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The Present Age in the Eschatology of the Pastoral Epistles

  • P. H. Towner

Extract

Recent attempts to explain the theology of the Pastoral Epistles are generally agreed that the present age looms large in the thought of the author. But there is less concord regarding the significance of this leitmotif for the message of these letters as a whole, and none have shown in detail the factors which go into the formulation of this theme. As to the first matter, it is usually noted that the present age is the age of salvation. But can a partial understanding of how the author portrays this present age guarantee a clear picture of his full conception of the nature of salvation? For example, Dibelius and Conzelmann ostensibly suggest that the stress on the present age is a concomitant to the delay of the parousia, which more or less required the church to reconcile herself to a long stay in the world. At the same time, the epiphany schema, which plays a part in directing attention to the present age, leads them to what may be generally termed an ‘early catholic’ explanation of salvation which locates salvation almost wholly in the past Christ event: ‘… salvation in the future appears to be nothing but the shadow of this past epiphany’. But there is more to be considered than just the epiphany schema if the author's understanding of the present age and the salvation connected with it are to be perceived aright. Equally, the almost foregone conclusion in some quarters that the delay of the parousia led to a removal of any vivid expectancy of the event in the mind of our author requires a fresh and balanced reappraisal, especially in view of the potential role it could play within the theological structure of his thought. In short, the kind of approach and explanation of Dibelius and Conzelmann and others seems to centre on a conspicuously slender portion of the evidence, and is therefore rightfully challenged.

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Notes

[1] Dibelius, M. and Conzelmann, H., The Pastoral Epistles, Hermeneia (Philadelphia, 1972) 89; Lips, H. von, Glaube-Gemeinde-Amt, FRLANT 122 (Göttingen, 1979) 87–8; Trummer, P., Die Paulustradition der Pastoralbriefe, BET 8 (Frankfurt, 1978) 228; Oberlinner, L., ‘Die “Epiphaneia” des Heilswillens Gottes in Christus Jesus. Zur Grundstruktur der Christologie der Pastoralbriefe’, ZNW 71 (1980) 192213; Merk, O., ’Glaube und Tat in den Pastoralbriefen’, ZNW 66 (1975) 91102. The problems related to the question of the authorship of these letters are numerous and far from solved In our judgment, however, alternatives to Pauline authorship of the Pastorals continue to fall short of convincing, especially in view of the external attestation of their authenticity. See especially Spicq, C., Les Épitres Pastorales (Paris, 4 1969) 157–214.

[2] Dibelius, and Conzelmann, , Pastoral Epistles, 89.

[3] ibid., 10.

[4] See Culhnann, O., Christ and Time: The Primitive Christian Conception of Time and History (Philadelphia, 1950) 77.

[5] Delling, G., ‘καιρός’, TDNT 3: 461; Barr, J., Biblical Words for Time (London, 2 1969) 65; Brox, N., Zeuge und Märtyrer. Untersuchungen zur frühchristlichen Zeugnis-Terminologie (München, 1961) 35. Cf. Cullmann, , Christ and Time, 40–1.

[6] See Bousset, W. and Gressmann, H., Die Religion des Judentums im späthellenistischen Zeitalter (Tübingen, 1966) 245; Cullmann, , Christ and Time, 44–7.

[7] Bousset, and Gressmann, , Religion, 243–51; Cullmann, , Christ and Time, 47; Sasse, H., ‘αιών’, TDNT 1: 206.

[8] With τῷαιώνι τούτἃ, Rom 12. 2; 1 Cor 1. 20; 2. 6; 3. 18; 2 Cor 4. 4; Eph 1. 21; cf. αι⋯νοτοṽ⋯νεοτṽτος πονηροṽ Gal 1. 4.

[9] Cullmann, , Christ and Time, 47; Sasse, ‘αιών’, 205.

[10] Cf. Lips, , Glaube, 89.

[11] In Paul usually ‘the day of the Lord (or Christ [Jesus])’, 1 Cor 5. 5; 2 Cor 1. 14; Phil 1. 6, 10; 2. 16; 1 Thess 2. 6; but see ‘that day’, 2 Thess 2. 10; and other similar expressions, Rom 2. 5, 16; Eph 4.30; 1 Thess 5.4.

[12] E.g. 1 Pet 2. 12; 2 Pet 2. 9; 1 John 2. 17; Jude 6.

