of course any explanation of the problem has to take account of the specific details of the text!  How does the false teaching concerning the forbidding of marriage and the demand for abstinence from foods relate to the demand for miracles and oracles?  Robert Karris examines the polemical passages in the Pastorals[21] and persuasively argues that they conform in form to the traditional schema employed by philosophers in their attacks on sophists.  Because of this schema he argues that it is methodologically unsafe to regard all the details in these polemical passages as describing the actual errors of the opponents.  Most of the time, as is the case in the polemic of philosophers against sophists, the terms used amount to no more than "name-calling."  Instead, we can only use the details in these passages which depart from the schema with any degree of certainty.  In the case of our passage, the specific items mentioned do depart from the schema so we can infer that the false teachers really did oppose marriage and demanded abstinence from certain foods.[22]  However, it is not only the polemic of philosophers against sophists that follows a schematic pattern.  The same is true of polemic directed against false prophets.  As David Aune has remarked in connection with the evaluation of Christian prophets:

Unlike false teachers, false prophets were particularly difficult to deal with since they appealed to the divine authority which stood behind their pronouncements.  Two basic types of charges, often combined, were used to discredit prophets regarded as a threat: they were deceivers or they were possessed by evil spirits.[23]

 It is very interesting to note that both these charges are contained in our text (1 Tim 4:1-2).[24]  This does suggest the possibility of an ecstatic prophetic element to the false teachers.  This possibility is made even more likely when traditions concerning Paul are taken into account.  I suggested in the introduction that there may well have been an element in Ephesus who looked to the example of Paul as thaumaturge as the basis for their desire to see thaumaturgy at the heart of the Pauline communities.  Dennis MacDonald mounts a strong case for seeing the Pastorals as directed against oral legends circulating about Paul which eventually were written down in The Acts of Paul.[25]  Although this apocryphal document was written towards the end of the second century CE, scholars are generally agreed that it enjoyed a long period of oral tradition before achieving its final written form.  MacDonald is careful to note that he is not suggesting any literary dependence either way between the Pastorals and The Acts of Paul; nevertheless, the similarities[26] between them suggest that the author of the Pastorals knew the legends at some stage in their oral transmission.[27]  MacDonald argues that the storytellers who passed on the legends were probably primarily celibate women (hence the "old wives' tales" of 1 Tim 4:7) located in south central Asia Minor.  Whether one finds MacDonald's specific arguments persuasive or not, the importance of The Acts of Paul for an understanding of differing interpretations of Paul in the post-Pauline period remains crucial.  What is of significance for our text is that the Acts present a portrait of a highly thaumaturgical Paul.  Moreover, the Paul of the Acts is accused of teaching that Christians should remain unmarried (AP 11-12).  Paul does not deny these accusations (AP 16-17).  In addition, the Acts of Paul and Thecla, which forms a substantial portion of the Acts, clearly advocates the ascetic life.  The Acts of Paul thus combines an image of a thaumaturgical Paul with a negative view of marriage and a strong asceticism.  This work, therefore, provides crucial evidence that these specific aspects of the false teaching were valued by those who championed a thaumaturgical Paul.


The following elements taken together provide substantial evidence for the view that the problem addressed in 1 and 2 Timothy concerned excess charismatic enthusiasm involving a commitment to "supernaturalism"[28]  which claimed to be rooted in Paul's own thaumaturgical practice:

1.      The emphasis on Paul's "extraordinary miracles" in Luke's account of the founding of the church at Ephesus in Acts 19.

2.      The clear evidence in Acts 19 that it was a demonstration of superior power which resulted in the renunciation of magic by the Ephesian converts.  This magical background, I have suggested, would have predisposed such converts to expect continuing  demonstrations of the supernatural as a normal part of Christian life.

3.      The problems with charismatic wonder-workers that Paul himself encountered at Corinth.

4.      The wording of 1 Tim 4:1-2 which corresponds to the form of the standard Christian polemic against false prophets.

