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Raphael, St Paul Preaching in Athens

Pastorals and the Canon: Closing Thoughts with 2 Timothy 3:10-4:22

Lesson 25: "Christians who stress the inerrancy and inspiration of both testaments of our Bible often refer to 2 Timothy 3:16—'all scripture is inspired by God....’ But there are two problems with such an interpretation. First, when 2 Timothy was written (late first or early second century), the only scriptures the early Christians had were the scrolls of the Hebrew Bible, our Old Testament.”
Detail from The Buhl Altarpiece

Persistent Themes and a Striking Omission — 2 Timothy 2:1-3:9

Lesson 24: “In spite of the potential shame attached to followers of Jesus’s gospel, as Jouette Bassler’s commentary notes, the author of 2 Timothy never mentions the most embarrassing and shameful event in Jesus’s life—his crucifixion by the Romans, a punishment meted out only on criminals and runaway slaves.”
Oil Painting of St. Paul

The Power of a “Last Will and Testament”: 2 Timothy 1:1-18

Lesson 23: "Second Timothy [is] the final letter attributed to the apostle Paul, and one which appears to unite and authenticate his entire corpus of thirteen epistles. But If you have followed the lessons of 1 Timothy and Titus, the other two of the three letters known as the “pastoral epistles,“ you become aware of a different tone or flavor as this letter begins.”
Minoan Palace Zakros Crete Landscape

Titus 3:1-15—Submission, Salvation, and Ethics

Lesson 22: "We cannot help but notice that all the above names are men. No women are mentioned in any leadership capacity. In contrast, Paul’s letters to Rome, Corinth, Philippi and Colossae all mention women leaders. Paul greets nine women out of 29 names in Romans 16.”

Titus 2:1-15—Household Organization and “Healthy Teaching”

Lesson 21: "The entire chapter concerns five groups of people in the churches of Crete: older men, older women, young women, young men, and slaves of these households. The slaves presumably also represent a range of ages and genders, but they all have the same role: to 'give satisfaction in every respect [to their owners] . . .not to talk back, not to pilfer'(vv. 9-10)."
Crete House Ruins

Titus 1: 5-16—Harsh Words for a Church in Chaos

Lesson 20: “Amid all the polemic, it is hard to miss the brutal insult against all the inhabitants of Crete in 1:12: ‘Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons.’ They are acting more like animals than human beings! It is true that Americans today are hearing similar racist attacks on Mexicans as rapists and drug dealers, on lazy immigrants from Central America, or on people of color from ‘s---hole countries.’ But do we expect to hear such rhetoric from our Holy Bible?!”
Arch of Titus

Titus 1:1-5 — Salutations and Thanksgivings

Lesson 19: “Paul’s undisputed letters of Corinthians and Galatians portray Titus as a long-time companion of Paul—a brother, partner, and co-worker—and, as a fund-raiser who must carry bags of coins, utterly trustworthy. Although he did not write letters (that were preserved) and did not have Jewish credentials, Titus sounds like an equal to Paul.”
Statue of Paul the Apostle in front of St Peter's Basilica on Piazza San Pietro, in Vatican City

Letter to Titus-What’s Next? 2 Timothy or Titus?

Lesson 18: “Surprise! I am taking the liberty to do a bit of canonical rearranging. We will study the letter to Titus next, and finish [our series on the Pastoral Epistles] with 2 Timothy. Why reverse the familiar order? Because 2 Timothy presents the Apostle Paul at the end of his life, it makes sense to include it last."

1 Timothy 6:3-21—Closing Advice for Church Leaders

Lesson 17: “Here we learn that opponents in the ongoing church fight believe their faith can help them get rich (1 Tim. 6:5,9). . . . The fact that the ‘prosperity gospel’ still thrives today indicates the persistence of such twisted theology. We can agree with our author that ‘the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil,’ because we see how it pervades our current capitalist, free-market economy.”
Slave market, Cairo ; on stone by J.C. Bourne from a drawing by O.B. Carter, the figures by H. Warren, image courtesy of the Wellcome Museum, https://wellcomecollection.org/works/jwvub5kk

1 Timothy 6:1-2—The Crushing Yoke of Slavery, Part 2

Lesson 16: "Our last lesson sought to accurately situate 1 Timothy 6:1-2 in its literary and historical context. When we read selected biblical texts like this passage as eternally relevant, they can cause great damage. For centuries, slaveholders in the American South used this text to justify chattel slavery, as if God intended some people to serve as the personal property of their supposed superiors."
Detail from Roman mosaic from Dougga, Tunisia (2nd century AD). Photo by Pascal Radigue. From Wikipedia.