[13] See Moore, A. L., The Parousia in the New Testament (Leiden, 1966) 164.

[14] See Ridderbos, H., Paul: An Outline of His Theology (Grand Rapids, 1975) 559, 561; Ladd, G. E., A Theology of the New Testament (London, 1974) 628.

[15] See Dahl, N. A., ‘Formgeschichtliche Beobachtungen zur Christusverkündigung in der Gemeindepredigt’, in Neutestamentliche Studien für Rudolf Bultmann, ed., Eltester, W., BZNW 21 (Berlin, 1954) 45; Lührmann, D., Das Offenbarungsverständnis bei Paulus und in paulinischen Gemeinden (Neukirchen, 1965) 124–33; Hamerton-Kelly, R. G., Pre-existence, Wisdom, and the Son of Man (Cambridge, 1973) 189.

[16] Cf. Rom 6. 20–22; 11. 30–32; Gal 1. 23; 4. 8–9; Eph 2. 1–22; 5. 8; Col 1. 21–22; 3. 7–8; Philemon 11; 1 Pet 2. 10. See especially Tachau, P., ‘Einst’ und ‘Jetzt’ im Neuen Testament, FRLANT 105 (Göttingen, 1972) 79 ff.

[17] Without ποτέ, Rom 5. 8–9; 7. 5; 1 Pet 2. 25; without νν, Gal 1. 13; 1 Tim 1. 13; Titus 3. 3 ff.; with neither adverb, 1 Cor 6. 9–10; Gal 4. 3 ff.; Col 2. 13. See especially Tachau, , ‘Einst’, 7995.

[18] ibid., 92, 113–15, 128–9. Cf. Vögtle, A., Die Tugend- und Lasterkataloge im Neuen Testament (Münster, 1936) 11.

[19] The two schemata seem for the most part to be used in different ways, and should probably be considered as different entities (Tachau, , ‘Einst’, 12; Dahl, ‘Formgeschichtliche Beobachtungen’, 3–8). ποτέ … νṽν is not used with the revelation-schema, and the revelation schema does not centre as directly on ethical conduct.

[20] See Lührmann, , Offenbarungsverständnis, 160; Bultmann, R. and Lührmann, D., ‘φαίνω’, TDNT 9: 45; Windisch, H., ‘Zur Christologie der Pastoralbriefe’, ZNW 34 (1935) 222, 224; Dunn, J. D. G., Christology in the Making (London, 1980) 237.

[21] Lühnnann, , Offenbarungsverständnis, 125.

[22] Moore, , Parousia, 163–4; see also Kelly, J. N. D., A Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (London, 1963) 94.

[23] Cf. Cullmann, , Christ and Time, 110; Ladd, , Theology, 344.

[24] See Moore, , Parousia, 148; Hughes, P. E., A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, 1977) 37.

[25] See Selwyn, E. G., The First Epistle of St. Peter (London, 1946) 146; Best, E., 1 Peter, NCB (London, 1971) 91; Schelke, K. H., Die Petrusbriefe, Der Judasbrief (Freiburg, 1964) 50.

[26] See Moore, , Parousia 156–7; Marshall, I. H., The Epistles of John (Grand Rapids, 1978) 148; Schnackenburg, R., Die Johannesbriefe (Freiburg, 1974) 141–2.

[27] Cf. Ridderbos, , Paul, 52.

[28] See also Moore, , Parousia, 164.

[29] E.g. Ridderbos, , Paul, 52; Guthrie, D., The Pastoral Epistles (London, 1957) 91–2, 156.

[30] See the discussion in Gaston, L., No Stone On Another, Supp. NovT 23 (Leiden, 1970) 433–68.

[31] Marshall, I. H., Kept by the Power of God (London, 1969) 120–1; Stählin, G., ‘μύθος, TDNT 4: 781–2.

[32] Dibelius, and Conzelmann, , Pastoral Epistles, 64; cf. Wilson, S. G., Luke and the Pastoral Epistles (London, 1979) 14.

[33] This aspect of the author's polemic is discussed in Towner, P. H., ‘The Structure of the Theology and Ethics in the Pastoral Epistles’, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Aberdeen, 1984, chapter two.

[34] ibid.