5.      The evidence from The Acts of Paul that a negative view of marriage combined with strong approval of asceticism, particularly in the form of fasting, flourished in an environment which viewed Paul primarily as a great miracle worker.

In suggesting that the desire to elevate thaumaturgy over teaching lay at the heart of the controversy in Ephesus I am partially following the argument of J. Massingberd Ford in an important article published in 1971.[29]  She suggested that the problem related to ecstatic and frenzied prophecy:

In the Pastorals there is a rather obvious stress on (a) self-control; (b) the use of the intelligence and sound or healthy teaching . . . Now this emphasis on sobriety, self-control and intelligence cannot be principally stressed in the face of sexual licence or intoxication because the heresy is abstemious and it curtails legitimate sexual use, i.e. marriage . . . One may suggest, then, that these words are directed, not against immorality, but against a 'holy roller' type of spirituality, that is, ecstatic and frenzied prophecy.[30]

I am suggesting that the problem was wider than this; that is, not just ecstatic prophecy but thaumaturgy - the demand for miracles as well as oracles.

The Importance of the Doctrine of Creation (vv 3b-5)

Immediately after the denunciation of the false teachers the writer grounds his argument in the creation (1 Tim 4:3b-4a).  This is a highly significant move.  It is, of course, in context, directly related to the issue of abstinence from food.  The writer rejects this stance as contrary to God's intention in creation.  However, I would suggest that this emphasis on creation is a necessary move for a much wider theological reason: supernaturalism is the result of an inadequate view of creation.  The persistent demand for supernatural acts of God, either in miracle or oracle, is the result of a failure to appreciate everyday life as a gift of our creator God.  This is not to deny that God can and does act in "supernatural" ways.  However, to expect this as the norm seems to me to be a failure to recognise the powerful working of God in the very givenness of creation.[31] In addition, it glosses over the fact that the phenomena themselves may be problematic. The problem with supernaturalism is that, although it pays lip-service to the fact that God is at work in all things, in reality it affirms that God is especially at work in "supernatural" phenomena.  This view too often slips into a "God of the gaps" theology; in other words, life simply goes on as normal and then suddenly God really works by performing a miracle.  Alternatively, and more seriously in my view, it can produce a spirituality which expects miraculous phenomena all the time; in other words, God only really works in the miraculous.  For such a view it is not "possible to have a cold in peace without it being a spiritual issue."[32] The Pastorals have a different view; the ringing declaration "everything created by God is good" (1 Tim 4:4) is rooted in Gen 1 and powerfully affirms a view which takes as its fundamental stance a celebration of the created givenness of our world.  Frances Young expresses this well. Although her comments are directed against radicalism, I believe they apply equally well if "supernaturalism" were substituted for "radicalism" and other appropriate adjustments made to the following quote:

If [the view that the Pastorals reflect a comfortable Christianity is] valid, and there have been a number of studies suggesting on several grounds that it is hardly fair, such a criticism fails to take account of the sacredness of the ordinary and the dangers of radicalism.  The context of the Pastorals would appear to be  reaction against the kind of radicalism that rejects the world and its ties.  To live as if heaven were already here, without any appreciation of the material world, its food and wine, its social and community structures, is treated as flouting the goodness of the Creator God . . . The stance of the Pastorals would appear to be that . . . for most people most of the time, loyalty to Christ is expressed in everyday living according to the highest, indeed universal, human values of peace, integrity, thankfulness and respect for the 'given-ness' of life, loyalty to others and to the truth, generosity and the obligations of love in the community.[33]

She goes on to say, "Should not the Christian calling be to saintliness?  And if saintliness seems unexciting, even conventional, then maybe that is an affirmation of the essential goodness of God's world, despite the fact that everyone falls short of the divine glory."[34]  Tom Wright also issues a timely warning concerning dualism in the charismatic movement:

Christian life and ministry proceeds, not by faith seeking understanding, not by serious interaction with the created world or responsibility for it, but by angelic intervention, words of prophecy or wisdom from "beyond," and by reading all events in terms of a global spiritual war.  If the charismatic movement has sometimes been the means of rediscovering creation, the emotions, and the world of the Spirit, this type of dualism, into which some charismatic circles can easily slip, will warn Christians off creation, and the emotions, for good.[35]

I believe these comments are very relevant in the current charismatic climate.  In the frenetic rush for more personal prophecies, more words of knowledge, more miracles, and more manifestations, perhaps we all need to pause and reflect on the fact that God has already supremely spoken in Christ, and that the miracle of the incarnation challenges us to costly engagement with this world which is created by God and loved by him.

