I’m working through the Pastoral Epistles – I and II Timothy and Titus – for a class I’m taking, and in the process have had to wrestle again with the question of Pauline authorship.
Though the Church has traditionally affirmed that Paul wrote these letters, beginning in the nineteenth century with F.C. Baur many scholars began to question that. Today, a rejection of Pauline authorship is the majority opinion in New Testament scholarship, and a common stance even in Evangelical circles.
[I won’t bore you by laying out the detailed arguments here, but for a good overview of the issues surrounding Pauline authorship and pseudonymity I would recommend Philip Towner’s The Letters to Timothy and Titus (NICNT) and I. Howard Marshal’s essay in the Dictionary of the Later New Testament & Its Developments]
Now, to be honest, I don’t have a very strong opinion in either direction. There seem to be good arguments on both sides (see the resources above), and my personal understanding of canon and inspiration is broad enough to include pseudepigraphal writings if that is how the Spirit chose to work.
But I wonder what the deeper implications are to the discussion.
- If Paul did not write those Epistles, does it change how we read them?
- Does it affect the authority of the letters, or does their place in the canon ensure that?
- Is the critical approach to the text perhaps just a holdover from post-Enlightenment modernism with all its theological and philosophical baggage?
- What is at stake in our answer?