Tyndale NT study group 2021: the later Pauline epistles

The Tyndale New Testament Study Group looking at the Later Pauline Epistles will be taking place online this year, from

Wednesday 23rd to Friday 25th June.

We have a great line-up of international speakers offering some fascinating papers, and the sessions will be timed to allow attendance from different time zones around the world.

The cost for the whole of the conference is only £25; for an additional £10 you can attend other Tyndale study groups; and the annual Tyndale lectures from the different groups are free to access.

The Tyndale lecture on the New Testament will be given by Dr Elizabeth Shively on The Textual Construction of Early Christian Identity in Cognitive Perspective: Philemon as a Test Case.

Dr Elizabeth Shively (BA, MDiv, ThM, PhD, FHEA) is Senior Lecturer in New Testament Studies, Director of Teaching, School of Divinity, St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews. Dr Shively came to St Andrews in 2012, having previously taught at Wheaton College, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Candler School of Theology, and having served six years in pastoral ministry. She received her PhD in Religion at Emory University with a primary concentration in New Testament Studies and a secondary concentration in Homiletics.

Full details and the booking form can be found at the Tyndale NT Study Group page here. We look forward to seeing you there!

The full programme of papers is as follows:

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27 thoughts on “Tyndale NT study group 2021: the later Pauline epistles”

  1. looks great
    pity no-one, once n for all (;)), answering the question where/when did he write Philippians et al
    That significantly affects how we read it, interpret and apply it

    • Yes it certainly does. That’s the sort of (historical) question I enjoy looking into and much ink has been fruitfully spilt on it; but it did occur to me recently that of all the introductory questions provenance (place of writing) is often the hardest and least resolved. (I tried to make a case for Php-‘Eph’-Col-Phm in that order all dating from Rome, year 60.)

      • Christopher – thanks

        I have recently been vexed over this question and the numerous technical commentaries consulted all seemed to vary

        I had always taken it was read that it was written from a Roman cell before his execution (given references to actual chains, praetorian guard & Caesar’s household references)
        I have not been convinced by placings of the letter early on in Caesarea or Ephesus

        I would very much like to read your view if it is available

        • (1) Paul arrives in Rome early 60 and is there reunited with Timothy who had gone there with Silas anywhere up to 18 months earlier, or less (Heb 13.23). (2) News later reaches the Philippians 1100km away (on a well-trodden route) about Paul’s whereabouts and plight and they send Epaphroditus to support him. (3) Epaphroditus arrives and falls ill whether at once (as a result of his arduous journey) or later. (4) News reaches Philippi of his illness. (5) News reaches Rome that the Philippians are distressed by his illness. Epaphroditus recovers at some point and is able to make the arduous return journey plus epistle, having been absent from the Philippians for a while so that he longs for them. There has to be an appreciable gap between each of 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, 4-5. However, Philippians bespeaks the novelty and excitement of Paul’s experience with praetorian guard and Caesar’s household (which point to Rome as a probability, to other locations only as a possibility – why would members of Caesar’s household in other locations happen to know the Philippian church? whereas Rome-Philippi links were strong). Yet ‘Eph’ and Col have to be written (at latest) before news reaches of the Colossae/Laodicea earthquake of 60/61 – Colossae virtually ceased to exist that very year. And Philippians shows little sign of the semi-revolution in Paul’s thought towards realised eschatology which we see in ‘Eph’.

        • 1-5 would be possible with Ephesus and not with Caesarea. But the evidence for an *extended* prison term in Ephesus (and why Ephesus rather than elsewhere?) is non existent. Paul’s unrecorded prison stints may some of them have been overnight or early in his ministry etc.. The amount of Hebrews in Php 2.6-11 is just too great and diverse, and this almost poetic passage is not alone in showing the influence of Hebrews (cf. Col. 1.15-20). But Hebrews was written to Rome and not so early as the Ephesian ministry.

          • so grateful for this
            1) Do you see this as the house arrest at the end of Acts?
            2) Do you think Paul was released from this imprisonment when he wrote these epistles & embarked on a final mission to Spain/gaul? and was later re-arrested/tried and executed?

          • I do not at all think Paul died in 62. I think people only have that at the front of their mind because Acts is our first port of call. Acts is as long as you can get on one scroll, and few people ever manage to write histories that bring one right up to the present day (a few years’ perspective is generally needed first). The Aegean/Mediterranean journey of the Pastorals postdates 62 – as of course does the trip to Spain. And Peter and Paul are (an aspect of) the 2 witnesses (Munck) – so something like their joint death Purim 68 is indicated. This is on the return of Nero to Rome (Nero otherwise being always the beast from the sea/depths) after his 2year long Greece trip. Nero is said in the sources to be responsible.