[35] See also Pfitzner, V. C., Paul and the Agon Motif (Leiden, 1967) 172–3; Dibelius, and Conzelmann, , Pastoral Epistles, 68; Brox, N., Die Pastoralbriefe (Regensburg, 1969) 172–3; Kelly, Commentary, 100; Stählin, ‘μύθος’, 781–2.

[36] Cf. Dunn, J. D. G., Jesus and the Spirit (London, 1975) 453 n. 14; Hill, D., New Testament Prophecy (London, 1979) 140; Spicq, , Les Épitres Pastorales, 771–2.

[37] So too Moore, , Parousia, 164; Spicq, , Les Épitres Pastorales, 771–2.

[38] Marshall, , Kept, 130 n. 2.

[39] Cf. Wilson, , Luke, 14.

[40] Kümmel, W. G., Introduction to the New Testament (London, 1975) 379; also, Wilson, , Luke, 1516.

[41] Pax, E., Epiphaneia. Ein religionsgeschichtlicher Beitrag zur biblischen Theologie (München, 1955) 819.

[42] Lührmann, D., ‘Epiphaneia. Zur Bedeutungsgeschichte eines griechischen Wortes’, in Tradition und Glaube. Das Frühe Christentum in seiner Umwelt. Festgabe für K. G. Kuhn, ed. Jeremias, G. et al. , (Göttingen, 1971) 185–99; Bultmann and Lührmann, ‘φαίνω’, 7–10.

[43] Deissmann, A., Light from the Ancient East (London, 1910) 375–8.

[44] E.g. Pfister, F., ‘Epiphanie’, RE Supplement 4 (1924) 277323.

[45] Lührmann, ‘Epiphaneia’, 191; Bultmann and Lührmann, ‘φαίνω’, 8.

[46] See Especially Pax, , Epiphaneia, 1516; who discerned eight separate nuances of religious usage.

[47] Lührmann (‘Epiphaneia’, 188–93; also Bultmann and Lührmann, ‘φαίνω’, 8) showed that other suggested meanings such as a ‘superman-like being’ who appears to watch over an ordinary man, or ‘the general revealing of a god’ (Pax, , Epiphaneia, 1516; Pfister, ‘Epiphanie’, 278) generally focus on the providing of aid for someone in need. The suggested meaning of the appearance of a god through the medium of a dream or vision (so Pfister, ‘Epiphanie’, 278, based on the Temple Chronicles of Lindos; see also Pax, , Epiphaneia, 16) is based on a misinterpretation (Lührmann, ‘Epiphaneia’, 191; Bultmann and Lührmann, ‘φαίνω’, 8 n. 9). Pax, (Epiphaneia, 16) adduced also Diod. 1.25. 3; Plut. Them. 30; Plut. Cam. 16; Strabo 8. 374, but in each case the epiphany is closely connected with an act of saving (see especially Lührmann's discussion of Plut. Them. 30 ‘Epipha neia’, 199 n. 2; Bultmann and Lührmann, ‘φαίνω’ 8) or an intervention of a god to heal (especially Strabo 8. 374). Thus the basic significance is that of ‘helping intervention’.

[48] Lührmann, ‘Epiphaneia’, 191; Bultmann and Lührmann, ‘φαίνω’ 8.

[49] Lührmann, ‘Epiphaneia’, 191: ‘… die Erinnerung an diese Ereignisse mit einem Kult in Zusammenhang gebracht wird’. ibid. n. 18: ’Die ⋯πιφάνεια geschieht nicht im Kult, sondern kann einem Kult begründen’.

[50] Lührmann, ‘Epiphaneia’, 191; but see Deissmann, , Light, 375 (and discussion by Lührmann, 191 n. 19). Έπιφανής is found in this connection (Lührmann, ‘Epiphaneia’, 192–3), but as Nock, A. D. (‘Notes on the Ruler-Cult, I–IV’, JHS 48 (1928) 40) points out: ‘Έπιφανής as a divine epithet does not normally describe a deity incarnate and regularly visible in the person of a king; it implies rather the making of sudden ⋯πιφανεīαι, appearances in person or manifestations of power. A god or divine king is ⋯πιφανής, when he by his ⋯πιφανειά [sic] produces some striking result. A king may show his superhuman powers in healing or again in controlling the weather, but his normal field is war’.

