Series: Lexical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles

Rick Brannan’s Lexical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (LCPE) is projected as a three-volume series; one volume for each of letters contained in the corpus.

The first volume in the series,  First Timothy, is currently being prepared for publication. We anticipate publication of the approximately 400 page volume in summer or fall 2016. Work on Second Timothy will begin after publication of the first volume.

For an idea of the scope and extent of the work, we have included the present draft of the series introduction below.


Series Introduction

The notion of “word studies” is viewed derisively in some circles. This is not without some merit, for so-called “word studies” are often built on poor foundations, drawing conclusions that are far afield from the texts on which they are based.

Yet examining the meanings of words, in context, is an important part of proper exegesis. This is acknowledged by those who write on the subject. Gordon Fee notes:

In any piece of literature, words are the basic building blocks for conveying meaning. In exegesis it is especially important to remember that words function in a context. Therefore, although any given word may have a broad or narrow range of meaning, the aim of word study in exegesis is to try to understand as precisely as possible what the author was trying to convey by his use of this word in this context. Thus, for example, you cannot legitimately do a word study of σάρξ (flesh); you can only do a word study of σάρξ in 1 Cor. 5:5 or in 2 Cor. 5:16, and so on.[1]

And Donald Hagner:

One of the most fruitful areas of study for exegesis is the study of the exceptionally rich vocabulary of the NT.[2]

Despite the necessity of word studies and the insight they provide, both Fee and Hagner are also quick to caution their readers of the dangers of word studies. These warnings must be taken to heart in order to responsibly examine the words of the New Testament in the proper context. Only upon so doing will the exegete arrive at conclusions to form the foundation of proper exegesis.

The Unique Vocabulary of the Pastoral Epistles

Of all of the epistles attributed to Paul, the three epistles known as the “Pastoral Epistles”—First Timothy, Second Timothy and Titus—exhibit the largest proportion of unfamiliar and infrequent words. Indeed, the Pastoral Epistles contain more hapax legomena[3] (proportionately) than the other Pauline epistles.

To responsibly exegete the text of the Pastoral Epistles, one must become familiar with the vocabulary. However, particularly with words that do not frequently occur in the New Testament, the examination of word meanings involves more than simply looking up words in a lexicon and choosing a gloss that seems appropriate.

The Scope of this Series

This series evaluates the vocabulary of the Pastoral Epistles in light of associated or historically proximate writings. Material that uses similar language or parallel concepts is evaluated in the hopes that such material will shed light on meanings of words and phrases in the Pastoral Epistles.

This series is not a work of exposition. It seeks to be informative, not innovative; relying on testimony of similar writings from the same general time frame or similar perspective to help establish how a particular word would have been understood in its context. This understanding is then intended to inform one’s exegetical process.

Many commentaries and other works of exegesis frequently use material from secondary sources to provide background information or examples of word usage, duly noting references to such works in footnotes or endnotes. This work seeks to provide full quotations (in translation) of these works. Instead of relegating these citations to the doom of footnotes that are seldom if ever used, the cited text itself is brought into the argument for the reader to evaluate. As such, this work also serves as a functional introduction to one use of secondary sources and, for some, quite possibly as an introduction to the material itself.[4]

This work does not purport to be exhaustive in examination of such sources. However, the sources highlighted provide insight to the discussion at hand. This leads to an informed understanding of the text, which should be the goal of any such study.

Works Cited from Outside the Protestant Canon

A fair portion of the cited works in this series may be unfamiliar to the reader. These works are valuable for study as they provide some historical and cultural insight. Most importantly, they provide a witness to usage of the Greek language using concepts and terminology similar to those encountered in the New Testament.

Old Testament Deuterocanon/Apocrypha

The deuterocanon is comprised of the material from the Septuagint and Vulgate[5] that is not reflected in the Hebrew Old Testament or Greek New Testament. It is primarily of a Jewish nature, though the material is not considered canonical. Many times, this material is described as “intertestamental” and placed between the Old Testament and the New Testament in printed editions of the English Bible. The Catholic church labels this material “deuterocanonical,” or part of the “second canon.” The material dates from about 300 bc to perhaps 70 ad.[6]

The material is primarily historical in nature, though there are some expansions of canonical material. For example, some expansion of Esther occurs in the “Additions to Esther” (a single narrative in the LXX, typically separated from the canonical portions of Esther in English versions).

