What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

New Undesigned Coincidence supporting Pauline authorship of 2 Timothy

While writing up my chronology of the Pauline epistles, I was re-reading the name references in 2 Timothy. Here's one:

Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. 2 Timothy 4:14-15

Some have suggested that this may be the same person referred to in Acts 19:33, a Jew who stepped forward and tried to address the crowd in the amphitheater during the riot in Ephesus. That seems unlikely, however, for such a move was risky, and that Alexander appears to have intended to "make a defense to the crowd" and is silenced by the angry worshipers of Diana. It's unclear what the point of his "defense" was, but since the rioters were angry at Paul (for teaching the people monotheism and thus reducing the market for shrines of Diana), it seems unlikely that that Alexander was a coppersmith himself or would have stuck his neck out during the riot. The name was not uncommon.

More plausible is the identification of Alexander the coppersmith in 2 Timothy 4 with the Alexander whom Paul anathematizes in I Timothy 1:20, especially given the close connection between I Timothy and 2 Timothy. Apparently this person, whoever he was, was a possible danger to Timothy as well. We may conjecture that he was located wherever Timothy was ministering at that time.

This is the coincidence I see: If you were going to forge a letter as from Paul at the end of his life (as 2 Timothy purports to be) and give him an enemy to complain about, and if you wanted to "place" Timothy at Ephesus (as 1 Timothy apparently does in 1:3), and if you had access to Acts, whom would you choose?

A little reading of Acts 19 makes the answer obvious: Demetrius the silversmith.

About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”

When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Acts 19:23-28

Granted, the setting of 2 Timothy is 8-10 years later than the events in Ephesus, but this is an argument all by itself for the authenticity of 2 Timothy. If you're going to forge an epistle from Paul, why put it so late rather than integrating it with events in Acts? In any event, Acts 19 is the last time in Acts that Paul is in Ephesus, so a forger who for whatever reason wants to address the epistle to someone in Ephesus has to make do with what he has, and Demetrius is the obvious enemy to pick.

But 2 Timothy doesn't mention Demetrius. Instead, Paul warns Timothy against an otherwise unknown metalworker named Alexander. Even the Alexander in I Timothy isn't said to be a smith.

There is, however, a connection with Acts 19. For Acts 19 tells us that the riot in Ephesus started not just with Demetrius but with the other "workmen in similar trades," whom Demetrius got together and riled up against Paul. The Alexander of 2 Timothy is a workman in a similar trade to that of Demetrius.

That Alexander, Paul's enemy, should be specifically said to be a metalworker or smith is significant. (Here is the Greek entry on the word used in 2 Timothy for his trade.) But the connection with Demetrius is indirect. Demetrius is specifically said to be a silversmith in Acts 19.

It is not implausible, if Alexander was located in Ephesus, that either he was actually among those who tried to get Paul run out on a rail in Acts 19 or that an animus against Paul among the metalworkers persisted in Ephesus and flared up again when Paul returned to Ephesus after his release from his first Roman imprisonment, in about A.D. 62. There is ample evidence from the pastoral epistles that Paul had a ministry after the imprisonment recorded in Acts 28 and that he was then re-imprisoned and wrote 2 Timothy from that second, and much shorter, imprisonment.

This sort of oblique connection is a perfect example of an undesigned coincidence. The allusion to Alexander the coppersmith does not appear to be designed, but it fits Acts 19 and 2 Timothy together. It thus confirms both; I would say the most obvious confirmation is of the authenticity of 2 Timothy.

Comments (11)

So, let me get this straight: you would have us believe that 2 Timothy, the one that starts out with

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,

To Timothy, my dear son:

was written by Paul!

You're a real radical, ain't you? Revolutionary! Next you'll be telling us that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, that eyes are structured so as to see, and that water flows downhill. There's no telling what nonsense you'll come up with.


