Osvaldo Padilla, The Pastoral Epistles (TNTC)

Padilla, Osvaldo. The Pastoral Epistles. Tyndale New Testament Commentary. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2022. xxix+284 pp. Pb. $25.00   Link to IVP Academic  

This new volume in the Tyndale New Testament Commentary series replaces the volume by Donald Guthrie, originally published in 1957. Osvaldo Padilla (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is professor of divinity at Beeson Divinity and author of The Speeches of Outsiders in Acts (Cambridge 2008) and The Acts of the Apostles: Interpretation, History and Theology (IVP Academic, 2016, reviewed here).

The forty-three-page introduction begins, as all commentaries on the pastoral epistles must, with a detailed discussion of authorship. Beginning with the evidence dating to the second century, he observes there is strong evidence for Pauline authorship (6). Padilla traces the various challenges to Pauline authorship but concludes “the view taken in this commentary is that the belief in Paul’s authorship of the pastoral epistles is not something that can be proved by engaging in argument and counterargument with those scholars who deny Pauline authorship” (10). He confesses that Protestant evangelical submission to the authority of scripture means that 1 Timothy 1:1 says Paul wrote the book, so Paul wrote the book. Nevertheless, he still engages with the typical arguments made against Pauline authorship such as the lack of connection with Paul’s missionary movements and various linguistic arguments and social arguments such as (Paul’s view of women in ministry).

Padilla, Pastoral EpistlesPadilla affirms traditional Pauline authorship because the biblical text states Paul is the author. Pseudepigrapha was not an acceptable practice in the early church (with the exception of false teachers) and no early Christian writer doubted Paul wrote the letters, and all the usual arguments are flawed (15). Most challenging, he states that the majority position is influenced by academic and social pressure to deny Pauline authorship (15).

With respect to the genre, Paul used a letter genre that would help him accomplish his task. The pastorals are parenetic letters which work with the ethos of authority of the author to provide exhortations but are not official or administrative letters (19) 1 Timothy and Titus are letters both parenetic, 2 Timothy includes features of a farewell letter. But are these pastoral letters? Padilla retains the traditional title but understands the theological emphasis of the letters is on church life. He also recognizes that there are three separate letters and readers need to respect their uniqueness.

The occasion of second Timothy is clear: Paul wrote the letter at the end of his life from Rome between AD 64-67. First Timothy and Titus are more difficult to place. The traditional view is they reflect Paul’s ministry after the book of Acts (since they are difficult to fit into the missionary journeys of Acts). Padilla takes up a suggestion found in Badcock’s 1937 commentary. Paul wrote Titus first, during Paul’s Ephesian residence (Acts 19) and 1 Timothy on his way to Jerusalem (Acts 20-21). Paul wrote 2 Timothy while under house arrest in Caesarea (Acts 24-26).

What prompted Paul to write these letters? Padilla suggests 1 Timothy 3:14-16 is the key to the pastoral epistles, following the suggestion by Celsus Spicq (23). First, Paul wrote to stress the importance of godly leadership if the church is going to thrive. Second, he wanted to remind believers that conduct is grounded in sound doctrine. Third, he emphasizes that sound doctrine is based on proper Christology and soteriology. Padilla recognizes a polemic against false teachers in the letters. Following Martin Hengel, the false teachers were Jewish Christians, possibly itinerant teachers Hengel called “Hasidic-Essene Gnostics.”

Padilla summarizes four theological emphases in these letters. First, the God of the pastoral epistles is the God of Israel and the father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and this God is the savior. Second, the letters describe salvation with the language of eternal life and look forward to a future salvation at the return of Christ. Third, the letters describe the Christian life as doing good works and conducting a godly life. But Padilla sets both into a Greco-Roman context: good works are connected to Greek virtues like godliness. Finally, Paul’s theology of the church is like his other letters. A key element for the church in the pastoral epistles is guarding or keeping the gospel.

Most people evaluating a commentary on the Pastoral Epistles naturally turn to 1 Timothy 2:8-15 to examine the author’s view of Paul’s controversial comments on women. Paul addresses both men and women, his comments disproportionately target women. Padilla begins his commentary on this section by setting the context, specifically the Greek virtue of sophrosyne. In 1 Timothy 2:9, Paul says women ought to cloth themselves in sophrosyne. The word is often translated as “self-control” (ESV), “decently” (NRSV) or “propriety” (NIV). Paul uses this word twice (2:9, 2:15) to frame this controversial section. Padilla shows that the word can apply to women in several different contexts. First, he cites Sophocles, Euripides, and Plutarch, who all used the word in the context of speech and language, “sophrosyne is demonstrated in silence” (86). But sophrosyne also appears in contexts of sexual self-control. Citing Philo of Alexandria, Potiphar’s wife acted without sophrosyne when she approached Joseph. Third, the word is used as an opposite for immodesty. A woman who wears immodest, expensive clothing with excessive ornamentation is not demonstrating sophrosyne.

Besides this linguistic evidence, Padilla suggests Paul is dealing with two specific issues in the church. First, there are women who lack sophrosyne or are not demonstrating sophrosyne properly as a wife, mother, and manager of the home (all part of Greco-Roman sophrosyne values). Second, there seems to be an issue with false teachers targeting women and leading them astray, perhaps explaining the unusual language about Eve being deceived in 2:13-14.

