A Commentary by John Stott

1 Timothy. 4). The case for an active amanuensis (continued).

However much or little an amanuensis would contribute to the letter, we may assume that the apostle read it when it was complete, amended what needed to be changed, and endorsed its final form by his personal signature, so that the letter was decidedly his and not somebody else’s. Each author-amanuensis duo would develop differently, and presumably the more ‘faithful’ the brother was perceived to be, the more responsible his contribution would become. A.T.Hanson was a bit cynical to write about the Pastorals that ‘the more you attribute to the secretary, the less Pauline they are’. But the principle is clear: we expect that the amanuensis contributed enough to explain the variations is style and language, but not enough to take over from Paul either the authorship or the authority of the letters.

So who was the amanuensis in the writing of the Pastorals?

P.N.Harrison asked himself in 1921 whether Paul’s amanuensis on this occasion might have been Luke, since nobody else was with him (2 Tim.4:11). But he raised the possibility only to dismiss it. So Professor C.F.D.Moule, who had already in his book *The Birth of the New Testament* (1962) asked himself if it might have been some Lucan involvement in the writing of the Pastorals, developed in a 1964 lecture a theory of Luke’s ‘free composition’ of the Pastorals. He suggested ‘that Luke wrote all three Pastoral epistles…during Paul’s lifetime, at Paul’s’ behest, and, in part (but only in part) at Paul’s dictation’. He then went on to list some very interesting parallels between Luke-Acts and the Pastorals – ‘significant words’ (e.g. soundness, godliness and honour), ‘significant phrases’ (e.g. love of money, true and false riches, Christ the judge of the living and the dead, and the athlete finishing the race), and ‘significant ideas’ (e.g. the ‘triple phrase of majesty’, angels being mentioned with God and Christ, and a retributive notion of justice). Perhaps then Luke could be called the ‘farmer’ of the Pastorals. Pseudepigraphs were normally composed after the death of the person named, whereas Luke wrote (according to this theory) in Paul’s lifetime and at his behest.

Other scholars have taken up and developed Professor Moule’s suggestion that Luke was Paul’s amanuensis in drafting the Pastorals. Particular mention should be made of Dr Stephen Wilson’s book *Luke and the Pastoral Epistles* (1979). He builds on Professor Moule’s theory, although he thinks that the Luke who wrote the Acts and later the Pastorals was not Paul’s companion of the same name. He draws attention to similarities of language and style between Luke-Acts and the Pastorals, and to a number of theological parallels (though with differences of emphasis), e.g. eschatology, salvation, Christian citizenship, church and ministry, Christology, law and Scripture. His over-confident conclusion is that ‘certainly, given a choice between Paul and Luke as the author of the Pastorals, Luke is a far more likely candidate’. His tentative hypothesis is that Luke wrote the Pastorals a few years after Acts, making use of Paul’s ‘travel notes’ which he had found. In this way the Pastorals were volume 3 of a trilogy, following the publication of Luke’s Gospel and Acts. The alternative would be ‘common authorship’ with Luke writing under Paul’s direction, as Professor Moule had proposed.


Our investigation leads us to a fourfold conclusion.

(1) The case for the Pauline authorship of the Pastorals still stands. Both the internal claims and the external witness are strong, substantial and stubborn. The burden of proof rests on those who deny them.

(2) The case against the Pauline authorship is far from watertight. The arguments adduced – historical, linguistic, theological and ethical – can all be answered. They are not sufficient to overthrow the case for Pauline authorship.

(3) The case for pseudonymous authorship is unsatisfying. The belief that well-intentioned, even transparently innocent, pseudepigraphy was acceptable lacks evidence. It also raises serious moral questions about the practice of deliberate deceit.

(4) The case for Paul’s constructive use of an amanuensis (whether Luke or Tychicus or somebody else) is reasonable, and may well account for some variations in style and vocabulary. At the same time, the amanuensis must not be allowed to oust the author, nor the author be robbed of his leadership role and apostolic authority.

The most likely scenario is that Paul the apostle wrote the three Pastorals, towards the end of his life, addressing contemporary issues and communicating through a trusted amanuensis.

Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 1:1-2. Introduction.

The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of 1 Timothy. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.