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March 30, 2011

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The overwhelming majority of scholars have concluded that books like 1 Timothy were not in fact written by Paul. I doubt very seriously that the folks at Stand to Reason have principled reasons to dispute those conclusions. It would seem that the modus operandi of the conservative evangelical is simply to notice that the conclusions conflict with their a priori dogmas and to search for ways to vindicate what these evangelicals thought all along.

Concerning the Pastorals, scholars have pointed out the following facts (I’m relying on Kenton Sparks’ “God’s Word in Human Words,” by the way):

1. One third of the words used in the Pastorals do not appear in Paul’s non-disputed letters and some of the words that do appear seem to take on a different meaning in the Pastorals than they do in Paul’s non-disputed letters.
2. The historical testimony concerning the authorship of the Pastorals is much weaker than the testimony concerning Paul’s undisputed letters.
3. There appear to be ethical differences between the Pastorals and the authentic Pauline letters. Whereas Paul allows women to speak in church (1 Cor. 11:2-6), the Pastorals do not permit this (1 Tim. 2:11-14).

Facts (1) through (3) are less surprising on the hypothesis that Paul did not write the Pastorals than facts (1) through (3) are on the hypothesis that Paul did write the pastorals. These facts, therefore, are evidence against Pauline authorship. Perhaps there is other evidence that I have ignored here that tilts the balance back in favor of Pauline authorship, but this at least gives us reason to think that other evidence held equal, Paul probably did not write the Pastorals.

Evidence against Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch is even stronger. The following facts all suggest that Moses was not the author of the Pentateuch:

1. Pentateuch refers to Moses in the third person.
2. Genesis 36:31 claims the Edomite rulers lived “before any king reigned over the Israelites,” suggesting it was written after Saul and David (after 1,000 B.C.), long after Moses.
3. Author consults sources such as “Books of the Wars of Yahweh” (Num. 21:10-20), something Moses would not need to do.
4. Genesis 12:6 and 13:7 tell us that in Abraham’s day there were Canaanites in the land, suggesting that when Genesis was written the Canaanites were no longer a problem for Israel.

This is a very good resource from a scholar at Yale:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_m10CyD-fs

@Malebranche,
Very good arguments you make here, that, unfortunately can and should be dismissed by explanation of use of a secretary. It was even more common then than it is now. All of the books of Moses, along with most of the Bible was oral long before it was written anyway.

- Concerning writing in the third person, even apart from a scribe or secretary being employed, you should know that in many cultures and languages, referring to oneself in the third person, even during speech, much more so in writing, is not just common place, but actually polite.

Well the claim never was that there is no way, in light of the facts I mentioned, that Paul could have written it. Of course it is possible that Paul could have written the Pastorals! And, of course, it is possible that he did not write them and that they are pseudonymous. The question to ask, then, is this: is the conjunction of all of facts (1) through (3) more surprising on the hypothesis of Pauline authorship or on the denial of that hypothesis? Most scholars think they are more surprising on the hypothesis of Pauline authorship. That is perfectly consistent with the fact that we can devise explanations according to which Paul is the author. That is precisely the problem, namely that we have multiple competing explanations and must decide between them. Even if one can conjoin with the hypothesis of Pauline authorship the auxiliary hypothesis that Paul used a secretary, that does not yet show that facts (1) through (3) are not more surprising on the hypothesis of Pauline authorship than on the pseudonymous hypothesis.

As far as Mosaic authorship is concerned, pointing out that the books were transmitted orally long before they were written hardly counts as any defense at all that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch. It borders on an admission that he wasn’t (unless being towards the front end of a long chain of oral tradition which is edited by subsequent humans living long after the events reported is sufficient for being the author of the final product).

Responding to 1 Tim objections, by number:

1. Why is it surprising that Paul uses different language when writing to a beloved friend rather than writing a letter on systematic theology? People use different language when writing to different audiences all the time. You will not see the same words and tone in an email I compose to my wife, compared to an email I compose to my boss. Why is this surprising to you? Romans and 1 Timothy were written for completely different purposes and completely different audiences.

2. What historical testimony? You provided none. Most early church fathers quoted from and accepted the Epistle as scriptural (see http://www.ntcanon.org/table.shtml)

3. The quote from 1 Tim 2:11-14 does not deal with whether or not women can speak out loud in church. Paul was forbidding women in the role of pastor and teaching men. He is telling Timothy that women are to be silent while being taught, to receive instruction with all submissiveness. Verse 11 sets the context. Nowhere in this entire section in 1 Tim does it forbid women to pray out loud. I can't understand how you could even get that meaning from a straightforward reading of the text. Paul permits women to pray and prophesy, but not to lead the service. In the context of describing a sound church, in Titus 2:3-4 older women are encouraged to teach what is good to younger women.

