The National Catholic Review
I am blogging from Rome for the next four months. I arrived with my family on September 21 in order to spend a semester teaching University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, Minnesota) students at the Angelicum. Is there an easier place to be a Catholic biblical scholar than in Rome, the city of Peter and Paul, the heart of the Church? Yes, I think perhaps St. Paul, Minnesota, where I left all my books, libraries to which I can gain easy access, and the comforts of home. I have tried clicking my heels a few times as I walk down the crowded streets saying, "There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home," but I still find myself walking down the Via Nazionale. Is this a complaint? I think it is. I thought there might be some way to transform it from complaint into meaningful insight, but I think it is functioning as intended: a complaint. There is so much to love in Rome, especially the history of the early Christians, so many martyred in this city, but the city makes it no easier, or harder I suppose, to come to terms with the scripture which we are all called to follow. The Apostle Paul was said to have been martyred and buried in this city. I accept these traditions and find them easy to believe, both because we know from Acts that Paul came to Rome under arrest late in his life (Acts 28:14-31) and the archaeological evidence of Paul’s sarcophagus in St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls supports the literary evidence concerning Paul’s death in Rome (found in the in the 2nd century apocryphal text known, as a whole, as The Acts of Paul). It might also be said that I know of no other tradition concerning either the location of Paul’s martyrdom or his tomb; one often finds competing traditions regarding the location of martyrdom or burial for ancient saints or of great events from the past. While this sort of evidence from silence is not definitive, it does add to the preponderance of the evidence for Rome as the place of Paul’s martyrdom and burial. This brings us to the reading from 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14, a letter attributed to Paul. This is an important reading, with note given of apostolic ordination ("imposition of hands") and the apostolic tradition, the "deposit of faith," being handed on ("Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me" and "Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit"). Are these traditions not at the heart of the claims of the Church of Rome? The apostolic tradition is being handed on, through the centuries, by the see of Peter. Yet, biblical scholars have raised numerous questions regarding Pauline authorship of what are known as the Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus), with the majority of current scholars--but not all!--arguing that these letters are not written by Paul, but by a follower of Paul after his death. This always raises questions for students: if these are not letters by Paul, do they retain the same authority as the rest of scripture? Why would someone write pseudonymously? Is "authorship" of this sort fraudulent? How can we be certain that Paul did not write these letters? What is the evidence for authorship other than that of Paul? Can Pauline authorship be defended? Over the next few weeks, I hope to go through some of the arguments against and for Pauline authorship and give some insight into the manner in which biblical studies enriches and challenges us and its limits. John W. Martens