English translations of this material are taken from the Lexham English Septuagint,[7] which is a translation of H.B. Swete’s edtion of the Septuagint.[8]

Old Testament Pseudepigrapha

The term “pseudepigrapha” is a compound word comprised of the two Greek words meaning “false writings.” A pseudepigraphal book is one that is falsely attributed. These were typically attributed to notable figures of the Old Testament (e.g. Testament of Abraham, Martyrdom of Isaiah) and in many instances provide additional speculative information concerning the lives of the person honored in the title.

Many of these documents were written in Greek, between 250 bc and 200 ad.[9] This material is primarily Jewish in nature though some of it is was rewritten from a Christian perspective.

There is no formal corpus for the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, it is only a loose collection of documents. Different editions include the works the editors see fit to include.

English translations of this material are taken from Charlesworth’s Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.[10] The translations contained in Charlesworth are largely based on eclectic editions. Where possible, the translations have been checked against Penner and Heiser’s Old Testament Greek Pseudepigrapha.[11]

Apostolic Fathers

The corpus of writings known as the “Apostolic Fathers” is a collection of documents from authors who, for the most part, succeeded the Apostles chronologically. Dated ranging from 80 ad through 200 ad, these documents were written in Greek and are explicitly Christian.[12]

English translations of the Apostolic Fathers are taken from The Apostolic Fathers in English,[13] which uses Kirsopp Lake’s edition of the Greek text as basis.[14]

First Clement: A letter written to the Roman church. It is traditionally held to be written by Clement who was the leader of the church in Rome at the end of the first century, though the document itself makes no authorship claim. It is typically dated in the 90s.

Second Clement: While traditionally attributed to Clement, most today do not hold to Clementine authorship of this document. Less of an epistle and more of a homily, it is notable as an extremely early non-New-Testament example of Christian exegesis. It is typically dated in the 140s.

The Ignatian Letters: This collection of letters was written by Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch, while he was being transported from Antioch to Rome to stand trial. He would become a martyr in Rome. These letters are mentioned by Polycarp (see below) and date back from the earliest of times. Eusebius places Ignatius’ martyrdom in the middle to end of the reign of Trajan (roughly 110–117). The surviving letters of Ignatius are:

  • Ignatius to the Ephesians
  • Ignatius to the Magnesians
  • Ignatius to Polycarp
  • Ignatius to the Philadelphians
  • Ignatius to the Romans
  • Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans
  • Ignatius to the Trallians

Polycarp to the Philippians: Polycarp was the Bishop of Smyrna. Tradition holds that he was a disciple of the Apostle John. Polycarp’s letter freely quotes Scripture and the teaching of the Apostles. This letter must have been written between 110 (the probable date of Ignatius’ correspondence with Polycarp) and 155 (the probable year of Polycarp’s martyrdom).

Martyrdom of Polycarp: This is the account of Polycarp’s martyrdom, which most likely took place in 155 or 156.

Didache, or the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles: Known simply as the Didache, the book is a church manual from the earliest of the Christian era. It is typically dated around the year 100.

Epistle of Barnabas: This document could qualify as pseudepigraphal as its title claims Barnabas is author, but virtually no textual scholars today accept the authorship of Barnabas as possible. Date of composition is uncertain, though many scholars date the work between 118–130.

Epistle to Diognetus: Unique amongst the Apostolic Fathers due to its apologetic nature, this document provides a glimpse into how Greek pagans viewed Christianity, and how Christians portrayed themselves to Greek pagans curious about the new religion of Christianity. The author is unknown. This work is commonly dated between 150–180.

Shepherd of Hermas: This work is a comparatively large one. There are three primary parts (“Visions”, “Mandates”, and “Similitudes”), each containing several chapters. Scholars offer a date range from 110-140 as a probable window of composition. Based on available manuscript evidence, this writing was popular in the ancient world.