~ Eric.

Eric,

Again, it is important to see that when we assess the probability of competing hypotheses, we are interested in comparative probabilities. If we have two hypotheses, H1 and H2, and some fact F, if F is more surprising on H1 than H2, then F is evidence for H1 over H2 even if F is not terribly surprising on H2.

Suppose we have two jars, Jar1 and Jar2. Jar1 has 90 dimes and 10 pennies. Jar2 has 80 dimes and 20 pennies. Suppose someone draws a coin out of one of the jars, but we are not sure which. Suppose the coin is a dime. That fact is more surprising if the coin was drawn from Jar2 than it is if it were drawn from Jar1, and so it is evidence that the coin came from Jar1 instead of Jar2. Notice that the fact that the coin is a dime is evidence that it did not come from Jar2 even though the fact that the coin is a dime is not surprising give that it came from Jar2! In fact, given that the coin is drawn from Jar2, you would expect it to be a dime! Still, the fact that it is a dime is evidence that it came from Jar1 instead of Jar2 simply because one would expect it to be a dime even more if it came from Jar1 than if it came from Jar2.

I myself am no biblical scholar and merely intended to hand-wave towards some of the reasons most scholars reject Pauline authorship of the Pastorals. Defending their opinions is out of my league. If you want more detailed discussion of this, see Kenton Sparks’ “God’s Word in Human Words.” It’s an excellent book. He lists the following facts in addition to the three I’ve already listed which, in his judgment, when taken as a conjunction favor the pseudonymous hypothesis over the Pauline authorship hypothesis:

(4) Paul’s life as it is understood from Acts and the undisputed epistles does not allow much room for a journey to the East that is assumed by the Pastorals (cf. 1 Tim. 1:3; 2 Tim. 4:21; Titus 3:14).

(5) The Pastorals presuppose a complex church hierarchy (offices including bishops, elders and deacons) which is typical of second-generation Christian sources but not as typical in Paul’s undisputed letters.

(6) Many particles, conjunctions, and adverbs used by Paul in the undisputed letters do not appear in the Pastoral Epistles.

Again, it would be as foolish for me to speak confidently about the merits of these claims as it is for most Christians to weigh in on the evidence for evolution or the JEDP theory. But I do understand the nature of the claim being made, and it is just that facts (1) through (6) taken together are more surprising on the hypothesis of Pauline authorship than on its denial, and so these facts are evidence that Paul did not author the Pastorals. And for the reasons indicated above, it does no good to undermine that claim by trying to argue that each fact is not terribly surprising given Pauline authorship.

Eric,

Again, it is important to see that when we assess the probability of competing hypotheses, we are interested in comparative probabilities. If we have two hypotheses, H1 and H2, and some fact F, if F is more surprising on H1 than H2, then F is evidence for H1 over H2 even if F is not terribly surprising on H2.

Suppose we have two jars, Jar1 and Jar2. Jar1 has 90 dimes and 10 pennies. Jar2 has 80 dimes and 20 pennies. Suppose someone draws a coin out of one of the jars, but we are not sure which. Suppose the coin is a dime. That fact is more surprising if the coin was drawn from Jar2 than it is if it were drawn from Jar1, and so it is evidence that the coin came from Jar1 instead of Jar2. Notice that the fact that the coin is a dime is evidence that it did not come from Jar2 even though the fact that the coin is a dime is not surprising give that it came from Jar2! In fact, given that the coin is drawn from Jar2, you would expect it to be a dime! Still, the fact that it is a dime is evidence that it came from Jar1 instead of Jar2 simply because one would expect it to be a dime even more if it came from Jar1 than if it came from Jar2.

I myself am no biblical scholar and merely intended to hand-wave towards some of the reasons most scholars reject Pauline authorship of the Pastorals. Defending their opinions is out of my league. If you want more detailed discussion of this, see Kenton Sparks’ “God’s Word in Human Words.” It’s an excellent book. He lists the following facts in addition to the three I’ve already listed which, in his judgment, when taken as a conjunction favor the pseudonymous hypothesis over the Pauline authorship hypothesis:

(4) Paul’s life as it is understood from Acts and the undisputed epistles does not allow much room for a journey to the East that is assumed by the Pastorals (cf. 1 Tim. 1:3; 2 Tim. 4:21; Titus 3:14).

(5) The Pastorals presuppose a complex church hierarchy (offices including bishops, elders and deacons) which is typical of second-generation Christian sources but not as typical in Paul’s undisputed letters.

