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.

2 Timothy 4:6-8 – Paul’s Last Words

Despite his certain execution, Paul knows that he has been faithful to his calling from God. Paul describes himself as already “being poured out like a drink offering.” This is a particularly vivid image that anyone in the ancient world would understand.

The verb is a single word (σπένδω) usually translated as the phrase “poured out like a drink offering.” This refers to pouring wine (or water) onto the altar as the main sacrifice was being burned. In Num 15:24, for example, a sacrifice is a “pleasing aroma to the Lord” and is accompanied by an offering of wine and grain as well. A drink offering is never the main sacrifice, it is one that is given along with the main sacrifice.

Good FightPaul used this same word in Phil 2:17 in a similar context, he refers to his life as a kind of sacrifice that accompanies the “main sacrifice.” In Philippians 2:17, the main sacrifice is the faith of the Philippian church. Here in 2 Tim 4:6 Paul does not specify the main offering. Perhaps he is thinking of Jesus as the main sacrifice for sin, and the martyrdom of the believer as that which accompanies the main sacrifice.

He uses three metaphors to describe his faithfulness to his commission. In each of these three lines Paul emphasizes the object, “the fight, I fought, the race, I finished, the faith, I kept.”

The phrase “fought the good fight” is common in contemporary English, but usually it refers to making a very good effort. But the adjective “good” modifies the noun, so it is a “good fight.” Paul’s point is that is life was like a long boxing match, but the reason for the fight was good and anyone who takes up that fight after he departs will also be “fighting a good fight.” It is the task to which Paul was called was good, as opposed to the false teachers who also fight (about words, etc.). They are “fighting the pointless fight.”

The second metaphor is also sports-related. Paul has “finished the race.” Looking ahead at the end of this section, Paul knows that he has competed well and will have his reward when he stands before the judge.

Third, looking back on his ministry, Paul can say he has “kept the faith.” This ought to understood of what the “faith” means in 2 Timothy. He has not qualified or compromised his doctrine in the face of persecution.

Paul was prepared to preach his gospel whenever and wherever he was called, he was ultimately committed to “discharge the duties of a minister of the gospel.” Even in his death, Paul is setting himself up for Timothy as an example. Being faithful to the Gospel is dangerous and may very well put Timothy in same sort of imprisonment Paul is facing at this moment.

In fact, Paul has already been “rescued from the lion’s mouth,” despite no one coming to his defense (vv. 16-17). The “earlier defense” could refer to the end of the book of Acts, Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome. But Paul seems to be referring to more recent events, so it is likely that he has in mind a preliminary trial after his second arrest in Rome, perhaps just after the Fire of Rome.

The reference to being saved from the “mouth of the lions” could be literal, but if it is it means that he was not thrown to the lions when he might have been. It is not the case that he was in the arena about to be killed and somehow he was rescued. Think of this as someone who is acquitted from a capital offense “escaping the hangman’s noose.” The important fact is that God rescued him despite the fact that no human came to his defense.

Finally, Paul looks forward to standing before his Lord “in that Day. ”The “day” refers to the moment when Paul stands before the judgment seat of Christ and receives a victor’s crown. That he is “in Christ” qualifies him to stand there, not the fact that he ran the race well or that he finished the race to which he was called

Paul will receive a “crown of righteousness.” This is the natural metaphor that follows from the use of a race or a boxing match a few lines before. But is this righteousness a description of the crown, or is righteousness itself the reward? Typically we focus on justification as righteousness given to the believer in Christ at the moment of salvation, in other texts Paul looks at our ultimate justification (being made righteous) at the resurrection (Gal 5:5).

Paul’s final words to Timothy focus on the Gospel. Like Timothy, we must continue being faithful to our calling and stand on the foundation of Scripture, clearly proclaiming the gospel. This is the “good fight” to which we have all been called.

2 Timothy 3:13-15 – Avoiding Self-Deception

MontebankThe opponents in Ephesus stand in contrast to Paul’s record of suffering (v. 13) It is Paul and Timothy’s opponents who are the imposters. The noun (γόης) Paul uses here is a common way to describe an opponent in a philosophical debate. The noun originally referred to a sorcerer (T.Sol 19:3 uses it for a witch, Herodotus, Hist. 7.791.2 for magicians, sometimes it refers to a “juggler,” [Aeschines, Ctes. 137], presumably because they do some sort of distracting act while they pick the pockets of the crowd.).