A long time ago, I used to think that if New Testament scholars didn't credit X with writing "X's work", they must have had some pretty good reason. After reading a number of what supposedly passed for "good reason", I stopped having much patience in the whole business of trying to discern who was the "true author" of the letter or gospel without at least taking into account the traditional attribution. The layer upon layer of "maybe" and "possible" and "there was a genre in Babylon 1500 years earlier" and so on, churned out with final conclusions as if 16 maybes in a row left the conclusion anything more than a wild-ass guess, is revolting. Particularly nauseating were the explanations of the books being written by "ecclesial communities" a century or two later, which (as far as I can tell) were just made up out of whole cloth.

I pity the scholars who have to wade through this garbage for professional reasons, and pretend to treat it as respectable and scholarly, when it's drivel, trying to find the nuggets of worthwhile considerations.

Yes, scholarly skepticism about Pauline epistles (and for that matter the traditional author ascriptions of the Gospels) is exaggerated and unreasonable. The "arguments" for casting doubt on the prima facie case are very flimsy. In the case of the pastorals (I and II Timothy and Titus) they consist chiefly of verbal arguments about the use of otherwise unfamiliar words in the pastorals, but this is quite obviously the result of their unusual purposes--that is, writing to individuals with instructions for the qualifications of ordination and setting up the church in its on-going form.

Or maybe there is no undesigned coincidence, but instead a designed one? The author of 2 Tim could have consciously employed a name connecting the two Timothy letters, a very straightforward attempt to validate and connect one such late pastoral letter with another. And yes, the idea of "metalworker" or "smith" could have come from Acts, regardless of not using the name Demetrius from Acts.

The arguments for the pastorals being of questionable Pauline authenticity also are worthy pointing out (per this fascinating web page that summarizes a lot of data and places many early Christian writings in approximate date arrangement http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/ ):

2 Timothy is one of the three epistles known collectively as the pastorals (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus). They were not included in Marcion's canon of ten epistles assembled c. 140 CE. And against Wallace, there is no certain quotation of these three pastoral epistles before Irenaeus c. 170 CE.

Norman Perrin summarizes four reasons that have lead critical scholarship to regard the pastorals as inauthentic (The New Testament: An Introduction, pp. 264-5):

1) Vocabulary. While statistics are not always as meaningful as they may seem, of 848 words (excluding proper names) found in the Pastorals, 306 are not in the remainder of the Pauline corpus, even including the deutero-Pauline 2 Thessalonians, Colossians, and Ephesians. Of these 306 words, 175 do not occur elsewhere in the New Testament, while 211 are part of the general vocabulary of Christian writers of the second century. Indeed, the vocabulary of the Pastorals is closer to that of popular Hellenistic philosophy than it is to the vocabulary of Paul or the deutero-Pauline letters. Furthermore, the Pastorals use Pauline words ina non-Pauline sense: dikaios in Paul means "righteous" and here means "upright"; pistis, "faith," has become "the body of Christian faith"; and so on.

2) Literary style. Paul writes a characteristically dynamic Greek, with dramatic arguments, emotional outbursts, and the introduction of real or imaginary opponents and partners in dialogue. The Pastorals are in a quiet meditative style, far more characteristic of Hebrews or 1 Peter, or even of literary Hellenistic Greek in general, than of the Corinthian correspondence or of Romans, to say nothing of Galatians.

3) The situation of the apostle implied in the letters. Paul's situation as envisaged in the Pastorals can in no way be fitted into any reconstruction of Paul's life and work as we know it from the other letters or can deduce it from the Acts of the Apostles. If Paul wrote these letters, then he must have been released from his first Roman imprisonment and have traveled in the West. But such meager tradition as we have seems to be more a deduction of what must have happened from his plans as detailed in Romans than a reflection of known historical reality.

4) The letters as reflecting the characteristics of emergent Catholicism. The arguments presented above are forceful, but a last consideration is overwhelming, namely that, together with 2 Peter, the Pastorals are of all the texts in the New Testament the most distinctive representatives of the emphases of emergent Catholicism. The apostle Paul could no more have written the Pastorals than the apostle Peter could have written 2 Peter.

