Sunday, February 07, 2010
Jimmy Dunn on Paul's "Note" from Prison
I'm still (yes, still) reading Jimmy Dunn's Beginning from Jerusalem, and I was intrigued by his reference to an authentic note of Paul embedded in 2 Tim 4.9-18. Overall, Dunn regards the Pastoral Epistles (PE) as pseudonymous: "The Pastoral Epistles are most probably to be read as letters written in the spirit of Paul some twenty or thirty years later."
No sooner does Jimmy say this than he adds:
"But even so, they may incorporate earlier material from Paul or well-grounded traditions about Paul. In reference to Paul himself and his fate, the most interesting is 2 Timothy, particularly 2 Tim 4.9-18. The letter speaks of Paul's 'first defence', which he had had to face alone, and of his 'rescue from the lion's mouth' (4.16-17). This could suggest that there had been a first trial, which Paul had survived, though now he was facing a second, which could and probably would end in his death ... It may even be that we should see in 4.9-18 a note from Paul which he was able to have smuggled out of his final, more severe imprisonment".
Dunn then adds a footnote: "This suggestion first occurred to me when I read the note, of similar character, which William Tyndale managed to have smuggled out of his imprisonment; the note was framed and hung on the wall of Tyndale House, Cambridge".
Interesting theory. A number of scholars have proposed that 2 Timothy alone is authentic among the PE (J. Murphy-O'Connor) or that the PE more generally contain authentic Pauline fragments (P.N. Harrison). The question is whether the biographical remarks like those found in 2 Tim. 4.9-18 are authentic, or whether they were inserted to add a measure of realism (see discussion in T.L. Wilder, Pseudonymity, The New Testament, and Deception, pp. 222-27 at Google Books). In my mind, 4.9-18 really does sound like Paul, although I have to wonder why and who would incorporate an authentic letter into a Pseudepigraphical work (though they might not necessarily have had the word "Pseudepigraphal" in mind!). The somewhat non-Pauline nature of the language and the portrayal of Paul as a hero in the PE requires explanation, and I really do hope to one day explore the possibility of a Lucan connection to the PE as one possible solution.
See Stan Porter's response to Robert Wall on the issue of the authorship of the PE in a BBR article. A very good piece to read to get a heads-up on the debate.