Study Guide

The Pastoral Epistles (1-2 Timothy, Titus) Introduction

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The Pastoral Epistles (1-2 Timothy, Titus) Introduction

These three little letters pack one big punch.

The First and Second Epistles to Timothy and the Epistle to Titus might be tiny books jammed near the back of the Bible, but they deal with some of the hottest topics in human history.

Slavery. Gender roles. LGBT rights. Authority. Leadership. Plagiarism.

Should we continue?

But here's the thing: these letters weren't trying to ruffle any feathers. Instead, they were mostly concerned with the budding Christian church. That's why they're sometimes known as "the Pastoral Epistles"—it's gotta be that, because there's not a single field or sheep in them.

Back at the end of the first century, lots of folks had questions about what it meant to believe in Jesus. How should the church be run? Who gets to be in charge? How should Christians act? And what would Jesus do? The author of these three books has loads to say on these big issues.

Who's that author? Well…that's where the whole plagiarism thing comes in. For hundreds of years people thought it was Paul of Tarsus. You may remember him from such biblical letters as Romans, Corinthians, and pretty much everything else in the New Testament. But even though his name shows up on the letterhead, most scholars today don't think Paul actually wrote these. Why?

Oh, because he was dead when they were written.

So yeah, unless he came back as the ultimate zombie apostle—in which case, we have something way more exciting to discuss—someone else penned these bad boys.

Since he's pretty into pastoral issues (i.e., anything related to the church) some folks call this guy "the Pastor." Here's what we know about him:

  • The Pastor loves the church. A lot. He's obsessed with helping Christianity to grow and making it look respectable to outsiders. 
  • He thinks that Christians should act kindly to everyone they meet, even non-believers.
  • He wants everyone to live their lives like a traditional Roman family. That means men are in charge, ladies are in the kitchen, and slaves are, well, slaves.

Yup. The Pastor was trying to settle arguments, but he ended up creating a whole lot more. And if you think these issues were explosive 2,000 years ago, try bringing some of them up at your next family dinner.

Just be sure to duck when the mashed potatoes start to fly.

What is The Pastoral Epistles (1-2 Timothy, Titus) About and Why Should I Care?

The Pastoral Epistles are all about rules. And ho doesn't love rules?

Oh, that's right: everyone.

But we have to admit: while some rules can be a bummer, others are pretty useful. For example, did you get mugged today? No? Well, you can probably thank rules for that. (Anarchists might disagree.)

The Pastor is pretty big into rules. He also has lots of ideas about what exactly people should do to live a good, Christian life. Be nice to other people, don't start fights, don't badmouth folks behind their backs. Those are some rules we can all agree on, right? Of course, not all the Pastor's wisdom has aged as well. For example, he thinks that a woman's place is in the home (sorry, Sheryl Sandberg), and he has a lot to say about slaves…mainly how they should be obeying their masters.

Yeah. It was a different time.

So how do we sort out the good rules from the bad ones? It's not easy. As times have changed, people (in most of the world) have finally come to agree that owning other human beings is a bad idea. But everything else? We're still arguing over 2,000 years later.

Will Shmoop be able to settle all these arguments? Nope. (Shmoop is good, but we're not that good.) We can help you sort out the issues, but in the end, you're gonna have to decide which rules are there to help and which are just the Man trying to keep you down.

The Pastoral Epistles (1-2 Timothy, Titus) Resources


Saint Timothy
Timmy's bio calls him out as a saint, bishop, and martyr. The kid did good.

Saint Titus
Titus also has the badge of sainthood going for him. Hey, he earned it.

The Word of St. Paul
The Word of St. Paul is a term for what happens when an authoritative source, other than the original author, fills in key information about a book, movie, or TV show. Yeah, that sounds a lot like the Pastoral Epistles.


"Instructions," "It's Yours," and "Sound" by 116 Clique
These three songs, which are featured on the Christian hip-hop album 13 Letters, are each based on one of the letters to Timothy and Titus. Jesus is their homeboy.


Paul's Travels
A map of the Roman Empire with Paul's travel routes highlighted. The guy got around.

Paul in the Flesh
This is what some folks think Paul might have looked like live and in person.

Paul Hard at Work
Should I write something down for Timothy and Titus? Nah, they're good.

Little known Bible fact: Titus was the best-dressed guy in ancient Rome.

Hanging at Grandma's House
Tell me again about the time Jesus threw the moneychangers out of the temple, Gram.

Hold On Now
Hey, wait! I don't remember writing these here in the back!

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