            So: yes to (1) and yes to (2).

          • Was he wrong in his discernment?
            Good question. Why does Acts end as it does if Paul was condemned at his trial?
            Three possibilities.
            1. Luke knew but wanted an upbeat ending.
            2. Acts was finished before the trial.
            3. Luke didn’t know what happened to Paul.
            #1 seems unlikely since Luke recounts the martyrdom of Strphen and James.
            If #2 is correct, this upends all conventional datings of the Synoptics. Not a problem to me.
            #3 doesn’t seem that likely since surely the fate of the great apostle would have been known to all the church. If we affirm the authenticity of the Pastorals, then we may indeed speculate as you suggest, that Paul was released, went to Spain as he long intended and then was imprisoned some time after his return to Rome. Perhaps Luke intended to write a third volume, since Rome isn’t the ends of the earth for a Roman citizen but the Pillars of Hercules are – and maybe Scotland too! ( Yes, we know St Andrew got there, after founding the church in Constantinople, and he taught the Picts how to play golf.)

          • Simon, we are spoiled for choice today in biographies (so-called) of Paul, but each “life” is also a theological interpretation and carries that freight as well.
            Douglas Campbell’s is brief and accessible but it carries with it Campbell’s belief that Acts is partly fictitious in one part of Paul’s journeys ( I don’t recall which) as wel, as his overblown polemic against “justification theory” which puts a question mark over Campbell for me.
            Wright has written a 500 page work (so brief by his standards!) which is naturally extremely informative but also tied to Wright’s interpretation- and Wright’s grasp of justification in Paul is just off beam, as Charles Irons has shown. I don’t know what Wright thinks about the Parousia.
            I haven’t read John Barclay’s magnum opus on Paul and the gift so I don’t know if it’s biographical.
            F F Bruce is still great stuff!

          • For biographies, Simon, I think Jerome Murphy-O’Connor (Paul: A Critical Life – this is the full-blown one) is excellent in its detail and depth.

            F F Bruce (Paul Apostle of the Free Spirit) is a remarkable work, synthesising full treatments of biography and theology. Udo Schnelle ‘Apostle Paul’ also covers both – but separately.

            Wright is always wonderful.

            If you like dating, Jewett (and the wilder Campbell – although for my money he gets 13 out of 13 for authorship and 0 for dates).

    • Simon, I have just written this for the revised edition of Exploring the New Testament vol 2:

      One strongly supported and apparently very plausible location is Ephesus in view of the length of time Paul spent there and the vigorous opposition that he experienced. The case for Ephesus as then being the place of imprisonment from which Philippians was written has been powerfully defended, not least because of the relative proximity of the two towns, and continues to gain strength in scholarly debate. If the letter was written from here, it would of course be much nearer in time to the founding of the church (c. AD 53–55) and would thus fall in the period of Paul’s missionary travels rather than of his later imprisonment.
      One strong objection to this in the past has been that there is no known example from this period of the use of the term ‘praetorium’ for the government headquarters of a senatorial province such as Asia was at this time (for the distinction between imperial and senatorial provinces see pp. 8–9). Eugene Boring (‘Philippians and Philemon: Date and Provenance,’ CBQ 81.3 (2019): 470–94) argues that the term refers to the people involved in the administration rather than a building, whilst Michael Flexsenhar (‘The Provenance of Philippians and Why It Matters: Old Questions, New Approaches,’ JSNT 42 (2019): 18–45) thinks that it refers to a civil administrative building rather than a Roman imperial one. Either explanation would remove the objection to Paul writing from Ephesus, and revives the previous case of Benjamin W. Robinson, ‘An Ephesian Imprisonment of Paul’ JBL 29.2 (1910), pp 181–189.

      See also Michael Bird’s recent blog comment on this: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/euangelion/2019/12/more-evidence-for-philippians-and-philemon-written-from-ephesus/

      • Thanks so much Ian – all grist for the mill
        how do you handle the reference to “caesar’s household’ ?
        is Ephesus your preferred location?