[51] Deissmann, (Light, 375 n. 3) offers only one possible case in which ⋯πιφάνεια is supposed to be synonymous with παρουσία; viz. Inscriptions of Cos 391, where Caligula's accession is in view. Paton, W. R. and Hicks, E. L. (The Inscription of Cos, Oxford, 1891, 281) suggest: ‘his accession is called an “epiphany”, because he wished to be regarded as an incarnate god’.

[52] See especially 2 Macc 3. 24; 5. 24 (probably); 12. 22; 14. 15; 15. 27; 3 Macc 2. 9; 5. 8, 51. See the discussion in Bultmann and Lührmann, ‘φαίνω’, 9; Lührmann, ‘Epiphaneia’, 193–6; Pax, , Epiphaneia, 159–60.

[53] Lührmann, ‘Epiphaneia’, 195–6.

[54] E.g. Oberlinner, ‘Epiphaneia’, 192–213; Hasler, V., ‘Epiphanie und Christologie in den Pastoralbriefen’, TZ 33 (1977) 193209.

[55] Lührmann, ‘Epiphaneia’, 197, 198.

[56] ibid., 198; Bultmann and Lührmann, ‘φαίνω’, 10.

[57] See especially the substantiation of this view by Harris, M. J., ‘Titus 2:13 and the Deity of Christ’, in Pauline Studies: Essays presented to F. F. Bruce, eds., Hagner, D. A. and Harris, M. J. (Grand Rapids, 1980) 262–77.

[58] Lührmann, ‘Epiphaneia’, 198.

[59] Oberlinner, ‘Epiphaneia’, 200–1; see also Merk, ‘Glaube’, 91–102, esp. 98–100; Hasler, ‘Epiphanie’, 199–200.

[60] Oberlinner, ‘Epiphaneia’, 201.

[61] For a detailed discussion of the author's already/not yet understanding of salvation, see Towner, ‘The Structure of the Theology and Ethics in the Pastoral Epistles’, chapter three.

[62] See also Trummer, , Paulustradition, 201; Lips, , Glaube, 89; Bultmann and Lührmann, ‘φαίνω’, 10.

[63] Oberlinner, ‘Epiphaneia’, 202–3, depending on Pax, , Epiphaneia, 233–4.

[64] Lührmann, ‘Epiphaneia’, 198.

[65] E.g. Phil. 2. 7–8; Gal 4. 4–5; Rom 8. 3; Heb 2. 14; 1 John 4. 10; 1 Tim 3. 16; 2 Tim 1. 10; John 12. 27.

[66] See the connection of proclamation of the gospel with the traditional statements in the Pastorals, which are generally given to enunciating the historical Christ event and salvation. See also Towner, ‘The Structure of the Theology and Ethics in the Pastoral Epistles’, chapter three.

[67] It is the interest in preaching the gospel in the surrounding context that leads to the addition of δι⋯τοṽ εύαγγελίου.

[68] Pax, , Epiphaneia, 239 Bultmann and Lührmann, ‘φαίνω’, 10; Dibelius, and Conzelmann, , Pastoral Epistles, 104.

[69] Pax, , Epiphaneia, 243; Lührmann, ’Epiphaneia’, 197.

[70] Windisch, ‘Christologie’, 223–6.

[71] ibid., 225.

[72] ibid., 224

[73] ibid.

[74] See note 20.

[75] Pax, , Epiphaneia, 243.

[76] See Harris, ‘Titus 2:13’, 264.

[77] The same arguments hold in answering Hasler (‘Epiphanie’, 201). He maintains that the ‘epiphanies’ are merely manifestations of God's power and grace, and secondarily (or not at all) refer to the revelation of Christ. The assumption underlying Hasler's explanation is that all christology in these letters must be subsumed under the author's primary goal to assert God's transcendence. However, the focus on Christ and salvation based on the Christ event (see Towner, ‘The Structure of the Theology and Ethics in the Pastoral Epistles’, chapter three) will not allow this.

[78] Cf. Oberlinner (‘Epiphaneia’, 212) for a similar statement; but his understanding of epiphany is different.

[79] ibid., 200–1.

[80] For a detailed discussion see Towner, ‘The Structure of the Theology and Ethics in the Pastoral Epistles’, chapter four.

