In Their Own Words: Q&A with Terry Wilder on 'Entrusted with the Gospel'
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) -- The following is from an interview with Terry Wilder, professor of New Testament at Southwestern Seminary, on a new B&H Academic publication he co-edited, Entrusted with the Gospel: Paul’s Theology in the Pastoral Epistles. To watch additional video clips of the interview, visit www.swbts.edu/intheirownwords.
Q: What is the theme of this book?
A: The overarching theme in the Pastoral Epistles, and the reason it is important, is stewardship with the Gospel, which is where we got the title, Entrusted with the Gospel: Paul’s Theology in the Pastoral Epistles. In these letters, Paul treats Timothy and Titus as stewards of the Gospel. Paul himself is a steward, and the Lord Jesus Christ, of course, is our master.
A steward in antiquity was a chief household slave, someone who was entrusted with his master’s affairs while he was away, until he returned. And so, in a very real sense, ministers, pastors and preachers are stewards of the Gospel, and we have been entrusted with managing the household, i.e., God’s church, while the master is away, until his return.
Q: You wrote a chapter on the Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles. How did you prove his authorship?
A: I took the criteria that critical scholars use to usually show that the Pastoral Epistles were not written by Paul, and I applied it to a book whose authorship hardly anybody would dispute. I showed that Philippians is also pseudonymous if you want to press it hard enough. Of course, that is ludicrous. And my point was that any of these items, any of these criteria, if you push them hard enough, you can disprove almost anything.
If you take this approach, you can go berserk with it. And there is no need, really, to resort to theories of pseudonymity. I think that Paul wrote the Pastoral Epistles because it says that he did. And we can go through the various reasons, but primarily, the early church rejected non-apostolic authorship when it recognized books as canonical.
There is an ancient myth about Procrustes, and he invited travelers into his home, and he had an iron bed. And if they were too short, he would stretch their legs. If they were too long, he would cut them off. In other words, he would make them fit. And I think that is often what critical scholars do with these sorts of things. They make their theories fit.
Q: Why does this matter?
A: It matters that Paul wrote the Pastoral Epistles because Paul was an apostle. Well, most of the New Testament books that are recognized as canonical by the church were written by an apostle or someone who was authorized or approved by the apostles. These apostles carried the authority of the Lord Jesus Himself. They were divinely commissioned. They were divinely ordained men of God, whom the Lord Jesus empowered to be His representatives on the earth.
Now, imagine what it would be like if you took that apostolic authorship away? It would be the equivalent of—let’s just use Pope Benedict, as an example: Let’s say Pope Benedict, whom we all know, issues papal bulls to tell the church, ‘You need to do this. You need to do that, and so forth.’ Imagine if I were to forge Pope Benedict’s name and try to pass off something from me as that of Pope Benedict. If that were discovered, it would lose all of its authority. So you can’t divorce the things of the Spirit of God, these authoritative Words from God, from apostolic authorship.