By the first century this word was used to describe a swindler or a con-man who used some kind of deception to gain a profit from his audience. I think of the character from old Western movies, the “snake oil salesman.” The Greek writer Demosthenes used the word in this sense: “for fear I should mislead and deceive you, calling me an artful speaker, a mountebank, an impostor, and so forth” (Dem., 18 276).

Ironically, these deceivers succeed in deceiving themselves! This is also a common way of describing sophists and charlatans in Greco-Roman world (Dio Chrysostom, Orations, 4.33). The way to avoid these sorts of people is proper “divine” education (4.29).

Dio Chrysostom, Orations 4.33 If, however, he falls in with some ignorant and charlatan sophist, the fellow will wear him out by leading him hither and thither, dragging him now to the east and now to the west and now to the south, not knowing anything himself but merely guessing, after having been led far afield himself long before by impostors like himself.

Similarly, the way to avoid the self-deceptive teaching of the opponents in Ephesus is to devote oneself to divine teaching through the Scripture which has been given by God.

Paul encourages Timothy to “continue in what he has learned” from the Scriptures (vv. 14-15). Timothy was trained in the scripture from a young age. Jewish family, reading the Old Testament in Greek (most likely). While the opponents are progressing into more esoteric “deep” knowledge, Timothy is told to remain where he is. He has already learned the truth and has been convinced that it is the truth. There is no need for him to dabble in the “myths and genealogies” of the opponents.

The Jews regularly referred to their scriptures as “sacred writings,” Paul can only have in mind here the Old Testament. At this point in history it is unlikely that the Gospels were circulating as Scripture, perhaps Paul’s churches cherished his letters as authoritative. But the New Testament as we know it simply does not exist yet!

Paul says Timothy was “raised on the Old Testament.” We know that his mother was Jewish and it is likely that he was taught the Old Testament, perhaps having some training in the Septuagint and Hebrew Bible in a synagogue. I doubt that Paul selected Timothy as a missionary companion if he was totally ignorant of the Bible prior to coming to faith in Jesus!

The remedy for self-deception, for Paul, is an absolute reliance on the Scripture for faith and practice. While the opponents in Ephesus pursue fruitless “myths and genealogies” Timothy is to remember what the Scriptures plainly teach and pursue righteousness.

I suspect if people actually read the Bible, they would not tolerate the sort of “teaching” that passes for popular Christian preaching!

2 Timothy 3:10-12 – Why did Paul Suffer?

In contrast to the false teachers, Paul lists his own suffering as an example of what will happen to anyone that wants to live a godly life (vv. 10-12). This is somewhat surprising for contemporary Christians who are fed a steady diet of “health and wealth” gospel: if you are really spiritual and doing everything God requires, you will be blessed, you will be happy, healthy and wealthy. That teaching is the exact opposite of Paul’s point in this passage.  Paul knows that his Gospel is the truth because he has suffered physically as a result of his preaching of Jesus.

It might seem odd, but Paul recalls his first missionary journey as an example of his suffering. He specifically has in mind the persecution he faced in Asia Minor (Acts 14). In Antioch, Paul is opposed by Jews from the Synagogue, who follow him to Iconium to harass him. Paul was attacked in Lystra, stoned and left for dead (Acts 14). Perhaps these persecutions were chosen because he was “left for dead,” or perhaps this period continued to haunt him in his ministry for some time.

Paul StonedWhile that physical attack was important, Paul has in mind the constant treat from the Jewish community throughout that first journey as well as the threats to his churches reflected in the book of Galatians.  The attack on Paul’s character reflected in Paul’s early letters may have been more painful than the physical pain he faced in Lystra.  It appears that some of Paul’s opponents described him as unqualified to preach the gospel (Gal 1) or worse, as a charlatan (1 Thess 2, for example).

A potential problem with this review of Paul’s ministry is that it all occurred on the first missionary journey, before Timothy began to travel with Paul (Acts 15). This is used to argue the letter of 2 Timothy is a pious forgery. The writer introduced a historical error by saying Timothy witnessed these events himself. On the other hand, Timothy was from Lystra himself and joined Paul mission with the full knowledge that Paul is often persecuted physically and opposed by very powerful people where ever he preaches the Gospel!

Paul states very clearly everyone who desires to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. This is a common theme throughout the New Testament: Jesus was persecuted and so too will his followers face similar trials.  Galatians 5:11 indicates that Paul was persecuted because he was preaching that the Gentiles were not under the Law.  The immediate background is his troubles in Asia Minor to which he alludes here in 2 Timothy (cf. Rom 8:35, 1 Cor 4:12, 2 Cor 4:9, 12:10, Gal 4:29, 5:11, 2 Thess 1:4).

