The Pastoral Epistles: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus
by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.

Introduction | Outlines | Themes | Questions | Bibliography


Pastoral Epistles: The two letters addressed to Timothy and the one to Titus are collectively called the "Pastoral" letters, not only since they are addressed to these early Christian "pastors" (leaders who care for their "flock"), but also because they give instructions about the qualifications and responsibilities of people who are to serve as "shepherds" (leaders including "bishops" and "deacons:") of local congregations.

Pseudepigraphic Letters: The three Pastoral Letters, along with three other Deutero-Pauline epistles (Col, Eph, 2 Thess), are attributed to the apostle Paul, but were almost certainly not written by Paul himself. Rather, they are probably pseudepigraphic (i.e., written in Paul's name by one or more of his followers after his death).

Literary Genres:

See also these sections of related webpages:

Detailed Outlines of the Pastoral Epistles:

The First Letter to Timothy  (1 Tim) The Second Letter to Timothy  (2 Tim)

Letter Opening (1:1-2)

  1. Sender & Recipient: : Paul to his "loyal child" Timothy (1:1-2a)
  2. Formulaic Greeting: Grace, mercy and peace... (1:2b)
    [no "Thanksgiving" section]

Letter Body (1:3—6:19)

Part I: Timothy's task: Maintain apostolic faith against heretics (1:3-20)

  1. False teaching and immorality (1:3-11)
  2. Thanksgiving for Paul's conversion (1:12-17)
  3. False teachers condemned by the apostles (1:18-20)

Part II: Specific instructions on community order (2:1—6:19)

  1. Prayer for all and proper conduct of men and women (2:1-15)
  2. Qualifications for bishops and deacons (3:1-13)
  3. Maintain proper behavior in the "household of God" (3:14-16)
  4. Reject false teaching: ascetic denial of creation (4:1-5)
  5. Timothy's good example against false teaching (4:6-16)
  6. Respect for persons of different ages (5:1-2)
  7. Rules for enrolling widows (5:3-16)
  8. Rules for treatment of elders (5:17-22)
  9. Rules and sayings (5:23-25)
  10. Behavior of Christian slaves (6:1-2)
  11. Against disputes about teaching (6:3-5)
  12. Against greed: Be contented with what you have (6:6-10)
  13. Persevere in the "good fight of faith" (6:11-16)
  14. To the rich: Trust in God and do good deeds (6:17-19)

Letter Conclusion (6:20-21)

  1. Final admonition: Guard what has been entrusted to you (6:20-21a)
  2. Final blessing (6:21b)
I. Letter Opening (1:1-7)
  1. Sender, Recipient, and Greeting: Paul to his "beloved child" Timothy (1:1-2)
  2. Thanksgiving for the faith of Timothy, his mother & grandmother (1:3-7)
II. Various Exhortations (1:8—4:8)
  1. Initial Admonitions: Do not be ashamed of serving the Gospel;
    remember Paul's sufferings during his imprisonment (1:8-18)
  2. Theology:
    1. Remain faithful to the Gospel (2:1-13)
    2. Reject false teachers who claim the resurrection is past (2:14-26)
    3. Know that people will be evil in the last days (3:1-9)
  3. Ethics:
    1. Remember Paul's conduct and remain firm in the faith (3:10-17)
    2. Preach the Gospel persistently, even if people don't listen (4:1-5)
    3. Paul has finished his race and hopes to receive his reward (4:6-8)
III. Letter Conclusion (4:9-22)
  1. Instructions about Paul's faithful and unfaithful associates (4:9-16)
  2. Thanksgiving for the Lord's help during Paul's trials (4:17-18)
  3. Individual personal greetings (4:19-21)
  4. Concluding prayer (4:22)
The Letter to Titus

I. Letter Opening (1:1-4)

  1. Sender & Recipient: Paul to his "loyal child" Titus (1:1-4a)
  2. Formulaic Greeting: Grace and peace... (1:4b)
    [no "Thanksgiving" section]

II. Instructions to Titus (1:5—3:11)

  1. Appoint elders/bishops on Crete; their qualifications (1:5-9)
  2. Counter and rebuke false teachers, esp. Judaizers (1:10-16)
  3. Teach proper behavior for men, women and slaves (2:1-10; a "Household Code")
  4. Preach about God's grace and salvation; exhort people to live "godly lives" (2:11-15)
  5. Remind people to obey authorities and respect everyone,
    for God's goodness has saved us (3:1-8a)
  6. Insist that believers do good works, avoid useless controversies,
    and shun those who cause divisions (3:8b-11)

III. Letter Conclusion (3:12-15)

  1. Practical instructions (3:12-14)
  2. Personal greetings (3:15a)
  3. Final brief prayer (3:15b)

Major Themes in the Pastoral Epistles:

Ethical and Theological Admonitions in 2 Timothy:

Leadership Roles in the Early Church according to 1 Timothy and Titus:

Relationships among Christians in the Early Church:

Similarities and Differences between the Pastoral Epistles and Paul's Undisputed Letters:

Development of Christian Doctrines in the Pastoral Epistles:

Questions for Review and Discussion:

The Three Pastoral Letters:

  1. Give several reasons why 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus are often called the "Pastoral Epistles"? What are "pastors"? Why is the imagery of "pastors" so important for Christian leadership?
  2. In what ways are 1 Timothy and Titus similar to each other? How is 2 Timothy different from both of them?
  3. To what extent are the theological explanations, ethical admonitions, and/or practical instructions of these letters still applicable for us today? How must they be adapted to our own socio-cultural situations?

2 Timothy:

  1. Which verses or passages most surprised you, disturbed you, or inspired you as you read the Second Letter to Timothy? Why?
  2. Who was Timothy? What do we know about his life and about his relationship with the apostle Paul? Why does Paul sometimes call him "child" or "brother" or "co-worker"?
  3. What advice does the dying Paul give to his closest friend and missionary associate in this letter?

1 Timothy & Titus:

  1. Which verses or passages most surprised you, disturbed you, or inspired you as you read the First Letter to Timothy and the Letter to Titus? Why?
  2. Who was Titus? What do we know about his background and about his relationship with the apostle Paul?
  3. What main issues, problems, and/or questions are addressed in these two letters?
  4. What do 1 Timothy and Titus say about the leaders of local Christian communities in the early church?
  5. What do these letters teach us about the relationships between men and women, both older and younger, in the Christian church?

For Further Reading and Study:

Electronic New Testament Educational Resources

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