Saturday, 26 November 2016

"The [Pastoral] Pauline Epistles"

Continuing my discussion of Robinson's treatment of the Pauline epistles in Redating the New Testament, we come to his treatment of the pastoral epistles, viz. 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. This will no doubt be the section of Redating's Chapter III that readers are most likely to find objectionable, as Robinson argues that all three pastorals are authentically Pauline. He actually makes clear that no one was more surprised that he reached that conclusion than he himself, as at the beginning of the work that led to Redating he supposed as given the 20th-century consensus regarding their non-authenticity. His research changed his mind. This is the strongest part of his treatment of the pastoral epistles, as he opts to date 1 and 2 Timothy to places in Paul's career that I find difficult (although not impossible) to sustain.

We begin with Titus, which Robinson dates to the first half of 57, around the time of Paul's final journey to Jerusalem. If we grant that Paul wrote Titus, I can see no significant difficulty with this hypothesis. 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy are different questions. Starting with 1 Timothy, Robinson argues that textual details indicate that it was written at around the same time as Romans and 1 and 2 Corinthians. As such, he dates it to 55. Unfortunately, he never treats the problem of 1 Timothy 5:18, in which Paul quotes as a graphē on par with Deuteronomy a passage that exists verbatim and only in Luke's Gospel. The most expedient hypothesis by far is that 5:18 is indeed quoting Luke's Gospel here. I find it very difficult however to imagine that Luke's Gospel dates any earlier than the Caesarean captivity, which Robinson dates to 57 to 60; and indeed, to anticipate our discussion of Redating, Chapter IV, Robinson does indeed date Luke to that period. It's at that point that, by way of the we-passages, we can put Luke in close sustained proximity with such figures as James, brother of Jesus: precisely the sort of eyewitnesses that he tells us in his prologue he sought out. Strictly speaking, there is nothing preventing us from dating Luke earlier, but I feel that the probability increases exponentially from 57. By my way of thinking, this makes a date for 1 Timothy earlier than 57 improbable. At the very least, Robinson's discussion of 1 Timothy is marred by his failure to engage with 5:18.

Robinson dates 2 Timothy to the Caesarean captivity, c. 58. He does this largely on the weight of connections with the captivity epistles, including not least of all the fact that Paul is in captivity here. There are two flies in this ointment: 2 Timothy 1:17, which states that Onesiphorus found Paul in Rome; and 4:20, which indicates that Trophimus was left ill in Miletus, when Acts 20-21 makes clear that when Paul passed through Miletus on his way to Jerusalem he was in the company of Trophimus and that Trophimus did indeed arrive in the holy city. On the first point, Robinson's argument is, if not convincing, at least plausible: that Onesiphorus came to Rome, searched for Paul, and not finding him there, went to Caesarea, where he did find him. While plausible, it does seem a bit of a strain, and one cannot help but think that Robinson is forcing 2 Timothy into a Procrustean bed. If one feels that with his treatment of 1:17, one feels it all the more when one reads his treatment of 4:20. Here he argues that when Paul says that he left Trophimus ill in Miletus, he does not mean that he was physically with Trophimus at the time of this "leaving." Rather, he is thinking like a general moving soldiers on a map: he "left" Trophimus in Miletus in the sense that he didn't move him elsewhere. Again, while strictly speaking not implausible, it really does seem to strain the text. If 2 Timothy was written by Paul, then 1:17 and 4:20 would seem to best fit a time when Paul is in Rome, after a second, otherwise unknown trip through Miletus with Trophimus.

I'm not here going to give alternative dates for 1 and 2 Timothy, because those are texts that I'm still thinking through myself. I note only what I consider to be weaknesses in Robinson's account, and state that barring better explanations for the contrary data, that I cannot affirm his dates for these texts.

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