1 Timothy 6:1-2—The Crushing Yoke of Slavery, Part 1

Lesson 15: "With no concept of democracy, the functioning of Roman society could be diagrammed as a pyramid, with the emperor at the top and everyone else below in descending and unequal patron-client relationships, down to the lowliest slave. People retained their social status by doing favors, or benefactions, for their socially inferior clients, who in turn affirmed their patron’s status by publicly showing their devotion to him or her. Clients in turn were patrons to clients beneath them."

Women Serving as Clergy in the Early Church

August 26, 2019 Women serving as clergy in the early church may have been more common place than has previously been believed. Backed by research...
Replica of scripture on parchment from Nazareth Village

1 Timothy 5:17-25 — Instructions for Male Elders

Lesson 14: "Verse 5:23 has stumped many readers. especially teetotalers. Why should Timothy take wine instead of only water? There are both health and religious reasons for this. City water usually flowed through lead pipes or was otherwise contaminated, so stomach problems in the ancient world were common."
Photo from Nazareth Village

1 Timothy 5:16 and Acts 9:36-43 — A “Believing Woman” with Widows?

Lesson 13: "As widows, these unattached women needed to make a living. Most likely, Tabitha had a house and enough resources to supply the tools of the trade, so the women could work together as an economic collective. That is why her death was so catastrophic for these widows, and why Peter made the effort to walk all the way to her house and pray for her resuscitation."

1 Timothy 5:3-16 — The Politics of Too Many Widows!

Lesson 12: "The author of 1 Timothy assumes that independent women with some social standing and wealth not only pose a threat to the patriarchal structure of the “household of God” but also are attracted to the heretics, who, by forbidding marriage, encourage female independence."
The Care of the Self in Early Christian Texts

The Care of the Self in Early Christian Texts

“By focusing on practices instead of on what we assume were their beliefs, Saxon’s research reveals a rich variety of early Christ movements. In particular, her research on the approaches to martyrdom in different communities dispels the false dichotomy of 'orthodox' versus 'heretics' or 'Gnostics.'”
Carving of a Face in Rock

1 Timothy 2:9-15 — That Troublesome Paragraph on Women

Lesson 7: "The pastor provides what he sees as scriptural authority for women’s submission in 1 Timothy 2:13-14: Adam was formed first and only Eve was deceived by the serpent. That is a traditional Jewish interpretation of the Genesis 2-3 story, but a very limited and male-oriented one. Since both Adam and Eve sinned, is it worse to be deceived or to deliberately sin?"
Detail from Mary and Early Christian Women Book Cover

Mary and Early Christian Women: Hidden Leadership

In her book Kateusz is able to expose “the intentional scribal activity associated with the redaction of the markers of female religious authority, the attempt to erase the memory of powerful historical women has weakened.”

Enslaved Leadership in Early Christianity

Perhaps a result of the author’s rhetorical-critical methodology, every effort is made throughout the monograph to recognize the agency and personhood of enslaved persons. In addition to the very premise of the book, which seeks to liberate enslaved persons in antiquity from oblivion, labels are used with careful intention.

A New View of Mary and Martha

Hanson raises important questions about the traditional reading. She points out that we read into it things that aren’t actually there. For example, we assume that Jesus and twelve other tired, hungry men showed up on Mary and Martha’s doorstep unannounced. Any decent host would be alarmed. But the passage doesn’t state that any other disciples were present.

The Gospel of Mary: An Inclusive Gospel

The spiritual path to authentic humanity is dramatically displayed in the central drama of Mary’s Gospel, a narrative often described as the ascent of the soul (Mary 15:1-17:7). The narrative relates Mary’s vision of a soul encountering (and overcoming) seven malevolent powers that seek to keep it bound and drag it down.

A People’s History of Christianity

Providing a nuanced work, including persons (often women) usually overlooked and dismissed, Bass brings to light the ways in which these previously disregarded people were important shapers of Christian history and tradition.

Early Christian Families in Context: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue

Early Christian Families in Context is a mine of valuable background for our understanding of the New Testament and early church. Most or all of it should be accessible to interested lay people who truly want to understand the cultural gap between our world and that of our sacred texts -- and to use this knowledge to wisely interpret and apply those texts.

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