The arguments that establish the inauthenticity of the pastoral epistles are expounded by Kummel in his Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 371-84. In addition to providing more detail to the arguments stated by Perrin, Kummel adds a few more considerations.

Concerning the struggle against the false teachers, Kummel writes (op. cit., pp. 379-80):

". . . in addition to the predictions concerning the appearance of the false teachers 'in the last days' (I Tim 4:1 ff; II Tim 3:1 ff, 13; 4:3 f), there are references to the present activity of the false teachers and instructions about combating them (I Tim 1:3 ff, 19 f; 6:20 f; II Tim 2:16 ff; 3:8; Tit 1:10 ff; 3:9 ff), so that there is no perceptible distinction between the teaching of the predicted false teachers and the present ones. But since nowhere in the Pastorals is there to be found any consciousness of living 'in the last days,' in the prediction of the End-time which evidently describes present phenomena it is clear that we are dealing only with a traditional literary motif (vaticinium ex eventu) which is now being employed by 'Paul.' Still more striking, however, is the matter of how the false teachers are opposed. Completely otherwise than in Col, the viewpoints of the false teachers are not contradicted by being confronted with the preaching about Christ, but they are countered simply by reference to the traditional teaching, from which the false teachers have erred and which is to be held fast (I Tim 4:1; 6:20; II Tim 1:14; 2:2 Tit 3:10 f). The lack of any substantive debate cannot be explained on the ground that Paul did not regard the prattle of false teachers as being worth contradicting and assumed that Timothy and Titus themselves knew what should be said in refutation of the false teachers. In that case there would be no necessity to make those addressed aware of the dangers of the false teaching in detail. This lack is much more readily explained by the fact that Paul is not writing these letters."

In the pastorals, there is an emphasis on the preservation of tradition, and the community situation seems to be that of the sub-apostolic age. The pastorals evince a level of church organization that most likely would not have existed in the lifetime of Paul. The requirements particular to bishops and deacons are spelled out clearly (I Tim 3:1-13). Kummel writes (op. cit., pp. 381-2):

"The actual task of Timothy and Titus consists rather in preserving the correct teaching which they received from Paul and passing it on to their pupils (I Tim 1:11; 6:20; II Tim 1:14; 2:2). Though there is no chain of succession constructed from Paul via his apostolic disciples to the holders of office in the congregations - not even in II Tim 2:2, the chain of tradition is strongly stressed, whose beginning lies with the apostle (II Tim 2:2, 8). The presupposition of this central role of the tradition is a community which, in contrast to Paul's expectation of a near end of the age, is already making provision for the time after the death of the bearers of tradition appointed by the apostolic disciples (II Tim 2:1 f). Although Paul certainly did not know of the task of preserving the tradition through ordanted presbyters (πρεσβυτεροσ is not meant in Paul as an indication of an office), the ecclesiastical office of the widows (I Tim 5:3 ff) whose essential task is continual prayer in connection with sexual abstinence is totally foreign to Paul. Though it is questionable whether the Pastorals presuppose a distinction between clergy and laity, still there is no longer any indication of active cooperation and responsibility on the part of the community."

And Kummel goes on to amass further evidence that the theological expressions used are incompatible with Pauline authorship (op. cit., pp. 382-84). All these arguments establish that the pastoral epistles are second century products.

Also found on that site:

The Sayings Gospel Q is an archaic collection of sayings ascribed to Jesus, even older than the Gospels in the New Testament. In fact, it is the oldest Gospel of Christianity. Yet it is not in the New Testament itself. Rather, it was known to, and used by, the Evangelists of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and then lost from sight. After all, Q is the Gospel of Jewish Christianity, which continued in Galilee to proclaim Jesus’ sayings, but the New Testament is the book preserving the ancient sources of Gentile Christianity, the oldest being the letters of Paul, for whom Jesus’ cross and resurrection, not his sayings, were central to the Christian message. This is clearest in the case of Matthew. For this Gospel is oriented in Matt 3-11 primarily to vindicating the Jesus of Q, but then in Matt 12-28 simply copies out Mark, the Gentile Gospel. For the Q movement, limited to a mission to Jews, gradually died out, and its Sayings Gospel survived only as incorporated into the Gospel culminating in the Great Commission to evangelize of Gentiles. During the second century, when the canonizing process was taking place, scribes did not make new copies of Q, since the canonizing process involved choosing what should and what should not be used in the church service. Hence they preferred to make copies of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, where the sayings of Jesus from Q were rephrased to avoid misunderstandings, and to fit their own situations and their understanding of what Jesus had really meant.

So, not only do we know what Q contained in detail and precisely, we also know why it did not survive on its own, and even the motives of the persons involved!

This Greek text of Q, as shared by Matthew and Luke, dates from around the time of the war with Rome (since Q 13:34-35 seems to envisage the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.).

Because, of course, everyone knows that it is impossible for God to foretell the future. Imagine! next we'll be hearing that he, what, rose from the dead? Don't make me laugh!

I'm not going to respond to all the tired arguments in Ed Babinski's comment (which have been refuted many times in many places), but one obvious point is this: If you were going to forge a letter from Paul, you would *not* place it in a situation outside of the book of Acts. Actually, the pastorals make a clear narrative when taken with Acts and the other Pauline epistles--namely, release, new ministry, and re-imprisonment. The fact that they don't fit within Acts is an argument *for* their authenticity not against it.

I already answered the vocabulary question. Most of us use specialized vocabularies when writing about specialized matters. My own vocabulary must vary wildly in e-mails to people on a wide variety of topics. As to style, *if* this is of any importance, it *may* indicate a different amaneuensis from the other letters, though I'm not even sure if that is the case.

Of course it is *possible* that a forger subtly made up a coincidence with the metalworkers of Ephesus. Elaborate, over-subtle deceit is always possible, and hyper-skeptics will always, for God knows what reason, think them more probable than the simpler explanation. But one starts to wonder why at a certain point. Why think that someone made up a coincidence that was so subtle that it hasn't been noticed for 2000 doggoned years until Lydia McGrew came along and noticed it in 2017, just to try (unsuccessfully, I guess) to validate a fake epistle, rather than taking the coincidence to mean that there really was hatred for Paul by metalworkers in Ephesus and that he's warning Timothy against one of them? No one would advocate this degree of elaborate, pointless skepticism if these were not portions of the canonical books of the Bible on which people willfully throw doubt, even when no miracle and nothing particularly improbable is in immediate view. It's truly irrational. After all, it's logically possible that my husband is an ax murderer and is just carefully hiding it from me, but I don't lose any sleep over the possibility.


Pay no attention to that odd sound in the garage of a grinder sharpening metal. Ask not for whom the axe sharpens: it sharpens for thee. :-)


I've just started reading about these kind of issues in the last few months - for example, I'm presently reading Blomberg's 'The Historical Reliability of the New Testament.' - Assuming he's presented the arguments against, say, Pauline authorship of the 6 disputed letter, even if in summary form, I find them quite weak. For example: 2 Thessalonians, a letter written shortly after 1 Thess, to the same audience, by the same person, concerning many of the same topics, is not Pauline because it is too much like 1 Thess in word choice, structure, etc. 'Clearly' a forger is just slavishly imitating 1 Thess. Yeah, that's the best explanation! Throw in the fact that it is 'too dissimilar' from 1 Tess, and I'm convinced that it's not by Paul. Further, these two arguments, don't cancel each other out!

Also, don't you know that 2 Thess is too harsh to be Pauline vis-a-vis the idle and those who persecute Christians? That similar bit in 1 Thess is just an interpolation. And we know that its an interpolation since Paul isn't that harsh in his tone. And no, this isn't circular reasoning. Let me try again.