The Importance of Teaching (vv 6-16)

Teaching is mentioned four times in this short section (vv 6, 11, 13, 16).  The antidote to wrong teaching is not no teaching but more teaching!  I have often heard it said in charismatic circles that we have had more than enough teaching - what is simply needed is to put the teaching we have received into practice.  Of course there is some truth in this - teaching is meant to result in practical application; nevertheless, the writer of the Pastorals insists that teaching must be an ongoing activity.  Remember that this was addressed to a community which had experienced over two years of Paul's teaching already! (Acts 19: 8-10).  If, as I believe, the Pastorals are involved in a battle concerning which direction the Pauline churches should take in the immediate post-Pauline era - whether the church should be built on teaching or thaumaturgy - then the Pastorals come down clearly in favour of teaching.

In the first place, the teaching that Timothy had already received is seen as a storehouse which is able continually to nourish him (v 6).[36]  This is a crucial aspect of teaching - we must not underestimate its sustaining power.  Second, Timothy's own teaching is to be authoritative (v 11).  Teaching, according to the Pastorals, is not simply advice which one can take or leave, it is not simply powerful rhetoric or a nice homily, rather it is a matter of presenting the congregation with the truth of the gospel.  Such teaching calls for obedience; it demands a response.  In the context of our passage the teaching involves the pursuit of godliness with its promise of life both in the present and in the future (v 8).  It is godliness, not the pursuit of supernatural experiences, which holds the promise of life.  Significantly, the text makes clear that such godliness involves training.  There is no instant godliness here - it involves hard work and discipline.  The writer recognises that ministry involves hard work, toil, and labour (v 10).  Whatever one makes of the claims being made of the "Toronto Blessing" we dare not assume that godliness can be achieved through some instantaneous "carpet" experience.  Unfortunately, the use of the spiritual disciplines does not appear to be high on the charismatic agenda at the moment.[37]

Thirdly, teaching is to be done in the context of the public reading of scripture (v 13).  It is the scripture that has been read which is taught.  The writer "urges a public ministry that reads the scriptures to the gathered Christians, exhorts them to respond appropriately, and teaches them its principles."[38]  Far too much teaching, in my own experience of charismatic circles, has not been text based.  The stringing together of anecdotes, or even preaching from a theme, is not teaching from a text.  I certainly believe there is a place for anecdotal and thematic preaching.  However, especially in these days, they cannot substitute for the regular exposition of specific texts.  Brueggemann, in his characteristic style, expresses this well:

The work of "biblical theology" as practiced [sic] in the church is one text at a time.  The texts, one at a time, offer sufficient material and live poignantly close to our life.  The transformation we are able to receive in our life is not grand and sweeping, but slow work, like teasing out transformations in therapy.[39]

Sidney Greidanus, in advocating the textual sermon (expository preaching) rather than the thematic (topical) sermon, notes: "Although it is possible to preach topical sermons that are biblical, in actual practice they often turn out to be flights of fancy which have little or nothing to do with biblical thought.  Moreover, it is extremely difficult for the congregation to test topical preaching by the criterion of the Bible."[40]  He goes on to state:

First, expository preaching causes the Scriptures to be heard in church, thus enabling the members to gain an understanding of the Scriptures.  Second, more so than topical preaching, expository preaching gives the hearers a measure of assurance that they are hearing the word of God.  Finally, expository preaching aids the critical functioning of the church since it provides the hearers with textual limits for testing the spoken word against the written word; thus the hearers can decide more responsibly whether a message deserves acceptance./[41]