[81] Especially noteworthy are those who explain the conception of salvation as a finished or all but finished product in terms of ‘early catholicism’; e.g. Dibelius, and Conzelmann, , Pastoral Epistles, 104–5; Luz, ‘Rechtfertigung’, 376–82. These would argue that the change to a sacramental salvation was brought about by the delay of the parousia.

[82] Moore, , Parousia, 163–4; Strobel, A., ‘Schreiben des Lukas? Zum sprachlichen Problem der Pastoralbriefe’, NTS 15 (1969) 207; Kelly, , Commentary, 246; Guthrie, , Commentary, 199.

[83] Dibelius, and Conzelmann, , Pastoral Epistles, 10; Wilson, , Luke, 1516; cf. Stuhlmacher, P., ‘Christliche Verantwortung bei Paulus und seinen Schülern’, EvTh 28 (1968) 182; Kümmel, , Introduction, 383.

[84] Trummer, , Paulustradition, 228.

[85] See the discussion in Aune, D. E., ‘The Significance of the Delay of the Parousia’, in Current Issues in Biblical and Patristic Interpretation: Studies in Honor of Merril C. Tenney, ed. Hawthorne, G. F. (Grand Rapids, 1975) 95103.

[86] Moore, Parousia; Smalley, S. S., ‘The Delay of the Parousia’, JBL 83 (1964) 4154; Aune, ‘Delay’, 87–109; Bauckham, R. J., ‘The Delay of the Parousia’, TB 31 (1980) 336.

[87] The plain reading of the evidence hardly admits of any clearcut development from an initially vital imminent expectation in the mind of Paul to the expectation of an event that is more remote. Chiefly, it is Paul's tendency to refer in the same letter both to the nearness of the event and to ethical instructions or events of ‘distress’ which suggest an interval of some significant length that prohibits a simple ‘delay of the parousia’ assessment (cf. 1 Thess 2. 19; 5. 2 with 1 Thess 3. 10; 4. 4 ff., 11 f.; 5. 11; 2 Thess 2. 8 [suggests that the unfolding of key eschatological events must yet take place]; cf. 1 Cor 7. 29; 15. 51; 2 Cor 1. 14 with the widespread emphasis in these letters on ethical conduct [again the reference to ‘distress’, 1 Cor 7. 26, suggests an interval’; cf. Rom 13. 11 f. with the belief that conversion will spread far and wide before the end [esp. Rom 9–11]). In the letters usually thought to demonstrate the final stages of Paul's eschatological outlook, Philippians, Ephesians and Colossians, there still appear indications that the parousia was clearly expected (Phil 1. 10; 2. 16; 3. 20; Eph 4. 30; Col 3. 4). At present the explanation that seems to make the most sense of the most evidence is the one which understands Paul to be thinking as did the Hebrew prophets who blended crisis in near history with the final day of the Lord. See especially, on the whole matter, Moore, , Parousia, 108–25; Smalley, ‘Delay’, 47–54; Aune, ‘Delay’, 109.

[88] Moore, , Parousia, 163–4.

[89] Wilson, , Luke, 17.

[90] Moore, , Parousia, 5960; cf. Marshall, I. H., Luke: Historian and Theologian (Exeter, 1970) 176–7.

[91] Moore, , Parousia, 164; Kelly, , Commentary, 145.

[92] Wilson, , Luke, 17.

[93] Moore, , Parousia, 154, 177–81, 191–206.

[94] Wenham, D., ‘Paul and the Synoptic Apocalypse’, in Gospel Perspectives: Studies of History and Tradition in the Four Gospels, Vol. 1, eds., France, R. T. and Wenham, D. (Sheffield, 1981) 345–75; Hartman, L., Prophecy Interpreted: The Formation of Some Jewish Apocalyptic Texts and of the Eschatological Discourse Mark 13 Par. (Lund, 1966) 178205; Ford, D., The Abomination of Desolation in Biblical Eschatology (Washington D.C., 1979) 193242; Moore, , Parousia, 152.

[95] Moore, , Parousia, 164.

[96] Kelly, , Commentary, 246; Ridderbos, , Paul, 488–9.

[97] Wilson, , Luke, 1718.

[98] See also Moore, , Parousia, 164; BDF, 186 para. 356.

The Present Age in the Eschatology of the Pastoral Epistles

  • P. H. Towner

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