(6) Many particles, conjunctions, and adverbs used by Paul in the undisputed letters do not appear in the Pastoral Epistles.

Again, it would be as foolish for me to speak confidently about the merits of these claims as it is for most Christians to weigh in on the evidence for evolution or the JEDP theory. But I do understand the nature of the claim being made, and it is just that facts (1) through (6) taken together are more surprising on the hypothesis of Pauline authorship than on its denial, and so these facts are evidence that Paul did not author the Pastorals. And for the reasons indicated above, it does no good to undermine that claim by trying to argue that each fact is not terribly surprising given Pauline authorship.

Eric,

I unfortunately wrote,

If we have two hypotheses, H1 and H2, and some fact F, if F is more surprising on H1 than H2, then F is evidence for H1 over H2 even if F is not terribly surprising on H2.

I hope it is clear that that is not what I meant to say. I should have said:

If we have two hypotheses, H1 and H2, and some fact F, if F is more surprising on H1 than H2, then F is evidence for H2 over H1 even if F is not terribly surprising on H1.

I understand what you're saying here, but given the responses I made to your points 1-3, I am not at all surprised that Paul could be the author. And at any rate, I don't think one's level of 'surprisedness' is a good metric of whether or not we have a good argument; the plausibility of a fact shouldn't hinge on my subjective feelings of being surprised - maybe it's just a quirk of my personality that I am surprised. And also, two people can always disagree on what one finds surprising; who's surprisedness trumps whose? Sometimes I find the fact that the world exists at all is surprising.

For your point 4, I'll quote from the MacArthur Study Bible commentary on 1 Tim:

"This contention of historical incompatibility is valid only if Paul was never released from his Roman imprisonment mentioned in Acts. But he was released, since Acts does not record Paul's execution, and Paul himself expected to be released (Php 1:19,25,26; 2:24; Phm 22). The historical events in the Pastoral Epistles do not fit into the chronology of Acts because they happened after the close of the Acts narrative which ends with Paul's first imprisonment in Rome (circa 60-62).

5. The church organizational structure mentioned in the Pastoral Epistles are consistent with that established by Paul (see Acts 14:23 and Php 1:1)

6. I'll have to reiterate the same point I made above; the difference in words used is not inconsistent with the different subject matter and audience being addressed; but I'm not a linguistics expert, so I can't add any more to that.

I may not have you fully convinced, but hopefully you can appreciate that there exist some good reasons that one can, at the very least, be "not all that surprised" of Pauline authorship.

I do doubt that Paul wrote the Pastorals, but mostly on the authority of the scholarly community.

The larger issue, however, is the need so many feel to defend such things as Pauline authorship even prior to really considering the issue with an open mind. Now I am NOT suggesting that you are doing this. I know nothing about you. I only bring this up because it was what my original comment was intended to get at.

I think it is clear that often what is really doing the work in some of these controversial discussions, if we are honest, is not an honest assessment of the evidence, but rather a priori dogmas concerning inerrancy and the historicity of the Bible. The harmonizations and explanations are, sometimes at least, merely post hoc rationalizations.

For example. Suppose I were to seriously propose (as many have) that the Exodus of the Israelites as described in the Book of Exodus never occurred (which it probably did not, apparently; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Exodus#Historicity_debate). I assure you that a swarm of folks that have never even looked into the matter would immediately and anxiously search the web for arguments supporting its historicity and replies to the toughest objections against its historicity. Isn't there something objectionable about that way of proceeding? Would there be anything at all desirable about speaking with a Mormon or a Muslim engaging in that kind of behavior? The procedure seems to be as follows:

Step One: Check to see if the proposition contradicts inerrancy or some theological dogma one holds with conviction.

Step Two: If it does contradict one’s theological dogmas, begin reading apologists (Christian, if you're Christian; Muslim, if you're Muslim; etc) in order to learn the best arguments for your position and the strongest objections against the position of your opponent. Let an apologist tell you what you believe and why you believe it so that you can have confidence that your faith is rational.

Step Three: Once the arguments have been memorized, defend what one believed all along with even greater confidence and assurance.

I think that method of inquiry is both intellectually vicious and ubiquitous in apologetics subcultures, be they Christian, Muslim, or atheist. Now I don’t know you, Eric, and I’m not suggesting that you use this method. But I do think many do, and I suspect that is part of the reason discussions about the historicity of the birth narratives, the Exodus, the flood, etc. are characterized by the defensiveness and nervous anxiety that one sometimes encounters.

But why can't someone accept the Pauline authorship 'mostly on the authority of the scholarly community'?