I cannot emphasise Greidanus' last point enough.  1 Thess 5:19-21 urges the entire congregation, not just the leaders, to test everything.  I have been dismayed at comments that I have heard to the effect that using your mind to analyse things will mean that you will miss out on spiritual blessing.  There does appear to be much spirit-mind dualism about in the charismatic movement.  As a result I have witnessed first-hand the inability of congregations to know how to evaluate certain phenomena happening in their midst.  The exhortation not to use your mind is a recipe for deception.  This exhortation to test everything is in the context of not quenching the Spirit and not despising prophecy.  Paul certainly expected critical discernment to be a hallmark of his charismatic communities.  One of the best ways of developing such discernment is through textual preaching.  People should be encouraged to bring their bibles to meetings, they then have the text open before them against which they can judge the content of what is being preached.  This does not require a degree in biblical studies or theology, it simply requires the exercise of sound common sense and the encouragement of close reading of the text - does the text say what the preacher claims it is saying?  I believe that godly common sense is greatly undervalued at the present time, its restoration would result in a great deal of charismatic excess being avoided.

On the other hand teaching itself is a charism; it is a gift from God (v 14).  Although directed against thaumaturgical excess, the Pastorals are decidedly not anti-charismatic; prophecy is still important to the writer.  However, as is also emphasised in 1 Cor 12-14, charismatic gifts are given in order to build up the body of Christ so that each local congregation can truly be God's community, in the community, for the community.  The tension expressed in the Pastorals is how to remain faithful to the Pauline vision of charismatic community without yielding to thaumaturgical demand.

Finally, Timothy is exhorted to pay attention to both his own spirituality and his teaching (v 16).  His personal example is emphasised (v 12), for this is the only way that his teaching can have integrity.  These mutually reinforce each other: teaching flows out of the quality of the teacher's life, and the teacher's personal integrity means that the teaching has substance.  Timothy is to be a model of perseverance in his attention to his life and his teaching (v 16b).  The goal is nothing less than salvation.  Teaching is essential for the wholeness of the community.  This is the consistent affirmation of the Pastorals.  The writer knows that it is not supernatural manifestations, outstanding prophecies, exorcisms, or any other thaumaturgical practice which ultimately produce salvation.  What is required is painstaking attention to the unglamorous work of teaching, week in and week out, whether the time is favourable or unfavourable (2 Tim 4:2), from people whose lives demonstrate their own commitment to what is being taught.  For the writer knows that "the aim of such instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith" (1 Tim 1:5).  Teaching is for the purpose of building a community which lives out the gospel and whose godly life, demonstrated in its good works,[42] is a powerful testimony to the wider community (1 Tim 5:25).[43]


1 Timothy 4 is a crucial text in the current charismatic climate.  It recognises the importance of consistent, text-based teaching in the context of an environment of thaumaturgical demand.  It believes passionately in transformation but holds no promise of it being instantaneous; rather, such transformation is a process involving commitment to hard work.  Notice the language once again: "Train yourself in godliness" (v 7); "For to this end we toil and struggle" (v 10); "give attention to . . . " (v 13); "Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them" (v 15); "Pay close attention to . . . persevere in these things" (v 16).  Such transformation flows out of a theology of the cross, not a theology of glory (2 Tim 2:11-12).  There has been much talk in recent days of the roaring of the conquering Lion of Judah.  This language misses the heart of Rev 5; when John is invited to see the Lion of the tribe of Judah who has conquered, what he actually sees is the slain Lamb.  The Lion is the Lamb.  The triumph of the book of Revelation is the triumph of the Lamb.  There is no glory apart from the cross.  The imagery of Ezekiel 47 is taken up in Rev 22 but, significantly, the water of life flows "from the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Rev 22:1).  There can be no resurrection life apart from the cross.  Or, to use Pauline language concerning transformation:  "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death" (Phil 3:10).  God grant that we will not be seduced by the attraction of the instant and the spectacular into thinking that transformation can come in any other way.


