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Posted January 26, 2010

Book: Paul's Social Network: Timothy Paul's Closest Associate
Author: Bruce J. Malina
Liturgical Press, St. Cloud, MN. 2008. Pp. 156

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

While most Christians might accurately identify Timothy as an associate of the apostle Paul, they probably conjure up images of Timothy and his relationship with Paul in twenty-first-century terms. In Timothy: Paul’s Closest Associate, Bruce J. Malina ventures off the path of modern biography, with its interests in psychological development and introspection, toward a more likely description of Timothy. Malina draws us out of our individualistic worldview and into the first-century Mediterranean world, where introspection was unheard of and collectivism prevailed. Here alone, within a network of friends and associates, can we discover the real Timothy. Moreover, Malina’s fascinating explanation of social-scientific group development over generations, while perhaps challenging readers to rethink traditional biblical interpretation, provides readers with fresh and plausible insights about Timothy. These insights lead to a greater appreciation not only for Timothy but, more important, for the Gospel of God that Paul enjoined on him to proclaim: the God of Israel raised Jesus from the dead, making him Lord and Messiah.

An Excerpt from the Book:

The letters to Timothy and Titus are called “pastoral” letters, or the Pastorals. The word “pastoral” comes from Latin, where it means of or pertaining to a shepherd. The Mediterranean shepherd’s role was used as an analogy for the role of Jesus-group managers, since in the patriarchal culture of the ancient Mediterranean, they did not have the power of legal famil heads or patriarchs. Rather their role was like that of a maternal uncle, the mother’s brother in patriarchal systems, who was attached to her children because they were attached to her.

The distinction between relatives on the father’s side and the mother’s side was and is very significant in patriarchal societies, with special names for each status (for example: the mother’s brother in medieval English was Em, in German Oheim, in Polish wuja, in ancient Latin avunculus, and in Greek, metros; the father’s brother in the “powerline” was called Uncle in English, Onkel in German, stryj in Polish, patruus in Latin, and patros in Greek). The mother’s brother had no rights or entitlements relative to her sister’s family.

The same was true of the central persons in the fictive kinship Jesus groups at the time of Timothy, called “supervisors: (Greek: episkopoi, often translated as “bishop”). They really had no rights or entitlement over group members since membership was not required or forced by any institutional statute or law. Hence success in their way of managing Jesus groups depended solely in interpersonal competence. For people might join a Jesus group or leave it without fear of legal sanctions.

This whole situation would change with the advent of political Christianity, called Christendom, with Emperor Constantine and his successors. With the advent of Christendom, bishops took on political authority, and deviation from the group, called “heresy,” became a political crime, with sanctions from the “state.” This is an important feature to keep in mind when discussing ancient Jesus-group organizations, since the patriarchal features many people find in those organizations actually derive from the post-Constantine church.

The fact that Timothy and Titus have such letters addressed to them attests to the prestige of their memory. This was something third Pauline-generation forgers could count on when the chose them as ideal “supervisors.” For Timothy, these letters are localized at Ephesus and surround region, while for Titus, the locale mentioned is Crete. While that other third Pauline-generation document, the Acts of the Apostles, does not mention Titue at all, it does single out Ephesus by noting that Paul’s final speech was addressed to the Ephesians Jesus-group elders. In effect, the story of Paul’s change-agent travels ends with Ephesian Jesus-groups members.

. . .The letters to Timothy honor him by having these letters addressed to him and thereby assure him a significant place in the traditions shared by Pauline Jesus groups. For modern scholars, these letters are of far more value for an understanding of what was going on in the third Pauline-generation Jesus groups at Ephesus and surrounding regions. The letters more than amply prove that innovations, even those proclaimed by Paul and his team, will be reinterpreted and contextualized by later adapters, even those in the Pauline tradition from birth. They also demonstrate that a change agent’s task will always end with a termination of the relationship by having some local person take over. For these Jesus groups, it was the local or sedentary supervisor (or bishop), the traveling change agent’s successor.

Table of Contents:

Introduction Who is Timothy?

1. Timothy: the collective person

2. The Jesus tradition: where does Timothy fit in?

3. Timothy as assistant to Paul: what was Paul up to?

4. Specifics about Timothy: Paul’s cowriter and coworker

5. The Timothy tradition begins: Third-generation recollections

6. The second letter of Paul and Timothy to the Thessalonians: about forgery

7. Final traditions about Timothy in the New Testament