Padilla does not address “have authority” until his commentary on 2:12. He summarizes Köstenberger’s view that “to teach” and “to have authority” (authenteo) are both positive in 1 Timothy and Paul’s issue is the gender of the person teaching and exercising authority. Padilla finds this problematic since the words are neither positive nor negative by themselves. In 1 Timothy 1:10, Paul uses didaskeo positively, “teaching sound doctrine” but in 4:1 Paul uses the same word for the “doctrine of demons.” For Padilla, “to have authority” (authenteo) has a pejorative sense. There is something wrong with the way some women are exercising authority in a domineering way. He therefore suggests authenteo means something like, “I do not permit women to take control and tell men what to do” (94). If they are acting in a domineering way, they are not demonstrating sophrosyne. Paul prohibits men who behave in this way from serving as overseers (1 Tim 3:1-7). I suggest, “don’t be a toxic, bullying leader,” whether one is a male or female. His conclusion: “It does seem unlikely that we should take this passage to mean that women are forbidden from teaching men” (97).

This leads to the question of elders and deacons. 1 Timothy 3:1-13. Padilla observes there is a significant overlap between the roles and little description of concrete work for each role. The overseer has general oversight and is assisted by the deacon. But the reader should be careful to not import later church office into 1 Timothy 3. Padilla also says it is problematic to conflate the role of an overseer with the role of a modern pastor. The biblical model focuses on the character and attitudes, rather than a charismatic or powerful leader with great preaching and administration skills (or, I would add here, just about anything else that contemporary leadership books consider to be important for leaders like “vision casting,” etc.) He concludes “leaders in the church must be godly men and women who have benefited been gifted by the Holy Spirit to teach scripture competently and care pastorally for the congregation, similar to the way parents care for their children” (110). Note well the pronouns.

Like other volumes of the Tyndale New Testament Commentary, Padilla’s exegesis is based on the Greek text, but the commentary focuses on the English. The commentary is not overly distracted by finer points of grammar, so readers without Greek should benefit from his comments. The commentary is rich with illustrations from Greco-Roman sources to illustrate how Paul is working within his culture. Each section ends with an application focusing on theological issues, but especially on how Paul’s comments should be applied in a Christian Church context.

Conclusion. Padilla’s commentary on the Pastoral Epistles is an excellent example of writing a commentary that is the “right size.” It is brief compared to I. H Marshall’s mammoth ICC volume, but it is detailed to enough to help pastors and teachers prepare to present these important letters to their communities.

One way to see how commentaries have changed over the last sixty years is to compare Guthrie’s popular commentary with this new volume. Guthrie had a single page of abbreviations which also served as a select bibliography. Padilla’s new commentary has nine pages of select bibliography and another eight pages of abbreviations.



Other reviewed commentaries in third Tyndale series:



NB: Thanks to IVP Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

6 thoughts on “Osvaldo Padilla, The Pastoral Epistles (TNTC)

  1. I believe they were written by Paul and that Timothy and Titus updated them after Paul’s arrest and incarceration in Rome. The author (Epaphroditus?) was in competition for leadership with both of them and would have done what he could to undermine their efforts in Macedonia.

    Woodrow Nichols

  2. That depends on how one defines Evangelical Christianity. Inerrancy is one of only two doctrinal statements affirmed by the Evangelical Theological Society (the other is the trinity). But inerrancy is defined differently, as one finds with most doctrines. American evangelicals push inerrancy much harder than in the UK, so that I H. Marshall is an evangelical even though he did not think Paul wrote the pastoral epistles. Read some of Michael Bird’s statements on inerrancy, for example.

    If the issue is “supernatural claims” (which at least in that article it is), then maybe “rise or fall” is a possibility, however dramatic. There isn’t much “supernatural” in the Pastorals, or even historical claims aside from authorship.

    However, you are evaluating a first century messianic movement with modernist categories. If a Jewish messianic pretender went around claiming to be the messiah and did not do miracles, then he would not have a chance of gaining a following sine the messianic age was supposed to be a time when God heal the sick, etc. It is far less plausible for a messiah to NOT do miracles. Jesus fits into the world of first century Judaism far better than 19th century rationalism or protestant liberalism.

    In the context of a book review of a commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, whether Paul wrote the Pastoral Epistles or not is an ongoing discussion in evangelical scholarship, most will rehash the arguments one way or another and conclude something like “it does not really matter that much for the interpretation of the letters,…”

    I think there is a difference between fundementalism and evangelicalism. You are right to escape fundementalism and might be right to move on from American evangelicalism (as it has mutated in the last ten+ years into a more right-wind political, fundementalist monster). On this topic, a hardcore fundie would say “of course Paul wrote the pastorals since that is what it says in my KJV Bible” and any doubts or discussion of the question is a sign of a lack of faith.

  3. .I believe Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus, and then subsequently his letters were edited by them to contain contemporary issues after Paul was killed in Rome. I believe Luke and Acts were written by a Macedonian from Philippi and there was fierce competition between the three of them for dominance over their local communities, as well as with the Jerusalem Church of James. In my opinion, there is too much historical information in them to be all fake, with a lot of contradictions in Acts, e.g., the pre-Paul arrest of a ministry in Crete as the same time as Corinth and Ephesus. Titus is never mentioned in Acts, so the author obviously held a grudge against him.

    Woodrow Nichols

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