[1]    However, there is no consensus as to their actual date.  Increasingly, though, scholars appear to be accepting a first century CE date.  Many now accept the view that they do not reflect a stage of church development later than that of Ignatius (martyred somewhere between 107 and 117 CE).  My own view is that, if they are not Pauline, they need not be dated later than about twenty years or so after his death.

[2]    See, for example, G.D. Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody, Ma: Hendrickson, 1988); G.W. Knight III, Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids/Carlisle: Eerdmans/Paternoster Press, 1992).

[3]    2 Tim 2:2.  See the careful discussion in D.G. Meade, Pseudonymity & Canon (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1986), pp. 118-139.

[4]    Fee, op.cit.

[5]    Ibid., pp. 7-8.

[6]    C.E. Arnold, Ephesians: Power and Magic (Cambridge: CUP, 1989), pp. 5-40.

[7]    Ibid., pp. 167-168.

[8]    The differences are, of course, crucial.  1 Tim 4 was written in an environment in which patently false teaching was taking place.  In this context the teaching could be labelled as demonic and the teachers as hypocritical liars (1 Tim 4:1-2).  I am not suggesting in this paper that there is any similarity in specific content between the situation addressed in 1 Timothy and the current situation.  For that reason I refuse to use pejorative language such as "demonic."  I think such language is decidedly unhelpful in the current climate and only serves to polarise the debate.  What I am arguing, however, is that the Pastorals themselves suggest that the elevation of thaumaturgy, which I do believe is happening at the moment, is not part of the authentic Pauline gospel.  In the case of the Pastorals this led to error which could be labelled as demonic; I am naturally concerned that the current emphasis could lead to similar deception.

[9]    This is the view taken by Dibelius and Conzelmann who argue that "expressly" (rhêtôs - which occurs only here in the NT) is used elsewhere in prophecies.  See M. Dibelius & H. Conzelmann, The Pastoral Epistles (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1972), p. 64.

[10]   See Knight, op.cit., p. 188.

[11]   The phrase "in the last days" (en eschatais hêmerais) is used synonymously in 2 Tim 3:1.

[12]   The meaning of the Greek word translated "seared" in the NRSV is unclear; it is used only here in the NT.

[13]   E.g. 1 Cor 1:10; Phil 4:2.

[14]   E.g. 2 Cor 11:1-15; Gal 1:6-9; Phil 3:2.

[15]   I am fully aware that "orthodoxy" is closely related to the question of power.  It has, therefore, been as much a political issue as a theological one.  Nevertheless, the combined Christian commitment to the historic creeds stands as testimony to the fact that at "the heart of theology there is a non-negotiable centre of dogmatic truth, an unmovable residue of authoritative doctrine.  We can properly call it apostolic faith."  Tom Smail, Andrew Walker, and Nigel Wright, Charismatic Renewal: The Search for a Theology, 2nd edition (London: SPCK, 1995), p. 133.

[16]   Andrew Walker states, in a discussion about discernment and the "Toronto Blessing": "Part of the problem is that we are dealing here with what I think is a very curious view of who or what the Holy Spirit is.  Throughout the renewal movement you tend to get the idea that the Holy Spirit is the power of Jesus, but is not really personal - that he is not a hypostasis, in theological language.  But once you grasp that the Holy Spirit is a person of the Godhead, then you're into a trinitarian understanding that will keep you on track." Charismatic Renewal, pp. 164-165.  See too the excellent final chapter on the necessity of trinitarian faith in N.T. Wright, New Tasks for a Renewed Church (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1992).

[17]   Weber's concept concerns charismatic authority.  It is, therefore, a structural concept concerning leadership and is not to be confused with charismatic phenomena experienced in the Pauline communities.