Other Literature Roughly Contemporary with the New Testament


In the late 1800s/early 1900s, several archaeological discoveries were made in Egypt. One major find was discovery of an ancient garbage dump near the city of Oxyrhynchus. The dump contained several papyri, including many dating from the 1st century bc and 1st century ad. These papyri are collectively known as the Oxyrhyhchus Papyri and have been in the process of being published since their discovery. Over 70 volumes have been published by the Egypt Exploration Society.

In addition to the Oxyrhynchus Papyri volumes, works by Deissmann[15] and Milligan[16] have been consulted.

The Works of Josephus

Flavius Josephus was a hellenized Jew who lived and wrote during the second half of the first century AD. His corpus of material consists of four primary documents: The Life of Flavius Josephus, Against Apion, Wars of the Jews, and Antiquities of the Jews. His work is valuable as it preserves history of the period of Jewish wars and destruction of the temple. In addition, the corpus is large and therefore provides a source to compare and contrast the language used in the New Testament with Greek from the same era.

The English translation used is that of Whiston,[17] verified against Neise’s Greek edition.[18]

The Works of Philo

Philo was a Jew who lived in Alexandria (Egypt). Scholars estimate he lived from 20–15 bc through 50 AD,[19] during the same time that Jesus Christ lived. As Philo is a true contemporary, then, of the New Testament writers, his extant writings in Greek are valuable to consult as witnesses for word usage along with grammatical and syntactic structures reflective of Hellenistic Greek written in a religious context.

The English translation used is that of Yonge,[20] unless otherwise stated. Greek text is taken from The Works of Philo: Greek Text with Morphology.[21]


[1] Gordon D Fee, New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors, Third Edition. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 79.

[2] Donald A. Hagner, New Testament Exegesis and Research: A Guide for Seminarians (Fuller Seminary Press, 1999), 10.

[3] A technical term meaning words that only occur once in a given corpus (here the New Testament).

[4] For brief background on some of the secondary sources cited, please consult the Works Cited section below.

[5] The Septuagint is the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Vulgate is the Latin version of the Bible.

[6] ABD 1:292.

[7] Rick Brannan et al., eds., The Lexham English Septuagint (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012).

[8] Henry Barclay Swete, The Old Testament in Greek: According to the Septuagint, 3 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1909).

[9] ABD 5:537.

[10] James H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol. 1: Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments (Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday & Company, 1983); James H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol. 2: Expansions of the Old Testament and Legends, Wisdom and Philosophical Literature, Prayers, Psalms, and Odes, Fragments of Lost Judeo-Hellenistic Works (Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday & Company, 1985).

[11] Ken M. Penner and Michael S. Heiser, eds., Old Testament Greek Pseudepigrapha with Morphology (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2008).

[12] For more information on the Apostolic Fathers, see Rick Brannan, “Apostolic Fathers,” ed. John D. Barry and Lazarus Wentz, Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012).

[13] Rick Brannan, The Apostolic Fathers in English (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012).

[14] Kirsopp Lake, The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 24, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1912); Kirsopp Lake, The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 25, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1912).

[15] Adolf Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East: The New Testament Illustrated by Recently Discovered Texts of the Graeco-Roman World, trans. Lionel Richard Mortimer Strachan (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1910).

[16] George Milligan, Selections from the Greek Papyri: Edited with Translations and Notes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910); George Milligan and James Hope Moulton, Vocabulary of the Greek Testament (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997).

[17] Flavius Josephus, The Works of Josephus: Complete & Unabridged, trans. William Whiston, Later Printing edition. (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishing, 1987).

[18] Flavius Josephus, The Works of Flavius Josephus: Greek Text with Morphology, ed. Benedict Niese (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2008).

[19] ABD 5:333

[20] Philo of Alexandria, The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged, trans. Charles Duke Yonge (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995).

[21] Philo of Alexandria, The Works of Philo: Greek Text with Morphology, ed. Peder Borgen, Kåre Fuglseth, and Roald Skarsten (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2005).