Posted by: chuckbumgardner | January 8, 2014

1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians

It is a truism in NT studies, broadly speaking, that the Epistles to Timothy and Titus are their own little corpus. I suspect that even in conservative circles, they are often examined apart from Paul’s other epistles, interrelated with each other but not so much with Paul’s other writings. There is a level at which this is appropriate: certain similarities among the three letters (recipient is an apostolic delegate; “faithful sayings”; and so forth) point to a similar context of authorship. All the same, it seems important–especially for those who champion Pauline authorship of the epistles–to consistently connect this cluster of letters to Paul’s other writings.

In this vein, I’ve appreciated the work of Luke Timothy Johnson, one of the foremost advocates for Pauline authorship in broader scholarly circles. I’m reading a 1999 article of his, and he very instructively notes over a dozen parallels between the situations in 1 Timothy (written to Timothy in Ephesus) and 1 Corinthians (arguably written from Ephesus; cf. 1 Cor 15:32), which I here merely list; most are nearly verbatim from the article.

  • Paul uses his delegate Timothy as his representative to remind the community of his teaching and his “ways” (1 Cor 4:17; 16:10-11 // 1 Tim 1:3; 4:11-14).
  • Paul tries to establish boundaries by “handing over to Satan” those upsetting the community (1 Cor 5:1-5 // 1 Tim 1:20).
  • Each community contains a certain number of wealthy persons who can disrupt worship by the display of social status (1 Cor 11:17-22 // 1 Tim 2:9-10) . . .
  • . . . and whose ownership of slaves occasions questions concerning the relationship of Christian identity to social class (1 Cor 1:11; 7:21-23 // 1 Tim 6:1-2).
  • In each church, heads of households are recommended as leaders (1 Cor 16:15-18 // 1 Tim 3:4, 12).
  • In each letter, the image of the “house of God” is applied to the church (theou oikodome in 1 Cor 3:9-11 // oikos theou in 1 Tim 3:15).
  • Each letter also presents a remarkably similar set of behavioral issues. Some in the community consider themselves possessed of a superior wisdom or knowledge (gnosis; 1 Cor 1:17; 3:18-19; 8:1 // 1 Tim 1:7; 6:20-21).
  • There are problems with charges being made or lawsuits being instituted (1 Cor 6:1-5 // 1 Tim 5:19-20).
  • There are problems revolving around sexuality: in each case, the statement must be made that women can or should have a husband (1 Cor 7:2 // 1 Tim 5:14) . . .
  • . . . and that marrying is not a sin (1 Cor 7:36 // 1 Tim 4:3).
  • In each church as well, the precise place of widows is uncertain (1 Cor 7:8, 39 // 1 Tim 5:3-16).
  • The place of women in the assembly arises in both churches, revolving in part around what women should wear (1 Cor 11:2-16 // 1 Tim 2:8-10) . . .
  • . . . and in part around whether they should speak or keep silent–in this last case, both letters have Paul respond by an appeal to Torah (1 Cor 14:33-36 // 1 Tim 2.11-15).
  • Both communities have internal disputes over the eating of certain foods (1 Cor 8-10 // 1 Tim 4:3).
  • In each church, the issue of financial support for ministers is raised (1 Cor 9:1-12 // 1 Tim 5:17-18).

I found the parallels intriguing. Some are stronger than others, of course, and some hinge on a particular exegetical understanding of just what is going on in a given passage.  All the same, aside for implications for Pauline authorship of Timothy and Titus, Johnson’s work here points up the helpfulness of making inquiry of 1 Corinthians when studying 1 Timothy, in perhaps a similar way to looking at Colossians and Ephesians together.

The essay referenced is Luke Timothy Johnson, “Oikonomia Theou: The Theological Voice of 1 Timothy from the Perspective of Pauline Authorship,” Horizons in Biblical Theology 21 (1999): 87-104 (the excerpted section is from pp. 94-95).



  1. Chuck, there are indeed strong connections between 1 Corinthians and 1 Tim, but Johnson has cherry picked the connections that do not embarrass the author of the Pastoral Epistles. It seems clear to me that the author used 1 Corinthians and misinterpreted it. See my blog post here.

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