[18]   This view is well articulated in J.D.G. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit (London: SCM, 1975), pp. 347-350, especially p. 349 where, speaking of institutionalisation in the Pastorals he writes: "Clearly then the vision of charismatic community has faded, ministry and authority have become the prerogative of the few, the experience of the Christ-Spirit has lost its vitality, the preservation of the past has become more important than openness to the present and future" (my italics).

[19]   See the important work by the historian Ramsay MacMullen, Christianizing the Roman Empire (New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1984).  MacMullen argues that the persistence of thaumaturgy provides the most adequate explanation for the astonishing growth of Christianity prior to the conversion of Constantine in 312 CE.

[20]   R.P. Martin, 2 Corinthians, Word Biblical Commentary 40 (Dallas/Milton Keynes: Word, 1986/1991), p. 341.

[21]   1 Tim 1:3-11; 4:1-7; 6:3-5, 20-21; 2 Tim 2:14 - 4:5; Titus 1:10-16; 3:8-9.

[22]   R.J. Karris, "The Background and Significance of the Polemic of the Pastorals", Journal of Biblical Literature 92 (1973), pp. 549-564.

[23]   D.E. Aune, Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Ancient Mediterranean World (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), p. 229, my italics.

[24]   Karris, op. cit., pp. 557-558, admits that "the charge of being inspired by demons does not occur in the schema [i.e. the polemic of philosophers against sophists]."  Nevertheless, he does not believe that the opponents claimed to be prophets.  However, nowhere does he consider the possibility that this charge forms part of a different schema: namely, the polemic specifically directed against false prophets.

[25]   D.R. MacDonald, The Legend and the Apostle: The Battle for Paul in Story and Canon (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1983).

[26]   For example, The Acts of Paul mention Demas (2 Tim 4:10), Hermogenes (2 Tim 1:15), and Onesiphorus (2 Tim 1:16).  However, this may simply indicate some dependence on the Pastorals, contra MacDonald.

[27]   This need not imply a late date for the Pastorals; legends can circulate about a person even during his or her lifetime.

[28]   The belief that God primarily engages with his creation in extraordinary, "non-natural" ways.

[29]   J. Massingberd Ford, "A Note on Proto-Montanism in the Pastoral Epistles", New Testament Studies 17 (1971), pp. 338-346.

[30]   Ibid., p. 342.

[31]   See, for example, Col 1:15-17; Heb 1:2-3.

[32]   N. Wright, Charismatic Renewal, p. 75; citing Wallace Benn and Mark Burkhill, A Theological and Pastoral Critique of the Teachings of John Wimber, Harold Wood Booklets No 1 (St Peter's Church, Harold Wood, not dated).  See the entire chapter by Nigel Wright, "The Theology and Methodology of 'Signs and Wonders'" in Charismatic Renewal, pp. 71-85.

[33]   Frances Young, The Theology of the Pastoral Letters (Cambridge: CUP, 1994), p. 152, my emphasis.

[34]   Ibid., p. 153.

[35]   N.T. Wright, New Tasks, p. 116.

[36]   The NIV misses the point here by translating the participle used here as "brought up"; although the participle is a metaphor drawn from child rearing (nurturing or nourishing), it is in the present tense.  What Timothy had received was to be a continual source of nourishment to him.  See Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, p. 103.

[37]   See the excellent book by Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1988).

[38]   G.W. Knight III, Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, p. 208.

[39]   W. Brueggemann, Texts Under Negotiation: The Bible and Postmodern Imagination (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), p. 90, his italics.

[40]   Sidney Greidanus, The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text (Grand Rapids/Leicester: Eerdmans/IVP, 1988), p. 15.

[41]   Ibid., p. 16, his italics.

[42]   "Good works" is an important concept in the Pastorals, occurring fourteen times (1 Tim 2:10; 3:1; 5:10 (twice), 25; 6:18; 2 Tim 2:21; 3:17; Titus 1:16; 2:7, 14; 3:1, 8, 14).

[43]   For the view that the Pastorals' ethical concern is vitally related to mission see P.H. Towner, The Goal of Our Instruction: The Structure of Theology and Ethics in the Pastoral Epistles, Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 34 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1989).

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