On the Corpus Pastorale

Paul’s epistles to Timothy are written to a young man named Timothy who is building the church in Ephesus. The two letters to Timothy are sometimes grouped together with Paul’s letter to Titus as the “Pastoral Epistles” (or the “Corpus Pastorale”). This is because the letters include instructions for pastoral oversight of the new Christian churches.

First Epistle to Timothy
Paul’s first letter to Timothy in Ephesus is to ensure that he prevents false doctrines from being taught in the region. Unlike Paul’s other letters, many of which were designed to be read aloud to congregations throughout the Mediterranean, the letters to Timothy and Titus are more private and internal documents, meant to be from one church official to another. His teaching is to hold fast to the faith like Paul (for he has been given grace despite being the “worst among sinners”). He hopes women will dress modestly and maintain quietness and submission to their husbands and the church.

In Chapter 3, Paul discusses qualities of leadership in the church. Whoever desires to be a ‘Deacon’ (sometimes translated as “overseer”) should be above reproach, respectable, faithful to his wife (note this distinction from latter Catholic regulations), a good manager of his own family, moderate with wine, not concerned with money, and so on. The Deacons must be tested. Paul offers an unusual poem about Jesus at 3:16.

Paul delivers sage advice to Timothy who, despite his youth, should not allow others to look down upon him and should be nourished by publicly reading the scriptures. Paul gives further instructions on how to treat elderly men, widows, and other believers. He calls on Timothy not to lay hands on anyone, but to be pure and gentle. In the sixth and final chapter of the first letter to Timothy, Paul encourages Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith” and help his followers pursue faith over riches.

Second Epistle to Timothy
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he praises Timothy’s family’s faith (first his grandmother Lois’s faith and then his mother Eunice’s faith).

Timothy seems to be a somewhat innocent, perhaps a weak-willed young man, as Paul appears to continually encourage him to be strong in his faith. Paul reminds Timothy that they are all suffering for the gospel, with Paul being enchained as a result of the faith. Paul gives Timothy a helpful little poem at 2:11-13. He instructs Timothy to avoid quarrelsome, false teachers. Paul tells Timothy about the “end of days” wherein people will be “boastful” and “lovers of money” and “disobedient” and “unholy.”

Paul tells Timothy to keep up the good fight, because Paul’s end is coming soon (4:6-8). Paul closes with a personal request for Timothy to come to him, as numerous other followers have left Paul, and he mentions “Alexander the metalworker” who apparently once betrayed Paul -Paul curses him. He asks Timothy to bring his cloak and scrolls when he arrives.

Epistle to Titus
Recall Paul’s mentioning of Titus in Galatians, when he describes traveling with Titus and Barnabas. Titus was the founder of the church in Corinth, and during the writing of this letter, Titus is left on the island of Crete by Paul to build the church. Like the two letters to Timothy, the Epistle to Titus is perhaps apocryphal.

He encourages Titus as an “elder” representative of the church to be “blameless.” As with Timothy, Paul warns against false prophets and wants Titus to preach to the older men of Crete so they may be righteous. In addition he instructs Titus to encourage the young men to be disciplined and self-controlled.

Paul promises to send Artemas or Tychicus, and he asks Titus to come to him in Nicopolis during the winter. The letter lasts for a total of three chapters.


For this reading I used the King James Version of the Bible.

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