      • Michael Bird’s perspective in separating Philemon from Colossians seems unnecessarily to complicate matters. What I’m less clear about is (1) What arguments are against Rome.(2) Why prefer a location where no extended imprisonment – in fact no overnight imprisonment – is attested, to one where a 2year house arrest is attested? As Ian says, the proximity is the likeliest reason to prefer Ephesus (all the Epaphroditus-related toings and froings), but that factor does not rule out Rome whereas the imprisonment factor is in danger of ruling out Ephesus. Paul’s 2-3 years in Ephesus are accounted for in Acts in a manner that seems to leave no time for imprisonment anyway. (3) The issue with the praetorium/-an and Caesar’s household is the same. Both are comparatively easier to account for if we are in Rome, so we would be preferring the comparatively harder to the comparatively easier. (4) The middle and late issue I am not sure about because we are talking only about a few years here and there. Paul did not exhaustingly have an early, middle and late period all within the decade 50-60. This is a short ten year period. These periods only seem periods from our perspective because we have nothing of Paul from any other decade.

  2. Advocates for Ephesus would also be able to point to the absence of any mention of Paul’s entourage – whereas post-Ephesus he mentions them in Rom and Col-Phm.

    Other arguments for Rome:
    (1) The (probably misnamed) Christ hymn is closest to Heb at 4 separate points, yet these are scattered in Heb. Heb is from an original thinker; scattering would be a strange practice, unlike gathering and summarising; precising can help explain the well-honed and concentrated style of Php 2.6-11. Heb is unlikely to predate the Ephesian mission but fits well in 58-59 as an epistle to Rome in Paul’s absence.

    (2) ‘Soter’ (Saviour) is totally absent in the earlier letters; mushrooms remarkably post-60 (Eph, 2 Ptr, Pastorals); and fits a Roman setting best where Christ is being pitted against the emperor. Php sees the first glimmerings of Soter.

    (3) Same applies to exaltation theology. Php sees the first glimmerings, and Eph expands these.

    (4) There is no reason to assume Epaphroditus (and news carried to and from Philippi) travelled by road rather than by ship; however Via Egnatia – Via Appia was a very popular route in any case.

    • I really don’t know if the is any literary connection between Philippians 2 and Hebrews (this is new one to me), but I have to say that the two works – as well as John’s Gospel – show that Incarnationist theology is rooted in the first generation of the Church – that is, within the lifetime of the apostles – and is not an innovation and declension from the teaching of Jesus, as liberal Protestantism claims, and as modern Judaism also asserts (cf. Hyam Maccoby et al). It’s pretty clear to me that the Jerusalem temple is still functioning, otherwise the argument of Hebrews about the epiphax of Christ’s sacrifice fails.
      James Dunn’s attempt to show that Incarnation is not found in Paul was a tour de force but his arguing was strained and unconvincing.

      Regarding Bruce’s “Paul, Apostle of the Free Spirit “, I first read (or dipped into it) over 40 years ago and I have ever since enjoyed Bruce’s historical knowledge and judgments. I think the fact that he started out professionally as a classicist and was never formally a theologian gave his work a different grounding from more overtly theological interpretations of Paul’s life. I suspect some modern readings try to squeeze Paul into a “system” of ideas.

      • Yes, all the most invigorating (and most of the best…) NT scholars are historians, classicists or both. IMHO. A further point on Heb-Php is that ‘Jesus’ is in fact not a name donated after the resurrection and exaltation (when one is assuming a prior writing, then these sorts of leaps in logic or slight mismatches tend more often to occur).

  3. I wondered if any good evangelical writer has authored a book which successfully negates the idea that a number of Paul’s letters were not in fact written by him, either personally or using an amanuensis, taking the main arguments and presenting a strong case against each one?

    Any recommendations?


    • There are plenty of conservative evangelical works arguing for this- which is also the historic Christian consensus: con-evo views about the authorship of the so-called Pauline corpus ae not a product of the Reformation but were held by all Christians until the 19th century, when rationalist Lutherans began to break away from the pact and reconstruct the first century according to prevailing philosophies (the Tuebingen school).
      But what counts for “successfully negating” an opinion? We don’t have any dated manuscripts that would give definite termini ad quam/ a quo to these questions, just differing levels of precision, as well as our own pet theories.
      But at least some of the wilder theories can be dismissed.
      Writers like Carson and those who produce the New International Greek Testament Commemtary will make the strongest case for the authenticity of the Pastorals and Ephesians. See George Knight’s commentary for example. In the end there is no escaping some level of subjectivity but it is altogether too much a 19th century Romantic idea about the nature of inspiration to say that Paul would not have used an amanuensis who wrote in his own way but with apostolic approval and attestation.


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