Tuesday, May 18, 2010

In Store Now - Entrusted with the Gospel

Our church relations team took a trip up to Traverse City (a three hour drive from the store) to visit churches in the area. Since I had some time on my hands I took along Entrusted with the Gospel: Paul’s Theology in the Pastoral Epistles for reading (I wasn’t driving). I was only able to get through two chapters (we talked a good part of the time) but I enjoyed what I read so far. I read chapter two, “Pseudonymity, The New Testament, and the Pastoral Epistles,” by Terry L. Wilder and chapter twelve, “The Pastoral Epistles in Recent Study,” by I. Howard Marshall. Both were excellent.

Wilder is the academic acquisitions editor for B&H Publishing Group. He did his Ph.D. dissertation on pseudonymity and the New Testament and gave special attention to the disputed Pauline letters in that study. Part of Wilder’s argument is that if we applied the same criteria that are used to disqualify Paul as the author of the Pastorals to a book like Philippians then we could equally conclude Paul did not write Philippians. This was precisely the view of F. C. Bauer of the Tübingen School who held that the only genuine Pauline epistles were Galatians, Romans, and 1 and 2 Corinthians. Wilder addresses the objections and provides a defense of the Pauline authorship of the Pastorals. Wilder also addresses the nuanced view espoused by I. Howard Marshall that the books are what he terms “allonymous” rather than pseudonymous.

Marshall’s essay is a brilliant overview of the scholarship on the Pastorals since the turn of the century. The essay is divided into two parts. Part one is an annotated catalogue of commentaries on the Epistles and the second part examines special areas of interest and lists some of the questions that are currently under discussion. Marshall does a nice job of covering both liberal and conservative commentaries noting both strengths and weaknesses. In discussing his own commentary in the International Critical Commentary he takes an opportunity to respond to a critique made by D. A. Carson. Marshall says, “One conservative observer has commented that my exegesis is at times flawed by my theory of authorship; I strenuously reject this somewhat tendentious assessment because (a) it simply assumes my theory of authorship is wrong, and (b) I do not think that at any significant point my exegesis is incompatible with a more conservative hypothesis regarding authorship.” (274-275) Marshall never names this “conservative observer” nor does he provide a footnote but I’m familiar enough with Carson’s New Testament Commentary Survey that I immediately knew who he was referring to. In his survey Carson says that Marshall’s commentary “is packed with thoughtful, well-written reflection on every issue of importance, but many readers will think that some of the interpretations are being skewed by Marshall’s view that these epistles were not written by Paul.” (123-124)

On the subject of Pauline authorship Marshall notes that “scholars who might be disposed to ignore conservative contributions to the debate as special pleading from a theological position are perplexed by the new defenses of conservative positions by [Luke Timothy] Johnson and (for 2 Timothy) by Murphy-O’Conner, scholars who cannot be accused of conservative theological bias dictating their scholarship.” (311) He adds in a footnote, “I am not suggesting that the conclusions of conservative (or of radical) scholars are necessarily biased by their theological position. Whether the proponents are conservative or radical, their arguments must be assessed and evaluated academically.” But speaking from my own experience conservative scholars are far more apt to read radical scholars and interact with their work than the radical scholar is to even acknowledge the work of a conservative.

I look forward to reading more from Entrusted with the Gospel. The book is edited by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Terry L. Wilder and is published by B&H Publishing. It has 352 pages and sells for $19.99.

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