The Origins of the New Testament, Part XXIX: I and II Timothy and Titus — The Pastoral Epistles. We Have the Truth!

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 15 July 2010 0 Comments
Please login with your account to read this essay.


Mary Ann Dobrik, via the internet, writes:

I am very disappointed that the Gospel of John is not being discussed next in this series of columns. Elgin United Church book study is studying this gospel, following the question series in: John: 26 Studies for Individuals and Groups written by N.T. Wright. I do not particularly like this study book and was hoping that Bishop Spong's articles would give me some helpful guidance in refuting some of the remarkable fundamentalist claims in this study book. When will Bishop Spong reach the Gospel of John in his discussions? I need his insightful scholarship.

Will Bishop Spong be coming to Peterborough, Ontario to lecture in 2011? I hope so.


Mary Ann Dobrik


Dear Mary Ann:

Your letter delighted me in that it expresses disappointment that John did not come up in my study after Luke as it does in the Bible. I appreciate the fact that you had great expectations even if you felt disappointed.

I have said from the beginning of this series that I would be looking at the New Testament in the order in which it was written. That is what I have done from the very beginning. I started with the genuine Pauline Epistles because Paul wrote between 51-64 CE. Then I went to Mark the first gospel; then to Matthew the second gospel. Next I treated Luke-Acts as two parts of the same story. Then I moved to the early, but non-authentic, Pauline letters: II Thessalonians, Colossians and Ephesians, all of which appear to have been written well after Paul's death, but were probably contemporaneous with the synoptic gospels. Next I will address the pastoral epistles: I & II Timothy and Titus, which are dated between 90-110 CE, followed by the general epistles: I & II Peter, James and Jude. Then I will do a column on the Epistle to the Hebrews, which I believe deserves serious treatment. Then I will complete the series with probably three columns on the Gospel of John, one on the Epistles of John (I, II, III) and will close this series with a final column on the book of Revelation. I expect the series to be complete by September 1.

Between September 1 and December 31 of this year I will be busy with the editorial task of turning this series of columns into a book that HarperCollins will publish some time in 2011 under the title: Reclaiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World.

I am sorry the John section did not reach the Elgin United Church in time for your study. N.T. Wright is more of a propagandist for fundamentalism than he is a New Testament scholar, albeit he has the capacity to use heavily perfumed and sophisticated language to preserve the illusion of scholarship. I can well imagine that you need a counterpoint.

Since my next major work will be on the Gospel of John, I have been reading books on John almost exclusively for the last year. There are some massive and brilliant commentaries like those of Rudolf Bultmann, C.H. Dodd and Raymond Brown, but I doubt if they would be good resources to your class, because of their sheer bulk and heavy footnotes. I have, however, thoroughly enjoyed two other smaller books that I happily recommend to you. One is The Mystical Way in the Fourth Gospel by L. William Countryman and the other is Invitation to John by George W. MacRae. Both are less that 200 pages and I have profited greatly by my study of them.

We have no present plans to return to Peterborough, Ontario, at this moment though we thoroughly enjoyed our time there twice in the past. We will be in the Lutheran Church in New Market, Ontario, in the late spring of next year. Maybe I will see you there.

Thanks for writing,

– John Shelby Spong



Leave a Reply