If Timothy’s desire is to live a godly life, he will in fact face some sort of trial or  persecution.  Paul knows that Timothy is at the moment facing a difficult time because of the false teachers in Ephesus, even if that has not developed into a physical persecution at this point. This text is clear that the one who is “in Christ” will suffer like Christ.  Perhaps this is an indication that the opponents in Ephesus are not really “in Christ,” they simply do not suffer!

Imagine what would happen in Evangelical Christianity if people really believed they should suffer for Jesus rather than expecting to be wealthy because of their faith. When was the last time you took a rock to the head because of your faith in Jesus?

2 Timothy 2:14-15 – Present Yourself as an Approved Workman

Timothy is to present himself as an approved workman (v. 14-15, 22). Paul’s metaphor here is of a worker presenting himself before his supervisor. The verb (σπουδάζω) has the sense of hurried activity, eagerness or zealousness (BDAG). Perhaps someone who is doing a job will conscientiously, working hard to make sure that it is done properly.

WorkmanAn approved workman might be someone who has been trained and “qualified” as a craftsman. The noun ἐργάτης is often an agricultural laborer (Matt 9:37, “fields,” 20:1, vineyard), but in Acts 19:25 it refers to craftsmen in a kind of guild. As an approved workman, Timothy is no longer an apprentice, still a student under a master. He is an approved worker who has been examined by a master and given an approval by that master.

Timothy is to present himself before God as an approved workman. We might have expected Paul to set himself up as the example since he has done this several times. But here the ultimate “approval” of a minister’s work is God himself.

Timothy ought to do his ministry in a way that does not cause him to be ashamed. Anyone who has done a work that involved a skill has probably said, ‘yeah, that is not my best work.” In the case of a craftsman going before a master for review, the worker will want to do their very best work possible so that they will not experience shame when their work is tested.

What would possibly cause Timothy shame? Possibly his youth, since Paul has already told him to not allow anyone to look down on him for his your (2 Tim 2:15). But it is also possible that his association with Paul is shameful. Paul’s opponents may have made the point that Paul is in prison and no longer under the blessing of God. If Timothy is Paul’s successor, then perhaps they are trying to shame Timothy by associating him with Paul’s “failure.” Paul certainly does not consider his imprisonment a shameful state, but a well-trained Greco-Roman orator could have used this to their advantage. Perhaps the opponents were able to pick apart Timothy’s teaching the way a Sophist might destroy an enemy’s rhetoric, causing Timothy public shame. In any case, Timothy is told to do his work in such a way that he will not be ashamed by his own efforts.

In order to be approved, Timothy is to “correctly handling” God’s word. What happened to rightly dividing? The Greek word (ὀρθοτομέω) is very rare and is the combination of the word for straight (ὀρθός) and the verb for cutting (τέμνω), hence the KJV’s “rightly dividing.” When the word is used with a road in mind, it means “cut a road across country (that is forested or otherwise difficult to pass through) in a straight direction” (as in Thuc. 2, 100, 2 although the compound is not used there, BDAG).

In the context of 2 Timothy, the word has to been “correctly interpret” the Word of God. If Timothy is a craftsman, his “material” is the Word of God. Imagine a sculptor who is submitting a piece to Art Prize; the create a beautiful statue to display outside some building downtown. But they use the wrong material, instead of clay or stone or wood, they used sugar. The first time it rains, the sculpture will melt away into nothing (or a bunch of ants will come along and eat it!) Paul’s point here is that if Timothy is going to be an approved workman, he is going to need to know how to work with his materials in such a way as to present a finished product that will please the master.

There are many examples of people who are not well educated and try to interpret the Bible in new and exciting ways (and they tend to find their way to the internet and YouTube). For example, It is easy to pull a few verses out of the Old Testament, combine them with some conspiracy theory and fears about the government, and somehow prove the present administration is the Anti Christ or that immigration reform will lead to the End Times and the Mark of the Beast. Or something like that.

Does this mean that only the seminary-trained professional scholar should attempt to read the Bible? That is not Paul’s point at all; Timothy is the “professional” in his situation and his responsibility is to give a gentle answer when someone suggests a reading of the Bible that is in error.

In summary, this section begins with Paul commanding Timothy to seek his approval from God as if he were a worker looking for approval from his master. In order to gain that approval, Timothy must correctly handle his materials, in this case the word of God.