Another possible reason for the need to defend Pauline authorship is because it is constantly under attack, and because some skeptics (not saying you) will go to any lengths to undermine Christianity; indeed, some are full-time professionals at it.

Why does an honest assessment of the evidence have to lead to agreement with the skeptic's position? Is one not justified in looking at the evidence and coming to a rational conclusion in in favor of Christianity?

Are atheists and skeptics never guilty of holding a priori biases against the historicity of the Bible?

I'm confused. When a skeptic trots out a list of experts and authorities challenging the scripture, it is perceived as rational and intellectually honest; but if a Christian tries to marshal a defense using the same strategy, it is post-hoc, defensive, etc. So what kind of defense would be acceptable to you? It seems you are applying a double standard - the athiest is justified in using rational arguments, but the Christian has to just stand there and take it.

I suspect many people don't have the time or resources to pursue advanced degrees in archeology, linguistics, cosmology, neuroscience, etc., so it's of necessity to use the resources of experts who have done the heavy lifting; didn't you yourself quote from a book at the beginning of this post? Am I being ad/post-hoc if I attempt to do the same?

"...learn the best arguments for your position and the strongest objections against the position of your opponent. Let an apologist tell you what you believe and why you believe it so that you can have confidence that your faith is rational."

You mean like an indexed list of subject and topics with standard arguments and counter-arguments in easily-memorizable bullet format (http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/list.html)? I agree, it gets mighty annoying sometimes.

I'll let you have the last word. In closing, I think a challenge and a defense should both be dealt with on the merits; that someone uses an expert's research should not in itself invalidate the response.

Eric,

I claimed that in the apologetics subculture a certain method of inquiry is quite common. I outlined what I thought that method is and claimed that it is an intellectually vicious way of proceeding. I’m not sure if you’ve disputed those claims or not. But now on to what you do say.

Another possible reason for the need to defend Pauline authorship is because it is constantly under attack, and because some skeptics (not saying you) will go to any lengths to undermine Christianity; indeed, some are full-time professionals at it.

But something being under constant attack is not, all by itself, a good reason to defend it! Perhaps it is under attack for a good reason. Young Earth Creationists probably think their views are constantly under attack, but that is no reason to defend that nonsense. And there are good reasons Young Earth Creationism is under attack, not least among them being that it has been thoroughly discredited scientifically.

Why does an honest assessment of the evidence have to lead to agreement with the skeptic's position?

It doesn’t.

Is one not justified in looking at the evidence and coming to a rational conclusion in in favor of Christianity?

But this whole process that you are asking about is precisely what I am saying does not happen that often. My whole point is that many of those who are devouring apologetics manuals have already made up their minds prior to considering the evidence and they are only approaching the evidence in order to confirm what they already thought. And if that is the process, then in most cases I would say that it certainly does not lead to rational belief in Christianity.

So what kind of defense would be acceptable to you? It seems you are applying a double standard - the athiest is justified in using rational arguments, but the Christian has to just stand there and take it.

The inclination to automatically defend is precisely what I take issue with. Before we decide that our theological dogmas are worth defending, I think we should take some time to really honestly ask ourselves whether they are true. Instead of instinctively looking for ways to defend the historicity of the Exodus, for instance, we should first ask ourselves, “Given the evidence at hand, is it more likely than not that this event did not take place?” Only after basing our beliefs on the basis of that honest assessment of the evidence should we be prepared to defend them. But I suspect that is not the case with many Christians. Many seem prepared to adopt the project of preparing for a defense of things like the historicity of the Exodus even thought they have never looked into the matter in the least!

There is no double standard. Anyone who goes to the evidence merely in order to confirm their preconceived notions is being intellectually vicious, whether Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, or atheist.

I agree with Ehrman, in that much of the bible is filled with forgeries and interpolations. When Ehrman stated:
"the reason we have the present literature in the New Testament is because a theologically orthodox group won the theology war."

He was correct, as many books considered to be valid at the Council of Nicea such as the Gospel of Barnabas, were left out for very specific reasons. The Gospel of Barnabas was left out because Jesus himself stated that "He is not god." Also, The "Theology war" raged even within the council, as Arius lost the battle when he disagreed with the Trinity Doctrine. Athanasius and his powerful supporters won that war.

It should be noted that Christian historians such as Eusebius, have admitted that lying for Jesus is ok....as long as it furthers the cause. And of course, logically speaking, if one part of the bible is unreliable, the entire text becomes questionable.

As a philosopher myself, I have begun refuting arguments by well known Christian apologists on my blog: aisforatheist5760.blogspot.com.

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