I wanted to know what you thought about the authorship of some of the NT books traditionally accepted as written by Paul. For instance, some scholars state that the books of Ephesians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus were definitely not written by Paul and others such as 2 Thessalonians and Colossians probably weren't written by Paul. Also some of the content of these letters seems to disclose the hope of Christ returning very quickly. Did Paul think that Jesus would return before his death? -- Rob Orr (Tallahassee)

In the 19th century it was popular to date as many New Testament books in the second century as possible. The Gospel of John, for example, was dated in the second half of the 100s -- at least until papyri containing sections of the Gospel of John were discovered from the first half of the century! In addition, it became quite popular to deny the reputed or explicit authorship of a document based on dubious stylistic arguments. Ephesians and 1 Timothy, which you ask about, were claimed to reflect a "later," "more advanced" stage in church history, at least a generation after the death of the "author" (Paul).

Here again there is a certain shallowness of argumentation, a certain over-eagerness to reach conclusions. In the Pastoral Epistles, 1-2 Timothy and Titus, Paul is writing as a church leader to another church leader. Wouldn't we expect different vocabulary, theological emphasis, and agenda to what is typical of a letter to an entire church? For the most part, questions of authorship are easily resolved, and the objections quickly undermined, once we probe deeper.

As for the expectation of the imminent return of Christ, opinion among believers is divided. Many passages borrow the language of judgment, yet are referring to the Fall of Jerusalem (the "mini-apocalypses" of the Gospels) or even the Fall of Rome (Revelation). The wrongheaded understanding of an imminent end is rebuked in 1 Thessalonians -- by Paul himself. He urges us to settle down, live responsibly, and not become easily unsettled -- in both 1 and 2 Thessalonians.

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