2 Thess isn't Pauline, since its too harsh in its tone to be Pauline.
Response: What about that passage in 1 Thess, which is generally agreed to be Pauline, that's quite harsh?
Oh, that's not Pauline, since Paul isn't that harsh in his tone, so it's an interpolation!

See, not circular! If you say otherwise, you're merely in the grips of blind faith or LSD or something.

Yes, similarly I heard an "argument" yesterday against the Petrine connection with the Gospel of Mark on the grounds that Jesus' "declaring all things clean" (Mark 7:19) is in conflict with Jesus' promise in Matthew that not one jot or tittle will pass from the law! Peter's vision in Acts was then said to be an arg. *against* the Petrine origin because then Peter would have already known that all things are clean from Jesus' earlier words and wouldn't have needed the vision in Acts.

Of course, just the opposite is the case. The Petrine vision in Acts is some evidence that Mark *does* have a Petrine origin, since Peter, reflecting later on these words of Jesus, would have had some reason to interpret them in this light in hindsight given his vision in Acts.

It is to the point that I simply have no patience with New Testament scholarship. Almost all of it. Even some work by relatively conservative scholars who, for example, treat the traditional authorship of Matthew as in extreme doubt. When people come to me or to someone else with these lousy, lousy arguments and ask me what I think, I'm becoming so curmudgeonly that I want to say, "Whaddaya mean what do I think? Think for yourself! Can't you see what's wrong with that? Why do you need someone else to be your intellectual immune system? Grow a spine and stop deferring to this nonsense!"

"Peter would have already known that all things are clean from Jesus' earlier words and wouldn't have needed the vision in Acts."

Ah, because humans always immediately understand what is being said and its implications, I forgot that part. We can, of course, safely ignore the fact that every other thing Jesus said puzzled the disciples to no end. When we read the gospels, we're hit over the head with the fact that Jesus keeps saying, 'I'm going to die at Jerusalem and then be raised up,' but the apostles were still quite confused as it was actually happening! And most of all, let's forget that in John the disciples say, right before Jesus is about to be handed over to sinners, 'Finally you are speaking to us plainly!'

"The Petrine vision in Acts is some evidence that Mark *does* have a Petrine origin."

Maybe in your unscientific, superstitious worldview, but we have rationality and whatnot.

Because, of course, everyone knows that it is impossible for God to foretell the future. Imagine! next we'll be hearing that he, what, rose from the dead? Don't make me laugh!

This is a good point, and I believe that Jesus' prophecies of the destruction of Jerusalem represent genuine prophecy (it's worth stressing that he declared Jerusalem would fall within one generation of when he made the prophecy, the biblical definition of a generation is 40 years, and Jerusalem fell exactly 40 years after he's said to have made the prediction. That said, as others have pointed out, even if you bracket the question of prophecy and miracles it should hardly be difficult to believe that someone before the mid-60s AD might have predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and got it right (either by genuine prophetic insight, good luck, or simply a good understanding of the political forces at play). In our own day, plenty of people have predicted geopolitical events (global warming, the rise of communism, the fall of the Soviet Union, the rise and fall of fascism, the renaissance of ethnic nationalism, the rise of sexualized mass culture and contraception, etc.) without necessarily being spiritually gifted prophets. The fact that such a, relatively speaking, anodyne and run-of-the-mill 'prophecy' is such a threat to the intellectual comfort of historico-critical Biblical scholars really tells you everything you need to know about the weakness of the intellectual underpinnings of historical criticism.

BTW, Tony, have you read John AT Robinson's Redating the New Testament?

Post a comment

Bold Italic Underline Quote

Note: In order to limit duplicate comments, please submit a comment only once. A comment may take a few minutes to appear beneath the article.

Although this site does not actively hold comments for moderation, some comments are automatically held by the blog system. For best results, limit the number of links (including links in your signature line to your own website) to under 3 per comment as all comments with a large number of links will be automatically held. If your comment is held for any reason, please be patient and an author or administrator will approve it. Do not resubmit the same comment as subsequent submissions of the same comment will be held as well.